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T.J. Watt officially activated for Week 10

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/12/2022 - 1:44pm
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The reigning NFL Defensive player of the Year is now officially set to see his first action since Week 1.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are shoring up their roster for their Week 10 matchup against the New Orleans Saints. In a move that has been anticipated all week, the Pittsburgh Steelers have activated T.J. Watt from the Reserve/Injured List (IR) to the active roster for him to play this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers have also ruled out safety Minkah Fitzpatrick with appendicitis.

We have:
• Activated LB T.J. Watt to the active roster
• Downgraded S Minkah Fitzpatrick (appendix) to out for Sunday’s game
• Placed CB Will Jackson on the Reserve/Injured List
• Elevated S Elijah Riley to the Active/Inactive roster @BordasLaw https://t.co/yMqqYQsHrM

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 12, 2022

The record for the Steelers without Watt is well-known, and getting the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year back in the lineup absolutely will alter the team’s outlook moving forward.

During Watt’s time on IR, he not only had to rehabilitate an injured pectoral muscle, but also had arthroscopic knee surgery which was to clean up a knee injury suffered in the preseason game vs. the Detroit Lions when tight end T.J. Hockenson blocked Watt low on a run play.

Hopefully T.J. Watt being added to the Steelers defense will help increase the pressure on the quarterback which has been lacking in his absence. Getting seven sacks as a team in the only game in which Watt appeared, the Steelers only have eight total sacks in the seven games since. When it comes to pressures, the Steelers had 14 pressures according to Pro Football Reference in the only game Watt appeared this season in Week 1. Since then, the Steelers have only reached double-digit pressures in one game against the New York Jets in Week 4 with 10. In all, the Steelers have 33 pressures in seven games without Watt, which is an average of only 4.7 per game.

Even if T.J. Watt is not the one putting pressure on the quarterback himself, other teams having to account for Watt should also help his teammates along the defensive front by drawing attention and I’m giving them more favorable matchups.

Exactly how much T.J. Watt will play on Sunday will depend a lot on how the game plays out and the number of defensive snaps the Steelers will have to be on the field. According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers will be monitoring the number of snaps played by Watt on Sunday.

T.J. Watt will play and start on Sunday, but Steelers will monitor his snaps for cardiovascular reasons after eight-week layoff.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) November 12, 2022

In order to make room for T.J. Watt on the 53-man roster, the Steelers have placed cornerback William Jackson III on IR due to his back injury. Acquiring Jackson from the Washington Commanders at the trade deadline, Jackson being placed on IR means he will miss at least the next four games.

Shortly before the Steelers announced these roster moves, it was reported that Minkah Fitzpatrick would be missing Sunday’s game due to appendicitis by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

With Fitzpatrick out of the lineup, the Steelers have elevated safety Elijah Riley for Sunday’s game. This will be Riley‘s third elevation, although he did not appear in the Steelers Week 5 matchup despite being active. In Week 6, Riley played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where on nine snaps he had one tackle.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Steelers are set to face the New Orleans Saints Sunday at 1 PM at Acrisure Stadium.

Minkah Fitzpatrick to miss Sunday’s game with appendicitis

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/12/2022 - 1:35pm
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers all-Pro Safety may be missing his second game of the 2022 season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly dealing with another injury situation in their secondary. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to miss Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints due to appendicitis.

Source: #Steelers star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is expected to miss Sunday’s game because of appendicitis.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 12, 2022

In Week 6, Fitzpatrick missed the Steelers victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to a knee injury. In the game, Tre Norwood stepped in for Fitzpatrick and played all but one snap on defense. The Steelers also have another option at the safety position this week as Damonte Kazee was activated from the Reserve/Injured List on Thursday and will make his Steelers regular season debut.

On the season, Fitzpatrick has three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown in Week 1. Fitzpatrick also has six passes defensed and 45 tackles.

UPDATE: The Steelers have officially ruled out Fitzpatrick for Sunday along with other roster moves, including the activation on T.J. Watt.

We have:
• Activated LB T.J. Watt to the active roster
• Downgraded S Minkah Fitzpatrick (appendix) to out for Sunday’s game
• Placed CB Will Jackson on the Reserve/Injured List
• Elevated S Elijah Riley to the Active/Inactive roster @BordasLaw https://t.co/yMqqYQsHrM

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 12, 2022

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for continued coverage as the Steelers are set to face the New Orleans Saints Sunday at 1 PM at Acrisure Stadium.

Report Card: The Defense at the half-way mark

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/12/2022 - 12:00pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Who has played well and who has stunk so far in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers just finished perhaps the worst first half of a season since the 1960s, and there is a lot of blame to go around. As we prepare for the second half of the season, it’s time to judge each Steelers position group. The offense has already been judged, now it’s time to look at the Steelers defense.

Defensive Line

The Steelers defensive line has been the strength of the defense for years, and has been a huge factor in all of their top defenses since the Steel Curtain in the 1970’s. The recent decline of the Steelers run defense has come alongside the losses of Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt and the decline in Tyson Alualu’s performance. Cameron Heyward continues to be great, and Larry Ogunjobi has been very solid beside him. DeMarvin Leal looked good when he was healthy, but mostly the Steelers defensive line has one star, and one solid starter in Heyward and Ogunjobi respectively. The depth has not been very good, and it shows on film when Heyward and Ogunjobi are both off the field.

This unit without Heyward would be awful, as was really bad when he was playing hurt.

Honor Roll: Cameron Heyward, DeMarvin Leal’s potential.

Demerits: Lack of reliable good play beyond the top two guys.

Position Grade: C Edge Rushers

The big story at the outside linebacker position is the loss of T.J. Watt. The defense and team overall look very different and see very different results based on his presence on the field.

Since 2017 only the Kansas City Chiefs have a better winning percentage than the Steelers do when T.J. Watt plays at least 50% of the snaps in a game and are 2-12-1 when he doesn’t. A 55.5% drop in win rate based on the availability of one player is unheard of in the NFL, even the best quarterbacks in NFL don’t see that kind of impact on win rate. It’s incredible.

Overshadowed by the loss of T.J. Watt has been Alex Highsmith’s development as a player. On film and in the stats he looks like a player who has taken a big step forward. Unfortunately with Watt out, his natural position on the right side of the line puts him right next to Cameron Heyward, and it has been very easy for teams to just roll coverage to that side to deal with the Steelers two best defenders on the line. We’ll see what Highsmith does when Watt returns and teams cannot put the same level of focus on him.

Similar to the defensive line, the Steelers have a serious lack of playmaking from their depth players. Malik Reed is a solid #3 outside linebacker, but when he’s on the field in place of T.J. Watt there is no comparison.

This position with T.J. Watt is great, without him, it has been bad. That’s how Hall of Fame level talents work.

Honor Roll: Alex Highsmith’s development. T.J. Watt’s 66 snaps.

Demerits: The lack of any pass rush beyond Watt and Highsmith.

Position Grade: D Inside Linebacker

Myles Jack was the Steelers big off season free agent signing, and so far it has been a very good one. Devin Bush seems to have put the really rough play of his 2021 season behind him, and while he’s still not the player he was in 2019 and early 2020, his improved play has allowed Myles Jack to play to his strengths while Bush handles the tougher coverage assignments. Jack has thrived and is currently on pace to record 153 tackles this season. His 9 tackles a game is higher than any Steeler has recorded since 1987 when tackles started being more reliably recorded. The Steelers single-season record for tackles in James Farrior with 141 in 2003.

Robert Spillane remains a solid #3 linebacker, but the Steelers are using him a lot, playing 3 ILBs a decent amount and playing a lot in dime packages.

Marcus Allen has been a stalwart on special teams and Mark Robinson has played all of five snaps on special teams.

