You are here

Links

Kenny Pickett’s early goals: Learn the playbook, and teammates’ names

Behind the Steel Curtain - 7 hours 25 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie quarterback is just trying to get his feet under him after rookie minicamp.

The Pittsburgh Steelers wasted very little time making their first round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft when they took Kenny Pickett with the 20th overall pick. In fact, Mike Tomlin said they took “about 15 seconds” to send the card to commissioner Roger Goodell stating their pick of the Pitt quarterback.

Now with Pickett officially wearing black and gold, and rookie minicamp in the books, the team’s top pick has new goals for himself. And they’re simple goals.

Step 1: Learn teammates’ names.

“It was great,” Pickett said of rookie minicamp. “‘I’m just trying to learn the guy’s names. I really haven’t got a chance to meet anybody. We’ve been in meetings. I want to call guys out to help and stuff and talk and I have no clue who I am talking to.”

Step 2: Learn the playbook.

“I would say we’re kind of doing a good job of taking this a step at a time, really taking it slow,” said Pickett or working on the team’s playbook. “It’s a walkthrough, but guys really want to run fast. I know everyone’s excited to practice, so we’ll see how it goes in a couple hours.”

Walkthrough or practice, Pickett knows he has zero chance of seeing the field his rookie season if he doesn’t learn the playbook and show a level of mastery in Matt Canada’s system.

“This is what I have to do. I have no shot if I don’t know what I’m doing,” said Pickett. “I’m really dedicating myself to the playbook and learning every detail I possibly can. I want to have a smooth practice with these guys and hopefully everyone looks good.”

This isn’t new for Pickett, and he isn’t completely lost in Canada’s system. He ran a system similar while at Pitt, and Canada actually recruited him to Pitt when he was the offensive coordinator there. Some of the system Canada had in place never left the Panthers’ offense.

Nonetheless, Pickett understands how the mental aspect of the game is what he needs to focus on at this stage in the offseason.

“I think it’s all mental,” said Pickett. “I know what I have to do. Know the responsibilities of everybody else on the offense. Learn new defenses that are in the NFL. There’s a lot that goes into it. I’m excited to dedicate myself to it and obsess over trying to be the best I can be and learning as much as I can.”

Fortunately for the Steelers they have options at quarterback. If Pickett proves worthy of the starting role, he will be the guy from Day 1. However, if Pickett shows some growing pains, which wouldn’t shock anyone, the team has Mitchell Trubisky and/or Mason Rudolph to guide the offense until Pickett is ready.

There is no rush on Pickett to be the next Ben Roethlisberger, at least not with the coaching staff, and the fact they have those aforementioned options at quarterback should help the offense in 2022, and Pickett’s overall development.

But first, gotta learn those teammates’ names...

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on through Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Getting to know the 6 Steelers GM candidates who received second interviews

Behind the Steel Curtain - 9 hours 25 min ago
Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rather than having to compile the information yourself, here is a brief NFL bio for the candidates who received second interviews for the Steelers general manager position.

Over the last two weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers have conducted second interviews with six candidates for their general manager position. While nothing has been stated officially by the Steelers that this list is complete, it is assumed that this round of interviews has come to an end. With articles spread out over days about each of these candidates, compiling all the information previously reported into one place for your convenience seemed beneficial.

With that in mind, here is a brief description about each of the six candidates in the order in which their second interview occurred with the Pittsburgh Steelers for their general manager position:

Ryan Cowden

Ryan Cowden spent 16 years in the scouting department of the Carolina Panthers before joining the Tennessee Titans in 2016. Cowden currently is the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Titans. Cowden got his start in the NFL with the Panthers in 2000 as a scouting assistant and was an area scout for seven seasons. He then became a national scout prior to moving up to assistant director of college scouting before moving on to Tennessee.

Doug Whaley

A former defensive back at the University of Pittsburgh, Whaley was the Steelers pro personnel coordinator for 10 years and worked directly under Kevin Colbert. Hired as the assistant general manager and director of pro personnel by the Buffalo Bills during the 2010 offseason, Whaley moved into the general manager position in 2013, a position he held through the 2016 NFL season.

After a season as a recruiter for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, Whaley was hired as the senior vice president of football operations for the XFL in November 2018. When the league folded in April 2020, Whaley was laid off but was later re-hired as the vice president of player personnel in November 2021 as the XFL moves forward in continuing their league in the spring of 2023.

Since his interview, Whaley has caused some waves in Steelers’ Nation by making a comment that Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham would be a backup in today’s NFL.

John Spytek

John Spytek got his start in an NFL front office as an intern with the Detroit Lions in 2004. Moving to be an intern with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2005, Spytek became a college scouting assistant in 2006 before being a full college scout from 2007 to 2009. In 2010, Spytek became the Director of college scouting for the Cleveland Browns. After three years in Cleveland, Spytek was the southwest area scout in 2013 for the Denver Broncos before being elevated to a national scout for two years in 2014 and 2015. Spytek then transitioned to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Director of player personnel in 2016.

Omar Khan

Khan began his NFL front office career in 1997 with the New Orleans Saints in their football operations department after previously serving as a scouting intern. Hired by the Steelers in 2001 as their football administration coordinator, Khan was promoted to Director of Football Administration in 2011. In 2016, Khan was promoted to his current title with the Steelers of vice president of football and business administration.

While Khan has an impressive title with the Steelers, what most fans know him as the person in the front office who “works the magic” with the NFL salary cap.

Andy Weidl

A Pittsburgh native, Weidl began his journey in NFL offices with the Steelers in 1998 as a player personnel assistant. After two years with the Steelers, Weidl became a national combine scout for the New Orleans Saints from 2000 to 2002. Promoted to the northeast area scout with New Orleans for two years, Weidl joined the Baltimore Ravens scouting department in 2005. After four seasons has the west area scout, Weidl spent four more seasons as the northeast scout followed by four years as the east regional scout.

Hired by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 as the assistant director of player personnel, Weidl became the director of player personnel two years later in 2018. After one season, Weidl saw a promotion to vice president of player personnel which is his current position with the team.

Brandon Hunt

Hunt is the Steelers’ pro scouting director, and is in his second stint with the team. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Hunt began interning for the team in 2005 before spending two seasons as a scout for the Houston Texans. Hunt returned to the Steelers in 2010 as the pro scouting coordinator, a job vacated by Doug Whaley when he left to be the assistant general manager in Buffalo.

Earlier this offseason Hunt met with the Raiders about their GM vacancy, also met with the Philadelphia Eagles recently in what would be viewed as a lateral move and interviewed with the Buffalo Bills for their Assistant GM opening.

3 reasons to dislike the Steelers’ selection of Kenny Pickett

Behind the Steel Curtain - 10 hours 55 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers taking Kenny Pickett 20th overall wasn’t as perfect as some make it out to be.

The dust has settled on the 2022 NFL Draft, and the early stages of the offseason program are about to unfold. Having had two weeks to meditate on the Steelers’ selections, it is time to look at the positives, and negatives, of the Steelers’ selections.

Today, we are going to continue by looking at the negatives of the Steelers’ first round selection, Kenny Pickett. Pickett was a super senior at Pitt who enjoyed a breakout 2021 season, finishing as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He first caught my eye back in 2017 when he led the Panthers to an upset victory over the Miami Hurricanes in late November, and before returning to school in 2021, I pegged him as the biggest quarterback sleeper in the 2021 draft class.

This year, I had the pleasure of writing Pickett’s scouting report for the BTSC Big Board. When watching his tape, the biggest takeaways were his patience in the pocket and his accuracy over the middle of the field. You can check out my full scouting report on him below.

Kenny Pickett | QB | Pittsburgh Overall Rank: 30
Position Rank: 3

Andrew Wilbar: I have been a big fan of Pickett’s ever since he stepped foot on campus at Pitt. I stood up for him when fans were disgruntled with the offense, and before he decided to return to school for 2021, I was a big proponent of taking a late-round flier on him. I was not surprised when he had his breakout season in 2021, but he has risen too high on the national draft boards for my liking. Pickett is a very solid quarterback who has a decent arm and sneaky good athleticism, but he is older than some of the other quarterbacks in this class, and he does not have an incredibly high ceiling as a pro. The biggest issue, especially for teams that play in cold weather, will be his incredibly small hands. Pickett participated in the 2022 Senior Bowl, but he struggled badly in practices when it was raining. There is no denying that he lost his accuracy and struggled to push the ball downfield when the weather got rough. Pickett’s accuracy improved by leaps and bounds this season, but he sometimes struggled to get off his first read and get through his progressions before the pressure got to him. He reminds me a lot of Kirk Cousins when it comes to his ability to roll out to his weak side, and his delivery and arm strength remind me of a Derek Carr or an Andy Dalton. The big question will be, “Is he capable of anything greater than that?”. That is what teams are going to have to determine over the next few months when it comes to Pickett and how high he should be taken.

