You are here

Links

Black and Gold Links: Per Art Rooney II, things are “so far so good” for Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/08/2020 - 5:33am
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 early indications, per Art Rooney II, show Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow injury is healing nicely.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Ben Roethlisberger is a big part of the Steelers’ overall plans for the next two seasons, and it was good to hear Art Rooney II tell fans the team is pleased with Roethlisberger’s rehab so far.

Steelers’ Art Rooney II on Ben Roethlisberger’s progress: ‘So far, so good’

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Art Rooney II is optimistic about a healthy Ben Roethlisberger returning to form in 2020, and he is hoping the Pittsburgh Steelers will complement their franchise quarterback with a strong running game next season.

The Steelers president addressed Roethlisberger, the running game and other topics during a 20-minute conference call Wednesday with fans.

Roethlisberger, who will turn 38 in March, was limited to six quarters because of an elbow injury that required season-ending surgery. He is scheduled for a medical exam in February that will determine when he can begin a throwing regimen.

“So far, so good as far as Ben’s progress,” Rooney II said. “He’s still early in his rehab situation, but all reports we’re getting have been positive. We’re really looking for him to improve as we work into the spring here.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Let’s be honest, there were more excuses than apologies...

Antonio Brown apologizes to Steelers, while making excuses in rare Pittsburgh radio interview

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In an interview that was as inconsistent and wandering as his behavior for the past 14 months, Antonio Brown made his first live radio appearance in Pittsburgh since his football career came off the rails.

Brown appeared on “The Fan Morning Show” on 93.7 FM Thursday morning. In a 22-minute conversation, Brown alternated between a guy who sounded like he was trying to turn over a new leaf and one who was denying responsibility for his actions, carrying grudges, and lashing out at those who he felt disrespected him.

At times in the interview, the former Steelers All-Pro admitted that he needs to handle situations better, needs to be more positive, apologized to Ben Roethlisberger, Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers, and said he “missed the ’Burgh.”

He also embraced the idea of strengthening mental health access and mentioned positive conversations with his therapist.

Then, at other times, the out-of-work wide receiver lashed out at JuJu Smith-Schuster for posting an image of himself scoring against the Raiders shortly after Brown was traded to Oakland.

He bashed Hines Ward for failing to mentor him his rookie season.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick is ready to be an even more versatile piece to the Steelers’ defense in 2020.

Minkah Fitzpatrick wants to be “moving piece on the chessboard” in 2020

By: Josh Alper, ProFootballTalk

Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s production soared after being traded from the Dolphins to the Steelers last season and one of the reasons cited for that change was the way that he was used in the Pittsburgh defense.

After moving around the secondary throughout his time in Miami, Fitzpatrick was being used solely as a free safety by the Steelers and he turned in five interceptions in his first seven games with the team. That seemed to suit him well as Fitzpatrick was vocal about his dislike for his role in Miami.

Fitzpatrick’s impact was less pronounced over the back half of his time in Pittsburgh and he thinks part of the reason was that quarterbacks were able to avoid him because they knew where he’d be on the field. As a result, he’d like to reincorporate some of the movement that was taken off the table last year.

“I don’t want to see that drop-off,” Fitzpatrick said, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com. “You know what I’m saying? I wanted to continue to have that impact on my team and have that impact on games. Because it’s no fun when you’re in a critical moment and you can’t do nothing about it. When you move around and you’re a moving piece on the chessboard, it’s hard to defend and you can’t just say, ‘All right, the quarterback is going to look at me and say he’s going to be in this spot every snap,’ like I was last year. It’s going to be harder and it’s going to be more difficult to take me out of the game.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

“They understood the game, they loved the game, they respect the game, and they had a passion for the game.”@wyche89 talks with future @ProfootballHOF inductees Bill Cowher, @tpolamalu and @SteveAtwater27 pic.twitter.com/esdI73z7rP

— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 7, 2020

photos from 2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣9️⃣

: https://t.co/I7ORXNLvQL pic.twitter.com/4SsvWqsYig

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 6, 2020

⬇️

Best of @Nelson_Island: https://t.co/WZPlIlO4lv pic.twitter.com/tik1KeAdqK

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 7, 2020

The complete XFL schedule for Week 1 this weekend

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 02/08/2020 - 4:28am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

All four XFL games are available on national television Saturday and Sunday

The NFL season has come to a close with the Kansas City Chiefs defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. But a mere six days later, football continues for those interested in seeing more players who are hoping to find their way in the NFL. The XFL kicks off at 2 PM this Saturday with a slate of four games on Saturday and Sunday. The season will continue for 10 weeks before a four-team playoff and a championship game on April 26th, 2020, the day following the NFL draft.

While some may look at this nearly as “second-rate” football, others may enjoy something to help get through the long NFL off-season. There are several XFL players with previous ties to the Steelers who will be taking the field this weekend. If nothing else, tuning in Sunday at 5 PM just to hear Pat McAfee as an analyst could be worthwhile more than any of the on-field action.

Here is a complete list of the four XFL games throughout the weekend and where they can be viewed:

WEEK 1 SAT, FEB 8

2:00PM ET on ABC

SEATTLE DRAGONS at DC DEFENDERS
Announcers: Steve Levy, Greg McElroy, and Tom Luginbill. Dianna Russini will be the sideline reporter.

5:00PM ET on FOX

LOS ANGELES WILDCATS at HOUSTON ROUGHNECKS
Announcers: Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt

SUN, FEB 9

2:00PM ET on FOX

TAMPA BAY VIPERS at NEW YORK GUARDIANS
Announcers: Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen

5:00PM ET on ESPN

ST LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS at DALLAS RENEGADES
Announcers: Tom Hart, Joey Galloway, and Pat McAfee

Friday Night Steelers Six Pack of questions: Offseason, Vol. 6

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 5:43pm
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty to talk about regarding all things black-and-gold!

Several people have asked if we could bring back the Friday Night Open Thread. I had moved the event to Saturday morning, but after minimal success, I decided to bring it back to Friday night — with a slight twist.

I liked the Saturday Six-Pack theme, so I decided to just take the six questions and move them to Friday night. Say hello to Friday Night Six-Pack of Steelers Questions and open thread!

The rules haven’t changed...

Quick rundown of the ground rules.

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

That’s it! With that out of the way, it’s time to get this party started. Hey, don’t act like you’ve never done a little Friday night drinking. Here goes:

1. Right out of the gate, what are your thoughts on the Antonio Brown comments/interview done Thursday??

2. On our Steelers Preview podcast, you can hear it below, we debated a lot of topics, but I wanted to include this one into the Six-Pack: Which is your NFL Draft preference? Best Player Available, or Best By Position?

3. Look into your crystal ball and tell everyone how who is the quarterback of the team in 2022...

4. The XFL starts Saturday. Will you tune in out of curiosity?

5. Name one QB who will be a free agent, WHO THE STEELERS COULD AFFORD, to come in an add experience and depth at the position.

6. Of the three members of the Steelers, who will be the last man standing?

Mike Tomlin
Ben Roethlisberger
Kevin Colbert

No matter what, always remember...

HERE WE GO STEELERS!

