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The Steelers are set to kick off the season on the wrong side of a rivalry they used to dominate

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/09/2022 - 6:00am
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Steelers are no longer the tormentors in their AFC North rivalry vs. the Bengals. The roles have been reversed. Do the Steelers have it in them to put a halt to the Bengals’ dominance in a Week 1 showdown this Sunday?

The hunter has now become the hunted.

Or is the proper phrase: The hunted has now become the hunter?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are set to kick off their 2022 regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

I don’t know if the Steelers are the hunter or the hunted, but they are a 6.5-point road dog to a team that came within a drive of winning the Super Bowl a season ago.

That’s right, these aren’t your slightly-older brother’s Bungals any longer; the Bengals, who used to be AFC North rivals to Pittsburgh in theory only, are now the kings of the jungle.

The Bengals enter the 2022 regular season as the defending AFC North and conference champions; they are a franchise whose 2021 success had to seem like a pipe dream as recently as 2020 when being a league doormat was still accepted as the norm by many inside and outside the organization.

But something happened near the end of the 2020 campaign: The lowly Bengals put a temporary halt to the Steelers' drive toward an AFC North championship thanks to a 27-17 victory at old Paul Brown Stadium.

Not much was expected from Cincinnati at the start of the 2021 season, but the Bengals put folks on notice—at least the folks in Pittsburgh—when they came into old Heinz Field in Week 3 and thoroughly dominated their long-time tormentors in a 24-10 win that wasn’t even that close.

If you thought those recent victories by “little brother” were flukes, the Bengals put that sentiment to rest late last year with a 41-10 home win over Pittsburgh that, believe it or not, seemed more thorough than the score indicated.

To repeat: The Bengals, a team that used to call old Riverfront Stadium “The Jungle,” are now the reigning kings of many things, including the Steelers.

If you are a Steelers fan—or even a current or former Steelers player—you probably spent many years reasonably and logically marking down two wins when discussing an upcoming regular season schedule and the dates vs. Cincinnati--Pittsburgh had won 11 in a row over the Bengals prior to that aforementioned surprise loss in December of 2020.

Those days are over—at least it would appear.

I realize it’s hard for a lot of people to grasp, but the Bengals are currently in a better place than the Steelers.

Cincinnati has a loaded offense, led by quarterback Joe Burrow, the king lion among the group of quarterbacks in the AFC North.

The Bengals have a lethal arsenal of skill-position players and a revamped offensive line.

The defense doesn’t resemble the ‘76 Steel Curtain, but it’s pretty darn good at every level.

The Bengals are a damn-good football team.

The Steelers enter 2022 as a franchise in transition following quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement in January. Pittsburgh begins its 2022 campaign as a real underdog, a franchise that is expected to finish with a losing record according to the oddsmakers--it would mark the first under head coach Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers may be able to boast a better defense than Cincinnati in 2022, but will that be enough? Will it make up for not having Roethlisberger behind center—even if Mitch Trubisky, the first man tasked with stepping into Big Ben’s enormous shoes, is at his very best all season long?

Can the defense keep the Steelers in games on a consistent enough basis to offset an offense that may be weighed down by the hogs up front?

It would appear that Pittsburgh’s skill-position players can be special if given the chance, but will the offensive line improve just enough to do its part?

These questions will all be answered in due time, but what happens Sunday in Cincinnati? Have the Bengals truly established dominance in this rivalry and shifted the dynamic for the foreseeable future?

The Steelers were able to sneak up on the Bills a season ago when they marched into Buffalo in Week 1 and left with a 23-16 upset win.

However, it may be a bit more difficult for Pittsburgh to do that this Sunday against a Bengals team that figures to be on the lookout for the scary ghosts who used to spook them into submission whenever these two teams got together.

The Steelers are in a weird place as they move on from the Roethlisberger era and have the look of a franchise that may be headed for some truly dreadful days if this transition phase doesn’t go as planned. Speaking of ghosts, it feels like the Steelers are getting ready to visit an early-’80s-themed haunted house on Sunday that may be full of people dressed like Ken Anderson and Cris Collinsworth who are hiding in the dark and just waiting to scare the bejeezus out of them.

Can the Steelers repeat recent history with a Week 1 road win this Sunday in Cincinnati?

Or are they primed to revisit the 1980s when the Bengals almost always had the upper hand in this rivalry?

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 09/09/2022 - 5:30am
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hitting the road to start the season for the eighth-straight year, this time opening for the first time ever against the Cincinnati Bengals. Fresh off their Super Bowl appearance, the Steelers are looking to stop their three-game slide versus the Bengals dating back to 2020.

How will Mitch Trubisky fare in his first start for the Steelers? Will the Steelers offensive line hold up enough to get any kind of rhythm? Will the defense be able to stop the run?

This Sunday will answer these questions as the Steelers look to start their 2022 season on a positive note. Make sure you get all the information you need below so you can enjoy the Steelers Week 1 showdown. The latest odds are per DraftKings Sportsbook.

Week 1:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Date: Sunday, September 11th

Kickoff: 1:00 P.M. ET

Venue: Paycor Stadium, Cincinnati, OH

Odds: Pittsburgh (+6.5); O/U (44)

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on KDKA-CBS with Ian Eagle and Charles Davis as commentators and Evan Washburn as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

Online: NFL+ offers live games for international viewers 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, 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 383 or channel 134.

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, 09/09/2022 - 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: Renegade Science

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the conversation about the Steelers social media conversation. Hosts Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) break down the hottest and most toxic takes on the Black and Gold. This week we welcome August Derose-Jones (@auggied32 on IG) to the show. He has front office experience with the Pens & Raiders. Today, we break down the “cut and paste component” controversy, and why Tomlin may have enjoyed this entire thing. Plus, we go over Steelers season predictions from across the media landscape. Then, Dr Matt Pascal from Point Park University exposes the science behind “Renegade,” and why the song actually gives the Steelers a statistical advantage.

Rundown of the show:

  • Toxic Takes
  • 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: Long-Time division foes, first time Week 1 opponents

The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are going to do battle on Sunday for the first time ever on the NFL’s opening weekend. What should Steeler Nation and the NFL world expect in this battle between AFC North foes. This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts, The Steelers Preview with Jeff Hartman, Bryan Anthony Davis, and Dave Schofield. Join the triumphant trio as they combine all things Steelers with shenanigans galore.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the Week
  • Long-Time division foes, first time Week 1 opponents
  • Over/Under
  • Trivia
  • Final Thoughts
Let’s Ride Friday: What the Steelers need to do for a repeat Week 1 road win

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their first regular season action of 2022, and it just happens to be a road trip to play the division rival Bengals. What does the team need to do to win? A lot.

Check out the latest “Let’s Ride” podcast with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman as he outlines what the Steelers need to do for a repeat Week 1 road win in 2022.

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Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • What the Steelers need to do for a repeat Week 1 road win
  • A visit w/ Jeremy Betz
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

Rams vs. Bills: Thursday Night Football picks, odds and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 7:00pm
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL regular season is here! Check out the latest odds, picks and more.

The 2022 NFL regular season is officially here with the kickoff game between the defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams and the AFC favorite Buffalo Bills. You can’t ask for much more when it comes to a star-studded matchup to kick off the season in prime time.

As for the game itself, below you’ll see some vital information for you to enjoy the contest. You’ll get odds for the game, check out our staff picks for the game and to use this comment section as an open thread for the game.

Let’s take a closer look ...

How to Watch:

Los Angeles Rams vs. Buffalo Bills
Date: Thursday, Sept. 8
Venue: SoFi Stadium
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Streaming: Peacock

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

BUF: -2.5
O/U: 52
BUF: -140
LAR: +120

Staff Picks:

Will the Rams be able to defend their championship with a victory over the highly touted Bills? It will hopefully be a highly contested game and fun to watch. Let us know your picks in the comment section below. On top of that, follow along with other Pittsburgh Steelers fans in the comment section below as the open thread.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold. And continue counting down the days until the Steelers travel to Ohio to play the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 on Sunday, September 11th.

