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Kenny Pickett’s Rookie Rise: Learning, leading, and luck

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 9:30am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Kenny Pickett has shown great development the past few weeks, and it has come in several different areas.

What an unbelievable season we have witnessed! Only 11 NFL teams have had their starting quarterback the entire season, and many teams have been forced to piece things together with backups, third-stringers, and even castoffs from other teams. This brings to light the fact the Steelers have a better quarterback situation than much of the NFL.

Mitchell Trubisky looked sharp in his most recent outing, and many NFL teams would love to have him as an option in their quarterback room, given the many injuries at the position. The biggest reason for excitement, however, is rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has led the Steelers to back-to-back, come-from-behind victories. The Steelers have experienced a revival during the second half of the season, and much is due to the development of their rookie quarterback.

With one game remaining in the season, the Steelers are well amidst the playoff conversation, which seemed like a blasphemous statement just two months ago. While I believe the return of T.J. Watt has been the biggest reason for Pittsburgh’s success, nobody can dismiss the importance of Kenny Pickett’s development in this equation. The young quarterback has shown great improvement in multiple facets of his game, and his improvement is coming at a steady, even pace.

Ultimately, I see three main areas Pickett has used to his advantage during this stretch of successful football. The first facet is that of learning. Pickett is mentally ahead of the learning curve, which is something we knew about him during his days at Pitt. He simply gets the game of football. While he may not have the strongest arm, the biggest hands, or world-class athleticism, he understands the game of football from both an analytical and schematic point of view. The rookie has been making great reads at the line of scrimmage and processing what defenses are running schematically, specifically in the secondary.

Pickett has also been utilizing his top playmakers in crucial situations, as evidenced on Sunday night. Over the past couple weeks, we have seen him targeting Pat Freiermuth on third down more frequently, unafraid to utilize the middle of the field and find the matchup that gives him the highest probability of completion. He is doing a much better job of finding mismatches, and that will only continue to improve as he takes further control of the offense.

Kenny Pickett has also risen due to improvement as a leader. This has nothing to do with his ability to lead the team, but rather how he has taken command of the offense and become the true leader of the offense. Look, we can make players’ comments to the media out to be anything we want, but it is hard to ignore a receiver saying his quarterback was the one who designed a game-winning drive. This is what happened after the Week 16 comeback against the Raiders, when George Pickens told the media Kenny Pickett was the one calling the plays on the final offensive drive, a drive which concluded with a touchdown pass to Pickens himself.

This can also be looked at as a knock on Matt Canada, but it is a praiseworthy accomplishment for a rookie quarterback to call the shots as his team marches down the field, leading them to a big-time victory. This shows Pickett’s development as a leader. He has not only taken command of this team and become the true face of the offense, but he has also earned the backing of his teammates. This is a key component in a season that began with somebody else at quarterback. There is no debate as to who the leader of this team is, and that is an important aspect in building a foundation for a young and rebuilding team.

Lastly, Pickett’s rise as a rookie is due to his...luck? I, for one, do not believe in luck, but I do believe there are certain players who simply happen to have things work to their advantage more often than others. Take this past Sunday’s game, for instance. Regardless of circumstance, this was a great play by Pickett to avoid pressure, scramble to the left, and make a throw on the run. However, one key component of this play is overlooked by many. Watch the play from this angle.

This play will be talked about for centuries. pic.twitter.com/E4pJae9hrx

— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) January 2, 2023

I cannot confirm this, and I know much was said contrary to this during post-game interviews, but after watching the replay from this angle, it looks to me as if Kenny Pickett was actually targeting Steven Sims on this play. He scrambles out to the left to avoid the pressure, and it looks as if his head is pointed toward Sims before he throws the ball. Sims, of course, was running toward the left side of the end zone just beyond where Najee Harris would eventually end up.

Whether or not Najee Harris was truly the intended receiver does matter. What matters is that the Steelers are entering Week 18 with their playoff hopes still alive, thanks to an unlikely, almost-miracle play against the Ravens. The best of the best always tend to have plays like this fall in their favor, whether their skill had anything to do with it or not. Kenny Pickett is not the most intriguing quarterback when you look at his arm strength or hand size, but if plays like this one can fall in his favor moving forward, he may not need elite traits to take this team places.

Predicting the Steelers’ inactive list for Week 18 vs. the Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 8:30am
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Steelers have one player ruled out and two who are questionable going into Sunday’s matchup.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the final week of the 2022 regular season with a chance to squeeze into the playoffs. As the season rolls on, the true nature of the depth chart has come much more into focus, but injuries are still a driving force when it comes to the inactive list every week. For Week 18, the Steelers have one player ruled out with two more being listed as questionable and could go in any direction.

The rules in the 2022 season when it comes to the players active on game day have been carried over from the last two seasons. As long as a team has eight offensive lineman who will be dressing for the game, they could have 48 players on their active roster rather than the 46 in previous seasons. If the Steelers elevate any players from their practice squad, their inactive list would increase by the same number of players. Playing on Sunday, the Steelers have until 4 PM today to make any roster moves or practice squad elevations. If there is any roster move done later today, an update will be added.

Game Status

OUT:
S Tre Norwood (hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE:
S Minkah Fitzpatrick (ankle)
LB Myles Jack (groin)

Here are the possibilities to end up inactive for the Steelers against the Browns on Sunday night:

Definitely:

S Tre Norwood- I’m surprised Norwood came back in a limited fashion on Thursday. He’ll miss another week.

Most Likely:

QB Mason Rudolph- 16 out of 17 isn’t bad. Or is it not good?

G Kendrick Green- Here’s an answer to an interesting trivia question: Who is the first player ever on the Pittsburgh Steelers to be inactive for 17 regular-season games in the same season?

DL Jonathan Marshall- He’s been on the Steelers roster for the required three weeks. If the Steelers really needed to make a roster move, Marshall could even end up on the chopping block.

Possibly:

S Minkah Fitzpatrick- Because he’s listed as questionable, Fitzpatrick has to go in this category. But I think it’s more likely that his status gets removed today than it is that he is inactive tomorrow.

LB Myles Jack- Last week Jack was questionable with his groin and then ended up ruled out in the second half. I don’t know if the Steelers will take the chance on him this week or keep him active but only play him in case of emergency.

LB Tae Crowder- The only thing keeping the newest Steelers linebacker on this list rather than being most likely is the fact that Jack is questionable.

OLB Malik Reed- When he’s been a healthy scratch two of the last four games, it’s at least possible Reed doesn’t get a helmet again this week.

Unlikely:

LB Mark Robinson- Although I’m not convinced he’s going to see as much playing time as he did last week as it was a fantastic matchup to get him some snaps as a rookie, I also don’t think the Steelers should go back to having Robinson inactive either.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. Tre Norwood
  2. Mason Rudolph
  3. Kendrick Green
  4. Jonathan Marshall
  5. Tae Crowder

If you’re paying close attention, this is the exact same five players I had listed last week before the Steelers made a practice squad elevation. Once again, I think these are the five unless they make a roster move. While they could activate both Ahkello Witherspoon and/or William Jackson III, I don’t know if the Steelers will. But if they do, I think Marshal could be released and perhaps Norwood placed on IR. I’m not sure that happens, it’s just what I think they would do if either player is brought back.

I continue to believe Minkah Fitzpatrick will be available for this game, and I’m not sure if the Steelers would prefer an injured Myles Jack or a linebacker they recently added. I’m going with Jack at least gets a helmet but might not play much, if at all. Based on the matchup, I think Malik Reed gets back into a reserve role as well.

What will really be interesting is if the Steelers have any practice squad elevations which could also tip off if either questionable player is not going to be able to go. If so, things here will get updated accordingly.

As always, feel free to list your projected inactives in the comments below.

Cam Sutton considered a Top 30 free agent in 2023

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 7:30am
Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Steelers CB Cam Sutton is about to hit the free agent market, and he may have a chance to cash in big-time.