PODCASTS

Troy Polamalu explains what, and why, he did vs. the Colts to crush Pat McAfee’s dreams

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 2:15pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Troy Polamalu crushed Pat McAfee’s dreams, and he finally explains why he did what he did.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are celebrating Troy Polamalu as he prepares to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer as a member of the Hall of Fame class in 2020. There are other former, and current, players who are also celebrating Polamalu being inducted on the first ballot.

One player who has always had an issue with Polamalu for crushing his dreams is none other than former Indianapolis Colts punter, Pat McAfee. In case you have never heard the story about McAfee’s dreams being dashed by Polamalu, take a listen below:

Troy Polamalu got in the HOF & all i can think about is the time he ruined Pat McAfee’s TD pic.twitter.com/5R6X9qVdiI

— God told me to tell yall... (@_adrxante) February 2, 2020

That story was told years ago when McAfee stepped away from the NFL and began his work as an on air talent. However, on Friday McAfee finally got to know why, and how, Polamalu did what he did and crushed his dreams that day.

While having Polamalu’s teammate Ike Taylor on the Pat McAfee show, McAfee heard Polamalu himself explain what happened, and what he did, to crush his dreams.

Check it out below:

Chatting with @Ike_SwagginU and this is the very first time I've seen or heard Hall of Famer @tpolamalu's explanation for ruining my hopes and dreams #Steelers #PatMcAfeeShowLIVE pic.twitter.com/5HlrfWUEK8

— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) February 7, 2020

This has been a story I have always been amused by, and I know I’m not alone in this regard. Hearing Polamalu not only respond to McAfee’s story, but remember what he was thinking during that time was absolutely hilarious and put a nice ending to a hilarious story.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they continue throughout this long offseason.

See where Steelers players fell on PFF’s Top 101 players of 2019 list

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 12:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been well represented so far on Pro Football Focus’ Top 101 list. But some names should be a lot higher.

It is that time of year again. The Super Bowl is now behind us, and the lengthy NFL offseason is officially upon us. How do we all kill the time? We take in as much content as we can, and with the new league year not starting until March, the month of February might as well be called “List Month” considering many outlets start providing their best player lists from the previous year.

The folks at Pro Football Focus have started their Top 101 players of 2019 list, and while the complete have finally been released, the Pittsburgh Steelers were well represented throughout.

When I saw some of the Steelers who made the list, and their rankings, I was surprised. To be honest, with some I was downright shocked, but I had to remind myself how difficult it has to be to rank all players and positions in just 101 spots. Not an easy task, but that doesn’t mean we can’t gripe about our favorite players deserving to be higher!

Check out who has made the list so far, and where they rank:

94. S MINKAH FITZPATRICK, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

If we were looking only at the Minkah Fitzpatrick who played in Pittsburgh, he would likely be higher on this list, but PFF grades every play of the season, and Miami Minkah was a thing that happened, albeit just for a couple of weeks. In Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick showed that he could be a far bigger playmaker than the Dolphins ever coaxed from him, and he made several game-changing plays for them in his new home. Inconsistency remained his biggest issue, but there is no doubting the big-time playmaking ability he has.

86. CB STEVEN NELSON, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

One of the more underrated players in all of football, Steven Nelson had an excellent season for the Pittsburgh Steelers after being “just another member” of a Chiefs defense that was disappointing in 2018. Nelson allowed just 51.5% of passes thrown his way this season to be caught and allowed only one touchdown across the 66 passes thrown into his coverage. Nelson’s run defense was also solid, and he demonstrated that, while on a better unit, he was capable of much better play than he was being given credit for while playing in Kansas City.

68. DI JAVON HARGRAVE, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

An injury to Stephon Tuitt opened the door for nose tackle Javon Hargrave to prove he could be more than just a run-stuffing body on the defensive line in a contract year, and he did exactly that over the season. Hargrave played 225 snaps more than his previous career-high, and he responded by notching more total pressures (49) than his previous two seasons combined (41). He maintained his impressive work against the run but showed that he can be a legitimate force as a pass-rusher and more than just a rotational body, earning the best overall PFF grade of his career in the process (83.4).

10. DI CAMERON HEYWARD, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Every season there is a battle to earn the position of the best interior defender in the league not named Aaron Donald. This season, Cameron Heyward raised his hand, and his game, to take that honor. With teammate Stephon Tuitt getting injured, Heyward needed to up his game and did exactly that, registering 59 total pressures and 44 defensive stops. The latter figure was a career-best, seven more than his previous high, while his 59 pressures were good enough to earn a PFF pass-rushing grade of 84.0. His overall PFF grade of 91.5 was the best mark of his career and the second-best mark among interior defenders in 2019.

6. EDGE T.J. WATT, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

T.J. Watt had been an impressive pass-rusher for a while, but this was the year he took that step towards being an elite, game-changing force, and he firmly stepped outside the shadow cast by his brother. The younger Watt finished the season with 81 total pressures, a massive eight forced fumbles and even two interceptions, as he elevated his game from simply generating pressure to finishing impact plays and changing the game with turnovers. His 91.3 overall PFF grade was the highest among all edge rushers, and his pass-rushing grade of 91.7 also led the league at his position.

Curious who rounded out the Top 10?

Here you go:

1. George Kittle, 49ers
2. Aaron Donald. Rams
3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
5. Brandon Brooks, Eagles
6. T.J. Watt, Steelers
7. Lamar Jackson, Ravens
8. Michael Thomas, Saints
9. Ryan Ramczyk, Saints
10. Cam Heyward, Steelres

The fact PFF had Minkah Fitzpatrick ranked 94th almost immediately makes their entire list invalid, but it is their list, not mine. What do you think of the list as a whole?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold throughout the offseason.

Report: Both players and owners would like a new CBA in place for the 2020 league year

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 11:04am
Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL player representatives met Thursday to discuss various issues for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement

Player representatives for all 32 NFL teams met to discuss upcoming negotiations with the owners for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, there were several key areas to report from the meeting.

2. Still some hard-line player reps who oppose 17 games under any circumstances, but plan is to engage in further discussion with owners, express specific concerns about 17 and see what if any adjustments could be made to make it more palatable for players.

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) February 7, 2020

4. Current proposal does not automatically expand the season from 16 to 17 but gives league the OPTION to do so at some point between '21 and '23. Might help players to have an exact trigger date so they can prepare for it, negotiate contracts accordingly, etc.

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) February 7, 2020

6. Both sides would like to get the new deal in place in time for the start of the 2020 league year. The new 10-year deal would replace the final year of the current deal and would run from now through 2029, IF it’s approved in time for the March 18 start of the 2020 league year.

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) February 7, 2020

With players percentage of the revenue going up and a potential to go even higher depending on the new TV deal, it appears to be the biggest issue between the players and owners is a proposed 17-game schedule. As Graziano reported, there are some players who are not willing to except playing an extra game under any circumstances. But what ultimately may come down to this issue for the new CBA is the owners outlining a more precise plan.

Based on this report, it seems the players and owners are not nearly as far apart as they were during the lockout of 2011. While it is positive to see a report coming from yesterday‘s meetings with player reps, the heart and soul of a new CBA will come when the NFLPA and owners meet together. With both sides having a desire to get a new deal in place before the new league year starts on March 18, 2020, a report of the sides meeting as early as next week is definitely a step in the right direction.

