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The Pittsburgh Steelers need a ‘Plan B’ for the upcoming 2020 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/13/2020 - 6:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers need a Plan B in the unlikely scenario that Ben Roethlisberger isn't able to return in 2020. Could Phillip Rivers be the solution?

I want to make something very clear. I hate talking about worst case scenarios. Why even put bad thoughts out into the universe; to allow negativity to invade our consciousness? With that being said, there is something I feel compelled to make known. The Pittsburgh Steelers absolutely can not go into next season with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges as their back up QBs! There is no excuse for a repeat of last season.

I am more than aware that Mr. Art Rooney II has already stated that the Steelers organization is comfortable with the QB situation as presently constructed. That is great and all, and I am happy for him that he feels so confident with the talent assembled. However, I can't seem to forget the nightmare that the Steelers offense turned out to be last season when Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season due to injury. I don't know if I can take a repeat of that performance. It was truly difficult to watch a group of men work that hard to succeed, only to be undone by the lack of an NFL caliber QB on the roster.

The jury is most definitely still out on whether Rudolph or Hodges has what it takes to ever be a quality backup QB, much less a starting NFL QB. It is far too early to throw in the towel on either young man, but with several of the Steelers proven veteran players nearing the end of their careers, the Steelers don't have a year or two to try and figure it out.

Due in part to how the salary cap is structured, championship windows can open out of nowhere; totally unexpected, and can close just as quickly. Management must strike while the iron is hot, making critical transactions when the opportunities present themselves. Slow and steady no longer wins the race in the NFL, because planning for the future is beset with uncertainty.

As I have stated previously, the return of Ben Roethlisberger will have the greatest impact on the Steelers ability to return to the playoffs after a two year absence. That statement is true: whether he is able to return healthy, or not able to come back at all.

Anyone who is familiar with my writing knows I am hoping and praying for a healthy return, but there has to be a contingency plan if things go awry. A Plan B, if you will. We can't afford a repeat of last season.

Therefore, I am throwing this idea out into the Steelers universe. If Ben's rehab doesn't go according to plan, the Steelers should consider signing a veteran QB capable of allowing the Steelers to compete for a championship while the possibility still remains. I believe the defense is finally championship caliber again, and a quality starting QB may just keep the window open for a little longer.

The Steelers obviously agree with that assertion, and the healthy return of Big Ben would be the perfect solution. But if they have to go Plan B, then I believe they should consider signing Phillip Rivers.

It appears that Phillip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers have come to the end of their journey together. It also seems to have been as amicable as either side could have hoped for. I am sure Rivers didn't want it to end the way it did, seeing how he gave his heart and soul to the organization: accomplishing everything that could be asked of him, except the ever elusive Super Bowl championship. That has to be the driving force behind his decision to not retire.

If Ben is unable to return next season, I believe the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the few franchises capable of offering Rivers that possibility next season. Rivers is also one of the few QBs, who maybe available, capable of keeping the Steelers championship hopes alive if Ben is unable to return. Nick Foles would be another possibility.

Phillip Rivers has enjoyed an impressive career, currently top ten all time in most passing statistics. He has proven to be an excellent leader, a fiery competitor, and extremely durable. Love him or hate him, he once played a whole playoff game with a torn ACL. Trust me on this one folks, that takes some brass cojones right there. But even with all the accolades and achievements, Rivers desperately needs a Super Bowl title to round out his Hall of Fame resume. The Steelers may be his best opportunity to do just that.

Problem is the Steelers probably won't know Ben's status with any certainty till close to the start of training camp. By then, will Rivers have already signed with another team? I am sure he would like to have the decision behind him by that point, and offer some peace of mind for his family. The Indianapolis Colts are another franchise that immediately comes to mind that could offer him the scenario he has to be searching for.

Regardless of how it all plays out, Phillip Rivers should have his fair share of suitors. Will the Pittsburgh Steelers be one of them? Could the Steelers even figure out a way to fit him under the cap? The Steelers definitely couldn't offer as much salary wise as a team like the Colts. What is the going rate on a veteran QB in River's present situation?

Hopefully Ben's right wing is healing nicely and the thought of signing Rivers out of necessity is nothing more than a off season conversation starter. Acquiring Rivers would be a long shot, but a long shot is better than no shot.

Podcast: Does Minkah Fitzpatrick need to do more for the defense in 2020?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/13/2020 - 5:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is over, and although there are no more games, the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this show Jeff Hartman and special co-host Lance Williams break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Does Minkah Fitzpatrick need to do more?
  • Big Ben Roethlisberger vs. the Blonde Bomber Terry Bradshaw
  • Diagnosing the issues with the Steelers using statistics
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, and Lance Williams walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: The one member of the Steelers who could use a fresh start elsewhere in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/13/2020 - 4:31am
Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how there is one Steelers player in particular who could use a fresh start in 2020.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Sometimes players need a fresh start, and members of the Steelers are no different. Artie Burns is the member of the Steelers who falls in this category.

32 NFL players who could use a fresh start this offseason, from QBs to injured stars

By: ESPN Writers

Pittsburgh Steelers

CB Artie Burns

A year after losing his starting job, the 2016 first-round pick also lost his role in sub packages and special teams over the course of the 2019 season. Now an unrestricted free agent, Burns will take the fresh start. With plenty of depth in the corner group, the Steelers have given no indication they intend on bringing him back, and Burns said he had to “get to another team” during a locker room clean-out day. With 32 starts and 149 tackles under his belt in Pittsburgh, Burns has a good foundation to build on at his next stop. — Brooke Pryor

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • A big congratulations to Cameron Heyward, Mike Tomlin and Bill Hillgrove for their Dapper Dan honors.

Leading the way

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

It was a night to honor the best in Pittsburgh sports and several people who embody what the Pittsburgh Steelers are all about headlined the list of the honorees.

The 84th Annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction was held on Monday night at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown and Cameron Heyward, Coach Mike Tomlin and the ‘Voice of the Steelers,’ radio play-by-play announcer Bill Hillgrove were all honored.

Heyward won the prestigious Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year, Tomlin won the Freddie Fu Leadership Award, while Hillgrove received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The University of Pittsburgh Women’s Volleyball Team won the Dapper Dan Sportswomen of the Year.

”Cam is special,” said Tomlin of Heyward. “It starts with his consistency. Not only consistency in presence, he is a guy who is ever-present, but consistency in work, consistency in urgency, there is great consistency in everything he does. I think it provides a good floor in everything he does. He doesn’t ride an emotional roller coaster. You know what you are going to get from Cam. It starts first and foremost with his willingness to be present and engaged and be consistent in every aspect of his life.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Other members of professional sports team, mainly the Pirates, are interested to see Ben Roethlisberger’s recovery from elbow surgery.

Pirates’ Jameson Taillon ‘definitely curious’ to follow Ben Roethlisberger’s recovery from elbow surgery

By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The two players with the most prominent right arms in Pittsburgh sports saw their 2019 seasons end with surgery on their throwing elbows in a five-week span.

As he rehabilitates from Tommy John surgery in mid-August, Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon said he intends to closely monitor the recovery of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was operated on in late September.

“I’m definitely curious with what’s going on with his elbow,” Taillon said from spring training at Pirate City.

It was the second Tommy John surgery for Taillon, who also underwent the procedure in 2014. This was the first elbow procedure for Roethlisberger, who played only six quarters last season before being injured against the Seattle Seahawks.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

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

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 12, 2020

#OTD in 2001, we said goodbye to an old friend. pic.twitter.com/dmTlrnEBd8

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 11, 2020

This is just absurd. #Steelers https://t.co/6o3xjDEll2

— BTSC Steelers (@btsteelcurtain) February 11, 2020

Another Tuesday with the homies! pic.twitter.com/AcUQBSfkik

— Zach Banner (@ZBNFL) February 11, 2020

The Top 7 3-4 Defensive Ends in Pittsburgh Steelers history

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 2:15pm
Brett Keisel terrorized offensive lineman on his way to two Super Bowl victories. | Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense has a storied tradition, especially along the defensive line. Today we go through the Top 7 defensive ends in team history for the 3-4 scheme.

The Pittsburgh Steelers implemented the 3-4 defense back in 1982, and while they don't strictly run a 3-4 today they still build their defense with 3-4 style players. The defensive end, much like 4-3 defensive tackle, usually fly under the radar. However, the position can be credited in making an impact in the success of the last 38 Steelers seasons.

Disclaimer: In 1982 both Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood were retired and played it in the 4-3 scheme.

7. Kimo Von Oelhoffen 2000-2007

20.5 Sacks, 3 FF, 6 FR, 189 Tac, 34 TFL

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images Kimo Von Oelhoffen, 2000

Kimo Von Oelhoffen will always be remembered for tearing Carson Palmers ACL, PCL, and MCL on the second play of the 2005 Wild Card playoff game but he should also go down as an incredible depth player that could make plays when called upon. While Kimo is a Super Bowl champion, his inclusion on this list should represent the incredible talent and longevity of the 3-4 defensive ends in Steelers history.