If you missed the first part of this discussion, when I broke down the reasons to like the selection, you can check it out by clicking on the link below.

If you have any thoughts on the selection of Kenny Pickett, be sure to share them in the comment section below, discussing what he brings to a new-look quarterback room.

Let’s dive in!

1. He was far from the best player available

This article is not to focus on just Malik Willis, but he must be mentioned as one of the players the Steelers should have considered taking instead of Pickett. I am not going to rehash my evaluation of Willis, as you have all heard it numerous times. However, one other player the Steelers should have considered was Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth, who, due to sports hernia surgery, fell to the second round. Plus, with the amount of trading that took place near the Steelers’ pick, I cannot help but think the Steelers could have traded back if they wanted to. Of course, we know trading back was not their mindset this year, but it is something that Kevin Colbert could have entertained, considering how quickly the quarterbacks were falling. Even if Kenny Pickett was the selection, the Steelers could have likely found a trade partner and taken Pickett in a more reasonable range. The point being, the value of Pickett at 20 was not great.

2. Expectations must be held in check

Unlike Malik Willis and, to a lesser extent, Desmond Ridder, Kenny Pickett’s career expectations must be held in check due to his limitations as a passer. I had considered titling this section, “His ceiling is limited,” but I knew the example of Tom Brady would be brought up. Could Pickett become an elite quarterback and improve his arm strength once established in the league? Of course, but it is unfair to Pickett for fans to expect that. With Willis and Ridder, upside was not as big a question, and in Willis’ case, it was not a question at all.

If the Steelers have Super Bowl aspirations with Kenny Pickett at the helm, they will need to put quite the team around him. Weapons are not an issue currently, as the Steelers are loaded with talent and youth at the offensive skill positions. However, the Steelers have major decisions to make on the defensive side of the ball in the near future, as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alex Highsmith, Devin Bush, and Terrell Edmunds will all be up for new contracts within the next two years. Taking an already good defense to the next level will greatly increase the Steelers’ chances of winning a Super Bowl.

3. It may prevent Mitch Trubisky from getting a chance to lead the team

The leading indicator of the Steelers preferring Malik Willis over Kenny Pickett was the signing of Mitch Trubisky. This is what lead many, including myself, down an incorrect path of thinking. The Steelers typically use free agency to find competent pieces at positions of need, as Kevin Colbert has never liked going into the draft with a pressing need at any one position. Looking back on what transpired, it appears as if the Steelers signed Trubisky as insurance for a scenario where none of the three quarterbacks they reportedly had first round grades on were available.

The issue lies in the fact that Kenny Pickett is about as good as he is going to get, having played in 52 games in 5 seasons of college ball. When the Steelers signed Trubisky, it made the most sense to me for the team to select Malik Willis, who would need a year of development on the bench. This move also would have allowed the Steelers to see what they have in Trubisky, who, from all indications, had a remarkable mental recovery during his one-year stint in Buffalo. Talent has never been a question for Trubisky, but after being hated on by Bears fans immediately following his draft selection, and after being thrown into a dumpster fire in Chicago prematurely, his confidence quickly dwindled. If he has truly revived his career from a mental aspect, the sky’s the limit in a Matt Canada offense that fits Trubisky’s play style to a tee.

However, with the selection of Kenny Pickett, Trubisky may not have an opportunity in Pittsburgh, and if he does, he will be on a short leash. After all, the Steelers have a pro-ready rookie waiting in the wings. If he is not going to get any better by sitting on the bench, why would you not start him?

Whether you endorsed or discouraged the selection of Kenny Pickett, what concerns you the most about Pickett's game? What is the one thing fans should pay the closest attention to this summer when it comes to his development as a rookie quarterback? Be sure to share your thoughts on this and all things Pittsburgh Steelers in the comment section below!

Mike Munchak talks about his departure from the Steelers, and if he would ever return

Behind the Steel Curtain - 12 hours 25 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Hall of Fame player and coach isn’t ready to call it a career. Could a reunion in Pittsburgh be on the horizon?

NFL fans love the “name brand” when it comes to coaches, players and even General Managers (GM). They want someone they know, a name they recognize. Just because they recognize the name doesn’t always mean it will workout though. One of the times the name recognition did work out was with Mike Munchak.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans knew Munchak from his days at Penn State, as well as a player for the Houston Oilers. If that wasn’t enough to jog their memory, Munchak’s tenure as the Tennessee Titans’ head coach made him a known commodity.

When he was hired as the Steelers offensive line coach, fans were ecstatic about the hire. Why? Because his Hall of Fame career, combined with name recognition, gave fans hope.

And Munchak delivered in a big way.

Munchak turned the Steelers’ offensive line into a formidable front to protect Ben Roethlisberger and help turn the Killer B’s offense into one of the most high powered units during his time in Pittsburgh.

When Munchak left the Steelers he made it very clear why he left — family. Munchak had interviewed for the head coaching vacancy with the Denver Broncos, but when Vic Fangio was the team’s selection, Munchak chose a lateral move to the Broncos to be closer to his family.

But would he ever return? Recently Munchak joined Ron Cook and Joe Starky on 93.7 The Fan, and let’s just say he didn’t rule it out.

“We talk…” Munchak told Cook and Starkey before quickly stopping and saying “that’s one of those things I don’t really want to talk about. I was more at the time, trying to stay in Denver, out West. It’s something we never really discussed because, as much as I loved Coach Tomlin, there is no better head coach in football as a player to work for or as a coach to work for. I learned so much from him and the Rooney’s and the way they run their organization. For me that was a great learning experience. I learned a lot from my years there.”

When the Steelers had an opening at their offensive line coach following the departure of Adrian Klemm, many speculated the team could bring Munchak back. Munchak didn’t say the Steelers called, but said he was trying to stay out west to be closer to family.

“At the time I was trying to stay out west.” Munchak said. “It was not something I was considering at the time when they may or may not have had an opening. I was 100% focused at trying to stay out in this part of the country. It didn’t quite work out this year for that to happen.”

At 62 years-old, is Munchak ready to hang up the whistle for good? Not even close.

“I love the game too much,” Munchak said. “I’d love to continue to work, especially offensive line coaches. It’s something I love doing, I love teaching. I love being around the players whether they be teenagers or in their twenties or thirties. It’s something I love doing, so it’s something I would like to continue doing.

“Hopefully if the right opportunity comes up this year or next year, whenever, I would continue to coach.

“I’ve been blessed to always have a job, so much is about the opportunity, the fit, the timing. The timing unfortunately wasn’t great for what was going on in Denver (the last few months). My family is here. Having the opportunity to work in the same city that your family is in is a rare opportunity. I was hoping to keep that going.

“Unfortunately, that did not work out this year, but I’m hoping to continue to work. We will see what happens in the future.”

The Steelers offensive line hasn’t been the same since Munchak left, but it isn’t solely on the coach leaving which caused the downturn. Players like Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster and David DeCastro retired and/or were released, and Alejandro Villanueva’s contract wasn’t picked up before he joined the Baltimore Ravens for two seasons prior to his retirement. While the cupboard wasn’t left bare, it also wasn’t busting at the seams with young talent.

Nonetheless, Munchak looks back on his time in Pittsburgh fondly.

“My years in Pittsburgh were awesome,” Munchak recalled. “My five years there was something I will never forget. The hardest thing I ever did was leave there. It was a family decision more than anything.”

The Steelers filled their vacancy this offseason at offensive line coach with Pat Meyer, and the hope is Meyer is able to get the young offensive line the Steelers possess to improve and make their offense as formidable as Munchak did when he was in Pittsburgh. But with these quotes, if things don’t go well for Meyer, expect fans to be clamoring for Munchak’s return.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after signing DeMavin Leal

Behind the Steel Curtain - 13 hours 55 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers third-round pick did not change the available salary cap by a significant amount.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have filled up their 90-man offseason roster heading into the 2022 NFL season. While there still could be some significant swapping of players, the biggest news will likely be contracts in the coming weeks with the signing of draft picks. As reports come in of these deals well before they are official, even after pen is put to paper it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as overthecap.com or spotrac.com, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

On Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced they signed 2022 third-round draft pick DeMarvin Leal out of Texas A&M. According to spotrac.com, Leal had a signing bonus of $952,288. With a base salary in 2022 of $705k, Leal has a cap hit this season of $943,072 which is not even $50k more than the salary it displaced.

It should be noted that Leal’s actual cap number comes in lower than what was estimated by OTC based on his draft position and the rookie salary pool. Leal actually comes in more than $40k under the estimate, which is good news for the Steelers even if the difference is minor.

If you are looking for the added salary cap due to the rest of the 2022 draftees, they will not be included at this time as they have not signed their contracts. But based on the structure of rookie salaries in the latest CBA, the estimated dollar amounts are known for 2022. Therefore, an explanation as to how much the remaining rookies will cost is given at the bottom of the article.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2022. Players who were released, were given a tender, or had their exact salary reported are indicated below and the precise numbers are known.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, reported salaries displaced a $825k salary.)