Steelers Injury Report: Chuks Okorafor misses practice on Thursday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 3:01pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Okorafor’s back injury is from one of two players added to the report on Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing their preparation for their first matchup of the 2022 NFL season. As the Steelers take the practice field for their second official day of preparation for the Cincinnati Bengals, there were two players who did not participate while one was still limited. In the second injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR department, Chuks Okorafor and Cam Heyward did not practice while wide receiver Diontae Johnson was limited.

Steelers PR Department

Having two names added to the list on the second injury report of the week is not something Steelers’ fans generally went to see. Having defensive captain Cam Heyward miss practice due to a coach’s decision is not uncommon even for the first week of practice and gives little reason to be concerned about his status for Sunday. What is more concerning is starting right tackle Chooks Okorafor missing practice due to a back injury. With the Steelers offensive line still trying to find the cohesion they need for the season, having the player with the longest tenure with the Steelers miss time is not ideal. Ultimately it will come down to Friday’s injury report as to whether or not Okorafor will be able to play on Sunday.

The biggest concern coming into Week 1 in terms of injury was the availability of Pro Bowl wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Leaving the Steelers final preseason game with a shoulder injury, Johnson has not been a full participant at practice since, at least that has been reported. After being listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, Johnson was listed as limited once again on Thursday with an additional injury of “cramps.” Being limited both day this week keeps Johnson’s availability for Sunday still in a questionable position.

Linebacker Marcus Allen was the other player who was limited in practice on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. On Thursday, Allen return is a full participant and is trending in the right direction to be available on Sunday.

As for the Bengals’ injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of

Cincinnati Bengals Participation/Injury Report, Week 1

Thursday, September 8

TE Devin Asiasi (Quad) - DNP

TE Mitchell Wilcox (Ankle) - LP

WR Trent Taylor (Hamstring) - LP

TE Drew Sample (Knee) - FP

Wednesday, September 7

TE Devin Asiasi (Quad) - DNP

TE Mitchell Wilcox (Ankle) - LP

TE Drew Sample (Knee) - FP

Steelers coordinators declare their location for the regular season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 12:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ coordinators will be in different locations as the 2022 regular season approaches.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Cincinnati Bengals in their Week 1 regular season opener, and the coaches are putting the final touches on their plans too. In other words, where will the coaches be standing when the game starts?

Last season, offensive coordinator Matt Canada was in the booth for the entire regular season, and Thursday he announced he will be staying in the booth in 2022. However, last year Keith Butler spent his season on the sidelines with the players. What is the plan for new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin?

Thursday when he met with the media Austin said he will be on the sideline, not in the booth. This is a change for Austin who said he hasn’t been on the sideline since 2013.

This per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Teryl Austin will be on the sidelines and Brian Flores in the press box. Austin said he hasn’t been in the sidelines since 2013. He tried both in the preseason and decided he liked being around the players.

— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) September 8, 2022

The caveat in this news, especially for Austin, is the fact Brian Flores will be in the booth. Often times coaches rely on someone in the booth to help relay information they are seeing with an aerial perspective to help them make calls. In this case, it would be Flores who is speaking with Austin regarding what he’s seeing which might not be able to be seen from the sideline.

As for Canada, being in the booth also means he can’t communicate as easily with his players on the sideline. His line of communication is through Mike Sullivan, the Steelers quarterbacks coach. Once the offense leaves the field, the signal callers can reach Canada via phone, but being in the booth does have its downfalls, and this is one of them.

Some view this as significant, while others brush it aside as a non-story. Only time will tell if this plays a role in the success of the 2022 Steelers. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Bengals this Sunday in Cincinnati, OH.

Previewing the Steelers vs. Bengals Week 1 showdown

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 11:30am
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Pittsburgh Steelers are traveling to play the Cincinnati Bengals Week 1 of the 2022 regular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals are two teams who know each other well considering they are AFC North division rivals. For these rivals, the game in Week 1 is as big as a Week 1 game can get. Throw in the fact the Steelers haven’t beaten the Bengals in the last three meetings, and this game gets even more attention.

Here is the game preview for the Steelers and Bengals for their Week 1 matchup in Cincinnati.

Teams (Records)

Pittsburgh Steelers: 0-0
Cincinnati Bengals: 0-0

Odds (Courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)

Steelers (+6.5)
Moneyline: Steelers +235; Bengals -280

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

Last 5 Games in series

Steelers: 2-3
Bengals: 3-2

Matchup History

Pittsburgh Steelers lead series 67-38-0

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

Wednesday, September 7

WR Diontae Johnson (Shoulder) - LP
LB Marcus Allen (Hamstring) - LP


Wednesday, September 7

TE Devin Asiasi (Quad) - DNP
TE Mitchell Wilcox (Ankle) - LP
TE Drew Sample (Knee) - FP

News and Notes

At one time, the Pittsburgh Steelers dominated the Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, there used to be road trips from the Pittsburgh area to Cincinnati as if it were a chance to go see another Steelers home game.

Times certainly have changed.

After winning 11 games in a row vs. the Bengals, the Steelers have dropped three in a row, dating back to the horrid 2020 Monday Night Football loss in Cincinnati. In almost the blink of an eye the Bengals are considered the dominant force, and the Steelers are nothing more than just a team in flux.

Will the trend dating back to 2020 continue? Will the Bengals continue to dominate the Steelers like they did twice in 2021? It is a new era of Steelers football, but it is also a new era for the Bengals. There is a lot of uncertainty swirling around the Steelers this regular season, and the Bengals will be a tough test for the team as they kick off the 2022 regular season on the road.

Related Articles Podcasts

Be sure to check out the many BTSC podcasts in the player below:

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 Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 1 of the 2022 regular season.

Steelers Vertex: How has Jamir Jones grown since his first stint in Pittsburgh?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

After playing three games with the Steelers in 2021, Jones spent time with two other franchises before returning back to Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed into the regular season after establishing their 53-man roster. In doing so, they made two trades ahead of roster cuts to try to bring depth to the offensive line and outside linebacker rooms. additionally, the Steelers made a waiver claim to bring back Jamir Jones after nearly a year away from the team. But what does Jones bring to the Steelers to help the defense? 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:

Jamir Jones made the Steelers 2021 roster as a UDFA after he was signed following Notre Dame’s pro day that spring when the NFL allowed players from 2020 who were not on an NFL roster to participate. Jones ultimately appeared in three games for the Steelers where he had three tackles and one quarterback hit. In all, Jones played 36 defensive snaps and 29 special teams snaps.

After being claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Rams, Jones appeared in 10 games where he had five tackles and a quarterback hit. Jones played 51 defensive snaps but logged 206 special team snaps. After being released by the Rams late in the year and claimed off waivers by Jacksonville, he appeared in two games with two tackles on 25 defensive snaps and 15 special team snaps.

With all that jumping around, it was tough for Jones to really get settled with one particular team. So how did it show up on the film?

The Film Line:

When T.J. Watt was injured in Week 2 of 2021, Jamir Jones got his first chance to play in an NFL game.

Steelers vs. Raiders, 3rd quarter, 6:32.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the top of the screen.

In his first action Jamir Jones showed functional strength and confidence, even if this was his only real impactful play. His pass rush wasn’t good, and the drop off in pass rush from T.J. Watt to Jamir Jones was the biggest difference in the Raiders offensive success in the second half of the game. Being a significant drop-off in pass-rush from T.J. Watt isn’t exactly damning though.

Jamir Jones would start the next week, as both Watt and Alex Highsmith were out for the game.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 1st quarter, 12:14.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the top of the screen.

Jones came pretty close to a sack early in the game. Burrow gets Melvin Ingram to bite on his fake to the outside before spinning off, and Ingram takes out himself and Jones. One thing that I like in this play is Jones running down Burrow at the end. Jones has a high motor and a lot of hustle, something that is a major requirement to play backup LB for Mike Tomlin.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 3rd quarter, 14:56.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the bottom of the screen.

Jones is the backside defender here, and he’s looking to stop any cutback. The problem here is he lets the play get a bit too far in front of him, and Joe Mixon is able to slip past him for a good gain. That’s the kind of plays you have to learn from, and Jones wouldn’t get much opportunity for that.

Because both starting OLB’s were out, the Steelers had elevated Derrek Tuszka from the practice squad for this game, and over the course of the game the inexperienced 23-year-old Jones lost snaps to the 25-year-old Tuszka.

