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As expected, Steelers fans see a wide range of success/failure for the 2022 Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/28/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be really good, or really bad in 2022. Which will it be? No one knows...

When it comes to the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers, not many have any concrete answers regarding the outcome of the upcoming season. What used to be easy, now is filled with question marks.

  • What will life without Ben Roethlisberger look like?
  • Will Omar Khan change the organizational philosophy as the General Manager (GM)?
  • What will the defense look like with Teryl Austin at the helm?
  • How will Brian Flores impact the defense?
  • With the players in place, how will Matt Canada’s offense do this year?

You get the picture, but when you ask a Steelers fan how they think the season will go, no one has a clue. Some think the team will stink, while others think they’ll shock the world. It is quite the range in expectations for this season.

For these reasons, and so many more, I decided to pose the question to Steelers fans last week asking what the ceiling and floor would be for the 2022 team? The ceiling being the best they could do, and the floor being the worst possible outcome.

As you can imagine, the range predicted by the fans was very different. First, let’s take a look at the ceiling:

75% of the fans polled believe the team could win 10-12 games if things go their way this season. But what about the floor? How bad could things get. Let’s take a look:

You read that correctly, a whopping 49% of fans see the worst possible scenario being 6-7 wins for the black and gold this season.

So, when you look at the range, Steelers fans believe the team could be anywhere from 6-12 wins. Talk about drastically different results. Nonetheless, when you look at the sportsbook win total for the Steelers this year being set at 7.5, most fans would tell you to take the over on that bet.

What do you think? Do you foresee the Steelers doing well and keeping Mike Tomlin’s non-losing season streak continuing? Or are you someone who sees this as a re-building season and the start of some difficult years for the Steelers? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare to report to training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 26th.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.

The Steelers can’t continue to build a young roster if they sign a bunch of aging players

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/28/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers need to continue to develop youngsters like Dan Moore, a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft who started 16 games at left tackle last season.

Back in the old days, before social media, countless Tweeters giving you their thoughts on everything, and millions of podcasters asking you to “like and subscribe,” a Steelers fan could spend an offseason being mildly excited about a second-year player and fourth-round pick who started 16 games at left tackle the year before.

That was the reality—at least the starting 16 games part—in 2021 for Dan Moore Jr., a rookie fourth-round draft pick out of Texas A&M. Did Moore spend the majority of his starts making you forget about Anthony Munoz? No, but he acquitted himself quite well for a player who wasn’t even expected to contribute much going into training camp before spending that entire time turning heads and winning the starting job.

Was Moore’s quick ascension up the Steelers depth chart helped along by the team’s uncertainty along the entire offensive line—including the health of Zach Banner?

Yes, but who cares now? Point is, Moore did okay for himself as a rookie. He was put in a tough spot and didn’t wither. He may have struggled at times, and he may have needed help while blocking some of the more prolific defenders he went up against, but to quote Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, “The moment wasn’t too big for him.” Despite the issues the young offensive line had in 2021—these were mostly the same issues the old offensive line had in 2020—Moore never felt like a liability.

While Kendrick Green, who may have been playing out of position as an undersized center, struggled mightily as a rookie third-round pick and was eventually replaced in the starting lineup—Kevin Colbert, the Steelers' now-former general manager, claimed this was because of an injury—Moore kept his starting job all year.

Moore gained valuable experience as a rookie. It was baptism by fire. It was a year that he can use to grow as a player. It was a rookie season fans should be excited about (relatively speaking—we are talking about a left tackle, after all).

Is there uncertainty with Moore? Yes, but that doesn’t mean I want to run out and replace him with the nearest 31-year-old still sitting on his couch in June. I don’t want Eric Fisher. I didn’t even want the Steelers to select an offensive tackle in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

I want to see more from Moore. I want to see him continue to grow as a left tackle in the National Football League. The Steelers are a young team—one of the youngest in the NFL at the moment. They are in a transition period. They are trying to build something special. In most cases, building something special means building with youth.

As hard as this is to believe, not every young player has to come with a high pedigree.

If Ramon Foster, an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee in 2009, wasn’t allowed to mature and grow as a young guard in the NFL, he never would have turned into a model of durability and consistency in the 2010s for a highly-decorated Steelers offensive line full of first and second-round draft picks.

If Levi Wallace, an undrafted free agent out of Alabama in 2018, wasn’t given the opportunity to battle through his early struggles in Buffalo, he never would have grown into a starting corner by his second season. Wallace became such a valuable member of the Bills’ defensive backfield by 2021 that they barely missed a beat after Tre White was lost late in the year with a knee injury. Finally, if Wallace wasn’t allowed to blossom into a valuable NFL starter in Buffalo, he never would have been in a position to sign a two-year deal with the Steelers last spring.

If Rocky Bleier, a 16th-round pick out of Notre Dame in the 1968 NFL Draft, wasn’t given ample time to heal after being seriously wounded in Vietnam, he never would have become a valuable member of the Steelers' offensive backfield in the 1970s and a four-time starter in the Super Bowl. Bleier’s underdog story was so inspiring that ABC produced a Made for TV movie about it in 1980, titled, Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story. Sadly, if a social media influencer produced a YouTube video about a modern-day Bleier, there's a good chance it would be titled, Hot Garbage: The Rocky Bleier Story.

We seem to be in a new world now where everyone wants a sure thing at the top of the depth chart and even an ironclad insurance policy as a backup.

Backups can’t look like Benny Snell Jr. any longer. They must look like David Johnson.

Newsflash, most backups, regardless of position, look like Benny Snell.

As for those starters who began their football careers as mid-round picks or lower? They’re the life-blood of the NFL. When you find one who can contribute right away—even if he has his ups and downs during his rookie campaign—you see if you can build on it. It’s like found money. It’s like an unexpected windfall.

There may be a time when the Steelers have to address the left tackle spot, but not now, not when they have such a promising youngster in Dan Moore Jr. heading into his second training camp as the incumbent starter.

Finally, it’s a good thing free agency didn’t exist in 1989. If so, the Steelers may have felt the need to go out and sign some veteran to play left tackle. This may have prevented John Jackson, a 10th-round pick out of Eastern Kentucky in the 1988 NFL Draft, from starting 130 games for them over the next nine seasons.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/28/2022 - 4:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

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

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

BAD Language: Super Bowl or Bust?

Everybody’s got an opinion. Some subscribe to conventional wisdom. others are ill-informed, while some are unorthodox and way out there. So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language. This week, it’s all about how some fans measure success by the Super Bowl or Bust philosophy.

  • News and Notes
  • Measuring Steelers Success
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: The Steelers Bubble is “a-forming”

The Steelers have a good idea of who the majority of their 2022 roster will comprise of. But bubble dwellers are already surfacing. Who are they? Join Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo (Shannon White is out this week) with discussion of this and more on the Steelers Hangover.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • What Steelers could go either way in 2022?
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: Steelers laying it on the O-Line

The Steelers worked diligently in the off-season to beef up the offensive line from a paltry state in 2021. Where do these newcomers and carryovers fit in? Geoffery Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Steelers protectors on the roster and their fit into the Steelers line.
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Going For Two: Alex Highsmith & Myles Jack

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/27/2022 - 2:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Day 17 of Going For Two, featuring Alex Highsmith and Myles Jack

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Alex Highsmith Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Age: 24
Year: 3
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 242
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 102, 2020
College: Charlotte
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

Seeing a bump in playing time in 2021 as the full-time starter, Alex Highsmith saw a more-than-proportional bump in stats in a lot of categories. Nearly doubling his defensive snaps from 437 in 2020 to 851 in 2021, Highsmith saw his sacks triple from 2.0 to 6.0 as well as his tackles for loss going from 5 to 15. Highsmith also more than doubled his quarterback hits and added a forced fumble in 2021. While his tackles were not quite double, he also played less than 25% of the special team snap he saw in 2020. Locked in as the starter opposite T.J. Watt, the questions about Alex Highsmith in 2022 have a little to do with his roster status or playing time but how much more he will grow as a player in year three.