With the Steelers preparing for their season finale and a chance to make the playoffs, free agency is one of the last things on most people’s minds. Nonetheless, we are right around the corner from seeing which direction the Steelers will go with their own free agents. Will the team make their best effort to retain all their players, or will the team focus on outside talent?

Before making any roster moves to create extra cap space, the Steelers have less than $15 million to work with, which could limit the amount of players the Steelers can re-sign. Terrell Edmunds has become a huge part of the defense and seems likely to return, but there are uncertainties about the three other Steelers defensive starters set to hit the open market.

Larry Ogunjobi is still struggling to stay healthy, and while Devin Bush took a huge step forward in 2022, he has not lived to the billing of a top-10 draft pick, making his return far from a sure thing. The other big-time free agent set to hit the market is cornerback Cameron Sutton, who has enjoyed his best NFL season in 2022. Sutton has taken flight under Teryl Austin, becoming a dependable, CB2-quality cornerback. With a league in such great need of talented corners, there is a chance he makes more than the Steelers would, or should, pay him.

Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports recently ranked the top 50 pending free agents, and coming in at number 26 was none other than Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton. Here is what Kerr had to say about the pending Steelers free agent.

An ascending cornerback in the league, Sutton is getting better every year. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 54.0 passer rating targeting Sutton this season, who has three interceptions and allowed a 45.9% completion rate. Sutton is a good starting corner.

Kerr is not the only one high on Sutton. Greg Rosenthal of NFL.com recently compiled his top 51 free agents for the 2023 cycle, and Sutton came in at 27. Here is the analysis he gave.

An improving starting cornerback with plenty of experience is rare in this market.

Rosenthal did not add much on Sutton, although he did point out an intriguing plus: Sutton is still on the upswing. Despite being at the age where we begin to see regression from many cornerbacks, Cam is still ascending, considering the fact he was somewhat of a late bloomer. He was a third-round pick of the Steelers in 2017, but before 2022, he had always been considered a “fringe-starter” and not someone you would want to see starting on the outside for games at a time.

For the Steelers, the issue lies in the cost. There is no doubt Pittsburgh is in dire need of corner this offseason, but for someone who is not a number one corner, it may be too pricy. Plus, the Steelers already have Levi Wallace as a potential CB2. It seems realistic to believe Omar Khan will look to a draft that is rich at cornerback to find his CB1.

What are your thoughts on Cameron Sutton? Should the Steelers attempt to keep him around for 2023 and potentially beyond? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC for everything you need to know as we get you ready for the Steelers season finale against the Browns.

Kenny Pickett just became a part of the Steelers vs. Ravens rivalry

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 6:00am
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

It takes a special player to become a memorable actor in the Steelers/Ravens rivalry. Kenny Pickett, in just his second game facing Baltimore, is now a part of said rivalry.

It has been said that the Steelers and Ravens rivalry is the greatest one in the NFL, maybe even in all of professional sports.

There’s no real way to determine that, of course, but it sure is an intensely good time whenever these two teams meet on the gridiron.

How many players have written their names on the banner of this rivalry over the past two decades? Hines Ward. Ed Reed. James Harrison. Terrell Suggs. Joey Porter. Joe Flacco. Ben Roethlisberger. Justin Tucker. Troy Polamalu. Ray Lewis. Ryan Clark. Lamar Jackson. Antonio Brown.

I can go on for days, but heck, before I stop, Ryan Mallett and Isaac Redman have even found ways to torture the souls of opposing fans in this rivalry.

As cliched as it is to say, you can almost always throw out the win/loss records when these two teams scrimmage. Even the two games played during the 2022 regular season, a campaign that has had the Ravens chasing an AFC North crown and Pittsburgh chasing relevance, were close and dramatic.

One point. That’s all that separated the Steelers and Ravens during the two contests, with each winning a close game on the other team’s home turf.

Sunday night was the latest example, and the Steelers walked away as the victors in a 16-13 classic at M&T Bank Stadium that had everyone talking...about Kenny Pickett, the rookie quarterback who engineered the game-winning drive in the final moments.

Pickett picked that drive in that game against that team in that venue to finally show the world—a world that was watching on NBC’s Sunday Night Football—that he can be something truly special if and when he puts it all together and figures out how to be an NFL quarterback.

Were the Ravens fans in attendance at M&T Bank Stadium confident that the defense would stop this rookie quarterback who really hadn’t done a whole heck of a lot up until he took the field with 4:16 left in the final period?

Maybe, but they had to be feeling a little queasy when Pickett rolled to his left and found a diving Pat Freiermuth for a 20-yard strike to midfield. Yeah, but that was just Pickett utilizing one of his strengths as a rookie quarterback: Throwing on the run (or off schedule). Surely, he couldn’t just sit back in the pocket and beat the Ravens that way, right? He proved them wrong one play later when he stood in the pocket and delivered a 28-yard laser to Steven Sims.

A few plays later, Pickett rolled to his left again to find Najee Harris with the 10-yard game-winner with 56 seconds left. If you go back and watch that highlight, you’ll see a clip of a Ravens fan wearing war paint and also a frown.

It’s okay to say that the Steelers/Ravens rivalry has lost its fastball in recent years. Still, while that’s accurate, it’s only because the stakes aren’t nearly as high as they were in the late-00s and early-10s when Pittsburgh and Baltimore weren’t just fighting for AFC North supremacy but for the right to go to the Super Bowl.

The in-game drama is still there. New players are stepping up to make sure this matchup still has meaning.

Will this rivalry ever get to where it was in 2008, 2010 or 2011? I guess players like Lamar Jackson and, yes, Kenny Pickett will have a thing or two to say about that.

I know one thing for sure: The Ravens and their fans are now fully aware of who Kenny Pickett is.

They may even be a bit worried about what he could become.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 01/07/2023 - 5:30am

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

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

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

Here We Go, The Pregame Show: It all comes down to this for the Steelers on Sunday at 1 PM

Week 18 and a game against Cleveland is on tap for the Steelers. It all comes down to three games at 1 PM on Sunday. Join Bryan Anthony Davis and Kevin Smith for Here We Go, the Steelers Pregame Show. The BTSC duo will break down the Steelers like no one else does as Coach Smith and BAD talk the threat that is the Cleveland Browns.

Check out the rundown

  • News and Notes
  • Recap of the win over Baltimore
  • Previewing the Browns
  • Dude of the Week
  • and MUCH MORE!

Listen to the show on the player below:

Steelers Friday Night Six Pack with Tony: The Steelers are on the cusp of improbable

The Steelers, once looking like a surefire bet to land a top-five draft pick, are on the cusp of achieving the improbable: A ticket to the NFL’s big dance. Also, Kenny Pickett might be something special. Plus, we have to talk about Damar Hamlin and everything surrounding that near tragedy. That and more on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack!

Checkout a rundown of the show:

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • The improbable in the Steel City
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Listen to the show on the player below:

State of the Steelers: This is It!

Sunday will decide it all for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 2022 season will all come down to a three hour-plus stretch on Sunday that includes the Cleveland Browns and the entire AFC East. This is it. That’s the latest topic of discussion from Daniel Jay on the State of the Steelers. Join Daniel for the latest new offering from the Behind the Steel Curtain family of podcasts in addressing the State of the Steelers.

Checkout a rundown of the show:

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • The end of the line for 2022
  • and MUCH MORE!

Listen to the show on the player below:

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Week 18 Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 5:45pm
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

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

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

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

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

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

1. The Steelers are still alive to make the playoffs! Of the three things that have to happen, which one do you think would be the most likely to keep them out?

Steelers defeat Bowns
Jets defeat Dolphins
Bills defeat Patriots

2. Minkah Fitzpatrick was voted team MVP on Friday. If they gave the award to two players, who would you select as the other Steelers MVP for 2022?