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $28.8 million

Dwayne Haskins: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$1.715 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $1.5175 million; After displacement: -$0.6925 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $1.535 million; After displacement: -$0.71 million
Mitch Trubisky: Reported $3.66 million; After displacement+: -$2.765 million
Mason Cole: Reported $2.556666 million; After displacement+: -$1.661666 million
Chuks Okorafor: Reported $4.333333 million; After displacement: -$3.508333 million
Robert Spillane: Tendered $2.433 million salary; After displacement: -$1.608 million
Marcus Allen: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement: -$1.715 million
James Daniels: Reported $4.166666 million; After displacement: -$3.341666 million
Levi Wallace: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement*: -$1.672317 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $1.7675 million; After displacement+: -$0.8725 million
Zach Banner: Saved $5 million salary; After displacement: +$4.175 million
Myles Jack: Reported $4.75 million; After displacement*: -$3.90139 million
Joe Schobert: Saved $7.834 million salary; After displacement+: +$6.939 million
Ahkello Witherspoon: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement+: -$1.6225 million
Gunner Olszewski: Reported $1.5825 million; After displacement+: -$0.6875 million
Genard Avery: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$0
Terrell Edmunds: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925
Damontae Kazee: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
George Pickens: Reported $1.22767 million; After displacement+: -$0.33267
Trenton Scott: Not reported
George Pickens: Reported $0.943072 million; After displacement+: -$0.048072

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $12.47 million

*The salaries displaced by these two contracts were $845,183 (Tre Norwood) and $848,610 (Pressley Harvin)

+A $895k contract was displaced

++Displaced by each other, giving no change to the cap

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites (at the original time of publishing, before any potential updates)?

According to overthecap.com, the Steelers are $12,522,040 under the salary cap. OTC does not have the Leal contract yet, so once they do our numbers will be the same.

Another credible salary cap website is spotrac.com, which has the Steelers at $11,198,864 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts, but also has Miles Boykin’s prorated bonus incorrectly counting for the Steelers instead of it sticking with the Ravens. Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap at this time either. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hits of players outside the top 51 salaries in their totals. The biggest difference is they have a part of Isaiah John’s and Bryce Watts’ salaries counting in the injured reserve category as they were waived/injured recently. While these numbers are significant, they generally are things that are covered in the $5 million the Steelers like to have to do business during the season.

What about the 2022 rookies?

Now that the 2022 NFL draft is over, it is known that the Steelers stayed with their designated selections. Based on their draft choices, the rookie contracts signed this offseason will only have three salaries out of the seven drafted players and 10 undrafted free agents that will land in the top 51. Only Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and DeMarvin Leal should have a 2022 cap hit that will put them in the top 51. Now that Pickens’ and Leal’s salary have been taken into account, the only remaining one affecting the salary cap is Kenny Pickett. After factoring in displacement, their contracts together will count approximately $1.99 million towards the salary cap based on the rookie pool estimate chart provided by OTC. Since this other contract is not signed yet, it will not be included at this time until the precise dollar amounts are known. Even if taking these amounts into account, the Steelers would still have approximately $10.48 million left in salary cap space.

The Steelers will need as much as an additional $10.8 million come September when they need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year as outlined in the following article:

Based on this number, the Steelers are within a reasonable range of what they need for the 2022 season at this time without freeing up any other money. Even though there could be some dead money in contracts with players not making the 53-man roster, it should be offset even more by larger contracts of players who are waived. Also, a Minkah Fitzpatrick extension would likely lower his 2022 cap hit if he and the Steelers can reach an agreement.

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

It’s nice to see Steelers players with microphones in their faces again

Behind the Steel Curtain - 14 hours 55 min ago
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I believe personal interactions between reporters and players/coaches is important for Steelers fans. It was nice to see the rookies answering questions from reporters in a more traditional, up-close and personal way at rookie camp.

How much news did you glean from the Steelers' just-concluded rookie camp, a camp that saw their entire draft class and a bunch of undrafted free agents convene at the team’s South Side facilities for workouts and drills in shorts?

If you answered, “Not Much!” you are probably correct.

But at least we got to see these Steelers’ rookies in action—kind of—so that was sort of cool, right?

I guess it all depends on your definition of “cool.”

One thing about rookie camp that I personally thought was cool was seeing the players being interviewed by scrums (not scums) of reporters standing mere feet away from them. Not only that, but they all had their arms outstretched and their microphones sticking directly in the players’ faces as they answered question after question.

Did these players say anything interesting? I guess it all depends on your definition of “interesting,” but it sure was nice to see these guys have to answer questions this way again.

I actually didn’t even notice at first, as I watched rookie first-round pick, Kenny Pickett, answer countless questions while standing outside in the fresh air. He was followed by Calvin Austin III, the third-round receiver out of Memphis, who had to answer—and this isn’t totally accurate—450,000 questions about his height and weight, as well as a few hundred more about the number of times he was hit incredibly hard in college by those big, bad defensive players.

To be honest, I never thought I’d see players/coaches and reporters this up close and personal ever again. In fact, two years ago, right after the pandemic hit, and journalists immediately stopped getting direct access to players and coaches at all, I feared this would be the norm moving forward, even after the “new normal” had subsided.

Radio hosts and reporters even predicted that zoom interviews would be a permanent thing, and many wondered if they’d ever be allowed in a locker room again.

Last season, we had more of a press-conference type feel to interviews, with coaches and players set up at tables and answering questions that were asked by reporters in an orderly and respectful way.

No, we didn’t have the annoying zoom errors of the year before, but it still didn’t feel the same as a good old-fashioned one-on-one post-game interview, where a reporter could interact with a player when his emotions were still on high.

I don’t know why, but I think this sort of access to a player is important, and it’s a much better way for fans to connect with the team. It’s so much better than trying to get a feel for these guys while they sit behind a video screen or conference table.

Maybe I was imagining things, but it almost seemed like Pickett was a little annoyed by one or two of the questions that were asked by reporters during his media scrum. As for Austin, talk about a handsome guy. My advice for Austin: Be an ankle-breaker on the field, and not a heartbreaker off the field.

Reporters can get better scoops from coaches and players if they interact with them in an up-close and personal way, as well as more original quotes and stories.

I’m not sure if we’ll ever truly get back to the days when reporters could huddle around players in the locker room after a game, but we had stadiums full of fans last year. Training camp will be back at Latrobe this summer.

The more access fans have to their teams, the more enjoyable the product is for them to consume.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - 15 hours 55 min ago

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest two podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

Nonetheless, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

Here We Go, The Steelers Show: Depth or Debt, Do the Steelers have enough “dudes” at linebacker?

There has been so much talk about the state of the Steelers linebackers going into the 2022 season. What characteristics make a successful LB and do the Steelers have enough “dudes” at the position? Join Bryan Anthony Davis and Kevin Smith for Here We Go. The BTSC duo break down the Steelers like no one else does.

Check out the rundown

  • News and Notes
  • Should the Steelers have done more at linebacker?
  • and MUCH MORE!

Steelers Friday Night Six Pack with Tony: When Steelers Rookie Camp goes off without a hitch

Steelers 2022 rookie camp was conducted at the team’s South Side Facilities this past week, and it went off without a hitch. Nope, there wasn’t much noteworthy news, but that’s always a good thing. Also, Antonio Brown is still in the news. That and your questions and comments on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack with veteran BTSC podcaster and writer Tony Defeo.

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Steelers Rookie Camp goes off without a hitch
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers Podcast: All the latest from BTSC’s family of Pittsburgh #Steelers shows, Saturday edition

@btscbad, K.T. Smith on if the Steelers have enough “dudes” at linebacker?

@defeoman on what it means when Steelers Rookie Camp goes off without a hitch

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Offseason Vol. 13

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 5:45pm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There is always something to talk about when it comes to the Black & Gold!

It’s Friday again, so it’s time for the six pack of questions. It seems as if Jeff and Dave come to a consensus in cutting to the chase...

This week, I, Jeff, will be tasked with the questions up for discussion.

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.

Procedural Note: Since the title feature has gone away, please feel free to leave your usual title as the first line of your response and even bold it if you can for the ease of others.

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. Which position do you think needs the most help in terms of depth? Running back or Tight end?

2. With the NFL schedule out now for over a week, and a chance to digest everything. Do you take the OVER/UNDER on the Steelers winning 7.5 games in 2022?

3. What are your thoughts on jersey numbers? Both Connor Heyward (No. 83) and Calvin Austin III (No. 19) said both numbers were “given to them” and weren’t chosen. They can certainly change their number once cuts are made, but do you care if a number of a former Steelers great is re-issued?

4. The Steelers wrapped up their second round of interviews Thursday. If you were a bettor, who would you put your money on being the team’s next General Manager?