Myles Jack Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Age: 26
Year: 7
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 255
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 36, 2016 (Jacksonville Jaguars)
College: UCLA
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

For the second-straight season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be looking to a former Jacksonville Jaguars’ linebacker for help in their defense. This year, former second-round pick Myles Jack comes to the Steelers after six years in Jacksonville where he had over 500 tackles in 82 games started. Still only 26 years old but will turn 27 just before the regular season begins, the play of Myles Jack may have a huge effect on the overall success of the Steelers defense. If Jack ultimately brings improvement to an inside linebacker unit that struggled last year, the Steelers defense should look to be better all around, especially against the run were they ranked last in 2021.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

Be a part of the BTSC Fan Post weekly contest/question

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/27/2022 - 12:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The “dog days” of Steeler Football are here, but this may help pass that time until the Black and Gold re-take the field.

I still find myself sneaking into the Fan Post section of BTSC. Even with such great content on the front page, there are occasionally some solid articles still being written there. In the past, I have made a point to pass on some of those articles to our Senior Editor, and in return he has posted many of those articles on the front page. Not only does it provide exposure for someone interested in writing, but it can provide BTSC with potential future writers.

This particular idea is not my own, but one from Pin Stripe Alley, where the Editor poses a writing subject/question and the members that are interested write about that subject or question in a Fan Post. The winner gets their respective article posted on the front page.

Every Monday for the next six weeks I will provide a subject or question. The article must be submitted by Friday of the same week with plans for it to be published on Sunday. In the heading of the article make sure to add that it is for the Front Page Submission. also attach your own article heading.

Example: Front Page Submission - Pickett not Marino, Steelers refused to let another Pitt Panther QB slip by them

I shouldn’t have to remind everyone, but I will. Make sure all articles submitted follows the SB Nation/Vox/CORAL Guidelines. Those that don’t will not be considered.

This Week’s Subject/Question:

The signing of Larry Ogunjobi was yet another piece to the 2022 Steelers Puzzle. There are concerns with his 2021 injury, but you have to admit Omar Khan is doing things. I still expect an extension, or maybe even two, but I get the feeling he isn’t done in terms of adding to the roster.

In that spirit, put on your GM glasses and find me a trade that could benefit the 2022 Steelers, or even beyond. Keep in mind there is a salary cap and let’s keep it with in reason, but by all means be creative in your article.

Thanks again for this week’s submissions and as always Stay Safe and Go Steelers!

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers won’t make any significant roster moves before camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/27/2022 - 11:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In the “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” series, we break down situations which could take place for the Steelers in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2022 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp back at Saint Vincent College in order to fine tune their skills. As we here at BTSC prepare you for the start of camp, we give you a series called “30 Scenarios in 30 Days” which gives you a Steelers scenario every day leading up to the start of camp.

It is simple how it works. We provide you the scenario, reasons why it will or won’t happen, and then our prediction for what we think will take place.

Let’s get to the scenario...

Scenario: The Steelers won’t make any significant roster moves before training camp

Why it will happen: The Steelers have made some moves in recent weeks, both extending Minkah Fitzpatrick and bringing in Larry Ogunjobi, but the odds of them bringing another player before the team reports July 26th seems to be far fetched. It isn’t that the team couldn’t bring in a player at several positions, but the team is more likely to take a wait-and-see approach to how the roster, and other teams’ cuts, develop.

Why it won’t happen: The Steelers do need some help at a few positions where talent still exists on the open market. Two come to mind — running back and cornerback. The team could view the team’s defensive backs, and backup running backs, and not want to wait for just the scraps remaining on the market. This would equate in the team taking an aggressive approach to players remaining and bringing in another player before the team even gets to Saint Vincent College on July 26th.

Prediction: As much as I would like the Steelers to go out and sign a player like David Johnson, I don’t see it happening. At least not yet. The Steelers have some cap space left, but if I’m Omar Khan I’m not about to spend that money before camp. If there is a key injury, I want to have the financial flexibility to go out and get another player without having to go into re-structure mode. I wouldn’t be shocked if the team makes a move, but if I’m putting money it, I’m guessing they wait until camp before making any type of significant roster move.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the 2022 regular season.

For Steelers fans heading to training camp, make sure you have a ticket

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/27/2022 - 10:00am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Tickets are free and available to the general public, but are required for entry for practice at St. Vincent College

The Pittsburgh Steelers are returning to St. Vincent College in Latrobe for their 2022 training camp. After two years of holding camp at Heinz Field due to the global pandemic, the Steelers are back to the normal training camp location which they have used for more than 50 years.

In 2021, although the Steelers were not in Latrobe, they were able to have fans at their open practices at Heinz field. All fans had to do was reserve a free ticket through Ticketmaster and they were granted a general admission entry.

As the Steelers return to St. Vincent in 2022, fans will once again need a ticket in order to attend training camp practice. This per information available at Steelers.com:

Steelers Nation will get their first chance to see this year’s team up close at practices listed on the schedule. Fans can win prizes and giveaways, participate in interactive football drills, take advantage of photo opportunities, get gear direct from the team at the Steelers Pro Shop and more.

Admission to open practices is FREE, but attendees MUST have a ticket. Mobile tickets will be encouraged for quickest and most secure entry into camp. Tickets are now available via Ticketmaster.

Although there was a pre-sale that began at 10 AM on Monday, June 27, 2022, tickets are available to the general public for reservation beginning at 12 PM the same day. Tickets are designated for specific dates and appear to have a maximum number of 12 on a given day per reservation. It has not been reported if there will be a limit on total tickets available each day causing specific practices to be sold out.

It should also be noted that the Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium is not included with the training camp tickets as it is a separate event. The following information is available from Steelers.com about this event:

Catch your favorite Steelers at a special evening practice UNDER THE LIGHTS! Join us at Latrobe Memorial Stadium for Friday Night Lights on Friday, August 5th. All profits will support Greater Latrobe Athletic Teams & Clubs, Greater Latrobe School Clubs & Groups, Booster Groups, and surrounding Latrobe Community Entities.

HOW TO BUY TICKETS:

Presale tickets can be purchased at Greater Latrobe Athletic Office on the Greater Latrobe Senior High Campus at 131 High School Road, Latrobe, PA 15650.

On Friday, August 5th, tickets will go on sale at Latrobe Memorial Stadium (131 Irving Avenue, Latrobe, PA 15650) and can be purchased throughout the day. Tickets can also be purchased at the booths as gates open at TBA.

Adults: $5 per ticket

Children Under 5: Free admission

For fans planning on attending training camp and looking for tickets, keep in mind that the Steelers first practice open to the public is Wednesday, July 27, with the first padded practice being on Monday, August 1. The final practice open to the public will be on Thursday, August 18.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for breaking news, training camp coverage, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers.

FILM ROOM: What does Myles Jack bring to the Steelers defense?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/27/2022 - 8:30am
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The linebacker’s speed and IQ will generate head-turning plays, but there are areas to better.

It’s safe to say the Steelers have had one of the most hectic offseasons of any NFL team this cycle, let alone in Pittsburgh history.