3. The NFL was left with a difficult (but necessary) situation by having to cancel the Bills at Bengals game. One of the things needing fixed was the seeding at the top of the AFC with the Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals in a situation where they could all potentially have the same number of losses but the Chiefs having one more win due to playing all 17 games. Although they will use win percentage to determine the seeding, if the teams have the same number of losses they will hold the AFC Championship game at a neutral sight. As for the AFC North, Cincinnati wins because they will have at least one less loss than the Ravens. But if the Ravens beat the Bengals on Sunday giving them the same number of wins, the NFL will determine the home team with a coin flip if the Ravens and Bengals are matched up in the Wild Card round.

Now for the question... Did the NFL make the best of a tough situation, or do you think there was a better/easier solution to the problem?

4. Of the three teams at the top of the AFC (Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals), which one would you prefer the Steelers face in the playoffs if they manage to get in? Why? (NOTE: Only two of the teams are possible, but let’s not worry about that.)

5. Last season both number one seeds in each conference lost their first game of the playoffs. Do you think it’s better for a team to get a week off and be rested heading into the postseason, or are they better off not getting the bye, continuing with their weekly routine, and “keep on rolling” into the playoffs?

6. You all love discussing food around here. What’s one food you wish you could cook perfectly that you have never tried to make (or have tried but can’t get right)?

Stay safe out there!

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

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

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

Steelers Injury Report: Minkah Fitzpatrick questionable for Sunday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 1:40pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers safety return to practice in a limited fashion on Friday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into their final regular season game still alive to qualify for the playoffs. As the Steelers took the practice field for their final official day of preparation for the Cleveland Browns, there was one player who did not participate while two were limited. In the final injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR Department, one player has been ruled out while two more are questionable.

Steelers PR Department

The only player the Steelers had miss their Week 17 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens was safety Tre Norwood. Unable to go due to a hamstring injury, Coach Tomlin did not mention Norwood among the injuries during his press conference on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Norwood missed practice with his hamstring injury. Thursday saw Norwood return as a limited participant. On Friday, Norwood once again did not participate in practice and was ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Two players who did not finish the game last Sunday night were cornerback James Pierre, who is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and linebacker Myles Jack with his nagging groin injury. Pierre was a full participant in practice on Wednesday as he moves his way through the protocol while Myles Jack did not practice Wednesday his groin injury. Thursday saw both players with the same status as Pierre was once again a full participant while Jack was not able to practice. Friday saw another practice of Pierre as a full participant and he has no injury status for Sunday. As for Jack, he returned as a limited participant and is questionable for Sunday’s game.

Minkah Fitzpatrick missed a few snaps in Sunday night’s game due to an ankle injury but was able to return and get the game-clinching interception. Although Coach Tomlin said he does not expect Fitzpatrick to have his game status in question, his availability early in the week would be affected. As expected, Fitzpatrick did not practice on Wednesday. On Thursday, Fitzpatrick was still unable to go. Friday saw Fitzpatrick returning to practice as a limited participant as he is questionable for Sunday’s game.

One player who missed practice but not due to injury is running back Najee Harris, listed simply as getting rest. Another player who missed practice but not necessarily for injury was cornerback Arthur Maulet who is listed as not practicing due to an illness. On Thursday, Harris returned to practice but Maulet was still unavailable due to illness. As for practice Friday, both players were full participants and have no injury designation.

Once again, wide receiver Diontae Johnson starts off the week on the injury report due to his hip. On Wednesday, Johnson did not participate in practice. Thursday and Friday saw Johnson return to practice as a full participant and he has no injury status.

Two more players on the injury report are offensive lineman Kevin Dotson and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi. Dotson was unable to practice on Wednesday due to a shoulder injury which had not been reported previously. As for Ogunjobi, he has missed the majority of Steelers practices lately with a toe injury but has still been able to participate in games. On Wednesday, Ogunjobi once again did not practice. Thursday saw Dotson return as a full participant while Ogunjobi was still out with his toe injury. On Friday, both players were full participants and have no injury status for Sunday.

Two new names landed on Thursday’s injury report with Cam Heyward showing up with his typical day off which is not injury related. The other name that showed up on Thursday’s report is outside linebacker Alex Highsmith who was limited with an ankle injury. Friday saw both players as full participants in practice and are good to go for Sunday’s game.

As for the Browns’ injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com.

Cleveland Browns Participation/Injury Report, Week 18

*Game Status *T J. Conklin (Ankle) - Out

DE I. Thomas (Foot) - Out

CB D. Ward (Shoulder) - Questionable

Friday, January 6

G J. Bitonio (NIR - Rest) - DNP

DE J. Clowney (NIR - Rest) - DNP

T J. Conklin (Ankle) - DNP

WR A. Cooper (NIR - Rest - Hip) - LP

DE M. Garrett (NIR - Rest) - FP

RB D. Johnson (Shoulder) - LP

CB D. Ward (Shoulder) - DNP

G D. Forbes (NIR - Personal) - FP

C E. Pocic (Illness) - FP

DE I. Thomas (Foot) - DNP

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 18 games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 1:00pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Several of the BTSC staff pick all the NFL games both against the spread and over/under point totals

The 2022 NFL regular season is heading into the final week! Going into Week 18 there are 11 NFL teams that have locked in a spot for the NFL postseason. On the other end of the spectrum, only a half game separates the Houston Texans and Chicago Bears in getting the number one pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

For the 2022 NFL season, nine members of the BTSC will be picking every game against the spread and the over/under point totals. This feature will show all the games for the week including games on Thursday and Monday. Those specific game picks will be featured in the open thread articles for each game. Please remember we are not experts on betting or any kind of sports gamblers. We are just a group of Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans saying who we think will come through each week.

We are using the same program as the last two years called Tallysight. It allows us to show picks in a much more “friendly to the eye” manner. To understand how it works, the default tab is for our picks against the spread. To see the over/under picks, click the “O/U” tab in the upper left. Also, make sure you scroll on the graphic to see all the picks. If there are quotation marks next to a pick, it means the person making the selection made a comment about the game.

When picking against the spread, Jeff and Kyle squeaked out the best record by going 8-7 with the next closest being Matty at 7-7. Bringing up the rear was Geoffrey at 5-10. I still currently lead for the season against the spread at 132-117 followed by Jeremy at 130-118.

It was Jeremy who was out in front in the over/under picks last week going 9-5 followed closely by Kyle at 9-6. Shannon brought up the rear this week at 3-11. For the season, Shannon is still ahead at 132-121 ahead of Geoffrey at 131-120. Combining both against the spread and the over/under, Jeff leads the way at 255-244 followed by Shannon at 254-249 and me at 252-249.

So here are the picks for the games for Week 18 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along! Odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Terrell Edmunds needs to remain with the Steelers for the foreseeable future

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 12:00pm
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Terrell Edmunds and the Steelers need each other, so let’s get a deal done early in the offseason.

The grass always looks greener on the other side, but sometimes that's because it's artificial turf. Not the real deal, and nowhere near as much fun to enjoy a picnic with your family on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are focusing all their attention this week on preparing for their crucial game against the Cleveland Browns this Sunday afternoon at Acrisure Stadium, and for good reason.

Yet another must-win scenario for the Steelers to keep their longshot playoffs hopes alive. Three straight weeks of playoff like circumstances has to have strengthened the Steelers resolve, and bodes well for the future of the extremely young and talented roster.

Lost amongst all the playoff scenarios and hoopla is the reality that Sunday could be the final game wearing a Steelers uniform for many of the pending free agents on the roster. The Steelers have some interesting decisions to make this offseason on some valuable contributors, including some starters.

One such decision on a current starter about to turn unrestricted free agent is Terrell Edmunds, and I believe he should be a level one priority target.

A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. The Steelers know exactly what they have in Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds is consistent, reliable, and durable. What he isn't is splashy or flashy. Edmunds brings zero drama to the equation, on or off the field. However, his team-first mentality has resulted in him doing an inadequate job of promoting his own brand. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, but Edmunds seemingly resists that temptation. His reserved and respectful behavior is the opposite of self-promotion, which I find refreshing.