The linebackers aren’t stars, but they are solid and have been racking up tackles, they aren’t the strength of the team, but they aren’t a problem either.

Honor Roll: Myles Jack’s run defense, Devin Bush’s bounce back to respectability.

Demerits: Robert Spillane playing too much, lack of a real star presence.

Position Grade: C Cornerback

The Steelers cornerback room has only one player that played for the Steelers in 2019. Cameron Sutton has gone from a great dime back to a solid #2 cornerback, and he leads his position group in snaps played, passes defended, interceptions and solo tackles. Alongside Sutton the Steelers had Ahkello Witherspoon, a coverage specialist that had been great for the Steelers late in 2021, and free agent Levi Wallace, a #2 corner that had played very well for the Bills when he was forced to be their #1 corner. Injuries to those two have them trailing Arthur Maulet, a solid nickel corner, in snaps. James Pierre and Josh Jackson have both played significant snaps as outside corners as well.

The Steelers addition of William Jackson III has them looking at a room deep on NFL caliber cornerbacks, but still devoid of a true leader and #1 cornerback. The opposite of the defensive line and outside linebacker positions, the cornerback room has tons of depth, but no top players.

Honor Roll: Next man up work from James Pierre and Josh Jackson, Sutton’s steady presence.

Demerits: Struggles from Witherspoon and Wallace, lack of anyone worthy of the #1 spot.

Position Grade: F Safeties

The Steelers signed Damontae Kazee in the offseason to try and asse3mble a three-deep safety position that would give them flexibility for how they used Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds. With Kazee not playing, the Steelers two safeties have been outstanding, keeping big plays limited (when on the field) and delivering very good play for a defense that is struggling.

Tre Norwood isn’t a guy you want starting at safety, at least not yet. In the role of backup to both Edmunds and Fitzpatrick, Norwood has been solid in the same way Robert Spillane is solid when he steps in as a starter at linebacker, he has limitations but usually executes at a high enough level to cover for those limitations.

The safeties are probably the Steelers best position group so far in 2022, and they have the addition of Damontae Kazee to look forward to.

Honor Roll: Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds chemistry, limiting big plays.

Demerits: Edmunds’ lack of splash plays, Norwood’s angle on the Bills’ 98-yard TD pass.

Position grade: B Coaching

The Steelers defense is a different animal with or without T.J. Watt. But despite Watt’s absence and the lack of splash plays his backup generates, the Steelers have shown they are willing to try new things. DeMarvin Leal, Cameron Heyward and Isaiahh Loudermilk have all played significant snaps on the edge to help cover for Watt’s loss. The Steelers have tried playing all three inside linebackers to try and help the run defense.

The real dilemma in grading the defensive coaches is how much to put the talent issues on those coaches. The defensive line just isn’t talented beyond Cameron Heyward. Larry Ogunjobi is their clear second-best lineman and I don’t know if he would even warrant snaps on the Steelers 2019 defensive line. It’s hard to blame Karl Dunbar for the lack of investment in the position. Grady Brown is coaching a secondary that has started nine different defensive backs and not one has started all eight games. The cornerback position is beat up and has no high-end players.

The scheme for the defense is uninspiring, but they are also covering for the talent they have. There is real hope that the return of T.J. Watt along with the addition of Damontae Kazee and William Jackson III will allow the defense to not only be more creative but a lot more effective, and maybe even be a top defense in the second half.

I’m certain that the coaching shares in the blame for the Steelers struggles, but it is hard to determine how much. I’d like to give this an incomplete, and hold judgement until we see what they look like in the second half, but I’m not doing that.

Honor Roll: Getting a lot out of lesser players.

Demerits: Inability to cover at all for the loss of T.J. Watt (or even Terrell Edmunds)

Coaching Grade: D Overall

The Steelers are a bottom third defense in points per possession, bottom five in yards per possession and 21st in scoring percentage. On the positive side, despite their struggles on the line the Steelers are in the top ten for yards per rush allowed, and they rank highly in completion percentage and interception percentage, but they also among the worst in touchdown percentage, yards per attempt, and sack rate.

The lack of a pass rush and struggles at the cornerback position have made this one of the worst defenses in the NFL. That said, I have trouble giving them an F when the Steelers offense has the defense facing one of the worst starting positions in the NFL, and have given up less than the NFL average 21.8 points per game in half of their games.

Final Grade: D

Now it’s your turn to tell us what you think. Vote your grade for the Steelers defense and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Steelers Draft Preview: Tantalizing Texas prospects highlight Week 11

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/12/2022 - 10:00am
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

A big-time rivalry in the Big 12 features several intriguing NFL Draft Prospects. Are any of them on the Steelers’ radar?

The 2023 NFL Draft is still months in the distance, but with college football having arrived, the beginning stages of the 2023 draft process has begun. With that in mind, it is time to dive into this week’s biggest games in the college football world, taking a look at potential Steelers draft targets to pay attention to during their respective games.

Offensive line is definitely an area the Steelers need to address, and the most likely resource for the solution is indeed the draft. Concerns at cornerback and linebacker also loom large over the Pittsburgh’s head. Although we will certainly break down prospects at other positions this season as well, these will be the primary positions of emphasis.

Nearly every week during the season, there are several highlight games that steal the headlines, but even when these games overshadow the rest of the college football landscape, we will not be negligent of the other games and prospects in action. Every week during the season, we will recap the previous week’s action and determine whose stock rose the most as it pertains to the NFL Draft.

As always, be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, but without further adieu, here are the top prospects and games to keep an eye on this Saturday.

#9 Alabama vs. #11 Ole Miss — 3:30 ET on CBS

Alabama Spotlight: Tyler Steen — OT (6’5”, 315 lbs); Brian Branch — S (6’0”, 193 lbs)
Ole Miss Spotlight: Jonathan Mingo — WR (6’2”, 225 lbs); Deantre Prince (6’0”, 185 lbs)

Alabama’s chances of making the College Football playoff are next to nothing as of now, but there is still a lot of good happening on the Crimson Tide roster. One of those good things is left tackle Tyler Steen, who, despite a few rough snaps the past couple weeks, has done a great job handling the left tackle spot on ‘Bama’s offensive line. Steen provides a nice bit of power in the run game, and he has allowed only three sacks this season.

For Ole Miss, I’ve got my eye on Jonathan Mingo, a stocky receiver who has a well-rounded game. For a 225-pound wideout, Mingo displays good speed as well as the ability to separate late in the route, and he is not afraid to do the dirty work as a blocker. That is something the Steelers have always valued in their receivers.

#22 UCF vs. #17 Tulane — 3:30 ET on ESPN2

UCF Spotlight: Divaad Wilson — S (6’0”, 195 lbs); Isaiah Bowser (6’0”, 220 lbs)
Tulane Spotlight: Sincere Haynesworth — C (6’1”, 300 lbs); Nick Anderson — ILB (5’10”, 230 lbs)

UCF’s draft prospects may not be flashy, but there are several Knight prospects who could hear their names called this April, one of which is running back Isaiah Bowser. Bowser displays good power and great contact balance, but his efficiency overall is down in 2022. He needs a big game on a big stage, as he has failed to eclipse 75 yards in a single game this season.

For Tulane, one of the top offensive line prospects in the AAC should be the focal point. Sincere Haynesworth isn’t the biggest center, nor is he the quickest, but he is tough, physical, and relentless. The Steelers have their own version of Nick Anderson in Mark Robinson, but Anderson is an intriguing late-round prospect who has come through when his team has needed his production the most.