Afterwards the Steelers moved Tuszka to the active roster. Jones failed to clear waivers and joined the Los Angeles Rams.

Rams vs. Giants, 4th quarter, 8:41.

Jamir Jones (#44) is the edge defender to the top of the screen.

A common theme of Jamir Jones’ 2021 season is getting close to making plays, but not pulling it off. Here is a great example where Jones was inches from a strip sack but instead it turned into a pass interference call.

Rams vs. Giants, 4th quarter, 0:38.

Jamir Jones (#44) is the edge defender to the bottom of the screen.

The same pass rush arc gets him a quarterback hit on this play because the quarterback steps backwards to avoid the pressure coming up the middle. The pressure helps end the game. These two plays on the Rams are in garbage time as the game is out of reach for the Giants, but they still show his pass rush and how it isn’t quite there yet.

In both clips Jones is pushed farther up his arc as he tries to turn the corner. There’s a good amount of work he needs to do, but he shows the basics to build on. He just needs to build on it.

Jones wouldn’t play on defense for the Rams again, but would be a staple on special teams until the Rams cut him on Christmas day. That’s life in the NFL. On the 28th of December Jones joined the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were having Covid-19 and injury issues. Five days later he was playing for them.

Jaguars vs. Patriots, 2nd quarter, 8:12.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the bottom of the screen.

This isn’t what you want to see. Jones does a good job to start the play, but that missed tackle is just sad.

Jaguars vs. Patriots, 3rd quarter, 14:16.

Jamir Jones (#40) is the edge defender to the bottom of the screen.

That’s not good either. At this point of the season, the 23-year-old Jones was on his third team of the season, and with almost no time to learn a different defense for a team in a dumpster fire season, the end result was pretty bad.

Jamir Jones started the 2021 season looking like a player that was close to putting it together and being an NFL level backup. He ended it as a player that looked lost.

The Point:

The Steelers are clearly banking on Jones finding his game again in the Steelers system, and are giving him the chance to develop what they tried to give him in 2021. Jones’ problem is he wasn’t ready to be relied on, but was close enough that he wouldn’t survive on a practice squad. He’s still facing that problem now. Jacksonville kept him on an ERFA contract, but when they cut him the Steelers claimed him. Jamir Jones hasn’t had a choice where to go since he signed with the Steelers in April of 2021 as every time he has been cut, he has been claimed off waivers.

So while the Steelers have him right now, if his bouncing around different defenses has him in the same place again this season, and the Steelers can’t hide him on the bottom of their depth chart, he’s unlikely to make it through waivers to their practice squad, and he’ll likely be bouncing around the NFL again in 2022.

What are realistic expectations for Kenny Pickett’s rookie year?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

We know Pickett will open as Mitch Trubisky’s backup. Based on recent memory, however, he could see the field in no time.

An explosion could almost have been felt within the Pittsburgh area when the Steelers announced their Week One depth chart on Monday: rookie quarterback and preseason sensation Kenny Pickett had been listed as the third-string QB, a move which defied all comments made by coaches and slotting of August action. All was (relatively) corrected, however, when the team updated its depth chart on Tuesday, slotting Pickett as QB2 behind Mitchell Trubisky.

The team’s opening two-deep confirms what was suspected before OTAs began: that Trubisky will begin the year as the Steelers’ starting quarterback, leaving the rookie on the bench. The question, of course, is for how long.

When can Steelers fans realistically expect Pickett to see his first taste of NFL action, let alone his first start? How might he fare statistically when he does see the field?

I collected data about rookie quarterbacks from the last six seasons (2016-21) in an effort to establish some historical bedrock for Pickett’s first pro campaign. Below are the conclusions.

When Pickett may first play/start

In the first portion of this piece, I’ll be examining when rookie quarterbacks have, in the last six years, made their debuts — not to mention analyze Pittsburgh’s schedule based on such information, but also what seems probable knowing Tomlin’s philosophy.

In the prior six seasons, a total of 23 quarterbacks have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft; from Paxton Lynch and Josh Rosen to Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert, the highly touted men under center have enjoyed varying degrees of success.

While only seven of the 23 were named starters before Week One, it is key to note that 22 of those 23 played at some point during their rookie seasons — only Packers first-rounder Jordan Love did not see a single snap. Further, all 22 did make a start at some point during their first campaigns.

Expanding to other rounds, there were 23 QBs selected from Rounds Two to Four in that same span, and 16 played. That figure is somewhat significant, as a quarterback taken outside of the top 32 is not traditionally considered apt to take the field promptly.

Inserted is a table of the 23 first-round gunslingers, providing a glimpse into their first games and their primary NFL starts.

On average, the first-round quarterbacks that played were involved in offensive snaps at Game Three, while their first starts occurred around Game Four (Game 4.27 to be exact). More broadly, 38 of the 46 QBs drafted in the first four rounds since 2016 have played; an average of those 38 yields a debut at Game 5.16 in year one. Moreover, 34 of the 46 started at an average of Game 5.68 (within the 34).

What do these numbers reflect? That not only is it very likely that Pickett will play and start at some point in 2022, but that both might happen by Week Six.

On Tuesday, Tomlin was not shy in praising Trubisky’s play and prior experience in leading a franchise to the postseason. Factoring in Trubisky’s veteran tenure and first-round allure, plus a presumptive desire not to rush Pickett into the lineup, it’s a safe bet that Trubisky will start for the Steelers through at least Week Six against the Buccaneers.

That doesn’t mean we couldn’t see Pickett beforehand, though. If Pittsburgh is in the midst of a blowout in Buffalo in Week Five, Tomlin could assuredly insert Pickett to get the Pitt product some NFL snaps. Likewise, if the Steelers have a subpar record entering Week Six and have showcased little offensive productivity that afternoon, Tomlin might feel inclined to turn to the newcomer to create a spark during an incredibly tough stretch of matchups.

Pickett’s inaugural start might not be much further down the road. On the surface, Week Seven at Miami may appear daunting for a rookie quarterback given the Sunday night atmosphere and a feisty Dolphins team. At the same time, Pickett seemed unflappable in the preseason; Tomlin might not have much hesitation in going to No. 8 if the team is in dire straits for a victory.

Additionally, a poor showing for Trubisky in Miami could open the door for Pickett in Week Eight at the Eagles. Such a game would grant Pickett a week of starting and the chance to reflect over the team’s bye week. Other options include Week 10 vs. the Saints, which is subsequent to the team’s bye, and Week 13 against the lowly Falcons.

Of course, this could all be for naught. If Trubisky succeeds or at least manages the offense well, Pickett may join Love in being a first-round QB to not play once in his rookie season. Considering Trubisky’s past play and the recent pattern regarding drafted quarterbacks, however, that feels unlikely.

Statistical expectations for Pickett

Assuming Pickett does play, data from the last six campaigns reveals that he may not light the world on fire.

Of the 22 first-round rookie signal-callers to suit up, only five threw for over 20 touchdowns, with the Patriots’ Mac Jones being the sole member of the 2021 crop to reach the feat a year ago.

If not producing gaudy scoring numbers, new quarterbacks must at least secure the ball and manage the game. Yet these QBs did not do exactly that: 12 of the 22 tossed 10 or more picks, and only eight had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-to-1 or better.

Utilizing more advanced stats, expected points added (EPA) per play determines how many expected points a quarterback contributes on a per-snap basis. 12 of the 22 quarterbacks had positive EPA/play metrics, meaning they theoretically added points every down. But just five of the 22 posted an EPA/play over .100; for context, that figure would have ranked 19th among quarterbacks to see 120 or more snaps last season.

The average passing statline for the 22 rookie quarterbacks was as follows: 61.16 completion %, 2,313.1 yards, 12.77 touchdowns, 9.09 interceptions.

Pickett had a tremendous preseason, completing 29 of 36 passes with 261 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 124.7 passer rating. Using the last six quarterback classes as a point of reference, it is almost a guarantee we will see the No. 20 overall pick under center (and start) this season, most likely around the midpoint of Pittsburgh’s year. When Pickett does play, though, he’ll have to avoid turnover miscues that have plagued many of his predecessors.

Updating the Steelers salary cap situation after the T.J. Watt restructure

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

The Steelers freed up some money on Wednesday by restructuring bark of T.J. Watt’s contract.

