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Pittsburgh Steelers Fact or Fiction: 2019 Offseason Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - 3 hours 6 min ago

BTSC examines whether statements regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers are fact or fiction.

With the noise coming out of the Steel City louder than ever since season’s end, everybody has an opinion about the most talked-about NFL team not to make the playoffs. But what is to be believed? BTSC takes five bold statements regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and shares their thoughts and opinions whether or not they’re fact or fiction.

Mike Tomlin will resist hiring a coach to preside over replays and clock management


Art II Is offering assistance to Tomlin for what is perceived to be his biggest weakness. Most coaches would let pride get in the way and say “Thanks, but no thanks”. But when the fan base is calling for your head, you follow the owner’s suggestion. Tomlin is smart and realizes that other teams have that exact position, so delegation is not a bad thing. Coach T will take the lifeline.

Teams will target both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell to join them in 2019


Teams with tons of cap room and not intimately familiar with the divisiveness and less-than-selfless demeanors that accompany the mega talent that this pairing promises to offer, it may be a tough task to actually execute. I would think that the Steelers would hesitate to deal AB to an AFC team that could afford this like the New York Jets. Plus teams that could afford it have found solutions to their RB dilemma like the Browns have with Nick Chubb and the Colts have with Marlon Mack. The pairing could happen. It is unlikely, but franchises will consider it.

The upcoming season will be Keith Butler’s last in Pittsburgh


After the terrible collapse of the defense again in 2018, many a scalp in Steeler Nation has been scratched raw on why Butler remains at the Defensive Coordinator position. The best guess is that Butler’s contract runs out after next season and that they’d rather audition a possible successor like Teryl Austin than fire Butler outright. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the logic here. But all signs point to the end of the road for Butler after 2019.

The loss of Mike Munchak to Denver will be devastating to the Offensive Line


Steeler Nation was elated when news broke that Vic Fangio won the Bronco’s job over Steeler OL coach Mike Munchak. However, Munch left in a lateral move to Denver a few days later, causing Steeler Nation to “the Sky is falling” mode. However, enter Shaun Sarrett who has been working with Munchak since 2014 and the team since 2012. Sarrett’s resumé may be unknown to Steeler fans, but to those in the know...the feeling is that the excellence of a line featuring three Pro Bowlers will continue under Sarrett. Gravity remains.

The Steelers will welcome Ramon Foster back in 2019


Previously, I was certain that the Steelers would let “The Big Ragu” walk after his contract ran out. But after coming off of another solid season, with Marcus Gilbert’s injury woes continuing and Mike Munchak’s departure...It looks like No. 73 could return at a team friendly deal to help continue to be a vital link on a strong chain.


How accurate will our opinions prove to be? To copy the sentiment of Antonio Brown...We will find out soon.

Podcast: Handing out Steelers CB and Safety end of year grades

Behind the Steel Curtain - 4 hours 4 min ago

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers season is over, but the news is just starting to heat up. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers, including a fun game of “True or False!”

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Recapping the week that was
  • RB and WR season grades!
  • Championship Game LIVE reaction
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Black and Gold Links: What kind of changes, and to what extent, need to happen in Pittsburgh?

Behind the Steel Curtain - 5 hours 10 min ago

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at the changes which need to take place, but not just the changes but the extent of those changes to get the team back to Championship Sunday next season.

Let’s get to the news:

John Steigerwald: Business as usual won’t cut it for Steelers

By: John Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Art Rooney II is right.

Things could have been a lot different in the AFC North if not for the kicker. There was that blocked field goal in overtime in Week 1 that led to a tie, and then there was that loss by three points when the kicker missed two field goals and two extra points.

Art, of course, was talking about Chris Boswell, who, according to him, went from one of the best kickers in the league in 2017 to one of the worst this season.

I, of course, am talking about Zane Gonzalez.

He was the Cleveland Browns’ kicker until they cut him at the start of Week 3. Gonzalez had a tough two weeks to start the season. He had a 43-yard attempt blocked by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt in the opener with nine seconds left in overtime. That game, you may remember, ended in a 21-21 tie. The next week, Gonzalez missed two field goals and two extra points in a 21-18 loss to the Saints in New Orleans.

If he makes those kicks, the Browns finish 9-7. It would have meant that, instead of giving the Steelers a division championship by beating the Ravens in Baltimore in the last game of the season, they would have won the division themselves. They lost that game 26-24 after the Ravens intercepted a Baker Mayfield pass in field-goal territory in the last seconds.

So Rooney probably shouldn’t try to console himself or his fans, as he did while making the rounds in rare talks with the media last week, by playing the woulda-coulda-shoulda game. The Browns had just as many couldas.

And they shoulda started the season with Mayfield at quarterback instead of Tyrod Taylor, who left for good with a concussion in the second quarter of their third game.

That coulda meant a 2-0 start.

Rooney bristled at the idea that his franchise had turned into a circus when it was suggested at his press conference Wednesday.

“It’s nonsense,” he said. “We didn’t achieve our goal of winning the division, but we finished a half-game out and had a lot of opportunities to get there.”

Again, so did the Cleveland Stinking Browns.

They played in four overtime games and lost three of them. The tie with the Steelers looked like a fluke because, at the time, nobody believed they were close to being as good as the Steelers.

They were and they are going into next season.

And it’s about a lot more than the kicker.

No need here to drag out all the circus acts from 2018. They’ve become part of Steelers lore and will live forever, but the first act was Antonio Brown showing up in a helicopter.

After flaming out at home to Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars in their last appearance of the 2017 season, it would have been a nice touch if the coach, Mike Tomlin, had told his players it was time for a little humility.

You know, how about displaying a “We mean business” attitude and a focus on the team instead of starting the season off with the biggest and most ridiculous “Look at me” moment in Steelers history?

It’s hard to believe that nobody in the organization had been aware of Brown’ s plan for the big entrance. Would it have been too much to ask if he could just shut up and show up? Maybe change the tone a little bit?

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

Mark Madden: Rooney should make Tomlin feel like he has to earn contract extension

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

When Steelers owner/president Art Rooney II made his media rounds this week, he seemed noncommittal to the notion of extending the contract of coach Mike Tomlin.

“Those are things we’ll get to sort of later in the offseason,” Rooney said.

Translation: Tomlin will get extended, but it’s not something Rooney wants to trumpet less than a month after an epic fail of a season that saw his coach lose control.

Rooney refused to characterize the Steelers as a “circus,” and why would he? That wouldn’t do the franchise one bit of good.

But, by season’s end, the whole team could have spilled out of a solitary car at the 50-yard-line by way of pregame introductions.

Changes to the coaching staff have been minimal: Two assistants were let go. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak made a lateral move to Denver to be near his daughter and granddaughter and for no other reason — certainly not to escape the quicksand of the Steelers’ chaos, nor because Munchak was a lonely island of discipline and structure in an ocean of turmoil.

Somebody already on the staff will “assist” Tomlin with replay challenges. That’s cosmetic, not meaningful. Tomlin, who has been unsuccessful on all nine of his replay challenges over the last two seasons, still has final say. He shouldn’t.

Doing a basic read-between-the-lines translation of what Rooney said, he thinks the Steelers’ problems are neither great, nor many.

Rooney will confirm that when he extends Tomlin’s contract this offseason.

That adheres to the Steelers’ policy of extending a coach’s commitment when he has two years left on his current deal. (The Steelers are addicted to doing things exactly as they have for the past 50 years. Except Tomlin isn’t Chuck Noll.)