#4 TCU vs. #18 Texas — 7:30 ET on ABC

TCU Spotlight: Quentin Johnston — WR (6’4”, 215 lbs); Noah Daniels — CB (5’11”, 210 lbs)
Texas Spotlight: Moro Ojobo — DL (6’2”, 284 lbs); Jaylan Ford — ILB (6’2”, 234 lbs)

The Saturday night showdown between these two Texas foes is, in my opinion, the most intriguing game of the day. This will have huge implications not only on the Big 12, but also on College Football Playoff. Quentin Johnson is still a guy I have my eye on, but let’s not dismiss the solid play of cornerback Noah Daniels. Daniels has already filled out his frame, and he has great speed on the boundary. If his tackling can improve, he could work his way into Day 2 territory.

For the Longhorns, I have my eye on two defenders: Moro Ojobo and Jaylan Ford. Ford is coming off a monster game in which he recorded 10 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception. Ojobo is more unknown in draft circles, but he has upside as a 5-technique in a 3-4 system in the NFL. He has a solid motor and a decent repertoire of moves, but he does need to become quicker off the snap.

Which prospects are you watching in Week 10? Do you think Sedrick Van Pran could be a fit for the Steelers? Be sure to light up the comment section below throughout the day with your thoughts on today’s action!

Predicting the Steelers’ inactive list for Week 10 vs. the Saints

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/12/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The players who are currently questionable for Sunday’s game will go a long way in shaping the list.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are back at home for the first time in almost a month as they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. As the season rolls on, the true nature of the depth chart had come much more into focus, but injuries are still a driving force when it comes to the inactive list every week. For Week 10, the Steelers are extremely likely to still have at least one roster move coming ahead of the 4 PM deadline on Saturday.

The rules in the 2022 season when it comes to the players active on game day have been carried over from the last two seasons. As long as a team has eight offensive lineman who will be dressing for the game, they could have 48 players on their active roster rather than the 46 in previous seasons. If the Steelers elevate any players from their practice squad, their inactive list would increase by the same number of players. Whether or not the Steelers add any practice squad players this week most likely comes down to one of the questionable player’s perceived availability by the 4 PM deadline.

Game Status

OUT:
CB William Jackson III (back)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring)

QUESTIONABLE:
G Kevin Dotson (abdomen)
CB Malik Reed (NIR)

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

Definitely:

CB William Jackson III- The fact Jackson missed every practice this week and he’s missing his first game since being traded to the Steelers is not going to sit well with many in Steelers’ Nation.

CB Ahkello Witherspoon- After missing four games with a hamstring injury only to come back for a half, seeing Witherspoon out all week with his hamstring injury again is not a good sign. Personally, I think he needs to go on the Reserved/Injured List (IR) for the upcoming roster move on Saturday.

Most Likely:

QB Mason Rudolph- Unless another quarterback misses the game due to injury, this is the spot Rudolph will stay.

LB Mark Robinson- The good news is Myles Jack returned to practice on Friday and has no injury status. That is, it’s good news for everybody but Mark Robinson who now will not get a helmet like almost every game this season.

Possibly:

G Kevin Dotson- Popping up on Friday’s injury report, it might not be a good situation for Dotson if he was hurt in practice. There won’t need to be a practice squad elevation for him, the only question is if he can play or not.

OLB Malik Reed- Not having an injury, hopefully there will be a little more clarity with the Reed situation on Saturday. Assuming T.J. Watt gets activated, if Reed is unable to go that would leave the Steelers with only three OLBs. For this reason, a practice squad elevation would be likely. I have a feeling Reed‘s status will change one way or the other later today.

G Kendrick Green- If Kevin Dotson can’t go, then Kendrick Greene will get a helmet for the first time this season. For those concerned about Green being the starting left guard, that would fall to Jesse Davis and Green would be in reserve.

CB Josh Jackson- Even with two cornerbacks out injured, there’s a good chance another one could be inactive. The Steelers have seven cornerbacks on the roster right now, and with Demontae Kazee returning and taking up one of the spots in the secondary, the Steelers may only need four true cornerbacks. If Jackson is still on the roster for Sunday, he could be inactive.

Unlikely:

WR Gunner Olszewski- The Steelers are now only carrying five wide receivers, so the likelihood of one being inactive now that Chase Claypool has been traded away is unlikely.

Projected Inactive List:
  1. William Jackson III
  2. Ahkello Witherspoon
  3. Mason Rudolph
  4. Kendrick Green
  5. Mark Robinson
  6. Josh Jackson*

I included a sixth name on this list because somebody is going to have to go to make room for T.J. Watt. It’s not going to be another outside linebacker as the Steelers already released Ryan Anderson earlier this week to make room for Matthew Wright. Since Boswell to IR is what Kazee onto the 53, it will ultimately be the spot of the player Kazee is replacing in the secondary who needs to go.

Although I would prefer to see Ahkello Witherspoon land on IR which would open up the spot for Watt, if the Steelers don’t think he’ll be out long enough they could simply release a player like Josh Jackson. Ultimately, I think it’s going to be Weatherspoon to IR and therefore Jackson would be on the inactive list. Everyone else is pretty obvious, except for the guard position and I’m hopeful Dotson will be able to go. If not, he simply replaces Green on the list.

The only other issue comes down to Malik Reed and any practice squad elevation. If an outside linebacker is brought up from the practice squad, then Steelers would have a sixth player on the inactive list and it would be Reed. Look for an update of this article later on Saturday when roster moves are made official.

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

The T.J. Watt effect on the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/12/2022 - 7:30am
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

A deep dive into what the 2021 DPOY means to the Black & Gold.

There’s no getting around it — the Pittsburgh Steelers are not the same football team when Trent Jordan Watt is not on the field. The 2017 1st Round Pick is arguably the best draft selection by the Steelers since 2004, when a certain big-bodied QB from Miami of Ohio came to the Steel City. As Coach Tomlin says, his resume speaks for itself.

But can we actually calculate in a tangible way what “the T.J. Watt effect” really is for this team? For transcendent players like Watt, it’s not just about the raw stats. His mere presence on the field brings out better play and higher confidence in his teammates. Think about the sudden arrival of an elite QB, like what Tom Brady did for the Buccaneers, or Peyton Manning did for the Broncos. It’s on that level.

Let’s dive into the ins-and-outs of “the T.J. Watt effect” from a few different angles to determine his true impact.

THE STATS EFFECT

Since joining the Steelers in 2017, the team has played 78 games with T.J. Watt in the lineup for all or part of the contest. They have endured 11 matchups with him unavailable. Here’s one set of stats to look at, per statmuse.com:

Yeah, it’s pretty shocking, even on the surface. Just starting with the win percentages is eye-opening, as the team has only won a single game without him since 2017. The defense gives up almost a TD more per game to opponents without #90 in the lineup. Dig a little deeper and we can see why. The defense racks up 3.5 sacks and 1.6 takeaways per game with Watt compared to a mere 1.4 and 0.8 respectively without him in that span. Where’s the splash plays Mike T. craves? That’s un unreal disparity for taking away just one player on a unit with 10 other contributors. We won’t even dive into the real deep stuff like PFF’s pressure rate and Football Outsiders’ Defensive DVOA metrics. You can imagine, though, they tell a similar story.

What’s really astounding is what his presence means for the offense. In games he’s played, the Steelers are scoring 23.3 points/game. And lest you say, yeah, but that was with Big Ben under center for all but one game... That one game was Week 1 against the Bengals. The Steelers scored 23 points in that game. Without him, the offense can only muster 16.6 points/game. This is directly related to the defense’s ability to create short fields and extra possessions for their offense with Watt on the field. Number 90’s ability to create havoc and improve the play of his teammates correlates to more scoring opportunities and more points. Watt improves ALL areas of his team, and that leads us to the next angle to discuss.

