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2023 Mock Draft: Steelers take massive Florida guard in Round 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 8:30am
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ESPN’s Jordan Reid has the Steelers looking at a Florida lineman with their top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

There is no denying the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the market for some help along the offensive line this offseason. After the additions of James Daniels and Mason Cole last year, and the improved play of Chuks Okorafor, the right side of the line seems solidified. As for the left, there is plenty left to be desired.

Whether you are talking about Kevin Dotson, who will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023, or Dan Moore Jr., there is room to improve the line. This will be a huge talking point as the 2023 NFL Draft approaches, and is a large reason why major outlets are having the Steelers select along the offense line in the more recent mock drafts.

ESPN’s Jordan Reid just put out how Mock Draft 1.0, and before we get to how he has the draft breaking, this is how he got his draft order.

For the following mock draft of the first round, I used our Football Power Index’s projected draft order though Sunday’s Week 17 games.

With that said, let’s take a look at when he has the Steelers selecting, as well as the first round falling until it’s Pittsburgh turn to pick:

Round 1

1. Houston Texans (2-13-1) Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
2. Chicago Bears (3-13) Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
3. Seattle Seahawks (via 4-12 DEN) Will Anderson Jr., OLB, Alabama
4. Arizona Cardinals (4-12) Tyree Wilson, DE, Texas Tech
5. Indianapolis Colts (4-11-1) C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
6. Detroit Lions (via 5-11 LAR) Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
7. Las Vegas Raiders (6-10) Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
8. Atlanta Falcons (6-10) Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson
9. Carolina Panthers (6-10) Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
10. Tennessee Titans (7-9) Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
11. Philadelphia Eagles (via 7-9 NO) Jared Verse, DE, Florida State
12. Houston Texans (via 7-9 CLE) Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
13. New York Jets (7-9) Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
14. Washington Commanders (7-8-1) Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
15. New England Patriots (8-8) Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
16. Seattle Seahawks (8-8) Trenton Simpson, ILB, Clemson

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida

Pittsburgh just invested a first-round pick in quarterback Kenny Pickett, so improving the protection around him is important. The Steelers have historically gravitated toward wide-bodied interior blockers, and Torrence fits the mold at 6-foot-5, 347 pounds. And he uses that frame extraordinarily well in multiple areas, displaying a skill set that translates well to the Steelers’ power-running scheme. And he has enough short-area quickness to be dependable in pass protection, evidenced by just two sacks allowed over nearly 3,000 career snaps.

Biggest needs: OL, CB, DT

The addition of a player like Torrence would be a good addition to the offensive line, in both pass protection and run blocking. Don’t know much about Torrence as a prospect? Here is a prospect breakdown via The Draft Network:

O’Cyrus Torrence is a senior interior offensive lineman for the Florida Gators who transferred to the program before the 2022 season—following head coach Billy Napier from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Torrence was a well-accomplished player in the Sun Belt Conference after being named to the Second Team (2020) and First Team (2021) All-Sun-Belt squads.

Torrence has great overall mass and length and has proven to have traits that are translatable from the Sun Belt to the SEC. Torrence is best as a player when he can use his mass and natural strength. In the run game, Torrence does a good job of getting a quick first step to generate movement along the line of scrimmage and create openings for ball carriers. Torrence is a high-motor offensive lineman that plays through the whistle and works to finish defenders.

In pass protection, Torrence does a good job of using his strength to stop defenders in their pass rush. Torrence does a good job of handling the bull rush and shows to have the lower-body strength to anchor down on defenders, stopping them from getting any penetration into the pocket.

Torrence can improve in multiple areas. Although Torrence’s aggressiveness is appreciated, there are instances when it negatively impacts his game. Torrence will get too aggressive in the run game and it leads to him being off-balance and not placing an effective block. Torrence loses technique and will approach defenders with his head down, which allows for defenders to easily evade him.

There are also issues with Torrence in pass protection. It appears he lacks the quickness to be a quick reactor to twists and stunts and effectively pick them up. Torrence also fails to consistently move his feet while engaged. When Torrence is engaged, he will plant his feet in the ground and look to defeat defenders by using his upper-body strength and throwing them to the ground—this could lead to holding penalties. When defenders attack Torrence’s edges, his lack of lateral agility shows and could lead to him giving up pressures or committing holding penalties.

Overall, Torrence’s plus trait is his physicality in the run game, but there are concerns about his range as a player due to his struggles to move laterally and his reactionary athleticism. If Torrence can be placed in the right scheme to highlight his best assets as a player, he has the upside to be an effective player in the NFL.

Top Reasons to Buy In:

  • Run game dominance
  • Physicality at the point of attack
  • Anchor in pass protection

Top Reasons For Concern:

  • Scheme specific
  • Questionable lateral agility
  • Limited range as a blocker in pass protection

Size (TBD):

Height: 6050

Weight: 345 lbs

Ideal Role: Starting RG or LG

Scheme Fit: Gap Scheme / Power Run Scheme

TDN Consensus Grade:72/100 (Fourth-Round Value)

What do you think of the pick? Would you be okay if the Steelers ended up pulling the trigger with this pick? 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 Steelers as they prepare for the Cleveland Browns in Week 18.

The current estimated salary cap number for the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 7:15am
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

With the 2022 Steelers showing a lot of promise to finish the season, where do they stand in being able to add more pieces for 2023?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed into their final regular season game of the 2022 NFL season. While there’s still a possibility of a playoff berth, the Steelers do not control their own destiny and are going to need some help. Regardless of if the Steelers have the opportunity to extend their season or not, how they finished the second half of 2022 will go a long way in building for the 2023 NFL season.

With one way the Steelers utilize building their team being the NFL draft, the Steelers will also have the opportunity to add their roster in free agency when the new league year kicks off in March. So where do the Steelers stand when it comes to the 2023 salary cap and will they be able to make a splash in free agency or even retain some of their own players?

Below is an estimated breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space for the 2023 season according to the two main salary cap websites, overthecap.com (OTC) and spotrac.com. With the exact salary cap for 2023 as well as some specific numbers not necessarily available, these are the best estimates by two sources high-profile sources as well as a breakdown as to where their numbers may be slightly off.

