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Has the “What have you done for me lately” mentality taken over Steelers’ Nation?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/15/2020 - 9:35am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Does one year of subpar performance out shadow multiple seasons of production?

JuJu Smith-Schuster isn’t a number one receiver.”

James Conner is not the answer at running back.”

Ben Roethlisberger is done. We need his contract off the books.”

Stephon Tuitt can’t stay healthy so we should be looking for his replacement.”

“The Steelers have no choice but to sign Bud Dupree at all costs.”

First and foremost, I’m not saying that any of these statements aren’t necessarily true. There is some truth to everything being said above. Whether or not these statements will continue to be true through the 2020 season remains to be seen. But every statement above has one thing in common...

They are only looking at 2019.

Don’t get me wrong, we should not just erase the 2019 season from our memories and not learn anything from what happened throughout the year. But if we are going to look at this past season as our only sample to draw widespread conclusions, we may be writing off players— or crowning them— too early.

In looking at the first three statements, all of which I’ve seen multiple times on comments or message boards, they are in regards to three players who each of which were Pro Bowlers in either 2017 or 2018. Both Conner and Smith-Schuster made the Pro Bowl in 2018 while Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 5,000 yards. So in one season, a player can go from top of the world to out the door. Not just one player, three players.

Yes, each of those three players has something which could be concerning. Ben Roethlisberger is no spring chicken (which means he isn’t as young as he used to be if you don’t understand my country vernacular). James Conner has yet to play more than 14 games in a season. JuJu Smith-Schuster needs to show he can produce when another receiver is not taking the double coverage. But after one season where things were so out of the ordinary, are we going to allow these things to solely determine our judgment?

As for Stephan Tuitt, it doesn’t even go back in entire season. Through the first six games, Tuitt was having arguably a better season than All-Pro Cameron Heyward before he ended up on Injured Reserve. But since he wasn’t available the last 10 games, it seems to be that is the issue more than his stellar play which we could hope to get again in 2020.

And let’s not look at the other side of things. After five seasons with the Steelers, Bud Dupree has only proven that he deserves a decent pass-rushing salary based on his 2019 production. Where was he his first four years? Weren’t many of the same people who are saying the Steelers have no choice but to keep Dupree ones who were complaining when the Steelers exercised his fifth year option? But based on one year, many believe he is now a player deserving of the franchise tag.

When it comes to all these players, I try to take a look at a little more than the past season. Out of all of them, the most concerning is Ben Roethlisberger as every player hits a point where their age catches up to them. I’m not sure that Ben is to that point yet. Right now, he has two more years on his contract and it’s hard to say what those two years are going to bring. While some say this is definitely Ben’s last contract with the Steelers if he even plays out the rest of it, I am in the camp where I would like to see what he can do in 2020 before judging what happens two years from now. The next 10 months will bring a lot of clarity to the situation.

As for James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, I’m hoping a season with injuries and less than acceptable quarterback play is a contributing factor so let’s hit the reset button for 2020. I’m not 100% sold that either is the answer, but they are a lot closer than anything else the Steelers could feasibly do right now.

As for Stephon Tuitt, he’s a beast. Don’t anger the beast. Let the man come back and dominate.

The Bud Dupree situation is tricky. I’d like to see the Steelers keep him mainly to have as little change possible on the defensive side of the ball which made such big strides in 2019. I’m also not set on the Steelers breaking the bank for a player that only produced for one season. Hopefully the two can find a happy medium.

Are there other players from the 2019 season who fans are ready to move on from based on one season of production? Sure. But these are the five that I have decided to outline because I’ve seen concerns dealing with them the most.

To reiterate once more: It’s not that these concerns are not valid. They are definitely concerns. But there are factors involved other than just this past season in order to make decisions on personnel and whether or not they should be discarded or upgraded. As for me, I’m going to continue to pull for each of these players to be the best they can be as long as they’re wearing the black and gold.

Remembering when it wasn’t dramatic news when the Steelers hired a position coach

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/15/2020 - 8:05am
Photo by Jamie Gilliam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Will Bryan McClendon be the Steelers new receivers coach? How about Jerricho Cotchery? Remember the days when you didn’t really care all that much about who position coaches were?

This past Monday, as I sat around trying to think of things I wanted to talk about with my co-host Bryan Anthony Davis on our weekly podcast, The Steelers Hangover, I said to myself, “Oh, shoot, I better read up on that Bryan McClendon!”

I’m referring to the guy the Steelers, as per several outlets (even the big ones), hired as their new receivers coach over the weekend.

After poring over McClendon’s Wikipedia Page, I discovered his resume was rather impressive: Former running backs coach (Georgia); former interim head coach (Georgia); former offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach (South Carolina); current receivers coach (Steelers).

Whoops, not so fast, my friend.

Turns out, much like Russ Grimm, when he thought he was the Steelers new head coach back in 2007, McClendon may not have actually been hired to take over on a permanent basis for the late Darryl Drake, who shockingly passed away during training camp last summer.

How come? Maybe, much like Mike Tomlin in 2007, Jerricho Cotchery, the former Steelers receiver, came in and blew his ex-bosses doors off.

That’s right, Cotchery, who played for the Steelers from 2011-2013, has been interviewed by Pittsburgh and is strongly being considered for the role (as of this writing, anyway. But even if someone else is hired by the time this is published, have they really been hired)?

Perhaps the Steelers will hire both McClendon and Cotchery. Much like Teryl Austin did as a secret defensive coordinator in 2019, maybe McClendon can team up with new quarterbacks coach Matt Canada and show Randy Fichtner what offensive coordinating is really all about.

Anyway, when did it become such a big deal to “be first” when reporting things like who the Steelers hired as a position coach?

Unless it’s someone with some celebrity cachet such as Joey Porter, Hines Ward or Mike Munchak (he should have been hired as the Steelers head coach, general manager, offensive line coach and capologist), who really cares?

Like the next season’s new regular season schedule, I remember the good old days, when I’d pick up the newspaper and see that the Steelers hired a new position coach and I’d go and place that newspaper on the floor, right under my dog’s water bowl.

Actually, most of the time, I wouldn’t know who coached a particular position until like his fourth year on the job.

Ah, the days before the Internet.

Those days are long gone. Not only do I have to pretend to care about who, when and at what day and time the Steelers are playing 16 teams next season (if they are scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, I will throw a hissy fit!), I now have to do research on their new position coaches?

I have to read comments sections on social media after these guys are fake hired, where people say things like, “They should have hired Louis Lipps instead!”?

That seems excessive.

Oh well, I don’t have to read up on Cotchery because I know a lot about him. I hated him when he caught that touchdown pass against the Steelers in the AFC Championship nearly a decade ago. However, I loved him when he was catching passes for the Steelers for the three seasons after that.

I predict he’ll get the job. You read it here first.

Report: The Steelers’ search for a wide receiver coach has come down to two names

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/15/2020 - 6:41am
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers still haven’t hired a wide receivers coach yet, but they are narrowing down the search.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base has been waiting, and wondering, who the team will hire to fill the vacant wide receiver coach position. After the passing of Darryl Drake during the team’s training camp at Saint Vincent College, Ray Sherman stepped in as an interim coach.

It was never expected to have Sherman stay on the staff long-term, and the team seems to have been narrowing their search for the next coach to work with the team’s wideouts.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the team is down to two candidates: Jerricho Cotchery and Bryan McClendon.

Steelers expected to sign a WR coach "any day now," per source. Appears to be down to two -- former Steelers WR Jerricho Cotchery and former South Carolina off coordinator Bryan McClendon.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) February 13, 2020

After it being reported last weekend the team hired Bryan McClendon, other reports came in stating the team had not made their mind up regarding who will take over the reigns as receivers coach.

In regards to McClendon and Cotchery, they both have very differing resumes. McClendon has a ton of experience as a college coach, while Cotchery has extensive experience playing, even with the Steelers for a short sting, and as an assistant receivers coach in the NFL.

Whoever is hired will have a pretty stellar stable of receivers to work with. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington and Deon Cain, not to mention any additional players added via free agency or the 2020 NFL Draft, make up for a very talented, and young, group of receivers.

Also per Dulac, the news of their hire could come any day now, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on throughout the offseason.

Podcast: The Steelers don’t need a great running game to win in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/15/2020 - 5:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense was awful last season, but their running game might have been the most disappointing part of that dreadful unit. The good news is the team doesn’t need to have a great running game to win next season.

This is where the newest BTSC podcast “Yeah, I Said It” comes in. My co-host on ‘The Standard is the Standard’, Lance Williams talks about why the Steelers don’t need a great running game to win in 2020.

Time to deliver the goods on the latest show.

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

Check out the audio below:

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Despite new contract, Kevin Colbert remains committed to the Steelers long term

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/15/2020 - 4:29am
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how despite his one-year contract, Kevin Colbert remains committed to the Steelers for the long haul.

Let’s get to the news:

  • One year contract. Playing it “year-by-year”. Doesn’t matter. Kevin Colbert is all-in with the Steelers.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert affirms commitment to finish his career with team

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Kevin Colbert has spent the past 20 seasons employed by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If he has his way, he’ll never collect a paycheck from another NFL organization.

The Steelers general manager, who signed a one-year contract extension last week, wants to retire with the team even though he has no timetable to do so.

“As long as the Rooneys and the Pittsburgh Steelers want me to be a part of this organization, and it’s a good thing for our family, we’ll be here,” Colbert said Thursday.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Tim Benz: NFL must stop Myles Garrett from making racism claims against Mason Rudolph

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

After Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was reinstated by the NFL this week, he reiterated his claim that Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph called him a racial slur.

And, Garrett said, that’s what touched off the helmet-swinging brawl which occurred between the teams last season.

I am just as convinced now — as I was back in November — that Garrett is lying to cover for his actions.

There is zero proof to suggest he is telling the truth. And worse for Rudolph, he can’t prove a negative.

A man can’t prove he didn’t say something.

But here is ESPN’s Mina Kimes giving Garrett a platform to advance his story.

“He called me the N-word. He called me a ‘stupid N-word,’ ” Garrett says in the interview.

Oh. Now it’s not just the “N-word.” It’s “a stupid N-Word.”

Got it.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Sheer the Beard one last time.

A final farewell to the beard

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

With the final snip, the last cut, the one last shear, it was so long to a legend.

Yes folks, it’s true. Brett Keisel’s beard is gone. And we don’t know if it will ever return in its full glory.

The beard that became famous, that had a life of its own, is done after Keisel hosted the 10th and final Shear Da Beard on Thursday night at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille in the North Hills.

There was entertainment, including Canadian country music star Brett Kissel, who won two straight Male Artist of the Year and Fans’ Choice awards at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards, The Ghost Hounds, a rock band with Pittsburgh roots that Thomas Tull, a member of the Steelers ownership group, started and is part of and Shear Da Beard wouldn’t be what it is without Pittsburgh’s own Donnie Iris on stage.

There were former teammates galore, there to show their love and support of Keisel, and getting their shot at taking a final snip.

And his family, including his wife Sarah and his three kids, were also there, ready and waiting to see the clean-shaven Keisel.

”She has been great throughout this whole thing,” said Keisel of his wife. “She puts up with my bearded antics. She is a straight rock for our family and doesn’t get enough credit. I am so thankful to have somebody who is my best friend and someone who loves me bearded or not.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

. @RyanShazier!!! #ShearDaBeardX @ChildrensPgh @bkeisel99 @jergels #Steelers #SteelersNation pic.twitter.com/I3vGyaSXOt

— Chad Tyson (@chadtyson) February 14, 2020

Just @_BigBen7 and @bkeisel99 sharing stories about their beards! #ShearDaBeardX pic.twitter.com/OpzO6h2c8F

— 102.5 WDVE (@DVERADIO) February 14, 2020

Dick LeBeau made the trip for #ShearDaBeardX! #Steelers #SteelersNation pic.twitter.com/tdSCBr08Hk

— Chad Tyson (@chadtyson) February 14, 2020

. @CoachTomlin’s turn to cut Da Beard! #ShearDaBeard #Steelers #SteelersNation @bkeisel99 pic.twitter.com/Y7gMvmMhJG

— 102.5 WDVE (@DVERADIO) February 14, 2020

On Thursday, @bkeisel99 held his tenth & final "Shear Da Beard" to support cancer programs at @ChildrensPgh. #ShearDaBeardX pic.twitter.com/5I9IVWiilN

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 14, 2020

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions: Offseason, Vol. 7

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 5:45pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

1. Right out of the gate, you can only keep ONE of the Steelers’ UFAs, who is it, and why?

Bud Dupree
Javon Hargrave
B.J. Finney

2. On our Steelers Preview podcast, you can hear it below, we debated a lot of topics, but I wanted to include this one into the Six-Pack: Who is the best athlete, doesn’t have to be a football player or Steeler, you ever witnessed perform live?

3. This was debated on multiple podcasts this week, but who are you taking and why?

Ben Roethlisberger or Terry Bradshaw?

4. What were your thoughts of the first weekend of XFL football? Does it have a chance to survive as a farm system for the NFL?

5. When it comes to the modern day NFL offense, what does “balance” between the run and pass look like to you?

6. Not a football question, but what are your thoughts on the Houston Astros cheating scandal? Was the punishment enough? Should the players have gotten punished too? What are your thoughts on Astros playing being plunked throughout the season?

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Your Pittsburgh Steelers Offseason TV (Mis) Guide

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 2:05pm
Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

A fictional list of shows that may or may not be must-see TV.

Steeler Nation craves anything black-and-gold in the off-season. While the BTSC family of podcasts offers new programming daily, fans still want to see their favorite Steelers on their screens, monitors and devices. Here’s a proposed list of programming should the Rooney’s gift us with an all-Steelers network.

Leaving Randyland - Documentary (Netflix)

At the height of his coaching career, Randy Fichtner began a long-running relationship with a quarterback, a head coach and a legendary football franchise. Years later, fans tell the story of how the fortunes of their football team were destroyed by the inept play calling of the offensive coordinator.

Orange is the New Black and Gold - Comedy/Drama (Netflix)

Gummy Richards is a disgraced Wide Reciever whose narcissism and chicanery catches up to him. In his early-30s, the former Steeler is sentenced to spend time in a minimum-security prison. Forced to trade his NFL jersey for prison orange, Richards makes his way through the corrections system and adjusts to life behind bars, making friends with the many eccentric, unusual and unexpected people he meets.

Diners, Drive-ins and Daniel McCullers - Food (Food Network)

Host Guy Fieri is joined by a robust Pittsburgh Steeler as they go on road trips and visit diners, drive-in restaurants and dive bars that are popular among the locals in the US, and interacts with the owners, staff and the customers. Selected not only for his 6’7”/ 348-pound frame and the all-important alliteration factor, Daniel appears so infrequently for the Steelers...it freed up his time to do the show.

A Football Life: Danny Smith Jr - Documentary (NFL Network)

Showcasing the lives and careers of legendary players, coaches and executives, NFL Films examines the untold stories of the most influential NFL icons with unprecedented access. With nobody else available, the Steelers Special Teams Coach names just who he has naked pictures of to keep his job.

$#*! Antonio Brown Says - Comedy (CBS)

Based on the bizarre Twitter feed of the former All-Pro Steeler, hilarity ensues as Kevin Hart stars in this crazy sitcom.

Neutering Boujee - Reality (Animal Planet)

After his French Bulldog is caught humping his team-owner’s leg, JuJu Smith-Schuster struggles in making a decision whether-or-not to separate Boujee from his family jewels.

Dirty Red Jobs - Reality (Discovery)

The program on the Discovery Channel, in which host Steeler Special Teamer Tyler Matakevich, shows his unique versatility by performing difficult, strange, disgusting, or messy occupational duties alongside the employees that actually do these jobs for a living.

Crossing Jordan Dangerfield - Drama (NBC)

Jordan Dangerfield is a professional football player by day and a brilliant yet irascible medical examiner with a checkered past and a penchant for going beyond the call of duty to solve crimes by night.

Snell’s Kitchen - Competition (FOX)

A crop of aspiring restaurateurs try to prove their worth not to chef Gordon Ramsay. but to the Pittsburgh Steeler Running Back in the intense and explosive cooking competition. Each week the contestants are tested by challenges, during which they try to impress BSJ with their culinary prowess. While challenge winners enjoy luxurious prizes, the losers are forced to try to tackle the football star going full speed.

Watt’s Happening? - Comedy (ABC)

TJ, JJ and Derek are three working-class young men dealing with school, football, life, love and the regular antics of teenagers growing up. They routinely launch get-rich-quick schemes, which regularly go awry. They also have to deal with the interference of their bratty and wise-cracking little sister, Dee.

Burns Notice - Drama (USA)

A disappointing first-round draft pick (Artie Burns) and fans of the team he plays for agonize over if-and-when he will be cut from the franchise.

You, Me and Bud Dupree - Motion Picture/Comedy (Hulu)

Newlyweds Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly (Kate Hudson) are anxious to start their lives together, but the pair soon become a trio when Carl invites his college football buddy Bud (Alvin Dupree) to crash at their place during the NFL’s offseason. At first, Carl is happy to have him around, but that soon turns to annoyance when Bud ponders quitting football and threatens to become a permanent fixture in their home.

Did we honestly expect anything less from Myles Garrett?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 12:19pm
Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

In an interview with ESPN following his reinstatement, Garrett is sticking not with his original story, but his explanation from one week later

In an interview with ESPN’s Mina Kimes, recently reinstated Cleveland Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett doubles— or even triples— down on the events which sparked his attack on Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph.

Myles Garrett again alleges on camera to @minakimes that Mason Rudolph called him a racial slur, sparking the brawl.https://t.co/2fO0zDd7c7

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 14, 2020

Following the interview, I have to ask myself, “Did we really expect anything less?”

My son had a recitation for school he needed to practice. When he was asked to go over it, he claimed he couldn’t because he had a sore throat. I knew it wasn’t true, but it was the story he decided to go with. Therefore, everything else he did for the rest of the day had to back up his sore throat story. He got to a point where he either needed to continue with the same story or admit it wasn’t true. Luckily, when confronted with it, my son admitted he just didn’t want to practice.

Myles Garrett is in a very similar situation right now. He’s either got to go with the story he concocted, or admit that he lied about it. Those are his two options. The second one makes him look like an even worse individual who used a helmet as a weapon against a defenseless player on the field of play. Since there are holes in the story and it doesn’t seem to add up, he’s even gone as far to say the NFL is covering up audio they have of the incident. That’s a pretty bold move.

As you can see, I’m not buying Garrett’s story. There are several that are not buying the story because in the immediate aftermath of the horrific incident when the court of public opinion was against him the most (including his teammates), Garrett made no such claim. It was even mentioned again recently by a local Cleveland reporter as to why Garrett would not offer the explanation when he was made out to be the monster he was the night it happened.

My only question about the Rudolph incident: If he did indeed drop a racial slur, why didn't Myles tell me directly after the game when I asked him? Not saying it did or didn't happen. I'm just curious as to why he waited a week to explain what caused him to react the way he did. pic.twitter.com/yiBQSCFHAg

— Noah Hiles (@Noah_Hiles95) February 14, 2020

It’s because he hadn’t figured out his excuse yet, Noah.

With Garrett waiting until his hearing to bring up the issue, it has become very suspicious. First, by not mentioning the reasoning until he was there, no one in the hearing could get any information to confirm what was said or not. Another issue is Garrett said he believed that the hearing was closed and nothing he said would get out. Doubling down on his story, he said it was because he did not want the explanation to get out because it wasn’t justification for what he did. Really? Then why use it as a justification? Or was it really that he did not want what was said in the hearing to get out so people could realize he tried to lie his way out of it? Or, now that his justification is out, keeping up with his story has become much harder to keep up, much like my son having to act like he had a sore throat all day.

But what if Myles Garrett was telling the truth? While I don’t personally think it makes sense, especially since there’s really no evidence to back up his claim and his behavior immediately following the incident does not match what he claims happened. But even if it was said, does it justify his actions?

In an article by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, he used a quote from Tony Dungy immediately following the incident to explain why Garrett’s justification is insufficient.

“I don’t have sympathy with Myles Garrett if in fact that is what happened,” Tony Dungy said. “If we’re in the bottom of the pile and Mason Rudolph is kneeing you in the groin or he’s trying to poke your eye out or he’s twisting your knee, something that’s going to affect your ability to do your work and your career, then, yeah, you can go off. But you can’t go off because somebody said something to you. All kinds of things get said out there on the field. There’s four-letter words. In this case it may have been a six-letter word, a multi-syllable word. All of that happens. I can’t go off and jeopardize my team’s chances to go to the playoffs, my career, my ability to make money because somebody called me a name. I don’t care what name he said, that is not an excuse to me.”

Myles Garrett didn't want his claim that Mason Rudolph used a racial slur to be talked about, but Garrett keeps talking about it https://t.co/YprYOFFphh

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 14, 2020

So whether or not you believe what Myles Garrett is continuing to say about Mason Rudolph in the aftermath of his season ending suspension, trying to justify removing a players helmet and hitting their exposed head with said helmet just doesn’t cut it. But since Garrett has decided this is the route he’s going to take, he has no choice but to continue with the story he settled on giving. As much as I would like to see evidence come out proving he fabricated the whole thing, I would much rather just see the entire incident go away.

Is Kevin Colbert’s optimism for the Steelers 2020 season justified?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 11:05am
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ General Manager is pumped for 2020, more so than 2019, but should he be?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off back-to-back season of not making the playoffs. They finished the 2018 season with a 9-6-1 record, and followed that up with an 8-8 mark in 2019.

Seems like they are headed in the wrong direction, right?

If you ask General Manager Kevin Colbert, he would tell you how you are wrong.

In a recent interview with beat writers, Colbert said he feels better heading into 2020 compared to how he felt prior to the 2019 season. This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert: "We’re all disappointed at 8-8, but I feel better moving into 2020 than I did moving into 2019 coming off of 9-6-1."

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) February 13, 2020

Is this just the GM blowing smoke, or is Colbert being serious when referring to his overall confidence of the team heading into 2020 compared to last season.

Let’s discuss.

Heading into 2019 everyone had to have an idea the offense would struggle. After all, it would be the first year without both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on the roster. Throw in the fact the defense wasn’t exactly shutting down opponents and the thought of not being supremely confident makes some sense.

On the flip side of that is could Colbert’s confidence in 2020 be inflated? He spoke about the defense and how this unit will be the unit to carry the team in the near future. But what about the offense? If Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t come back fully healthy, it seems as if the offense will be destined for a repeat of 2019. A life of inconsistent quarterback play, and sub-par results.

With that said, if Roethlisberger is deemed healthy, and capable of making all the throws elite NFL quarterbacks are asked to make, everyone, fans included, should be excited about the 2020 defense combined with an offense who could score at least 28 points once in a season, something the team failed to do in 2019.

Looking ahead to 2020, is Colbert’s optimism for the season justified, or is he just toeing the company line and blowing smoke? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for another lengthy offseason.

Diontae Johnson recovering from sports hernia surgery this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 10:06am
Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

An explanation of the mysterious photo of the young wide receiver in a hospital bed about a week ago.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has a playmaker in the making in Diontae Johnson. The Toledo product is headed into his second season as a professional after he was a second team All-Pro selection as a punt returner.

Watching Johnson play you see why the team took him with their first pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Johnson’s short area burst, route running and elusiveness is undeniable, but this offseason he scared fans when he posted the following photo on his Instagram story:

This photo sparked speculation across the Steelers fan base, but no one knew exactly what Johnson had done, or was ailing from. As it turns out, the prolific wideout had just had sports hernia surgery.

This per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Steelers WR Diontae Johnson tweeted picture of himself in hospital after sports hernia surgery

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) February 13, 2020

While this isn’t breaking news, it is important to note why Johnson was in the hospital and declaring how he is going to bounce back from the procedure/injury. As it turns out, Johnson will have to rest and rehab the sports hernia surgery, but, barring a setback, he should be ready for the 2020 regular season, training camp, and possibly Organized Team Activities (OTAs) when they roll around.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for Free Agency, as well as the 2020 NFL Draft.

Steelers 2020 Free Agent Market Watch: The Tight Ends

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 9:28am
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position whether or not they are in the Steelers price range. Here are the Tight Ends.

Disclaimer: The author realizes that the team is burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options. It’s like the lyric in The Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”... But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.

The Steelers have am uncertain situation when it comes to the position of tight end. Nick Vannett is a free agent, Zach Gentry was drafted as a project and didn’t contribute his rookie year and Vance McDonald did not perform well last year and is frequently injured. Does a Ben Roethlisberger return mean a better showing by the Vanimal or has that ship sailed? Do they draft one? Do they try to drum up money to bring in one through free agency? As unlikey as the prospect is, Kevin Colbert could get lucky under the couch cushions. Here the list of available free agents should the Steelers find themselves able to shop come March.

Austin Hooper - Atlanta Falcons

2019 Receiving - 13 games, 75 receptions, 787 yards, 6 touchdowns

Hooper is definitely the prize of the free agent pool as far as the TE position goes. The second-leading receiver last year for the pass-happy Falcons, The 6’4” and 254-pound Hooper is also a vey sure-handed receiver that has improved every year since having been drafted in the third round out of Stanford in 2016.

Hunter Henry - Los Angeles Chargers

2019 Receiving - 12 games, 55 receptions, 652 yards, 5 touchdowns

The last time the Steelers landed a Tight End in free agency from the Chargers, it was an injury disaster. But Ladarius Green didn’t have as many red health flags as Hunter Henry. Henry could be in the Kelce/Kittle conversation, but his missing 20 games the previous two seasons is a huge concern. A team is going to either have to take a huge leap of faith and hope he stays football healthy or get him at a bargain price.

Blake Jarwin - Dallas Cowboys

2019 Receiving - 16 games, 31 receptions, 365 yards, 3 touchdowns

Jarwin could be a fabulous, free agent bargain. At 26, he has exhibited plenty signs of promise and would fit it nicely in Pittsburgh, should they find the funds. The stats shouldn’t be a huge concern, as Jarwin split time with Jason Witten in 2020. The 2017 Undrafted Free Agent started seven games last year, but sources around the league think he can be a full-time starter in the NFL.

Eric Ebron - Indianapolis Colts

2019 Receiving - 11 games, 31 receptions, 375 yards, 3 touchdown

Ebron had a phenomenal 2018, but his career has been largely one of disappointment and underachievement. He’s high on athletic talent, but has been suspect with route-running and dropped balls over the course of his career with Detroit and Indy. However, being paired with another veteran QB (13 TDs with Luck in ‘18) like Roethlisberger could greatly improve his fortune and productivity. He may come on the cheap as well.

Greg Olsen - Carolina Panthers

2019 Receiving - 14 games, 52 receptions, 597 yards, 2 touchdowns

Olsen is no longer what he once was in this league. However, he was very productive at age 34 last year. A team on the precipice of a championship should consider Olsen. He has the skill and the experience to help deliver a ring.

Other Notable Free Agent Tight Ends

Jacob Hollister - Seattle Seahawks (RFA)

Nick Vannett - Pittsburgh Steelers

Tyler Eifert - Cincinnati Bengals

Charles Clay - Arizona Cardinals

Dan Arnold - Arizona Cardinals (RFA)

Ricky Seals-Jones - Cleveland Browns (RFA)

Nick O’Leary - Jacksonville Jaguars

Seth DeValve - Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bell - Kansas City Chiefs

Luke Willson - Seattle Seahawks

The expectations of the Steelers defense comes down to who is playing quarterback

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 7:47am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In a meeting with Pittsburgh media on Thursday, General Manager Kevin Colbert laid out the goals for the defense depending on who was under center for the black and gold

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert met with members of the Pittsburgh media on Thursday and discussed a variety of issues. One of the topics Colbert discussed was the goals of the defense based on who was playing quarterback for the Steelers any given week. Looking at the confidence the team had in scoring points for each player, the numbers broke down somewhat how one would expect.

Colbert noted that when Roethlisberger was healthy, they had a goal of not giving up more than 21 points. When it was Rudolph, it was 17. When it was Duck, it was 14.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) February 13, 2020

Looking at these goals for 2019, it was difficult to judge as there were four different games in which multiple quarterbacks played. Since these goals would have been going into each game, let’s look at how the Steelers’ defense fared in games started by each quarterback.

In his two starts of 2019, the Steelers defense did not come anywhere close to keeping their opponents to 21 points or less when Ben Roethlisberger was at quarterback. In the two losses, the Steelers surrendered 33 and 28 points for an average of 30.5 points against in game started by Roethlisberger. It should also be noted the Steelers did not have Minkah Fitzpatrick for either of Roethlisberger’s starts.

As for Mason Rudolph, in the eight games he started in 2019 the Steelers averaged 16.75 points surrendered. While their average was right in line and led to a 5-3 record, there were only four occasions where the Steelers held their opponents to 17 points or less. Those four games were all victories which were over the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, and twice against the Cincinnati Bengals. The only game the Steelers won where Rudolph started and their opponent scored over 17 points was against the Indianapolis Colts when they surrendered 24 points but also added a defensive touchdown to help in the effort. The Steelers defense also scored a touchdown against the Rams, but they only gave up three points as the other nine were a result of plays by the offense.

When it came to the six games started by Devlin Hodges, the Steelers went 3-3 but did not meet their goal of surrendering only 10 points a game. The Steelers averaged 18 points surrendered when Hodges was under center, and the fewest points was the 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns. It should be noted there was also a game started by Hodges where the Steelers’ defense scored a touchdown to help counter the points they had surrendered. As before, if the seven points the defense earned was subtracted from the amount given up, the Steelers would have only surrendered 10 points to the Los Angeles Chargers.

It will be interesting to see if the Steelers employ a similar strategy in 2020 of holding teams to a certain number of points based on who is taking snaps. In looking at what both Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert have said, the Steelers plan on going into 2020 with the same stable of quarterbacks.

Colbert on QBs behind Ben: 'We know who are backups are. We're comfortable with who our backups are. We're comfortable with those four guys (Rudolph, Hodges, Paxton Lynch, J.T. Barrett) entering camp.'

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 13, 2020

There’s no way to know unless the Steelers are forthcoming with the information as to what their goals would be based on each quarterback, but using this formula from 2019 and equating it to 2020 may be a great starting point. If all goes well, a healed Ben Roethlisberger will be the starter for 16 games and more in 2020. Regardless of who ends up being under center for the Steelers next season, leaning heavily on their defense will be a strategy the Steelers will most likely deploy.

The Steelers are considering bringing in a Free Agent WR, but who’s a feasible option?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 6:29am
Danny Amendola might be exactly the player the Steelers can chase in free agency | Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers might be targeting a free agent wide receiver, but who actually makes sense for the team?

Steelers President Art Rooney II, recently said the organization will kick the tires on the wide receiver and running back free agent markets. But with such limited cap space and contracts of their own that must be worked out I could only imagine one affordable veteran offseason acquisition being a possibility.

We’ll be looking for opportunities if we can to add a player we think can help us, whether it’s a wide receiver or running back. -Art Rooney II

Running backs James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, and Benny Snell are also still on their rookie deals and Kerrith Whyte Jr. displayed his athleticism well. So I can’t foresee any move being made at the position. But wide receiver remains interesting to me.

One year ago the Steelers brought in veteran Free Agent Donte Moncrief to help lead the new look receiving corps. Management also felt as though he was on the precipice of a break out season. They were wrong, oh so wrong.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Washington are all currently 23 years of age and with Ben Roethlisberger’s career is winding down, the organization wouldn't likely spend another 2nd round pick to round out the position group. But rather amalgamate a veteran with sure hands into the mix.

But who is available and comes with a price tag in the Steelers budget?

We can eliminate the likes of Amari Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders, Robby Anderson and AJ Green because they're all projected to receive over $10 million (via/sportac). We can also eliminate Devin Funchess, and Travis Benjamin due to health concerns, or Nelson Agholor, and Breshad Perriman due to catch rate (A rabbit hole this team won't jump down again in the near-future).

That really only leaves 2 names: Randall Cobb, and Danny Amendola. Both will be in their 30’s come the start of the 101st league year. Both are coming off 15 game seasons where either player was targeted at least 83 times and the two combined for 14 drops (30 games).

Randall Cobb is the younger of the duo and figures to be the more expensive option. Sportac estimates Cobbs yearly value at $7.1 million. But over the course of a backloaded 2-3 year deal the contract should fit under cap without issue.

Danny Amendola will be 34 in 2020, but has been on a long stretch of good health and consistent play. Amendola figures to be roughly around the same value as his 2019 hit of $4.4 Million. Depending on the market, he could possibly snagged for a bit less than that.

Depending on how much cap is cleared will likely determine which of those two names would suit up for the Steelers and while neither player would make for the flashiest move, taking into consideration what Art Rooney said, plus the philosophy of the team, and the cap situation, adding either player would make for a believable addition.

So what do you think? Are Amendola or Cobb the only believable WR targets? Are there any other names you think this team could chase? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

Podcast: Do Steelers fans really appreciate Ben Roethlisberger?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 5:32am

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

The 2019 season is now over, and with the Pittsburgh Steelers now in the offseason, it is 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 podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading into the offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Do fans really appreciate Ben Roethlisberger?
  • Steelers Trivia
  • Position Breakdown: Running Backs
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, Bryan Anthony Davis and Dave Schofield walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

The After Party podcast will be published in audio platform after 1:00 p.m. ET, and the audio can be found below:

Black and Gold Links: When it comes to pass rush, there isn’t a better team than the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/14/2020 - 4:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Pittsburgh Steelers have been the gold standard in regards to pass rush the past few seasons.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers defense hasn’t always been great, but getting to the quarterback has always been their bread and butter.

Steelers brought the heat in 2019

By: Mike Prisuta, Steelers.com

The Steelers sacked quarterbacks an NFL-leading 54 times in 2019.

The final defensive series on Dec. 8 at Arizona, which included sacks No. 47 and No. 48 on the season, was as representative as any in illustrating the impact of the pass rush.

The Cardinals got the ball back at their 25-yard line with 1:42 remaining in regulation and the Steelers leading by six.

On first-and-10, defensive tackle Cam Heyward got to quarterback Kyler Murray for a loss of 5.

On second-and-15, Murray fought off contact from defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and outside linebacker Bud Dupree but stumbled and fumbled and eventually fell on the ball for a loss of 6.

On-third-and-22, Murray threw incomplete under intense pressure.

And on fourth-and-22, Murray was flushed backwards by Heyward, rolled left and managed a downfield heave just before being buried by outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Cornerback Joe Haden came up with the interception that put the exclamation point on a 23-17 triumph.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Mason Rudolph is reportedly not going to be getting any of his $50k back from the NFL.

Report: Steelers QB Mason Rudolph’s $50K fine upheld for role in Browns brawl

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s fine for his role in the team’s brawl with the Cleveland Browns reportedly has been upheld.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday that the NFL “recently” upheld the $50,000 fine levied on Rudolph.

On Wednesday, the NFL ended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett’s indefinite suspension for swinging his helmet at Rudolph’s head in November.

Rudolph was not suspended for his role in the brawl. More than $800,000 in fines were originally doled out after the game among 33 players. The final tally for the brawl was $732,422 in fines, which is believed to be an NFL record for one incident, Cleveland.com reported.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

If there’s a “next time” with Myles Garrett, it likely will be his last time

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

In the moments after he forcibly removed the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and whacked him over the head with it, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett calmly explained that he “lost [his] cool.”

Indeed he did. And now that he has been reinstated, it’s critical for the Browns, the league, and Garrett that he never lose his cool that way again.

Everyone associated with the game of football (especially Rudolph) got lucky when Rudolph seemed unfazed by the windmilled whacking over his head with a hard plastic helmet. If he’d been seriously hurt or worse, the NFL may have realized a worst-case scenario.

With Garrett reinstated, the league and the Browns need to be completely sure he won’t do it again. That’s surely why Garrett didn’t receive a finite suspension. The NFL wanted/needed the ability to talk to Garrett and to ensure that his behavior was an aberration before allowing him to return to play. Although it’s unclear what the league did to come to the conclusion that Garrett won’t do it again (surely, opponents will be baiting him), the ultimate pass-fail proposition will be whether he does it again.

If he does, there may not be a second reinstatement. And if he inflicts a real injury on an opponent, the league and the Browns will be facing real liability for allowing Garrett to keep playing football at a time when the league knew or should have known that he had a propensity to blow a fuse.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Roll the tape @Bud_Dupree | #UltimateHighlight pic.twitter.com/qVF2fRrZ8w

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 13, 2020

Just Minkah doing what Minkah does.@minkfitz_21 pic.twitter.com/BmPd0cfC5u

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 12, 2020

Antonio Brown on why he posted an apology on IG to Ben Roethlisberger. #Steelers https://t.co/Gmy8lIzF2K

— BTSC Steelers (@btsteelcurtain) February 13, 2020

#ValentinesDay

Download more Valentines: https://t.co/X1PNHL0qDe pic.twitter.com/nZH1HeadiK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 13, 2020

Kevin Colbert addresses the Steelers quarterbacks, Ryan Shazier, and various topics for 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/13/2020 - 2:05pm
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert met with the local Pittsburgh media on Thursday and answered a variety of questions

On Thursday, the Pittsburgh media had a session with Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert as he addressed several issues going into the 2020 NFL season. One of the most pressing questions was dealing with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his injury.

More Colbert: 'We don't think Ben is near (where Rivers and Eli Manning are) yet. We don't think he's at the end of the road.'

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 13, 2020

Whether or not the Steelers feel Ben Roethlisberger has more NFL games left in the tank, ultimately his elbow will be the biggest determining factor. Colbert addressed Rothlisberger‘s injury status as well.

Kevin Colbert confirms Ben Roethlisberger's Feb. 21 checkup date for his elbow. Says team's medical staff has been constantly working with Roethlisberger. "All signs are good at this point," for recovery. Said Roethlisberger could be better than he was a year ago #Steelers #dkps

— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) February 13, 2020

As for a plan if Rothlisberger is unable to play in 2020, the Steelers are continuing to roll with the quarterbacks they currently have on the roster. Given their salary cap situation, it’s not exactly feasible for the Steelers to spend any more money that they do not have in order to sure up the position.

Colbert on QBs behind Ben: 'We know who are backups are. We're comfortable with who our backups are. We're comfortable with those four guys (Rudolph, Hodges, Paxton Lynch, J.T. Barrett) entering camp.'

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 13, 2020

Colbert was also asked about the Ryan Shazier situation and his status moving forward with the Steelers. Not currently under contract, how the Steelers deal with Shazier has yet to be determined.

#Steelers GM Kevin Colbert on Ryan Shazier's status for 2020: 'When you're dealing with Ryan you're not dealing with a timetable. You're dealing with a guy trying to resurrect his career.'

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 13, 2020

Colbert was also asked about his new contract he just signed last week and his future in Pittsburgh.

GM Kevin Colbert on his contract status: 'I can say this without any hesitation: as long as the Rooneys and Pittsburgh Steelers want me to be a part of this organization and it’s a good thing for our family, we’ll be here. I’m not looking to go anywhere else.'

— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 13, 2020

As for the 2020 season as a whole, Colbert addressed the confidence the Steelers have going into next year.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert: "We’re all disappointed at 8-8, but I feel better moving into 2020 than I did moving into 2019 coming off of 9-6-1."

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) February 13, 2020

Colbert was also asked about the Steelers coaching staff, specifically when it comes to the Steelers and their wide receivers coaching position.

Asked Kevin Colbert about an update to the wide receiver coach search. He didn't have an update:

"Coach (Mike Tomlin) manages that. He’s still in that process."

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) February 13, 2020

While Colbert was able to shed some light on a few topics, there are still many questions that remain in Pittsburgh for the 2020 season. Some things are best to keep under wraps while others are very helpful to know moving forward. Most importantly, the team is very optimistic about Ben Roethlisberger‘s recovery and they are looking forward to an improved 2020 season.

Much like 2019, the Steelers 2020 season will come down to dealing with injuries

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/13/2020 - 12:25pm
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Bridging the gap when a starter misses time is often what can make or break a team’s season in the NFL

“Next man up.”

It is the mantra by Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin when it comes to the inevitable issue of injuries in the NFL. It’s just the reality of each season. Players will get injured. The way to deal with these injuries comes down to who is injured and what the plan is for the replacement.

In 2019, the Steelers had two players who finished the season on Injured Reserve and missed at least 10 games who are the top two salary cap hits for the 2020 season. When it came to replacing Stephon Tuitt, a new rotation along the defensive line emerged with Javon Hargrave playing a greater number of snaps which allowed the Steelers defense continued to roll along. As for Ben Roethlisberger, the offense sputtered the entire season and couldn’t put up the points in order to secure enough victories to qualify for the postseason.

Now that we’ve had to relive those moments, what does this tell us about the 2020 season? Are the Steelers any more prepared to deal with injuries than they were in 2019?

The obvious answer is I’m jumping the gun on bringing up the issue. The Steelers must first work on shaping the roster for the 2020 season. Between retaining their own players, any kind of move in free agency as minor as it may be, and the 2020 NFL draft, the Steelers roster in May will give a much bigger indication as to how they could handle injuries in 2020.

Unfortunately, the Steelers are facing those three issues in a much different way this off-season. For the first time since 1967, they do not have a first round draft pick. Unless a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed by March 18, the 30% rule will keep the Steelers from restructuring contracts to free up salary cap space. With the Steelers currently only $1.6 million under the cap, both retaining players and signing any new players will come at great cost.

More than any year in a long time, the Steelers current roster is going to mostly shape their 2020 season before the new league year even begins. So how does the current Steelers roster look when it comes to dealing with injuries?

As usual, the quarterback position is the most important thing on almost every NFL roster. And with Ben Roethlisberger’s salary taking up a huge $33.5 million cap hit in 2020, allotting anymore money to the position just doesn’t make sense. As much as some would like to have a veteran back up, do the Steelers really want to spend money they really don’t have on a player they hope never steps foot on the field? Especially for this year, it’s not a good idea. So, much like Art Rooney II has previously said, the Steelers are going to roll into 2020 with Mason Rudolph and company as their backups at the quarterback position.

The only position or the Steelers which may not be as susceptible to injury would be at running back. While many fans believe this entire position needs an upgrade, even if nothing is addressed there is at least depth which does not drop off nearly as much as some other positions. The biggest reason for this is it being very rare an NFL team has a featured running back which lasts all 16 games in a season.

The Steelers also seem to be set at wide receiver right now, but injuries could completely change the story. When it comes to the offensive line, the Steelers still have to tender Matt Feiler which will probably come at the expense of Ramon Foster. A position which had a lot of depth in years past may not have the same luxury in 2020. It also did not help the two young players who spent time on the 53-man roster— Fred Johnson and Patrick Morris— were claimed by other teams when they faced the waiver wire.

To round out the offense, tight end is a big position of concern even with the Steelers current situation. The team has a club option on Vance McDonald, but otherwise all they have is Zach Gentry and his one reception from 2019 along with a few practice squad guys. McDonald could be cut to save some salary cap space, but what would the Steelers plan be for tight end moving forward. And when it comes to fullback, right now it is Roosevelt Nix or nobody.

In 2019, the Steelers defensive line handled the loss of Stephon Tuitt by splitting up the snaps among Javon Hargrave and Tyson Alualu. With Tuitt returning for 2020, it looks as if the Steelers cannot retain Hargrave so their luxury of depth will take a hit.

The only other position on the defense which appears to be completely set is the cornerback position. With the Steelers finally having stability at both spots with Joe Haden and Steven Nelson, if either should go down due to injury the Steelers would be faced with either Justin Layne who has yet to play a defensive snap in the NFL, or Cameron Sutton who may be forced to be the nickel corner if the Steelers can’t free up enough money to tender Mike Hilton. We need not even mention Artie Burns as it is a foregone conclusion he will not be with the team next year.

The outside linebacker depth lies mainly on retaining Bud Dupree. Even if the Steelers kept every player from 2019, Anthony Chickillo hasn’t shown that he is much of a reliable backup at the position. Chances are Chickillo is gone especially if the Steelers need to make room for Dupree. Beyond him and T.J. Watt, the back ups are highly unproven.

Inside linebacker brought an interesting rotation based on health in 2019. Many feel Mark Barron will not be retained in order to free up some salary cap space. If so, the Steelers are once again dealing with youth as their backups to Vince Williams and Devin Bush with Ulysees Gilbert III. As for safety, who knows the Steelers options beyond Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds.

As you can see, trying to fill all the holes to have quality reserves in case of injury is something which is highly unattainable for the 2020 Steelers. It’s not to say who the Steelers currently have as reserves are unable to step up and give them quality play, it’s just another factor which cannot be determined. Should he be needed, could Ulysees Gilbert come on the scene out of nowhere and have a great season should one of the linebackers go down? Absolutely! But there is little in the body of work to come to this conclusion.

In other words, the Steelers cannot prepare for injury for every player across the board on both sides of the ball. Would it be nice to get a different backup for Ben Roethlisberger in 2020? I don’t think any Steeler fan would not want to see such a thing. But being able to afford it is just not reasonable. And when it comes to the draft, many people would like to see a running back taken very early in either the second or third round. But is that a position where the Steelers need an upgrade more than filling a hole that may be needed somewhere else?

The Steelers are in a tough position for 2020. The best thing they can do for success is to stay healthy. Unfortunately, this is the NFL and injuries are bound to happen. So when it comes to answering the call of “Next man up,” we may just have to keep our fingers crossed.

Ben Roethlisberger makes first public appearance this offseason, and his beard steals the show

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/13/2020 - 10:59am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers QB took in a WVU basketball game, but his beard is what everyone is talking about.

The offseason cloud has officially covered the entire National Football League, and outside of rumors and report, news is scarce until the new league year begins in March.

The same can be said about news regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Fans are awaiting the 21st of February to hear of Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow rehabilitation, and are debating the pros and cons of a particular wide receivers coach who could be hired any day now.

Yes, the offseason is here, and nothing says this quite like Ben Roethlisberger taking in a West Virginia University basketball game with teammate Ryan Switzer and it wasn’t him sitting court side which was the news, it was Roethlisberger’s raging beard which stole the show.

Check out the video and photos below:

Hate to see it.... pic.twitter.com/cq3FfejjCX

— Capel Faithful (@CapelFaithful) February 13, 2020

Ben Roethlisberger Beard Update:
He’s not recognized sitting court side pic.twitter.com/dlwEkqNW2E

— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) February 13, 2020

Curtis with Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Switzer and Ben Roethlisberger getting ready to cheer on the Mountaineers!
.
.
.#LifeOnTheFly #steelersnation #wvubasketball pic.twitter.com/bhq6jZ8STJ

— Curtis Fleming (@FRCcrew) February 13, 2020

Lookin’ like a natural! #HailWV pic.twitter.com/lqPQirzzkv

— WVU Sports (@WVUSports) February 12, 2020

A cool moment for the WVU crowd, and Steelers fans were excited to see Roethlisberger in public for the first time since the season ended in Baltimore in Week 17. What fans are most excited for is the report on Roethlisberger’s throwing arm. As you can see from the photos above, he no longer has a brace or any apparatus on his arm, but the big news is still upcoming.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on in the offseason preparing for NFL Free Agency and the 2020 NFL Draft.

When it comes to your Pittsburgh Steelers news, buy local

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/13/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

With a wide variety of national media giving their thoughts on the Pittsburgh Steelers this off-season, it’s obvious they aren’t very in touch with what is actually going on with the team

Being the deputy editor at Behind The Steel Curtain, I am searching for Steelers’ news a few times an hour throughout the day. Whether it be scrolling through Twitter or searching on Google, I’m always trying to stay up-to-date with the latest breaking news for the black and gold. I’m sure many of you all do the same. But it’s grown increasingly frustrating over the last few weeks.

With a bigger name and greater name recognition, national media outlets are able to get their message out to a wider audience as their algorithms make their information more relevant for those not knowing specifically where to search. Unfortunately, the opinions of said media often are out of touch with what is going on with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A prime example may have been just around a year ago when everyone had an opinion on what was going on within the Steelers organization. With Antonio Brown being disgruntled and wanting a trade, the national media decided to lay the blame in various places. Not knowing what was really going on within the organization, much of this blame has been disputed based on what has transpired since.

Not very long ago, a story on NFL power rankings by Bleacher Report stated the Steelers had no answer for who would play cornerback opposite of Joe Haden. Obviously, they hadn’t paid one bit of attention to the Steelers in 2019 as Steven Nelson did not get nearly the accolades he deserved. This statement went to show that those who are not specifically following the Steelers really don’t have a clue as to what is going on or how the team operates.

But the terrible takes by the national media did not stop there. ProFootballFocus’ Mike Florio suggested the Steelers would be in the market to trade for Le’Veon Bell to return to Pittsburgh. While some fans also want to see this as a possibility, between having the equity to trade as well as being able to handle the salary, it just does not seem like a move the Steelers would be likely to make. It wasn’t an incorrect assumption like with the Nelson situation, it just did not take into account how the Steelers do business.

Then Bleacher Report was back at it again suggesting the Steelers need to move on from Ben Roethlisberger. The $25 million cap hit should be of no consequence as he could save $8.5 million on the salary cap. And of course, Ben is washed up because he didn’t play in 2019 due to injury. While I can’t say that every Steelers’ fan disagrees with this, the majority of the clear-thinking ones have to see right through the problem. Once again, it is the report from a source that isn’t very in touch with how things are going in Pittsburgh.

But the story on Roethlisberger from Bleacher Report didn’t die there. On the FoxSports show “First Things First,” Chris Canty stated, “I’m sure there are some people in the organization that are praying that Big Ben decides he’s going to retire.” While many who criticize the statement left of the words “I’m sure” out of what Canty was saying which takes away it being his opinion and makes it sound more like a report, it’s still one of those takes which shows the national media has no idea what’s going on in Pittsburgh. It also didn’t help that Canty went on to say— twice— that Roethlisberger had Tommy John surgery. While the Steelers haven’t confirmed Roethlisberger’s procedure with exact detail, it has repeatedly been reported that it was not Tommy John surgery.

With all of these interesting takes on the Pittsburgh Steelers lately, it just reinforces what I have known for a while: The national media does not know what’s going on in Pittsburgh. Since I began at Behind The Steel Curtain, I have not watched national NFL programs who are offering their commentary on the Steelers. The only time I turn on ESPN or other various sports networks is to view a sporting event. If I want news that is accurate about the Steelers, I’m looking for those who follow the team directly. And with the technology age we are in, these sources are right at our fingertips as long as we choose to use them. While the local reporters on the Steelers are not perfect (see the conflicting reports of the Steelers search for a wide receivers’ coach as an example), they are leaps and bounds ahead of the news from most national coverage sources.

Hopefully your source for accurate an applicable news for the Pittsburgh Steelers is right here at Behind The Steel Curtain. We do our best to compile complete and accurate news as well as provide commentary for discussion. And like many of you, we also roll our eyes at some of the statements made by those who think they know what the Steelers are thinking.

Steelers 2020 Free Agent Market Watch: The Running Backs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/13/2020 - 7:47am
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

BTSC takes a look at the top free agents at each position whether or not they are in the Steelers price range. Here are the running backs.

Disclaimer: The author realizes that the team is burning in Salary Cap Hell and can’t pony up much money for free agents. However, you never know what they have planned and it’s the author’s responsibility to highlight the free agent options. It’s like the lyric in the Howard Jones song, “No One Is To Blame”...You can look at the menu, but you just can’t eat.

The Steelers have a conundrum when it comes to the position of running back. With a health question mark in James Conner, the possibly-promising Bennie Snell, the head scratcher that is Jaylen Samuels and the speedy (but unpolished) Kerrith Whyte in the backfield, one has to wonder what the team does. Do they draft one? To they stand pat and hope for health? Do they pray that a rich uncle comes out of the woodwork and they somehow find money for a deep RB class? That last one is so unlikely to happen. However, here are the list of available free agents should a Steel City Money Miracle occur.

Derrick Henry - Tennessee Titans

2019 Rushing - 15 games, 1,540 yards, 5.1 yards per attempt, 16 touchdowns

2019 Receiving - 15 games, 18 receptions, 206 yards, 2 touchdowns

Henry is going to get PAID! I can see him remaining in the Music City, but the open market is like Bourbon Street...if you are there, you definitely gotta check it out. There’s not enough money in a million Steeler couch cushions for the man that eliminated both the Patriots and the Ravens from the playoffs. Too bad, the 26-year old would have been a grand fit.

Kenyan Drake - Arizona Cardinals

2019 Rushing - 14 games, 817 yards, 4.8 yards per attempt, 8 touchdowns

2019 Receiving - 14 games, 50 receptions, 345 yards, 0 touchdowns

To quote Jerry Seinfeld, “Gotta love the Drake”. This is quietly one of the most intriguing options in a loaded class. Had he played for teams other than Miami and Arizona, Drake could have had even more of a career year in 2019. Drake would be a nice feature back for any team looking.

Kareem Hunt - Cleveland Browns

2019 Rushing - 8 games, 179 yards, 4.2 yards per attempt, 2 touchdowns

2019 Receiving - 8 games, 37 receptions, 285 yards, 1 touchdown

Hunt is a character-risk and he missed half of 2019 because of his suspension. He definitely has football skills though. Playing behind Nick Chubb and being gone half of the season is the reason behind his stat line. However, a full season of Hunt would be promising for any team on the field. It could be worrisome off. But a lot of franchises will take that risk. Hunt is a Restricted Free Agent in 2020.

Melvin Gordon - Los Angeles Chargers

2019 Rushing - 12 games, 612 yards, 3.8 yards per attempt, 8 touchdowns

2019 Receiving - 12 games, 42 receptions, 296 yards, 1 touchdown

Gordon’s stats suffered because of his holdout and the play of Austin Ekeler during and after his absence, but he still had decent production and got into the end zone nine times. In a crowded class, he’s not the “belle of the ball” that he once was. However, he’ll get more-than-a-few good offers.

Jordan Howard

2019 Rushing - 10 games, 525 yards, 4.4 yards per attempt, 6 touchdowns

2019 Receiving - 10 games, 10 receptions, 69 yards, 1 touchdown

In four seasons, the 25-year old had nearly 4,000 yards rushing for the ChucagonBears and Philadelphia Eagles. A shoulder injury derailed his season for six weeks after a strong start. Miles Sanders took his spot during that time and didn’t look back. A formidable short-yardage back with 30 career touchdowns, Howard could fit well in a Pittsburgh if he came at a bargain price.

Other Notable Free Agent Running Backs:

Austin Ekeler - Los Angeles Chargers (RFA)

Matt Breida - San Francisco 49ers

Carlos Hyde - Houston Texans

Lamar Miller - Houston Texans

DeAndre Washington- Las Vegas Raiders

Johnathan Williams - Indianapolis Colts

LeSean McCoy - Kansas City Chiefs

Frank Gore - Buffalo Bills

Fullbacks

Last year, the Steelers seemed to not be out on the market and pretty set at the FB position with Pro Bowler Roosevelt Nix signing a four-year extension. But Nix was injured almost the entire year and they could think about one, especially a brother of their team MVP. Here are the top FBs available.

Derek Watt - Los Angeles Chargers

Dan Vitale - Green Bay Packers

Anthony Sherman - Kansas City Chiefs

Andy Janovich - Denver Broncos

C.J. Ham - Minnesota Vikings

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