THE INTANGIBLE EFFECT

Without Watt we’ve seen an overmatched defensive backfield get torched because the Front 7’s secondary contributors like Alex Highsmith have been forced to replace DPOY-level production. As we’ve seen, that kind of production is not sustainable in that situation.

On the other side of the ball, we knew the offense wouldn’t be the reason the team won games. We were hoping an opportunistic defense could produce more scoring opportunities and keep the team in games against superior opponents. Without that dimension during Watt’s absence, the O’s issues were laid bare and the result is a 2-6 Steelers squad on the brink of a lost 2022 season.

The Steelers entire defensive philosophy for 2022 was predicated on another All-Pro effort from T.J. Watt leading a suffocating 4-man pass rush that allowed the rest of the defense’s playmakers to take advantage of their matchups. Minkah Fitzpatrick is freed up to jump routes with opposing QBs forced to make rash decisions with T.J. breathing down their necks. Cam Heyward and Alex Highsmith are unchained monsters with Watt demanding the attention of the opposing offensive line and dictating the offensive scheme. A suspect CB group doesn’t have to be elite on the backend to shut down opposing passing games.

That’s the kind of play Steelers fans hung their hopes on for 2022. With Watt likely back in the fold for Week 10, we could see that winning formula again for the first time since Week 1.

It’s not ideal for one player to mean so much to a team, but when that one player re-enters the action, it can change a team’s entire outlook. T.J. Watt’s return is the definition of a game-changer for the Steelers, who have a chance to do more than just play for pride over their remaining 9 games. I for one am excited for that chance.

Steelers vs. Saints Preview: BTSC’s Q&A with Canal Street Chronicles

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/12/2022 - 6:30am
Set Number: X159000 TK2

Preparing for the Steelers and Saints Week 10 showdown, I asked Canal Street Chronicles some burning questions leading up to the AFC vs. NFC showdown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their 2022 regular season Week 10 game with a home contest vs. the New Orleans Saints. A tough task for the Steelers who have lost back-to-back games.

With this being such a big game, not like every game isn’t a big game, I was able to ask Tina Howell of Canal Street Chronicles, SB Nation’s Saints website, five questions leading up to the game.

Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.

The Saints seem determined to stick with Andy Dalton as their quarterback. As a team who has seen Dalton play plenty during his time in Cincinnati, what is the thought process behind this decision?

I think that it’s due to all of Jameis’ injuries, and he must not be 100% yet. Otherwise, it doesn’t make much sense given how poor Dalton has played recently. Dalton has had more time to work with the starters and build chemistry, which would put Winson at a disadvantage, because he has missed so much time. BUT if Winston is completely healthy, I would have him out there. Dalton is starting to hurt us more than help.

The Saints’ defense is stout, but every unit has their weaknesses. What is the best way for the Steelers to move the ball and score points against New Orleans?

The injuries in our secondary have really hurt us this year. We just got PJ Williams back from IR this week, but Bradley Roby is still out. Marshon Lattimore has missed a few games with an abdomen injury and Alontae Taylor got banged up Monday night. Getting healthy and staying healthy, that is our biggest weakness at this point.

Likewise, on offense, what is the weakness in the New Orleans’ offense? What have teams done to slow down the production of players like Landry and Kamara?

Well, Landry has been out the past few weeks with an ankle injury but hopefully, we will get him back soon. As for Kamara, he has great vision and balance, which makes him hard to tackle and hard to stop. On Monday night, he had just 12 total touches compared to the week before against the Raiders when he had 28 and scored 3 TD’s. When he is the game, Kamara makes things happen, the same for Taysom Hill, who literally can do anything. It’s not teams that have been slowing them down, we have done that ourselves, just by not utilizing them more.

The Saints have some good, young pieces on their roster. Who are some players on offense and defense, who Steelers fans might not know, who could make an impact in the game Sunday?

On defense, LB Pete Werner, although I think people are starting to get familiar with him. He was leading the league in solo tackles coming into Monday’s game. Werner has been such a beast on defense, and he is only in his 2nd year.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Steelers are 2.5-point home underdogs. As a Saints fan, how do you feel about the team going on the road on a short week and covering the spread? Have the Steelers become teams’ “get right” game? How do you see the game shaking out?

The Saints are such a bipolar team right now. This is a game that on paper we should win but given some of our key players are dealing with injuries, my confidence is shaken especially since the Steelers are rested, coming off of a bye and possibly getting a few big players back from injuries as well.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for their Week 10 game vs. the Saints this Sunday in Pittsburgh.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 11/12/2022 - 5:30am

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

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

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

Here We Go, The Pregame Show: New Orleans…New Life or Old Problems?

A lot of Steelers Nation is expecting their Men of Steel to experience new life when they play New Orleans at home to basically start their second half of their 2022 schedule. Will it be new life for the black and gold or just old problems? Join Bryan Anthony Davis and Kevin Smith for Here We Go, the Steelers Pregame Show. The BTSC duo break down the Steelers like no one else does as Coach Smith and BAD talk the threat that is the New Orleans Saints.

Check out the rundown

  • News and Notes
  • Recap
  • Steelers vs. Saints
  • Dude of the Week
  • and MUCH MORE!

Listen to the show on the player below:

Steelers Friday Night Six Pack with Tony: State your case for why the Steelers will be better after the bye

The Pittsburgh Steelers may be 2-6, but there are more than a few fans with enough optimism to think that the black and gold can turn things around, But what are the reasons for the belief that Steel City fortunes are on the rise? That and more on this episode of Steelers Six Pack with veteran BTSC podcaster and writer Tony Defeo.

Checkout a rundown of the show:

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Why the optimism?
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Listen to the show on the player below:

State of the Steelers: Can the Steelers get right?

A record of 2-6 for the Pittsburgh Steelers is all kinds of wrong, is it possible to come even close to getting it right? That’s the latest topic of discussion from Daniel Jay on the State of the Steelers. Join Daniel for the latest new offering from the Behind the Steel Curtain family of podcasts in addressing the State of the Steelers.

Checkout a rundown of the show:

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Getting Right. Can it be done in ‘22?
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Listen to the show on the player below:

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions and open thread: Week 10 Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 5:45pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

The rules are still the same...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

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

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

1. Now that William Jackson III has officially been ruled out for Sunday’s game, does it change your thoughts about the trade? How soon does Jackson need to get on the field to make the trade feel worthwhile?

2. With two weeks since their last game, what is one thing you are looking for the most to be improved with the Steelers on the offense? Be specific.

3. Will T.J. Watt get a sack in his return this weekend? How many sacks do you expect from the Steelers defense as a whole?

4. When it was announced on Tuesday that the Steelers Week 11 matchup was flexed out of prime time to a 4:25 PM kickoff, what were your thoughts? Will it affect your ability to see the game?

5. So are you one of the Steelers fans who are looking at getting the highest draft pick possible this year as the only concern moving forward this season, or are you actually still wanting the Steelers to win games?

6. Being Veterans Day, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all our veterans, especially those who may be joining in tonight. I would like to take this question this week for anyone who is responding who has served to tell us about your time and branch of service. If you are not someone who has served in the military, please take this opportunity to give a shout out to any family member or fellow Steelers fan who has served in the military.

Stay safe out there!

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

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

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

Steelers Injury Report: 2 players ruled out for Sunday

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 2:06pm
Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the final injury report of the week, two players have been ruled out while two more are questionable.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming out of their bye week still dealing with a fair number of injuries. As the Steelers took the practice field for their last official day of preparation for the New Orleans Saints, there were two players who did not participate while two were limited. In the final injury report of the week courtesy of the Steelers PR Department, two players have been ruled out while two more are questionable.