Edmunds has shown consistent improvement at every stage of his career, and he has enjoyed arguably his most consistent season this year, in my opinion. The remarkably durable Edmunds has missed two games this season due to injury, and was gravelly missed on both occasions. Although that reality could be hard to comprehend for the casual observer, especially in this stat obsessed and highlight reel society.

Edmunds’ statistics in 2023 have been rather pedestrian, but his impact on the Steelers defense has been substantial. He has been credited with 65 total tackles in his 14 starts, with 35 of those being of the solo variety. He has a single sack and 4 pass breakups on his tally. Not much to write home about, at first glance.

There are Edmunds critics, and the loudest love to point out his lack of splash play tendencies, and that trend has continued this season. He hasn't registered a single takeaway, whether by interception or forced fumble, this season. The inability to create turnovers is more about his skill set and usage than any physical shortcoming.

Edmunds is a strong safety with inside linebacker tendencies. He is a classic box safety, who excels at covering tight ends and running backs, long a Steelers weakness prior to his selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He utilizes his elite level athleticism and outstanding speed at the position to limit long run and yards after the catch, another issue for the Steelers before his arrival. Truthfully, he may not create many splash plays, but he definitely helps prevent them.

As I mentioned earlier, Edmunds is a selfless, team first player. Willing and able to fill a variety of roles due to his versatility. That has been a trend for Edmunds all the way back to his collegiate days at Virginia Tech. I mentioned his versatility and selflessness in an article towards the end of his rookie season, and the article was mentioned by Bleacher Report because they needed an article with a positive spin about his selection and rookie performance. I feel the same way now as I did then — the Steelers need Terrell Edmunds.

His teammates love him, the coaches love him, and the community loves him. Edmunds has formed a special connection with All-Pro safety partner Minkah Fitzpatrick. There is a underrated trust factor needed in any exceptional safety tandem, one that normally takes substantial time and effort to cultivate. Fitzpatrick is comfortable with Edmunds and the scheme, and has enjoyed his best season to date as a result.

Fitzpatrick is currently tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions on the season, many of the game-closing variety, with a game left to be played. Minkah appears destined for his third All-Pro selection. I think it would smart of the Steelers to try and keep that connection rolling.

The simple truth is Terrell Edmunds needs the Steelers, and the Steelers need Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds has more value for the Steelers than he would for many other defensive schemes, and he is a perfect fit for the Steelers culture and community.

Some relationships are just meant to be. Edmunds was meant to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. Keep the negotiations simple. Both parties find common ground, and sign on the dotted line.

This offseason the Steelers need to make Terrell Edmunds feel like a priority. Then get back to rebuilding the Steelers’ next championship roster.

Minkah Fitzpatrick selected as Steelers team MVP for 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 11:18am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers team MVP for 2022 is safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced that safety Minkah Fitzpatrick has been named the team MVP for the 2022 season.

.@minkfitz_21 was voted the 2022 Team MVP by his teammates

: https://t.co/wHGowhWVu4 pic.twitter.com/XLgyxIIHLG

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 6, 2023

The Most Valuable Player award is voted on by the Steelers players each season. Fitzpatick is the only player on the current Steelers roster who has been selected team MVP outside of T.J. Watt who was selected the last three years from 2019 to 2021.

Currently tied for the NFL lead, Minkah Fitzpatrick has a career-high six interceptions on the season. In 14 games played, Fitzpatrick has 86 tackles and 11 passes defensed with one of his interceptions being returned for a touchdown. Fitzpatrick was voted to both the Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro in 2019 and 2020 and has already been selected to the Pro Bowl for 2022.

Minkah Fitzpatrick is the first player to be selected team MVP by the Steelers who was drafted by another franchise since James Farrior was selected in 2004. Both Willie Parker (2006) and James Harrison (2007 & 2008) were not drafted by the Steelers and were selected as MVP, but they were signed as undrafted free agents. Fitzpatrick was drafted by the Dolphins in 2018 and was acquired by the Steelers via trade ahead of Week 3 of the 2019 season.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Browns this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium to close out the regular season.

Expert Picks: Experts like the Steelers, but it isn’t a slam dunk

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 10:00am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Time to check in and see who the experts like in Steelers vs. Browns Sunday in Week 18.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns are slated to face off in Week 18 of the 2022 regular season, and there are a lot of narratives between these two teams. For the Browns, their season is over, after being eliminated from the playoffs, but the future with Deshaun Watson at quarterback has fans wanting the team to finish their regular season strong.

As for the Steelers, they are hoping to not just win the Week 18 game, but to get the necessary help to make the AFC Playoffs. It still seems crazy this once 2-6 team has rebounded to be on the cusp of a playoff berth. Nonetheless, this game is going to be big considering if the Browns beat the Steelers there are no playoffs to speak of for the home team.

For those who follow the current betting lines, the Steelers opened as 3-point road underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)

At this point, it is time to check in and see who the pundits, who call themselves experts, like in this showdown in Pittsburgh this Sunday.

As you can imagine, the experts are leaning the Steelers way, but it is far from a slam dunk. Every possible outlet, from ESPN, SB Nation, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports and CBS Sports alike are majority on the Steelers’ side, but many like the Browns to upset the Steelers and win on Sunday.

Those are sites where people just check a box on a website and move on with their lives. However, there are some who spend more time pouring over these picks, and provide some analysis than just a winner and loser.

For those type of experts, one which is talked about a lot is Pete Prisco of CBS Sports. Prisco predicts a Browns win in Week 18.

The Steelers still have an outside shot to make the playoffs, but they have to win here and get help. The Browns are playing consecutive road games, but you know they would love to close out their season beating their rivals. I think they do. It’s an ugly game, but Cleveland will end Pittsburgh’s playoff chances.

Pick: Browns 21, Steelers 20

Like Prisco, Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News also goes in-depth on every one of his picks heading into Week 18 Sunday. Iyer sees a Steelers win, with the Steelers barely covering.

The Steelers have a chance to have another winning season under Mike Tomlin. They also know the Patriots and Dolphins are in tough spots with their division games, opening the door for repeat trip to the playoffs. Trust them at home with the defense playing well vs. Deshaun Watson with Kenny Pickett continuing to come through in the clutch.

Pick: Steelers win 20-17 and cover the spread

As for the experts at Pro Football Network, they like the Steelers to win straight up, and the cover the current spread.

I was 10-3 on moneylines Sunday. The Steelers’ dramatic win over Baltimore was one of my misses. Pittsburgh has been one of the surprising stories in 2022. Although they’ll need some help to reach the playoffs, they’re set up nicely to overpower the Browns.

I’m still not clear why Cleveland started Deshaun Watson in a meaningless game. An ACL tear could set back this franchise another year while making their $250 million (guaranteed) investment an even bigger on-the-field liability in 2024 and beyond.

Against-the-spread prediction: Steelers

Moneyline winner: Steelers

These are just a few sites who make weekly NFL picks. When you think about all those sites not listed above, this is when we turn to our friends at NFL Pick Watch, a site dedicated to tracking NFL expert picks by the week. They take all expert picks and put them into an easy-to-read graph for fans to enjoy. When it comes to the Steelers vs. Browns game, a whopping 83% of NFL experts like the Steelers straight up, and 75% of the experts like the Steelers to hold serve and cover the 3-point spread on Sunday.

What do you think about the upcoming game? Will the experts have it right? Or are they way off? 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 the Browns in Week 18.

Steelers Vertex: What Mark Robinson brought to the defense against the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 8:30am
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The rookie linebacker got his first significant action of the season in a game tailor-made for his style.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 regular season is headed into the final week. While some teams have their rookies falling off at the end of a long season, the Steelers seem to be hitting their stride. One particular rookie, Mark Robinson, saw his first start in Week 17. So how did he ultimately perform? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

The 225th overall pick of the 2022 NFL draft, linebacker Mark Robinson attended three different colleges before being drafted by the Steelers in the seventh round. It was the last one, Mississippi, where he made the transition from running back to linebacker. With so little experience at the position, it was the wise choice for the Steelers to hold off on throwing Robinson into the fire and have him learn the intricacies of the NFL before seeing significant time on the field. Simply because Robinson is able to do things now does not mean he would have been able to do them earlier in the season.