John Spytek (Tampa Bay)
Andy Weidl (Philadelphia)
Doug Whaley
Ryan Cowden (Tennessee)
Omar Khan (Internal Candidate)
Brandon Hunt (Internal Candidate)

5. To piggyback question No. 4, how important do you think the GM of the team will be? Or do you think Mike Tomlin will have more say over the roster selections within the new regime?

6. In the Kevin Colbert era, who do you think was the best draft pick of his tenure, and the worst?

I’ll take a stab at No. 6 first...

Best: Troy Polamalu (2003)

The reason I went with Troy was based on the fact the the Steelers were aggressive in moving up to get him. The team was very fortunate when they drafted Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, but I thought the Polamalu pick was Colbert’s best.

Worst: Senquez Golson (2015)

The Steelers had no clue Golson would never even see a preseason field for the team due to injury, but the guy was a second round pick. You can say Jarvis Jones, Limas Sweed, Artie Burns or Mike Adams, but at least all those players registered games played for the Steelers. Again, Golson never even saw a preseason game...

Stay safe out there!

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

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

We added some new shows and a new platform to our podcasts...if you haven’t checked out our full lineup of morning, noon, and evening shows, give them a try by listening below!

Steelers sign third round draft pick DeMarvin Leal

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 3:23pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Leal becomes the fifth draft pick the Steelers have signed at this time.

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced the signing of the fifth of their seven 2022 NFL draft picks on Friday. The latest draftee to sign for the Steelers is third-round draft pick DeMarvin Leal out of Texas A&M.

We have signed DE DeMarvin Leal. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 20, 2022

The 84th overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Leal played three seasons for Texas A&M and appeared in 33 games. Over that time he had 133 tackles, 25 of which were for loss, 13 sacks, one interception, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.

A projected first-round draft pick early in the 2022 draft process, Leal fell to the Steelers in Day 2 of the draft. At 6‘4“ and 290 pounds, Leal has been prepared to bulk up to play on the Steelers defensive line but was not instructed to do so by head coach Mike Tomlin.

“He’s speculating if he thinks we want him to put on weight,” Coach Tomlin stated about Leal following the Saturday session of rookie minicamp last weekend. “We’re just here getting to know him and his body and how it works. Oftentimes in draft preparation, guys hear things from NFL people, and they try to do what they think we want. The reality is that we’re trying to get to know the athlete, the pedigree of the athlete and how his body works, what’s the optimal condition for him to be in, etc. And so, it would be much too premature to talk about desired weights and so forth with any of these guys, because we’re just getting to know them.”

Leal joins second-round pick George Pickens as well as sixth-round draft pick Connor Heyward and both seventh-round draft picks Mark Robinson and Chris Oladokun as members of the 2022 NFL draft class the Steelers have under contract. The only two players remaining at this time are first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett and fourth-round selection Calvin Austin III.

According to overthecap.com, Leal’s salary cap hit for 2022 is estimated at $985,267 based on the rookie wage scale.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Steelers begin Phase 2 of OTAs next week.

Getting to know the Steelers 2022 UDFAs: Jordan Tucker

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The UNC tackle is currently the largest player on the Steelers roster.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected seven players in the 2022 NFL draft, they continued adding to the roster with ten undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2022 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

Next on the list is North Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Tucker.

Jordan Tucker Offensive tackle
Senior
North Carolina
6’6” 340 lbs

Playing right tackle in North Carolina, Jordan Tucker appeared in 45 games in four seasons with the Tar Heels.

Current Steelers at the position:

Offensive Tackle

  1. Chukwuma Okorafor
  2. Dan Moore Jr.
  3. Joe Haeg
  4. Chaz Green
  5. Trenton Scott
  6. Jordan Tucker
  7. Jake Dixon
Draft Profiles:

There was more adequate information in the terms of breakdowns for Tucker heading into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is a breakdown from si.com:

Pros:

Leinweber: Right tackle with very good size at the position. Tucker powerfully strikes unsuspecting defenders when down blocking. He has solid eyes to locate second-level defenders.

Cons:

Leinweber: Slow feet prevent him from protecting either shoulder on an island as he fails to mirror and recover. Tucker leaves his chest exposed, allowing defenders to gain inside hand position. He is unable to match their movement and gets bull rushed. His punch is wide and often early, causing him to whiff. Slow hands frequently get beat before he can land them. Tucker does not latch. Stiffness and tardy movement in short spaces prevent him from getting to spots and mean he can not pull. Tucker allows leakage on zone runs and fails to work around to gain leverage and seal, often resorting to holding. Moving faster with his upper body than his feet compromises his functional strength as he is off balance. He gets tunnel vision and does not react to stunts quickly enough.

Summary:

Leinweber: Big right tackle who finds occasional success as a down blocker. Tucker lacks agility in short spaces and has slow feet compromising his balance and functional strength. He can not pass protect on an island as he gets beat around both shoulders and through his chest. Tucker may get a camp invite due to his size but is unlikely to stick on a practice squad.

One-Liners

Leinweber: Big right tackle who can not pass protect on an island and severely lacks short area quickness.

Here is another draft profile from nfldraftbuzz.com:

Strengths

Has a strong upper body with physical, powerful hands and works hard to gain body positioning in the run game.

Strong upper body, arms and hands. Coordinated feet with the flexibility for offensive tackle. Hard worker.

Anchors against larger defenders in the middle; resets hands to maintain distance. Athletic enough to help on nose tackle then pick up twist or late blitzer. Mirrors quick interior rushers. Looks to help the center when uncovered.

He has the quickness and growth potential, long arms and powerful base to be one of the most popular players in predraft film sessions. If he impresses in private workouts, he could climb draft boards.

Best asset is his strength and disposition as a run blocker. Gives a strong initial punch. Plays with good leverage bends at the knees and sees what he’s hitting, showing the ability to roll his hips into the defender and drive him off the line of scrimmage.

Weaknesses

Anticipates speed rushers attacking the edge and will over-set to the outside, leaving inside rushing lanes wide open for defenders to jab-step outside and re-direct through the gap.

Adequate initial burst should be far better and isn’t good enough to consistently hold out elite pass rushers.

Attacks when necessary, though he won’t consistently dominate and can lose balance overextending.

Needs to prove his worth in a straight-ahead running game.

Heavy-footed with limited lateral quickness. Stiff and looks like he’s moving in wet cement in the open field.

Film:

To finish off the breakdown of Jordan Tucker no evaluation is complete without film. There wasn’t a good “highlight” video, but here is every offensive play from UNC’s game against Wake Forest this past season. Tucker is number 74 and is the lineman closest on the screen to start (in the first quarter):

Steelers fans expecting Trubisky, not Pickett, to be the Week 1 starter

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 12:45pm
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback competition is getting ready to heat up, but fans believe the Week 1 starter will be Mitchell Trubisky.

The Pittsburgh Steelers pending quarterback battle is going to be something to watch as Organized Team Activities (OTAs), mandatory minicamp and training camp approach. Prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, the quarterback battle was staged as Mason Rudolph vs. Mitchell Trubisky.

However, after the draft, and the Steelers picking Kenny Pickett 20th overall, the waters have become a bit more muddy. Now, instead of it being Trubisky vs. Rudolph, the discussion is more about Trubisky vs. Pickett as offseason workouts approach.

The debate of who will start for the Steelers in Week 1 has been a hot-button discussion among Steelers fans for the past few weeks, and while no one knows for sure who will claim the title of the first quarterback in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, it doesn’t stop fans for having a rooting interest.

This week I posed several questions to the BTSC community, and the response was strong for all the burning questions surrounding the Steelers. One of those questions was who fans believe will be the team’s Week 1 starter when the Steelers hit the road to play the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

When the polls were closed, the fan base made their opinions clear...they believe Trubisky will be the guy under center to start the season. Check out the DraftKings Reacts results below:

Most would agree, the best thing for a young quarterback is to be given the opportunity to ease their way into the starting role. For Steelers fans, they immediately think of Ben Roethlisberger’s 2004 season where he entered in Week 2, but didn’t lose a start until the AFC Championship game that season.

There have been plenty of examples of quarterbacks thrust into the position as starter, and not live up to their first round pick designation. The list is long, and the Steelers are hoping the team doesn’t repeat the same history for their newest quarterback.

With that said, the difference between Pickett and other quarterbacks is how much he has played in college. With 49 career starts at the University of Pittsburgh over a five year span has him more than prepared to be the guy, if he wins the job. The key word being “if” if he wins the job.

Since 2004 the Steelers have known who their quarterback will be heading into a season. Now starts a new era, and the fan base feels the next quarterback to be named starter will be Trubisky, not Pickett.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason program leading up to training camp.

Hiring in-house for the Steelers’ next GM should be encouraged, not dismayed

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 11:30am

Brandon Hunt and Omar Khan are more than fine options. In fact, Steelers fans should be ecstatic if either is the choice to be GM.

If there’s one guarantee regarding the Steelers, it’s a proclivity to not only retain personnel, but also to elevate them to higher positions when vacancies appear.