Steelers PR Department

If should be noted that Chris Boswell is no longer on the injury report because he was placed on the Reserve/Injured List (IR) on Thursday. Boswell must stay on IR for at least four games, so kicker Matthew Wright will be handling the kicking duties. Boswell went on IR to make room for safety Damontae Kazee being activated. Now that Kazee is on the Steelers 53-man roster, he was added to the injury report for Friday but as a full participant and with no injury designation.

Newly acquired cornerback William Jackson III, who has not played for several weeks due to a back injury, finds himself on the Steelers injury report in his first opportunity. On Wednesday and Thursday, Jackson was not able to participate. Friday brought another day of Jackson not being able to get on the practice field and his Steelers debut has been put on hold as he has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Two other players who missed the Steelers Week 8 matchup and are still recovering through the bye week are cornerback Levi Wallace with a shoulder and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi with a knee injury. For the first day of practice in Week 10, Wallace was able to participate fully while Ogunjobi did not participate. On Thursday, Wallace was once again a full participant while Ogunjobi was upgraded to limited. Friday saw both players practicing at full capacity and both will return for Week 10.

After coming back to play in Week 8 after missing multiple games, Ahkello Witherspoon finds himself still on the injury report as he is dealing with his hamstring injury. On Wednesday and Thursday, Witherspoon was unable to take the field. Friday brought the same designation for Witherspoon as he has been ruled out again for Sunday and may be a candidate to land on IR.

Two other players mentioned by head coach Mike Tomlin in his press conference on Tuesday who are dealing with injuries are linebacker Myles Jack with a knee and long snapper Christian Kuntz with a rib injury. On both Wednesday and Thursday, Jack was unable to practice while Kuntz was a full participant. On Friday, Kuntz remained a full participant and has no injury status while Jack returned as a full participant and has no injury status.

The two names that were added to the injury report on Thursday were Cam Heyward, who did not practice but it was not due to an injury, and Malik Reed, who missed practice for what was deemed as being excused for personal reasons. On Friday, Heyward returned to practice and has no injury status for Sunday. As for Reed, he was only limited despite having no injury listed and is questionable for Sunday.

A new injury which popped up on Friday’s report was guard Kevin Dotson with an abdomen injury which had him limited in practice. It is unclear this time if the injury occurred during practice or exactly what the situation is. Regardless, Dotson is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

As for the Saints’ injury report, you can see the names below courtesy of Steelers.com. The Saints have five players ruled out and four more are questionable.

New Orleans Saints Participation/Injury Report, Week 10

Game Status

DE Marcus Davenport (Calf) - Questionable

RB Mark Ingram II (Knee) - Out

CB Marshon Lattimore (Abdomen) - Out

C Erik McCoy (Calf) - Out

G Andrus Peat (Tricep) - Out

LB Pete Werner (Ankle) - Out

S Marcus Maye (Abdomen) - Questionable

DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (Illness) - Questionable

S P.J. Williams (Illness) - Questionable

Friday, November 11

DE Marcus Davenport (Calf) - LP

RB Mark Ingram II (Knee) - DNP

WR Jarvis Landry (Ankle) - LP

CB Marshon Lattimore (Abdomen) - DNP

C Erik McCoy (Calf) - DNP

G Andrus Peat (Tricep) - DNP

T Ryan Ramczyk (Rest/Knee) - FP

LB Pete Werner (Ankle) - DNP

S Marcus Maye (Abdomen) - DNP

DE Cameron Jordan (Rest) - FP

DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (Illness) - DNP

S P.J. Williams (Illness) - DNP

NFL Odds and Predictions: Picking all the Week 10 games against the spread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 12:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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

The 2022 NFL season is now underway! There is only one undefeated team remaining at 8-0 entering the week in the Philadelphia Eagles and they already played on Thursday night. On the other end of the spectrum, there is one team with only one win going into Week 10 in Houston Texans who also have a tie.

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

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

Last week, there were a number of “push” games depending on when each person made their selections and the spread at that time. Kyle was the best at picking against the spread and led the way at 9-4 ahead of me at 7-4. Bringing up the rear was Shannon at only 3-9. I currently lead for the season against the spread at 72-60 while Kyle is closing in at 70-63.

It was Shannon who topped the over/under picks again last week going 10-3 ahead of me at 9-4. Jeff and Jeremy brought up the rear this week at 5-8. For the season, Geoffrey continues to lead at 73-61 ahead of Shannon at 72-63. Combining both against the spread and the over/under, I am now back in the lead at 135-132 ahead of Jeff at 133-132 and Shannon at 133-136.

So here are the picks for the games for Week 10 of the NFL season. Please feel free to list your choices in the comment section below and play along! Odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Matt Canada hoping for Kenny Pickett to reduce rookie mistakes

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

The Steelers offensive coordinator knows what he wants to see out of Kenny Pickett, and it’s learning from prior mistakes.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team coming off a bye and searching for something, anything, they do well to emphasize in the second half of the season. Throughout the self-evaluation process which accompanies the bye week, it became clear the Steelers don’t do anything particularly well at this juncture.

Not offensively or defensively.

When offensive coordinator Matt Canada met with the media Thursday, he was asked specifically about his rookie quarterback. In other words, what does he want to see from Pickett in the second half of the season?

The answer was simple, and it was something he should eliminate, not necessarily something he wants to see him continue to do.

Eliminate those rookie mistakes.

“I think that’ll be the testament to him if he continues to take mistakes off the table.” said Canada. “He’s going to make mistakes; he’s a rookie quarterback in the NFL. You guys have all covered it. You know how that works. All rookies do that. Those things occur at that position, which is so focal if it occurs, but it’s never okay. We’re not justifying. We know there’s no curve for that.

“But I think, to answer your question, what we’re looking for is for him to not make the same mistakes again. Obviously, as he evolves, and I think when you look at guys who’ve played a long time, that’s what occurs. So, hopefully he’ll do that. He’s working hard at it and had a good week to prepare. Feel good about it.”

Pickett’s numbers haven’t been great. When you look at his total body of work throughout the brief time he’s been the starting quarterback, it’s been downright ugly at times. Is he better than his statistics might dictate?

“Like I said, you look at some really, really great quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League, they didn’t have great rookie stat lines, right?” Canada answered when talking about Pickett’s first half. “I think if we all look at that, that’s not where we are. We’ve got to win, and he knows that.

“Like I said, I tell you all the time, he’s an unbelievably competitive guy, so he’s not happy with that. We’re not happy with that. But I think Kenny is going to have a tremendous second half of the season and a tremendous career.”

If there is one statistic which jumps off the screen when talking about the dismal Steelers offense, it would be the fact their longest scoring play has been a whopping 8-yards. This stat is dead-last in the NFL, but can fans expect that to change coming off a bye week?

“It is what it is. We had a week off. We’re ready to get going with the second half of the year. We’ve got nine games to go.” Canada said. “There’s a lot of things we want to do better. We’ve got to minimize some mistakes and execute at a higher level at those key times for those plays to occur. I say that a lot, the players have said it, we’ve sat in there and looked at it. There are plays that are there, opportunities to make them. We’re a little bit off here and there. We can talk about the rookie quarterback or reps in camp; nobody cares. We’ve got to find a way to score more points.”

You may, or may not, like Canada as a play caller, but you can’t disagree with the last two sentences of the above quote. The Steelers are 2-6, and near the bottom of the NFL in every major/important offensive statistic. He could stand up in front of the media and wax poetic about how the team is about to right the ship, turn the corner or any other idiom he chooses to use.

However, as fans love to say, talk is cheap. It’s time for Pickett, and the Steelers offense, to go out and prove their worth when it matters the most. To be able to not just put together scoring drives, but to do so in a way which is conducive to winning football games.