The Numbers Estimated 2023 salary cap: $225 million Estimated adjusted salary cap:

Over The Cap: $230,542,711 ($5,542,711 in rollover)
Spotrac: $229,587,241 ($4,587,241 in rollover)

Dead money for 2023:

Over The Cap: $5,928,814
Spotrac: $6,422,144

Estimated current 2023 salary cap space:

Over The Cap: $17,361,784
Spotrac: $13,107,680

Current NFL rank in cap space for 2023:

Over The Cap: 15th
Spotrac: 17th

Breaking It Down Over The Cap

OTC currently has the Steelers with 39 players under contract. Of those 39, one is Cam Sutton who is not under contract because he only has void years remaining, and another is Kirk Merritt who is actually a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints. I have no idea why he’s in there with the Steelers.

Another discrepancy with OTC is with the amount of the dead money they have rolling into 2023 as they only have the high contract amounts of Stephon Tuitt, Chase Claypool, Buddy Johnson, and Anthony McFarland. Any contract that has a dead money hit of less than $100k they don’t have included.

The reason OTC has a higher salary cap amount rolling into 2023 from 2022 is based on their estimated current salary cap amount left for the Steelers for the rest of this year.

So even though OTC has an extra contract on the books for $940k, it still doesn’t cover up the amount of dead money that is likely being rolled into this year according to Spotrac. The biggest question with their estimate is the Steelers having more than $5 million to roll into next season.

Spotrac

Compared to OTC, Spotrac has a smaller amount rolled into 2023 from the season which is probably more realistic. Also, they have more dead money by accounting for smaller amounts by nine other players which aren’t taken into account by OTC.

Additionally, Spotrac only has 37 players under contract by the Steelers, two of which are Cam Sutton and Stephon Tuitt. One of the contracts they are missing is they do not have Elijah Riley, who was signed to the Steelers 53-man roster prior to their Week 16 game, having a contract that rolls into 2023. OTC has this contract for $1.01 million.

The biggest difference I see with Spotrac is I believe they have an error in their numbers. They have Stephon Tuitt listed under the active players counting for $4.755 million and also have the same amount counting as dead money in a different section. Based on my calculations, I think they have double counted this. For this reason, and the fact that they don’t have Riley‘s contract (assuming he is under contract for 2023), I think they’re short changing the Steelers by about $3.7 million. If this is the case, their number would come in just under $17 million (approximately $16.9 million) that the Steelers have available for 2023.

Where To Get More

There are some players on the Steelers who could save some more money next season if they chose to part ways. Just because the Steelers could save money does not mean they would, or even should, part ways with some of these players. The list consists of players who would save at least $2 million and have a significantly higher cap savings than dead money hit.

William Jackson III:

$12.75 million savings; $0 dead money

Mitch Trubisky:

$8 million savings; $2.625 million dead money

Myles Jack:

$8 million savings; $3.25 million dead money

Ahkello Witherspoon:

$4 million savings; $1.4825 million dead money

Levi Wallace:

$4 million savings; $1.4825 million dead money

Montravius Adams:

$2.5 million savings; $0.7325 million dead money

Miles Killebrew:

$2 million savings; $0.4825 million dead money

Gunner Olszewski:

$2 million savings; $0.6175 million dead money

These eight players would save the Steelers $43.25 million dollars, but they would have to be replaced. While some players will likely be released, some could be re-signed while others will simply be retained with their current contract.

2022 NFL Week 18: Steelers vs. Browns

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 6:55am
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Steelers and Browns are going head-to-head in Week 18.

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.

Actively rooting against the Steelers making the playoffs is weird

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 01/05/2023 - 6:00am
Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How could you not want the Steelers to sneak into the playoffs as the seventh and final seed in the AFC?

Back in the days before social media, the thought of the Steelers making the playoffs, regardless of record, regardless of what might happen to them once they got in, was everything.

This was what Steelers fans lived for. This was why they twirled those Terrible Towels. This was why they lifted all of those Iron City beers.

Unfortunately for me, I only knew a few dozen Steelers fans back in the days before social media. Some were family members. Some were friends. Some were even people who just called in to talk shows every day to discuss all things Steelers. In other words, I was sheltered from the world as a whole.

Thanks to social media, I now realize how many weird people there are out there in the world, people who have their own “opinions” about things like the color of the sky, for example. “Don’t want to believe me, sheeple? Here’s a link to this YouTube video about what they’re not telling you about the color of the sky. It will blow your mind!”

No offense—and this might surprise some—but there are many Steelers fans who fall into the category of “weird.”

For example, many don’t want the 2022 Steelers, a team that’s heading into Week 18 with more than a fighter’s chance of making the playoffs, to actually make the playoffs.

Why? Because they might get slaughtered by (insert whichever team ultimately winds up with the number two seed here).

Wow, what a wonderful way to look at life. To quote Robin Williams from the movie Good Will Hunting (and I believe this kind of applies): “That way, you can go your whole life without ever really knowing anyone.”

Is the fear of a team getting blown out a reason to not see it make the playoffs? I don’t think so. If you do, well, to quote Greg Kinnear from the movie As Good As It Gets (and I believe this really does apply): “Put your jammies on, and I’ll tell you a story!”

I don’t get those kinds of Steelers fans.

It’s a good thing someone like me, a 17-year-old at the time, didn’t have that attitude when I hoped and prayed for the 1989 Steelers, a team made up of players named Bubby Brister and Weegie Thompson, to actually sneak into the postseason as the fifth and final seed in the AFC.

Man, I was so stoked when they officially clinched on Christmas night. Did anyone give the Steelers a chance in heck of defeating the Oilers? No, but cornerback Dwayne Woodruff, who remotely joined the Monday Night Football crew to watch the Vikings take on the Bengals in the final regular-season game of the ‘89 campaign, seemed pretty darn happy when Minnesota scored the game-winning touchdown that knocked Cincinnati out and stamped Pittsburgh’s ticket to the dance.

While the Steelers didn’t ultimately win the Super Bowl that year (I know, what’s the point of making the playoffs if you can’t win the Super Bowl?), they did defeat the heavily favored (and hated) Oilers in overtime in a wildcard classic down in the Astrodome.

It’s been 33 years and a few days since Gary Anderson’s 50-yard field goal sailed through the uprights to send the Steelers into the divisional round, and I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Maybe that’s because that kick and that game are easily accessible on YouTube, which is actually a good aspect of social media. You get to relive your memories. You get to relive celebrations. You know what you don’t ever see on social media? Old footage of fans reacting negatively to their favorite team making the playoffs.