6. Kevin Henry 1993-2000

14 Sacks, 1 FF, 5 FR, 235 Tac, 9 TFL

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images Kevin Henry 1998

Henry helped anchor the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense and helped the Steelers reach Super-Bowl XXX. And in a bit of trivia, Kevin Henry’s Cousin is WWE Superstar Mark Henry.

5. Stephon Tuitt 2014-Current

23.5 sacks, 4 FF, 1 FR, 201 Tac, 38 TFL

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Stephon Tuitt, 2019

When healthy, Stephon Tuitt has shown flashes of being the most dominant player on the Steelers defense. While only playing in 76 games to date Tuitt has the ability to take over games as both a skilled pass rusher and a dominating run defender.

4. Keith Willis 1982-1991

59 Sacks

Keith Willis

Willis, the all-time leader for sacks for a Steelers 3-4 defensive end was undrafted in 1982 and could quite possibly be the most underrated player in Steelers history. In the wake of Mean Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood’s retirements, Willis took over the reigns of the defensive line and kept the Steel Curtain alive. The only thing keeping Willis from being higher on this list is his lack of a championship ring.

3. Cam Heyward 2011-Current

54 Sacks, 6 FF, 5 FR, 397 tackles, 79 TFL

Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images Cam Heyward, 2019

When compiling this list I seriously debated putting Heyward higher. He is one of the best leaders in the NFL today, and if it wasn't for Aaron Donald in Los Angeles he may just be the best interior D-lineman the past number of seasons. Heyward is a true Steeler. Hard-nosed, hard-working, and absolutely dominant. I would imagine he tops every statistical category for a Steelers 3-4 Defensive end in the next two seasons and if he were to win a Super Bowl I’d instantly place him No. 1.

2. Brett Keisel 2002-2014

30 Sacks, 7 FF, 9 FR, 408 Tac, 33 TFL

Brett Keisel

‘Da Beard’ is one of the most iconic Steelers of this century. A game changer, and a true leader, he is the embodiment of a Steelers defender. A two time Super Bowl Champion, Keisel was a key-piece for the 2008 Championship squad that was one of the most feared defenses in recent history. Keisel recovered the game winning fumble at the end of Super Bowl 43. He was in strong contention of being the top spot if it wasn't for his running mate.

1. Aaron Smith 1999-2011

44 Sacks, 7 FF, 9 FR, 481 Tac, 84 TFL

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images The greatest Steelers 3⁄4 D-end, Aaron Smith

The best 3-4 defensive end in Steelers history was a silent-assassin that spent a career in opponent’s backfields. Smith was critically underrated because of the talents that played around him his entire career, but the stats and dominating performances don't lie, he's an all-time Steeler great. Smith is either 1st or 2nd in every statistical category for his position. On top of that, he is a 2-time Super Bowl champ.

What do you think, did I get this list right? Let me know in the comments below.

Antonio Brown specifically offers an apology to Ben Roethlisberger

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 12:20pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In a social media post, Brown apologizes to Rothlisberger while recognizing the greatness they shared together

In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Antonio Brown specifically addressed Ben Roethlisberger and offered an apology for his actions which ended his relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In an interview last week with 93.7 The Fan, Brown gave what could be considered an apology to the Steelers. He listed out several people in which he did not act properly including head coach Mike Tomlin, General Manager Kevin Colbert, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Whether or not Brown actually apologized to Roethenberger was open to interpretation. But after Wednesday’s Instagram post, there is no denying an apology was intended.

In his nine years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, all 78 receiving touchdowns Brown tallied came through the air from Ben Roethlisberger. Even though he only appeared in one game in 2019, Brown still has more receiving touchdowns than any other play in the NFL since the 2014 season. Over his final five years in the Steel City, Brown had 63 receiving touchdowns including the post season.

Even though Roethlisberger played six seasons in Pittsburgh before Brown was drafted in the sixth round in 2010, almost 20% of Roethlisberger‘s touchdown throws had Brown on the receiving end. Despite their differences, there is no arguing their production on the field during their time together.

With Roethlisberger only lasting six quarters before his season-ending elbow injury in 2019, it would have been difficult for the two to add to the touchdown totals in 2019 even if Brown had not forced his way Pittsburgh. Instead, Brown never set foot on the field for a regular-season game for the Oakland Raiders and appeared in only one game for the New England Patriots where he had one touchdown on four receptions.

As with all social media posts, it is unsure whether or not Brown is the actual author of what was said. And if Antonio Brown is really interested in apologizing to Ben Roethlisberger, I’m sure he still has his number in order to reach out. So was this apology really meant for Roethlisberger or more for Brown’s followers and his desire to get back into the NFL? We may never know his exact motives. But for now, perhaps Brown is experiencing some personal change in his life as he works through his many issues with which he’s been struggling. Hopefully this latest apology is part of his personal healing process and not just another stunt to revive his NFL career.

If the NFL cares about in-stadium attendance, it will nix the idea of flexing Monday night games

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 11:05am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Since everything in the NFL is about money, they are about to abandon their ticket revenues for a better TV experience

In a story by Sports Business Journal, the NFL inquired with teams how they felt if the league was to use flex scheduling for Monday Night Football. With ESPN’s contract running through the 2021 season, one provision they would like moving forward is the opportunity for flex scheduling for Monday night games. If so, ESPN would move Monday Night Football to ABC. But is flexing games to Monday night even a possibility?

First of all, it is not an ideal situation for teams. With precise schedules for when teams arrive and depart, hotel reservations, and everything else that goes into travel, changing the day of a game is not an easy task. It would not just be the teams who got moved to Monday Night Football, but also the teams that lost a day of preparation with their game being moved to Sunday.

Lost in the entire discussion is the heartbeat of the NFL: The fans. With the majority of fans watching the games on television, it probably does not make a huge difference whether or not their team is playing on Sunday or Monday. If fans are following an out-of-market team, moving to a national game is great news. On the flip-side, if their game from the national spotlight moves back to a game buried on CBS or FOX a day prior, it might be one less chance for fans to see their favorite team.

All this is wonderful, but as a season ticket holder to the Steelers, I can say flex scheduling is awful on Sunday night, let alone Monday. In Week 15 of this past season, it was the second time a game I was planning to attend was flexed into prime time. Living out of the area, this is about the worst case scenario when planning to attend a game.

My story is bad enough, but I think of the Steelers’ fan in Louisiana who is finally taking a trip to the Steel City to watch their beloved Steelers play at Heinz Field. After securing tickets, flights, and hotel reservations, they find out a couple weeks in advance that everything they had planned is thrown out the window because the game has been changed to a different day. What can be changed and what is set in stone? Is there an issue with the flight? How is their hotel reservation going to pan out? Will their work schedule allow them to miss more time since the game has now dipped into the work week? And if they could get refunded on everything else, what are they going to do with the tickets? Fans are not lining up for prime time games, so chances are they would have to swallow the price or take a huge hit just to move the tickets at all.

When the game against the Buffalo Bills was moved to Sunday night, it went from a game I was excited to attend to one I was ready to sell my tickets. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get anywhere close to a decent price for the game so I still attended. Walking in my front door at 5 AM was not something I signed up for when I decided to attend one more game for the season. I can’t imagine how I would handle it if, not only the time, but the day was also swapped out.

As we all know, the NFL is about the almighty dollar. Anything they can do to make more money is going to happen. So does the league even care if they’re screwing over fans who go to the stadium? Probably not. Their biggest money is in television. And if the TV executives are happy and they are selling more advertisements and bringing in more money, the NFL would probably play in front of empty stadiums.

But how far will the NFL push fans without a significant push back? Would this be enough for fans to stop going to the stadium at all? Will season-ticket owners become disgruntled because nobody wants to take their unused tickets? Will any of this matter as long as the TV dollars continue to flow?

Luckily, for this particular issue, teams will probably fight this tooth and nail as it will be a major inconvenience on their schedules. But, as usual, the everyday fan who works hard and does their best to spend their money wisely will be overlooked again as the cost of attending a game continues to rise. The last thing fans need is a total upheaval in their schedule just because the NFL did a lousy job of predicting which matchups will be relevant late in the season.

Myles Garrett is back in the NFL, and Mason Rudolph is hoping to get some money back

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 10:45am
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns’ outside linebacker has been officially reinstated by the NFL.

The NFL did something they rarely ever do last year when they placed an indefinite suspension on Cleveland Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett. After the ugly incident on Thursday Night Football in Cleveland where Garrett ripped the helmet off Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Mason Rudolph and used it to strike the second year quarterback, the league has decided to let Garrett back in.

The #Browns have announced Myles Garrett is officially back, with new GM Andrew Berry saying, "We welcome Myles back to our organization with open arms. We know he is grateful to be reinstated, eager to put the past behind him and continue to evolve and grow as a leader."