From adding two new potential starting quarterbacks to a nascent general manager and defensive coordinator to several high-profile signings, the Steelers will field a team with black-and-gold newcomers across the board in 2022. One player who fits such criteria is Myles Jack.

When Jack was released by the Jaguars on March 15, the fit in Pittsburgh seemed obvious: Joe Schobert was a likely cut candidate, and Mike Tomlin could take a flier on a young yet veteran field general. The Steelers did just that by signing Jack to a two-year, $16 million deal a day later.

With an inescapable quarterback battle and more recent adds like defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi, it can be easy to forget about Jack. However, the 26-year-old will play a significant role in Tomlin’s reconstituted defense, led by new DC Teryl Austin and senior defensive assistant Brian Flores.

The numbers seem to indicate Jack had a lackluster season in 2021: his 37.7 Pro Football Focus grade was the lowest of his career and was the fourth-worst of any ‘backer to play over 900 snaps. Further, the UCLA alum tallied zero takeaways after having one each of the last four years.

The film, however, suggests that Jack still brings talent to the Steelers via his physical attributes, football acuity and emotive play. At the same time, there are frustrating lapses that can emerge in coverage, play recognition and the run game.

Overall, what will Jack contribute to the Steelers’ defense for 2022, if not also 2023? Let’s take a more intricate look.

When watching Jack, it’s hard not to notice his speed and quickness. Whether in coverage or in pursuit, Jack can really turn on the jets.

On this first play, Jack stays step-for-step with Christian Kirk, and makes it look rather effortless. Jack didn’t formally run a 40-yard dash, but the fact he’s able to keep pace with Kirk’s 4.47 speed up the field — while not appearing to fully exert himself — is impressive.

It’s not just down-the-field speed with Jack (No. 44), though. Laterally, the linebacker demonstrates the ability to close gaps in a hurry, as he does here on a PA Boot by looking onto tight end Pharaoh Brown, neutralizing him.

Even when Jack is slow to react — more on that in a bit — his agility allows him to get right back into plays and make a tangible impact. On this read option, Jack takes a step or two to his right before planting his foot in the ground and charging toward Kyler Murray, forcing the quarterback out of bounds.

When Jack meshes his speed with his instincts and understanding of concepts, it really is a sight to behold.

In virtually every game I watched, Jack would make a splash play of sorts against the run, whether it be screaming downhill to stifle a snap or waiting patiently for the play to develop and then hitting the precise gap with expertise.

This run against Derrick Henry and the Titans is a prime example. As Tennessee runs an outside zone, Jack recognizes space in the A gap as center Ben Jones can’t get to the second level. From there, Jack detonates on fullback Khari Blasingame, blowing the play up.

What is even more refined about Jack’s run stoppage is the patience he exhibits before deciding to plow forward.

On this draw against Arizona, Jack engages with center Rodney Hudson; rather than motor straight ahead, Jack waits for James Conner to pick his spot, at which point Jack block-sheds and darts to get the stop.

Being able to find the correct gap to shoot and doing so at full speed in one fell swoop puts Jack in elite territory. His ability to acutely follow pullers and track the progression of the run without stopping is stellar, as he does here to Mark Ingram.

There’s something quite satisfying about watching Jack stand his ground, wait for blocking engagements to unfold and then explode toward the ball-carrier with an edge. This work on a Javonte Williams counter is perfect.

Even if Jack can’t sniff out a run in its infancy, he’s shrewd enough to tread water and fight through traffic, ranging sideline to sideline to make stops.

It’s not only in run prevention that Jack leverages his speed, however. In coverage, he boasts quickness with good ball skills and awareness.

If you’ve ever watched backpedal drills at the Combine and felt they had little translation to real game speed, this play reflects otherwise. Jack plays the hook curl by backpedaling, accelerating forward and then smoothly flipping his hips to take away DeAndre Hopkins. For a linebacker in particular, Jack has good change of direction.

This next play may have been the most eye-popping one from Jack that I had the chance to watch. The Colts run a 3x1 formation with an in-breaking route behind a slot fade. Playing the deep middle, Jack tracks the slot receiver the entire way, keeping up before getting his hands up to disrupt the play.

While less of a measurable trait, Jack truly plays with his heart on his sleeve, acting as if every down could be his last. As such, he is never afraid to hit hard — even if it’s Henry on the opposite of the line of scrimmage.

In particular, Jack can be a valuable asset in goal-line situations. His willingness to fly in and put his body on the line can be paramount in reinforcing stops, like he does here against Henry.

Moreover, Jack has a very high motor and never quits on a play. On this third down against the Broncos, Jack starts a legitimate 10 yards from the ball carrier; nevertheless, he gallops forward to prevent a new set of downs.

When a play may look over, Jack still puts himself in good position to back up potential miscues. After a missed tackle by Tyson Campbell on this quick out, Jack flaunts his range to make the play.

In a similar vein, Jack is always eager to join a dogpile of tacklers to truly bring a ball carrier to a halt. While Jack himself doesn’t entirely stop Tim Patrick on this snap, the desire to finish plays is admirable.

Jack’s competitive drive can manifest itself through outward expressions. This run up the middle prompts Jack to jaw with Tytus Howard well after the whistle.

It really feels like Jack hinges on every play, no matter the circumstance. If he makes a blunder or a big gain is surrendered, he’s not shy to express anger, such as by clapping or shaking his head.

Even though he’s a passionate player, Jack has generally avoided penalty. The linebacker was ejected for throwing a punch in 2019 but had just three flags thrown in 2021 and has one career unnecessary roughness infraction.

While 768 of Jack’s 917 snaps last season came in the box, 88 were along the defensive line. The Jags were not afraid to use Jack to rush the passer, and he showed capabilities of delivering as a rusher.

The main area in which Jack succeeded was getting hurries due to his speed, largely by charging the A gap. His quick-twitch ability can create major problems for offensive linemen; against the Seahawks, Jack splits the zone block to get pressure on Geno Smith, forcing a rushed throw.

Remember that physicality discussed earlier? It also shows up when Jack is blitzing. Lined up in the A again, Jack drives Chase Edmonds right back and gets good positioning with his outstretched hand to generate a poor throw from Murray.

Per PFF, Jack had a career-high 10 hurries in 2021, but they didn’t exactly come due to his outside pass-rushing repertoire. Jack typically defaults to a bull rush when lined up against tackles or unable to blow by O-linemen, but he lacks the power to generate push or separate.

Now that I’ve elucidated the areas in which Jack typically excels, it’s also important to zero in on some areas for improvement.

According to Pro Football Reference, Jack had a 3.6% missed tackle rate in 2021, which ranked second-lowest among inside linebackers to start 15+ games. At the same time, there were numerous instances in which Jack let playmakers get away.

The main reason why Jack experienced some struggles in tackling was due to poor positioning and leverage. Typically, Jack would try to corral ball carriers with just his arms.

Here, Jack follows Conner well out of the backfield and closes in after the catch is made. Yet rather than square off his hips and shoulders, Jack hesitates and then tries to grab Conner’s shoulder pads, which doesn’t go well.

A similar outcome unfolds on this run by Williams. Jack does a marvelous job getting outside to be in position to make a play, yet can’t space his feet well enough to get balance. Consequently, Williams ducks under the tackle for more yardage.

Where Jack does better in wrapping up offensive players is when he can utilize his full body. During this outside zone, Jack drives nicely to stop Samaje Perine. Notice how Jack shuffles and keeps his feet straight before transitioning to hitting Perine.

Alternatively, going in low does not seem to be a problem for Jack. Working as the backside edge in Houston, Jack careens down from behind for a combo tackle on Ingram.

Indeed, going for the legs will at least create a barrier for the runner, if not stop them altogether.

Another relatively worrisome element to Jack’s game was recognition of who actually had the ball. This concern reared its ugly head in both passes and runs.

Jack had one of his worst career games against the Bengals, and play action was the primary reason why.

C.J. Uzomah’s first touchdown came with the Jaguars in Cover 1 Robber with Jack in man coverage on Uzomah. After a fly motion, Jack bites hard on the fake run, leaving him too wide to get to Uzomah for a wide-open score.

Later in the game, the Bengals run a fake toss that gets Jack flat-footed and away from Tyler Boyd. Given that the Jaguars were in zone, this gap isn’t entirely on Jack — Campbell crept down from the flat, leaving Boyd more room — but Jack was spurned by the fake yet again.

Consider this snap against the Titans. Tennessee calls a read option in which Ryan Tannehill keeps the ball, but Jack has already engaged with the OL before realizing the QB still has it. Jack being deceived leaves a large hole in the Jags’ defense that Tannehill exploits.

Even though Jack is a smooth athlete and nimble for a linebacker, it felt like there were times where he’d be a step or two too slow in coverage this year.

On this play-action pass against Indy, Jack stares down Carson Wentz just a hair too long before realizing Jack Doyle is streaming free. Those precious seconds without Jack widening his coverage lead to a sizeable gain.

That wasn’t the only time Jack got beaten in coverage against the Colts. Playing the hook curl, Jack is initially in good position to cover Michael Pittman Jr. Then, Jack takes a few steps toward Mo Alie-Cox in the flat, leaving Pittman open. While not great coverage by Shaquill Griffin, the boundary corner, Jack needs to stay disciplined in his area of the field.

I mentioned Boyd earlier, and he gets the best of Jack yet again by creating just enough separation on a curl by driving his foot into the ground and forcing a stumble. This isn’t a bad play from Jack, per se, but it’s enough to lead to a completion.

Jack can definitely turn his hips well, but it’s not something that should be defaulted to in coverage, if at all avoidable. Playing over the middle of the field, Jack does a good job recognizing Uzomah coming over, but the linebacker spins too late to keep up with the speedy tight end. This is a nice throw from Burrow over Jack’s hand, but little things like that can add up.

Turning 27 in September, Jack brings phenomenal experience to the Steelers, having played in 88 games and three playoff contests, including catalyzing the Jaguars to a stunning win in Heinz Field in the 2018 AFC Divisional.

Despite the Jaguars’ woes, Jack was the heart and soul of their defense since his debut in 2016. In fact, Jack played at least 86% of defensive snaps for the Jags every year since 2017.

In the 15 games that Jack started in 2021, Jacksonville averaged 346.5 yards allowed per game; without Jack against the Dolphins (Week 6) and Jets (Week 16), the Jags surrendered 431 and 373 yards, respectively. Granted, JAX didn’t have Campbell in Week 6 or Allen in Week 16, but Jack’s absence was felt.

Jack is a freakish athlete whose speed should be employed in a multitude of facets by Flores, Austin and Tomlin. Lining him up to blitz from the A gap should be in play, and he even has the agility to suit up for some snaps in the slot.

The Steelers’ run defense was abnormally abysmal in 2021, primarily due to the absence of Tyson Alualu and the passive play of Devin Bush and Joe Schobert. Jack’s downhill presence and gap shrewdness should help ameliorate Pittsburgh’s run defense.

That being said, if Jack does not become more sound on play fakes, the Steelers’ inside linebacking corps could be in for some subpar reps in coverage yet again. Even with elite defenders like T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jack will be responsible for much of the middle of the field, and front- and back-level guys can only help so much if large vacancies emerge.

Another question will be whether Jack, Devin Bush or someone else wears the green dot. Jack had green dot duties revoked after Week 4 of last year; he feels he “could do it,” but it doesn’t necessarily seem that he wants to relay signals. While some have noted that Jack is worse while given an internal headset, I didn’t notice any significant difference in his play without it.

Although the play recognition is somewhat alarming, Jack’s tackling woes should be less apparent in a deep, talented defensive line, plus reinforcement from Fitzpatrick. Likewise, Jack should be in position to turn the tide in his takeaway numbers based on the sheer disruptiveness of the Steelers’ DL and its ball-hawking secondary.

While he may have a few blunders each game, Jack’s talent stands tall. A true every-down linebacker, Jack’s skill should spark several impact plays in every contest, and his impassioned spirit should make him a fan favorite.

Building the trust of Steelers fans in a world full of hot takes

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/27/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

When it’s the hottest of takes that get discussed more than anything else, is it better to be a trusted source of information?

I love this job.

I can’t believe that I have the opportunity each and every day to discuss, whether spoken or written, the Pittsburgh Steelers. I write words that people read, and I speak words that people listen to. It is crazy to think about, and a complete blessing.

I thought it was best to start off this way when talking about how I personally look at information when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whether it be my influence as editor here at BTSC or not, I want to be somebody that when someone asks me a question about the Steelers they trust my opinion enough to consider it.

Unfortunately, it appears that we live in a world that, at this time, it’s those who scream the loudest and make the most noise who are often heard. And sometimes in order to be heard, what needs to be said ends up coming with a lot of shock and sensationalism. Maybe it’s because of my age, but that just isn’t me. If you could listen to me on any of my podcasts, you would know that I have no problem speaking loudly and often, so that is not the issue. But I’m also not looking at stirring the pot and creating headlines just for the sake of doing so.

Honestly, I just want to be somebody you can trust when it comes to talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers.

We live in a world of hot takes. The more controversial the statement, the more it gets passed around. And rather than just make a general statement, it’s so much easier to load it up with ‘absolutes’ in order to make it more buzzworthy. But at what cost?

Personally, I like to call out the sensationalism and ‘hot-takery’ for how it ultimately doesn’t stand up to reality. Bringing facts to a ‘hot take’ argument makes it very easy to come out on the right side of the discussion because so often it is those sensational statements that can’t stand up to scrutiny and a fact-based response.

It’s not that all the ideas behind hot takes are bad. Often they start with a realistic statement that gets morphed to an extreme to where it is then unbelievable. To give an example, this past week I had someone comment on one of my Twitter posts sharing an article from the “Going For Two” series and they said Kendrick Greene was the worst starting offensive lineman in the NFL last season and the Steelers should cut him from the team.

It’s not the statement wasn’t rooted in some sort of truth. Kendrick Greene struggled greatly with consistent play his rookie season, so much so the Steelers identified the position group as an area of need and went out and added to it in free agency. I don’t think many are going to argue with that statement. But why take a regular statement and take it so far to the next level it becomes completely false? Kendrick Green was not the worst starting offensive lineman in the NFL last season. Heck, he wasn’t even the worst starting center in the division (at least according to Pro Football Focus). So why is there a need for over-exaggeration?

Something you may be asking yourself is why I feel the need to bring up this topic at this time. It’s just something that has been in the back of my mind as Jeff Hartman and I will be bringing back the “30 scenarios in 30 days” article series at Behind The Steel Curtain beginning today. Sometimes I struggle with coming up with some of these ideas as I’m not looking to ruffle feathers (despite what you may think when you see my first scenario coming out on Tuesday), but giving an honest opinion of what I believe will happen this season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And the last thing I’m going to do is to offer a hot take without any support.

As we work through the series, there’s going to be times where we feel certain players may achieve certain goals during the season. And while it’s nice to offer the prediction of the scenario, the last thing we want to do is to throw out an unrealistic take just for the sensationalism of the topic. It’s one thing to think Najee Harris will rush for 1,400 yards this season, it’s another to make the statement that he will rush for more yards this season than anyone else in NFL history— past, present, or future.