Now that both sides are aware of what the other is looking for, realistic negotiations are ready to take place. With the owners knowing they will have to give a little in some way to expand the NFL season by a game, it will be interesting to see what they offer as a concession. Will they push out the date of implementation in order for players to better prepare? Will they offer something else in return for the players to agree to the deal? With many other issues seeming to fall lower on the spectrum of importance, what the players gain in return for the 17th game will most likely decide if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be reached before the new league year.

As for the Steelers, it is no secret that a new CBA for 2020 would help them conduct business as the “30% rule” for contracts this year would be eliminated. With the team able to do more restructures, there would be a greater chance of retaining players and would help to give other veterans going into the last year their contract, such as Cameron Heyward, a contract extension.

While the players and owners would both like a new deal for the 2020 league year, how much are they each willing to compromise to get a new agreement in place? Since their backs are not up against the wall with another year remaining on the current CBA, the level of compromise will ultimately determine if a deal can be reached or if one side will dig their heels in and go at it again next year.

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

Art Rooney II shares his experience during the Immaculate Reception

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 9:33am

In a Q&A with Steelers Nation Unite members on Wednesday, the Steelers’ team president reminisced about the greatest player in NFL history

In a fan forum call on Wednesday, Steelers Team President Art Rooney II took questions from members of Steelers Nation Unite. One of the early questions Rooney discussed was the immaculate reception being voted as the top play in NFL history.

To close out the call, Rooney was asked about his experience during the immaculate reception and where he was when it occurred.

“It’s a pretty great memory for sure,” Rooney answered. “That was actually the last season that I worked on the field and so I was actually on the field for that game. The play kind of happened right in front of me, which was amazing. Maybe the most amazing, crazy thing about it was it was, you may know, the fans rushed the field after the play and the game wasn’t even over yet. But the fans just stormed the field.

“One of our ex-players who played for us and in the 60s came running over to me- came running out of the stands-he saw me and came running over to me. He had me in a bear hug jumping up and down and I almost passed out. So I survived the play and the celebration. Obviously, a moment I’ll never forget and anybody who is there that day will never forget it. It’s just a great, great moment in Steelers’ history. As I said before, I’m glad to see that it’s still being voted as the number one moment in NFL history.”

For many users at BTSC, we were not even alive on December 23, 1972. For those of us who weren’t, or those were too young to remember, the iconic play is embraced by all Steelers’ fans. For those BTSC users who were alive and remember where you were during the play, please share your stories in the comments below!

Rebuilding the Steelers offense through the draft in just three years

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 7:47am
Thad Moss could be the first in a run of draft picks to usher in a new era | Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The next 3 years will be crucial in making a seamless transition from Ben Roethlisberger to whoever’s next in line.

For the first time since about 2011, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offseason priority will be to add an influx of talent to the offensive side of the football. For nearly a decade the organization chased defensive talent capable of allowing its high powered offense a shot at a championship, but unfortunately it took until 2019 to build a defense that is championship caliber.

With the offense on the decline, the team will need to hit on a few draft picks to continue its run of success that has seen only 1 losing season since the turn of the century.

Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Claypool 83, is a big bodied WR that could be just what the receiving core is missing 2020 Draft - Fill the cupboards

Starting things off, Pittsburgh should be making offensive selections with each of its first 4 picks. In all likelihood the majority of the defense should return next season so the team should not hesitate to spend most of their draft assets on ‘O’.

With the second round pick the Steelers should be targeting their biggest weakness, tight-end. Either Thad Moss or Hunter Bryant come to mind as players that should be on the board. In the third round the projected compensatory selection should be used to add to the receiving core with a player like Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool, who's as good a blocker as he is a receiver. And finally the two fourth round selections should see another O-Lineman (Jonah Jackson, Ohio State) and Running back (Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU) being brought in.

2021 Draft - Draft to develop Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images Ehlinger 11, The Texas pivot could be the next QB target of the Pittsburgh Steelers

2021 is the final year of Ben Roethlisberger's contract and presumably the last of his career. This is the season the team will finally draft an offensive player in the first round of the draft since 2012 and it should be for Big Ben’s heir apparent.

While I have a hard time imaging this defense and Big Ben playing so poorly next season that they land in a position to draft either Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields (trading up is the right choice but likely would never happen) I can see them target one of the school returnee QBs who's draft stock should rise; either Texas’ Sam Ehlinger or Iowa State’s Brock Purdy. Both players are unpolished but another year in college and a year under the tutelage of a HOF QB should do either of them well.

Another player who has contemplated retirement without Big Ben on the roster is Maurkice Pouncey. With this knowledge the team should target a center in the second round that they can mold (or play at guard) in anticipation of Pouncey's retirement the following season. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey could be that player.

2022 Draft - Protect the QB Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images Protecting whoever the next QB will be crucial to any player getting comfortable on the field

Finally, 2022 should be the start of a new era for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A new QB at the helm, Sam Ehlinger in this experiment. The Steelers would be wise to protect the next gunslinger at all costs. The team should be spending its first round pick on a left tackle. Alejandro Villanueva will be 34 in 2022 and his deal will end a season prior. Regardless of Big Al still being on the roster by this time the Steelers should be looking to bolster its O-Line with another high draft pick. The draft is too far away to target one name but this position will be at the top of the Steelers board.

What does the 2022 offense look like:

*Caps denotes hypothetical raft addition

Quarterback:

Running Back:

Wide Receivers:

Tight-End

Starting O-Line

While it is very unlikely that every pick is a hit, this is the kind of future plan the Steelers should be developing. The names above symbolize how soon the team is from seeing a big shift away from some long term players and the pressure to develop new young offensive talent.

What do you think, is this the plan the Pittsburgh Steelers should follow to quickly pair a high powered defense with brand new offensive players? Could this plan continue the streak of winning seasons for years to come or are we destined for a drop off? Hit up the comment section below to let us know your thoughts!

Several former Steelers set to debut in the XFL this weekend

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 6:50am

If you are tunning in to the kick-off weekend of the XFL, you may hear some familiar names with ties to the Steelers

With the NFL season coming to a close, football fans will have another chance to watch a new professional league starting up the weekend following the Super Bowl. Making a return almost 20 years later when an attempt was made to start the league in 2001, the XFL is hoping to learn from the mistakes of last year‘s failed AAF. With eight teams in the league, the regular season will last 10 weeks before the top four teams move on to the playoffs.

If you’re planning to tune in to the debut games on Saturday and Sunday, there are several players across the league who have ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, each team has at least one player who either was on the Steelers roster at some point in their career or spent the 2019 off-season with the Steelers.

Here is a rundown of the players whose names may sound familiar due to their time in Pittsburgh:

Dallas Renegades

QB Landry Jones
OLB Tegray Scales

Obviously Landry Jones is the most notable name in the XFL from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jones spent five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers as either the back-up or third-string quarterback. He started five games over three seasons and went 3-2.

Tegray Scales was with the Steelers in the 2019 off-season but failed to make the roster.