Take the last two offseasons as a measuring stick. After cutting ties with Randy Fichtner, Pittsburgh promoted quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator. Then, when Keith Butler retired, Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney moved Teryl Austin from secondary coach to the team’s defensive coordinator.

This trend of moving pre-existing coaches is deeply rooted within the organization. Before being named OC, Fichtner had been with the Steelers since 2007, coaching receivers and quarterbacks. Butler had been the team’s linebackers coach since 2003. In fact, the last time the Steelers had an offensive/defensive coordinator named to that position without having prior experience within the franchise is Todd Haley in 2012, who went from head coach of the Chiefs to Pittsburgh’s OC.

As Rooney, Colbert and Tomlin have continued to level up their own guys, fans have grown distraught, citing few peripheral ideas and an overall sentiment of boredom. I get it: there generally is a lack of pizazz when an organization simply promotes a member rather than getting a glitzy new face.

However, the Steelers’ tendency to do so is often linked with longstanding success and familiarity with procedures. The same applies to the team’s ongoing search for a successor to Colbert at general manager, whose worn out, diamond-encrusted shoes will have to be filled for quite some time.

This week, Pittsburgh successfully narrowed its list of candidates to receive a second interview, which includes Andy Weidl, Doug Whaley, John Spytek and Ryan Cowden. All are from different organizations, holding varying levels of personnel and scouting experience.

One of the main draws of such candidates is bringing in one of the braintrusts behind franchise turnarounds. For example, Spytek, the Buccaneers’ vice president of player personnel, helped to acquire Tom Brady, Tristan Wirfs, Antoine Winfield Jr., Rob Gronkowski and other assets needed for the team’s dominance since 2020. Weidl, who holds the same title with the Eagles, spearheaded the franchise’s Super Bowl LII run as well as proved pivotal in Philadelphia landing De’Vonta Smith and A.J. Brown.

Sure, it would be fun to have the Steelers’ next GM be one of the architects of a grassroots rebuild or someone with vast experience in different organizations. Yet, there were two names conscientiously left off of the list above: Brandon Hunt and Omar Khan.

Both Hunt and Khan currently work hand-in-hand with Colbert: Hunt as pro scouting coordinator, and Khan as vice president of football and business administration. Both have spent at least 12 years in Pittsburgh, spearheading a team that has enjoyed eight playoff appearances in that span.

Moreover, Hunt and Khan each play an integral role in the Steelers’ day-to-day, as well as long-term, operations. Hunt frequently accompanies Tomlin and Colbert to colleges’ pro days; he was seen at Pitt’s Pro Day this year to scrutinize Kenny Pickett. Likewise, Khan has been the team’s de facto cap specialist, assisting in orchestrating T.J. Watt’s record-setting extension as well as signing Myles Jack, James Daniels and other solid acquisitions to team-friendly deals.

Hunt and Khan have caught the eye of other swooning franchises. Hunt recently interviewed to be the Bills’ assistant general manager, while Khan was in the running for the Texans’ and Bears’ GM positions. It’s clear that each provides savvy insights and is venerated around the league.

All along in the team’s quest for its successor to Colbert, it seems that Hunt and Khan have been co-favorites. For some, that principle is irritating, with the Steelers potentially set to shift yet another pre-existing staffer to a higher position.

Admittedly, the Steelers have had mixed results when they do promote in-house. But if Hunt or Khan is named the team’s next pioneer in the near future, it shouldn’t be dismissed as following a recurring pattern, particularly one viewed as lazy.

Even if the hire isn’t as clinquant as expected, Pittsburgh fans should be elated if their next general manager would have vast experience working under Colbert. After all, it’s not every day that you have two legitimate hot commodities working as understudies in the same organization.

Whether Khan or Hunt, the concept of having a general manager groomed under a future Hall-of-Famer staying in the building and executing their nascent ideas should be celebrated.

4 way-too-early potential training camp sensations for the 2022 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a list of this writer's early favorites for the next training camp sensation for the 2022 Steelers.

As everyone familiar with my offseason articles already knows, I fill each Pittsburgh Steelers offseason with pre-draft prediction articles about possible targets, then plenty of post-draft submissions about each actual selection. That helps fill a small portion of the offseason where relevant content is highly coveted.

As we cycle through organized team activities (OTAs), both the volunteer and mandatory varieties, more content becomes available as some unknown prospects get the opportunity to show enough potential to hit Steelers Nation's radar. Some of these prospects turn enough potential into production during training camp and the preseason to become roster relevant, while others were little more than necessary camp bodies.

I love the players who turn out to be pleasant surprises. Players who warrant consideration for the coveted Isaac Redman Award. Last year I wrote offseason articles about a number of potential sleepers from the later rounds and undrafted acquisitions. Quincy Roche, Jamir Jones, and Rico Bussey Jr. to name a few. None of the three still remain with the Steelers, but they had differing degrees of success in the NFL.

The Steelers were intrigued enough with Quincy Roche, after a strong training camp and preseason, they tried to sneak the sixth round selection onto their practice squad. However, the New York Giants had other ideas, and snatched him up, just as I had predicted.

Jamir Jones was my surprise sleeper pick for the defensive side of the ball in the early stages of camp, while Rico Bussey Jr. was my nominee for the offense. Bussey showed enough potential to earn a spot on the practice squad, while Jones actually made the opening roster; in addition to winning the coveted BTSC Isaac Redman Award.

That brings us to the focal point of this article. Who are some way-too-early candidates for the 2022 Steelers training camp darlings? Based on an extremely limited amount of available data, here are some early nominees:

Mark Robinson

Robinson is eligible for this list, and the Redman Award, because he was a seventh round selection. Robinson is extremely raw, after only playing interior linebacker for a single season at Ole Miss as a walk on. The well-traveled Robinson was a collegiate running back prior to last year. His initial offensive experience means he is still very much in the learning phase as a defender, but it also has provided him with an unique perspective for a linebacker.

Robinson arrives complete with a proverbial chip on his shoulder, and plenty of bad intentions towards the ball carrier. He is athletic, intense, and extraordinarily strong. He is a downhill, attacking inside linebacker of the Buck variety. The Steelers have a need at the position, and it just might present Robinson with a way onto the roster. He is my early favorite for the Redman, because everybody loves an intense heavy hitter.

Tyler Snead

Snead seems almost destined to be a training camp darling. He is an extremely exciting prospect with a small frame hiding a huge heart. He was often called "pound-for-pound, the toughest player in the country" during his tenure as a reliable slot receiver for the East Carolina Pirates. He was a huge fan favorite, partly because he looks like one, at 5'7" and 174 lbs. of coiled up cobra ready to strike. He also brings kick and punt return abilities. He faces extremely long odds considering the Steelers deep depth chart of talented receivers, plus the fact newcomer Gunner Olszewski is a former All-Pro kick returner, but he is a versatile practice squad option with potential if he enjoys a productive camp and preseason.

Jordan Tucker

Tucker is a massive individual, blessed with prototypical size and 35" long arms. He tops out at tad over 6'6" and 344 lbs of gigantic girth. He has shown strong pass protection potential while starting 36 games for the North Carolina Tar Heels, mainly at right tackle. Tucker lacks lateral mobility and ideal footwork for the position. He prefers football played in a phone booth, where his lack of mobility and balance isn't so glaring. I am interested to see if Pat Meyer can help clean-up some of Tucker's footwork and technique issues, and if the youngster can learn to accentuate his strengths enough to overcome his weaknesses. If so, the kid has a shot of sticking around, at least on the practice squad. The Steelers have a long and rich history of finding hidden gems on the offensive line in the undrafted free agent market. Maybe Tucker can be another unearthed treasure.

Jaylen Warren

Warren is a bowling ball with legs. Extremely difficult to bring down on first contact, he possesses the type of contact balance needed for an NFL running back. He reminds me of former Jacksonville Jaguars standout Maurice Jones-Drew. Warren isn't quite as thick as Jones-Drew, but he has a more muscular physique. He stands 5'8" and has a listed weight of 215 lbs, although he appears heavier. Like Jones-Drew, Warren has a low center of gravity, and the vision and short area quickness to explode through rapidly closing running lanes. He then has the power to break half-hearted arm tackles, especially from less than enthusiastic secondary personnel. He has solid hands in the passing game, but needs improvement in pass protection. If he proves capable at camp, he could earn a spot.

There you have it, my four way-too-early favorites to be training camp darlings for the Steelers. We will revisit the list at some point in the preseason to see which ones I got right, and wrong. Which one is your early favorite, or do you like someone else all together? Make your voice heard by voting in the attached poll, and then explain the reasoning behind your selection in the comment section below.

Comparing the Steelers receivers to the rest of the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 8:30am
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

How valuable were the Steelers receivers?