On Wednesday, it was reported the Pittsburgh Steelers restructured T.J. Watt’s contract for 2022 and freed up $6.75 million against the salary cap.

Although I usually give a detailed breakdown as I keep track of every dollar towards the salary cap throughout the offseason, once training camp hits all bets are off. With players coming and going, injury settlements, and things of that nature, it’s not the exact science that it is from March through July. After the Steelers set their 53-man roster, other things come into play as contracts get moved out with dead money, all the contracts on the roster count, and players are signed of the practice squad. With varying reports, it’s more difficult to keep a running total.

But all hope is not lost as websites such as (OTC) and give enough information to compile approximately where the Steelers stand with the salary cap.

Before getting into where the Steelers stand after T.J. Watt’s restructure, we must get a better idea as to where they stood before this occurred. Before the restructure, this is what each website reported as the Steelers cap space:

OTC: $2,709,254
Spotrac: $2,483,989

So why is there a discrepancy? First, OTC has the Steelers with more than $200k in their starting salary cap than what Spotrac does. There are some salaries that differ by a few dollars, but there are others that differ even more. Both Diontae Johnson and Chris Boswell have a salary cap hit of $1,180 more on Spotrac than they are listed on OTC. A big discrepancy is Miles Boykin, who has a higher salary cap hit on Spotrac by $214,232 because they continually, and I believe incorrectly, have Boykin’s prorated signing bonus follow him from Baltimore.

One more discrepancy between these two websites comes down with the Steelers practice squad. With two different types of players on the practice squad, they bring two different types of salaries. Players who are typical “practice squad eligible” players are paid $11,500 each week for 18 weeks of the season which brings their salary to $207,000. For veteran players, they have a range of their salary with the minimum being $15,400 a week and the maximum of $19,900 a week. This means a veteran player, if on the practice squad for all 18 weeks, could earn between $277,200 and $358,200. For the two veteran players the Steelers have currently on their practice squad, Spotrac has them both at the lowest possible salary while OTC has them at the highest possible salary.

For me, my estimated number comes in very close to OTC. I would rather account for a higher salary for the practice squad players, and I know OTC also takes into account some other things such as pay for attending OTAs which Spotrac did not have throughout the offseason. Bringing it all together, the salary cap space I believe the Steelers had prior to T.J. Watt’s restructure was about $2.7 million. This amount was not enough for the Steelers to carry into the season in order to do business.

With Watt’s restructure, $9 million of his $24 million base pay was converted into a signing bonus. This means that $2.25 million of this money is spread out over each of the four seasons remaining on his contract. By the Steelers only restructuring part of Watt’s contract, they have kept his future salary cap numbers down to below what his salary cap number would have been in 2022 (just over $31 million) had there not been a restructure. Based on the numbers, this restructure does not hurt the Steelers very much in future years.

So why didn’t the Steelers restructure T.J. Watt’s contract for more? If they could have gained as much as $17.2 million on the salary cap, why not do it? It’s simple, the Steelers are doing what fans want them to most of the time and they are not “kicking the can down the road” any more than they need to.

With the restructure of T.J. Watt, I currently have the Steelers salary cap space at approximately $9.45 million.

When it comes to the amount of cap space the Steelers need to conduct in-season business, I used to estimate the Steelers taking $5 million into the season for their expenses but other factors have caused me to increase the amount. Between paying players full salaries each week when they are elevated off the practice squad as an added expense, and the league minimum salaries going up in order to bring in other players, the Steelers would probably still be skimping by only taking $7 million in the season. If their amount is giving close to the $9.5 million range I believe they are in good shape to go into the year, but this is not money put aside to go try to sign a higher-salaried free agent.

One item I’m very curious about which is the same on both OTC in Spotrac is the salary of Marcus Allen when he was re-signed to the 53-man roster last week. Marcus Allen had an original-round restricted free agent tender of $2.54 million for his salary for 2022. Once the Steelers released him, I did not think they would sign him back at the same amount, especially since he was a free agent for a couple days. Perhaps this was the agreement Steelers made with Allen when he did not make the 53-man roster but returned once the Steelers put other players on the Reserve/Injured List. To me, I would have signed Allen back at a smaller salary as long as the rules allowed it. But, for now, Allen’s initial salary that he had throughout the offseason is what I have calculated for the Steelers salary cap space since both sites have it as their value.

So the Pittsburgh Steelers have now freed up the money that they need to conduct business during the 2022 NFL season. Much like I suggested throughout the spring and summer, they waited until just before their first game to see what amount they would need and only pushed the money into the future that they actually needed. Even if the Steelers wanted to spend a little more for a salary of a player to come in mid year, they should still have enough to do so.

Does the explanation of the Steelers salary cap space make sense? Are there any questions you may have? Please feel free to leave them in the comment section and I will do my best to answer.

The Steelers need to find a way to get their fans excited again

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long time since a Steelers home game was as electrifying as the Pitt/WVU Backyard Brawl last Thursday night at Acrisure Stadium. Can the Steelers recapture that kind of magic in the near future?

The Pitt Panthers narrowly defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers, 38-31, last Thursday evening at Acrisure Stadium.

It was the return of the Backyard Brawl after an 11-year hiatus due to things involving billions of dollars and conference realignment. Was the Pitt/WVU rivalry good enough to resume after 11 years on ice?

Glad you asked, because 70,622 fans descended upon Acrisure Stadium to take in the festivities, marking the largest crowd in the history of the football venue once named Heinz Field.

The atmosphere was electric. In fact, I’d go so far as to call it the most electrifying night of football in the history of Pittsburgh.

You might feel like saying something like, “Oh, come on! What about the Steelers' playoff game against (insert game, team, year and home venue here)!” Maybe you’re right, but it’s been a long time since a Steelers home game has moved me like the Pitt/WVU extravaganza did last week. Therefore, it’s hard to quantify the various levels of football electricity between now and the past.

I do know that the Steelers have moved me in the past, however.

But the past is the past, while the present is the present. Right now, the Pitt Panthers are the golden football team in Pittsburgh. They’re new. They’re fresh. They’re happening.

If you’re a Penn State fan—those damn pimples—you’re probably going to make fun of the Panthers’ notorious attendance problems at Heinz Field/Acrisure Stadium. Fine, I’ll give you that, but you have to admit it’s hard for a college football team to compete for attention and dollars in a pro football town.

Pitt did that last Thursday, though. Sure, the West Virginia fans helped a lot, but not as much as the Panthers fans who had been starving for a true winner for decades prior to the 2021 campaign; their 40-year drought of national irrelevance finally came to a close, thanks to a magical season by quarterback Kenny Pickett, who helped lead the program to an improbable ACC championship and a berth in a BCS bowl game.

Will the love Pitt is getting from its fans and alumni continue, or will things revert back to the usual, with folks only packing the stands to see a big ticket opponent?

I guess we’ll find out.

At least it’s fun to be a Panthers fan, now, though, no? I mean, I can’t get enough of all the highlights on Youtube. Heck, I spent part of my Sunday evening watching a condensed version of the Pitt/Georgia ‘82 Sugar Bowl classic.

When will the Steelers be fun to watch again? I ask this because attendance was kind of blah in 2021, and people began to notice. The air at old Heinz Field was a bit stale. True, the horrendous offense didn’t help to rile up the fans, but the staleness had been around for a while.

The Steelers jumped the shark a long time ago, at least the second Super Bowl era did. I believe we held onto the past for so long—chasing a seventh title with Ben Roethlisberger, the old gunslinger, leading the way—that we didn’t notice when so many other teams had passed the Steelers by.

The Steelers need to find that magic again. Of course, Pickett will likely help when he eventually becomes the starting quarterback. The team is young, overall, so hopefully, that will lead to a promising future.

Believe it or not, the fans can help make the excitement return by not turning everything into a crisis.

Did you know that Kedon Slovis, the Panthers' new quarterback via USC, said, “Bleep WVU!” at a rally days before last week’s Backyard Brawl? That actually happened. Do you know what the fallout was for this remark? Nothing. I don’t remember any Pitt fans criticizing Slovis for this remark. I don’t recall any talk show hosts calling Slovis out for a lack of maturity.