The Week 17 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens was Robinson‘s third game in which he saw snaps this season. Getting a helmet in Week 6 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to injuries, Robinson only saw five snaps on special teams and never took the field on defense. In Week 12 against the Indianapolis Colts, Robinson was active but didn’t even see special team snaps during the game. It wasn’t until Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers where Robinson was utilized for seven snaps on defense but had no statistics.

In Week 17 against the Ravens, Robinson officially got the start for the Steelers as he was on the field for the first defensive snap of the game. Robinson played 26 of the Steelers 52 defensive snaps and officially had seven tackles in the game with two being solo and five being assists.

When it comes to some of the statistics beyond those officially kept by the NFL, Robinson was credited with one missed tackle according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Additionally, Robinson was credited with two defensive stops which is what PFF considers a “failure” for the offense.

Looking at his PFF scores, Robinson had a 57.5 overall grade for defense where he had a 52.5 grade against the run, a 52.3 score in terms of tackling, and a 67.1 score in coverage. According to PFF, Robinson was not targeted in the passing game on the six snaps he was in coverage. Both Geoffrey and I felt this was a mistake, and apparently so did the more reliable Pro Football Reference (PFR) who had Robinson giving up a 14-yard reception on his only target.

So how did the rookie do in his first significant action of the season? The numbers only tell so much, so let’s see what the film has to say.

The Film Line:

Mark Robinson followed his 7-snap game against Carolina where he recorded no stats with immediate impact.

Steelers @ Ravens, 1st quarter, 6:56

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker in the middle of the screen.

Mark Robinson starts heading in the wrong direction here, clearly reading the interior offensive line. Despite the mistake, he recovers and makes the tackle. Mark Robinson’s aggressive play has endeared him to fans and earned him playtime, but you can see here how his anticipate and attack style of play can cause him to get caught biting on any misdirection.

Robinson often resembles an unguided missile, just point him in the right direction and set him loose. In the next play we get to compare that to a player on the Steelers who has never been recklessly aggressive and is more likely to suffer from being too cautious.

This is pre-snap, watch Terrell Edmunds communicating coverage changes with the motion, giving Robinson his assignment.

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker moving from the middle of the field, Terrell Edmunds (#34) is pointing.

Edmunds has been directing these alterations for a few years now, freeing Minkah Fitzpatrick and the linebackers up to worry about how to execute their assignments.

Steelers @ Ravens, 1st quarter, 6:20

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker in the middle of the screen.

This play works for the Ravens because Robinson is more aggressive in his coverage while Edmunds is more reactive. Edmunds was victimized and vilified in 2019 for his deep safety play where he did a great job keeping everything in front of him and limiting big gains but doing so to the exclusion of actually challenging the catch. He’s gotten better at that, but you can still see here he’s more likely to be a split second late than in time to make a play. It makes him a great partner for Minkah Fitzpatrick who excels when he’s taking aggressive risks, and a great player to be communicating adjustments, but you can see the attack the play versus limit the gain mentality between Edmunds and Robinson.

I think when you consider Mike Tomlin’s consistent statement that he’d “rather say woah then sic ‘em,” you can see why Mark Robinson is getting snaps when he’s doesn’t fully know what he’s doing out there, and why Terrell Edmunds was never a priority resigning for the Steelers this offseason.

The main reason Tomlin values those aggressive players is they can learn to read defenses and learn to take a moment before attacking to ensure they are seeing the right thing. It is much harder to teach a naturally cautious player to read and react faster.

Steelers @ Ravens, 1st quarter, 5:38

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker in the middle of the screen.

A few plays later the Ravens go back to the same play design, just running it in the opposite direction this time. Mark Robinson makes this tackle at the line of scrimmage for no gain, compared to the four-yard gain the first time they ran it. This play is an impressive one for the young linebacker, showing almost immediate learning and growth, and also some great footwork on the play.

Let’s slow it down.

First you see his step to the right, and you can see his helmet turn to the middle a bit as he looks for and sees the pullers going to his left. Then I want you to notice his third and fourth steps after he starts moving to attack the play. Robinson sees the tackles coming into the run lane a bit wide and modifies his attack angle with a slight cut to his right. You can see how that puts him in a harder place for the lineman to reach, and also sets him up to explode into the runner.

This play is why Steeler fans should be excited about the potential of Mark Robinson; this is a really good rep by the young man. This is exactly how you want a linebacker to play this snap. You could put a Jack Lambert or Ray Lexis jersey on Robinson for this specific play and it wouldn’t look out of place. It’s just one play, but it’s about as good as you can be in that play.

Steelers @ Ravens, 2nd quarter, 15:00

Mark Robinson (#93) is the inside linebacker to the left.

I love this play as well. Robinson is moving before Robert Spillane can motion, and he gets to the play fast enough to divert Gus Edwards’ block, allowing Terrell Edmunds to get a free shot at the runner. Robinson doesn’t win the contact with Edwards, but he gets to the spot quick enough to draw the block and force the run flatter and farther outside.

Steelers @ Ravens, 2nd quarter, 10:50

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker in the middle of the screen.

Another good rep by Robinson here as he navigates traffic to find the back. I love how Robinson attacks the ball carrier as well, he’s not just trying to secure the tackle, he’s twisting him to limit how far the ball can move forward. Edwards is trying to dive forward but ends up with his feet farther downfield than the ball.

Lastly, I want to point out T.J. Watt on this play. Watt is another super aggressive player who attacks first and analyzes second. On this play Watt gets to the runner, but is flying too fast to get enough grip to bring him down. Robinson finishes the play almost immediately, and Watt gets credit for a tackle assist on this play. Gus Edwards comes completely free of Watt’s grip, but this isn’t a missed tackle because Robinson finishes it right away.

Steelers @ Ravens, 2nd quarter, 2:20

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker to the left of the hash marks.

This is a missed tackle. Neither Watt nor Robinson are able to bring J.K. Dobbins down on this one, but I want you to notice the time they cost Dobbins here. Dobbins isn’t able to turn up field and accelerate because he has two different people grabbing hold of him. Now look at the lane he’s heading into. If he’s there a half-second earlier with a bit more speed, Robert Spillane is unlikely to get off the block in time and Dobbins is running free with Minkah Fitzpatrick trying to chase him down.

The point I’m making here is Robinson is going to miss tackles, just like T.J. Watt is going to miss tackles. Like how a baseball shortstop with great reaction time and range is going to have more errors just because they will reach balls that other players won’t, even if they don’t make the catch.

This is a missed tackle, but the fact that he got there and slowed the runner allowed his teammates to make the play. Obviously, we’d love some superhuman Troy Polamalu play here where he somehow brings the runner down for a loss, but this is not a negative play by either Watt or Robinson, even if the stats say they missed a tackle.

Steelers @ Ravens, 2nd quarter, 1:14

Mark Robinson (#93) is the inside linebacker to the right.

Robinson finishes this tackle, but the best part of this play is how he fends off a blocker before breaking on the ball. You can see Robinson meet and negate the push from the lineman and then move to make the play. This is good stuff— from his positioning behind his lineman to make the combo block work back to him, to his meeting that block with force, the pursuit and wrap up. All of it is good stuff.

Mark Robinson is a natural run-defending linebacker. He’s a dang good one, and the Steelers are fortunate to have gotten him with their 7th-round pick this year. He was a big difference in this game, a key part of the winning effort.

That doesn’t mean it was all good though.

Steelers @ Ravens, 2nd quarter, 0:38

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker near the hash marks to the top of the screen.

The Ravens adapted to the presence of Mark Robinson in two ways. First they started passing more out of heavier sets to take advantage of Robinson in coverage.