Nobody did that back then.

Maybe you’re a more analytical fan, and your main reason for not wanting the Steelers to make the playoffs is that it will hurt their draft status.

Number one, let me just say that you’re no fun at all.

Number two, that horse left the barn a long time ago. It would be one thing if the Steelers missing the playoff vs. just barely making them was the difference between a top-five pick and selecting 20th. But it’s only going to cost them a few spots.

By the way, is that really what you live for, draft picks, the draft?

In my opinion (and you can call me crazy), a playoff game is worlds more exciting than anything that has to do with the annual NFL Draft.

Now, don’t get it twisted. I’m not calling out Steelers fans like my good friend, Shannon White, a man who looks at the team’s late-season success as simply playing with house money. He doesn’t necessarily care if the Steelers make the postseason, but he’s not going to be offended by it if it happens. Chances are, he’s going to enjoy the game.

You should, too.

We wait all darn year to watch the Steelers. I’ll be damned if I’m going to be disappointed in a regular season that extends into the postseason simply because it may not end with the result I want.

Finally, to quote Melvin Udal from As Good As It Gets: “Sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.”

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

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

The Steelers War Room: Why the word ‘comeback’ defines the Steelers winning ways

It seems that when the Steelers win as of late, it’s via a thrilling comeback. This will be one of the topics discussed as BTSC invites you to heck out our Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. This will be one of the topics discussed as BTSC invites you to heck out our 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 art of the comeback
  • Much More

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

Know Your Enemy: Can the Steelers “brown and serve” Cleveland?

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 Cleveland Browns 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. This week, Kevin Tate (filling in for Geoffrey) and Shannon, welcome Noah Schaefer from The Dawg Check to the podcast.

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the 2022 Browns
  • Special Guest: Noah Schaefer from The Dawg Check

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

The Steelers Stat Geek: Why the word ‘comeback’ defines the Steelers winning ways

The Pittsburgh Steelers Have won 6 of their last 8 contests but have been accused of playing less than stellar competition for most of those games. How do this week’s foes, the Cleveland Browns, rate vs. the Steelers recent opponents? 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:

  • Are the Browns better or worse than the opponents that the Steelers have played recently?
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

AFC North Recap: Scary scene in Cincinnati puts things into perspective

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 4:00pm
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The football world slows to a halt after the scary scene in Paycor Stadium Monday night.

The sixteenth week of NFL football is behind us, and it was quite the week in the AFC North division. With that said, it is time to see how the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all did in the week that was.

Cleveland Browns - 24
Washington Commanders - 10

This was by far the best game of Deshaun Watson’s short tenure with the Browns. Was it fantastic? No, but it was a step in the right direction. It likely gave the fans in Cleveland something to be hopeful for in the future. However, the team they played started Carson Wentz, which meant the game was doomed from the start for the Commanders. What’s next for the Browns? They can eliminate the Steelers from any thought of the playoffs by beating them in Pittsburgh Sunday. After that? Not much considering the draft capital they sent to the Houston Texans to acquire Watson.

Pittsburgh Steelers - 16
Baltimore Ravens - 13

Back-to-back game-winning drives for Kenny Pickett? Yes, please! The Steelers found a way to stay alive, and their playoff hopes are alive and well when you consider all which will need to transpire for the team to be the No. 7 seed it isn’t as far fetched as you might have thought. The win over the Ravens on Sunday Night Football wasn’t just dramatic, but it felt as if it was a changing of the guard. A page being turned with the organization. Despite how the season ends, it is safe to say the vast majority of Steelers fans are excited about the future of the organization and the trajectory of the team.

Cincinnati Bengals — Suspended
Buffalo Bills

I delayed writing this article based on the fact the Bengals, the only other AFC North team to play in Week 17, didn’t complete their game. The Monday Night Football contest was shut down, and rightfully so. When Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field after tackling Tee Higgins in the first quarter, it felt like the sports world came to an abrupt halt. To an extent, it still feels that way. Somehow the NFL will have to figure out what to do with the prime time game which has serious significance for both of these AFC contenders, but for now the hope is Hamlin is able to make a full recovery. Until that point, not much else matters for the Bills. Somehow the Bills have to prepare for the New England Patriots in Week 18, and that’s something which seems like an extremely difficult task at this time, and rightfully so.

AFC North Standings

Cincinnati Bengals - 11-4
Baltimore Ravens - 10-6
Pittsburgh Steelers - 8-8
Cleveland Browns - 7-9

Week 18 AFC North Schedule:

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns — 1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals — 1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday

A look ahead...

The final opponents for all AFC North teams:

Baltimore Ravens: at Bengals
Cleveland Browns: at Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers: vs. Browns
Cincinnati Bengals: vs. Ravens

Steelers Injury Report: 8 players do not practice on Wednesday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 2:59pm
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After a hard-fought win over the Ravens on Sunday night, a number of players were held out of Wednesday’s practice.

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 first official day of preparation for the Cleveland Browns, there were eight players who did not participate while none were limited. In the first injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR Department, nine names begin the week on 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.

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.

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.

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.

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. This has been a common theme with Johnson lately but he has been able to play each week.

The final two players on Wednesday’s injury report our 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.

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

Cleveland Browns Participation/Injury Report, Week 18

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

Steelers designate William Jackson III to return from IR

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 1:22pm
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Jackson returns to practice for the Steelers for the first time since the bye week.

With only one regular season game remaining but still with a chance of qualifying for the postseason, the Steelers have designated cornerback William Jackson III to return from the Reserve/Injured List (IR). Jackson returns to practice on Wednesday and Steelers will have 21 days to activate him to the 53-man roster should their season continue to that time.

CB William Jackson III returned to practice today but remains on the Reserve/Injured List.

: https://t.co/PeqiJpAz0B pic.twitter.com/HG53zg9VMK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 4, 2023

The Steelers acquired William Jackson III via trade at the NFL trade deadline in early November. Jackson practiced with the Steelers during their bye week and apparently re-injured his back and has not been available since.

Jackson was a 2016 first-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 24th overall position. Jackson spent four seasons in Cincinnati where he appeared in 59 games and had three interceptions, one of which was for a touchdown, 41 passes defensed, and 150 tackles. Jackson spent the last two seasons in Washington where in 16 games he had two interceptions, 10 passes defensed, and 55 tackles.