I’m not sure if West Virginia fans even heard Slovis, since they were likely too busy chanting, “Eat 'Spit,' Pitt!”

In other words, both fan bases embraced the vitriol. They reveled in it. They had fun with it.

Can you imagine if a Steelers player did something similar prior to a big game? Actually, you don’t have to imagine it; speaking of USC, JuJu Smith-Schuster, a former Trojan and Steelers receiver, drew criticism two years ago for saying in an interview prior to a wildcard showdown in Pittsburgh that “The Browns is the Browns.”

This wasn’t celebrated by Steelers fans. Instead, the remark made them cringe, and they worried that it would rile Cleveland up.

Did it rile the Browns up? I’m sure it did. Did it have anything to do with Cleveland’s 48-37 victory? I’m sure it did not.

This was months after Smith-Schuster caused a stir by TikTok dancing on opposing teams' logos before road games. "JuJu, please stop, bro," the fans pleaded. "Please, bruh, you're riling up the other team, bro."

These were many of the same people who once walked around wearing "Muck the Fets" t-shirts back in the 1990s.

What the heck happened to us?

The start of the Steelers’ 2022 regular season is only a few days away. How will they do? Where will they finish in the AFC?

Maybe the better question to ask is this: Will the Steelers excite and move their fans again in the not-so-distant future?

Bonus question: Will the fans embrace the excitement when and if they do?

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 09/08/2022 - 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:

The War Room: Analyzing a new crop of Steelers and their potential yield

There’s new Steelers wearing hypocycloids and ready to have a song in their heart called Renegade. What can they bring to Steel City football? This will be one of the topics discussed as BTSC invites you to check out an Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers in an attempt to put you in the mind of Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan, Andy Weidl, Sheldon White and Dan Colbert when it comes to personnel.

Rundown of the show:

  • The Newcomer Yield
  • Much More

Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matty in The Steelers War Room.

Know Your Enemy: Starting off 2022 with a Bengal

It’s time once again to become a scout for the Steelers before their latest game. This time around, we get to know more about the Bengals of Cincinnati in the latest edition of Know Your Enemy. It’s the show where Geoffrey Benedict and Shannon White break down the upcoming opponent for the black-and-gold. Shannon and Bryan Anthony Davis, subbing for GB, welcome Frank LaPlaca, Host of The Unofficial Bengals Podcast.

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the 2022 Bengals
  • Special Guest: Frank LaPlaca, Host of The Unofficial Bengals Podcast

Shannon and BAD walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

The Steelers Stat Geek: Week 1 trends for the Steelers and Bengals

The Steelers and Bengals have never met in Week 1 ever to open their respective seasons. What do the stats tell us open the season opener for both Pittsburgh and Cincy? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed by Dave Schofield on the Thursday episode of the AM podcast lineup, “The Steelers Stat Geek”. Join BTSC’s Editor as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • How do the Steelers and Bengals typically do in openers?
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

Steelers Injury Report: Diontae Johnson limited on Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 3:16pm
Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

There were two players on the Steelers first injury report of Week 1.

The Pittsburgh Steelers exited the 2022 NFL preseason somewhat healthy other than two players going on the Reserve/Injured List who are hopeful to return later this season. As the Steelers take the practice field for their first official day of preparation for the Cincinnati Bengals, there were no players who did not participate while two were limited. In the first injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR department, wide receiver Diontae Johnson and linebacker Marcus Allen were the limited participants.

Steelers PR Department

The biggest concern coming into Week 1 in terms of injury was the availability of Pro Bowl wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Leaving the Steelers final preseason game with a shoulder injury, Johnson has not been a full participant at practice since, at least that has been reported.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Johnson’s availability for Sunday’s game in his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “We’ll let participation be our guide,” Tomlin stated. “You guys know how we do business in the regular season. We’ll have a practice participation report as prescribed by the NFL office and we’ll proceed from there.”

Now that the Steelers are required to produce an injury report leading up to their first game, Diontae Johnson is officially designated is participated in practice but on a limited basis. The range of limitation is unknown as any player who sits out of any activity in which they would normally participate but yet practices in some capacity falls into this category.

Linebacker Marcus Allen was the other player who was limited in practice on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. Failing to participate in any of the Steelers preseason games, whether or not Allen will be ready for Sunday is still yet to be determined.

Another player of note who did not participate in the preseason games this year due to injury was Alex Highsmith. Dealing with a rib injury since training camp, Highsmith was not even on the first injury report for the Steelers and is well on track to play on Sunday.

As for the Bengals’ injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of

Cincinnati Bengals Participation/Injury Report, Week 1

Wednesday, September 7

TE Devin Asiasi (Quad) - DNP

TE Mitchell Wilcox (Ankle) - LP

TE Drew Sample (Knee) - FP

Taking an in-depth look at the BTSC PPR Fantasy League Draft

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 1:00pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Updating the BTSC PPR Fantasy Football draft which happened this past week.

The BTSC Fantasy League was a huge success in 2021, with 16 managers taking a crack at winning a Championship with deep rosters and savvy roster building. It was a tough field to navigate due to the sheer size of the league, and the Standard scoring format limited the number of quality fantasy assets. It was fun. It was challenging. And we’re ready for year two!

This year, Andrew Wilbar and I realized we needed to expand the platform by adding a 2nd league, this one operating under the PPR (point-per-reception) format. The BTSC PPR League was filled with some familiar faces from 2021 and a few new names as well. In all, it’s a bunch of Steelers fans ready to compete and have some fun.

The Team Names (in draft order) are as follows:

  1. KENNY 2 GLOVES (Aidan Blaine)
  3. WATT ATTACK (Isaac)
  4. DUSTIN S (Chugga98)
  5. SWSTEELPICKS22 (Shannon White)
  6. STEAGLES (George)
  7. HURTS SO GOOD (Jeremy Betz)
  9. YINZER (Sabe)
  10. BTSCBAD (Bryan Anthony Davis)

A special shoutout to two of this year’s managers. First to Blunosed Steelhead, who navigated technical difficulties with dignity and poise to still land a solid draft. And secondly, to Bryan Anthony Davis, who was a last second add to fill in for a manager who was no longer available to play this year. Unfortunately, his team had to be set to auto draft because he was such a late addition. I think you’ll agree he landed a solid WR room and plenty of pieces to work with.

But let’s get to the rosters, shall we? There were reaches and steals, but who had the best Draft? Let’s take a look:

So, which team or teams do you think have the best shot at taking home a Championship after the draft? Who had the craziest reach? The biggest steal? Let us know!

Vote in the poll below and leave your comments and/or expert advice in the comment section!

Steelers Burning Questions: Where is your confidence heading into Week 1?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We are on the verge of Week 1 of the 2022 regular season, are you confident?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their Week 1 game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, and many fans of the black and gold are starting to see their confidence fluctuate heading into the games which actually count.

So, with that being said, it is time to ask some key questions to the fan base as the Bengals game quickly approaches. We call them the ‘Steelers Burning Questions’, and there is one which is consistent every week.

Are you confident in the team moving forward?

Other than that staple question, some other questions can be added to help give readers at BTSC, and Steelers fans in general, a voice in what they think about the team. This week the question is based on what you witnessed during the preseason.

After the preseason, would you take the over or under for the Steelers 7.5 win total?

How do you participate in this exercise? It’s easy. All you have to do is scroll down to the polls and place your vote. The results of the votes will be published on BTSC later in the week, but getting as many votes as possible is the key with the SB Nation Reacts, powered by DraftKings Sportsbook.

So, go ahead in place your votes below, and feel free to explain yourself in the comment section below the article! In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the regular season.

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Pittsburgh Steelers fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate.

Please take our survey

Stock Report: 2022 Regular Season Ramp Up Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 10:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Let's take a look at whose stock is trending up or down immediately prior to the start of the 2022 regular season for the Steelers.

The start of the 2022 regular season for the Pittsburgh Steelers is so close you can feel it in the air. The season kicks off this Sunday afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals at the not-so-friendly confines of Paycor Stadium. A trip to Cincinnati used to have a home-away-from-home feel to it, like a Steelers victory was almost predestined. Oh, how times have changed, with the Bengals winning the past couple of matchups.