You can see how Robinson stays way back here, and Jamir Jones (#48, OLB to top of screen) comes up to defend the dump off. That leaves Mark Andrews wide open by the first down marker. This play was with 38 seconds left, and Jones left the Ravens best receiver alone on the sideline to come help cover for Mark Robinson.

Robinson is not very good in zone coverage, but the bigger problem in this game was his teammates knowing that, and not trusting him to do his job.

The second strategy was to get Robinson off the field by running out of dime and nickel sets or using motion to pull him out of the box.

Steelers @Ravens, 3rd quarter, 3:42

Mark Robinson (#93) is the linebacker that follows the motion out of the box.

The Steelers go man here to reduce Robinson’s role in coverage, and the Ravens respond by using motion to take Robinson out of the box entirely. This play looks a lot like the Steelers defenses that have given up big rushing games the last few seasons. It was the longest gain for the Ravens all game.

The Point:

Mark Robinson provided the Steelers run defense with a big spark and was a catalyst of their Week 17 win over the Ravens. The difference he brought in run defense can easily be argued as the main difference between the Raven’s 215 rushing yards in Week 14 and their 120 yards in Week 17.

But despite the benefits Robinson brings, the Ravens were able to exploit him as well, and that was with Tyler Huntley at quarterback. The Steelers are going to need Robinson to grow as a player, especially in his zone coverage before he can be a major part of their linebacker rotation. He’s already shown the tools to be a great run defender, if he can learn to be a smart coverage linebacker like Vince Williams did, he’ll be a starter on this defense.

Kenny Pickett: The new ‘Captain Comeback’

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 7:15am
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been unfair to compare Ken to Ben.... until now

At the beginning of this season, no one thought we’d be talking about history-making quarterbacks in Pittsburgh, the year after Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement, especially when it comes to fourth quarter heroics. Ben is one of the all-time greatest players in the fourth, and the 2022 Steelers offense has been junior varsity at times in the closing quarter. That is, until Kenny Pickett entered the chat.

So, John Elway never did this. Tom Brady never did this. Joe Montana never did this. Peyton Manning never did this. Dan Marino never did this. Uncharted territory. https://t.co/KhWgG6NpcG

— Brad James (@BradfatherSpeak) January 2, 2023

It looks like KP8 is already writing his name in the history books. Sports analytics company Opta Stats says Pickett is the first rookie ever to have last minute game-winning touchdowns in back-to-back games. Ben had fourth quarter comebacks his rookie season, but he never had to find the end zone with his arm in the last minute. As Scott Kacsmar of the Pro Football Writers Association noted, Kenny has been thrown to the fire in his rookie season. He’s already been asked four times to lead a game-winning touchdown drive with five minutes or less on the clock. That’s a situation Ben wasn’t as familiar with until much further in his career.

Kenny Pickett has had the ball down 4-6 PTS in final 5:00 in 4-of-12 games.

Ben Roethlisberger had his 4th such opportunity in his 104th start. He also was 2-for-4 at getting the GW TD.

Then the Steelers were 0-8 in such situations rest of his career.https://t.co/c5LHQ08z2k

— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmar) January 4, 2023

Kenny’s last-minute rookie heroics may be unprecedented, but Ben is the king of the fourth quarter. He’s got 53 game-winning drives, and 41 fourth-quarter comebacks. But Kenny is already starting to make his own name in the fourth. He’s earned his 3rd fourth quarter comeback (Ben had 4 his rookie year), and if Kenny can follow Ben’s lead and repeat this for another 5+ seasons, and he’ll be on his way to Canton.

Last night was Kenny Pickett's FOURTH career Game-Winning Drive and THIRD Fourth Quarter Comeback.

Ben Roethlisberger had 4+ GWDs 5 times in his 18-year career, including his rookie year when he had 5 GWDs and 4 4QCs.

— The Steelers n'at (@thesteelersnat) January 2, 2023

Kenny is now 226th on the all-time fourth quarter comeback leaderboard, tied with Mark Malone among others. Ben is 3rd on that list. But if Kenny pulls off another fourth quarter victory against Cleveland, he’ll leap to number 207, tied with Mitch Trubisky and Jim Miller.

You want proof of improvement think back to the Miami game. Pickett’s poor decision making in that led to multiple INTs at the end, helped them lose it.

Lately he’s been Kenny Klutch/Primetime Pickett.

That’s growth! https://t.co/BFQpbWJRPO

— Logan Carney (@Media_Carnival) January 2, 2023

Kyle Chrise is the host of the BTSC podcast “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout.” New episodes are released every Thursday. Check out the latest episode in the player below:

Kenny Pickett and his fellow rookies can see the potential in the future

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 6:00am
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie class is something to love about the future of the organization.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 rookie draft class is a big part of the roster this season, but also the success the team has had throughout the second half of this season. When you consider the rookies who have had a big play in a game, or games, or now have a role on the current team, the list is long.

  • Kenny Pickett
  • George Pickens
  • DeMarvin Leal
  • Connor Heyward
  • Jaylen Warren

The aforementioned players have a role on the current team, and some have significant roles, especially those on the offensive side of the football. With that said, have the rookie class talked about what the future might look like with these young studs only going to develop and improve? According to Kenny Pickett, they have.

“Yeah, it’s really exciting.” Pickett said of the play of his fellow rookies. “You have those conversations, it’s almost like when you’re a freshman in college, and you get to a new place, and you talk about how good you think you can be. I think we had those conversations when we were here, we got here early, and we think we can be something.

“That all sounds good, we’ve got to put it together, but I think if we continue to work together, the future’s bright for us. I’m excited for what it holds. But I think a lot of guys are really contributing in a big way this season. We’re going to continue to do that this last week and see what happens.”

The Steelers are on the cusp of the postseason, and have turned around a once dismal season. The experience these rookies are gaining isn’t something which should be overlooked.

“I think it’s big. I think there’s nothing that can replace that in-game experience.” Pickett said during his weekly media session. “You can have a lot of practice reps, but when you’re in a stadium and you’re against another color [team] that you’re taking a preparation week for and you’re putting your all into it, you’re going out there, you’re executing, there’s just nothing that kind of replicates that.

“So, I think it’s huge for the young guys that have gotten to be able to play, and there’s some other guys I think are going to be, Calvin Austin off the top of my head, a player for us, just from what I saw early on. I think there’s a lot of young talent that we have. Like I’ve been saying, it sounds great. It’s all hypothetical. We’ve got to go put it together, but I think the pieces are there.”

Speaking of putting it all together, Pickett is the face of this rookie class. It comes with the territory of the quarterback position, but how Pickett is self-evaluating himself after double-digit starts is certainly important. How has Pickett evaluated himself throughout the 2022 season?

“I’m growing every week, that’s the positive.” said Pickett. “There’re things that I’m learning from and there’s things that are on tape now that I wasn’t doing early in the season. So, I’m continuing to grow. It’s not going to happen overnight. I like the way that I am trending. I like the way that I’m improving and seeing things on field, taking what I’m seeing on tape and bringing it to the field and playing with a little bit more anticipation than I was earlier in the season.

“But I think it’s definitely a long journey. I don’t think you’re done getting better till you hang them up. So, I’m going to continue to improve every week, and just be the best player that I can be and try to get to that final result as fast as possible.”

When fans sit and think about the Steelers young offense, no starter is over the age of 26, and the potential in the future it is more than exciting. Throw in the fact the team has battled back from 2-6 to be 8-8 with a shot at the playoffs heading into Week 18 is amazing. Dare I say, the future is bright.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Cleveland Browns this Sunday in Week 18.

How to watch Steelers vs. Browns: Time, TV Schedule, and game information

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 5:30am
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

All the information needed to watch, listen, stream, or follow the Steelers game on Sunday against the Browns in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading back to Acrisure Stadium for their last regular-season game. After starting 2-6 before their bye week, the Steelers have bounced back to go 6-2 in their last 8 games and are still alive for the 2022 postseason. Even though they need some help, all the Steelers can control is their own game against the Cleveland Browns.