D.C. Defenders

CB Doran Grant
WR Eli Rogers
S Shamarko Thomas

The players for the Defenders all spent time on the Steelers roster during their professional career. Doran Grant was a fourth-round draft pick of the Steelers in 2015 who was on the practice squad until the beginning of November his rookie year when he was elevated to the 53-man roster. Grant was signed to the Buffalo Bills practice squad in 2016 when he was cut from the Steelers after training camp. He bounced around to several different NFL teams through 2018.

Eli Rogers played wide receiver three seasons in Pittsburgh in 30 games and had four touchdowns. Rogers did not make the 53-man roster out of training camp in 2019.

Safety Shamarko Thomas was drafted when the Steelers traded up in the fourth round to select him in 2013. He played out his entire rookie contract in Pittsburgh mainly as a special teams player but was not given another deal.

Houston Roughnecks

WR Sammie Coates
DL Caushaud Lyons
DL Johnny Maxey

Drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft, Sammie Coates played two seasons with the Steelers before being traded to Cleveland. In his time in Pittsburgh, he had two touchdowns in the same game in 2016 where he also injured his hand which inhibited his receiving ability the remainder of the season.

In 2015 the Steelers claimed Caushaud Lyons off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he was on the 53-man roster for several weeks but was never active for a game. Lyons spent the rest of 2015 and all of 2016 on the Steelers’ practice squad.

Johnny Maxey was on the Steelers practice squad in 2016 and was activated for the final two games of the season.

L.A. Wildcats

S Jack Tocho

I admit, this one was a stretch to find a player associated with the Steelers on the L.A. Wildcats. Jack Tocho signed with the Steelers out of the AAF early in 2019 but was released before training camp.

N.Y. Guardians

S Dravon Askew-Henry
K Matt McCrane

One of several safeties who fought for the final position on the Steelers roster last year, Dravon Askew-Henry came up on the short end of making the 53-man roster due to the play of Cameron Kelly.

Kicker Matt McCrane played in Week 17 of the 2018 season for the Steelers when Chris Boswell was placed on Injured Reserve. Although McCrane was with the Steelers through training camp, Boswell ultimately won the job for 2019.

Seattle Dragons

ILB Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson signed as a free agent with the Steelers in 2016 and played in six games before being placed on Injured Reserve. For 2017, he was on and off the roster as the Steelers made various transactions. Ultimately, Johnson finished 2017 with the Baltimore Ravens.

St. Louis Battlehawks

ILB Terence Garvin
DT Casey Sayles

Terence Garvin played three seasons in Pittsburgh from 2013 to 2015 after making the team via rookie tryout. Cashing in with the Washington Redskins in 2016, Garvin bounced around the NFL for three more seasons.

Casey Sayles spent two straight training camps with the Steelers in 2018 in 2019. In between, he played for Birmingham in the AAF.

Tampa Bay Vipers

S Marcelis Branch

Marcelis Branch was yet another safety in Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp in 2019.

Podcast: Antonio Brown speaks, and he really can’t stand JuJu Smith-Schuster

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 5:30am

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

The 2019 season is now over, and with the Pittsburgh Steelers now in the offseason, it is 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 Preview. On this show Jeff Hartman, Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers leading into the offseason.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Is it BPA? Or By Position in the 2020 NFL Draft?
  • Steelers Trivia
  • Position Breakdown: Quarterbacks
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman, editor of BTSC, Bryan Anthony Davis and Dave Schofield 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.

The After Party podcast will be published in audio platform after 1:00 p.m. ET, and the audio can be found below:

Black and Gold News: Maybe it’s time we chill on the Patrick Mahomes love fest

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 02/07/2020 - 4:28am
Charles LeClaire-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 maybe NFL fans, and pundits, should calm down on the Patrick Mahomes love fest.

Let’s get to the news:

Mark Madden: Too early to anoint Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes the G.O.A.T.

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Patrick Mahomes put 21 fourth-quarter points on the board to rally Kansas City from a 20-10 deficit and win the Super Bowl. He was a worthy MVP.

He also threw two interceptions and fumbled twice. Mahomes’ performance was clutch. But besides the final 15 minutes, it was hardly vintage.

That hasn’t stopped the post-Super Bowl ballyhoo from being unbearable.

Nick Wright of Fox Sports went off the deep end, saying, “Patrick Mahomes is a Frankenstein’s monster at quarterback. He’s got Rodgers’ arm, Elway’s toughness and escapability, with Brady’s clutch gene … the best arm I’ve ever seen, the best sense of the moment and toughness I’ve ever seen, and the most clutch player I’ve ever seen.

“Mahomes does every single thing you want a quarterback to do at an all-time high level. He’s the most complete quarterback, without a single limitation, we’ve ever seen.”

Wow. Give Mahomes five loaves and two fishes, and he could cater a celebration for all of Kansas City. Give him a slingshot, and he could stop the police chase.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Steelers aren’t going to look to sign a QB anytime soon.

Art Rooney II: Steelers may sign a WR or RB, we’re good with the QBs we have

By: Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk

Steelers President Art Rooney II says his team could use some offensive playmakers but won’t go shopping for a quarterback this offseason.

Rooney said today that Ben Roethlisberger is making progress in recovery from last year’s season-ending elbow injury, and the Steelers feel good about the backup quarterbacks they have on the roster.

“We are in the process now of preparing for free agency,” Rooney said, via Steelers.com. “The new league year starts on March 18. There is nothing we can do between now and then other than prepare for it. We’ll be looking for opportunities if we can to add a player we think can help us, whether it’s a wide receiver or running back. I am not sure about quarterback, whether we’ll have an opportunity to sign anybody. I think we are pretty comfortable with the people we have on the roster right now in terms of Ben and Mason [Rudolph] and I think we will have Duck [Devlin Hodges] and Paxton Lynch participating and competing in camp and things like that this year.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The Browns are hoping Myles Garrett gets reinstated by the start of 2020. Steelers fans likely disagree...

Browns hope league reinstates Myles Garrett for start of season

By: Charean Williams, ProFootballTalk

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett remains indefinitely suspended after hitting Mason Rudolph in the head with the quarterback’s own helmet. But the NFL allowed Garrett back in the Browns’ training complex in December.

Garrett will meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell soon, according to a recent report, and it is expected that Goodell will fully reinstate Garrett before the start of the season.

The former No. 1 overall choice missed the final six games as punishment.

“Certainly, our hope is for Myles to be reinstated,” new Browns General Manager Andrew Berry said Wednesday. “Obviously, I was part of drafting him here previously. Obviously, this fall he made a huge mistake, but we know who Myles is a person, and we look forward to welcoming him back.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

Vice President & General Manager Kevin Colbert's extension keeps him with the team through at least the 2021 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/d3nOUssImG

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 5, 2020

Only the beginning.@_Dbush11 | #UltimateHighlight pic.twitter.com/Mz5xVzb0VJ

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 6, 2020

He's fast @3williethadude9 | #SBXL pic.twitter.com/hF67mhx3bl

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 6, 2020

Antonio Brown apologizes to the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger for his actions

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 4:06pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In an interview with 93.7 The Fan, Brown showed his appreciation for the Steelers organization

I know many fans are tired of the Antonio Brown saga. I know I sure am. But after doing a radio interview Thursday morning for 93.7 the fan in Pittsburgh, there are a lot of differing opinions among Steelers’ Nation as to Antonio Brown at this moment. Rather than get into what things meant and breaking it down further, I’m just going to give several quotes from the interview and let you all draw your own conclusion.