A seismic shift in momentum could be felt late in the 2020 season, when the Burrow-less Bengals upset the Steelers, a team definitely trending in the wrong direction coming into the game after starting the season 11-0. Many will point to the fact that the overmatched Bengals finally stood up to the bully on the block, properly motivated by a former Steelers wideout dancing on their midfield logo prior to the start of the game.

As a wise man once said, don't poke the bear.

I personally believe the drafting of their franchise QB Joe Burrow was the integral point of their turnaround, but it's impossible to ignore the shift in fortune for the two franchises after that prime time game in 2020. The Bengals no longer fear the Steelers, whether the game is home or away. The Bengals defeated the Steelers handily in both contests last season, physically manhandling the Steelers, if we are being totally honest.

That reality has to be the biggest concern for the Steelers moving forward. The Steelers must match the physicality and intensity of the Bengals this season, or risk taking the backseat in the rivalry for the near future.

Let’s get to the stock report...

Stock Up: Mitchell Trubisky

Trubisky was brought in to be a bridge quarterback. To bridge the gap between the Steelers franchise QB of the past 18 seasons, to hopefully the Steelers next franchise QB of the future. Whether Trubisky can be that next franchise guy, or if that individual is even on the current roster, is anybody's guess. Only time will tell, but Trubisky has earned first crack at it.

Trubisky looks the part. He has looked confident and in control of the offense throughout the preseason. He hasn't seemed rattled by the Steelers inconsistent offensive line performance, even when he has been forced to utilize his excellent athleticism and mobility to escape intense pressure in order to try and make a play. He has protected the football, a focal point for Mike Tomlin in the quarterback competition.

Trubisky has shown a tendency for the splash play, more so than his competition for the starting position. If he can carry that tendency over into the regular season, plus extend the occasional drive with his legs, then the Steelers offense should be more explosive than last season. His calm demeanor and leadership should prove invaluable for an unusually young but talented Steelers roster.

Stock Down: Kendrick Green

The fact Green made the 2022 Steelers roster was far from a certainty after the final preseason game. In fact, it came as a shock to many, myself included. Even more shocking is the fact that the Steelers still have him listed as a guard on the depth chart. In my opinion, the Steelers are actually doing the young man a disservice by doing so.

Last year, Green was an inexperienced and undersized rookie center, completely unprepared and overwhelmed. Now he is a severely undersized and ineffective guard destined for failure and unemployment. He lacks the size and length needed to play guard in the NFL. I have pointed that out since last season, and his preseason performance has done nothing to change my opinion.

He absorbs every impact, instantly losing the battle for a leverage advantage due to his abnormally short arm length for the position. That's a reality that is impossible to ignore, and a problem that will never go away.

It shouldn't have shocked anyone when the Steelers signed John Leglue to the practice squad, and traded for veteran Jessie Davis. Leglue outplayed Green throughout the preseason, and Davis is more accomplished at guard than tackle in his NFL career.

Green's NFL career currently hangs in the balance at the moment. Draft pedigree played a role in this year's roster spot, but for how long. I wholeheartedly believe that Green plays center, or he gets on with his life's work.

Stock Up: Edge depth

Not long after the Steelers final preseason game, I read multiple comments about how concerned many in the BTSC community were at the perceived lack of quality depth at the edge position. Many proclaimed that the Steelers were doomed if T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith would be lost due to injury for any substantial length of time.

The depth chart consisted of Genard Avery and Derrek Tuszka at the time. Avery was the versatile veteran, capable of playing inside or outside linebacker adequately. Tuszka was the high effort overachiever who came on strong towards the end of last season. Not bad depth pieces, but in no way starting material.

The Steelers apparently realized the need, because they quickly traded for proven edge producer Malik Reed, then signed former Steelers OLB Jamir Jones off the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. I believe both transactions were obvious attempts to correct mistakes from the recent past.

Trading for Reed should finally get the bad taste of the Melvin Ingram drama from last season out of the Steelers mouth. Ingram was a veteran free agent signed to provide the Steelers with quality depth at the edge position, but he still viewed himself as starter material. Unnecessary drama ensued, but obvious lesson learned.

Reed has been an integral part of a productive rotation for the Denver Broncos over the past few seasons. He is effective, reliable, and he knows his role. Renowned as an exceptional teammate. Perfect veteran addition at the position by the Steelers.

Jamir Jones addition righted a wrong in my opinion. The Steelers should never have tried to sneak Jones through waivers and onto the practice squad like they did in the early portion of last season. The Los Angeles Rams quickly claimed him, resulting in the Steelers acquiring Tuszka.

Although I admire Tuszka's motor and effort, Jones has superior strength and athleticism between the two. Jones sets a mean edge against the running game, and has potential as a pass rusher, especially if the Steelers starters are willing to take on a talented young pupil.

I feel much better about the Steelers edge depth moving forward after these two late additions.

Steelers sign a wide receiver to the practice squad

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 10:07am
Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

A spot opened up on the 16-man squad when Hamilcar Rashed was placed on the Practice Squad/Injured List.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made an adjustment to the practice squad as they begin their preparation for Sunday’s game in Cincinnati against the Bengals. The Steelers have added wide receiver Jaquarii Roberson and placed linebacker Hamilcar Rashed on the Practice Squad/Injured List.

We have signed WR Jaquarii Roberson to the practice squad and placed LB Hamilcar Rashed on the Practice Squad/Injured List. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 7, 2022

Roberson was an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest in 2022. Originally signing with the Dallas Cowboys, Roberson appeared in two preseason games with Dallas where he had only 11 snaps on offense and 15 on special teams. Roberson did not have any receptions this preseason nor was he targeted. While at Wake Forest, Roberson had 145 catches for 2,158 yards and 17 touchdowns in 40 games.

The reason the Steelers had a spot open up on the practice squad is they placed outside linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. on the Practice Squad/Injured List. Rashed spent the 2022 preseason with the Steelers after being claimed off waivers from the Jets prior to the first preseason game. It has not been reported as to what Rashed’s injury is or the extent of it at this time.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Bengals in Cincinnati this Sunday at 1 PM.

Scouting Report: Steelers need a big game from their run defense to upset the Bengals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 8:30am
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers will have their hands full with the Bengals run game in Week 1.

The Steelers open the 2022 season on Sunday in Cincinnati. While a road game at the defending AFC champion is daunting, it’s not an impossible task. Pittsburgh faced a similar challenge last season when they opened at Buffalo. The Bills were heavy favorites, but Pittsburgh stunned them by employing a creative game plan that kept Buffalo’s potent passing game in check in route to a 23-16 upset victory. For the Steelers to win on Sunday in Cincinnati, they will have to rely on their defense to deliver a similar performance.

The burden this time around falls as much on the run defense as it does the secondary. That may sound like an odd statement, considering the Bengals are led by one of the game’s best young quarterbacks in Joe Burrow and one of its most dynamic receivers in Ja’Marr Chase. But Cincinnati’s success on offense last season against Pittsburgh began with the run game, which they used to set up the pass. The Steelers must stop Cincinnati from running the football at will to have any chance of slowing the Bengals.

Here’s a preview of Sunday’s game, and why stopping the run is Pittsburgh’s key to victory.

Cincinnati hammered the Steelers twice last season. They won the first game in September 24-10 (it wasn’t that close), and the rematch in November 41-10 (also not that close). Burrow put up good numbers in both games. He went 14-18 for 172 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first one, and 20 of 24 for 190 yards with one touchdown in the second. Combined, his numbers were 34-42 for 362 yards with 4 TDs and 2 interceptions. Very good numbers, for sure. But in today’s NFL, they read more like the totals for one game, not two.

That’s because the Bengals didn’t lean heavily on Burrow. They threw when they got good looks from the defense, or when they found advantageous matchups. Mostly, though, they capitalized on the fact Pittsburgh played a lot of cover-6 with both safeties 10-12 yards deep by running the football. Tailback Joe Mixon ran 18 times for 90 yards in the first game, then gashed the Steelers for 165 yards in the rematch. Cincinnati totaled 294 combined rushing yards, an average of 147 per game.

The Bengals were especially effective running on 1st down. They had 31 rushes for 176 yards on 1st down plays, an average of nearly 6 yards per carry. Their 1st down rushing success set up manageable 2nd downs, where they were free to run or pass and could take what Pittsburgh’s defense was giving them.