Will the Steelers offense continue to come through in the clutch? Will the Steelers defense be able to stop the Browns potent running attack? Will the other two outcomes go the Steelers way?

This Sunday will answer these questions as the Steelers look to finish their season above .500 and on a four-game winning streak. Make sure you get all the information you need below so you can enjoy the Steelers Week 18 showdown. The latest odds are per DraftKings Sportsbook.

Week 18:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

Date: Sunday, January 8

Kickoff: 1:00 P.M. ET

Venue: Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA

Odds: Pittsburgh (-2.5); O/U (40.5) — DraftKings Sportsbook

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on KDKA-CBS with Greg Gumble and Adam Archuleta as commentators and A.J. Ross as sideline the reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Online: NFL Game Pass offers live games for international viewers (excluding USA, Canada, and China) and replays of every game upon conclusion with a paid subscription. A subscription to NFL Sunday Ticket gives access to stream games as well. fuboTV also allows you to stream NFL games online with a subscription. NFL Game Center will update the action on a play-by-play basis.

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove, Craig Wolfley, and Max Starks. The broadcast will be live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area or check the list of Steelers Radio Affiliates. Viewers can listen anywhere in the world online via Steelers.com, but the Steelers Official Mobile App does have geographical restrictions. The Steelers broadcast is also available on Westwood One radio or SiriusXM Radio on channel 231 or channel 156.

You can also follow Behind the Steel Curtain on Twitter or in the game thread article to catch all of the highlights. Be sure to check back with BTSC after the game for our post-match roundup, and subscribe to BTSC Steelers Radio on YouTube to catch The Steelers Post Game Show with Jeff Hartman, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 01/06/2023 - 4:30am

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

Steelers 2022 is ongoing and we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest three podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

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

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout: New Year New Yinz

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the conversation about the Steelers social media conversation. Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) expose the hottest and most toxic takes on the black and gold. This week, Steelers Nation must have made a resolution to be less toxic fans, because this has been the most optimistic week in ages. Mike Tomlin praise is coming from all angles. Kenny is already writing his name in the history books. Even Matt Canada is (almost) getting a pass.

Rundown of the show:

  • Toxic Takes
  • An optomistic week
  • Mike Tomlin Praise
  • Kenny in the history books
  • Is Matt Canada getting a pass?
  • Much, Much More

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

The Steelers Preview: Time for the Steelers to welcome Deshaun Watson to the rivalry

The Steelers have always had player rivals for each team in the old AFC Central and now the AFC North. Enter Deshaun Watson. The Steelers need to wecome him into the rivalry the Pittsburgh way. This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman, Editor Dave Schofield, and Podcast Producer Bryan Anthony Davis.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the Week
  • Welcoming Deshaun Watson to the division the Pittsburgh way
  • Injury Report
  • Over/Under
  • Trivia
  • Final Thoughts
Let’s Ride Friday: Time for the Steelers to put an exclamation point on their work

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Cleveland Browns in Week 18, and their playoff hopes rely on a victory and help. It’s time for the Steelers to put an exclamation point on their work. Jeff Hartman delivers this, his DraftKings Sportsbook parlay, the ‘All Betz are off’ segment, NFL picks and keys to victory! All in the latest “Let’s Ride” podcast.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL/IN/LA/MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO/NH), 888-789-7777/visit http://ccpg.org/chat (CT), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 877-8-HOPENY/text HOPENY (467369) (NY), visit OPGR.org (OR), call/text TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN), or 1-888-532-3500 (VA).

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Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Looking for the Steelers finishing touch
  • A visit from Jeremy Betz in the All Betz Are Off segment
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

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Steelers Injury Report: 4 players return to practice on Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 2:05pm
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

There were still five players who did not practice on Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into their final regular season game still alive to qualify for the playoffs. As the Steelers took the practice field for their second official day of preparation for the Cleveland Browns, there were five players who did not participate while two were limited. In the second injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR Department, two new names were added to the list.

Steelers PR Department

The only player the Steelers had miss their Week 17 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens was safety Tre Norwood. Unable to go due to a hamstring injury, Coach Tomlin did not mention Norwood among the injuries during his press conference on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Norwood missed practice with his hamstring injury. Thursday saw Norwood return as a limited participant.

Two players who did not finish the game last Sunday night were cornerback James Pierre, who is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and linebacker Myles Jack with his nagging groin injury. Pierre was a full participant in practice on Wednesday as he moves his way through the protocol while Myles Jack did not practice Wednesday his groin injury. Thursday saw both players with the same status as Pierre was once again a full participant while Jack was not able to practice.

Minkah Fitzpatrick missed a few snaps in Sunday night’s game due to an ankle injury but was able to return and get the game-clinching interception. Although Coach Tomlin said he does not expect Fitzpatrick to have his game status in question, his availability early in the week would be affected. As expected, Fitzpatrick did not practice on Wednesday. On Thursday, Fitzpatrick was still unable to go and all eyes will be on Friday to see his game status.

One player who missed practice but not due to injury is running back Najee Harris, listed simply as getting rest. Another player who missed practice but not necessarily for injury was cornerback Arthur Maulet who is listed as not practicing due to an illness. On Thursday, Harris returned to practice but Maulet was still unavailable due to illness.

Once again, wide receiver Diontae Johnson starts off the week on the injury report due to his hip. On Wednesday, Johnson did not participate in practice. Thursday saw Johnson return to practice as a full participant.

Two more players on the injury report are offensive lineman Kevin Dotson and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi. Dotson was unable to practice on Wednesday due to a shoulder injury which had not been reported previously. As for Ogunjobi, he has missed the majority of Steelers practices lately with a toe injury but has still been able to participate in games. On Wednesday, Ogunjobi once again did not practice. Thursday saw Dotson return as a full participant while Ogunjobi was still out with his toe injury.

Two new names landed on Thursday’s injury report with Cam Heyward showing up with his typical day off which is not injury related. The other name that showed up on Thursday’s report is outside linebacker Alex Highsmith who was limited with an ankle injury. It is uncertain at this time if this was an injury that was sustained during practice.

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

3 must-watch games for Steelers fans in Week 18

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 12:33pm

There are several NFL games this week which Steelers fans should be interested in the outcome.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the final week of the 2022 NFL regular season still alive for a postseason birth. With plenty other NFL games happening throughout Week 18, there are several games Steelers’ fans will be keeping an eye on. This week, all of the matchups are taking place during the Steelers game which impact their chances for playoffs, as it should be.

First off, lets check out how the three games from last week ended up. Of the three games, two finished the way the Steelers needed while the other tragically did not finish at all. When it comes to the betting lines for the game, the following information is the current consensus spread this week as reported by DraftKings Sportsbook.

Miami Dolphins (21) at New England Patriots (23)

This game was as close as the score indicates early on, but it really wasn’t at the end. New England got a pick six in the third-quarter to take the lead and added another touchdown to extend it. The Dolphins scored with less than two minutes remaining and had to get the onside kick in order to have another possession which they did not do. The bottom line is, New England did what they needed to do (especially to help the Steelers) and Miami is down to their third-string quarterback.

New York Jets (6) at Seattle Seahawks (23)

The Jets were never really in this game as they went down two touchdowns at the beginning of the second quarter and never made it close. While this outcome was desirable for Steelers fans, seeing the Jets look that bad and needing them to win in Week 18 was probably the only bad thing about this game.

Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (postponed)

This was a game a lot of people, including myself, were really looking forward to watching. Unfortunately, what we all saw went beyond a mere football game. While reports about Damar Hamlin are continuing to be positive, it’s his health and safety that’s ultimately the only thing that matters coming from this game. The NFL is leaving open the possibility of playing this another time, but I don’t see an easy way for it to happen.

For Week 18, here are the three games which I think are the most much-watch games, whether or not they affect the Steelers:

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Sunday at 1:00 PM on CBS
Spread: BUF (-7)

The Bills are continuing to prepare with a lot of emotion as thoughts are still with their teammates in the hospital. But this team also has a lot to play for in regards to the standings. Most importantly from a football standpoint, the Steelers need the Bills to pull this one out in order for everything to fall right for them to get to the postseason.