It’s easy to look at stat totals and judge players by where they rank based on those totals, but we all know that football is a team sport, and receivers rely heavily on the rest of the offense for their production. A decade ago I came up with a simple metric designed to rate receivers by their importance to the team they play for. I call it MVR (Most Valuable Receiver) and it isn’t hard to calculate.

If you don’t care how the metric works, feel free to skip over this next part.

MVR starts with a players receiving yards divided by team passing attempts. yards per team passing attempt is essentially an adjustment on yards per target based on how often the team they are on throws the ball. Obviously teams that throw the ball more give receivers more opportunity to gain stats. This simply accounts for that.
Then you add percentage of team passing touchdowns that player accounts for. Receiving touchdowns fluctuate by player much more than other receiving stats, they aren’t a great way to judge a receiver. But they are important. This metric looks at receivers by how much of the scoring load they carried, not just points scored. Since passing touchdowns correlate to offensive scheme and quarterback much more than the receiver, this is a good compromise on the value of scoring.

For an example, here’s the math on Cooper Kupp, the No. 1 receiver in MVR in 2021.

Cooper Kupp: 1,947 yards/607 team passing attempts = 3.21 yards per team attempt. 16 TDs/41 team TDs = 39% of team passing TDs. 3.21+0.39= 3.60 MVR.

MVR and the Pittsburgh Steelers

Here’s the top 10 receivers by MVR in the 2021 NFL season, and their rank in total receiving yards

1. Cooper Kupp: 3.60 (#1)
2. Ja’Marr Chase: 2.98 (#4)
3. Justin Jefferson: 2.97 (#2)
4. Deebo Samuel: 2.96 (#5)
5. Davante Adams: 2.90 (#3)
6. Mark Andrews: 2.66 (#6)
7. Tyler Lockett: 2.64 (#9)
8. D.K. Metcalf: 2.35 (#28)
9. Michael Pittman Jr.: 2.30 (#18)
10. D.J. Moore: 2.22 (#11)

Cooper Kupp stood out above all the other receivers in the NFL in 2021, while the next four stood out from everyone below them on the list. After that there are a few surprises. Both Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf jump up the charts. That’s because the Seattle Seahawks threw the ball the second fewest times of any NFL team, so they were competing for fewer passes. The two Seattle receivers accounted for 49.8% of team targets. Defenses knew the ball was going to one of those two, and yet they still produced.

Three receivers finished in the top ten in yards and yet missed the top ten in MVR.

Tyreek Hill: Seventh in yards, 18th in MVR (2.08)

Stephon Diggs: Eighth in yards, 14th in MVR (2.15)

Diontae Johnson: Tenth in yards, 17th in MVR (2.10)

Those three receivers were part of extremely high volume offenses, with KC 2nd, Pittsburgh 4th and Buffalo 5th in team pass attempts, and didn’t produce enough to offset that volume.

Diontae Johnson dropped from 10th in yards to 17th in MVR, how did other Steelers fare?

Chase Claypool: 35th in yards, 51st in MVR (1.38)
Pat Freiermuth: 88th in yards, 79th in MVR (1.05)
Najee Harris: 96th in yards, 102nd in MVR (0.83)
Ray-Ray McCloud: 135th in yards, 139th in MVR (0.42)

142 players qualified for this list with a requirement of 34 receptions (2 per week average)

Pat Freiermuth was the only Steeler to rank higher in MVR than in yards, and that is because at his level of production he had a ridiculously high touchdown share. If you compare target percentage to touchdown percentage, Pat Freiermuth ranked 4th in the entire NFL in increased importance on touchdown passes.

Accounting for the quarterback

MVR does a good job for what it is designed to do, showcase highly efficient receivers that simply played on an offense that didn’t throw the ball as much. But MVR leans highly on efficiency, and receivers aren’t the sole drivers of a passing offense’s efficiency.

To account for team offense, I look at the team’s yards per pass attempt and normalize it to the NFL average for that year, which in 2021 was 7.1 yards per attempt. MVR2 adjusts a player’s yards per team attempt to show what we could expect those numbers to be if every NFL team averaged 7.1 yards per pass attempt. This variant gives a boost to players who played in poorly designed offenses or offenses that suffered from poor quarterback play.

Here’s the top ten receivers in MVR2 along with their ranking from MVR to compare.

1. Cooper Kupp, 3.37 (#1)
2. Justin Jefferson, 3.00 (#3)
3. Mark Andrews, 2.87 (#4)
4. Davante Adams, 2.84 (#5)
5. D.J. Moore, 2.82 (#10)
6. Ja’Marr Chase, 2.71 (#2)
7. Tyler Lockett, 2.70 (#7)
8. Deebo Samuel, 2.59 (#4)
9. Darnell Mooney, 2.59 (#11)
10. Diontae Johnson, 2.53 (#18)

Cooper Kupp’s lead shrinks, but he’s still easily the #1 receiver from 2021. Mark Andrews moves up to #3 in MVR2 after MVR gave him a boost. Mark Andrews was the #1 target on a team that didn’t throw the ball a ton, and didn’t throw it particularly well either, yet he was dominant. That’s how you end up the #3 player on this list. It’s even more impressive that he did it as a tight end.

Ja’Marr Chase drops substantially, because the entire Bengals passing game was crazy good, he was just the best part of the receiver side of it, Joe Burrow has a lot to do with his success and that shows up in how much Burrow boosted the production of the players around Chase.

The biggest gains are from D.J. Moore and Diontae Johnson. Moore was the #1 receiver on a Carolina team that threw the ball poorly, and yet showed up 11th in yards and 10th in MVR. Impressive season for him in a contract year, and he got a very nice extension out of it.

Diontae Johnson moves back up to tenth after MVR dropped him to 18th. The Steelers offense was a high volume, low efficiency offense, and these contrasting rankings showcase the dilemma of whether that volume padded stats for a good, not great player or if the limitations of the offense hurt his ability to produce. Both play a part, but how much of a factor each was will shape his value in the future.

How bad was the Steelers passing offense? Diontae Johnson was second only to D.J. Moore in the difference between MVR and MVR2, he was behind only D.J. Moore. Chase Claypool ranks 7th in the difference between MVR and MVR2 and Pat Freiermuth ranks 21st.

The difference between MVR and MVR2 is a number I watch for ever since 2016, when DeAndre Hopkins had his worst season on a bad offense with a revolving door of quarterbacks. The gap between his MVR and MVR2 was the highest in the NFL, and the next season the Texans drafted Deshaun Watson and Hopkins made three straight All-Pro First Teams, while leading the NFL in MVR.

What does that mean for Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool? Diontae Johnson is #2 in that gap for the 2021 season, and the Steelers are bringing in a new quarterback and have invested in making the Matt Canada offense work better.

While Johnson’s gap isn’t nearly as big as Hopkins’ was, there are clear signs that we could see much more efficient production from the Steelers top offensive targets. Also if you think highly of Matt Corral, you might want to consider D.J. Moore for your fantasy team.

Is the bigger key to the Steelers success the players or the coaches?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 7:15am
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Obviously both groups working in tandem is what it takes to win a championship, but which one is the bigger contributor?

It seems like this question comes up fairly often among Steelers fans. Who is more responsible for the team success: the players or the coaches?

This debate came up again recently here at Behind The Steel Curtain when earlier this week I published an article about the Steelers biggest X-Factor going into the 2022 season.

First, the whole notion of what an X-Factor is was up for debate. While some look at an X-Factor as something you didn’t expect while others think of it as being the most important thing, I’ve always viewed X-Factors as the largest variable in a situation. Being a mathematical person, I’m obviously thinking of the variable X in an equation, so thinking about how a certain player, if they do poorly, really affects the team negatively and if they do fantastic it affects them positively was my mindset.

In the article, I gave five X-Factors for the season where three were on offense and two were on defense. As the discussion took off in the comments, several people were critical that I did not include any aspects dealing with the coaches as an option. While I believe the coaches are an important part of the equation, I felt the most important things that will determine if the Steelers are successful or not is going to be the players. Options like the quarterback position and the offensive line, or the Steelers ability to stop the run were the top choices from users who voted in the poll. How could the implementation of a coach be a more important factor than these things?

One of the aspects of coaching that was brought up was Matt Canada’s offensive scheme. It was an idea that if it worked great the Steelers would succeed, but if it didn’t work well they would struggle throughout the season. While I agree with this, I don’t believe it’s more important than the Steelers having quality play a quarterback, or have an ability to protect the quarterback and run the football because of the offensive line. As the discussion went on, I was wondering if I was in the minority.

I have to admit, I had a bit of a ‘mic drop’ moment in the comments when I asked the question of why Matt Canada‘s offense is so unknown when he’s already been the offensive coordinator for a year. The response that I received was that Canada didn’t get to really implement his system last year because of an aging quarterback, an ineffective offensive line, and some other personnel factors. I, of course, responded pointing out that if Matt Canada gets a pass for his system last year because the ability of the players was more important, then obviously the ability of the players is a bigger factor.