The biggest question in regards to Jackson when the Steelers traded for hi was his health. Not appearing in a game since Week 5, Jackson had been out of the lineup with a back injury. Taking the practice field for the Steelers during their bye week, Jackson did not practice the following week when injury reports were required before being placed on IR prior to Week 10.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Cleveland Browns this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

Steelers announce two 2022 team award winners

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 1:11pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh chapter of Pro Football Writers of America handed out two awards on Wednesday.

Every year the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America hand out awards to individual players for a multitude of reasons. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, two of those awards are for media cooperation, and the team’s top rookie performer of that particular season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have announced the recipients of those two awards on Wednesday, and they are Mason Cole as the winner of ‘The Chief’ Award and Kenny Pickett as the winner of the Joe Greene Great Performance Award.

Mason Cole & @kennypickett10 were named the 2022 recipients of the Pittsburgh Chapter of Pro Football Writers of America’s annual awards.

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 4, 2023

‘The Chief’ Award is given to a player on the Pittsburgh Steelers who is known for their cooperation with the media. Center Mason Cole, in his first year with the Steelers, is the winner for the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers. Cameron Heyward is the only other current Steelers to win the award in 2014, 2019, and 2021.

The Joe Greene Great Performance award is given to the Steelers top rookie each season. In 2022, Kenny Pickett has been the Steelers starting quarterback for 11 games where he has a 6–5 record. Completing 232 of 360 passes, Pickett has passed for 2,209 yards with six touchdowns in nine interceptions as of Week 17. Pickett has also rushed for an additional three touchdowns. More importantly, Kenny Pickett has led to Steelers on last-minute game-winning touchdown drives in back-to-back weeks. Awarded since 1984, Harris joins fellow award winners Najee Harris in 2021, Devin Bush in 2019, and Terrell Edmunds in 2018

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for all the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold, especially as the regular season comes to a close and more team awards will continue to be announced.

Making the playoffs is a big deal for the Steelers young players

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the verge of doing the unthinkable and making the playoffs, and it is a big deal.

The 2022 edition of the Pittsburgh Steelers is fairly unique. For the 20+ years I’ve been following the team, the Steelers have always been led by experienced veterans on their way to yearly playoff contention, and, in some situations, Super Bowl contention.

This Steelers team has a core group of veterans in place as well, mostly on defense, which has played like a top unit in recent weeks. But the driving force behind their success in the second half of the 2022 season has been the young bucks on offense. Their growth and development together has been fun to watch, and gives Steelers fans reason for hope in the future.

But what about the now? As of this writing, the Steelers are still in the thick of the AFC Playoff hunt after a 6-2 record since their Week 9 bye. We’re all familiar with the situation. Win against Cleveland on Sunday, and get some help from the Bills and the Jets and they’re in. And for this young team, a playoff appearance could really expedite the growth of their important young players.

For 2nd year players like Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth, a return to the postseason helps establish a culture where playing for a Championship is the only goal. For the rookies, an opportunity to experience the pressure of a playoff atmosphere in their first year is a rare one, and offers each one a chance to show their true colors when the stakes are highest.

We’re already seeing impressive things from rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett, who continues to be clutch when his team needs it most. George Pickens also seems to take his game to greater heights when the spotlight is brightest. We haven’t even mentioned the offensive line, which has led the way for an efficient, productive ground game which has helped turn the fortunes of what felt like a lost season just eight weeks ago.

As Mike Tomlin has pointed out on numerous occasions, the Defense is the more senior group and is obviously the catalyst for what the Steelers are trying to accomplish this year. But Tomlin knows as well as anyone how the youth movement on the offensive side of the ball is as big a factor in the team’s impressive turnaround this season, and the reason they still have a chance at a playoff berth.

If the stars align and the Steelers do indeed reach the dance this year, it will have massive implications for a group of youngsters who will be key to realizing the organization’s ultimate goal:

Bringing a 7th Lombardi trophy back to the city of Pittsburgh.

Steelers Burning Questions: Will the Steelers make the playoffs?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 11:30am
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Steelers need to win and get help. Will they get into the AFC Playoffs?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Cleveland Browns in Week 18, and with the new week comes a new set of questions for Steelers fans to answer. Throughout the 8-8 season, many fans of the black and gold are starting to see their confidence fluctuate heading into the regular season finale.

Even after a Week 1 overtime win vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, there were massive questions which remained. Throw in the Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots with a prime time loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, and doubt officially crept into every fans’ minds. When you add in the Steelers falling flat in Week 4 vs. the New York Jets, most fans were beyond fed up.

Shockingly, with Kenny Pickett’s entrance into the lineup vs. the Jets, confidence grew despite a loss in Week 4. The good vibes for Pickett didn’t last after the debacle vs. the Buffalo Bills in Week 5.

With fans about done with having any confidence in the team, the Steelers rebounded in Week 6 to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, but needing two quarterbacks to do it. Was the win over Tom Brady and the boys enough to lift the fans’ confidence? Following the prime time loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 7, probably not much. In Week 8 the team fell flat against the Philadelphia Eagles, another dud against a Super Bowl contender. After the bye week, the Steelers got back in the win column with a nice win over the New Orleans Saints, but those good vibes didn’t last long after a 37-30 loss to the Bengals in Week 11.

Week 12 brought more positive vibes as the Steelers beat the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football by the score of 24-17, moving their record to 4-7. Another win over the Atlanta Falcons got their record to 5-7 before things came crashing down with a Week 14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The loss plunged their record to 5-8, and all but certified a non-playoff season.

What came next was something no one predicted. The Steelers rattled off three straight wins over the Carolina Panthers, Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.

So, with that being said, it is time to ask some key questions to the fan base as Week 18 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 it is a question about the Steelers’ chances at making the playoffs. After their three-straight wins, and getting some needed help, the team needs the Buffalo Bills to beat the New England Patriots and the New York Jets to beat the Miami Dolphins. Will it happen? Here’s the official question and options:

Will the Steelers make the AFC Playoffs?

  • Yes
  • No

How do you participate in this exercise? It’s easy. All you have to do is scroll down to the poll 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 final week of 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

AFC Playoff Picture: Updating the rankings heading into Week 18

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 10:00am
Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

Taking a look at the latest AFC Playoff Picture heading into Week 18.