The following transcripts of the interview are courtesy of @SteelBlitzburgh

On the Steelers:

“I’m forever grateful and indebted to the Steelers organization, Mr. Rooney, Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, Ben Roethlisberger, I started my career with those guys, a lot of beautiful moments, a lot of positive things, so it’s not all bad.”

On Ben Roethlisberger:

“Do I hate Ben? No. Do I love Ben? Yes. Ben’s a great guy, great person, great quarterback, all the disappointment and frustration we had should’ve been hashed out but when ego and emotion get involved, a lot of stuff goes different ways.”

“Our last meeting was from that last week of 2018 and I met with him. And he was trying to slander me, like, ‘AB, man, everyone don’t hate me.’ I just think Ben is really nonchalant to what people think about him.”

“They won’t really share to him in his face. So a lot of people who deal with Ben, it’s not dealing with him out of the reality of what it is. And a lot of people are really nervous to tell him what it really is because based on the position he’s in.”

On JuJu Smith-Schuster:

“I have nothing against JuJu Smith-Schuster. Why would I? I am who he wants to be. I’m in a position when he’s describing to be. Running around with 500 yards and everyone thinks he’s the world. Steelers didn’t make the playoffs. That is a problem.”

“I gave the guy JuJu Smith all the positive cheat codes. All the stuff to be successful. And to watch a guy call me out when I’m moving forward for positive. The first thing he do when I get picked is post me like he ready.”

On Hines Ward:

“[Ward] didn’t show me the respect I needed. Or gave me the support or positivity I needed. I’ve never been to his house. I never studied plays with him. I never went over how to win or get open or how to do this right or how to do this.”

On his life:

“I don’t really have anger. I just think I’m really bored. You know, football keeps a lot of my focus. And not being able to have that thing that took my energy, that put my focus toward allowed me to be bored and react to things I wouldn’t normally react to.”

On playing in 2020:

“Everyone loves comeback stories man, I’m in shape, 2020 is going to be a great year and it’s a great opportunity to bounce back.”

As stated before, I am just going to let Brown’s word speak for themselves. I will let you form your own opinion on what was said. More importantly, please use the comment section as a place to give your thoughts remembering to keep them both clean and courteous.

Art Rooney II is comfortable with the current Steelers quarterbacks

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 2:14pm
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

In a question and answer session with fans through Steelers Nation Unite, Rooney addressed the Steelers quarterback situation for 2020

On Wednesday, Steelers team president Art Rooney II my did a fan forum call through Steelers Nation Unite. One of the questions posed by a Steelers fan was if the team will add a running back, wide receiver, or quarterback in free agency.

“We are in the process now of preparing for free agency,” Rooney replied. “The new league year starts on March 18. There is nothing we can do between now and then other than prepare for it. We’ll be looking for opportunities if we can to add a player we think can help us.”

Before the Steelers even reach free agency, they are going to have to make some tough decisions with their current personnel in regards to the salary cap. With the Steelers currently up against the cap, they will have to be releasing some players in order to offer tenders to their restricted free agents as well as any attempts to retain unrestricted free agents.

When it came to addressing each specific position brought up the question, Rooney was more open to the idea of adding players at two of the three positions.

“Whether it’s a wide receiver or running back,” Rooney continued. “I am not sure about quarterback, whether we’ll have an opportunity to sign anybody.”

Rooney then went on to comment about the Steelers current roster of quarterbacks going into the 2020 season.

“I think we are pretty comfortable with the people we have on the roster right now in terms of Ben and Mason and I think we will have Duck and Paxton Lynch participating and competing in camp and things like that this year.”

When looking at salaries for the quarterback position, it makes sense for the Steelers to continue with their current roster from merely a numbers perspective. With Ben Roethlisberger accounting for $33.5 million towards a salary cap, bringing in another player for more than the league minimum would just add more money to a position in which only one player is on the field at a time.

In other words, Art Rooney II is acknowledging the Steelers are “all in” on Ben Roethlisberger at the quarterback position. But with the Steelers being in the same position last year, hopefully they can avoid a repeat where almost all of the money allotted to the position was on Injured Reserve for the majority of the season.

For Art Rooney II to show faith in his current roster is not surprising at all. Telling fans not to expect any signings at quarterback for 2020 was somewhat surprising but grounded in reality. Hopefully Steelers’ Nation will not get their hopes up of landing a free agent quarterback for 2020 which the team really can’t afford.

Did the Steelers have a “check down” philosophy when it came to their 2019 passing game?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 12:29pm
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

With young, back-up quarterbacks under center for most of 2019, the plan for the passing game appeared to be conservative this past season

It felt as if Steelers’ fans didn’t know exactly how to handle the quarterback situation that was thrust upon the team during the 2019 season. While some fans understood neither quarterback who saw action was going to be Ben Roethlisberger, some felt anything shy of Roethlisberger‘s production was utter failure. Opinions fell across the entire spectrum when it came to both Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges.

One particular comment I saw repeatedly among Steelers’ fans was both quarterbacks only ran a “check-down” offense. Was this the case in 2019, and is there any sufficient data to support the claim?

First of all, classifying a throw as a “check down” would take visually breaking down each pass and knowing what the specific play call was in order to determine if a safer and shorter route than intended was ultimately where the pass was directed. Since we, as fans, are not privy to the information as to which receiver was supposed to be the first read of the quarterback, we will have to rely on other data in order to see if this claim could be true.

One particular statistic which could give a bit of an indication is average Completed Air Yards (CAY). In essence, CAY is the vertical measurement of how many yards through the air the ball traveled until the moment it is caught in relation to the line of scrimmage. In other words, it is the other factor along with Yards After the Catch (YAC) which determines the length of a pass play. For example, if the ball is snapped at the 20 yard line and the receiver catches the ball at the 35 yard line before being tackled at the 45 yard line, the 25 yards gained is broken into 15 Completed Air Yards and 10 Yards After the Catch.

In looking at CAY for the season, it is a good measurement with how far down the field a quarterback is throwing ball. Thanks to Next Gen Stats, we have access to the last four seasons of qualifying quarterbacks and their CAY. The results are by player and not by team, and quarterbacks must have attempted at least 128 passes on the season. In 2019, there were 39 quarterbacks who qualified according to Next Gen Stats.

So how did the two young Steelers’ quarterbacks fare in CAY for 2019? They were tied for the very lowest in the NFL. With a 4.5 average Completed Air Yards, both Rudolph and Hodges finished behind Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock with 4.6 average yards. The only other quarterback in the league who was under 5.0 CAY was Derek Carr (4.9).

Does this statistics mean the Steelers were checking the ball down every play? Not necessarily. Perhaps the play calls were for shorter passes. Without getting the actual play call, it is merely speculation.

Another interesting statistic from Next Gen Stats which could help to classify the mentality of quarterbacks is Aggressiveness (AGG%). Aggressiveness is defined as the percentage of throws where a defender was within 1 yard of the receiver. In other words, was the quarterback willing to throw into a tight window?