The Steelers struggled against the run in general, so it was smart of Cincinnati to exploit that weakness. But Cincinnati did so in unorthodox fashion. The Bengals had the 2nd highest offensive DVOA in the league from 11 personnel last season, but against Pittsburgh they used 12 and 13 groupings to run the ball. By putting multiple tight ends on the field, they forced the Steelers to counter with their base 3-4, which, due to injuries up front, put players like Henry Mondeaux, Isaiahh Loudermilk and Chris Wormley on the field. Cincinnati had their way in these matchups, creating gaping holes for Mixon:

Even when the Steelers dropped their safeties, the Bengals ran effectively. Here, Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) is aligned just outside the tight end at the line of scrimmage to the left of the defense. The Bengals create a huge hole on a wide zone run, and Fitzpatrick is manhandled by the tight end as he falls inside to defend the cut back. Cincinnati often knocked the Steelers three or four yards off the ball regardless of personnel groupings or schemes. They were just better and more physical up front, which the results reflected accordingly.

Heading into Sunday, Pittsburgh is undoubtedly better on the defensive line and at inside linebacker than they were a year ago. Tyson Alualu is back from injury, and former Bengal Larry Ogunjobi adds beef and run-stopping pedigree to the interior. Myles Jack is also an upgrade over Joe Schobert at linebacker. So, from a talent perspective, the Steelers are in better position to stop the run.

Talent alone won’t make all the difference, however. The Steelers will have to get creative with their scheme, like they did in last season’s opener at Buffalo. That night, they didn’t play a single snap of base 3-4 the entire game. Instead, they frustrated Josh Allen and the Buffalo passing attack with a steady diet of nickel and dime looks, putting five or six defenders on the field. Buffalo obliged the Steelers by stubbornly refusing to run the ball. They dialed up 54 passes against 23 runs, which played to Pittsburgh’s strategy. The blanket coverage took away Allen’s ability to push the ball down the field. As a result, the Steelers held him to an average of less than 5 yards per pass.

With all summer to prepare, I’d expect the Steelers to be similarly creative on Sunday. Look for them to present Burrow something they haven’t shown him before. One look I was anticipating was a three-safety package that dropped Terrell Edmunds as a big nickel while Fitzpatrick and Damontae Kazee shuffled in and out of two-high looks. This would give them a bigger, better tackler in the box and an answer for Cincinnati’s tight end passing game while maintaining their coverage flexibility.

Kazee has been put on the injured list, however, which removes that option. The Steelers may still run some three-safety looks with Tre Norwood, who had a strong pre-season, in Kazee’s spot. Norwood is a solid slot player, too, so if they wanted to mix their looks by dropping Norwood at times, they have that option.

Another way the Steelers can attack Cincinnati is with an aggressive 1st down strategy. Sitting in a base defense and allowing the Bengals to run the ball for 5 or 6 yards a clip will leave Burrow in comfortable 2nd down situations. This was a recipe for disaster last season. To remedy this, I anticipate the Steelers will lean on Brian Flores. Flores was a masterful run-blitzer as a head coach in Miami. One of his signature moments came when the Dolphins shut down the vaunted Baltimore run game last season with heavy doses of his Blitz-0 concept, where he walked seven players to the line of scrimmage before the snap while playing cover-0 behind it. Baltimore rushed for just 94 yards in a 22-10 loss, as Miami kept the Ravens off-balance with looks like this, which confused Baltimore’s blockers by forcing them to diagnose which defenders were blitzing and which were falling off:

The Flores Blitz-0 concept, as used by Miami against the Ravens

Burrow’s ability to check hot and exploit man coverage, and the difficulty of covering Chase man-to-man, makes Cincinnati’s offense a different animal than Baltimore’s. So, the Steelers may not run these exact looks on Sunday. Instead, we may see more of their scramble package, which utilizes multiple twists, loops and slants in an effort to muddle blocking schemes. Here’s one from 2020 against Denver, which involves a gap-exchange stunt on the left side of the line and a pinch-and-fire stunt to the right:

On this stunt, Heyward and Alualu exchange gaps on the left while Tuitt, Bush and Watt pinch aggressively on the right

You can see below how Pittsburgh’s movement destroys the integrity of Denver’s gap-blocking scheme. Stephon Tuitt (91), who is aligned as a 4i inside Denver’s right tackle, pinches into the A-gap. Meanwhile, Cam Heyward, the 4i to Denver’s left, crashes inside as well. This causes both penetration and confusion, with Heyward driving the center into Tuitt’s blocker. This leaves Tuitt free to make the tackle:

With all summer to game plan, and Flores in the mix, I expect the Steelers to be both creative and aggressive with their approach, particularly on early downs, in an effort to put Cincinnati behind the chains.

The other thing the Steelers must do to stop the run is to play disciplined, gap-sound defense. Cincinnati loves the wide zone play, which gives Mixon the opportunity to use his vision and burst. Mixon is a good zone runner, as he adheres to the “slow to the hole, fast through it” mantra all zone backs are taught. This means he is patient in waiting for the creases and seams that zone schemes create, and then sudden in bursting through once he finds one.

Mixon is especially adept at finding backside cuts, which emerge when defenses over-pursue. Watch here, from the first meeting last September, how Devin Bush, who is the right linebacker just inside the hash at the 24-yard line, comes flying across as he reads run action to his left. Bush presses too fast and is picked up by the center, who washes him across the ball. Bush winds up almost shoulder-to-shoulder with Schobert, putting both linebackers on the front side of the run and no one in the backside A-gap. This, and the fact that backside run-fitter Melvin Ingram is late falling into the box from his off-alignment near Cincinnati’s slot receiver, provides a seam for Mixon, who hits it for a 27-yard gain. The Steelers can’t get gashed like this on simple zone runs if they expect to stop Cincinnati.

While there’s no question Burrow, Chase and the passing game remain a potent weapon for the Bengals, it was their rushing attack that doomed Pittsburgh in both meetings last season. The Steelers should be better up front this year with their off-season acquisitions, both on the field and in the coaching booth. They will have to use them to slow Cincinnati’s rushing attack, particularly on 1st downs. They may be able to accomplish this by showing the Bengals new looks like they did to Buffalo in last year’s opener, implementing a variety of run blitzes and front movements, and playing disciplined, gap-sound football to prevent Mixon from gashing them on zone runs.

Winning on Sunday will be a tall task for the Steelers, but if they can stop Cincinnati from running on them, they have a shot.

21 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin during Tuesday’s press conference

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers head coach held his weekly press conference with the Pittsburgh media on Tuesday.

For the first time in 2022 NFL regular season we have a Mike Tomlin press conference on the regularly scheduled Tuesday. With many players discussed, it’s time for another players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

Kenny Pickett

After what was described as a “clerical error” placed Kenny Pickett at the bottom of the depth chart at quarterback, Coach Tomlin confirmed Pickett is the number two. Coach Tomlin was asked if Pickett will take all the practice reps as the backup quarterback this week.

“He will, yes.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if there are any plans to sprinkle in a package using Pickett in the game.

“Not as I stand here today, no.”

Mason Rudolph

Unfortunately for Mason Rudolph, the change in the depth chart caused him to drop to the number three position. Coach Tomlin was asked what was behind the discrepancy in the depth chart.

“It was a clerical error. That’s how the depth chart was listed at the start of training camp. The cut-and-paste component was the cut-and-paste component. I know you were hoping for a little bit more colorful explanation, but it is what it is. That’s what happened.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he had to explain the clerical error to the quarterbacks.

“We talked yesterday. They understood where we were, so I’d imagine they viewed it as such.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he needed to find a balance when it comes to dealing with Mason Rudolph’s involvement.

“We’re singularly focused on winning football games. We don’t have any side agendas or things of that nature. Sometimes we make the simple complex by adding ridiculous complexities. We have to get the football team ready to go to Cincinnati and win a game, and the quarterbacks are a component of that. The first quarterback, the second quarterback and the third quarterback all have defined roles and they need to perform them very well like the rest of us, regardless of what our roles may be.”

Mitch Trubisky

Although he was believed to be the starter especially once the depth chart was released Monday, Coach Tomlin confirmed Mitch Trubisky will be the starting quarterback this week. Coach Tomlin was asked what separated Trubisky and Picket during the process.