Tomlin largely let the reins slip during the last two seasons. It wasn’t nonstop chaos but pretty close. Review the timeline.

Tomlin acknowledged the Steelers’ framework needs modified: “I foster and develop every aspect of our culture.”

That’s a mouthful for someone who seems to rarely think he’s wrong, let alone admit it.

More tangibly, the Steelers went from 7-2-1 to out of the playoffs.

The Steelers are broken. Tomlin likely doesn’t know how to fix it. But giving him job security beyond 2020 might make him think he doesn’t really have to. The gravity of the situation would be minimized. This past season’s collapse would be normalized.

Giving Tomlin an extension now (and, very likely, a hefty raise) would be pointing him in the wrong direction.

Tomlin wouldn’t be a lame duck without an extension. He has two years left, not one.

(For more, click the link in the headline...)


By: Jon Ledyard, The Draft Network

At 7-2-1 coming off an amazing comeback win against Jacksonville, all seemed fine in Pittsburgh. Another division title was essentially guaranteed, and a run at the Super Bowl seemed legitimate given the weak AFC and parity across the entire NFL.

Instead, the Steelers lost four of their last six, fell flat on their faces blowing several fourth quarter leads and were thoroughly out-coached and out-played during a stretch of miserable football that will go down in NFL history. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Steelers are the third team to start 7-2-1 or better through 10 games and fail to reach the playoffs since the current format was adopted in 1990. Both the other teams (Dolphins, 1993, Raiders, 1995) lost their starting quarterbacks to spur on the collapse.

The Steelers, generally blessed with good health throughout the season, delivered an all-time choke job by losing to the Broncos and Raiders and tying the Browns before blowing a late lead against the Saints in Week 16.

The questions have never been louder in Pittsburgh than they are right now. Should Mike Tomlin stay as head coach? Is the team’s Super Bowl window closed? Will they finally be aggressive in acquiring top talent in the offseason?

The answer is yes, no and dear God I hope so, but probably no.

Allow me to elaborate with the offseason moves Pittsburgh must make to return to the postseason.

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

NFL Conference Championship Sunday: Updates, news and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 1:45pm

The Steelers’ season is over, but we all will be watching other games Sunday to see how things shake out.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 season is over, but despite them being left out of the AFC Playoffs, we all know the Steelers Nation fan base will be watching all the Conference Championship action today to see how things shake out.

With that said, join others like me in the open thread to talk about all of the games going on throughout Championship Sunday. Which game are you most excited about watching? Let us know, and be sure to keep tabs on all the playoff action in the process.

Here is the schedule of events for today:

Rams at Saints - 3:05 p.m. ET
Patriots at Chiefs - 6:40 p.m. ET

Who do you like to win these games today?

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


This Week in Pittsburgh Steelers Stats: Various numbers and rankings from the 2018 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 1:02pm

A compilation of Steelers statistics from various Tweets over the past week.

Compiling statistics can take hours upon hours in order to find the proper numbers. To save you the trouble, here are some of the best statistics about the Steelers published during this past week.

I will begin with a few statistics of my own before going on to other various Steeler sources. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @STLRSuperFanDad in order to get some of BTSC’s geekiest stats.

Two #Steelers played 100% of the offensive snaps (1,116) in 2018: Alejandro Villanueva and @RamonFoster. With 73 ST snaps each, they led the team with 1,189 snaps, which was also tied with rookie Terrell Edmunds (966 on defense and 223 ST).

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 19, 2019

With 12 rushing TD’s in 13 games in 2018, @JamesConner_ ranks 2nd in franchise history in rushing touchdowns per game (0.932) in a single season. Only @francoharrishof in 1976 (14 rushing TD’s in 14 games for 1.00 rushing touchdowns per game) ranks higher.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 19, 2019

@JamesConner_ had 9 rushes of 20 yards or more for the @steelers in 2018, the most since Rashad Mendenhall’s 11 in 2010.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 19, 2019

The @steelers 345 rushing attempts in 2018 was the fewest in a 16-game season in franchise history. Since 1947, the only season with fewer rushing attempts was the strike-shortened season of 1982 (289). This includes 33 seasons of less than 16 games.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 18, 2019

The 2018 @steelers had their 2nd worst turnover margin (-11) since 1968. The only season which was lower since then was 2011 (-13).

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 17, 2019

The 2018 @steelers had the fewest players register either a kick or punt return (3) in team history. Two of those players (Nix and Samuels) only fielded the ball due to a short kick. @Switz was deep to field every kick in 2018 and had 857 return yards which was 5th in the NFL.

— SteelersSuperFanDad (@STLRSuperFanDad) January 14, 2019

Today's Stathead Question of the Day:

Ben Roethlisberger is second among active players in playoff starts with 21. Find info like this in the leaders section #StatheadQotD

— ProFootballReference (@pfref) January 19, 2019

Four catches for 161 yards, including a 64-yard TD late in the fourth quarter.

On this day in 1976, @Lynn88Swann delivered one of the most memorable Super Bowl performances of all time. @steelers

— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) January 19, 2019

JuJu Smith-Schuster's 11 100-receiving yard games are tied as the 4th-most in
NFL history in a player's first two seasons, while his 169 catches are 5th-most and his 2,343 receiving yards are 10th-most.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 19, 2019

A look back at the 2018 season for JuJu Smith-Schuster shows that he is ready to take over as the top option for the #Steelers if called upon.


— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) January 18, 2019

The NFL leader in deep receiving yards is in action on Sunday!

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 18, 2019

Bobby Wagner was in a class of his own when it came to tackling efficiency in 2018.

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 15, 2019

No cornerback forced more incompletions from the slot than Mike Hilton in 2018.

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 15, 2019

Memorable AFC Championship Game moments in Pittsburgh Steelers history

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 11:48am

The Steelers had great moments in AFCCG history, but these may rank as the finest.

The AFC Championship Game is being played in Kansas City this weekend minus the team that has played-in (16) and hosted (11) the game the most...The Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Steelers couldn’t muster their way in this past season, there have been some very memorable moments featuring the black-and-gold. Here are some that pop up most in the craniums of Steeler Nation.

J.T. Thomas’ Redemption - December 29, 1974

The Steelers were on the doorstep of finally getting Art Rooney Sr. to the ““Big One” courtesy of rushing greatness by Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier and great defensive performances by Joe Greene, Jack Ham (two picks) and Jack Lambert. Home Team Oakland was down by four and driving with 1:18 left. The Steelers gang rushed Ken Stabler and sacked him, but J.T. Thomas was nailed for holding in the secondary. Enraged, he picked up the flag and spiked it. Today that would have definitely drew more of a penalty. On the next play, Thomas intercepted a Stabler duck and returned it 38 yards to the Oakland 25 with one minute remaining. The game was sealed when Franco scored from 21 out, two plays later. After 41 years, Art Rooney finally found his team in the big game and we all know what followed.

The Non-Call That Helped Change The NFL - January 6, 1980

On a drive in which Mike Renfro recovered a fumble in the vicinity of five Pittsburgh defenders, drew Mel Blount into a chuck penalty and caught a key first down...the second-year man from TCU was involved in one of the most controversial calls in Title Game history. With 1:30 left in the third, Dan Pastorini threw a six-yard rainbow to Renfro for an apparent touchdown in the corner of the end zone over Ron Johnson. The replay showed that Renfro had clear control of the ball with his left foot down and his right foot hitting the pylon. NFL Films much later showed some movement in Renfro’s hands. If instant replay was in effect, the call on the field very well could have been reversed and Pittsburgh fans would have been hard pressed to argue it. (It was much more borderline than what first appeared on NBC television.) The officials conferred and referee Jim Tunney ruled it out if bounds. Houston was livid. Steeler fans accepted the gift. It was now second down and goal from the six and the Steeler defense held the Oilers to a field goal. It was 17-13 at the end of the third. The game ended 27-13 and the Steelers went on to win their fourth Super Bowl. The Renfro play became a major factor in replay being inserted into the NFL.

Ernie Mills Comes Up Big Again and The Unanswered Prayer - January 14, 1996

The Steelers were heavy favorites to advance to the first Super Bowl appearance of Bill Cowher’s career and the first for the franchise in 16 years, but somebody forgot to tell Jim Harbaugh and the Colts to lay down and let it happen. With 3:03 remaining in the game and Indy up 16-13, the Steelers got the ball back needing at least three to tie. But the way the Colts were playing, a TD seemed necessary. The game almost ended on that drive when Quentin Coryatt seemingly iced the game with an interception of Neil O’Donnell. But at the last moment, WR Ernie Mills bumped the ball out of the linebacker’s grasp. On fourth down, O’Donnell completed a crucial pass to Andre Hastings. On the very next play, No. 14 launched a 37-yard pass to Mills. No. 89 caught the ball in traffic, while managing to stay in bounds at the one. Bam Morris helped Pittsburgh take the lead on the next play. However, Captain Comeback wasn’t done. With very little time left, Harbaugh got the Colts to the Steeler 29. He then lined up with :05 seconds on the clock and launched a Hail Mary into the right corner of the end zone, where Aaron Bailey was waiting. Everybody in Three Rivers Stadium and at home watching on NBC thought Bailey caught the prayer. But Myron “Boo” Bell helped knock the ball away and the Steelers celebrated the big win. Eventually, they would fall two weeks later to Dallas in SB XXX.

Ben Roethlisberger’s XL Bootleg - January 22, 2006

The Steelers had lost three-straight AFC Championship Games at home, so playing in the rarified Denver air was fine for the 2005 sixth seed. A week after stunning the favorites, the Indianapolis Colts, on the road...the “Road Warrior” Steelers won their seventh-straight elimination game of that season behind a masterful performance by Ben Roethlisberger. The second-year QB was 21 for 29 and threw two TD passes in the game. But with 2:59 left and the team leading 27-17, Big Ben scored off a four-yard bootleg to the left to put the contest out of reach and send Jerome Bettis home to Detroit for the Steelers first Super Bowl in ten years and their first victory in 26.

No. 43 Zig Zags the Steelers into Super Bowl No. 43 - January 19, 2009

In the fourth quarter and nursing a slim 16-14 lead at home against their bitter division rivals, the Steelers’ saw a drive (attempting to ice the game) fail after Terrell Suggs sacked Ben Roethlisberger after the Steelers started at their own 40. The Baltimore Ravens took to the turf with a chance to take the lead with 6:50 remaining on the clock. What seemed to be a starting point at the 40, Darren Stone whipped Anthony Madison down miles out of bounds by the B-More bench. Instead of starting off only 60-yards away, Flacco and the offense started way back at their own 14. The Ravens were trying to move the ball, but the Steeler defense came up big on back-to-back plays. On second down, James Farrior forced Joe Flacco into LaMarr Woddley and No. 56 got his second sack. But fortunes really changed when Flacco threw a pass to Derrick Mason on third and 13 with hopes to move the chains. Troy Polamalu, who had been dominant all game, undercut the route and thieved the ball. No. 43 zigged and zagged and ran from sideline to sideline before he made a beeline to the end zone. In what was one of the most majestic plays in Steeler lore from a player with a wrapped calf, the pick-six basically iced the game for Pittsburgh. They would go on to win SB XLIII in even more memorable fashion two weeks later.

NFL Picks and Predictions: Picking Sunday’s Championship Playoff games against the spread and the totals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 10:35am

We take a look at all the action available on Sunday’s playoff games.

If the Super Bowl is to be a watchable event for Pittsburgh Steelers fans in 2019, the Kansas City Chiefs must beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Regardless of Tom Brady’s absurd suggestion that no one believes New England can win in Kansas City, the reality is that most NFL fans just don't want them to.

As per the analyzed geotagged Twitter data from across the country nation, people in each of the 50 states published by betting site

First up on the day’s schedule are two teams that few Steelers fans will hold any deep seated resentment towards, with the New Orleans Saints set to host the Los Angeles Rams. New Orleans opened as 3-point favorites at the start of the week and that is the same line showing as kick-off approaches. The totals position has also seen very little change from an opening line of 57-points, with 56.5-points now the most common offering.

SC Prediction - It is hard to look past the Saints playing at home in the playoff given they have never lost in front of their own fans during the postseason since Sean Payton took control of the team. With weapons all over the field on offense and an improving defense, it is hard to see a different outcome to the Week 9 meeting between these two teams won by New Orleans by a score of 45-35. Home teams have won the last 10 straight championship games and the Saints should have pushed that number to 11 when the final whistle sounds.

Pick: Saints straight up a with a spread of -3-points. Take under 56.5 points.

JH Prediction - The one thing which stands out to me in this game is how these two teams just don’t seem to be playing their best football right now. With that being my line of thinking, I can see this game being lower scoring than most believe, and I think the Saints continue to roll at home en route to the Super Bowl.

Pick: I like the Saints to win and cover, but I’ll take the UNDER in this contest.


Much like the NFC Championship Game, there has been very little movement to the open spread or total for the game between the Patriots and the Chiefs, with Kansas City holding firm as 3-point favorites for the contest and the over/under currently set at 56.5-points.

SC Prediction - Even while acknowledging an epic bias against New England, I still struggle to see the Chiefs failing to capitalize on an opportunity to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970. In front of a deafening home crowd, the Patriots will find it hard to communicate and that should impact the way their offense performs. New England has not been impressive on the road in 2018 and the Chiefs finally have a good enough quarterback under center to make use of several talented playmakers on offense.

Pick: Chiefs straight up a with a spread of -3-points. Take over 56.5 points.

JH Prediction - This is a head and heart pick for me. While I can see the Patriots’ experience helping them, I don’t think this team can be as prepared for the Chiefs’ offense like they were against the Chargers last week with a bye week to prepare. Patrick Mahomes and company should be able to move the ball against the New England defense, but can they stop Tom Brady and company enough to win?

Pick: I like the Chiefs here straight up, and to cover. Just like the NFC game, I’ll take the UNDER thinking the weather will impact the effectiveness of both offenses.

Please add your selections in the comments section below and we will tally an overall winner at the end of postseason.

Fantasy Football: Who to start/sit in your daily fantasy league for the AFC/NFC Championship games

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 9:35am

How to possibly win some cash while enjoying the AFC/NFC Championship games.

For some, the Fantasy Football season is over. For some, like Pittsburgh Steelers fans, watching other teams play football just isn’t as fun.

But for those who play daily Fantasy Football, it can not only allow you to continue your Fantasy Football obsession a few more weeks, but can also make watching the games even more enjoyable as you root for your team to perform well, and possibly win you some money if you get into those type of leagues.

For those who have never used FanDuel before, you are given a salary, and each player has a cost attached to him. This prevents you from loading your roster, but having to find some gems that don’t cost as much money.

With some sites like FanDuel, you find a truncated roster with a ‘multiplier’ (a player who gives your team 1.5x the points), but for this article we are talking about your standard roster consisting of a QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, FLEX, DEF.

Let’s get down to it, considering there are only two games, and not as many players to choose from compared to a regular season week of action:


Start: Drew Brees

The weather in Arrowhead isn’t going to be pretty, and there is a chance it could hinder the performance of both Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. While Mahomes is tempting, his inexperience also has me shying away from him in this position. I’ll go with Brees in the dome against a Rams defense which has given up a lot through the air.

FanDuel Cost: $8,800


Start: Damien Williams

Speaking of the weather in Kansas City, this should be prime territory for the Chiefs to run the football. Williams has been extremely solid since Kareem Hunt was dismissed from the team, and is a cheaper option than Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara. Williams is coming off a 23-point performance in the Divisional round of the AFC Playoffs.

FanDuel Cost: $7,200


Start: James White

James White or Sony Michel is a tough debate when talking about Fantasy Football. Michel is coming off a huge game in the divisional round where he scored three touchdowns, but I like White’s versatility in this AFC Championship game.

FanDuel Cost: $7,700


Start: Michael Thomas

I want to handcuff Brees and his favorite target in this game because the Saints are now developing plays specifically for Thomas. I once shied away from Thomas in this situations, but he has made enough plays on a consistent basis for me to trust him in this big situation. He costs a lot, but is worth it.

FanDuel Cost: $8,800


Start: Brandin Cooks

Cooks is one of Jared Goff’s favorite targets, and also one of his most reliable. Cooks averages 13.5 fantasy points per game (FPPG), and is a cheaper option compared to some other aerial threats.

FanDuel Cost: $6,900


Start: Sammy Watkins

Continuing to manage my cap, I am going to go with Watkins in the WR3 slot in hope the Patriots sell out to stop Tyreek Hill and leave Watkins with plenty of one-on-one matchups. If he gets me double-digit points I will be ecstatic.

FanDuel Cost: $5,600


Start: Rob Gronkowski

Again, you have to manage your money, and while ‘Gronk’ hasn’t done much this postseason, I’ll take him for a much cheaper than usual cost, in hopes the Patriots are just biding their time until they unleash ‘The Gronk’.

FanDuel Cost: $5,600


Start: Ted Ginn Jr.

At this point, you make do with what you have, and with only a few bucks remaining I chose to go with one of Brees’ targets in hopes of doubling my point totals with any completion heading Ginn’s way. If he hits pay dirt, awesome. If not, anything Ginn can give me, and my team, is a bonus.

FanDuel Cost: $5,300


Start: Patriots

At this point I have spent the majority of my money on skill players, and will take the experience of a Bill Belichick defense, mainly because they are the cheapest option.

FanDuel Cost: $4,000

Antonio Brown tries to make amends with Steelers fans with uncertainty in his future

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 8:20am

The Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver tries to build a bridge between himself and the black-and-gold faithful.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and All-World wide receiver Antonio Brown are at an impasse.

This has been well-documented since the 2018 regular season concluded.

But as the Steelers and Brown try to figure out their next step, a massive gap has developed between the once beloved Brown and the black-and-gold fan base around the world.

Fans are more than upset with how Brown has conducted himself at the end of the season, and after, as he remains in the dark — outside of social media. With that known, it should come as little surprise to the fan base when Brown uses social media to try and get back in the good graces of those who donned his jersey every game day.

Brown took to his verified Twitter and Instagram accounts to provide the following video:

(In the case you cannot see the video below, click HERE.)

One thing I understand about this fan base and that I'll never forget and always appreciate is your passion. Know that it's all love this way and I am forever thankful for #steelernation ! (this is not a goodbye, just a thank u)

— Antonio Brown (@AB84) January 20, 2019

While this looks like a farewell video, Brown made it a point to let his fans know this isn’t the case. His caption to the video said the following:

One thing I understand about this fan base and that I’ll never forget and always appreciate your passion. Know that it’s all love this way and I am forever thankful for #steelernation ! (this is not a goodbye, just a thank u)

Take that for what it’s worth, but it certainly seems like a video bidding the fans adieu.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as the offseason continues to drag on.

The Chiefs’ Super Bowl drought should give Steelers fans some perspective, right?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 7:17am

The Steelers haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since January of 2011. The Chiefs haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since January of 1970. Which fan base has suffered more? The Chiefs, right? Right?

You’re a frustrated Steelers fan, and I feel you. After all, it’s been nearly a decade since Pittsburgh has appeared in a Super Bowl—just under eight years, in fact. Barack Obama was still in his first term as President of the United Stated (“OMG! You’re bringing up a president who was the president at the time he was president! You’re going to divide your readers!!!!!”).

The end of the 2018 regular season didn’t do much to end that long, long drought—not unless we all took some sort of hallucinogenic drug mere seconds before we thought we saw Xavier Grimble turn a sure touchdown into touchback in Denver way back on November 25 (“OMG! You’re talking about drugs! How am I going to explain this article to my kids?”).

Anyway, once the Steelers were eliminated from playoff contention on December 30 (oh, who am I kidding? Way before that), you may have changed your online persona to “FireTomlin!” or something like that. I do know that every Steelers-related post on either their official Facebook page or BTSC’s official Facebook page has been met with “Yeah, but did they fire the coach?” type comments.

Headline example: “The Steelers know who they will be playing in 2019”

Comment example: “This team is going nowhere with Mike Tomlin!”

Headline example: “Steelers donate to charitable cause”

Comment example: “This team is going nowhere with Mike Tomlin!”

I feel you, I really do. After all, the Steelers have wasted the latter years of Ben Roethlisberger’s career. Yeah, sure, they’ve made three Super Bowls and won two of them since rolling the dice and drafting a franchise quarterback, but that was way back when, in the before time.

What about now?

Need some help in dealing with this Super Bowl drought? Perhaps you need some perspective.

How about the Chiefs Super Bowl drought, one that could end on Sunday, if they take care of New England in the AFC Championship game?

You know who was president the last time Kansas City appeared in a Super Bowl? Richard Nixon (“OMG! Another president who was president when he was president!”). The actual date was January 11, 1970—Super Bowl IV against the Vikings, a game that took place years before Watergate became a reality (“OMG! I read sports to escape!”). In case you need some more perspective, this was mere months after the United States landed men on the moon for the very first time (“OMG! Walt Disney orchestrated that entire hoax!!!!!!!!!”).

To give you even more perspective, January 11, 1970 was two-and-a-half years before I was even born, and I’m getting up there in age (“OMG! I’m over 50! I don’t need to hear about some punk who is only 46 years and eight months old! This site has totally gone downhill!”).

You just know there were fans back then who, shortly after the Chiefs knocked off the Vikings, 23-7, to win their first championship, probably said, “Yeah, I truly think the Chiefs have more talent than any team in football, and I look for them to win several more Super Bowls over the next decade or so.”

If those people only knew.........

But the Chiefs have a chance to end that drought. They have a chance to end the suffering of thousands of their faithful, many of whom were probably cheering them on that day back on January 11, 1970 and have been cheering ever since, just waiting for the day when they’ll get to see their favorite football team play on the game’s grandest stage once again.

OK, so now that you have gained some healthy perspective, you will appreciate what the Steelers were able to do in the fairly-recent past, right?

LMAO! Just kidding.

Report: Morgan Burnett wants Steelers to release him this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 6:14am

Having only played one season of a three-year contract he signed in 2018, the former Green Bay Packer safety already wants out of Pittsburgh.

If a report released on Saturday by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is to believed, it would appear that Antonio Brown might not be the only player under contract hoping to be playing elsewhere in 2019. Just one year into the three-year deal he signed as a free agent in March, safety Morgan Burnett is also looking to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.

Spoke with #Steelers S Morgan Burnett, who tells me he wants to be released from his deal before free agency. During his time in Pittsburgh, he felt he played out of position as a dime LB. Burnett, with 2 yrs left on his contract, wants a new start & a chance to play safety again

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 19, 2019

Reportedly unhappy with being asked to play at linebacker when the Steelers run their dime defense, Burnett apparently wants to be released in time to hit free agency when the new year league begins, according to Rapoport.

Signed to a three-year contract worth $14.35 million during free agency, a deal that included a signing bonus worth $4.35 million, Burnett’s release would save Pittsburgh $3,633,332 against the cap in 2019, while leaving them with $2,833,334 in dead money. If he was designated as a post June 1 release, the Steelers would save $5.05 million in salary cap space this year and leave themselves $1,416,666 to account for in dead money in each of next two seasons.

Set earn a base salary of $5 million in his second season with the team and an additional $50,000 as part of a workout bonus clause, there are significant cash savings to be made by granting his release. However, having missed a large part of training camp and five game during his debut season with a variety of injuries, there was no guarantee Pittsburgh was going to bring back a player for that much money who ultimately only started twice in 2018.

Even when healthy in the second half of the season, the coaching staff still appeared to favor Terrell Edmunds at strong safety in their base defense, a fact that is unlikely to change given the rookie’s draft position and Burnett’s historic inability to stay healthy.

But while it is understandable that the former Green Packers safety would rather be on a team where he feels he would have a better opportunity to start, his complaint about playing the dime linebacker position make less sense. Given it was his experience in that role that encouraged the Steelers to sign him in the first place, something the coaching staff had spoken openly about using him for in Pittsburgh, it feels as if his real complaint might actually be about his overall lack of playing and being stuck behind a rookie on the depth chart.

Before they consider releasing him, it should be expected that the Steelers would attempt to move him via trade, even if it was in return for just a late round selection.

A Letter from the Editor: Pining for the days of the no-nonsense Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 5:36am

As many do, pining for the Steelers days of my youth are strong as of late.

As the NFL offseason inches closer and closer to the dog days with very little news, I decided Sundays would be a great time for me to take a section of the page, and write about anything which is on my mind.

While this certainly leaves almost any topic on the table for me to discuss, know it will never veer to politics, religion or any other controversial topics of the kind. No, it will most likely revolve around the Steelers, Pittsburgh sports, or, like today’s article, a combination of several.

As a 35 year old father of 5, I often find myself thinking about my time as a kid. No, not when I was 10, the age of my oldest child, but when I was old enough to really remember things.

I have been blessed with an incredible memory, and the majority of my memories as a young man were based around Pittsburgh sports. Over the holidays on a trip back to my hometown of Wheeling, WV, I dug a toy chest out of my childhood room’s closet. What I found was an untouched glimpse into Jeff Hartman ages 8-13.

Those years were great. No stress, school wasn’t difficult yet, work was just mowing grass and shoveling snow, and girls weren’t really a part of the equation yet. You had great friends, the video games were basic, and you spent the vast majority of your time playing outside until the street lights came on. But who am I kidding, we pushed those limits every night until the booming voice of my father made all the neighborhood kids scatter.

While digging through this pre-adolescent treasure chest, I found box upon box of my childhood trading cards. There were NFL, MLB, NHL and even a couple packs of ‘Garbage Pale Kids’ and ‘Beavis and Butthead’ trading cards — I never said I was the perfect child growing up.

I looked through the cards and stared at awe of my vast collection of Andy Van Slyke, Mario Lemieux and Barry Foster cards. As a kid I loved these players, and I treasured these cards. In the summer when my friends and I sat around a picnic table bartering which cards we would potentially trade, there was no card outside of Honus Wagner that I would give up for any of those aforementioned players.

No chance. No way.

As I looked through the cards, I couldn’t help but realize my current job of running this wonderful, and large, website. At the time of me finding this chest my days were spent writing articles which seemingly were geared more towards TMZ than an NFL website. But there I was, writing about Antonio Brown skipping practices, and the fall out which ensued.

I found myself longing for the days of Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Jerome Bettis, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown and Rod Woodson.

Those teams never won a title, but boy were they fun to watch.

For some reason my mind always flashes back to the 1994 AFC Championship game when Neil O’Donnell threw the fourth down pass intended for Barry Foster low, ending the Steelers’ season and sending the Chargers to the Super Bowl where they would get throttled by Steve Young and the 49ers.

I remembered the 1995 AFC Championship game when Harbaugh threw the hail mary pass into the endzone, and everyone’s heart stopped beating until they saw the official, and the replay, show the ball touch the turf. It sent Pittsburgh to Super Bowl XXX, only to have Mr. O’Donnell produce one of the most forgettable performances from a very memorable football game.

Longing for those days is fun, because for me it was pure. Were those players perfect? Absolutely not. Who can forget Greg Lloyed using some not-safe-for-work (NSFW) language in the post-game interview after winning the AFC Championship game? In case you don’t remember:

Could you imagine if the internet, and sites like BTSC, were around during those times?

As I always say, can you imagine Joey Porter in his playing days with a Twitter account? He would make the most wild player accounts seem tame.

With the Steelers spending the majority of the past 3-4 years dealing with suspensions, drama and intrigue, I know I am not alone when I speak about thinking back to the glory days of black-and-gold football when all that seemingly mattered was tuning in on Sunday, and watching your beloved team. For some, this is thinking back to those 1970s team, but for me those 1990s team were the ones which infected me with the black-and-gold illness which still runs rampant through my veins each day.

You didn’t care about who said what on social media. You didn’t argue with other commenters on a website. You didn’t go on Twitter and say inappropriate things to a player who might have made a mistake. You just enjoyed the game — win, lose or draw.

While I love this site and the community it has become, I still miss those simpler days in both my life, and with my favorite football team.

Black and Gold Links: Should the Steelers be confident in their running backs heading into 2019?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 01/20/2019 - 4:45am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether or not the Steelers should trust in their current running back situation, or if the organization should be looking to free agency, the 2019 NFL Draft, or even both to help aid James Conner and Jaylen Samuels.

Let’s get to the news:

Art Rooney ‘feels good’ about Steelers running backs heading into 2019

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

For the second year in a row, the Pittsburgh Steelers are facing the prospect of playing a season without one of their star playmakers.

While it’s too early to know what life will be like without wide receiver Antonio Brown in 2019, team president Art Rooney II liked the way the Steelers overcame the absence of running back Le’Veon Bell last season.

With Bell sitting out the season while refusing to sign his franchise-tag tender, the Steelers turned to second-year running back James Conner and, later in the year, rookie fifth-round draft pick Jaylen Samuels.

Conner rushed for 973 yards despite missing three games to injury. Samuels added 256 yards rushing and, like Conner and Bell before him, showed he is capable catching a pass out of the backfield.

The young duo didn’t help the Steelers return to the playoffs, but they did enough to catch the attention of the highest-ranking member of the organization.

“The running back position I feel good about,” Rooney II said earlier this week. “It looks like we have two good, young players at that position at this point, so I feel like we’re in pretty good shape there.”

Conner was rewarded with a Pro Bowl selection after his first NFL season as a starter, a year in which he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October while setting several franchise records.

Conner became the first player in franchise history with 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 touchdowns in the first eight games of a season. He also had three consecutive games of at least 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns, becoming the first player in Steelers annals (and first in the NFL since 2009) to accomplish that feat.

Despite missing three games, Conner finished third in the league with 12 rushing touchdowns, fifth with five 100-yard rushing games, 10th in scrimmage yards and 11th in rushing yards.

Looking ahead to 2019, the Steelers figure to add depth at the position once free agency starts March 13. Or they could use a later-round draft pick to find another runner, much like they did last year when they drafted Samuels.

Veteran Stevan Ridley is a free agent and had a costly fumble that contributed to the loss in New Orleans on the penultimate week of the season. He is not expected to be brought back.

Rooney also didn’t rule out trying to bring back Bell, who will become a free agent again in March. After two years of using the franchise tag, the Steelers may elect to use the less-costly transition tag on Bell, who would be free to negotiate a contract with any team. The Steelers could match the offer — or threaten to match it in an attempt to get compensation in a trade.

“We’re not closing any doors at this point,” Rooney said. “We don’t have to close any doors right now, and so there’s no reason to say something is completely off the table.”

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

Art Rooney II backs up belief that Steelers don’t have a ‘culture problem’

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

After telling reporters it was “nonsense” that the Pittsburgh Steelers are an organization in disarray, team president Art Rooney II doubled down on his beliefs Friday.

Rooney made the morning talk-show rounds, appearing on 102.5 FM and 93.7 FM to discuss the state of the Steelers three weeks after they concluded a 9-6-1 and missed the playoffs for the first time in five season.

On the airwaves, Rooney reiterated what he earlier had told select media outlets, including the Tribune-Review, when he disagreed with assertions that the organization resembled a “circus” with its list of off-the-field issues, the latest one involving star wide receiver Antonio Brown.

“I certainly don’t think we have a culture problem,” Rooney told 93.7 FM. “We won 13 games (in 2017), so if you have a culture problem, if you have a discipline problem on your team, those kind of teams don’t win 13 games in the National Football League. Those are the facts we have to deal with.”

Rooney later added: “The bottom line is when you point to last year and everybody talks about the drama, that was a team that won 13 games. The first test for me is the performance on the field. Are we winning games? Do we have a winning culture? I think the record speaks for itself.”

Coach Mike Tomlin never has presided over a team with a losing season in his 12 years with the Steelers. In 2018, however, the Steelers won four fewer games than the previous year, and took a loss at Oakland, which had two wins at the time. They lost four of their final six after a 7-2-1 start.

“Our fans judge us primarily on wins and losses,” Rooney said. “This team has won pretty consistently under Mike’s tenure here. When you look at the season, we’re disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs, obviously, but we finished a half-game out of winning our division and were in it down to the last plays of the season.”

Critics point to Tomlin’s 3-5 postseason record since the Steelers appeared in the Super Bowl following the 2010 season.

“We want to do better than that,” Rooney told 93.7 FM. “To be successful in the postseason, you’ve got to start with winning in the regular season. That certainly counts. Bottom line is we want to be playff team that is successful at the end of the season.”

Speaking with 102.5 FM, Rooney said he believes in Tomlin’s leadership abilities.

“The biggest thing he has to be able to do is command the locker room and keep the attention of the players. That is the key to evaluating a coach, and I think Mike has done that,” Rooney said. “Look, we didn’t make the playoffs this year, and that is our first goal. We have to deal with that and have to figure out how to get better.”

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

Paul Zeise: Trading Antonio Brown will not fix the Steelers

By: Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Antonio Brown has done a masterful job of making himself public enemy No. 1 around these parts, and it almost seems like he is relishing it. There is no question he has been a selfish player and at times has been a distraction.

He is the one of the best receivers in the NFL and yet there is now a growing school of thought that trading him away will solve many of the Steelers’ problems — that once he and his sideshow are gone, everything will go back to normal.

That is 100 percent nonsense. Brown’s side show is an issue, but he isn’t the reason the Steelers lost games or missed the playoffs. He isn’t even in the top 10 of reasons this season was a bust, as there are a lot of other places — including those in power who have enabled him — to point the finger.

It is a shame that it has come to this because Brown has been a great player for a lot of years. He had an excellent season but somehow he has become the root cause of all of the team’s problems. I have even heard him blamed for Ben Roethlisberger’s interceptions, as they were allegedly a direct result of him forcing the ball to Brown.

I don’t care how many yards he threw for, Roethlisberger had a good season, not a great season. He needed to play better than he did in a number of games to give the team a chance to win. The idea that Brown is to blame for Ben’s interceptions is ridiculous, as is the fact that Brown doesn’t get the same pass on being a selfish player that Roethlisberger does. This is a subject that hasn’t been broached nearly enough, but we’ve started to hear from some of his current and former teammates that Ben is mostly concerned about Ben’s statistics.

It is also telling that he has been around for as long as he has and has only been named MVP by his teammates one time. This isn’t just a few disgruntled teammates with this perception, either, as this is seemingly well known around the league. The Athletic did a survey of 85 NFL players and one of the questions was “Which quarterback would you least want as a teammate?” Ben came in tied for second with Jameis Winston and behind only Cam Newton.

My point isn’t to take a hatchet to Roesthlisberger, it is to say people need to start being more honest with themselves about the Steelers and their problems. Brown isn’t the only me-first player in that locker room. And getting rid of him won’t change the fact that there is a well documented history of Roethlisberger throwing teammates under the bus and being disruptive behind the scenes, either.

(For more, click the link in the headline...)

94th East/West Shrine Game: News, updates and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 2:16pm

Join the conversation during the East/West game!

The college football all star season is upon us with the playing of the 94th Annual East/West Shrine game. The game will be played on Saturday the 19th in St. Petersburg Florida at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The game can be seen on NFL Network.

Players of Interest East Offense

85 WR DaMarkus Lodge - Mississippi 6’2” 204

78 OT Tyree St Louis - Miami 6’5’ 315

East Defense

6 Derek Baity Jr. - CB Kentucky 6’3” 188

2 Delvon Randall - S Temple 6’1” 215

40 Khalil Hodge - LB Buffalo 6’1” 235

28 Michael Jackson Sr. - CB Miami 6’1” 205

91 Jordan Brailford - EDGE OK State 6’3” 250

West Offense

4 Brett Rypien - QB Boise St 6’2” 202

2 KeeSean Johnson - WR Fresno St 6’2” 199

West Defense

31 Montre Hartage - CB Northwestern 6’ 195

45 Landis Durham - EDGE Texas A&M 6’3” 255

49 Derick Roberson - EDGE Sam Houston St 6’4” 250

27 Andrew Wingard - Safety Wyoming 6’ 214

T.J. Watt talks improvement, and the disappointing Steelers 2018 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 1:58pm

For T.J. Watt, the 2018 season was a wake-up call.

The Pittsburgh Steelers had high hopes for the 2018 season. After a 13-3 2017 season in his rookie season, T.J. Watt was ready for bigger and better things in 2018 — especially a deep playoff push.

None of that happened as the Steelers plunged to mediocrity after a six game winning streak dropped their record to 7-2-1, only to finish the season with a 9-6-1 record. Throughout the 2018 season one thing became evident — Watt has the look of a cornerstone player on the defense.

When he was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, some experts viewed the pick as a reach. However, when Watt produced 13 sacks in 2018, the first outside linebacker to reach double digit sacks since James Harrison did it almost a decade ago, the future looks extremely bright for the former Wisconsin product.

As the Steelers moved away from marquee names from those legendary 2000s defenses, they struggled to find players who could fill those monstrous shoes. When James Harrison, James Farrior, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu and even Brett Keisel all left, what ensued were several failed attempts to fill those spots.

Until Watt happened.

Watt has the look, and is now showing the improvement and production, of the next great Steelers defender to wear the black-and-gold.

After the season, spoke with Watt about the 2018 season, how disappointing it was, and where Watt goes from here. They do these type of interviews every season, but Watt gives thoughtful, and candid, answers to shine some light on where the defense goes from here.

Check out the interview below:

T.J. Watt recaps a humbling season, the art of the strip-sack, growing and learning as a defense and being more motivated than ever. #FaceTime

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 14, 2019

The 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers WRs: Brimming with unfulfilled potential

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 12:32pm

The wide receiver group for the 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl team was the deepest and most underrated in team history.

I don't know if you have heard, but this off season for the Pittsburgh Steelers has gotten off to a rather tumultuous start. No need to revisit all the hoopla of the last few weeks as it has no bearing on this article. I will say that there has been alot of speculation concerning what the Steelers roster will look like going into next season, especially at the wide receiver positions. That got me reminiscing about all the great receivers who have donned a Steelers uniform.

This years tandem of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith Schuster was the best in the league, but not the best tandem in team history. That distinction still belongs to Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.

When I started to identify the most underrated receivers in team history my mind immediately recalled the 1995 Super Bowl team and their impressive receiver group. They were a diverse collection of talent and they went five deep. That is what made them so special, their depth. There hasn't been a team since that could match it.

The group was lead by Pro Bowl stud Yancey Thigpen. Thigpen was the complete package, everything you could want in a receiver. He possessed size, speed, strength, and a excellent set of hands. He could over power a defender who attempted to jam him on his release, and he had enough speed to make them pay on the deep ball. Thigpen had a lot in common with Louis Lipps, another talented Steelers receiver who played about a decade earlier. The only thing that hindered them from ranking even higher on the list of Steelers greats was the shoddy play of their quarterbacks. I would have loved to have seen them play with a QB the caliber of Bradshaw or Ben.

The other starting receiver was a more fluid situation. It could change from week to week, often based on the opponent and the corresponding game plan. If the team was going to utilize a run heavy scheme, per usual, they would start youngster Charles Johnson due to his superior blocking skills. If the game plan called for a more aerial attack, they would start KR specialist Ernie Mills for his ability to stretch the field.

Charles Johnson was the Steelers first round pick in 1994 from Colorado and obviously was expected to be the next Steelers great. While that plan never came to fruition, he was a solid professional who developed into a well rounded receiver. He was the poster child for a player who could do a lot of things well, but no one thing great. Although he was never quite able to justify that first round selection, he was a tough and durable competitor. High character teammate as well. Made more than his share of clutch catches during his Steelers career.

Ernie Mills was a former third round selection in 1991 out of Florida who had been a classic underachiever up till the 1995 season. He had always flashed more potential than production, but that season he found his groove. He displayed a nose for the football, a knack for getting over the top of the defense, and a tendency to find himself open in the endzone. Ernie caught 8 touchdowns on only 39 receptions. That was by far the best season of his career and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Steelers. He never approached those numbers again in his career, but he was a difference maker that season.

The fourth receiver on the Steelers depth chart was a third round selection in 1993 out of Georgia named Andre Hastings. He was a possession receiver who did his best work out of the slot. He was an accomplished route runner who excelled on third downs. Not blessed with great speed, he was a shifty runner who racked up yards after the catch. This ability also allowed him to be a effective punt returner. He could have been a WR2 on alot of teams at that time, especially those who relied on a more aerial attack, and he would go on to prove just that later in his career. That season he was the consummate professional and always produced when called upon. His contributions that season should not be overlooked.

That is an impressive group of receivers right there, but what makes this group really stand out as the greatest group in Steelers history, maybe league history, is the player who didn't even want to be a receiver. A player so physically talented he could excel at multiple positions on the football field, even if he had never played the positions before in his collegiate career. His name was Kordell Stewart, but everybody called him Slash. He had been drafted in the second round of the 1995 draft out of Colorado as a QB. He had made it known he only wanted to play QB, but consented to being utilized as a multi purpose weapon to attack opposing defense due to his intense desire to see the field. Slash took the NFL by storm. Slash wasn't just a great athlete playing QB. He had a great throwing arm, the size and running ability of a RB, and the speed and agility of a WR. The threat of his mere presence on the field scared defensive coordinators to death and opened up the complete playbook for the Steelers. Slash would eventually give way to Kordell as the Steelers honored their promise to play him at QB, but I have often wondered what would have happened if he would have stayed at WR, or as the one and only Slash.

As we are all too aware, that 1995 season ended in utter disappointment for our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and all of Steelers Nation. I will forever hold a certain level of disdain for one Mr. Neil O'Donnell and picture him in my mind sitting in a secluded cabin somewhere deep in the woods, laughing fiendishly, all the while tossing obscene amounts of money into the air he received from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. I apologize for getting off point, forgive me. The pain is real, brothers and sisters.

I believe the 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers assembly of wide receivers is the best in team history and is underrated and underappreciated. They may just be the best group ever. What do you think? If not, who do you think was better?

Chukwuma Okorafor preparing for rehab after successful offseason surgery

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 11:30am

The Steelers rookie posted pictures confirming surgery on Friday, the second player to announce they had undergone a medical procedure this offseason.

While most players will be able to enjoy the rest and relaxation that comes with the opening few weeks of the offseason, for some it can be the start of a painful part of the year. For those who were dealing with injuries significant enough to require postseason surgery, it is often the time they will be scheduled to go under the surgeons knife.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it would appear that one of those players is rookie offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor in 2019 after he posted a picture of himself in a hospital bed following surgery on Friday.

Surgery was a success now time to recover

— Chukwuma Okorafor (@Chuks__76) January 18, 2019

Although there has been no official word on the procedure he had done, it seems reasonable to assume from the photograph that is was related to his right shoulder. It is also worth noting that the rookie tackle missed some time during training camp with a shoulder problem and was mentioned in an injury roundup by Mike Tomlin after a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers as needing evaluation for a shoulder issue.

View this post on Instagram

All Gods Plan #roadtorecovery

A post shared by Chukwuma Okorafor (@chukss) on Jan 18, 2019 at 11:50am PST

With Okorafor reporting the surgery was successful, hopefully he can be fully healed by the time training camp opens in July, even if he is still limited during OTA’s that can begin as early as April 15.

The rookie lineman is not the only name to have undergone surgery this offseason after wide receiver Ryan Switzer confirmed he had received ankle surgery earlier in the month.

Much better today. Glad I had it man. I was battling through that ankle all year.

— Ryan Switzer (@Switz) January 6, 2019

Antonio Brown donates six heated football benches to his former college worth over $100,000

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 10:00am

For once there is some positive news to share about the Steelers star receiver this offseason.

While Antonio Brown has been in the news on an almost daily basis for all the wrong reasons since the Pittsburgh Steelers season ended, it is perhaps telling that an event from this week that paints him in a positive light has gone largely unreported after he made a generous donation to his alma mater.

Central Michigan University announced on Friday that they had been given a major gift from the Steelers star receiver, a donation that came in the form of six new Dragon Seats heated benches valued at $105,000. A gift University Director of Athletics Michael Alford was extremely grateful to receive.

”I want to thank Antonio for this generous gift. Right after we announced Coach McElwain’s hire, Antonio and his team reached out to see what they could do to help make our program better. I know this is a product that Antonio really values and helps him during games, so it was a natural choice when deciding on a project that will have the biggest impact on our student-athletes.”

Sentiments echoed by CMU’s new head coach Jim McElwain.

“Being able to have a top-of-the-line product that is used by most NFL teams is a huge asset for us and will help our players perform at their best. It also means a lot for Antonio to invest in the success of our student-athletes and help them flourish just like he did during his time at CMU.”

Brown was just happy to be able to support the college that helped him become the player he is today.

“These benches really help me stay loose and ready to perform no matter the conditions and I am excited to see how they help current and future Chippewas succeed. CMU will always be a special place for me and I am happy to be able to give back.”

And having spent more than enough time in the cold on the sidelines in Michigan, Brown is acutely aware of how much these heated benches will improve the players game day experience during the winter.

View this post on Instagram

Such an honor to be able to donate six heated Dragon Seats to my alma mater @cmuathletics ! I recall my days being surrounded by only one heater in the middle of winter games freezing with my teammates! Dragon Seats are the only manufacturer of heated football benches used by the National Football League. What an honor to be the first to give to my alma mater ! Excited about the future of CMU Football the Championship Culture ! "With Coach McElwain taking over the program, I wanted to do something that would help the players perform at their best," These benches really help me stay loose and ready to perform no matter the conditions and I am excited to see how they help current and future Chippewas succeed. CMU will always be a special place for me and I am happy to be able to give back." Honored #FireUp #Boomin #Browntown #CallGod #ABliveyourvisionFoundation #CMU

A post shared by Antonio Brown (@ab) on Jan 18, 2019 at 8:12am PST

If not for his recent troubles in Pittsburgh, it is likely you would have already seen this story reported by multiple outlets at both a national and local level by now, especially in light of the attention given to his more obscure social media posts. But at the time of writing, it is interesting to note that there has been far less coverage of this donation that there was for a tweet he made earlier in the month that merely included an emoji.

The NFL sure does love when a plan comes together for Conference Championship weekend

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 8:52am

Conference Championship weekend has worked out exactly how the NFL envisioned. No matter who wins this weekend, the NFL can't lose.

The 2018 season has proven to be a success story for the NFL, a result that probably came as a complete surprise to many prognosticators. The NFL's marketing department was faced with a dilemma. After decades of utilizing highlight reels of knockout collisions to advertise their product, they were no longer able to capitalize on the raw brutality of the professional game because of pending lawsuits pertaining to CTE claims and their corresponding commitment to the Heads Up program. The league quickly implemented a new gameplan to entertain the masses, because that is what the NFL is at it's core. A multi-billion dollar entertainment entity.

So the rules committee created new rules designed to not only improve player safety but increase the level of difficulty for defenses all across the league. If you are no longer able to pull them in with the promise of cringe worthy violence, offer them the opportunity to witness mind blowing statistics and near constant scoring. That should be enough to keep the casual fan entertained and all the fantasy football crowd glued to their devices. At first glance, you would have to say "Mission accomplished" .

Anytime the top four seeds are getting ready to duke it out in the conference championship games, it legitimizes the importance of the regular season. When the four remaining teams just so happen to be the top four scoring teams during the regular season, it confirms the leagues commitment to increase scoring and their belief that increased scoring would equate to winning for the franchises able and willing to adapt.

Now your final four contenders are a deserving and diversified group. All four franchises have lifted the Lombardi Trophy at some point in their history and each team is being lead by a innovative HC and a franchise QB. The quarterbacks are particularly interesting.

On one hand you have the old GOAT, Patriots QB Tom Brady. A proven champion on multiple occasions, he is the alpha dog of the group. Nobody beats Father Time, but Brady seems to be giving him a pretty good run for his money. Every team in the league is waiting not so patiently for the inevitable decline in his game or for a chink to show in his armour. While Brady failed to have one of his MVP type seasons, he has had his usual moments of brilliance and was spectacular last week against the still shell shocked Chargers. Brady reminded me of Lebron James this season. Kinda bored with the grind of the regular season at this point of his career, but now energized since the post season is upon us. He seems recommitted to winning another Super Bowl, and while I sure hope he doesn't, I wouldn't bet against the man.

The other old dog of this group is everybody's favorite, Saints QB Drew Brees. Brees might just be the nicest guy in the league and is impossible not to like. The only time you can feel ok rooting against the man is when he is playing against your favorite team. I think it would fall outside the bounds of common human decency any other time. The Saints were the odds on preseason favorite to reach the conference championship game and they haven't disappointed. Brees is one of two individuals with a legitimate shot to take home NFL MVP honors this season, and it would be well deserved. He is still playing at the top of a Hall of Fame career and the all time passing yardage leader wants desperately to add a second Super Bowl title to his already impressive resume. He is surrounded by the best collection of talent he has ever had at his disposal, on both sides of the ball, and must be considered the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Brees has never lost a home playoff game to my knowledge, but he will have to overcome a rash of injuries to his offensive line to keep that streak alive.

That leaves us with two young pups trying to earn their place in the pack. Los Angeles Rams QB Jerad Goff and Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes have both taken the first stepping stone necessary to become a championship QB, winning your first playoff game. You can never win the whole shebang till you win that first playoff game. That proves to be the most difficult step for many young QBs, and their confidence will often skyrocket after achieving the milestone.

That confidence should serve Goff well as he leads his Rams into hostile territory to attempt to knockoff the team with the best record in the NFL this season. Goff enjoyed a breakout season last year, his sophomore campaign in the league, but he took his game to another level this season. Goff appears to have a very calm demeanor and remains cool under pressure, reminiscent of Hall of Fame great QB Joe Montana. That is truly high praise indeed, but that is who he reminds me of. Not a bad guy to pattern your game after.

That leaves us with likely 2018 NFL MVP Mahomes, who has enjoyed a truly magical season in his first season as a starting QB. He put up numbers not seen since a young Dan Marino tore through the NFL during his second season, and Mahomes lead the league in touchdown passes by a wide margin. He displayed a midus touch, in that everything he touched turned to gold. He is absolutely fearless, whether it is throwing no look passes or throwing with his left hand after escaping the sack. For Mahomes magical season to have a Cinderella ending he will have to first knock Brady out of the playoffs and off his throne. No small task indeed, but at least the game is in Kansas City.

No matter what happens in the games this weekend, this season has been a rousing success for the NFL and their future looks bright. It really couldn't have worked out much better if they would have planned it this way. Wait a don't think?

Steelers fans, who are you rooting for in the Conference Championship Round of the NFL Playoffs?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/19/2019 - 7:36am

The Steelers are out of the race, but don’t think fans don’t still have a strong rooting interest.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans, like almost every NFL fan base, are a rabid bunch. They love the black-and-gold, and at times love to hate the black-and-gold. However, when the Steelers aren’t a part of the equation, for whatever reason, the fans develop a strong bias for, and against, certain teams.

With that in mind, as the Conference Championship Round of the NFL Playoffs is about to kickoff tomorrow, I wonder who the majority of Steelers fans are rooting for in the games on Sunday. This isn’t who you think will win, but who you want to win.

There is a big difference there between the two.

As an example, I root against the New England Patriots for a multitude of reasons. Their cheating past, them constantly being a thorn in the side of the Steelers and ultimately because I get sick of hearing about them.

Call it petty, but I call it truthful.

I also was pleased when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Los Angeles Rams last weekend. Why? I can’t stand their fan base, and don’t want either the Patriots or Cowboys to win a sixth Lombardi trophy to tie the Steelers in this category.

So, with that said, who are you rooting for in the games Sunday? Vote in the polls below, and always feel free to let us know why you you are rooting this way in the comment section below.

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