How did the Steelers quarterbacks in 2019 fare in Aggressiveness? Devlin Hodges was last in the NFL with 10.6% which was 1.1% lower than the next closest quarterback. As for Mason Rudolph, his aggressiveness was 18% which ranked 11th in the NFL.

It is understandable this statistic could mean several things. If receivers are not getting open, quarterbacks have no choice but to be aggressive even on short throws. But if receivers are getting open, it makes the decision easier for the quarterback to throw the ball in their direction. Just to give some perspective, Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes was tied for 36th in the NFL in aggressiveness with 12.2%.

All these numbers are great, but do they show the quarterbacks had a “check down” philosophy in 2019? Believe it or not, the numbers are not that much different than Ben Roethlisberger in 2018. Out of 40 qualifying quarterbacks, Rothlisberger ranked 35th in CAY with 4.8 yards. Just for fun, his aggressiveness was 16.9% which was tied for 14th in the NFL.

Surprisingly, the drop off to the young quarterbacks in 2019 was not as significant as we may have believed. Where the significant drop off came was from 2017 to 2018 when Ben Roethlisberger ranked 18th out of 41 quarterbacks with 5.9 CAY. In 2016, his CAY was even higher at 6.4 yards but ultimately ranked 19th out of 39 quarterbacks.

So if you’re looking strictly at the numbers, there was not a big drop off in completing passes down the field from 2018 to 2019 as the biggest change came from 2017 to 2018. So what changed over those seasons? Other than the availability of Le’Veon Bell, the biggest change to the Steelers offense was new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.

So, the 2019 passing game did have a slightly smaller average Completed Air Yards from the previous year. Perhaps the biggest factor in an expanded short passing game for the Steelers was not as much the quarterback as it was the play calling.

How much does a check down passing game really matter? Honestly, effectiveness is the most important thing. A short passing game can be very effective as long as it’s sustained. Most importantly, the passing game needs to help the offense score points and achieve victories. Whether it’s through one deep ball or 15 short passes, as long as the passing game is effective either philosophy can be successful. But if you’re not a fan of a short passing offense, you might need to brace yourself for 2020 as the return of Ben Roethlisberger may not bring the deep passing game from years ago.

A Letter From the Editor: Steelers fans need to remain realistic as the offseason approaches

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 10:58am
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2020 offseason officially upon us, it is time to talk about keeping things in check when it comes to the Steelers offseason moves/needs.

It is hard to believe, but the offseason is officially here. No more games to be played, at least not until August. So now we turn to the offseason, or as I like to call it — the silly season.

There are big dates throughout the offseason which carry significance for every NFL franchise. The start of the new league year in March brings with it free agency, and of course the 2020 NFL Draft brings a new level of excitement for every team as they bring in a new crop of talent for the upcoming campaign.

To me, the offseason is when fans seem to lose grip on reality. The time when they suggest the team should go out and get the most expensive free agent available on the market and think things will just work out.

The purpose of this article is to help remind fans to remain realistic when the new league year arrives. Let me explain...

The first aspect of this equation which needs discussing are the realistic parameters which the Steelers need to manipulate this offseason. Things like salary cap space, players who could be re-signed before free agency and those who will be looking for a new home in 2020. All will have an impact on what the team can do, not what they want to do.

In a perfect world there would be no salary cap in the NFL, which would allow teams to aggressively pursue the biggest and best free agents on the market every year, just like what happens in MLB. But the salary cap does more good than harm, and prevents a level of parity throughout all 32 franchises. For teams like the Steelers, they almost always spend right up to the cap, limiting their ability to get the big fish in the free agent frenzy.

During any of our podcasts, which you can hear in the play below, we are joined by anywhere from 50 to 200 live users who are able to interact with the hosts in the live chat on our YouTube channel. It is here, and in the comment section of articles, where you see some fans suggest the most absurd ideas when it comes to what the Steelers should do this offseason.

“The Steelers should sign Cam Newton.”

Do you really think the Steelers should sign a QB who missed the entire 2019 season with injury, this after their own QB essentially did the same thing with an elbow injury? Oh, and how about the money? Where will the money come from to bring in a player like Newton? The Steelers have around $6 million dollars in salary cap space. I’m sure Cam would love to come to Pittsburgh for what would equate to a near veteran minimum deal.

“The Steelers should keep Javon Hargrave and Bud Dupree.”

Again, $6 million in cap space. Unless they are cutting half of their team this isn’t happening.

“The Steelers should trade back into the first round of the draft.”

This is actually an option, but doing this would handcuff the team even more when it comes to draft capital. The Steelers still like to build their team from within, so making an aggressive play in 2020 after their two aggressive plays in 2019, trading up to draft Devin Bush and trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick, makes this a very unlikely scenario.

As our own Michael Beck pointed out recently in an article, fans should expect a very boring offseason. Why? Because the reality of the situation is the Steelers don’t have the cap space to sign a big name free agent. Will they bring in a free agent or two? Most likely, but they will be more of the serviceable backup/special teams variety.

I love optimism. I am one of the more optimistic Steelers fans you will ever encounter. But when it comes to the Steelers this offseason, it might be better the dabble in some realism, and that reality is the Steelers will go about their business as usual with very little fanfare.

If Kevin Colbert really wanted to leave the Steelers, he could have easily done so

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 9:28am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert will be with the team for a least one more year. That’s a good thing.

Speculation began almost immediately after it was discovered last summer that Steelers long-time general manager Kevin Colbert wouldn’t be signing a contract extension and that he would start to take his career year to year.

Was the Pittsburgh native winding things down after 35 years in the business of professional football? He turned 62 last year, and it only made sense that someone who had accomplished so much would want to spend as much time with his family as he could while he was still relatively young.

But almost immediately after that seemingly sincere and genuine announcement came the real speculation: Was Colbert really interested in leaving the Steelers and joining David Tepper, a fellow Pittsburgh native, in the same capacity in Carolina?

The dots, they could easily be connected. Tepper, who bought the Panthers in 2018, was a minority owner of his hometown Steelers right before taking that huge leap.

Imagine how much more money Colbert could make in Carolina. Imagine how much more power he could possibly have without being forced to share so much of it with a veteran and respected head coach like Mike Tomlin.

It also made sense that Tepper, like most owners, a billionaire, would possibly want to throw as much money as possible Colbert’s way as a means to entice him to come work for his new team. After all, billionaires don’t become billionaires by making many stupid decisions, and bringing in someone like Colbert to run the personnel side of your football team would be the complete opposite of stupid.

Besides, all of that, Tomlin curiously signed a one-year extension through 2021 (and not the standard two-year extension); Ben Roethlisberger would presumably be calling it a career after that season was completed—if not sooner.

Therefore, both scenarios—retirement after the 2020 draft (when Colbert’s current deal runs out) or jumping ship to Carolina before or after the 2020 draft—seemed plausible.

Turns out, that speculation was just that—at least for this year. I don’t know what Colbert’s plans are after next year’s draft, but if Wednesday’s news was any indication, he should be heavily involved in helping the Steelers evaluate and select the very best college prospects next winter and spring. He’ll also have a huge say in who the Steelers release and sign in free agency over the next two offseasons. You see, news broke on Wednesday that Colbert signed a one-year contract extension through the 2021 NFL Draft, which means he will spend the foreseeable future helping to shape Pittsburgh’s roster.