“Again, like I mentioned and outlined extensively, he’s comfortable in those shoes. Talking about Mitch, he’s worn them before, and he performed extremely well. His mobility is a major component of his status and what it brings to us. And Kenny got better with each and every opportunity inside stadiums.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he learned anything about Trubisky as a leader that he didn’t know when he was first signed.

“I didn’t know much about Mitch when we signed him, so it’s all been a learning process, a get-to-know, and it’s been a pleasant one.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked when Trubisky established himself as the number one quarterback and if it was a decision they came to at the 11th hour.

“It is continual. It has been and will continue to be, I would imagine.”

Jaylen Warren

Another player of note who moved up the depth chart is running back Jaylen Warren who is now in the second spot. Coach Tomlin was asked what stood out about Warren and what role could he have in the offense.

“He’s been highly consistent when given opportunities in just about all areas, whether it’s running the ball inside or out, whether it’s in the passing game or whether it’s in the blitz pickup. He’s just been highly competitive in all circumstances. You can also include special teams in that. So, he’ll get an opportunity to carve out a role for himself if you will as we continue to play. I just think it’s important to acknowledge that we’ll have a hardcore plan as we step into stadium one, but those plans are subject to change,and those plans get hardened. The more stadiums you step in, the division of labor gets more defined, and roles grow and diminish based on performance.We’re excited about where he is, but he’ll continually carve out a niche for himself in this thing, not only this week, but in the upcoming weeks.”

Najee Harris

In other news from Monday, Najee Harris was selected as one of the five captains for the Steelers for 2022. Coach Tomlin was asked how he sees the leaders on this team setting the tone as they go into Week 1. In his response, Coach Tomlin specifically mentioned Harris.

“They’re going to have an opportunity to do that. We just named captains yesterday, and so it was interesting. I had a cool conversation with Najee [Harris]. He was excited about being a first-time captain. He said, ‘What does this mean to me?’ I said it means absolutely nothing. It means conduct yourself in the way that you’ve conducted yourself because your teammates think that’s admirable.They don’t have to try too hard. It’ll come to them. They should let it come to them. They should do the things that made them attractive to their teammates in the selection process.”

Diontae Johnson

One player who was reported to not practice in a full capacity on Monday was Diontae Johnson. Coach Tomlin was asked if he anticipates Johnson being available for practice this week and on Sunday.

“We’ll let participation be our guide.You guys know how we do business in the regular season. We’ll have a practice participation report as prescribed by the NFL office and we’ll proceed from there.”

T.J. Watt

Coming off of a season where he was named NFL Defensive Player the Year, T.J. Watt has answered questions about his follow-up season in a manner that relates to the team and not him as an individual. Coach Tomlin was asked what Watt can do individually to make the team better.

“I agree with TJ.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked how does a player at the outside linebacker position do more than he already has.

“Elite players make plays consistently, but they particularly make them in those waiting moments. That’s what he’s done since he’s been here. So, it’s reasonable to expect that to continue and it’s reasonable to expect that to continue at a more frequent rate as he works to hone his game and continually get better.”

Gunner Olszewski & Steven Sims

When the depth chart was released Monday, Gunner Olszewski was listed as the returner for both punts and kickoffs followed by Steven Sims. Coach Tomlin was asked what he can expect out of both players when it comes to the return game.

“Playmaking. Good field decision making with the potential for big plays. They’ve shown us that, or the makings of that throughout the developmental process and that’s going to be the standard of expectation.”

Kevin Dotson & Kendrick Green

Another position battle which was solidified with the depth chart was Kevin Dotson starting at left guard over Kendrick Green. Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw from Dotson to win the job and in his response he also mentioned Green.

“He played better than KG [Kendrick Green], and it’s as simple as that.”

Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton, & Levi Wallace

The Steelers are expected to rely on three cornerbacks in 2022 in Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton, and Levi Wallace. Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen from his corners.

“I love their above-the-neck game. I love the fluidity of their communication. They’re engaged. I think that helps them grow as a collective. Those are the two position groups that the collective growth and development is significant, we talked about the offensive line and in the secondary. I like what I’ve seen from that group. I think it’s probably teed up because they’re all such good, vocal communicators, talking about Ahkello and Levi and Cam Sutton specifically.”

Arthur Maulet & Tre Norwood

With Levi Wallace not listed as a starter at cornerback, he is one of several players who will come in to play in sub packages in the secondary. Coach Tomlin was asked about how the play will be divided up, and in his response he are also mentioned Arthur Maulet and Tre Norwood.

“You guys know the third corner plays a lot of football in today’s game. It does. Specialization, sub package football, whether it’s Levi Wallace or Arthur Maulet or Tre Norwood, all the defensive backs in a helmet are going to have an opportunity to become components of what we do. Oftentimes that specialization occurs on possession downs and in situational play, and those are weighty moments.”

Myles Jack & Devin Bush

Although there was a competition between Devin Bush and Robert Spillane for one of the starting inside linebacker roles, Myles Jack has been a player who was penciled into the lineup from the beginning. Coach Tomlin was asked what Jack has brought to the room and the defense.

“He’s a linebacker. He’s a linebacker at all times,24 hours a day. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him. He’s highly competitive. He’s extremely critical of himself. He’s a good teammate. He loves football. He likes to laugh. It’s been a good get-to-know process with him and I’m excited about walking this journey with him.”

In a later question, coach Tomlin was asked what he saw out of Devin Bush‘s growth in camp this year and how he took to Myles Jack coming into the room and them working together.

“It’s been really good. Like the corners, I thought those two guys have done a really good job of establishing a rapport. Obviously, Myles Jack is a more veteran player, and it’s been cool to watch the nature of that big brother-little brother relationship. I’ve been excited about that, but they’ll get an opportunity to write the true essence of that story with how they play collectively as a tandem, and I’m excited about them.”

Damontae Kazee

One of the players placed on the Reserve/Injured List last week was safety Damontae Kazee. Coach Tomlin was asked how he will fill the role Kazee might have played had he remained healthy.

“I don’t know that we viewed it in that way because we were still establishing roles. Although he did some nice things in the team development, I don’t know that we were at that stage of development where he had nailed down a role or position or division of labor.”

Alex Highsmith

Another player who missed the entire 2022 preseason due to injury was Alex Highsmith. Coach Tomlin was asked if he expects Highsmith to be good to go on Sunday.

“I do.”

Malik Reed

When the Steelers add new players to their roster after the final preseason game, it’s sometimes difficult for them to be acclimated enough to contribute right away. Coach Tomlin was asked if he thinks Malik Reed has enough time to adjust to play on Sunday.

“We’ll see about the new guys. Their ability to execute and have detail in their play throughout the course of the week will determine whether or not they have roles or the significance of those roles.”

For more information on Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out the podcast below:

If you want to watch Mike Tomlin’s press conference, you can do so HERE on the Steelers YouTube channel.

Steelers re-structure T.J. Watt’s contract to create more cap space

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/07/2022 - 6:58am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers give themselves some wiggle room after restructuring T.J. Watt’s contract.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been making moves throughout the 2022 offseason, and that continued into the preseason. With every move made, more of the salary cap space they had started to dwindle.

When it comes to creating enough space for the team to operate during the regular season, this is right in Omar Khan’s wheelhouse. The process started when recently acquired Malik Reed agreed to re-do his contract upon being traded to the Steelers from the Denver Broncos.

The Steelers, likely wanting to create more space heading into the regular season, used their ace in the hole by restructuring T.J. Watt’s contract to free up $6.75 million dollars of space.

This per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network:

The #Steelers restructured the contract of pass-rusher TJ Watt to create $6.75M of space, source said. A little operating room before the season.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 7, 2022

The Steelers had flexibility with Watt’s contract, and could restructure it to maximize savings if necessary. It is likely the Steelers only felt the need to free up the aforementioned amount to put them in a comfortable spot heading into the regular season.

During the season teams have to pay for their practice squad, injured players and any additional roster moves which always happen during the 17-game regular season. Reading into this as if it is some precursor to another roster move might be hasty. In reality, it might just be the team being in a better financial situation before the start of the regular season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 1 game of the 2022 regular season when they travel to Ohio to play the Cincinnati Bengals.


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