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 12, 2020

Garrett went through the appeals process following the original suspension, and the league decided to uphold their indefinite ban.

But there is more to the story than just Garrett’s welcome back to the Browns. Mason Rudolph was fined $50 thousand dollars for his part in the incident, and his attempt to recoup some, if not all, of that money has yet to be heard.

One loose end with the Myles Garrett/Mason Rudolph situation: As @MikeGarafolo has mentioned, Rudolph’s appeal of his $50K fine still has not been decided upon because of a backlog of appeals. Garrett’s fate was decided today, Rudolph’s wallet waits.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 12, 2020

I, along with most Steelers fans, are probably wondering how Rudolph would even be fined in the first place, considering Garrett treated him like a human pinata with his own helmet. Then again, the league also fined David DeCastro for playing the role of peace maker in the crazy melee which ensued in the waning minutes of a prime time game on the shores of Lake Eerie.

This situation, which has been on the backburner for months now, seems to be coming to a close, but fans of both teams can only expect this can of worms to be opened again in 2020 when the two AFC North rivals clash during the regular season.

Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for NFL Free Agency, as well as the 2020 NFL Draft.

Mock Drafts prove the Steelers should be approaching the draft with Best Player Available in mind

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 9:28am
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

You might not put much stock into mock drafts, but some things can be gleaned from them.

There is a large majority of NFL fans, especially those who root for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who can’t stand the offseason for one main reason — mock drafts.

You know the song and dance, an NFL “expert” basically tries to predict the unpredictable by suggesting players who they believe will be selected by all 32 teams. Some mock drafts focus solely on the first round, but some brave souls go for the multiple round mock drafts, and then there are those draft warriors who go for the full fledged 7-round mock draft.

No matter how you slice it, these are nothing more educated guess, the key word being guesses. Some put a lot of stock into mock drafts, while others just use them as discussion fodder for the slow months on the NFL calendar.

Either way, I always see some value in mock drafts. Not the players who are projected to go to the Steelers, but the position they have the Steelers targeting in any particular round. For instance, if someone puts out a 7-round mock draft which has the Steelers going all offense with their selections, it tells me how this person views the Steelers’ team needs heading into 2020.

A lot of these team needs, and decisions which will be made, will depend on the end result of several unrestricted free agents. Players like Bud Dupree, Javon Hargrave, B.J. Finney and Matt Feiler will determine the direction the Steelers head in the upcoming draft.

But, again, it all comes back to team needs. I like to look at what other sites think are the most important positions for the Steelers heading into the offseason.

Here are a couple:

CBS Sports

  • Edge rusher
  • Receiver
  • Defensive line
  • Interior offensive line
  • Tight end
  • Linebacker
  • Safety
  • Cornerback

Walter Football

  1. Quarterback: The Steelers must find a young quarterback to eventually replace Ben Roethlisberger because Mason Rudolph is not the long-term answer.
  2. Edge Rusher: Bud Dupree is coming off his best season yet, but he’s due to hit free agency.
  3. Nose Tackle: Javon Hargrave is another player who is set to hit the open market in March, so he’ll need to be retained as well.
  4. Slot Cornerback: Mike Hilton is the key free agent in the secondary. A new slot corner will be needed if he departs.
  5. Interior Offensive Line Depth: Ramon Foster is nearing his mid-30s, while backup center B.J. Finney is entering free agency, so some new reserve interior linemen are needed.
  6. Punter: Jordan Berry has been 21st or worse in net punting over the past three seasons.

What you see is a long list of positions, and almost every one of them can be justified in some way. All of those positions, mainly on offense, could be a target for the Steelers with their top pick in the second round.

What does all this mean? To me it means the Steelers could actually go into the upcoming draft process with a genuine Best Player Available (BPA) approach to player selection. The contrasting draft approach isn’t taking the best player left on the board, but rather targeting specific positions and taking the best players remaining at that particular position.

There have been years where the Steelers have done this. Terrell Edmunds and Artie Burns come to mind. There was simply no way anyone could argue these two players were the best players on the board, regardless of position, at the moment they were selected.

No, it felt as if the team had locked in on one position, and as players were taken, their names fell off the board. When it was Pittsburgh’s turn to pick, they looked at the board and took the next name there, no matter what.

Is there a time and place for both BPA and By Position approach? Absolutely, but, in my opinion, this upcoming 2020 NFL Draft should be much more BPA than by position for the black-and-gold. They have so many areas, especially on offense, which should be targets for them with their top pick in the second round, and beyond, to limit it to a couple positions.

With that said, what are your thoughts on the draft approach leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft? Should the Steelers be thinking BPA? Or should they focus on a few positions to target? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC throughout the offseason for all the latest and greatest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.

Feature Back or Running Back-By-Committee: How should the Steelers proceed in 2020?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 7:47am
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ running attack has some questions to answer heading into 2020, and it is time to decipher their options.

To begin, I had some technical difficulties with my account over the weekend and had to re-boot everything, which means no more Cliff Harris is Still a Punk! The handle may die but the grudge will live on. I congratulate Mr. Harris on being elected recently to the Hall of Fame and, from what I have read, on a successful life after football. However, as the personification of all that was obnoxious about the Dallas Cowboys of my youth, and as the first football villain I ever knew, he will always remain a punk in my eyes. Godspeed, Mr. Harris, and may the Cowboys forever suck.

On to the business of the week...

I was corresponding recently with Scott Pavelle, aka Drop The Hammer, who, to our collective misfortune, has taken his writing talents elsewhere. Nevertheless, we were discussing the backfield situation in Pittsburgh and the pros and cons of the “Running-Back-By-Committee” (RBBC) versus “Feature Back” approach. The popular narrative is that head coach Mike Tomlin prefers to give the lion’s share of carries to one back and will not use RBBC unless forced to by circumstance. This is important to understand given the fact the Steelers’ backfield, led by the often-injured James Conner, may not contain a viable “feature back” as currently constructed. In this week’s article, we will break down how the carries have been allocated during the Tomlin era and evaluate the pros and cons of the RBBC versus Feature Back approach. And, with running back an area of concern for the Steelers, we will offer some thoughts on how they might proceed in 2020.

First, the data. Historically, does Mike Tomlin prefer the “feature back” approach, as the popular wisdom insists? The answer is… ABSOLUTELY. For a look at the numbers, consult the chart below:

The chart displays the carries per game (CPG) of the top backs in Pittsburgh for each season Tomlin has been the head coach. Only twice, in 2012 and 2019 (each highlighted in yellow), did the Steelers use something resembling the RBBC approach. There are other years where the disparity between the “feature” back and the secondary back was not quite as great, such as 2009, when the team transitioned from Willie Parker to Rashard Mendenhall as the primary ball-carrier, or in 2011, when Mendenhall yielded some of his reps to Isaac Redman. In 2015-2016, when Le’Veon Bell was both hurt and suspended, the Steelers leaned heavily on DeAngelo Williams. But Williams was the bell cow in Bell’s absence (he did not split carries with Fitz Toussaint, the third back on the roster) and when Bell returned Williams was relegated to a secondary role. Bell and Williams never really shared the workload; they merely alternated as feature backs. Such has been Tomlin’s preference whenever he’s had a back he can “feature.”

What about 2012 and 2019, then? What happened in those seasons that caused Tomlin to deviate from this approach? Two things: injuries and insufficient talent.

The Steelers entered 2012 with Mendenhall on IR recovering from an ACL injury sustained in the last game of the 2011 season. They opted not to select a high-profile back in the draft, presumably because Mendenhall was just 25 years old and expected to fully recover, and waited until the 5th round to grab Florida scat-back Chris Rainey. The season commenced with no one good enough to merit “feature back” status so the team opted for an RBBC group of Redman and Jonathan Dwyer as their power runners and Baron Batch and Rainey as the change-of-pace backs. Mendenhall joined the mix when he came off of IR midway through the season but was rusty and amassed just 51 total carries. The team struggled to run the football, finishing 26th in the league in yards per game. They missed the playoffs at 8-8.

The woes of 2019 have been well-documented, with the Ben Roethlisberger injury dooming the offense as a whole. Still, the team struggled to define itself in the run game. Carries were divided among James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell Jr. and Kerith Whyte, with each contributing to some degree. The Steelers hardly ran the ball the first three weeks, with Conner leading the team with 11, 10 and 13 carries. They broke things up in subsequent weeks, with Conner and Samuels getting 10 carries apiece against Cincinnati and Conner and Snell getting 16 and 17, respectively, against the Chargers. Conner was the main man with 23 carries in a week nine win over Indianapolis. But he was injured in that game and the RBBC approach resumed. Snell and Samuels combined for 23 carries against the Browns. Snell, Samuels and Whyte split 28 touches against Arizona. Against the Jets, it was Conner, Snell and Whyte getting seven carries each. It was a hodge-podge of an attack, mixing the inside running of Snell, the outside running of Whyte, the versatility of Conner and whatever it was they had Samuels do. The Steelers finished 27th in rushing and again missed the playoffs.