So if you end up indulging in the series by Jeff and I about our various predictions, remember that the goal is for us to give something substantial yet grounded in reality. We are not looking for a ‘hot take’ headline. But we will offer our opinions, both positive and negative, on how things could play out for the Steelers in 2022. If we decided to take the hot take route, we could probably have our articles get a lot more traction for the time being. But instead of that being our goal, we ultimately want our readers to have a place where they can trust what they read when they take the time to look at the site. Hot takes fade away, but being a trusted place for information has staying power.

For me, this all comes down to integrity. I’ve tried very hard to be someone who gives grounded opinions and presents facts as best as I can. I would rather have 10 people coming to me for my opinions because they trust my words than I would to have 1,000 people checking it out just to see what kind of ridiculous, crazy stuff I’ll say next.

There was never any doubt Kenny Pickett was going to sign his rookie contract

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/27/2022 - 6:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Kenny Pickett finally signed his rookie contract. That’s a relief...not!

“What I want to know is why Pickett hasn't signed his rookie contract yet?”

That phrase, or at least a similar one, became more popular in recent weeks whenever a BTSC article about any Steelers quarterback was published.

Obviously, the concern was over Kenny Pickett, the Steelers' first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, remaining unsigned with training camp fast approaching. The concern was of course put to bed on Thursday when news broke that Pickett had finally inked his four-year rookie deal.

Hooray!!!!!! But, why, though? I never understood the angst in the first place. Rookie holdouts are mainly a thing of the past, and they have been ever since the 2011 CBA made them that way. In 2011, rookie contracts—regardless of the position or round— became slotted, meaning, the seventh player in the first round gets a specific amount that is less than the sixth player chosen but also a specific amount that is more than the eighth player selected. It’s the same way for the seventh player drafted in the seventh round, even if the dollars and cents are on a much lower scale.

The length and amount of a rookie deal cannot be negotiated. Here is a 2019 article from Andrew Brandt, an NFL insider and former VP of the Green Bay Packers, that talks about what can be negotiated in a rookie deal; if you didn’t feel like clicking on the link, I will just say that, well, not much can be negotiated, at least not much that would lead to many holdouts. For example, the timetable of a rookie’s signing bonus—when he gets paid—can be negotiated, but the actual amount, just like the base salary, is already slotted in.

Back in the old days, when the sky was the limit for NFL rookies, holdouts were more frequent, and the fears of fans were more understandable. Rookie deals were all about what the team was willing to work out with a player’s agent—regardless of position or when a player was drafted.

It was even worse when there was an AFL, USFL (the legit one) or even the short-lived WFL (World Football League). In fact, if such a league existed in 2022, the NFL would probably lose out on superstar college players at such an alarming rate that the owners would likely attempt to change the language of the CBA so they wouldn’t be limited by what they could give to rookie draft picks.

Unless or until the NFL faces stiff competition again in the form of a viable rival league, a young football prospect will simply have to bet big on himself and hope that he can become a valuable commodity once it’s time to negotiate that all-important second contract.

With that in mind, why would any NFL rookie—including a quarterback trying to do all that he can to establish himself—hold out of training camp or even into the regular season?

It just wouldn’t make any sense from a football and even a business standpoint.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 06/27/2022 - 4:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

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

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

We Run the North: Running the huddle the best through the years in the North

The AFC North has some fantastic quarterbacks right now and it has all the way back to the Central days. Who are the best to run the huddle in the North and where do Steelers QBs stack up? Join BTSC’s Kevin Tate for the latest AFC North news on his signature show, We Run The North.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • AFC North Updates
  • Q&A
  • Special Guest: Brandon Herriott
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Steelers Sunday Night Q&A: What to expect of the Steelers with 30 Days left until Camp

It’s another offseason Sunday in 2022 with no NFL football and no games scheduled. However, the Steelers drafting is complete. so is their minicamp for rookies, voluntary OTAs and mandatory minicamp. BTSC is continuing a question-and-answer free-for-all from you the loyal fans. This time, join BTSC’s Jeff Hartman and Kyle Chrise as they team up to take questions from the live chat for some good Steelers discussion.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
Let’s Ride: Can we expect T.J. Watt to continue to improve?

Join BTSC’s senior editor the morning flagship show in the Behind the Steel Curtain family of podcasts.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Monday Morning Conversation with Chris Carter of Locked on Steelers
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Have a BAD Week: A look back at the Steelers week from a black-and-gold mind

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/26/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

BTSC’s random-thought renegade is back with his bizarre look at the Steelers week that was.

The Steelers’ season ended over four months ago, but there’s plenty of news coming out of the Steel City. BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. So, let’s all take a look at the week in the ‘burgh together.

Monday 6/20

Chase Claypool says he’s a Top-3️⃣ WR in the league pic.twitter.com/W9WjFWIrRa

— PFF (@PFF) June 20, 2022

Why are some Steelers fans cracking on this guy for talking about his potential? It’s not as a delusional comment as one might think. Do you really want Chase Claypool to believe that he’s just average? Give him his third year before you start to label.

Rookies repping at the @Pirates game. #LetsGoBucs pic.twitter.com/ho1j7aP6xx

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 21, 2022

On a night that Oneil Cruz debuted, the Steelers rookies were in attendance at PNC Park. Some of them obviously don’t look thrilled. Maybe watching the Buccos is a form of punishment. But jokes on me, I’m paying for a ticket in August.

Tuesday 6/21

Pen to paper. ✍️ pic.twitter.com/aFU6k1idtf

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 21, 2022

Earlier in the day, the report came out that Larry Ogunjobi was visiting the Steelers to the delight of many. Hours later, the former Bengal and Brown was in the house. A one year deal for the DT is huge.

Wednesday 6/22

Terrible news: #Ravens LB Jaylon Ferguson has died at just 26 years old.

Statement from agent Safarrah Lawson:

“It’s with great sadness that we announce the passing of Baltimore Ravens LB Jaylon Ferguson. The family asks for your prayers and privacy during this trying time.”

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 22, 2022

The Goose,Tony Siracusa has passed away at 55.. I’m heart broken as is all of Colts Nation❤️

— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) June 22, 2022

Sad news as the Ravens lose a current player and a legendary alum from Pitt in the same day. Rivals aren’t rivals when lives are lost. RIP Jaylon Ferguson and Tony Siragusa.

If you listen to 90 minutes of Mike Tomlin on the Pivot podcast and still don’t appreciate the man, the teacher and the role model, you are digging deep to find reasons not to like him. He puts on an audio clinic.

Thursday 6/23

And the Pittsburgh Steelers now have signed their first-round pick Kenny Pickett, per source.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 23, 2022

Don’t know what he was waiting for, but the deal is done. Let’s get to work.

Steelers expecting DT Larry Ogunjobi to be ready for training camp after having Lisfranc surgery. Hey, they wouldn't have signed him if he couldn't pass their physical.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) June 23, 2022

After an 1-year deal worth up to $8 million with incentives, don’t you think that they were assured that Larry O. would be ready? After the Ladarius Green debacle years back, the Steelers do their homework.

Friday 6/24

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after signing Kenny Pickett https://t.co/lam0mPmP7s

— Dave Schofield (@STLRSuperFanDad) June 24, 2022

The salary cap still looks good. Anytime you have cap inquiries, the Stat Geek is the guy to go to.

Saturday 6/25

Marrying the love of my life today! pic.twitter.com/mMgqOyGGTl

— Alex Highsmith (@highsmith34) June 25, 2022

I love weddings. Congrats to the Highsmiths. My E-vite may have gone to my spam file, I guess.

This was the significant week that was for the Steelers, mixed-in with my black-and-gold loving life. I’m sure next week will be full of Steelers happenings as well, so we’ll have to do this again. Have a great week, but better yet have a BAD one.

Going For Two: Cameron & Connor Heyward

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/26/2022 - 1:00pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It’s Day 16 of Going For Two, featuring Cameron and Connor Heyward

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Cameron Heyward Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Position: Defensive Tackle
Age: 33
Year: 12
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 295
Drafted: Round 1, Pick 31, 2011
College: Ohio State
Roster Outlook: Lock
Analysis:

Even at 33 years old, Cam Heyward seems to be a player on the rise when it comes to the Steelers’ defense. After his first six seasons in the league, the last of which where he only appeared in seven games due to injury, Heyward has been on an absolute tear in the NFL with five-straight Pro Bowls and three First Team All-Pro selections. After reaching double digit sacks for the second time in his career, Heyward sees himself at the top of the NFL when it comes to interior defensive lineman and in a category above everyone except Aaron Donald. And as for this Steelers’ fan who sports Heyward‘s jersey during every game, I agree. The only question remains with Heyward for 2022 is the added support he will get from his position group in order to not be overused throughout the season.

Connor Heyward Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Tight end/Fullback
Age: 23
Year: 1
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 230
Drafted: Round 6, Pick 208, 2022
College: Michigan State
Roster Outlook: Likely
Analysis:

It’s difficult when it comes to predicting the roster outlook for sixth-round draft picks. For me, the fifth round is where things start to not be guaranteed when it comes to a roster spot as a rookie. But despite the draft status of Connor Heyward, it’s his position flexibility which will likely give him the best chance of making the Steelers roster. Whether it be tight end, fullback, or being used more as an H-back in the Steelers offense, Heyward brings unique characteristics based on his skill set. Add in a willingness to play special teams and the younger Heyward brother has the tools in his arsenal necessary to make the Steelers roster. All Connor has left to show is that he is capable of doing what is expected at the NFL level.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

The More You Know: Random facts about your Steelers, Homegrown edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/26/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Time to learn more about your favorite NFL team, and some trivia as well!

It’s the offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers and there are so many topics to talk and write about. Free agents, injuries, the next starting quarterback, the NFL Draft, signings, retirements and breaking news will all be covered here at BTSC. But who’s going to give you little-known-facts out of the 500 Level?

Luckily, your one-stop, and non-stop, shop for everything Steelers employs a Steelers fan that was allegedly dropped on his head as a one-year-old during the Immaculate Reception. Useless and somewhat fascinating facts are his forte. So, here we are with off-the-wall thoughts from the dark side of a black-and-gold brain that nobody asked for. But the joke’s on you as you’ll be telling your peeps something you read here later.

412 Forever

Toby Keith didn’t grow up anywhere near Pittsburgh, unless Oklahoma is near Sewickley and nobody told me. The legendary country music singer seems like a black-and-gold collar guy though. but he grew up in a Cowboys household. After witnessing the Immaculate Reception on television in 1972, Toby Keith Covel said he became a die-hard fan that day. Keith has gone to many Steelers games and even has seats from the old Three Rivers Stadium in his gym. The 60-year-old recently announced his undergoing of treatment for stomach cancer. Here’s hoping for a quick recovery and Toby being back in Heinz Field, twirling a Terrible Towel soon.

BTSC Steelers Jeopardy

(Answer at bottom of article)

Steel Facts

Najee Harris rushed for exactly 1,200 yards last season ranking him 30th on the team’s all-time ledger. With a season of 1,103 on the ground in 2022, No. 22 could vault all the way up to 17th place, right ahead of James Conner. Who are the rushers ahead of Harris? Let’s take a look.

Middle First Name Madness

We love citing middle names of members of the Men of Steel here at Behind the Steel Curtain, but real first names are fun to unveil as well. In the past, we have cited FeDerius Terrell Edmunds, Trent Jordan Watt and Brett Mason Rudolph, but who else? Hence, the “More You Know Given Name of the Week”. This week we feature the Steelers most-recent free agent signing.

Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images Olumide Larry Ogunjobi This Week’s Birthdays of Steel

6/27 Larry Krutko (1935)

6/28 Ray Lemek (1934)

6/29 Andre Frazier (1982), Ray Pinney (1954)

6/30 Bill Hegarty (1931), Randy Reutershan (1955)

7/1 Don Bishop (1934), Craig Hanneman (1949)

7/2 Kendrell Bell (1978), Matt Cushing 1975

7/3 Neil O’Donnell (1966)

Varsity Blues Black & Golds

Cam Sutton is entering his sixth season wearing the black and gold. Before that, the Steelers CB was a Tennesse Volunteer. In Knoxville. Can finished a four-year career as a starter at cornerback for the Vols as Tennessee’s all-time leader in passes defended with 37 (30 pass breakups, seven interceptions).

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Hypocycloids Gone Hollywood

I’m not going to lie to you. I have never seen the movie Krampus, nor do I ever plan on seeing the aforementioned abomination of a Christmas film. Here’s the deal, I really love Christmas and the movies that celebrate the holiday. But the idea of a horned demon that comes out during the holidays and terrorizes misbehaving children bothers me. However, seeing a kid wearing a team lid and the mom lamenting the Steelers losing that day definitely piqued me interest. Plus, anything with Dave Koechner and Adam Scott in it is probably worth the 115 minutes of my time.

Cliff Clavin Corner Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It’s a little known fact that Steelers Guard Kevin Dotson has a twin brother named Kenny. But he isn’t the only current twin on the Steelers. Khalil and Carlos Davis are also twins.

Steelers Jeopardy Answer in the Form of a Question: Who is Ned Flanders

This is news to me and apparently Kyle and Greg on BTSC’s What Yinz Talkin’ Bout. Check it out wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

So, there you have it. Anybody can spout out stat after stat, but not everybody can embrace the colorful and personal side of the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, the more you know, the more you can stupefy your friends, family and neighbors with your big, black-and-gold brain.

We’ll see you right here next week. Until then keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the hypocycloids.

A Letter From the Editor: What can we realistically expect from T.J. Watt in 2022?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/26/2022 - 9:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ dynamic defender keeps getting better, but what can we realistically expect from Watt this year?

The other day I was on the Steelers Preview podcast with Dave Schofield and Bryan Davis, and I asked them if they still find themselves having favorite players. Players they root for more than others. Both had a unique answer to the question, but Dave brought up a player no one mentioned when we talked about our favorite players on the 2022 roster.

Trent Jordan Watt.

T.J. Watt is a fan favorite, and it got me thinking about his overall production. When you look at the key defensive metrics, he has improved every season since he was drafted in 2017. His overall improvement has been so drastic at times, you have to now ask yourself if/when his production will level off and he’ll come back down to earth with other defenders in the NFL.

Just look at the insane numbers he put up last year, and I’m not just talking about sack totals:

2021
  • Games: 15
  • Pass Defenses: 7
  • Forced Fumbles: 5
  • Fumble Recoveries: 3
  • Sacks: 22.5
  • TFL: 21
  • QB Hits: 39

As I dug into the same metrics from his entire career, I noticed there were years where Watt actually had better years in some statistical categories. Some might argue 2020 was his better season, even though he didn’t have the sack totals of 2021 and wasn’t the league’s defensive player of the year winner. Take a look at those numbers:

2020
  • Games: 15
  • Pass Defenses: 7
  • Forced Fumbles: 2
  • Fumble Recoveries: 0
  • Sacks: 15
  • TFL: 23
  • QB Hits: 41

Looking at the 2017-2019 seasons you see Watt slowly improve his overall production. There are times when I have to remind myself Watt, as a rookie, was the player who pushed James Harrison to the bench, and eventually out of the organization. It was no fluke, the Steelers saw something special in Watt and his play has continued to transcend the previous season since 2017.

2019
  • Games: 16
  • Pass Defenses: 8
  • Forced Fumbles: 8
  • Fumble Recoveries: 4
  • Sacks: 14.5
  • TFL: 14
  • QB Hits: 36
2018
  • Games: 16
  • Pass Defenses: 3
  • Forced Fumbles: 6
  • Fumble Recoveries: 3
  • Sacks: 13
  • TFL: 12
  • QB Hits: 21
2017 (Rookie)
  • Games: 15
  • Pass Defenses: 7
  • Forced Fumbles: 1
  • Fumble Recoveries: 0
  • Sacks: 7
  • TFL: 10
  • QB Hits: 13

Looking at all these numbers, you can’t expect Watt to continue the ascension with key categories, like sacks. In fact, I took a look at players who have had 20+ sacks in a season since 2000. Then I looked at how they did the following season.

Here’s what I found:

2001: Michael Strahan — 22.5 sacks
2002: Michael Strahan — 11 sacks in 16 games

2008: Demarcus Ware — 20 sacks
2009: Demarcus Ware — 11 sacks in 16 games

2011: Jared Allen — 22 sacks
2012: Jared Allen — 12 sacks in 16 games

2012: J.J. Watt — 20.5 sacks
2013: J.J. Watt — 10.5 in 16 games

2014: J.J. Watt — 20 sacks
2015: J.J. Watt — 17.5 in 16 games

2014: Justin Houston — 22 sacks
2015: Justin Houston — 7.5 in 11 games

2018: Aaron Donald — 20.5 sacks
2019: Aaron Donald — 12.5 in 16 games

These statistics are pretty eye-opening, in my opinion, and while it doesn’t mean T.J. Watt will take a huge step backwards, these pass rusher sure did the following year. Only T.J.’s brother J.J. was able to put together a solid season the next year of 15+ sacks in 2015.

This brings me back to the topic at hand. What are the realistic expectations for T.J. Watt in 2022? While it is likely his sack production will dip, will other categories continue to increase?

In my opinion, if Watt’s sack numbers dip, but someone like Alex Highsmith’s increase it is a win-win for the defense. On top of that, if Watt’s stat line in 2022 looks like this, I would feel his season isn’t a step backwards, but him becoming an even more dominant player.

2022
  • Games: 17
  • Pass Defenses: 9 (+2 from 2021)
  • Forced Fumbles: 9 (+4 from 2021 and a career high)
  • Fumble Recoveries: 5 (+2 from 2021 and a career high)
  • Sacks: 17.5 (-5 from 2021)
  • TFL: 25 (+4 from 2021 and a career high)
  • QB Hits: 42 (+3 from 2021 and a career high)

The more digging I did, the more I felt Watt’s sack numbers could dip a bit, but he could continue to dominate in other ways. A lot will depend how he gels with the players playing next to him on the defensive line, as well as how new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin deploys the pass rush with the facilitation of Brian Flores as well.

Could Watt set a new sack record for the NFL in 2022? I’ve watched every snap the man has taken in the NFL, and I know better than to count him out. However, I also realize history doesn’t bode well for Watt achieving this feat. But have no fear Steelers fans, as long as Watt is healthy he will remain a force to be reckoned with, even if his sack numbers come back down to earth a bit.

(Note: The Letter From the Editor feature runs every Sunday morning during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)

Hearing for Deshaun Watson set for Tuesday, open-ended suspension an option

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/26/2022 - 7:30am
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns could find out the fate of their franchise quarterback as early as next week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, and the rest of the AFC North, are watching the proceedings from the NFL and Deshaun Watson closely. Coming off the news of 20 of the 24 civil cases filed against Watson have been settled, some thought this would mean a shortened sentence for the former Houston Texans quarterback.

But not so fast.

It was reported Saturday the NFL is going to begin their disciplinary hearing for Watson this upcoming Tuesday, and the league wants to protect itself with the ruling of Watson. An earlier report suggested a year-long suspension was in the works, but now it sounds as if the league wants to leave the suspension open-ended, an indefinite suspension.

The league is pushing for an indefinite suspension that would last no shorter than one year for Deshaun Watson, per @andrewlbeaton pic.twitter.com/WTDSHY2Aoq

— PFF (@PFF) June 25, 2022

What would be the purpose behind such a suspension? Simple. By doing an indefinite suspension of at least a year, the league will be able to keep Watson suspended in case other cases are filed against Watson at some point.

This per ProFootballTalk:

The league wants to keep the suspension open-ended in the event that other cases are filed against Watson in the coming weeks and months.

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) June 25, 2022

Some are suggesting the Browns knew what they were getting into, and entered the contract negotiations almost expecting a suspension for Watson at some point. However, if that were the case, they clearly didn’t foresee a suspension which could last upwards of a year, possibly more.

When you think of what the Browns gave up to get Watson, it really is astonishing.

Also, the longer the suspension for Watson, the worse this is for the Browns because they traded away their 2023 first- and second-round picks, and 2024 first- and fourth-round picks, thinking those would be low picks because Watson would make them winners. That may not happen.

— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) June 25, 2022

There will be plenty more on this story in the coming days, and we’ll try to keep you up to date on everything related to the AFC North rival’s situation with their new quarterback. In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for training camp at the end of July.

If he played today, would you want the Steelers to give Yancey Thigpen a big contract?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/26/2022 - 6:30am
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

How would Steelers fans view the value of the 21st version of Yancey Thigpen? Would they want the Steelers to let him walk in free agency, or would they consider him to be just as valuable as Hines Ward and Antonio Brown?

I don’t know if you remember the 1990s, or were even alive to experience them, but the Steelers just didn’t keep their own free-agent superstars back then.

That’s right, even though free agency was in its infancy during the ‘90s, many NFL owners quickly learned that spending, and spending a lot, was a good way to win the spring. To reiterate, the Steelers weren’t one of those teams. They were like the dad who refuses to buy name-brand cereal—“You’ll eat these Fruit Hoops, or you’ll starve.”

One Steelers superstar after another departed during the mid-to-late-90s, which eventually turned Bill Cowher’s roster from a contender into a pretender by 1998.

One of the last dominos to fall was receiver Yancey Thigpen, who inked a five-year, $21 million contract with the then Tennessee Oilers in the spring of 1998; according to Thigpen’s Wikipedia Page, this was the richest contract ever offered to any receiver in the history of the NFL up to that point.

A little backstory on Thigpen: He was a fourth-round pick by the San Diego Chargers in the 1991 NFL Draft. After spending one season with San Diego, the Winston-Salem State product became a Steeler in 1992. Thigpen was a backup and special teams player during his first two seasons in Pittsburgh, catching a combined 10 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Thigpen began to make a name for himself in 1994, however, as he started six games at receiver and tallied 36 passes for 546 yards and four touchdowns. Thigpen also produced in the playoffs that season. You might remember Thigpen as the guy who pulled out a Terrible Towel and started twirling it in the end zone following a touchdown reception in a victory over the old Browns in a divisional-round matchup at Three Rivers Stadium. Thigpen became a full-time starter and a star in 1995, as he posted 85 receptions--a new single-season Steelers record (John Stallworth, 1984)--for 1,307 yards and five touchdowns. It was Thigpen who caught the critical touchdown near the end of the first half of Super Bowl XXX while being covered (and interfered with) by Neon Deion Sanders. An injury limited Thigpen to just six games and 12 receptions in 1996, but he was back to his old number-one receiver self a year later, catching 79 passes for a team-record 1,398 yards (John Stallworth, 1984) and seven touchdowns. Thigpen was perhaps the most vital skill-position player for a Steelers’ squad that made it all the way to the AFC title game that year. Thigpen was voted to his second Pro Bowl in three seasons in ‘97 and was also named a Second-team All-Pro for the second time since ‘95.

But the writing was on the wall. Everyone knew Thigpen was out the door as soon as the NFL’s new calendar year began in March. The Steelers were content with entering the 1998 season with their receiving corps version of Fruit Hoops—players named Charles Johnson, Courtney Hawkins, Jahine Arnold, Will Blackwell, David Dunn and an unknown rookie, Hines Ward, would try to fill the massive void left behind when Thigpen signed his deal with Tennessee.

The 2000s seemed to bring about a shift in philosophy for the Steelers as it pertained to retaining their own stars. Maybe it was the move to Heinz Field. Maybe it was the presence of Ben Roethlisberger. Maybe it was the second Super Bowl era, but it became the norm for the franchise to find creative ways to sign homegrown high-profile players to lucrative deals.

Except for receivers...other than Ward and Antonio Brown.

In fairness, Ward and Brown were special talents and consistently out-performed every other receiver on the roster during their prime years with the Steelers. They are arguably the two greatest receivers in the history of the team.

But Thigpen appeared to be on his way to becoming an all-time Steelers great, himself.

Unfortunately for Thigpen, injuries would continue to derail his football career in Tennessee, and he appeared in just 19 games over three seasons and caught a combined 91 passes for 1,430 yards and nine touchdowns.

Nobody could have predicted that—even if Thigpen did miss a lot of time in ‘96—but that’s the danger of throwing a bunch of money at free agents—you just never know.

It’s a whole new world today, with social media and the media and fans constantly weighing in and sharing their opinions and concerns about everything.

Given how productive Thigpen was during his time in Pittsburgh, and given how social media has amplified the cries by the fan base to retain certain players, would you demand that the Steelers sign Thigpen to a lucrative and likely market-shaping deal if he had a similar career in the modern era? (You’d have to account for statistical inflation based on this era, of course.)

Would you put Thigpen on the same level as a Ward or Brown, or would you view him on the level of a JuJu Smith-Schuster or Diontae Johnson?

Yes, Thigpen was taken down by injuries, but, to repeat, that couldn’t have been predicted after the ‘97 campaign. The numbers that Thigpen put up during his Pro Bowl days in Pittsburgh essentially made him the most prolific receiver in franchise history up to that point.

Would you want the organization to break the bank for the 21st Century version of Thigpen, or would you be content with them letting him walk since the Steelers now have a reputation for drafting and developing good-to-great receivers?

It’s an interesting question.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 06/26/2022 - 5:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

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

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

Steelers Touchdown Under: Which Steelers are starting to look like odd men out?

The offseason rolls on, with training camp around the corner, and Steelers fans can feel excited about the 2022 season. With yet another key acquisition, the team is starting to really take shape, which begs the question - who is starting to become the odd man out? And at which positions? How shaky is their spot on the roster? Can they make the final cut?These are just some of the many questions that Matty Peverell and Mark Davison will address On Pittsburgh Steelers Touchdown Under. Matty P. and Marky P. bring a global perspective to how the Steelers can achieve success in 2022 and beyond, as they chase a seventh Lombardi.

Rundown:

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Odd men out

Listen to the show below:

Tune into the latest episode of Touchdown Under, the Australian sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts.

The Steelers Power Half Hour: Is Larry Ogunjobi a good fit for the Steelers defense?

Welcome to the Steelers Power Half Hour. Chris Pugh, Joe Frost and Paul Yanchek discuss the addition of Larry Ogunjobi to the Steelers defense.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Saturday Night Open Thread: Summer Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/25/2022 - 6:00pm
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Time for another meeting of the black and gold minds!!

As you may have noticed, I changed my icon. We have a new puppy, that’s Henry, he’s Standard Poodle on his dad’s side, papers and all. His mom is an English Cream Golden (which sounds like a beer) Retriever. Turns out I was 10 the last time I lived in a house with a puppy, there’s lots of learning going on, and he’s not a fast learner. Currently he’s getting along on his looks. Actually don’t ever tell him I said so, but he appears to be pretty bright.

  1. Without an injury to a QB in camp, will Mason Rudolph make the Steelers final 53?

2. As we all know the greatest Christmas and action film of all time is Die Hard. What’s your favorite action film? After Die Hard of course.

3. I’m a big WW2 book buff. I’m currently reading through the Pacific theater as chronologically as is affordable. What types of books do you gravitate towards?

4. It’s a bit too soon for Henry to replace the best pet ever I’ve had, but he’s growing on me. Both literally and figuratively. Give us your best pet’s name, breed, and story if you have one?

5. My brother-in-law was saying their dad used to make them peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, that they had to eat. Two parter: A). Best way to make a peanut butter & “ “ sandwich? B). Worst you’ve heard people say they eat?

Extra Credit: I was in Denver for business and my colleague ordered a Rubin, but they didn’t have rye bread. Can you call it a Rubin without rye?

Going For Two: Pressley Harvin III & J.C. Hassenauer

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 06/25/2022 - 2:00pm
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

It’s Day 15 of Going For Two, featuring Pressley Harvin III and J.C. Hassenauer

Welcome to Going For Two! Over the 45 days leading up to the Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 training camp, we will be highlighting two players every day in order to cover the entire 90-man offseason roster. So without further ado, here are today’s two players:

Pressley Harvin III Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Position: Punter
Age: 23
Year: 2
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 255
Drafted: Round 7, Pick 254, 2021
College: Georgia Tech
Roster Outlook: Near lock
Analysis:

Based on his 2021 performance, Pressley Harvin is not locked into the Steelers’ starting punting job despite being a draft pick last season. But even though he must win the job, it doesn’t mean he isn’t in a scenario where he has a major leg up on the competition. Averaging 42.6 yards per punt last year, Harvin is ranked 27th according to Pro Football Focus based on last year‘s performance. But what drives Harvin‘s average down more than anything is the occasional short kicks with plenty of field to work with. After missing two weeks due to the death of his father and an illness, Harvin returned to the Steelers and averaged 49.7 yards per punt on seven kicks in the Steelers Wild Card loss to the Chiefs. If Harvin can keep an average more in this range, his job would be nearly 100% secure.

J.C. Hasenauer Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Center
Age: 26
Year: 3
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 295
Drafted: UDFA, 2018 (Atlanta Falcons)
College: Alabama
Roster Outlook: Probably
Analysis:

Holding a spot on the Steelers roster the last two seasons, J.C. Hassenauer looks to be one of the reserve players who still has to show his worth in order to make the 53-man roster. Being able to fill in any position on the interior is definitely to his advantage, and a much improved 2021 season when called upon should have Hassenauer in line to make the team. Even with the addition of James Daniels and Mason Cole, the Steelers also lost Trai Turner and B.J. Finney so the numbers are there for Hassenauer to grab a spot. But there are also other players looking to make their name with the Steelers and find their way onto an NFL roster. As long as Hassenauer is up to the challenge of competition and shows he is worthy, the roster spot should be his to lose.

Be sure to check back everyday for another two players for the Steelers, and as we go along click back on previous articles listed below so you don’t miss a thing.

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