Will this happen in Week 10 vs. the New Orleans Saints? It is the team’s first home game since their Week 6 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and coming off the bye should certainly help bolster a unit desperate for help. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Saints this Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

What happened to the potential of the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 11:27am
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were brimming with potential at the start of the season, but now there is a different narrative brewing.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a bye, and that usually is a good thing for a team looking to find their way after a 2-6 start. However, the Steelers find themselves searching for answers which don’t exist, at least not at this juncture of the season.

Typically, when a team is struggling the way the Steelers are, you lean on the things you do well. Unfortunately, the Steelers, especially on offense, don’t do anything particularly well. It begs the question, “What happened to the Steelers who were brimming with potential at the season’s start?”

On the latest Let’s Ride podcast, I, Jeff Hartman, dive into this topic, and much more...check out a complete rundown of the show:

  • Steelers News/Notes
  • Damontae Kazee off IR, Chris Boswell on IR
  • When will T.J. Watt return?
  • Random Steelers thoughts
  • Where’s the potential?
  • The DraftKings Sportsbook Week 10 parlay
  • Keys to victory
  • and MUCH MORE

When talking about potential, there are several key factors when discussing where the Steelers go from here.

Considering the team doesn’t do anything particularly well, offensively or defensively, they are able to start from the bottom and build something. They are able to try and put their energy into creating something they do well. A place they can hang their hat, so to speak.

What will that look like? It depends on the side of the football you’re talking about.

For the offense, it could be running the football, including more RPOs and even some play-action passes. Defensively, it could be as simple as getting T.J. Watt back or scheming their way to pressuring the quarterback.

It isn’t an easy fix, and that shouldn’t shock anyone, but it doesn’t mean fans won’t try to figure it out.

Missed the show? Check it out in the player below:

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Rookie Review: 2nd Quarter observations and grades

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 10:00am
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 Steelers rookie class is loaded with potential, and are starting to contribute some intriguing production as we wrap up the second quarter of the season.

Although I am not sure if many community members noticed the adjustment, but I changed my Rookie Review articles from a weekly to a quarterly release. The main reason for the schedule change was the projected usage for this year's rookie class.

In 2021, it quickly became apparent that the Steelers would have to rely heavily on their rookie class, due to the reduced salary cap and some surprising retirements and absences.

This offseason the Steelers utilized an abundance of available cap space to fill many of their glaring needs through free agency. The 2022 Steelers rookie class appears loaded with potential at first glance, with 6 of their 7 total selections making the final roster. However, few, if any, were projected into starting roles to begin the season.

The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers have four rookies either starting, or at least playing meaningful minutes. The Steelers have a couple of high profile draft picks out injured, and one late round pleasant surprise who made the roster but has hardly seen the field.

Here's some midseason observations, complete with first half grades for each player.

Kenny Pickett (1st Round)

Nobody really knows what Kenny Pickett can and will become, because his journey is just getting started, but his potential is impossible to miss. The athleticism, arm talent, intelligence, and anticipation are evident, but so is the charisma, swagger, and natural leadership qualities. Steelers Nation needs to brace for the roller coaster ride of emotions that comes with a rookie quarterback.

This is an excerpt pertaining to Kenny Pickett from my first quarter Rookie Review article. At that point of the season, he had only played the second half of the game against the New York Jets in relief of struggling starter Mitch Trubisky. The Steelers lost the game, but Pickett definitely delivered a much needed spark to the Steelers offense. As you can tell from my comment above, I was convinced that it was as good a time as any to make Pickett the starter, even though I fully realized the murders row of defenses he would be going up against during the next four games.

Character is often most clearly revealed in times of crisis and struggle. Hopefully Pickett's expected struggles against some of the top contending teams in the league only strengthened his resolve. He hasn't flinched when confronted by the media, or attempted to deflect blame for his numerous turnovers and mistakes. Pickett has missed numerous throws, or failed to see open reads altogether, in recent weeks. That tends to happen for rookie quarterbacks who lack any semblance of a running game, all while running for their life before throwing the rock over 40 times per game.

I have little doubt that better days are on the horizon for the young man, especially if he can find common ground with Matt Canada, and gain chemistry with a more focused skill position group.

First Half Grade: C+

George Pickens (2nd Round)

I noted in the last Rookie Review article that I expected Pickens to emerge with Pickett as the starting quarterback. That has happened, to a degree. It's obvious that Pickett and Pickens have started to develop a connection, but that connection has been stifled by extenuating circumstances.

The Steelers offensive focus in the first half of the season revolved around Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool. They were considered the Steelers best offensive weapons going into the 2022 season. Their usage in Canada's offense has reflected that, with plenty of opportunities, but their efficiency has been extremely low. None came close to meeting expectations.

With Claypool no longer part of the equation, Pickens moves up a spot in the pecking order. Hopefully this proves improved clarity for the Steelers offense, and allows them to reassess and refocus their offensive attack more effectively around the talent at hand.

It's going to be up to Pickens to make the most of his increase in opportunities. The Pickett to Pickens connection is crucial for the Steelers offense this season, and beyond.

First Half Grade: B+

DeMarvin Leal (3rd Round)

I was very intrigued by Leal's performance during the first quarter of the season. He gave the Steelers meaningful minutes at both defensive end and on the edge when called upon. He seemed to be improving by the week, but then Leal suffered a torn meniscus in his knee that required surgery, landing him on the injured reserve list prior to Week 6.

Leal's early season performance confirmed his intriguing tweener potential. He possesses solid athleticism and mobility, and admirable instincts and situational awareness for a rookie, evidenced by his multiple pass deflections in limited action. Leal competed well against NFL caliber offensive linemen, stoutly defending the run, and generating consistent pass rush pressure. He had entrenched himself in the defensive line rotation prior to the injury.

Recovery time for his injury is usually 4-8 weeks, which means Leal should be able to return to the field for the Steelers at some point in the next few weeks, where he should have ample opportunity to build on an impressive start to his professional career.

First Half Grade: B

Calvin Austin lll (4th Round)

In the first quarter Review, I was eagerly anticipating Austin being activated off the injured list and added to the roster. His elite level speed and elusiveness potentially could have helped open up the entire field for the Steelers offense. Obviously that scenario never materialized. He was lost for the season after undergoing Lisfranc surgery, never seeing the field of play, either in the preseason or regular season. Truly disappointing.

First Half Grade: N/A

Connor Heyward (6th Round)

Connor Heyward is slowly but surely starting to make his presence felt on the field for the Steelers, especially on special teams. A truly versatile performance, he would be even more effective if the Steelers offense had any semblance of an offensive identity, which they must certainly lack at the moment. He already displays Heyward level intensity.

First Half Grade: C

Mark Robinson (7th Round)

A talented prospect like Robinson should at least be cutting his teeth on kick coverage, with the occasional defensive snap thrown in. The opportunity might just reveal a diamond in the rough. Maybe he misses a coverage assignment or two over the middle. Like that's not already happening. Give the kid a chance, or continue with the status quo, and remain stagnant.

This is another short snippet from the first quarter Review article, and it is even more accurate and relevant today. Myles Jack is dealing with a knee injury, and maybe forced to miss the New Orleans Saints game this Sunday. That would leave Devin Bush and Robert Spillane as the starters, and Mark Robinson and Marcus Allen as the only depth at the position on the roster. This scenario is less than ideal. Allen is a converted safety, who's primary contributions are on special teams. Robinson has yet to see the field on defense.

This is the perfect example of why I keep stressing that the Steelers focus more of their energy on developing and utilizing all the young talent at their disposal. Let a youngster like Robinson get his first taste of NFL action during a handful of snaps in relief as part of the inside linebacker rotation. The Steelers have regrettably been blown out on a couple of occasions, which would have been the perfect opportunity to give your rookie depth some experience. That's the type of situation that a quality coaching staff for a rebuilding franchise takes full advantage of. Sadly, the Steelers failed to do so.