It’s fair to say that when Tomlin has a healthy back he likes and trusts, he runs him hard. And why not? The Steelers have made the playoffs in eight of the 11 seasons he’s used the feature back approach while missing the playoffs both years he did not. The question the staff must answer heading into 2020 is this: is James Conner good and/or healthy enough to merit feature back status? And, if not, how should the offense proceed?

THE PROS AND CONS OF THE FEATURE BACK APPROACH

Ask any running back which of the two they would prefer and they will likely campaign for the feature back approach. For some, this is a matter of selfishness and of wanting to be “the man.” But for many, it’s a matter of effectiveness. Running backs often claim to improve with reps as a game progresses because they get a sense for the flow of the defense and for where the cuts will emerge. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry relayed these thoughts to reporters in an interview with NBC Sports before the AFC Championship game in January: “I think I get in a rhythm the more carries I get,” Henry said. “I get a better feel for the game as it goes on.” (In Henry’s case, defenses probably get tired of tackling him, too, which certainly helps).

What about that “feel” to which Henry referred? Generally, when a game begins, defenses are flying around and running full speed to the football. They are fresh and the adrenaline is pumping. As a game progresses, however, the task of running to the football begins to take its toll as defenders get weary legs. They don’t fill or flow as quickly, leaving seams that didn’t exist at the outset. Or, for those defenses that continue to play fast, offensive coordinators run “constraint” plays such as bootlegs, counters and reverses to slow them down. Couple this with the fact that offensive linemen are generally bigger than their defensive counterparts and can wear them down simply by pounding at them long enough and you can see how, over time, a running back begins to see the field better.

Let’s get more specific. If the backside linebacker has been making plays on the front side of the inside zone play all day long, but now it’s late in the 3rd quarter and he’s no longer getting there as fast, a back knows he can hammer away at the front side when his team runs that play. Maybe he does this a few times until he’s tackled by the back-side defensive tackle, who has begun to pinch hard across the center to compensate for the backer’s absence. Once the RB sees this, and he knows the DT is vacating the back side, he can begin cutting the zone play back to exploit the hole the DT has left.

Or take this example. Let’s say a team is running outside zone and doing a nice job sealing the edge player to allow the back to turn the corner. But the strong safety is flying up into the alley and meeting him just across the line of scrimmage. The back will probably start taking the first cut inside the edge player, who should be fighting like hell to not get reached and possibly creating a seam in the C-gap. Or, hopefully, the offensive coordinator has seen the strong safety being aggressive against the run and has burned him on play-action a time or two. Now that safety isn’t so aggressive and the back can look to get to the alley again.

If a back has only had a few carries he might learn of these things while watching video of the offense on a tablet on the sideline. Or one of the backs in the RBBC rotation may tell him what’s going on. Until he sees it at full speed, however, he can’t really get a sense of how the plays are developing. Where, exactly, is that tackle pinching to on inside zone? Does it require a hard cut to hit the back-side seam or is it more of a jump cut? Once a back has had twelve or fifteen carries, he’s seen how these plays have transformed and he knows where to go with the football.

The cons of the feature back approach are fairly obvious. A team can only “feature” one back at a time, and should that back get injured (which, given the heavy workload this approach demands, is quite possible), the next back up isn’t likely to be as accomplished or productive. The Steelers avoided this problem in 2015-2016 because they smartly nabbed the capable Williams on an affordable free agent contract. Williams was at the end of his career and looking to play for a contender. But most good backs won’t settle for the bread crumbs a backup gets in this type of system. This was the problem in 2012 when Mendenhall went down and the Steelers were forced to go to RBBC because their backups were ill-suited for the feature back approach. The results were less than stellar.

Teams like the Steelers or Titans or Cowboys who employ the feature back method must do their best to secure a serviceable backup who can carry the load in the short term if their bell cow is lost for a game or two. If he’s gone for an extended period of time, they’d better hope their quarterback can bear the weight. If neither is the case, you get an offense like the one Pittsburgh produced in 2019.

THE PROS AND CONS OF RBBC

The NFL’s top two rushing teams in 2019, Baltimore and San Francisco, each employed the RBBC approach. These rushing attacks managed to blend speed (Lamar Jackson and Matt Breida) with solid inside runners (Mark Ingram/Gus Edwards and Raheen Mostert) and a versatile, jack-of-all-trades type (Justice Hill and Tevin Coleman) to attack defenses in a multitude of ways.

Both offenses managed to disperse their carries democratically. In Baltimore, Ingram got 202 carries, Jackson 176, Edwards 133 and Hill 58. San Francisco’s balance was remarkable, as Mostert, Breida and Coleman all carried the ball between 123 and 137 times. Both teams bucked the league trend of being heavy on 11 personnel sets in favor of multiple groupings, particularly 12 and 21. San Francisco often used a fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, as a lead blocker while Baltimore ran a host of two-back sets using Ingram and Edwards together with Jackson as a third run threat.

The thing that really made the RBBC work for both teams was how versatile their lineups were. Ingram and Edwards were strong inside runners but the threat of Jackson pulling the ball and running to the edge meant defenses couldn’t gang up on Baltimore between the tackles. In San Francisco, Breida was just good enough to run between the tackles to keep defenses from focusing on his outside run ability while Mostert and Coleman could do a little of both. The Niners used Juszczyk effectively as a receiver out of the backfield to exploit overly-aggressive linebackers while tight end George Kittle was deadly on play-action as well. So, both teams had roles for their backs that were balanced by something else (Jackson’s running ability, San Fran’s play-action game) that kept defenses off-balance, prohibiting them from concentrating on the strengths of specific backs.

The RBBC approach suffers when a team cannot compensate for how a defense adjusts to the running back rotations. In Pittsburgh, for example, RBBC with the current group of backs is not a great fit. The Steelers base overwhelmingly out of 11 personnel (one back, one tight end and three receivers) and do not have a quarterback who can run the football. Nor do they utilize a fullback in the offense. Nor are they a great play-action team. The offense is set up to hand the ball to the single back and to let the quarterback throw it. There is very little from a scheme standpoint to keep a defense from playing to the strengths of the particular backs who would be used in a RBBC rotation.

Take Benny Snell, for example. Snell is a nice inside runner but does not possess the speed to run to the edge. Without some sort of perimeter threat in the offense (jet sweep, zone read, an option concept, play-action to the fullback in the flat) defenses are free to key the inside run game. On the other hand, Kerith Whyte and Jaylen Samuels have proven to be ineffective inside runners and are best on counters and outside runs. Without something to threaten the A and B gaps, linebackers know they can fly over the top when they get run reads with Whyte and Samuels in the game. Only James Conner is versatile enough to run both inside and outside on a consistent basis. Conner is a good receiver and adept in pass protection as well. His versatility combined with the structure of the current offense and the limitations of the other backs makes the feature back approach the more preferable option.

HOW SHOULD THE STEELERS APPROACH THE RUN GAME IN 2020?

Therein lies the rub. Conner has missed eight games the past two seasons because of injury. When you run a feature back system but your feature back gets injured a lot, you have problems. The Steelers could replace Conner with someone more durable, but salary cap constraints and limited draft capital will make that difficult. They could look to upgrade their backup situation by finding someone more versatile than the current trio of Samuels, Snell and Whyte. But that would represent cost at a position where the team has spent third, fourth and fifth round picks in recent drafts. This leaves the RBBC approach, which, given the current crop of backs and the existing offensive system, is problematic. How should the Steelers proceed, then? Which approach should they take?

Personally, I don’t believe they will adopt the RBBC approach. That has not been Tomlin’s M.O. and, to do so, the offense would need to be restructured. RBBC means more personnel groups, more play-action and more deception. With Big Ben returning after a season away, the staff will want him as comfortable as possible. It’s unlikely they’ll make significant changes. Therefore, we are likely to see a resumption of the feature back approach, with Conner in the starring role.

I love Conner and I think he is good enough to be a feature back. He proved as much in 2018 when he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards while catching 55 passes out of the backfield. He is tough, smart and versatile. He is also an injury risk. The Steelers managed to go 5-3 in those eight games he missed the past two seasons, but two of the losses were down the stretch in 2018 when a poor close to the season cost them a playoff berth. A team doesn’t want to gamble on whether their feature back will be healthy when needed most, and that has proven to be the case with Conner. If the Steelers are to move forward with the feature back approach, they need to add another horse to their stable.

Who might that be? To be honest, I’m not sure. The available list of free agent running backs contains some interesting options as a true #2 behind Conner. The Steelers seem to have drafted Snell for this purpose, however. Should Conner go down again, I sense they are comfortable with Snell as the feature back. That would leave Samuels and Whyte as the supplemental backs, which feels shaky. In the event the Steelers prefer Snell as the backup to Conner, they should look to upgrade from Samuels and Whyte. Hammer’s Big Board lists players such as LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin as possible draft targets to fill this role. Whomever it is, adding a versatile and athletic player who can solidify the backfield would be useful.

All things considered, I expect to see more of the feature back approach in Pittsburgh in 2020. It’s the approach-of-choice of the head coach and the offense is structured for it. That said, having a plan in place for keeping the run game effective if (when) James Conner goes down should be one of the top priorities of the off-season.

Both Philip Rivers and Dan Fouts proved that a franchise quarterback guarantees a team nothing

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 6:30am
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It might be true that a football team needs a franchise quarterback in-order to succeed, but as both Philip Rivers and Dan Fouts proved with the Chargers, it guarantees nothing.

“Does Philip Rivers make sense for the Steelers?”

That might have been the title and premise of this article if I didn’t think it was absurd thanks to Pittsburgh having both quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his $33 million price tag for 2020. It would also be absurd even without Big Ben, given the $25 million in dead cap money the team would be saddled with even if he does have to call it a career.

Of course, Rivers, who announced on Monday that he has decided to become a free agent and ply his trade with another team next season, would make sense for the Steelers. Rivers, with over 59,000 passing yards and 397 touchdowns, would make sense for a lot of franchises.

Let’s be honest, how many quarterbacks in today’s NFL even come close to matching the overall skill-set of Rivers, who just turned 38 in December?

Any franchise that lands his services—presumably one that is no worse than on the cusp of contending—would immediately be thrust to the head of the line as a Super Bowl favorite for 2020.

Yes, but it wouldn’t guarantee anything.

How do I know that? Rivers is the second Hall of Fame quarterback (I think it’s safe to assume Rivers will wind up there at some point) the Chargers have had over the past four-plus decades, and all they’ve managed to do is make it to one Super Bowl...with Stan Humphries leading the way in 1994.

That’s right, years before Rivers put up his Hall of Fame stats with the Chargers, there was Dan Fouts, a man who played 15 years in San Diego and passed for over 43,000 yards and threw 254 touchdowns in a much different era. But while the NFL wasn’t quite as pass-happy in the 1970’s and 1980’s as it is today, make no mistake, Fouts was one of the premiere signal-callers of his era.

And the Chargers were considered one of the top Super Bowl contenders during the late-’70s and early-’80s. But much like the modern Chargers, the Bolts of yesteryear only dreamed of making it to the Super Bowl—they never actually got there.

Some teams are lucky to find one Hall of Fame quarterback, the Chargers have had two and, again, no Lombardi titles.

What’s it all mean? As I alluded to already, it means that having a franchise quarterback is worth a lot—it is by far the most important ingredient—but it’s far from a license to print Super Bowl tickets.

It’s like what Terry Bradshaw said to Dwight White many years ago, when the Mad Dog hit him a little too hard in practice: “You might lose with me, but you’ll never win without me.”

Rivers is a member of the famed quarterback draft class of 2004. Two of those guys—Eli Manning and Roethlisberger—were able to bring their teams a combined four titles. Rivers only took his to one AFC title game.

Is that an indictment of Rivers?

Maybe, but probably not.

The Dolphins never won a title with Dan Marino as their quarterback, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more respected and revered man that has played the position.

Sometimes, it just is what it is.

You may not win with a franchise quarterback, but you certainly need one to have a chance.

Podcast: Why the Steelers don’t need a stud RB to win in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geek’ breaks down the numbers surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show deputy editor Dave Schofield and his brother Rich break down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Close look at the Steelers’ running game in 2020
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

The audio of the Stat Geek Q&A will be published at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Here is the audio:

Black and Gold Links: Minkah Fitzpatrick can be a difference maker without moving around the defense

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/12/2020 - 4:29am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how despite what Minkah Fitzpatrick said recently about moving around the defense, it might not even be necessary.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick wants to do more in 2020. He wants to bounce around, be more like a Troy Polamalu type safety. But is this even necessary?

Tim Benz: Minkah Fitzpatrick doesn’t need to move in Steelers defense. Stats, video tell the story.

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Is Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick perpetually unhappy with his job description?

Or does he have a point?

When Fitzpatrick requested a trade from the Miami Dolphins early last season, apparently part of his reasoning for doing so was that he was switching positions too much for his liking within the framework of Miami’s defense.

He didn’t seem thrilled by it. And neither did his mother.

Upon being dealt to Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick was ensconced in the free safety position.

He thrived. As did the Steelers defense. The second-year defensive back from Alabama was part of eight turnovers in Pittsburgh (five interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries). The Steelers ended up leading the NFL in takeaways with 38. And Fitzpatrick was named All-Pro.

However, over the last seven weeks of the season, he touched the ball just twice. He had a pass defensed against the Cleveland Browns in Week 12. And he recovered a fumble against the Cincinnati Bengals 22 yards downfield, which was caused by Devin Bush.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • We all take a moment to remember old Three Rivers Stadium. That big hunk of concrete...

Saying goodbye to an old friend

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

On this day in Steelers history Pittsburgh said goodbye to an old friend, Three Rivers Stadium.

February 11, 2001

Three Rivers Stadium implosion

It was home to incredible memories for the Steelers and the Pittsburgh Pirates, but Three Rivers Stadium had seen better days and eventually it was time for it to give way to the Steelers new home, Heinz Field.

So on a Sunday morning in February, Pittsburghers did exactly what you would expect them to do. They gathered throughout the city, from across the river in Point State Park to atop Mount Washington, to witness the home of four Super Bowl championship teams and two World Series championship teams, be imploded.

It took 4,800 pounds of dynamite to implode the 30-year old stadium and just 19 seconds to see it evaporate into a cloud of dust.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Ben Roethlisberger’s foundation continues to do great work, albeit under the radar, for police forces across the country by providing K-9 units and equipment.

Ben Roethlisberger Foundation announces new K-9 grants

By: Paul Guggenheimer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation announced Monday it will distribute eight grants to police and fire dog programs in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The departments receiving funding this year from the Roethlisberger Foundation include Homestead, Butler, Beaver Falls, Indiana Township, Uniontown, Connellsville, as well as the Martins Ferry and Columbiana Police Departments in Ohio.

The departments will use the grants to create new police dog units, replace retiring dogs, and buy safety and training equipment.

“This will go towards keeping our dogs healthy and the equipment that is needed to keep them safe,” Butler police Chief Bob O’Neill said in a statement.

“The K-9 program continues to grow and improve with the help of not only the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation but the continued support of members of our local community,” Indiana Township police Chief Timothy Michael said. “We are proud to have the only explosive trained dog within all the North Hills’ boroughs and townships.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

It was a special night at the 84th Annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction as @CamHeyward won the Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year, @CoachTomlin won the Freddie Fu Leadership Award and Bill Hillgrove received the Lifetime Achievement Award. pic.twitter.com/5UNT3jkiki

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 11, 2020

Bring ‘em out!@CoachTomlin | @CamHeyward pic.twitter.com/PGoidMZCiz

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 11, 2020

Talked to 1 of my favorite football players @tpolamalu about my favorite hooper @kobebryant on the beach in Miami. Here’s a small piece of that convo... Subscribe to “Face First” podcast on ITunes, podbean, “DB Precision Official” YouTube channel https://t.co/FzvQxiXN3k pic.twitter.com/MrDh3h8lgq

— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) February 11, 2020

Mike Tomlin Tuesday: We’re excited infusing him into the fold

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 2:05pm
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With no more press conferences from Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin in the foreseeable future, we’ll look back at some of interesting quotes from the 2019 season

Once again, it doesn’t seem like a Tuesday unless we are graced with words from Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin from his weekly press conference. Since it is unlikely we will hear from coach Tomlin again until the draft, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting quotes Tomlin has given us this past season.

We’ve experienced several “Throwback Tomlin Tuesday” quotes so far this off-season. So far we have re-lived the following:

A nose guard is like Blockbuster video
We weren’t ready for prime time tonight
So that’s how you lay an egg
We’ve got to make plays
I’m not a doctor

As we continue trough the 2019 season, let’s go back to the first press conference following the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick before the Steelers’ Week 3 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. In his opening statement, coach Tomlin addressed the trade.

“We went out and acquired Minkah from the Dolphins,” Tomlin stated. “We really studied Minkah really closely in the process leading up to the draft.”

When the Steelers were first rumored to be one of the teams interested in trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick early in the 2019 season, it was reported the Steelers spent time with him before the NFL draft the previous year. Although they knew they really didn’t have a shot at selecting Fitzpatrick where they were picking unless they trade it up or had a repeat of the Rod Woodson situation, being thorough prior to the draft it made it a much easier decision to pull the trigger on the trade.

“It was no secret that we were in the market for a high end safety,” Tomlin said in reference to the Steelers 2018 draft needs. “In fact, we ended up drafting Edmunds later in the round. We did our due diligence. We looked at Minkah. We knew it was somewhat of a pipe dream because of his global positioning in the draft. But having gone down there for both Alabama pro days and interviewed him and spend time with him, it really made this process a clean process for Kevin and I in terms of decision making because we had spent that time with him, we did evaluate him, and we did have a great deal of comfort in his abilities.”

Although he had a rough start to the 2019 season in Miami, the Steelers knew what they were getting in Fitzpatrick in order to make the trade. Even though Sean Davis did not suffer his injury until Sunday, the Steelers were rumored to be in the market for Fitzpatrick before they took the field Week 2.

Tomlin went on to explain how they were going to use Fitzpatrick in the near future as he jumped aboard the moving train.

“We’re excited infusing him into the fold. He will be playing the safety position this weekend in the game. We’re going to quickly get him up to speed. He’s on the ground now as we speak, so we’ve got almost a full week to prepare him to play.”

One of the reasons the Steelers believed Fitzpatrick would help bring together their secondary was his high football IQ. Fitzpatrick was not going to have the benefit of an off-season with the Steelers, so his ability to communicate in the secondary and understand the coverages would be key in his performance.

“He’s a sharp guy,” Tomlin explained. “That was very evident in getting to know him in the draft process. It’s also really evident when you watch Miami Dolphin tape and see the number of things that they asked him to do during his time there positionally. He played corner, outside corner, inside corner, both safety positions, sub package linebacker positions. You can’t do the many things that the Dolphins asked him to do schematically without being a really sharp guy.”

Tomlin went on to make sure the expectations for Fitzpatrick we’re not going to be too high for him as he adjusted to playing in Pittsburgh. Little did he realize, Minkah was about to make some very big plays in his first game in black and gold with an interception and a forced fumble.

“At some point, it’s going to be an asset to us, but obviously in the short term, we’re not going to move him around a great deal. This first time out we’re going to anchor him down and allow him to focus on one position and put him in the very best position to be a positive contributor to our efforts this weekend that way. Really excited about the acquisition.”

It’s very interesting how Tomlin mentioned the notion of eventually moving Fitzpatrick around in the Steelers’ defense. Within the past week, Fitzpatrick stated he is looking forward to being used in various places in 2020 in order to disguise where he will be utilized on the field. With teams avoiding Fitzpatrick as much as they could over the last seven games of the season, moving Fitzpatrick around would be a benefit to the defense. But, as fans, we need to keep in mind that moving around the field does not necessarily mean playing a different position.

After an exciting 2019 season, being able to expand on Fitzpatrick‘s role in the Steelers defense could make for an even more exciting 2020.

Thank you, Steelers fans, for remaining draft hungry despite the lack of a first-round pick

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 12:26pm
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even though the Steelers lack a first-round pick, the fans have not disappointed in showing their hunger for coverage of the 2020 NFL Draft.

As soon as the Steelers offseason became a reality on December 29, I began to have this sinking feeling.

Actually, much like the prospects of a long and snowy winter, I had been dreading the thought of this for most of the fall.

What am I cryptically alluding to? An offseason without a Steelers first-round draft pick to speculate on. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I’m one of those zany draftniks that likes to take to Twitter and say things like, “Inject this player’s highlight tape into my veins” (I’m sorry, but that’s so nails on a chalkboard annoying), it’s just that, as a writer, I need something to focus on for the next several months with no actual games to preview or review. I’m glad the Steelers used their 2020 first-round pick to acquire safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Dolphins last September 17. I’m also thankful Pittsburgh was able to piece together an eight-win season which will prevent folks from losing their minds over the prospect of losing out on a top-five or 10 draft choice.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe you should be incredibly angry that the Steelers gave away their 2020 first-round pick (18th, overall), because I really, really need writing material. Go ahead, read this and then go to the comments section and make some irrational statement about Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, etc., etc.

You know what, scratch that. The folks out there, those zany draftniks, are doing a tremendous job at staying engaged with the draft. In the BTSC fanpost section, alone, there are countless mock drafts already—drafts that go back weeks, I tell ya! Heck, here’s one that was posted right after the conference championship games titled: “Post Conf Championship Game Mock.” Not only is that quite the fitting title, it makes me wonder if the author actually bets on the Pro Bowl.

I kid. Really, the writer did a good job on this. Let’s see, he has the Steelers taking Albert Okwuebunam, tight end, Missouri, in the second round (that is quite the need, so kudos on that one). Hey, wait a minute, no Jalen Hurts, quarterback, Oklahoma? No J.K. Dobbins, running back, Ohio State?

That’s right, even though the Steelers don’t have a first-round pick, I’ve been very pleased to see these two names pop up over and over again from fans who have identified them as desirable second-round picks to address specific needs. In fact, I can’t remember where or who, but I saw recently that someone photoshopped Hurts’ name next to a Steelers logo, as if it was an actual Steelers site and Hurts was their quarterback (of the future or right now, was something I didn’t find out, though).

Cute, but I will say this to that photoshopping fan: As a blind follower of Ben Roethlisberger, he is my quarterback until he says he’s not, and any high-pedigreed passer that’s brought on board while Big Ben is still here is a threat to both him and me.

But Dobbins, on the other hand? He rushed for 2003 yards last season, he fills what I think is a major need right now (I love you, James Conner, but you might not be the future), and I’m sure he has a highlight tape that I’d like to inject into my veins.

It’s good that I have these two names to focus on, because now I will make it my duty to find out as much as I can about them before the draft. Although, they both could turn in such epic performances at the annual NFL Combine, not only would I want to inject them into my veins, their draft stocks will likely skyrocket them into first-round prospects.

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But we won’t have to wait and see if the hunger for the draft will be there among my fellow Steelers fans—the growls are clearly audible in the old belly.

No, it’s not a first-round pick we have to obsess over for the next 10 weeks or so, but much like that relative who owns a dog but lacks the desire to clean up its hair on a regular basis, I can get used to living with second-round pick speculation until Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Can the XFL give players a new path to the NFL?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 10:55am

Not having the same rules as the NFL when it comes to eligibility, the XFL may offer an alternative path to the big leagues

Some may wonder why the XFL is a topic of discussion here at Behind The Steel Curtain. Well, first of all, it’s football. Secondly, in it’s first go round in 2001, the XFL gave the Steelers a starting quarterback before the Ben Roethlisberger era started who ended up starting 32 games. Tommy Maddox was with the Steelers for five seasons, one of which he started all 16 games before the Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger. Had it not been for the XFL, Maddox probably would’ve been forgotten after his 1995 season with the New York Giants. Instead, he ranks ninth in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history in number of game started at the quarterback position since 1950.

With the XFL as a viable option for players to either return or get their first chance at an NFL contract, it is an interesting league to keep up with just in case. But within the typical avenues for players to be noticed, there is one player in particular who is taking a completely different route which could open up an alternative pathway to the NFL.

In an article published last month by the XFL, they highlighted a safety from the St. Louis BattleHawks by the name of Kenny Robinson. Some may recognize the name as he was a safety for the West Virginia University Mountaineers for two seasons. To sum up his story as quickly as possible, Robinson found himself ineligible and needing to transfer to finish out his college eligibility while waiting to meet the requirements of the NFL. Instead of sitting out a season before returning to college or entering the NFL draft, Robertson chose to head to the XFL to both earn a paycheck and make a name for himself.

What is interesting in the Robinson case is he is eligible for the NFL draft in April. He is the only person in the XFL who still had college eligibility remaining although his pro status has probably ended the possibility with the NCAA. Robertson’s path could be just the first player in a long line if the XFL chooses to allow other players the opportunity to go professional rather than stay in college.

In order for player to be eligible for the NFL, they must be at least three years removed from high school. With other professional sports not having the same requirements for players once they graduate high school, the NFL has struck a deal with the NCAA to keep players in college longer. But the XFL has no such deal. Will other players desire to turn pro at a reduced cost rather than finish out their college eligibility?

If the XFL chooses, they could become as much a professional minor-league system to the NFL as they are the opportunity for players who are still trying to break into or get back into the league. Rather than risk the opportunity for injury while not being paid, would it be to a player’s benefit to enter the XFL and receive a paycheck while developing against better competition? Would a quarterback be better served playing in the XFL rather than college to give them the necessary experience?

First of all, the XFL is going to have to stick around. Failing after just one season, the odds are still stacked against the league as it tries to take hold. With the AAF crumbling before they could even complete their season in 2019, the XFL knows it is a tough path to success. But in my opinion, the product on the field this past weekend was much better than I had seen either last year or in 2001.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Robinson this season with both the XFL and the NFL. In his first game, Robinson had five tackles which was tied for the third most on the BlackHawks.

Would some players benefit by not having to go through three years in the NCAA before collecting some sort of pay? Would this make a better product in the XFL in the long run? These questions may be answered over time. But until then, it is all speculation.

Ben Roethlisberger’s return has Steelers fans brimming with hope

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 9:50am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Ben Roethlisberger is waiting on approval to reload his refurbished sidearm and ride in on his trusted steed to save the Steelers 2020 season. Hopefully!

Hope is a necessity of life. If you take away someone's hope, you take away everything from that individual. If you have no hope, then why even try? That makes hope a precious commodity. Thankfully for the Pittsburgh Steelers, hope is on the way.

When Ben Roethlisberger was injured in the first half of the second game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks; I was obviously concerned, but I still had hope. Hope that the injury wouldn't be too severe. It was obvious to everyone watching that it was an elbow injury, but maybe it wouldn't be season ending. I was still holding out hope, against all odds.

Once we learned the tragic news, any hope of adding a seventh Lombardi Trophy to the trophy case was lost. I quickly adjusted my mindset and my expectations. I was consigned that the Steelers were going to have a losing season, but I was more concerned with the overall effort of the players and their consistent growth as a team. That way I could still have hope, even if winning games wasn't one of them.

A funny thing happened on the way as the Steelers played out the rest of the season. Thanks to a ridiculously favorable midseason schedule, after a tough opening quarter of a season, the Steelers went on a surprise winning streak. They were doing just enough on offense to eke out each victory, thanks to a rapidly improving defense that was bordering on dominant. But in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the clock struck midnight and the Steelers playoff hopes turned back into a pumpkin.

So why, after all the disappointment associated with last season, am I so filled with hope heading into the start of the off season? I see alot to be hopeful about in the Steelers near future.

Hopefully the upcoming 2020 NFL Scouting Combine will revel plenty of talented young prospects at various areas of need for the Steelers, especially on the offensive side of the ball. There are always surprises during each stage of the process: whether it's a prospect failing to meet expectations during the physicals, or not quite cutting the mustard in the individual drills. Fortunes will rise and fall over tenths of a second and fractions of an inch in many cases. The teams that can best identify the hidden gems from this plethora of information oftentimes find themselves competing on Super Sunday. The Steelers had a strong draft class last year, which gives me hope they can do it again.

Decisions made concerning Bud Dupree and the transactions that would be required to retain his services will determine the Steelers activity level in free agency. They will either need to look for mid level talent on team friendly deals at areas of need after being forced to make necessary roster cuts, or they can focus some newly found cap space toward strengthening the offense if unable to tag or resign Dupree. The three main free agent additions last year yielded varying results. Steven Nelson was a tremendous addition: Mark Barron's underwhelming production didn't measure up to his salary: Donte Moncrief was a complete disaster. Hopefully the Steelers can find more Nelsons, and less Moncriefs this off season.

Easily the biggest reason for my unbridled optimism toward next season for the Pittsburgh Steelers has to be the expected healthy return of Ben Roethlisberger. Many athletes, especially those blessed with elite arm talent, have returned from various elbow surgeries to resume highly productive careers. Ben has always possessed a superior throwing arm, complimenting a warriors mentality.

Standing tall in the pocket, eyes focused downfield while a three hundred pound defensive lineman hangs on his back, trying in vain to prevent a completion downfield. Say what you want, but Ben Roethlisberger in no way resembles the over protected QBs that the great Jack Lambert once famously stated should all be wearing dresses. Even in a league presently blessed with extremely mobile QBs, or maybe because of that mobility, it is extremely rare to see a QB with the intestinal fortitude to stand tall in the pocket till the last split second to complete a huge throw downfield, all while staring down the barrel at a rapidly approaching pass rusher with bad intentions.

Ben Roethlisberger is not just a future Hall of Fame QB: he is a football player. Ben lead the Steelers to the 2008 Super Bowl title behind one of the worst offensive lines ever for a Super Bowl champion. His level of toughness makes him a throwback to a bygone era. Just ask the Baltimore Ravens, players like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. They respected the way Ben plays the game as much as they hated competing against him.

That is the biggest reason I am so encouraged about the Steelers chances of returning to a position of prominence and the playoffs in 2020. Ben Roethlisberger will be back at the helm for his Pittsburgh Steelers, health permitting.

Steelers Nation can only hope to be so lucky.

Breaking down Diontae Johnson’s rookie season, Part 1: The Statistics

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 7:47am
Photo by Rob Leiter via Getty Images

Diontae Johnson had a really good rookie season. How good? Let’s look at the numbers.

Diontae Johnson was a surprise pick to most people on draft day. He wasn’t a standout at the combine or on anyone’s list of top receivers. Worse, he wasn’t being talked about as a potential steal, nor did he have any videos of him going viral in sports media. In a class with a lot of WRs receiving a lot of hype, that made him a nobody.

His film showed a lot of promise though, showing a similar style to Antonio Brown (an elusive, quicker-than-fast route runner with good catch radius) that probably fell off the radar because of the turmoil at QB he experienced in his senior season before injury set him back even further.

If you are interested in my views on Diontae Johnson’s college film, I did a three part fan post series on him in late May and early June of last year. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) If you read any of them you will be able to tell that his film impressed me a lot and I had high expectations for the young WR in his rookie season. Now that the season is over, we are going to take a look at how good of a season it was.

Diontae Johnson vs. his teammates

First up, the team receiving totals for 2019.

This chart shows normal stats as well as a metric of my own.

MVR: Compares receiver production to team production to help show what receivers were more important to their team, helps show good receivers on teams that don’t throw a lot. Formula: (Rec. Yards/Team pass attempts + Rec. TDs/Team passing TDs)
Impact: Compares yards gained per snap to team yards per snap, takes into account both time missed and percentage of run plays. Formula: (Rec. Yards/Off. Snaps/Team passing yards/Total team off. plays)

Diontae Johnson was the Steeler’s second leading receiver by yards and led the team in targets, receptions, and receiving TDs. He led Steeler WRs in snaps played (largely due to injuries from other players) as well as targets per snap played. If you go out to 4 decimal places Diontae Johnson is #1 in MVR as well.

While Diontae Johnson was #2 in receiving yards, if you look at each game, Johnson only led the Steelers in receiving 3 times, all in the last 4 weeks of the season. JuJu Smith-Schuster led the team 5 times, James Washington 5 times, Diontae Johnson 3 times, James Conner twice and Jaylen Samuels once.

Diontae Johnson was the #2 WR in the first half of the season, behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, and in the second half, was the #2 WR behind James Washington until the very end of the season when James Washington struggled and JuJu Smith-Schuster returned but was ineffective. The last quarter of the season Diontae Johnson would lead the Steelers in yards (100 more than James Wshington in second place) and in TDs (with 2 of the 3). Johnson’s 2.83 MVR for the last 4 games of the season are a pro-bowl level number, and that only takes into account the number of passes thrown and Johnson’s effectiveness. MVR2, which adjusts for the effectiveness of the passing game puts Johnson’s last 4 games of 2019 at a 3.46, a higher MVR than any NFL player had over the course of the 2019 season.

Don’t read too much into 4 games, but it points out just how good Diontae Johnson was in those 4 games compared to the rest of the Steelers passing game. Johnson was still producing, while the rest of the team wasn’t.

Diontae Johnson was never the #1 focus of the opposing team, and that allowed him to produce all season long as a reliable supporting piece.

Diontae Johnson vs. his draft class

Diontae Johnson was the 66th player drafted in 2019, the 10th WR. Johnson ended the season ranked 6th in receptions and 7th in TDs. When the Steelers offense is taken into account, he ranks even better.

Top rookie WRs from 2019.

Diontae Johnson ranks 5th in MVR among all rookie receivers, and in MVR2, which was designed to account for the exact kind of situation Diontae Johnson faced this season, when injuries to two QBs and the teams #1 WR greatly limited the effectiveness of the offense, ranks him 4th, behind the three rookie WRs that really broke out as rookies, A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin and D.K. Metcalf.

Comparing an entire draft class is not easy, but one easure that is pretty good is Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value (AV). Diontae Johnson’s 2019 season earned a 6 AV, which ranks him in a tie with a bunch of other players that rank between 27th and 40th overall. One season is far too early to judge a career, but in his rookie season Diontae Johnson got off to a very good start, playing like a borderline first round player.

Diontae Johnson vs. history

While comparing rookies after one year is rightfully scorned as being too early to make a real judgement, look at the top rookie WR seasons over the last 5 years.

That’s every rookie WR that gained 600+ yards from 2015 to 2019. The first thing you should take away from it is that almost every single one of the receivers on that list is still producing for their team. The odds that Diontae Johnson won’t be a productive WR for at least several years are now incredibly low. there are a lot of very good supporting WRs on that list, and a good number of WRs who lead their team in receiving.

Another thing you should take away is how many of those WRs were on really good passing teams their first season. If you sort by Diff. (the change from MVR to MVR2) Diontae Johnson ranks third, showing how poorly his team’s offense compares to other offenses represented on the list.

Lastly, here’s the top Steeler Rookie WRs since the merger.

Diontae Johnson ranks among the best rookie seasons in team history. Interestingly, the truly great WRs in Steeler history all had really poor stats in their rookie season.

Conclusion

Diontae Johnson had a great rookie season, one that compares well against the better rookie seasons in recent NFL history and Steeler history. But while Johnson was a productive WR, and a highly productive WR when you consider the offense he was playing in, he was not the Steelers top receiving threat and was never the player the opposing team schemed to.

Looking historically Diontae Johnson’s production is a very good sign that he will be a productive receiver going forward, without really putting a ceiling on his potential.

From just looking at stats we get the impression of Diontae Johnson being a WR who will be productive in the NFL, but most likely as a #2 or a 1A type of receiver. In the other part of this review we will review his film for the season and look at his strengths, areas he needs to improve and his fit in the offense going forward.

Analyzing the repercussions of the NFL’s proposed 17-game schedule

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 6:28am
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Ramon Foster is the Steelers NFLPA rep, how do you want him to vote?

I have been waiting to write an article about the NFLPA voting on the new CBA that’s centerpiece is moving to a 17-game schedule. The players were expected to vote last Thursday at an undisclosed location — the strange thing is, there has not been any leaks about the vote. Putting all that speculation aside and even other parts of the CBA — let’s focus on the 17-game schedule and what that might entail and even look like.

Key aspects
  • The NFL would add one more game would be added for each team.
  • The NFL would reduce the number of preseason games. By how many is still being speculated upon.
  • Adding another bye week during the season.

One more game for each team looks great on paper for fans, but it also creates one enormous issue. It is an unbalanced schedule. Sixteen teams would get nine home games while the other 16 would only get eight. Not a big deal, you say? If Baltimore plays nine games at home and the Steelers only play eight and down the stretch Baltimore gets more home games, Pittsburgh fans would cry foul.

If teams can only have eight home games, where does the odd game get played? That is where things can get very interesting.

Reports have London as probably getting a full eight-game schedule. In 2019, games played in London averaged the eighth most fans in attendance of all NFL stadiums. Before you shoot down games played outside of the United States, look at the history. The very first regular-season game played outside of the U.S. was played in 1926 in Toronto. From 1948 until 2005, there were 60 exhibition games or similar games played outside of the country. In 2005, the first modern-day regular-season game was played in Mexico City in front of over 103,000 fans.

Since 2007, at least two regular season games have been played outside of the U.S. each season and 17 played (one was relocated back to Los Angles due to poor field conditions) since 2015. In 2019, the league played a record five regular-season games outside of America with four in London and one in Mexico City.

Could Mexico City see a full eight games? Possibly, but the chatter is not going in that direction. The chatter is some games will be played there while they will play others at neutral venues such as South Bend, Alabama, Hawaii, Canada and possibly many other cities that have sufficiently sized college stadiums.

Think of the Steelers playing the Philadelphia Eagles each year in Beaver Stadium at Penn State with over 106,000 screaming fans. Both fans would love to have an annual rivalry such as this. But would it happen or would the NFL prefer facing off against other teams based on how they finished the previous season? Personally, I would like to see geographical rivalries, but this might not be realistic.

Fans, coaches, and players all have varying reasons for liking or disliking preseason games. The die-hard fans love them while casual fans might catch a highlight or two. Veteran players may fear them because of the risk of injury while the undrafted rookie, out of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, might try to make a name for himself. Coaches like them so they can get to see injured veterans return to action, young players how they handle themselves in live game situations, and getting their coaching staff to work together.

I have seen mentioned that the preseason could be cut by one or by two games. If I really had to guess, I would say it would get cut by two.

Adding a second bye week during the season could make things very interesting but also complicated for numerous reasons. Hopefully, the league will look back at 1993 when the league intentionally had two bye weeks. The bye weeks ran from Week 3 through Week 12.

  • When will the bye weeks start and end?
  • Will bye weeks be tied to playing on Thursday nights?
  • Will bye weeks be tied to playing outside of the US?
  • Could a team have two bye weeks in a row or even two out of three weeks they will not play?
  • Will bye weeks help or hurt a team and their momentum?
  • How much influence will television networks have?

The greatest influence on the above aspects would be from the networks. In 2993, the networks took a beating to their ratings. Below is a great quote by Peter King outlining the issue with the networks, keeping in mind there were only 28 teams.

The problem: The double byes are a double disaster. A second bye week was added this season in order to stretch the network TV schedule to 18 weeks. The bonehead result was that there were as few as 10 games per weekend through the first two months of the season, not 14. Fewer games, fewer chances for good games, obviously. Another by-product of the double bye: With so much time off between games, teams fall out of sync. “We beat Minnesota, and we were ready to roll,” says 49er quarterback Young. “Then we had to pick our noses for two weeks before playing Dallas.” The result: Dallas 26, San Francisco 17. The 49ers are 1-3 after bye weeks over the last three years, 30-8 without a week off.

The additional game per team is driven by an expected $1 billion in revenue that will be divided up between owners and players. The players say that the biggest aspect is safety. While this may be true, how the money is split between the two factions is a close second. With this being the biggest item on the owners wish list, will the owners bend on other aspects to ensure this gets done? Hopefully, soon we will have an answer to this and a positive one at that which will avert any kind of work stoppage.

Podcast: The Steelers positives strongly outweigh the negatives

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 5:24am

Join Bryan and Tony with offseason Steeler talk, strengths outweighing weaknesses, the running backs and the XFL in the latest edition of the Steelers Hangover.

The Steelers 2019 season is thankfully a memory now and it’s time to officially look ahead. There’s been plenty of talk about all the improvements that the Steelers need to make, but some feel the strengths still outweigh the weaknesses. Join Tony and Bryan as they discuss this and more.

In case you are new to the show, you can check out a complete rundown of the show below:

  • The XFL
  • The Steelers Running Back corps...what road do you go down?
  • The Steelers positives strongly outweigh the negatives.
  • Live chat Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Predictions state the Steelers could be targeting a veteran QB in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/11/2020 - 4:31am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at a bold prediction made by ESPN regarding the Steelers’ QB situation heading into the 2020 regular season.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Pittsburgh Steelers say they are fine with Mason Rudolph, and the rest of their quarterbacks, heading into 2020. But what if they decided to add a veteran to their depth chart?

Bold offseason predictions for all 32 NFL teams: Gurley trade, QBs on move

By: ESPN Writers

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers will add a veteran quarterback to the roster.

Even if he’s not one who has been in the system for a decade, an experienced signal-caller could have solved many of the issues that arose when Ben Roethlisberger went down and they were left with Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges. The Steelers should be able to fix some of those issues with the hiring of new QBs coach Matt Canada, but adding a veteran to the room is a smart insurance policy. — Brooke Pryor

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • William Shakespeare wasn’t just an author. He was also a Pittsburgh Steeler.

Shakespeare was first for the Steelers

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

On this day in Steelers history the team selected their first ever draft pick, William Shakespeare, but there’s more to it.

February 8, 1936

Back William Shakespeare selected in the first round of the NFL Draft

When you hear the name William Shakespeare, it’s only natural you think about the historic English poet and playwright from the late 1500s to early 1600s who is frequently quoted to this day.

But there is another William Shakespeare, one maybe not as well known in literary circles, but one who is known in the history of the Steelers.

William ‘Bill’ Shakespeare was the first player ever drafted by the Steelers. Shakespeare, who was an All-American halfback and punter at Notre Dame, was the Steelers first round pick in the 1936 NFL Draft, which was the first official NFL Draft.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Was the decline of the NFL written in a 1980 book?

1980 book predicted the looming death of football

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

There’s been plenty of talk about the decline of football. It’s not new. Indeed, it’s at least 40 years old.

Earlier this week, when discussing the Championship Throw That Wasn’t from Super Bowl LIV, I remembered Championship Throw That Was from Super Bowl XIV. I specifically remembered the photo of Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw’s pinpoint pass that Rams defensive back Rod Perry nearly batted away but that landed in the arms of receiver John Stallworth, who caught the ball in full stride for a 73-yard touchdown while the Steelers trailed 19-17 in the fourth quarter of a game played in front of more than 100,000 spectators at the Rose Bowl.

The image of Stallworth ready to corral the throw, with Perry’s blurred right hand obscuring the “I” in Sports Illustrated, continues to be one of the most powerful and iconic of the Super Bowl era. Curious as to whether my copy of the issue was still floating around in the attic over the garage, I accepted the challenge of sifting through the various places it possibly could be, and I found it without much sweat or frustration.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

“Troy! What are you doing?!”

Bill Cowher tells @wyche89 a story about how smart and unique of a player @tpolamalu was on the field for the @steelers pic.twitter.com/NTlE8Gz9JG

— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 10, 2020

#OTD in 1982, Hall of Famer Joe Greene retired.

MORE: https://t.co/VYmUHXzTJc pic.twitter.com/AbdIOzviYG

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 10, 2020

The 84th Annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction

This evening, @CamHeyward, Coach Tomlin and Bill Hillgrove will be honored at the event! pic.twitter.com/3YWDhV0Otc

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 10, 2020

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