It is hard to believe, but the NFL regular season is winding down. With only 1 week left in the regular season, it is time to start looking ahead to the postseason. In other words, taking a look at the latest AFC Playoff Picture.

For some of the teams listed below the word playoffs is not just foreign, but also something which is nothing more than a pipe dream. Nonetheless, until that asterisk resides next to their favorite team’s name, signifying mathematical elimination from the postseason, there is still hope.

Let’s take a look at the latest Playoff Picture for the AFC:

(Editor’s Note: With the Bills and Bengals game being suspended, and the NFL unsure how to move forward with the game, this is the current playoff picture as listed on the league’s official website.)

Division Leaders:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) *

2. Buffalo Bills (12-3) *

3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) +

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)

Wild Cards:

5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-6) +

6. Baltimore Ravens (10-6) +

7. New England Patriots (8-8)

+- Clinched Playoff Berth

In the Hunt:

8. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

9. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)

10. Tennessee Titans (7-9)

Eliminated

Houston Texans

Denver Broncos

Indianapolis Colts

Cleveland Browns

Las Vegas Raiders

New York Jets

For teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 8-8 record is far from inspiring when it comes to playoff potential. The loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14 was a crippling blow to the team’s hopes of a playoff berth, but three straight wins, over the Carolina Panthers in Week 15, Las Vegas Raiders in Week 16, and Baltimore Ravens in Week 17, along with some help around the league, has the team still clinging to hope.

What once was a long shot to make the dance, has now become a clear, and potentially realistic, path to the playoffs. To be specific, in Week 18 the Steelers need the following to happen to get into the playoffs:

  • Steelers beat the Browns
  • Buffalo Bills beat the New England Patriots
  • New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins

A win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 18 would move their record to 9-8 and would help give the global fan base a little bit of hope, but they’ll still need help, and that doesn’t always work out in your favor.

Steelers 2023 opponents almost finalized as the NFL heads into Week 18

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 8:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 opponents are almost completely solidified heading into the regular season’s final week.

The NFL schedule is complex, but if you know the reasoning behind it, it really is rather simple. First, let’s look at the equation to get to 16 of the 17 games on the regular season schedule:

Every year each division is paired up with both an AFC and NFC division, which represents 8 games on the schedule. Each team plays everyone in their division twice, add another 6 games. So, where do the other two games come from to round out the schedule? Depending on which place the team finishes, they play the other teams who finished with the same ranking in the other two divisions.

So, who will the Pittsburgh Steelers be playing in 2023? Well, in 2022 the AFC North was paired with the AFC East and NFC South, but in 2023 they are paired up with the AFC South and the NFC West.

Those 8 opponents will be:

AFC South

Tennessee Titans
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks
Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers

But what about the other two opponents? They will play the team who finished in the same place as the Steelers in their division for both the AFC West and AFC East. The fact the Steelers could finish either 3rd or 4th in the AFC North makes this one of the games which isn’t known yet. In the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs have locked up the division crown with the Los Angeles Chargers in second place. This means the Steelers could play either the Las Vegas Raiders or Denver Broncos, depending on where Pittsburgh finishes. Likewise, the Buffalo Bills have clinched the AFC East with the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets all vying for second place. This game will come down to the final week.

When it comes to the 17th game on the schedule, in 2021 all AFC teams hosted an NFC team from a matched division, playing the team who ranked the same. So, in 2021 it was the AFC North paired with the NFC West, with the NFC West teams all traveling to the AFC North team. This was why the Los Angeles Rams traveled to play the Ravens in Baltimore, and why the Seattle Seahawks had a Sunday night game at Heinz Field that year.

In 2022, the AFC North was paired with the NFC East, and the AFC North will be traveling. So, this was why the Steelers traveled to play the Philadelphia Eagles this past season. In 2023, the AFC North is paired with the NFC North, and the AFC is hosting. It means an extra home game for the Steelers, and it could mean they play either Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers or Chicago Bears, depending on where the NFC North and AFC North finish.

As for a simpler breakdown of the schedule, here is who the Steelers will play both at home, and away, in 2023. The opponents will be finalized after Week 18, but the day and times for these games won’t be known until later this spring.

HOME

Baltimore Ravens
Cleveland Browns
Cincinnati Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
AFC East equivalent
NFC North equivalent

AWAY

Baltimore Ravens
Cleveland Browns
Cincinnati Bengals
Indianapolis Colts
Houston Texans
Los Angeles Rams
Seattle Seahawks
AFC West equivalent

Again, the NFL schedule is a system, so the Steelers’ opponents for the foreseeable future are already known, including their location. However, there are those opponents which aren’t known until the season has wrapped up. Looking ahead, how the Steelers finish this 2022 season, along with how the other divisions shake out, will have a pretty big impact on their 2023 schedule.

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

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 7:15am
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Steelers head coach held his weekly press conference with the Pittsburgh media ahead of their matchup with the Browns this Sunday.

Despite a heavy heart due to the Damar Hamlin situation, head coach Mike Tomlin was back at the podium to speak ahead of Week 18. With a few 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.

DeMarvin Leal

Rookie DeMarvin Leal has filled a lot of roles for the Steelers defense in his first season. Coach Tomlin was asked what it is with Leal’s athleticism that allows him to be moved around like he was on Sunday night.

“He’s one of those guys, man. Elite defensive lineman – and I almost pause before I say that because I don’t want to refer to him as elite – are usually power players who are uniquely athletic, or they’re simply oversized athletes. They have hand-eye coordination of smaller people, they play catch, they punt balls with DBs and so forth. Leal is that type of guy that kind of falls into that latter category. He doesn’t realize that he’s a lineman. You watch him on the practice field before practice begins, you know, he’s jacking around with the DBs, he’s playing catch, he wants to display his hand-eye coordination and things of that nature. Within the practice setting, he runs more and longer and harder and faster than most D-linemen, his pursuit of the ball and things of that nature, he likes to run. Those are just some of the physical things that he has brought. We’re working to hone and develop and shape into a game that kind of makes him an attractive young prospect to include sometimes in packages and in game planning.”

Najee Harris & Jaylen Warren

The Steelers two-headed monster at running back of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren accounted for over 180 rushing yards on Sunday night. Coach Tomlin was asked how he knows it’s time to give Harris a break and get Warren into the game.