That’s comforting.

The hallmark of the Steelers organization has always been stability. Yeah, sure, it’s nice to shake things up every now and then. But it’s often smart to not do that, especially when you have someone as good at his job as Colbert.

If that man wants to stick around for at least one more season, hey, what an incredible asset. Like a lot of Steelers, 2019 probably wasn’t one of Colbert’s finest years, but also like a lot of Steelers, so much of what went into the team missing the playoffs for a second-straight season was out of his control.

Colbert did so much in 2019 to help shape the Steelers defense—including signing Steven Nelson, drafting Devin Bush and trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick. Those were deals that surely would have paid off in a deep playoff run if not for the season-ending elbow injury suffered by Roethlisbgerger in Week 2.

I’d like to see what Colbert can do in 2020 with a much better hand, provided one of the cards in that hand is a healthy Roethlisberger elbow.

It is true that the Steelers, like most excellent organizations, have a pretty good training program, one that has produced some impressive possible successors to Colbert in people like Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt. But those guys are still employed by the team, meaning one of them will likely be the new general manager in the non-so-distant future.

As for now, Colbert is still around, and he’s still one of the best in the business.

The Steelers are lucky to have him as their general manager for at least one more year.

Analyzing JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 2019 season, Part 2: Does film show a No. 1 WR?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 7:48am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Looking at what Smith-Schuster put on film in 2019.

While JuJu Smith-Schuster struggled with injury and production in 2019, the film shows that he has the traits and skills necessary to be the teams No. 1 WR going forward. While there will likely be a lot of talk about whether the Steelers need to add to the WR group, Steeler Nation can rest assured that the team has a star WR that can handle the job at the top of the depth chart.

In my previous post I covered JuJu Smith-Schuster’s stats from 2019. In this post I’ll focus on his film, and show that not only was he productive when he had the opportunity, he continued to show the traits of a number one WR.

Starting strong

JuJu Smith-Schuster entered the 2019 season on the road facing the Patriots, a team that shut him down in 2018 by locking Stephon Gilmore on him 1v1. The Patriots would use the same strategy in 2019, and would win the game easily. That doesn’t reflect the job JuJu Smith-Schuster did in that game though, as Smith Schuster was easily the best player in that game for the Steelers offense.

Week 1, 1st quarter, 11:16, 2nd and 6. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the WR to the top of the screen.

Stephon Gilmore is the 2019 defensive player of the year and the best CB in the NFL. Gilmore excels at the position with elite athleticism, change of direction and the ability to physically dominate opponents. On this play Gilmroe lost in both physicality at the point of contact and in change of direction and it gave Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers an easy 7 yards against the strength of the opposing defense.

Week 1, 2nd quarter, 3:37, 3rd and 10. JuJu Smith-Schuster is lined up to the bottom of the screen.

A big 3rd and 10 as the game is threatening to get away from the Steelers. Smith-Schuster gives a small hop then explodes upfield, and then makes a wickedly sharp cut to the middle of the field in-between the LBs and safeties, and Gilmore is again helpless to do anything as the Steelers easily convert the down.

The Steelers lost to the Patriots in embarrassing fashion, but JuJu Smith-Schuster had a strong game with 78 yards, including 43 yards against Stephon Gilmore, the most yards he’d give up to one receiver during the first half of the season.

While JuJu Smith-Schuster started the season strong with Ben Roethlisberger, Roethlisberger would only last 6 quarters of the season before shutting it down and having surgery.

Leading the young offense in Ben’s absence

In weeks 2 and 3 Smith-Schuster wouldn’t just lead the Steelers in receiving, he would gain more yards than the other WRs combined, with his longest gain coming on this TD against San Francisco, the second longest pass play the 49ers gave up all season.

Week 3, 3rd quarter, 5:54, 3rd and 4. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the inside WR in the trips formation to the bottom of the screen.

Again Smith-Schuster wins at the point of contact, slapping away Akhello Witherspoon’s hands and creating space for a completion that JuJu Smith-Schuster turns into a TD. The important thing here is how easily and quickly Smith-Schuster dispatches the defender, he doesn’t fight through the defender, but just beats him in one quick motion. Witherspoon isn’t a top corner, and with Smith-Schuster’s ability to play any WR position, it forces the defense to always account for him, because defending him with lesser CBs puts the team at risk of giving up a big play.

While JuJu Smith-Schuster is not a blazingly fast player, he has 6 of the Steelers 9 longest plays from scrimmage in the last 3 years, and most of them are similar to this play, one really good move against an inferior defender and he’s gone. PFR game play finder goes back to 1994, and since then, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 6 plays of 60+ yards is tied for the most 60+ yard plays from scrimmage by a Steeler. Hines Ward also has 6, and behind those two are Mike Wallace and Martevis Bryant with 5 each, Antonio Brown had 4.

In three seasons JuJu has as many 60+ plays as Hines Ward had in his career, and more than any other Steeler in the last 25 years. The criticism that JuJu Smith-Schuster doesn’t have the 40 time to be a big play threat, and thus isn’t a #1 WR doesn’t hold up at all, because he is already one of the most prolific big play WRs the Steelers have had in the last 25 years.

With a toe injury following week 4, JuJu’s season would slow down, but he was still contributing, and would lead the Steelers in receiving yards in 5 of the first 7 games, as his acceleration suffered, he relied even more on his physical play.

Week 10, 4th quarter, 2nd and 11. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the WR closest to the bottom of the screen

On this play Smith-Schuster beats Jalen Ramsey with a good slant, and this play shows how good Smith Schuster is at keeping his body in position to block the defender from the pass. The cut on his slant route is sharp, and leaves no room for Ramsey to recover and get in front of Smith-Schuster to attack the pass.

After the Cleveland injury

JuJu Smith-Schuster was knocked out in Week 11, and would also suffer a knee injury. He would miss the next 4 games. Smith-Schuster would return for two of the worst offensive performances of the season and with Devlin Hodges under Center, would not record much in the way of statistics. In week 16 and 17 combined Smith-Schuster would record 28 receiving yards, and 22 of those yards were in the short span of week 16 when Mason Rudolph returned to the field.

Week 17, 1st quarter, 3rd and 9. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the slot receiver to the top of the screen.

Here JuJu Smith-Schuster again wins with physicality, taking the defender’s contact inside the 5 yard window and using it to drive the defender back another 5 yards before suddenly releasing outside, creating room for a pass. Hodges is under pressure when he throws, and he turns away from the hit, and the ball carries with the turn and leaves Smith Schuster diving for the ball, and he was unable to pull it in.

After a promising start to the Devlin Hodges, JuJu Smith-Schuster relationship in week 4, when they connected for 38 yards on 3 targets (with a fumble after the third catch) Hodges and Smith-Schuster would struggle the rest of the year. In Hodges 3 starts with JuJu Smith-Schuster active the 2 would connect for 3 receptions and 13 yards on 10 targets. When Mason returned against the Jets, Smith-Schuster caught 2 of 3 targets for 22 yards.