I will be excited for Robinson if he gets his first opportunity to contribute on defense for the Steelers this Sunday. I just wish for his sake that he would have already had some previous experience from which to build. The Steelers really do need to do better in this regard.

First Half Grade: N/A

Jaylen Warren (UDFA)

It feels like all of Steelers Nation desperately wants to see the explosive Warren get more opportunities, and it's easy to see why. Warren aggressively and immediately attacks north and south whenever he touches the football. His extremely decisive running style could work wonders for an offensive line struggling mightily to generate push and sustain blocks needed to create an effective running game. Warren is a stone cold killer in pass protection, and an accomplished receiver. The distribution of snaps for the Steelers running backs moving forward should have little to do with salary or draft pedigree, and everything to do with performance. That mentality is applicable for the whole Steelers rebuilding roster.

First Half Grade: A

Expert Picks: Some experts see the Steelers victorious after their bye

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Time to check in and see who the experts like in Steelers vs. Saints Sunday in Week 10.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints are slated to face off in Week 10 of the 2022 regular season, and there are a lot of narratives between these two teams. For the Saints, they are trying to keep pace in the lackluster NFC South. As for the Steelers, they come off their bye week in hopes of turning the page and improving. There is a lot of uncertainty with the team, and there remain huge question marks surrounding the team as they continue further into the regular season.

For those who follow the current betting lines, the Steelers opened as 2.5-point road underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook. That line has since dropped to 1.5-points.

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

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

As you can imagine, it is tough for the experts to believe in the Steelers. Even coming off the bye, and playing at home, you are hard pressed to find experts who like the Steelers to hold serve vs. the Saints. From ESPN, SB Nation, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports and CBS Sports alike, they are all majority on the Saints to win on Sunday.

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

For those type of experts, one which is talked about a lot is Pete Prisco of CBS Sports. Prisco actually predicts a Steelers win in Week 10.

The Saints are coming off a bad-looking loss to the Ravens. They struggled in all areas. The Steelers are coming off a bye. This could be a great chance for the Steelers to get the first victory for Kenny Pickett as a starter. Their defense leads the way.

Pick: Steelers 23, Saints 20

Like Prisco, Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News also goes in-depth on every one of his picks heading into Week 10 Sunday. Iyer also sees a Steelers win.

The Steelers tend to play pretty well under Mike Tomlin after a bye and will be motivated to push closer to ..500 with Kenny Pickett turning his best passing performance as a rookie at home. The Saints are coming off a tough week against a defense that will have more fixes in store while facing old Bengals foe Andy Dalton at QB.

Pick: Steelers win 24-23

When it comes to ESPN, Jeremy Fowler picked the Steelers beating the Saints as his “Upset Pick of the Week”.

Fowler: Steelers (+2.5) over Saints. Pittsburgh self-scouted during a much-needed bye week, and I believe it will emerge with solutions to struggles on both sides of the ball. Betting big on Mike Tomlin here. The defense gets pass-rusher T.J. Watt and safety Damontae Kazee back from injury, and the acquisition of cornerback William Jackson III gives the Steelers a cover-corner man. Plus, the Saints looked rough on Monday Night Football. I also like the Browns (+3.5) over the Dolphins. Cleveland appears to have figured out its defensive problems.

For the experts who run the Pro Football Network, they are all seeing a close game, but none have the Steelers coming out on top in Week 10.

Two teams that had winning records a season ago look lost in 2022.

The Steelers are in trouble not only in the present but moving forward into the future as well. They have questions to answer on the offensive line, at wide receiver, and, unfortunately, at quarterback as well.

The rest of 2022 will revolve around trying to get the clearest picture of what Kenny Pickett’s ceiling may be. If they pick high enough in 2023, they may have to choose between him and a top QB prospect.

The Saints are a complete mystery. Some weeks, their offense is outstanding, scoring points and moving the ball in bunches. However, they rank 21st in offensive DVOA.

Their defense shut out the Las Vegas Raiders but has allowed at least 20 points in every other game this season. Losing Dennis Allen as defensive coordinator to be the head coach could be part of the problem. But despite their 2-6 record, they are somehow still in the thick of the NFC South race if they can get a win against Pittsburgh.

Predictions:

Beasley: Saints 23, Steelers 20
Miller: Saints 23, Steelers 20
Robinson: Saints 23, Steelers 17

These are just a few sites who make weekly NFL picks. When you think about all those sites not listed above, this is when we turn to our friends at NFL Pick Watch, a site dedicated to tracking NFL expert picks by the week. They take all expert picks and put them into an easy-to-read graph for fans to enjoy. When it comes to the Steelers vs. Saints game, 56% of NFL experts like the Saints straight up, but 56% of the experts like the Steelers when it comes to them getting points at home on Sunday.

What do you think about the upcoming game? Will the experts have it right? Or are they way off? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the Saints in Week 10.

The Steelers aren’t the only ones playing bad football

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 7:15am
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Despite what many fans might think, the Steelers aren’t the only bad team in the NFL.

For Pittsburgh Steelers fans looking for a silver lining in 2022, a down season so rare, it’s only been experienced once in a generation, take a little bit of solace in the fact that we’re not alone.

There’s been a lot more bad football across the NFL this season.

This is in no way an attempt to seek comfort. The Steelers record speaks for itself, and the stats provide plenty of context: 31st in scoring, 28th in total offense. But if the black and gold were to choose any season to be off, this would be the off-est.

Offenses are being hampered by officiating. There were 46 ineligible downfield pass penalties in 2021. The refs have already surpassed that in 2022 (Pittsburgh has 5, tied for the most with Miami).

Thursday night matchups had a 3-game stretch where offense was so rare, it inspired headlines like “The Existential Horror of Thursday Night Football,” and “Thursday Night Football continues to be the worst, but the NFL doesn’t care.”

The reliable stars of the past are all in transition. Russell Wilson went from leading the league in quarterback rating, to being just above Mitch Trubisky. A year ago Kyler Murray, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were all in the MVP conversation, but none would be today. In 2021, Matthew Stafford was on pace for 41 touchdowns. Today he has 8.

The younger generation of QBs have not replaced the veteran numbers yet. Trevor Lawrence has more loses on his resume than wins. Before he upset the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets fans were calling for the benching of Zach Wilson. Trey Lance is hurt. Mac Jones is struggling.

League-wide stats prove that offenses are having a harder time in general. This is a trend across the enter NFL. Jason La Confora broke down the data for the Washington Post.

Scoring is down, from 2.48 offensive touchdowns a game in 2021 to 2.31 now. Passing touchdowns per game are down from 1.54 to 1.38. Entering Week 9 last year, the average NFL passer rating was 94.5 — 12 qualified passers had a rating of at least 100 — with 408 touchdowns thrown to 191 interceptions. This year, only seven qualified quarterbacks had a rating above 100, and the average rating was 90.2, with 338 touchdown passes and 188 interceptions.

Touchdowns and scoring in general are down this season. La Confora’s argument is that the right quarterbacks aren’t paired up with the proper coach. He estimates only five teams currently have the right QB/coach combination (but doesn’t say which five).

None of this specifically explains the 2022 Steelers offense. They’re ranked 31st in points scored, 28th in total yards, 29th in touchdowns, 32nd in interceptions, 29th in yards per pass attempt, 27th in rushing yards, 27th in yards per rush attempt. But maybe the Steelers aren’t playing bad football, they’re just ahead of the curve on the latest NFL trend.

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

Kenny Pickett sees opportunities for other Steelers after the Chase Claypool trade

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback is looking forward to new opportunities for some players after the Chase Claypool trade.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-6, and the most glaring weakness on the team has been the offense, by far. When you consider the overall stats for the unit, they are in the bottom quarter of the league in every major offensive category. This doesn’t lead to much hope for the future.

When you throw in the fact the Steelers traded one of their offensive weapons, third year wide receiver Chase Claypool, to the Chicago Bears for a 2nd Round draft pick, most fans saw all hope as completely lost.

Wednesday quarterback Kenny Pickett met with media and was asked just how things could change for the offense with Claypool no longer in the picture.

“I think some guys have to step up, right?” Pickett said. “It’s a next-man-up. Obviously, Chase is a great, really talented player. We’ll miss him and we had a great time together, but we need guys to step up to fill that void. I’m really confident in all the guys doing it as a collective.”

Next-man-up is something Steelers fans have heard a lot of in the Mike Tomlin era, but anytime it is stated the next question which arises is who will be stepping up? Will it be someone like George Pickens? Steven Sims? Or maybe even Pat Freiermuth?

“Yeah, we just have to adjust that with how we do certain things.” said Pickett. “But I think the ball gets spread around. I think those guys, like I said, will step up as a receiver room to fill that void. I’m excited to see guys get opportunities and see what they do with them.”

When you lose a player like Claypool via trade, it is natural for players to wonder what is going on. To have a sense of surrender on the season. It is up to Pickett as the leader to have some hard conversations with his offense and make sure they know what this truly is, an opportunity.

“Everyone kind of understands the deal and what guys need to do. Guys need to do their job; it was laid out, how we plan to attack. So, I think we’re all on the same page. Like I said, it all sounds great, but we’ve got to go execute on Sunday.”

When you consider the fact Pickett had very little time with players like Freiermuth, Diontae Johnson and Pickens throughout training camp, the preseason and even the start of the regular season, Pickett is doing whatever he can to help get everyone on the same page. This would include doing extra work on the side during team practices.

“Yeah, it’s huge, because, like I mentioned before, not having the summer obviously hurts with timing and reps.” Pickett said of the extra work being put in. “So, being able to get free time when the defense is out there working off to the side on whatever extra routes we need, timing purposes, those guys are great. They give full effort, and I can get timing. It’s been going pretty well so far.

Many fans will want to know, who started this extra work?

“As a group.” Pickett said, not taking credit for the work being put in. “Just something that we all feel like we need just because of the lost time that we had to make up for.”

Ultimately, success is what this offense needs. Whether it’s points scored, or an improved running and passing attacks. Just some form of success. The offense is broken, and needs fixed.

The flip side to fixing the issues plaguing the Steelers’ offense would be trying to do too much. The offense is extremely young, and very inexperienced, so it is a fine line which needs to be walked.

“Like I mentioned before, you can’t press.” Pickett added when talking about walking the line of trying to fix things and doing too much. “As a player, as coaches, all of us, we’ve just got to trust that everyone’s doing their job.

“We’re going to go out there and execute and improve the little detail things that we want to improve on and kind of take it one step at a time. But it all starts on Sunday. The things that we’re putting in and everything we’re working on, we’ve got to execute at a high level on Sunday.”

Pickett is right, it all starts on Sunday. A win over the Saints in Week 10 will at least get the team’s second half started on the right path. Lose the game, plunging their record to 2-7, would make for a dreadful start of the second half of the 2022 regular season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the New Orleans Saints this Sunday in Week 10.

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

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 5:30am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming out of their bye week and will be facing a team with a losing record for the first time since Week 4. But even facing the 3-6 Saints, the 2-6 Steelers are underdogs at home again this week.

Can the Steelers offense put up more than 20 points? Will the Steelers defense be able to hold the Saints offense in check? Will the players expected to return to the Steelers defense make a significant impact?

This Sunday will answer these questions as the Steelers look to get their 2022 season back in a positive direction heading into the second half. Make sure you get all the information you need below so you can enjoy the Steelers Week 10 showdown. The latest odds are per DraftKings Sportsbook.

Week 10:

Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New Orleans Saints

Date: Sunday, November 13

Kickoff: 1:00 P.M. ET

Venue: Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA

Odds: Pittsburgh (+1.5); O/U (40)

Weather: Live weather update

TV Channel: Broadcast locally on FOX WPGH-TV with Adam Amin and Mark Schlereth as commentators and Kristina Pink as the sideline reporter. Check the national broadcast map to see if the game is on in your area.

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

Radio: Steeler Nation Radio with Bill Hillgrove, Craig Wolfley, and Max Starks. The broadcast will be live on WDVE 102.5 FM and WBGG 970 AM in the Pittsburgh area or check the list of Steelers Radio Affiliates. Viewers can listen anywhere in the world online via Steelers.com, but the Steelers Official Mobile App does have geographical restrictions. The Steelers broadcast is also available on Westwood One radio or SiriusXM Radio on channel 231 or channel 113.

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 and Bryan Anthony Davis.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 11/11/2022 - 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: A Silent Good Bye

What Yinz Talkin’ Bout is the conversation about the Steelers social media conversation. Hosts Kyle Chrise (@KyleChrise) & Greg Benevent (@GregBenevent) expose the hottest and most toxic takes on the internet. The bye week brought some much needed social media silence, but there are still some noise makers who want to extend draft season all the way to November. Fans seem to think Indianapolis’ trash should be Pittsburgh’s treasure. And we mark the end of the Ryan Anderson era.

Rundown of the show:

  • Toxic Takes
  • Bye Week Social Media Silence
  • The Frank Reich Infatuation
  • November Draft Frenzy
  • 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: Why fans should throw away all expectations

The Steelers are beginning the home stretch of their 2022. Many expect Tomlin’s team to continue their nightmare of a season, while optimists are expecting a rebirth. What should we really expect? This is just one of the subjects that will be discussed and speculated on in the latest edition in the flagship show of the BTSC family of podcasts with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman, Editor Dave Schofield, and Podcast Producer Bryan Anthony Davis.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News of the Week
  • Same old Steelers or a heroic stretch run?
  • Injury Report
  • Over/Under
  • Trivia
  • Final Thoughts
Let’s Ride Friday: Where is the Steelers potential?!

The word “potential” could be such a dirty pipe dream. But right now, said word may be welcome in the Steel City, but just where is it? BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman outlines it all on the latest episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The P-Word. Where is it?
  • A visit from Jeremy Betz in the All Betz Are Off segment
  • Hart to Heart
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Falcons vs. Panthers: Thursday Night Football picks, odds and open thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/10/2022 - 6:15pm
Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Thursday Night Football is here! Check out the latest odds, picks and more.

The 2022 NFL regular season is here, and it’s Thursday which means it’s time for Thursday Night Football. Considering the game is streamed only on Amazon Prime, it’s the start of something new when it comes to watching football. But when it comes to storylines, there are plenty surrounding this game.

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:

Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers
Date: Thursday, Nov. 10
Venue: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
TV: Amazon Prime
Streaming: Amazon Prime

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook

CAR: +2.5
O/U: 41.5
Moneyline:
CAR: +130
ATL: -150

Staff Picks:

There are some prime time games where fans of the black-and-gold couldn’t care less who is victorious. This would certainly fall into that category, unless you are someone who has already started to look ahead to the 2023 NFL Draft. In that case, you are hoping for the Panthers to beat the Falcons to boost their draft order. Currently, the Panthers have the No. 2 overall draft pick in the draft. On top of the draft order, the Steelers will be playing both of these NFC South teams later in the regular season.

Nonetheless, hopefully it’s a good game. 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 host the New Orleans Saints in Week 10 of the regular season.

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