“I think it’s continual, it’s something that’s fluid. It’s not only a plan, but it’s also based on what transpires in game. Long runs usually produce fatigue, etcetera. There’s a hardcore plan, but we’ve got to be open to adapting and adjusting that plan based on what it is we see in game.”

Mark Robinson

After only seeing seven defensive snaps before Sunday night, seventh-round draft pick Mark Robinson got the start at linebacker against the Ravens. Coach Tomlin was asked what made him comfortable with Robinson to put him in significant situations.

“Who said that I was comfortable? He’s a guy that likes physical confrontation. That’s the one component of his game that’s never been in question. Growth and development, all other areas due to youth and lack of experience is. So, he’s grown over the course of the season, and we’ve challenged him to get comfortable with professional football, and not only professional football, but we’re talking about a guy who hadn’t played a lot of linebacker. A guy who played running back in college; you guys know his story. There’s a lot of growth that needs to transpire there in terms of the nuances of the position and a lot of the things that come with the position. To be blunt, we were stepping into a game that was going to challenge him in a specific area and that specific area was in line with his skill set. And so, we let him play.”

Kenny Pickett

For the second-straight game, rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett led the offense to a last-minute touchdown to win the game. Coach Tomlin was asked about the decreased number of interceptions since the bye week that Pickett has thrown.

“I think it’s reasonable to expect a sharp, hardworking, talented guy to get better with each exposure and particularly to do so rapidly at the initial stages of gaining experience.”

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 see it in its entirety below.

Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of our Week 18 game against the Browns. @PNCBank

#CLEvsPIT Sunday 1 PM ET on CBS https://t.co/JPlnKbSAST

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 3, 2023

It was no surprise the Steelers returned the favor and won a close road game vs. the Ravens

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 6:00am
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Steelers turned the tables on the Ravens by winning at their place, and winning a close game, to keep their playoff hopes alive heading into Week 18.

It’s no secret that head coach Mike Tomlin’s blueprint for his Steelers in 2022—the first season without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the face of the franchise in nearly two decades—has been to play things close to the vest on offense and try to “win” games with defense.

An archaic approach? Perhaps, but it’s one that might make sense with a rookie quarterback starting the majority of the games for Pittsburgh.

That rookie quarterback is Kenny Pickett, the pride of the University of Pittsburgh via New Jersey, and for nearly 60 minutes of Week 17’s vital matchup against the hated Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday Night Football, Pickett looked much like he did against the Raiders a week earlier: Inexperienced, which was how he has looked for most of 2022—including the brief time he was in the game when these two teams met at Acrisure Stadium on December 11.

But in Pickett’s defense, Roethlisberger looked inexperienced—which is to say, bad—in a lot of his matchups against Baltimore during his storied career. For that matter, so did Joe Flacco against the Steelers' defense.

So has Lamar Jackson, the Ravens’ superstar quarterback who was out again on Sunday with a knee injury—his fourth-straight missed game, overall, and his second-straight against the Steelers in 2022—the few times he’s gone up against Pittsburgh in this historic AFC North blood-feud.

It’s just what the Steelers/Ravens rivalry does to quarterbacks, to offense, to scoring. It’s almost like these two teams are so conditioned to play this way that, Tomlin’s conservative blueprint or not, this is how these combatants are going to do it, darn it!

Sunday night’s game was no exception, as the two teams punched it out for all 60 minutes, with one of the fighters, the Ravens, surviving a few early body blows (the Steelers' punched their way into the red zone during the first half, but they couldn’t swing their way into the end zone) before scoring a shot of their own and taking a 10-3 halftime lead thanks to a ridiculous unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Cam Heyward (when I say, ridiculous, I mean, ridiculous that it was ever called) that turned a Justin Tucker field goal into an Isaiah Likely touchdown.

Baltimore followed that up with a Tucker field goal to start the third quarter, which gave the home team a 13-3 lead, a 10-point advantage that may as well have been one million with this Steelers offense.

However, the defense tightened up big-time after that and limited the Ravens’ offense to 44 yards and zero points over its last four drives. Meanwhile, the Steelers offense did a decent job of moving the ball in the second half—much like it did in the first half—and had clawed to within 13-9 thanks to two second-half Chris Boswell field goals.

Still, like most Steelers/Ravens battles, this was a frustrating game to watch, thanks to a few black-and-gold gaffes in the first half—including a failure to score a touchdown after it was first and goal, Heyward’s penalty, and yet another missed field goal by Boswell.

A loss would knock the Steelers out of playoff contention, and much like that 16-14 home defeat a few weeks earlier, would leave coaches, players and fans asking, “What could have been?”

Yet, Pickett, who didn’t have much of a passing portfolio over the first 56 minutes, did what he did late in the game against the Raiders by completing several spectacular throws during a 3:20 drive that culminated in a 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Najee Harris to give Pittsburgh 16-13 lead with 56 seconds remaining. Actually, Pickett looked even better on that drive than he did against Las Vegas eight days earlier. He was accurate both in the pocket and while throwing on the run.

The defense rose up one final time and snuffed out a potential Tucker field goal try when Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted a Tyler Huntley pass with 13 seconds left.

Pickett didn’t set the world on fire, but he may have finally had that “Oh, so this is why they drafted him” moment during the game-winning drive.

Of course, you have to talk about the running game, led by Harris’s 111 yards on 22 carries and Jaylen Warren’s 76 on 11 carries. The ground game kept Pittsburgh in it, and it allowed the Steelers to dictate the action most of the night.

The Steelers once again won the time of possession battle, as the offense appeared to be “this” close to breaking through.

It didn’t, at least not until the very end, but were you surprised Pittsburgh won this game in such a dramatic fashion? You shouldn’t have been. Again, this is what these teams do.

Yes, the Steelers beat the Ravens' backup quarterback, but the Ravens lost to a rookie quarterback who had completed 10 total passes prior to the game-winning drive.

The Steelers defense was trashed by Baltimore’s running game in the first meeting but more than held its own on Sunday night, thanks to schemes drawn up by Tomlin and Co.

The Steelers' home loss to the Ravens on December 11 still has them on the outside looking in at the playoffs, but their road victory against them on New Year’s will keep them alive through their final kickoff of the 2022 regular season.

30-29, that’s the total score of the two matchups between the Steelers and Ravens in 2022. Pittsburgh goes into the final week still unclear of its playoff fate, while Baltimore is still unclear about its postseason seed.