Conclusion

JuJu Smith-Schuster showed the same traits in 2019 that he showed in his first two seasons. he wins physical battles with CBs, he makes sharp cuts in his routes that create space, and he can combine the two to beat even the best CBs in the NFL. He is built to be a high volume possession receiver, and yet he continues to be the most prolific receiver at breaking big gains this franchise has had in a quarter century.

That’s a number one receiver. If he can avoid injury and the Steelers have a more stable QB situation in 2020, expect JuJu Smith-Schuster to bounce back and put up more than 1000 yards.

It was nice to see Troy Polamalu’s emotional reaction to making the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 6:33am
Photo by Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Troy Polamalu broke down when he learned he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s nice to know that players care about their contributions as much as the fans do.

A Pittsburgh native getting elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the contributions he made as the head coach of his hometown football team? That’s why you expected nothing but tears and emotion when former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher found out he will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, this summer.

A 67-year old former safety who contributed mightily to those four Steelers Super Bowl championship teams of the 1970s and got elected into the Hall of Fame 33 years after his final game? It’s safe to say Donnie Shell was simply euphoric when he learned he finally, finally, finally made it!

But a recluse, a mysterious man who often said he didn’t really love football, he loved life, and that’s why he played the game with so much emotion and reckless abandon, someone who said he purposely stayed away from the Steelers and the sport after retiring from the NFL in 2014? Would Troy Polamalu even show up if he got elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Turned out, Polamalu showed up to this past weekend’s Hall of Fame spectacle, where former players and coaches must wait in their hotel rooms for that knock on the door informing them they will be immortalized.

Not only did Polamalu, well, his two boys, answer the knock on the door, he became emotional when he learned of his fate.

Polamalu’s emotions were really on his sleeve a little later when he talked to Missi Matthews of Steelers.com shortly after learning he was named a first ballot Hall of Famer.

I don’t know why it means so much that it meant so much to Polamalu, but it was just nice to see.

Honestly, I didn’t know he cared that much. I mean, logically and rationally, you had to know he cared, but that emotional connection between player and sport is something fans crave. Why? I guess it’s because it allows us to live vicariously through them. Let’s be real, if you’re a die-hard fan, someone who, even as a much older person, wears Steelers jerseys while watching them play, you likely fantasized about being an NFL player when you were a kid—maybe you still fantasize about it as an adult.

Imagine actually getting to live your dream and have it be topped off with the league’s biggest honor—enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.

Wouldn’t you cry?

It’s important to fans that their heroes care. Ever watch one of those interviews with an actor where he or she simply refuses to “live in the past” and relive the favorite moments from their fans’ favorite shows or movies? It’s like, why did you even come to this comic-con?

I realize there are a lot of NFL players who simply view what they do as a job. I get it. Some people are just so talented at something, it would be silly for them to not do it if it can afford them a really great living. But I’d like to believe that the truly great players—the best of the best—don’t make it to Canton if they didn’t care deeply about what they did.

Troy Polamalu obviously cared about being the best of the best when he played strong safety better than few ever have during his 12 years in the NFL.

It’s nice that he let us know just how much he cared.

Podcast: The Steelers can’t stop their pursuit of the next quarterback

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 5:29am

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
  • Why the Steelers shouldn’t stop their search of the next QB.
  • 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: Not everyone voted for Troy Polamalu to make the Hall of Fame in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 02/06/2020 - 4:29am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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 not all Hall of Fame voters thought Troy Polamalu should be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Shockingly, Troy Polamalu wasn’t a unanimous choice to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that’s okay.

Tim Benz: I’m not ripping Peter King for his Troy Polamalu snub

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Football Morning in America’s” Peter King admitted that he didn’t vote for Troy Polamalu for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even though he felt Polamalu was worthy of being in the top five.

His rationale?

King felt Polamalu had the votes to get in anyway (which proved true), so he wanted to throw his vote elsewhere to help boost the chances of other candidates he deemed worthy of entry: Tony Boselli, Steve Atwater, John Lynch, Edgerrin James and Steve Hutchinson.

A lot of people hated that King did such a thing with his vote.

But, for everyone else trashing King, I want to raise two points.

If he withheld a Polamalu vote for Alan Faneca, would you be so mad?

Be honest.

If that suddenly changes your opinion, then shut up. Because the act is the same regardless of who benefits. Even if it’s a “Stiller, n’at.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The odds for the 2020 Steelers aren’t as bad as you might think...

Oddsmakers give decent chance of Steelers bouncing back, winning Super Bowl LV

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Despite missing the playoffs for the past two years and finishing with an 8-8 record in 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers are getting respect from oddsmakers regarding their chances of competing for a Super Bowl in the 2020 season.

A pair of online betting sites have include the Steelers among the top 10 NFL teams with the best odds to win Super Bowl LV.

The site betonline.ag considers the Steelers the ninth-best choice to win it all next year, listing the Steelers at 20-1 odds. The favorites are the Super Bowl LIV champion Kansas City Chiefs at 5-1 odds, followed by runnerup San Francisco at 7-1. The Baltimore Ravens (8-1), New England Patriots (9-1), Dallas Cowboys (16-1), New Orleans Saints (16-1), Green Bay Packers (18-1) and Philadelphia Eagles (18-1) are the teams also ahead of the Steelers

The longest odds, according to the site, are the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, each at 100-1. The Cincinnati Bengals face 80-1 odds.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • The complete first round of the 2020 NFL Draft is now set, along with the draft order.

First round order of 2020 NFL Draft now set

By: Darin Gantt, ProFootballTalk

With the Super Bowl in the books, the NFL is back in offseason mode today, and open for business.

And for the teams at the top, that means the big focus will be the 2020 NFL Draft.

After last night’s game, the rest of the order of the first round was filled in. There are still compensatory picks to be doled out later, but teams now know where they’ll be picking for at least the first two rounds.

Here’s a look at the order of the teams in the first round:

1. Bengals (2-14)

2. Washington (3-13)

3. Lions (3-12-1)

4. Giants (4-12)

5 Dolphins (5-11)

6. Chargers (5-11)

7. Panthers (5-11)

8. Cardinals (5-10-1)

9. Jaguars (6-10)

10. Browns (6-10)

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

It's safe to say that @tpolamalu's teammates are happy that he's a member of the @ProFootballHOF Class of 2020! #PFHOF20@Ike_SwagginU | @jharrison9292 | @Realrclark25 pic.twitter.com/Ivc6tr98Nw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 5, 2020

On Saturday, @tpolamalu, @CowherCBS and @donnie_shell answered questions after they were announced on stage at #NFLHonors as members of the @ProFootballHOF Class of 2020. #PFHOF20

Full : https://t.co/V1s1IXDPVI pic.twitter.com/vIx0yAXHVr

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 4, 2020

Another reminder not to throw when you see Joe.@joehaden23 pic.twitter.com/sNBKlnWqN7

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 4, 2020

"No one in football catches a ball like that."@francoharrishof sat down with @StanLoveTheShow to talk about the Immaculate Reception and more.

FULL : https://t.co/aey1H43nI4 pic.twitter.com/JeMoWUqy9H

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 2, 2020

Pages

Subscribe to Steelers Fans of Minnesota aggregator