New York Jets at Miami Dolphins Sunday at 1:00 PM on FOX
Spread: NYJ (-1.5)

I’m surprised the Jets are favored in this game on the road as bad as they looked last week, but Miami has so much uncertainty at the quarterback position. This one really could go either way, but the Steelers need it to break for the Jets. All we fans can do is watch the scoreboard while taking in the Steelers game.

Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at 1:00 PM on CBS
Spread: CIN (-7)

I needed a third game other than the Steelers and the two that will determine their playoff hopes. For that reason, the game which could still possibly determine the AFC North goes into the final spot. If the Ravens upset the Bengals, it makes the postponed game from Week 17 even more important as it could be the difference between who hosts a playoff game and who goes on the road. Let’s see how it all plays out and if the NFL handles it.

So there are the three main matchups which I believe Steelers fans would see as a must-watch game. This week, I went with AFC playoff scenario games, both those involving the Steelers and those that may shape the top spots in the division.

Obviously Steelers games are the ones fans care the most about, but there is other good football to be watched. Which of these other games will be the one you will check in on the most? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Previewing the Steelers vs. Browns Week 18 showdown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 11:30am
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hosting the Cleveland Browns in Week 18 of the 2022 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns are two teams who know each other well considering they are AFC North rivals and play each other twice every season. For the home team, the game in Week 18 is as big one. The Steelers are on a three-game winning streak, and could be in the AFC Playoffs if they win and get some help. With that said, this game gets even more attention.

Here is the game preview for the Steelers and Browns for their Week 18 matchup in Pittsburgh.

Team Records

Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-8
Cleveland Browns: 7-9

Odds (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Browns (+3.0)
OVER/UNDER: 40.5
Moneyline: Steelers -150; Browns +130

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

Last 5 Games in series

Steelers: 2-3

Matchup History

Pittsburgh Steelers lead series 79-62-1

Injury Report (Note: This will be updated throughout the week as more injury reports are released) Steelers

Wednesday, January 4

WR Diontae Johnson (Hip) - DNP
DB Tre Norwood (Hamstring) - DNP
RB Najee Harris (Not Injury Related - Resting Player) - DNP
CB Arthur Maulet (Illness) - DNP
S Minkah Fitzpatrick (Ankle) - DNP
CB James Pierre (Concussion) - FP
LB Myles Jack (Groin) - DNP
OL Kevin Dotson (Shoulder) - DNP
DL Larry Ogunjobi (Toe) - DNP

Browns

Wednesday, January 4

G J. Bitonio (NIR - Rest) - DNP
DE J. Clowney (NIR - Rest) - DNP
T J. Conklin (Ankle) - DNP
WR A. Cooper (NIR - Rest - Hip) - DNP
DE M. Garrett (NIR - Rest) - DNP
RB D. Johnson (Shoulder) - DNP
CB D. Ward (Shoulder) - DNP

News and Notes

The last time these two bitter AFC North rivals played one another was in Week 3 on Thursday Night Football. Considering this upcoming game is in Week 18, the regular season finale, that first meeting feels like light years away.

Just think about how things have changed since that game:

  • Mitch Trubisky was the starting quarterback for the Steelers
  • Jacoby Brissett was the starting quarterback for the Browns
  • Rookies like Jaylen Warren and George Pickens were still developing a niche within the offense
  • The Steelers were without T.J. Watt who was on Injured Reserve (IR)

I could go on, but when these two teams meet on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium it will be like two different teams facing one another for the first time this season. Sure, some of the same names and faces haven’t changed. Names like Cam Heyward, Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Najee Harris. However, at least for one team, there is a lot more on the line than just a divisional win.

With the Browns already eliminated from the postseason, they have to rely on playing spoiler for the Steelers. Pittsburgh doesn’t control its own destiny when it comes to the AFC Playoffs, but they need to win their game to have a shot. If the Steelers win and get help by way of New York Jets and Buffalo Bills wins, they are in as the 7th seed in the playoffs. I think it’s safe to say the Browns would love nothing more than to end the thought of a playoff berth for their rivals.

As for the Steelers, they are hoping to win four straight games, and to punch their ticket to the big dance. Can rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett continue his magical streak of back-to-back game-winning drives? I think Steelers fans would agree the hope is to not need those type of comebacks. This should be a good one, with plenty of scoreboard watching going on during the 1 p.m. ET games.

Related Articles

For all article related to this Week 18 AFC North showdown, check out the stream by clicking the link below:

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Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold for all the coverage of their game with the Browns in Pittsburgh in Week 18 of the 2022 regular season.

Ben Roethlisberger gives glowing review of Kenny Pickett

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 10:00am
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The future Hall of Fame quarterback was hesitant at first, but is all-in on Kenny Pickett as the next “guy” for the Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to be a very fortunate franchise. No, not just because of their six Super Bowl championships, but because of the future of the quarterback position. Unlike the long drought of mediocre to sub-par quarterbacks following the retirement of legendary gunslinger Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers seem to have improved their fortune just one year after future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called it a career.

Just weeks after Roethlisberger officially announced his retirement, the Steelers selected Kenny Pickett in the first round, 20th overall, in the 2022 NFL Draft. Skeptics were omnipresent in regards to Pickett being the best of a very average quarterback class.

When Mitch Trubisky was named the starter to begin the season, many thought Pickett would be more of a spectator than playmaker in his first professional season. That all changed at halftime in Week 4 against the New York Jets when Mike Tomlin pulled the plug on the Trubisky experiment and turned to his rookie, the future.

The future looked bleak at times, and the many doubters of Pickett’s draft status and overall ability felt validated. But what happened after he got through a murderer's row of defenses to start his career was remarkable. Pickett wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard, but was showing steady progress and improvement. He stopped turning the ball over, and started to make routine plays routinely.

Fast forward to the last two games, and fans have witnessed Pickett show he has the “clutch gene” which so many professional quarterbacks lack. Roethlisberger had it, and it seems the Steelers next quarterback does too.

Throughout the season, Ben Roethlisberger has spoken about Pickett on his podcast “Footbahlin’ with Ben Roethlisberger” and he’s always given a fair review of his performances. However, on the most recent episode Roethlisberger provided more detail, and honesty, into what he sees out of the former Pitt quarterback.

Take a look at the segment in the video below:

Big Ben On Kenny Pickett: “ I severely, in my opinion, underestimated Kenny.” #kennypickett #benroethlisberger #herewego #steelers #pittsburgh #pitt #H2P pic.twitter.com/a8p1cGz7KQ

— matthew luciow (@Luciow1992) January 5, 2023

For those who might not be able to see the video, Roethlisberger’s quote is below:

“I’m a big man. I can say this. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kenny. I know he played great at Pitt, and did a lot of great things, but, coming in, I wasn’t sure what to think. I didn’t know enough.

“Early on I said I think he’ll be good. There’s no problems. I’m not jealous or anything, there’s nothing to be jealous about. I think he’ll be a good player for them, what they’re looking for.

“I severely, in my opinion, underestimated Kenny. I think he throws the ball better than I thought. He runs way better than I thought. I don’t know if he’s faster or more just more elusive, but he runs the ball way better than I expected and thought. His decision making is really good. His leadership and toughness, just enough of an edge to him, it looks like.

“I apologize, not that I made this vocal to anyone, but, in my head what I want to say is, “Kenny, keep doing what you’re doing.” Because you are leading this team, and becoming the guy everyone was hoping you would be. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

Roethlisberger’s honest, and glowing, remarks about Pickett will validate those who have been vocal supporters of Pickett throughout the season. Will it be enough to bring the skeptics on board? That has yet to be seen, but it was good to hear an honest take from Roethlisberger regarding the player many are viewing as the heir apparent to the Steelers quarterback throne.

As always, 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 team as they prepare for the Cleveland Browns in Week 18.

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