Maybe if one of these teams learned how to dominate the other, it might make things easier in the standings.

But that’s not how the Steelers and Ravens do it.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 01/04/2023 - 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 four podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

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

The Steelers Fix: Breaking down Steelers’ Mock Draft 1.0

Sure, the Steelers are in the hunt for the playoffs, but BTSC Keeps their eyes on the chase and 2023’s Draft. With Andrew Wilbar publishing his Mock Draft 1.0, let’s take a look at who could be a hero in hypocycloids soon. Join Andrew and Jeremy Betz for the latest edition of The Steelers Fix.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Andrew Wibar’s Mock Draft 1.0
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Mike Tomlin Weekly Press Conference Recap: Week 18 vs. Cleveland

The Steelers beat the Ravens on Sunday in thrilling fashion, and are in a position where they could make the playoffs after a dismal 2-6 start to the season. Dave Schofield, editor of BTSC, gives you all the details on what Coach T had to say about the 16-13 win, injuries, and what’s in store leading up to a crucial home brawl with the Browns.

The Scho Bro Show: The Steelers need to control what they control

The Steelers can’t control the outcome of Bills vs. Patriots or Jets at Dolphins. It doesn’t matter if they don’t take care of their own business against Cleveland. It is simply a matter of controlling the controllable. This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed on the Scho Bro Show. the brotherly love entry of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the black-and-gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Taking care of your own business

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride, Wednesday: Welcome back fair weather Steelers fans!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back to .500, and are still alive in the playoff chase. Some fans gave up on the team a long time ago are returning...here’s what you’ve missed. Jeff Hartman delivers the latest news, talks about the Steelers since the bye week and the ever popular mailbag segment in the second half. All on the latest episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The return of the fairweather fans
  • The Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Power Rankings: Steelers continue to climb after third straight win

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 3:30pm
Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Checking in on the latest rankings, and where the Steelers reside after their Week 17 win.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 17 of the 2022 regular season, beating the Baltimore Ravens on the road on Sunday Night Football. Through 16 games of the regular season it has been extremely difficult to gauge where the Steelers rank among their NFL peers.

How far did the team rise after winning in Week 17? Based on this week’s NFL Power Rankings, not too far, but that isn’t say much considering where they were ranked before their latest loss on the season.

All in all, the Steelers’ rankings this week were all over the map. The truth might be somewhere in the middle, but it’s that time of the week where we take a look at other outlets’ rankings after Week 17 of regular season action.

(Editor’s Note: Due to the suspension of the Bengals vs. Bills game on Monday night, many outlets did not produce their weekly Power Rankings.)

The Sporting News

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Minnesota Vikings
9. New York Giants
10. Baltimore Ravens
...
18. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Where there’s an overachieving team for Belichick, there’s also one for Mike Tomlin. The Steelers being alive for a playoff spot with their defensive injuries and offensive transition is nothing short of remarkable, putting them on the brink of another winning season with Tomlin.”

Yahoo! Sports

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. Philadelphia Eagles
5. Buffalo Bills
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Los Angeles Chargers
8. Green Bay Packers
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
10. Baltimore Ravens
...
17. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Mike Tomlin can’t be killed.”

Pro Football Network Week 18 NFL Power Rankings: Tier 3 | The Playoff Contenders

18. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Somehow, the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to avoid complete disaster, despite fielding one of the NFL’s five or six least-talented teams. Mike Tomlin is a wizard, and he deserves an incredible amount of respect. Not just for what he’s done over his career when the cards were in his favor, but over the past two seasons where he worked with scraps and put together two impressive results.

It felt like time to blow things up, particularly with the Bengals, Ravens, and Browns all seemingly more talented on paper than Pittsburgh. But the Steelers are the most consistent franchise in the sport, and that consistency and organizational culture seem to consistently overcome overwhelming odds.

A win against Baltimore gets the Steelers back to .500. If they win next week and bot Miami and New England lose, the Steelers won’t only have a winning record, they’ll make the playoffs.”

What do you think of these rankings? Should the Steelers be higher? Are they ranked too high? 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.

T.J. Watt leads the Steelers defensive PFF grades

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 1:37pm
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF, it was Watt’s grade against the run that set him apart.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won their third game in a row with a come-from-behind victory over the Ravens in Baltimore Sunday night. The Steelers slowed down the Raven’s run game much better than when they faced off three weeks ago, and the offense put up almost 200 rushing yards against one of the NFL’s best defenses against the run.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for the Steelers Week 17 performance. Remember, these are just the grades for the Steelers for this past game and not combined with their previous performances. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. Next up is the defense. Included will be all the players who played at least one defensive snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 52 snaps on defense in Sunday’s game.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

OLB T.J. Watt: 85.4 (49 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 75.2 (52 snaps)
DT Larry Ogunjobi: 74.7 (42 snaps)
S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 73.4 (49 snaps)
CB Cam Sutton: 73.0 (52 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

DT DeMarvin Leal: 52.6 (27 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 51.9 (52 snaps)
ILB Myles Jack: 51.0 (6 snaps)
OLB Jamir Jones: 30.0 (3 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 29.1 (5 snaps)

Defensive Front Five

OLB T.J. Watt: 85.4 (49 snaps)
DT Larry Ogunjobi: 74.7 (42 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 61.0 (46 snaps)
DT Renell Wren: 60.4 (1 snap)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 60.4 (4 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 59.9 (13 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 58.8 (29 snaps)
DT DeMarvin Leal: 52.6 (27 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 51.9 (52 snaps)
OLB Jamir Jones: 30.0 (3 snaps)

T.J. Watt turned in his highest score of 2022 as he edged out his Week 1 performance which brought a score of 84.6. What separated Watt this week was an 87.5 run defense score, a mark he had not seen since Week 5 of 2021. Larry Ogunjobi did get some love from PFF this week despite them giving him a 26.3 tackling score because he had one missed tackle. Seeing Alex Highsmith at the bottom is concerning, but it was a 42.3 coverage score which was worst on the team that brought him down as much as anything. Jamir Jones gives a score that makes questioning everything PFF does more magnified. I can’t figure out how someone has a 60.0 score for both run defense and coverage as well as a 58.7 for a pass rushing score all of which only consisted of one snap and equates to an overall score of 30.0. It just doesn’t make sense.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Robert Spillane: 75.2 (52 snaps)
ILB Mark Robinson: 57.5 (26 snaps)
ILB Myles Jack: 51.0 (6 snaps)
ILB Devin Bush: 29.1 (5 snaps)

Although he had a higher score just two weeks ago against the Carolina Panthers, Robert Spillane had another great performance while playing every snap of the game. Mark Robinson didn’t get much love from PFF as it was actually his run defense score that was lower as a 52.5 while he had his coverage score of 67.1 for the game. Myles Jack and Devin Bush hardly played, but Bush has a scenario very similar to Jamir Jones where you had a 53.1 run defense score, a 44.6 coverage score, and a 77.0 tackling score only to have an overall score in the 20s.

Defensive Backs

S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 73.4 (49 snaps)
CB Cam Sutton: 73.0 (52 snaps)
CB Levi Wallace: 71.5 (28 snaps)
S Damontae Kazee: 67.4 (17 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 61.7 (50 snaps)
CB James Pierre: 60.9 (1 snap)
S Elijah Riley: 60.0 (1 snap)
CB Arthur Maulet: 59.8 (19 snaps)

Seeing overall solid performances in the secondary this week was significant. When wide receivers only catch two passes for 18 yards the entire game, either the defense is doing great, the offense is inept, or a combination of both. Arthur Maulet brought in the low score and it was barely below the 60.0 standard. Seeing players who are on the field for a high number of snap such as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cam Sutton, and Levi Wallace followed closely by Damontae Kazee and Terrell Edmunds is exactly what you want to see.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

Mike Tomlin on his relationship, and experiences, with Damar Hamlin

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 12:00pm
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The sports world has been shocked by the Damar Hamlin situation, and Mike Tomlin feels it in a very personal way.

The Pittsburgh Steelers share a facility with the University of Pittsburgh. Anyone who follows both college football and the NFL knows this. This would mean there is a natural connection between the university and the professional organization. Players and coaches see each other regularly, and has been a cited reason why the Steelers felt so comfortable with selecting Kenny Pickett 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.

However, Mike Tomlin has been in Pittsburgh since 2007, and during that time has done more than just shared a facility with the players who call Pitt their home after high school. During his years in Pittsburgh, Tomlin has gotten to know several players in a very real, and personal, level. Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin would be one of those players.

As the sports world say on Monday Night Football, Hamlin, a Pittsburgh product and Pitt Panther, collapsed on the field in the first quarter during the game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals while tackling wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin remains in the hospital in Cincinnati and is reported to be in critical condition.

During Tomlin’s Tuesday press conference, he took time to talk about Hamlin as not just a player, but a man. Here is Tomlin’s full quote from the press conference:

“It’s a really personal thing for me. Being a Pittsburgher, and that young man being a Pittsburgher, I’ve known that guy probably since he was about 12. Just got a lot of respect and love for him as a human being, his commitment to the pursuit of his goals and dreams of doing what it is he’s doing right now, which is playing in the NFL. To watch him make personal decisions and make that a realization, it’s just an honor to get to know young people like that.

“Had the opportunity to express that to him whenever I see him. We played Buffalo each of the last two seasons, and he and I get to have a moment, because it’s just cool to not only appreciate these guys in terms of where they are now, but to know them since they were younger people and to watch their maturation, their development, to watch them earn what they’ve been chasing. It’s just a really cool thing, and an example of that.

“I’ve had a lot of love for that young man. We’re lifting him and that organization up in prayer. Reached out to Sean McDermott to lend whatever assistance I could, but I don’t have a lot to add other than that. I just respect the fact that you guys appreciate how personal it is for me. Not only for me, but just for all of us as people that thrive in this space. That’s not obviously something that you ever want to see.”

For those who want to watch/hear Tomlin speak about Hamlin, here is the video from the Steelers organization:

Coach Tomlin shares his very personal thoughts on Damar Hamlin: pic.twitter.com/gymuijitfp

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 3, 2023

Tomlin was quickly asked some questions about Hamlin and injuries of that nature, but the Steelers coach re-focused the press conference quickly stating he only wanted to talk about the team’s upcoming game vs. the Cleveland Browns in Week 18 at Acrisure Stadium.

The sports world, not just the NFL, has been shaken by the video and news of Hamlin. It’s at this point where we all send positive thoughts and prayers to the Bills, the University of Pittsburgh, and most importantly Hamlin himself and his family.

Minkah’s ankle highlights a short list of injuries heading into Week 18

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 01/03/2023 - 11:30am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers remain a relatively healthy team heading into the regular season finale vs. the Cleveland Browns Sunday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a huge win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17 on Sunday Night Football, and it’s their third straight win. With what at one point seemed like a long shot, the team’s playoff chances have increased tremendously. After getting help from both the New England Patriots, via beating the Miami Dolphins, and the Seattle Seahawks, via beating the New York Jets, the Steelers are still alive.

As they prepare for the Week 18 game at home vs. the Cleveland Browns, Mike Tomlin addressed the media to talk about the upcoming game, playoff hopes, and, of course, the team’s current injuries.

The Steelers, despite already playing 16 of their 17 regular season games, remain a relatively healthy group heading into the finale vs. Cleveland. When Tomlin spoke about the injuries the team is dealing with after their prime time victory, he only mentioned a few players.

The first listed was linebacker Myles Jack. Jack has been dealing with a groin injury the past few weeks, and while trying to play in Baltimore was eventually ruled out with the injury in the second half. Tomlin said he is optimistic about Jack’s inclusion, citing the team following the same protocol as they had in previous weeks in hopes he can return to the lineup. In other words, there is a good chance Jack will miss a few days of practice in the lead up to game Sunday.

The other in-game injury sustained during the Ravens game was to cornerback James Pierre. Pierre was diagnosed with a concussion and has been placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Obviously, the Steelers will have to follow that protocol, which will dictate Pierre’s overall availability this week.

The last injury was to All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick injured his ankle in the second half of the game while tackling tight end Mark Andrews. Fitzpatrick left the game, but was able to return and came up with the game-clinching interception. Tomlin said Fitzpatrick may be limited in the early portions of the week, but the team is optimistic he will be available to them when the two AFC North teams kick off Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Browns in the regular season finale at Acrisure Stadium.

For a complete rundown of Mike Tomlin’s time with the media, check out BTSC’s Press Conference Recap podcast below:

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