As the discussion progressed about the importance of players versus coaches, I came up with an example of comparing two teams which completed a huge trade with each other last offseason and finished on opposite ends of the spectrum in 2021. Looking at the Los Angeles Rams and the Detroit Lions, I raised the question of if the coaching staff were switched, would their success be switched as well? If the players on the Detroit Lions had the entire Los Angeles Rams coaching staff, are they instantly Super Bowl contenders? If the Los Angeles Rams had the Detroit Lions coaching staff, would they be towards the bottom of the standings in the NFL? While I feel both teams would not necessarily finish with the exact same results, I don’t believe their success following the coaching staff to be true because I feel the Los Angeles Rams simply have a stronger roster of players. I think the two teams would finish closer to where they finished with their current coaches rather than seeing a switch in the standings.

As I began compiling these ideas to present to the BTSC community, which was the suggestion of one of the users in the discussion, a new idea struck me. Is the order of importance a factor?

To explain this further, does having quality players versus quality coaches have an order of operations to it? In other words, is it important to build a quality roster first to have the opportunity for a good coaching staff to take the team to the promised land? Or does the coaching staff need to be in place first to build a successful roster?

The reason I ask this may be because I am coming from the perspective of someone who has coached football in the past. As a coach, the last thing I wanted to do was not put my players in the best situation to be successful. On the flip-side, there were times there were things we couldn’t do to be successful based on the ability of the players that we had. A coach could be the greatest coach in the world, but if the players can’t get the job done on the field, the most brilliant scheme isn’t going to make up for their inabilities.

I also admit that the inverse can be true, but I believe it is to a lesser degree. Yes, a fantastic roster could be held back by a coach who does not put players in a situation to be successful, makes unwise personnel decisions, and does crazy things in key spots throughout a game. Yes, those things can hold a team back for sure. But the more talented the roster, the less effect those coaching issues are likely to make.

I do believe that some Steelers fans can think higher of their own players than what they really are and therefore think it’s the coach’s fault that they’re not performing better. I don’t see it the other way around as much. Sure there are fans who think the coaches are doing a great job but the players just aren’t good enough to win more games, I just don’t know that they scream it as loudly. I will add that in my discussions with those who covered other NFL teams last season and are not Steelers fans, the overwhelming majority believed this was the case with the 2021 Steelers and the only reason they made the playoffs is because of their excellent coaches. Maybe the outside perspective has a better view of things and our Black & Gold goggles need cleaning.

I’ve presented my case on the issue for the most part, but I will still reserve to right to say more in the comments. Ultimately, I would like to have an extended discussion about the topic. I look forward to reading the responses to this article to see where fans really fall when it comes to the responsibility of the players versus the coaches in a team’s success.

Do fans truly believe that the coaches are a bigger factor in a team success than the players? Let the debate begin.

News is still boomin’ with Antonio Brown three years after leaving the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire, USA TODAY Sport

The Steelers and Antonio Brown will always be connected, and when he does or says something provocative, it’s going to dominate the news cycle. And it should be talked about.

The 24/7 news cycle moves so fast today. It moves so fast, in fact, that the 24 part of “24/7” has never seemed more appropriate.

Remember that time when the guy hit the other guy at the awards thingy?

Many other things have happened since then—like every 24 hours—that we’ve debated, dissected and been banned by people/banned people over.

I can’t really remember what any of those things were, but the rage and the bannings were cool.

Because I can’t remember what those other things were that happened since the slap at the awards thingy, I figure I should probably write some stuff about former Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown, and his tweets from Monday that dominated the 24/7 news cycle for about a day—at least the Steelers 24/7 news cycle, anyway—while it’s still fresh in my cranium.

What did Brown tweet? Only that he wanted to retire as a Steeler.

Just wanna Retire A Steeler

— AB (@AB84) May 16, 2022

This immediately generated many retweets, likes and replies—believe it or not, those replies were diverse with regard to the people and their feelings about AB.

This tweet by Brown immediately led to the publication of thousands of articles about what Brown said, as well as millions of polls, a bunch of “What do y’all think?” quote tweets and perhaps even a seismic shift in the universe. Not long after that, Brown did a rather refreshing thing by actually clarifying what he meant via another tweet:

Not Play Jus Retire so we Clear

— AB (@AB84) May 16, 2022

This clarification led to more of those responses I just mentioned. Nevertheless, the “Antonio Brown wants to retire as a Steeler but only after he’s all done with football” development was all anyone could talk about on Monday.

As it should have been, even if there were a bunch of “Why are we still talking about ANTONIO BROWN!?!?!” comments followed by the steaming mad emoji on every Steelers-related Twitter feed, Facebook thread and comments section.

Are you kidding me? Why are we still talking about Brown? For one thing, he’s a former Steeler and arguably the greatest receiver in franchise history. For another thing, his divorce from the team couldn’t have been more chaotic and drama-filled if it was scripted by a writer for The Real Housewives of Atlanta/Beverly Hills/Real Husbands of Hollywood.

Third, did you see how much activity Brown’s initial tweet got all by itself? We’re talking over 5,500 replies, 11,700 retweets and 59,000 likes. It was like a Twitter version of his career in Pittsburgh, a time that included the most prolific six-year run for any receiver in the history of the NFL.

For writers, podcasters, reporters and radio hosts to not talk about what Antonio Brown said after it generated such a response would be like your ex-lover, someone who you had a steamy and rollercoaster relationship with, tweeting @ you, “I still love you,” followed by another tweet, “Well, I don’t love you, but I wouldn’t mind grabbing a cup of coffee sometime,” and you refusing to even bring it up the next time you saw your friends, who are all just waiting for you to, you know, bring it up.

It would be disingenuous to publish an article about the strengths of a 5-technique defensive lineman when everyone else is talking about Brown’s latest antics.

Brown and the Steelers will always be connected, and the next time he does or says something that may or may not have anything to do with his original NFL team, we will talk about it.

Same with Terry Bradshaw the next time he disses Ben Roethlisberger and/or the Steelers organization (I believe he’s overdue). If Le’Veon Bell goes on Twitter and says his walk-off touchdown against the Chargers on Monday Night Football back in 2015 was more impressive than Franco Harris’s Immaculate Reception, we’re going to spend the day talking about it.

The Steelers have a long and rich history filled with great players and coaches. Many are beloved. Many are not.

Like it or not, the business will always be booming when a former member of the organization, but especially an unpopular one, has something to say.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 05/20/2022 - 4:30am

Get the latest BTSC podcast content in the ‘Podcast Roundup’.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

Nonetheless, we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the website but have decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest four podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each show.

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout: Reculate Retirement with AB

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the conversation about the Steelers social media conversation. Hosts Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) break down the hottest and most toxic takes of the week on Steelers twitter and beyond. This week, we speculate and reculate over whether or not AB can “retire a Steeler,” whatever that really means.... Plus, our first QB ‘22 Power Rankings. And the reasons to root for the newest signings from rookie tryouts. Join Kyle and Greg for their black-and-gold breakdown of everything “Stillers” on Twitter and so much more.

Rundown of the show:

  • Toxic Takes
  • More Reculation
  • Much, Much More

Take a deep dive into the world of Steelers social media from a yinzer perspective as BTSC proudly presents a very unique show that highlights “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout”.

The Steelers Preview: Are the Steelers playing with fire with RB/TE one man shows?

Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth are both burgeoning superstars at their positions, but one-man shows can be a dangerous proposition. This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield. Join the triumphant trio as they combine all things Steelers with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the Week
  • The danger of no depth behind superstars
  • Trivia
Let’s Ride Friday: Are the Steelers done adding to their roster?

Big names remain on the market in the NFL and it seems like the Steelers may be finished making moves, but are the Men of Steel finished adding to their 2022 roster? This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts with Senior Editor Jeff Hartman. Join Jeff for this and more on the Friday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • WIll there be more additions to Steel City Football?
  • Hart to Heart
  • 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

Steelers announce an official second GM interview with internal candidate Brandon Hunt

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 5:02pm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue their second interviews, this time with internal candidate Brandon Hunt.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for their next General Manager (GM) following the 2022 NFL Draft and retirement of Kevin Colbert. Who that next GM will be is anyone’s guess. After having an extensive first round of interviews, the Steelers are now onto their second round of callbacks.

Some of the names of individuals who have gotten a second interview were John Spytek, Andy Weidl, Doug Whaley and internal candidate Omar Khan. Thursday afternoon the team announced another internal candidate received an interview by way of Brandon Hunt.

We have completed a second round interview for our General Manager position with #Steelers Pro Scouting Coordinator Brandon Hunt.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 19, 2022

Hunt is the Steelers’ pro scouting director, and is in his second stint with the team. He began interning for the team in 2005 and returned in 2010. Earlier this offseason Hunt met with the Raiders about their GM vacancy, also met with the Philadelphia Eagles recently in what would be viewed as a lateral move and interviewed with the Buffalo Bills for their Assistant GM opening.

There is no timetable for the Steelers to make their decision on their next GM, but here is a list of those who have received second interviews with the team:

John Spytek (Buccaneers)
Doug Whaley
Andy Weidl (Eagles)
Ryan Cowden (Titans)
Omar Khan (Internal)
Brandon Hunt (Internal)

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.

Getting to know the Steelers 2022 UDFAs: Jake Dixon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The former Duquesne Duke is getting his shot in the NFL.

After the Pittsburgh Steelers selected seven players in the 2022 NFL draft, they continued adding to the roster with ten undrafted free agents. With many draft profiles focusing on those players towards the top and middle of the NFL draft, it is time to get to take a look at these other members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who will have just as much opportunity to make the roster in 2022 as those who were selected in the draft, despite the more difficult path.

Remember, some draft profiles for these players are quite harsh as they are looking at them as a draftable prospect. Taking a flyer on an UDFA is a completely different story as many times the potential the player shows is what lands them on an NFL offseason roster.

Next on the list is Duquesne offensive tackle Jake Dixon.

Jake Dixon Offensive tackle
Senior
Duquesne
6’6” 290 lbs

Appearing in every game in five seasons, Dixon spent his first three years at Duquesne as a tight end. In 35 games in 2017 through 2019, Dixon had three receptions for 14 yards and one touchdown. Making the transition to tackle for the five games played in what was considered the 2020 season even though they were played in the spring of 2021, Dixon started each game at left tackle in the shortened season as well as all 10 games in the fall of 2021.

Current Steelers at the position:

Offensive Tackle

  1. Chukwuma Okorafor
  2. Dan Moore Jr.
  3. Joe Haeg
  4. Chaz Green
  5. Jordan Tucker
  6. Jake Dixon
Draft Profiles:

Coming from an FCS school, there was limited information in the terms of breakdowns for Dixon heading into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is a breakdown from cbssports.com where Dixon was chosen in their small-college starting 11 going into the draft:

OT Jake Dixon (Duquesne)

Height: 6-6

Weight: 290

After converting from tight end to offensive tackle in 2019, Jake Dixon went on to become a two-time first-team All-Northeast Conference and FCS All-American. While still fairly new to the position, he displays underrated form and technique, brings a lot of tools with him in his toolbox, and possesses the upside you look for from a prospect coming from a smaller school. He was a difficult test for every rusher down at the FCS Bowl back in mid-December.

Here is a description of Dixon from Bob Labriola from steelers.com where he listed Dixon as one of his three undrafted free agents to watch in his May 5 edition of Asked and Answered:

Dixon attended Bethel Park High School, south of Pittsburgh, where he played football, basketball, and volleyball. Dixon (6-foot-6, 290 pounds) first went to Lewis College to play volleyball, but he missed football so much that he transferred to Duquesne, where he first played tight end before being switched to tackle.

Film:

As has been the case with most of the information involving Jake Dixon, the film is quite difficult to find. Here is a video from Duquesne where Dixon is a finalist for Male Student-Athlete of the Year. The video is mainly his coach discussing Dixon as a player while there are some highlights shown.

Which Steelers game in the 2022 regular season would you like to attend?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 05/19/2022 - 12:57pm
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

It’s always great to watch our beloved Steelers, but which game on the 2022 schedule would you like to see in person?

The 2022 NFL schedule has now been officially released for a week. On Tuesday’s episode of the Scho Bro Show podcast, Big Bro Scho and I looked at the schedule from the perspective of attending the games. While some Steelers fans have the luxury of attending multiple games each season, there are other parts of the fan base spread across the world who would love to be able to catch the Steelers one time in person in their lifetime. If the 2022 NFL season is your time, we are here to help.

It should be noted this exercise is mainly for those people looking to attend one game this season. If you are someone that attends more than half the games, then they all have their various appeal factors. But if you are only attending one game this year, getting the best experience should be your greatest goal.

Before diving into the regular season, I will say preseason games are a great opportunity for some fans looking for a very specific experience. For me, I find the preseason is a great time to take children to a game if your budget does not allow you to do so during the regular season. Tickets directly from the Steelers are very inexpensive compared to the regular season, and resale tickets are sometimes as low as single-digit dollar amounts. The stadium is not nearly as crowded, especially towards the end of the game. And because the result is not the most important aspect of a preseason game, it is a much more relaxed environment. So, if that is what you were looking for, especially if you’re looking to take a young one to their first game, don’t rule out a preseason game as they are generally before the school year begins.

Getting to the heart of the issue, the regular season, I’ve split the games into two categories. First, the away games and what they could possibly bring as a fan experience. As a reminder, here are the games on the Steelers schedule in which they will be on the road:

Week 1: at Cincinnati Bengals 1 PM
Week 3: at Cleveland Browns Thursday 8:15 PM
Week 5: at Buffalo Bills 1 PM
Week 7: at Miami Dolphins 8:20 PM
Week 8: at Philadelphia Eagles 1 PM
Week 12: at Indianapolis Colts Monday 8:15 PM
Week 13: at Atlanta Falcons 1 PM
Week 15: at Carolina Panthers 1 PM
Week 17: at Baltimore Ravens 1 PM

When it comes to the away schedule, I want to acknowledge many fans who choose to hit the road for the Steelers game are ones who are looking for the experience closer to where they live. Obviously, unless you’re willing to travel to Pittsburgh, fans that live in the south will have a much easier trip to Miami or Atlanta to catch the black and gold.

As for the Week 1 game in Cincinnati, unless you are really set on seeing the Steelers first game of the season, and the first game in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, I’d rather have the experience at Heinz Field. If you’re someone who has to travel east just to get to Cincinnati, the Indianapolis game is probably a little bit more appealing other than the fact it is on a Monday night. Both Buffalo and Cleveland are also games that are very close to Pittsburgh, so many fans that attend these games aren’t having it be “their only one” for the season and are just trying to catch as many games as possible.

When it comes to the game in Baltimore, I’m fairly biased about this one. Being a person who lives much closer to M&T Bank stadium than Heinz Field, I would much rather make the 3.5 hour drive to the Steel City than to go into that place again. It would take some pretty unique circumstances for me to choose to attend a game there over one in Pittsburgh.

If you are a person looking for the best road experience to see the Steelers in 2022, my top suggestions are in Atlanta or in Charlotte. These are cities the Steelers travel to rarely, and there are various activities in which Steelers fans could enjoy in the cities the team doesn’t visit often. Additionally, being NFC opponents, the fans from these franchises usually don’t have issues with visiting fans like others may. For example, even though Philadelphia is an NFC opponent, I’m not sure I would ever want to catch a game where those fans have the home field advantage.

I’ve spent enough time on the away games, let’s get to the Steelers home schedule:

Week 2: vs New England Patriots 1 PM
Week 4: vs New York Jets 1 PM
Week 6: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 PM
Week 10: vs New Orleans Saints 1 PM
Week 11: vs Cincinnati Bengals 8:20 PM
Week 14: vs Baltimore Ravens 1 PM
Week 16: vs Las Vegas Raiders Saturday 8:15 PM
Week 18: vs Cleveland Browns TBD

Each game scheduled for Heinz Field this year brings something different. If you want to see the home opener, a 1 PM start against the Patriots in September would make for a pleasant experience. If you’re a fan looking for the possibility of Kenny Pickett making his Heinz Field debut in black and gold, Week 2 against the Patriots is possible, but Week 4 against the Jets is another one as the Steelers are coming off their “mini bye”. Another place where this is possible is the Steelers playing at home against the New Orleans Saints in November coming off their bye week. While it’s difficult to tell at this time if or when the Steelers would debut their 1st Round draft pick from 2022, these are ones fans may want to keep their eye on.

The hottest ticket in Pittsburgh for the 2022 season is their matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barring a change in how the NFL handles the schedule, or another change in team, this is likely to be Tom Brady’s final trip to Heinz Field. Whether or not that excites Steelers fans, these tickets appear to be the most expensive at this time.

If you are looking for a prime time experience at Heinz Field, the Sunday night matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals is a good one to catch. Yes, the Steelers also play in prime time against the Raiders on Christmas Eve, but that game will likely have a very specific in-person audience. While for some this fits perfect into their schedule, there are many in which it won’t due to the holiday.

To finish off, the Baltimore Ravens in a 1 PM matchup is great for Steelers fans looking for the rivalry atmosphere in the stadium. As for the Browns game to finish up the season, it’s a very similar situation other than the day and time of the game not being set at this time. Also, the previous 16 games will ultimately determine the importance of the Steelers final home matchup which could make it extra exciting, or meaningless.

So, there is the breakdown of the Steelers 2022 schedule and what might bring the best experience for fans depending on what they are looking to do. So which game would you attend if you could only pick one? Make sure you leave your answer in the comments below.

For the complete breakdown of which games could bring the best fan experience, check out the Scho Bro Show podcast below:

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator