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Counting down the days to key 2022 dates for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/05/2022 - 12:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As the Steelers turn the calendar to the second half of 2022, exciting things are now on the horizon.

Let the countdown continue!

Now that the midpoint of the 2022 calendar year has passed, and the holiday festivities of Independence Day in the United States are behind us, Steelers training camp is just around the corner. With the dog days of summer now more than half way over, players will be reporting to Latrobe before we know it. With all this in mind, it’s time to check in again to count down the number of days to key 2022 dates.

21 days: Training Camp arrival

The Steelers will be reporting to St. Vincent College on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. Returning to Latrobe after two years of being forced to hold training camp at Heinz Field, it looks to be a refreshing return to a tradition, especially for the fans who are able to attend. If you are planning on catching a practice in Latrobe, make sure you get your tickets as they are required to attend. Tickets can be ordered through Ticketmater and are free of charge.

22 days: First Practice

After reporting to St. Vincent College on Tuesday, the Steelers will take to the practice field on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at 1:55 PM for the first time in preparation for the upcoming season. All four of the Steelers first practices until they have a day off on Sunday, July 31, will not be in full pads but will still be open to the public.

27 days: First practice in pads

When the Steelers open their second week of training camp on Monday, August 1, their 1:55 PM practice, which is open to the public, will be there first one in full pads. For a full list of training camp practices, see the following article:

30 days: Hall of Fame Game

This date won’t be as significant to the Steelers for 2022 as they are not playing in the Hall of Fame Game, which will kick off the weekend on Thursday August 4, 2022. The Hall of Fame activities will be over the course of the weekend from the game Thursday through Sunday with the 2022 enshrinement scheduled for Saturday. For the game itself in 2022, the Las Vegas Raiders will face the Jacksonville Jaguars.

39 days: First Preseason Game vs Seattle

The first chance to see the Steelers in game action for 2022 is now less than six weeks away. With an extra road contest in the regular season, the Steelers have two of their three preseason games at Heinz Field. The first time the Steelers will be in action in preparation for the upcoming season will be on Saturday, August 13, 2022 at 7 PM when they host the Seattle Seahawks. The game is scheduled to be nationally televised on NFL Network, but another game will begin at 9 PM so don’t expect to be able to see the entire contest.

42 days: First roster cut down

The Tuesday after all teams play their Week 1 preseason game, they will have until 4 PM ET in order to reduce their roster from 90 players to 85 players.

45 days: Breaking Camp

After returning to St. Vincent College for one more week of training camp after their first preseason game, the Steelers will break camp on Friday, August 19 before traveling to face to Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday, August 20. When the Steelers return from Jacksonville, the remainder of their preseason practices will be at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in Pittsburgh.

49 days: Second roster cut down

After the second week of the preseason, teams once again face a 4 PM ET deadline to trim the roster another five players. This time, the cut goes from 85 players down to 80 players.

54 days: Last Preseason Game vs Detroit

The Steelers have their final preseason game on Sunday, August 28, 2022, at 4:30 PM as they host the Detroit Lions as the national game on CBS. Other than being the final contest for players to make their case for the 53-man roster or the practice squad, it will feel somewhat different as the Steelers are not finishing off their preseason against the Carolina Panthers as they have for so many years.

56 days: 53-man Rosters

Following the same schedule as 2021, teams will be required to cut down to the 53-man roster by 4 PM ET on Tuesday, August 30, 2022. Teams have until noon the next day to make any waiver claim which will be reported by the NFL by 1 PM. At that time on Wednesday, August 31, teams can begin signing players to their 16-man practice squad.

65 days: NFL Kickoff Game

Thursday, September 8, 2022, will be the first game of the NFL season. The game will see the Buffalo Bills visiting the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams for an 8:20 PM ET kickoff on NBC.

68 days: Steelers season opener in Cincinnati

For the eighth straight season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will begin the regular season on the road. While traveling for Week 1 has become familiar territory, the Steelers first opponent is one they have never faced the opening week. To kick off the season, the Steelers travel to the Cincinnati Bengals for a 1 PM ET kick off at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, September 11, 2022.

75 days: Steelers home opener vs. New England

The Steelers will return to the friendly confines of Heinz Field (if it is still named Heinz Field at that time) for their first home game in Week 2 as they host the New England Patriots on Sunday, September 18, 2022, at 1 PM ET.

186-187 days: Steelers final regular season game vs Cleveland

I had to give a range for the Steelers final game as it is one that does not have a specific date or time listed. What is known is that the Steelers will be hosting the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field. What is unknown at this time is whether the game will be played on Saturday or Sunday and what time it will kickoff.

222 days: Super Bowl LVII

Super Bowl LVII is scheduled to be played on February 12, 2023 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Next Gen Stats suggest T.J. Watt wasn’t the best “disruptor” in the NFL last season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/05/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker was the defensive player of the year, but not the best “disruptor” according to Next Gen Stats.

The Pittsburgh Steelers fan base is a proud group of individuals. When someone, anyone says something negative about their beloved Steelers, prepare for battle. This would include when a player the fan base deems to be the very best at his position is not listed as such in any of the many offseason lists which run across the NFL landscape.

The latest victim of such a crime? Nick Shook of NFL.com who is doing Top 10 lists of key metrics using Next Gen Stats to justify his lists. One list which caught the eye of Steelers fans was his Top 10 list of “Disruptors”. Before you go down to the list itself, check out what Shook used to categorize players as a “disruptor”:

In this exercise, I’m using Next Gen Stats data to examine the league’s top disruptors from the 2021 season. Disruptors are defined not just by sacks but plays in which they affect an opposing quarterback. NGS defines a hurry as an instance in which a defender gets within 1.5 yards of a quarterback at any moment between the snap and the release of a pass or a sack, and a pressure is when a defender is within 2 yards of the quarterback at the time he’s releasing a pass or within 1.5 yards of the QB at any point during the play. A sack is — well, you know what that is.

I’m taking a closer look at QB pressures (QBP), QB pressure rate (QBP rate), hurries, sacks and turnovers caused by QB pressure (TO-QBP) to determine who was the best at disrupting quarterbacks in 2021.

Okay, so now let’s get to the part where Steelers fans get up in arms over the results. Check out the Top 10 list, and how Shook had T.J. Watt as the 2nd best in this specific category.

Check it out...

Top 10 Disruptors

10. Darius Leonard — Los Angeles Rams
9. Javon Hargrave — Philadelphia Eagles
8. Aaron Donald — Los Angeles Rams
7. Nick Bosas — San Francisco 49ers
6. Myles Garrett — Cleveland Browns
5. Yannick Ngakoue — Indianapolis Colts
4. Micah Parson — Dallas Cowboys
3. Maxx Crosby — Las Vegas Raiders

2. T.J. Watt — Pittsburgh Steelers

  • QBP: 60
  • QBP rate: 16.3%
  • Hurries: 43
  • Sacks: 22.5
  • TO-QBP: 3

Watt tied the all-time single-season sack record in 2021. He was voted Defensive Player of the Year. And he did it despite missing two full games and most of a third.

Watt posted the highest single-season sack rate (6.1%) of the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016). Also, he owns the highest sack rate (3.7%) over the duration of the NGS era (min. 1,500 pass-rush snaps). He’s more efficient at getting home than any rusher in the history of Next Gen Stats. However, he’s second on this list because a player from a division rival happened to post the fourth-highest QB pressure rate in a single season in NGS history and force five turnovers via pressure in 2021.

1. Trey Hendrickson — Cincinnati Bengals

  • QBP: 79
  • QBP rate: 19.4%
  • Hurries: 45
  • Sacks: 14
  • TO-QBP: 5

Some in the football world likely saw Hendrickson’s breakout 2020 campaign as a fluke, and then raised both eyebrows at the Bengals when they signed him to a four-year, $60 million deal last offseason. In hindsight, that deal looks like a bargain.

Hendrickson followed up his 13.5-sack performance — which helped him earn the No. 3 spot on this list a year ago — by registering 79 pressures and 14 sacks. His pressure rate (19.4%) is fourth-best in the NGS era (since 2016). What truly separated Hendrickson from the pack, though, was his ability to cause takeaways. Hendrickson forced five turnovers via pressure, tying with Markus Golden, Randy Gregory, Chandler Jones and Odafe Oweh for the league lead. Only one player from that group had a strong enough body of work to land on this list, and Hendrickson’s was good enough to put him at the top of it.

The statistics certainly make a case for Hendrickson over Watt, but what does the eye test show? For people who watch the game closely, can you really watch the game unfold and say the Top 10 list would play out the same way? Some will say yes, while others will say no.

Either way, this is where you get to chime in on the list. Let us know what you think of the Top 10 list, and Watt being listed at No. 2, in the comment section below. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason and training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will improve their AFC North record in 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/05/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

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 St. 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 Pittsburgh Steelers will improve their AFC North record in 2022.

Why it will happen: Last season the Steelers finished their AFC North play with a 4-2 record. They swept the Baltimore Ravens, who haven’t beaten the Steelers since 2019, and the Cleveland Browns. However, they were swept by the Cincinnati Bengals, who have beaten the Steelers three straight times.

How can they improve upon a 4-2 division record? The answer lies within the Steelers beating Cincinnati. The team who represented the AFC in the Super Bowl will be the cream of the crop of the division once again. If the Steelers can beat the Bengals, fans should be confident they can continue to dominate the Browns and Ravens. 5-1 might be the best they can do, but it is still an improvement on their 2021 record.

Why it won’t happen: The AFC North continues to be a gauntlet for everyone who calls the division home. With Lamar Jackson expected to return, the Bengals expected to be great again and the Browns potentially being improved too, the thought of improving on a 4-2 record seems like a pipe dream.

Throw in the fact there is so much unknown surrounding the Steelers, it seems highly unlikely the team will be able to improve on the 2021 record in 2022.

Prediction: For the first time since starting these scenarios, I don’t see this scenario coming to fruition. The first thing I look at are the division games on the schedule:

Week 1: @ CIN
Week 3: @ CLE
Week 11: vs. CIN
Week 14: vs. BAL
Week 17: @ BAL
Week 18: vs. CLE

The first two games on the division slate certainly are tough to predict considering there is so much uncertainty surrounding the team. Can fans expect the team to come out of the gates red-hot, especially playing three games in eleven days?

If the Steelers stumble out of the gates and lose their first two divisional games, both on the road, this scenario is shot already. Two losses would mean the best they could do is equal their 2021 total.

It is really odd to see the division games so bunched up at the end of the schedule, but this could benefit the Steelers in the long run. If the team continues to improve as the season progresses, they could be playing their best in key games on the schedule. Nonetheless, I don’t see the team improving on the 2021 record. I could see them staying the same at 4-2, or dropping a game to 3-3.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

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.

FILM ROOM: Matt Canada’s Offense, Part 1: The Inside Zone

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/05/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Looking at different plays Matt Canada will bring back for the 2022 season.

I wanted to take some time this offseason to dig into some of the things the Matt Canada offense looks to do. We are going to start with some basics with the interior run game.

Matt Canada’s offense relies heavily on being able to run between the tackles. Many college and NFL offenses do, because if you can force defenses to focus on your interior run game it opens up everything you want to do, from outside runs to play-action to QB runs, everything gets easier when you can run up the middle successfully. For evidence I invite you to go watch some of the 2004 Steelers offense, when a dominant interior run game set up rookie Ben Roethlisberger for a fantastic season. That team, with Roethlisberger starting, was undefeated until the Patriots shut down the Steelers interior run game and the entire offense fell apart.

Matt Canada runs a very different offense than that team did, but his offense relies heavily on establishing the interior run game. One of the run schemes the Steelers used a lot in 2021 is inside zone.

To be clear, I’m not running a coaching clinic. I’m not here to dig into nuances of blocking. I’m going to lump several different plays into the category of inside zone. Feel free to get more in-depth than I am in the comment section. This series is intentionally not going that direction. We’re covering basics here.

Steelers vs. Bengals, second quarter, 5:34

Zone runs have one basic thing in common, and that is combo blocks. If you look at the interior defensive linemen, you can see the Steelers offensive line double team them, and then work one player off of each block to get to a linebacker. Reaching the linebacker is frequently referred to as second level block. The goal of the combo block is for one lineman to set up the block for his teammate, then get off the block, reach the second level and take care of the linebacker they are responsible for.

One key to the different inside zone schemes is there isn’t a single designed run lane the back must run through. If you look at Kevin Dotson, you can see he is trying to reach the linebacker. That doesn’t make sense if this run is designed to go up the middle. The blocking is designed to get Najee Harris a gap between Dotson and Dan Moore Jr. But you can also see the linebacker head to that gap, and with Trai Turner winning the backside and Kendrick Green getting good push on the play side (play side is the direction Najee is running to start) the run lane is right up the middle.

Steelers vs. Browns, first quarter, 10:07

This is almost the exact same blocking, and like most of the times the Steelers ran it, Najee Harris ends up taking it through the “A” gap (between center and guard). By the end of the season the Steelers were relying on J.C. Hassenauer and John Leglue, and Matt Canada admitted the Steelers ran these interior zone runs a lot because it was one of the few run plays they could execute reliably.

One of the reasons they could run it well is the excellent work Najee Harris puts into these runs. Watch how Harris doesn’t run at gaps, but instead runs at his lineman. To start the play he heads right for Hassenauer’s outer foot, he’s running right at the combo block, and the linebacker, seeing Leglue trying to get off his block heads to that gap. Harris sees that, and cuts back, running right at the combo block from Trai Turner and Chukwuma Okorafor. As Turner reaches the linebacker Harris puts his head down and runs right off Turner’s hip.

His purposeful running sets up Leglue and Turner to get to the linebackers as they have to move toward their blockers to move toward Harris.

This type of run is just one of the blocking schemes the Steelers used, but it was one of the most common and it is foundational to Matt Canada’s offense. This play was a strong one for both Trai Turner and Kevin Dotson, you can see Turner dominate in both of these runs. Inside zone-based runs are great for bullies like Turner and Dotson.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for more in-depth analysis and film rooms on Matta Canada’s Pittsburgh Steelers offense.

5 players who could shock Steelers fans in 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/05/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

These five Pittsburgh Steelers could turn heads this season.

The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers are a team with plenty of question marks surrounding it heading into training camp at the end of July. These questions will certainly be answered when the pads come on at Saint Vincent College, but there are certainly some players who could turn heads this year. Some might even say they could shock fans in 2022.

To be clear, when I said there are players who could shock fans, you have to immediately look at players who have pretty low expectations placed on them. In other words, if T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick or Najee Harris show out in 2022, no one would be shocked. It’s pretty much expected.

So, let’s take a look at the five players who could shock fans this season, in no particular order:

Connor Heyward

There are some fans who don’t believe Heyward is a lock to make the team, and that’s their opinion. However, it isn’t just Heyward’s 6th Round status, but his versatility which has me thinking he could turn heads in 2022.

Yes, I think Heyward makes the team, and I think Matt Canada has plenty up his sleeve for a player who can play fullback, tight end, H-back and even running back. I think Heyward will turn some heads this year.

Zach Gentry

When Gentry was drafted he looked like a former quarterback. Some even said he looked more like a baby giraffe than an NFL tight end. His second season was cut short with a knee injury, and his third year was when he came into his own both physically and positionally.

Some compare Gentry to Matt Spaeth, but to me that is a cut on what Gentry can bring to the offense outside of blocking. Look for Gentry’s role to only increase in the offense in 2022.

Ahkello Witherspoon

Been paying attention this offseason and all you’ve heard is about how Witherspoon is the Steelers’ best coverage cornerback, but the worst tackler.

His lack of physicality has been on display, but I see Witherspoon not just picking up where he left off in 2021, but also being a more complete corner. You don’t think the Steelers have a CB1? It might just be Witherspoon this year, and not by default.

Devin Bush

Blame Adrian Peterson for setting a ridiculous precedent with returning from a serious knee injury. Since AP essentially returned to action after just 9-10 months after tearing his ACL, fans think this is the normal timeline for recovery of the injury.

But it isn’t. Most athletes would say it takes two years to feel normal again. For Bush that equates to this season. Throw in the fact he should be extra motivated by the team passing on his 5th year option, and this could benefit the 2022 team. I think Bush will look more like the 2020 pre-ACL tear Bush this season.

Kendrick Green

If you thought putting Bush on this list was sac religious, you’re probably fuming over seeing Kendrick Green on the list.

I think Green will come into camp with a motivation to prove his worth to the team. Not going in with a backup’s mindset. I expect a big step forward from Green at guard and center, and that is great news for the Steelers, even if he is the main interior offensive lineman.

After all, when was the last time there wasn’t an injury somewhere along the line? Green improving equates to the Steelers avoiding a situation like last season where the team is in dire straits after an injury forced their hand.

I expect Green to be vastly improved in 2022.

For more in-depth analysis on these players, and the reasoning for them being on this list, check out my Let’s Ride podcast below:

Deshaun Watson hearing over, no ruling expected anytime soon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/05/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Keeping fans caught up on all the news surrounding the AFC North rival quarterback.

As the NFL offseason continues to drag on, so does the situation with Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. This has been an ongoing battle the entire offseason, and one fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens are all keeping a close eye on.

The latest news on the situation is the hearing which started last week concluded Thursday, but before fans expect a decision on Watson soon, think again. In fact, attorneys from multiple women who are suing the Browns quarterback are trying to obtain the NFL’s documents from their investigation on Watson.

This per ESPN:

Attorneys for multiple women suing Deshaun Watson over allegations of sexual misconduct are seeking the documents from the NFL’s investigation into the former Houston Texans quarterback.

According to a motion filed Friday by the women’s attorneys, Tony Buzbee and Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, the legal team seeks any and all reports and files from the NFL’s investigation into Watson, including recorded interviews, witness statements and communications. The notice of intention to take deposition by written questions also asks for photographs and “any other type of documents in your files and/or documents regarding the investigation of Deshaun Watson.”

So, if no result is due anytime soon, when will we hear how long the suspension of Watson will be? According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, Robinson asked for post-hearing briefs, which will be due the week of July 11.

With that deadline less than a week away, it also doesn’t mean Robinson will be making a ruling immediately. According to Graziano, there is no set timeline for a decision.

There is no set timeline for Robinson’s decision. A source told Graziano that Robinson is expected “to take her time,” although she is expected to rule before the Browns open training camp late next month on whether the 26-year-old violated the league’s personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline.

The NFL has been pushing for a suspension of at least a year, according to Graziano, who reported that both sides engaged in multiple attempts to reach a settlement while the hearing was still happening but remain unable to agree.

This is looking to drag out for the next few weeks, but be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news on the Steelers, and this situation, as the team prepares for training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA on July 26th.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 07/05/2022 - 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: The independence of Steelers fan dependence

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 black and gold fandom starts.

  • News and Notes
  • Bleeding black and gold
  • and MUCH MORE!
Steelers Hangover: The best of the black-and-gold underappreciated

Every team has unsung heroes, who on the Steelers are underappreciated now and through the years. Join Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White with discussion of this and more on the Steelers Hangover.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Steelers Unsung Guys
  • and MUCH MORE!
From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: Steelers Safety Dance, Where will they all end up?

The Steelers have more players at safety than ever, where will they all end up? Geoffrey Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The surplus at safety for the Steelers
  • 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: Arthur Maulet & Anthony McFarland Jr.

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/04/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

It’s Day 23 of Going For Two, featuring Arthur Maulet and Anthony McFarland Jr.

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:

Arthur Maulet Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Position: Cornerback
Age: 28
Year: 6
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 190
Drafted: UDFA 2017 (New Orleans Saints)
College: Memphis
Roster Outlook: Likely
Analysis:

Signing a two-year deal to stay with the Steelers this past offseason, Arthur Maulet brings something slightly different to the slot cornerback positions than what the Steelers can get from other players in the cornerback room. Logging 379 defensive snaps in 2021, Maulet played all but a handfull of snaps either in the slot position or in the box last season. The biggest question with his roster status comes down to how many cornerbacks the Steelers keep, and do they see his ability to only line up in the slot and not play on the outside as something worthy of a roster position. It is likely the Steelers do, therefore it is likely Maulet is on the Steelers 53-man roster again in 2022.

Anthony McFarland Jr. Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Position: Running back
Age: 23
Year: 3
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 193
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 124, 2020
College: Maryland
Roster Outlook: Likely
Analysis:

It was a disappointing season for Anthony McFarland Jr. in 2022. After missing the first six games of the year due to a knee injury, McFarland returned following the Steelers bye only to appear in two games on the season. On the year, McFarland had three rushing attempts for 3 yards and one reception for 11 yards. McFarland saw more action as a kick returner in 2021 as he had three returns for 73 yards. The big question is if McFarland can return with better quality play in 2022 after being nearly a year removed from his knee injury. As of now, he is likely to make the roster based on default, but a poor preseason, or the emergence of one of the young, undrafted players could have McFarland out of the job. This is also assuming the Steelers don’t add another player to this position group prior to the start of the 2022 season. With all this considered, Anthony McFarland Jr. has a very important preseason ahead of him in 2022.

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, 07/04/2022 - 12:00pm
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:

Like many of you here at BTSC, I bleed all things Black and Gold, but there are times the Steelers drive me absolutely bonkers. Tell me your biggest pet peeve that involves the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Thanks for lasts week’s participation and as always stay safe and Go Steelers.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers offensive line will once again be represented at the Pro Bowl

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/04/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

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 St. 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 offensive line will once again be represented at the Pro Bowl

Why it will happen: The 2021 NFL season was only the second time in the last 12 years where the Steelers did not have an offensive lineman who was selected to the Pro Bowl. The only other year was 2013 as Maurkice Pouncey missed the season due to injury. Although history means very little moving forward, it does go to show that, since the Steelers are known for having offensive linemen as selections, it is easier for them to get noticed. With the Steelers making improvements via free agency, the offensive line should be improved across the board. If the line is improved, it’s much easier for a player, such as a James Daniels, to get noticed around the league. Add in the fact the Steelers offensive line is a group who is expected to have players ascending in their NFL career, they could easily show the ability to gain a selection whether it be an original choice or a replacement.

Why it won’t happen: The Steelers offensive line has not been good the last couple seasons. When it comes to the Pro Bowl, it’s mainly name recognition that will stand out as much as anything unless a player is head and shoulders above everyone else. Even if one of the Steelers offensive lineman emerges as a great player this season, it may take another year before they would be selected and their name to gain more traction. But this could be putting the cart before the horse as the first thing any of the linemen have to do for the Steelers is to have quality, consistent play.

Prediction: I am once again going to have to disagree with the scenario. Despite it being the Steelers going two consecutive years without an offensive lineman making the Pro Bowl since 2008 and 2009, the squad simply wasn’t good enough last season for anyone to gain traction. Believe it or not, most of the offensive lineman who will be selected for the Pro Bowl would probably be getting the votes right now based on reputation regardless of how well they played. It’s just not a flashy position built on stats. Although I think James Daniels has the potential to be a player who could be Pro Bowl caliber, I do not want to set those expectations on him in his very first season. If I expect him to be that great and he ends up being a quality lineman that isn’t selected to the Pro Bowl, I don’t want to be disappointed. But if James Daniels plays well enough to get his name into the mix, that’s just an unexpected bonus.

Check out yesterday’s ‘30 Scenarios in 30 Days’ prediction:

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.

Does a return to Saint Vincent actually matter for the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/04/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Does a return to Saint Vincent actually make a difference for the Steelers?

In 22 days the Pittsburgh Steelers players will do something they haven’t done since 2019, and that being report to a training camp outside of Pittsburgh. The team will be back at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA once again, living in dorms and having the experience of having nothing but football on their minds for the month, or so, they are in that part of western Pennsylvania.

The past two seasons the team hasn’t traveled out of Pittsburgh for obvious reasons. 2020 was when things were shut down due to protocols, and in 2021 it was reported there would be limited fans permitted to attend due to protocols, so the team decided to stay in town. Now, with restrictions lifted the Steelers are heading back to Latrobe.

The last time the Steelers were there was when tragedy struck. 2019 was the camp when the team had to deal with the death of wide receivers coach Daryl Drake at camp, something which wrecked the team, especially the receivers.

Now the team returns, and all that was said between 2019 and 2022 was how they missed being in the college environment. How they value their time in Latrobe. Before a decision was made final this offseason, some thought the Steelers wouldn’t be going back to Latrobe, doing what so many other NFL teams have done in the past and just stay in the comfort of their team headquarters, opting for a handful of open practices for fans to attend.

Throughout this time, it made you question whether the team truly values their time there, or if it is more just for the fans. As my mind works, this brought up a follow-up question...

Does going to Saint Vincent even matter? Does being in that environment do anything to help forge a better Steelers team?

You hear a lot about how the players despise the dorm set up, and can’t wait to get back to the comforts of their homes. Then you hear others who talk about the comradery built during their time there. When Mike Tomlin was on the Pivot Podcast with Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor he spoke about those nights where players sat on a curb outside a dorm talking. Not about football, but life, and how those moments help create a brotherhood which can’t be duplicated just anywhere.

Don’t confuse this question with if the team can improve from the X’s and O’s during camp. Every training camp, no matter where it is located, will have players working on their craft as they trim their roster from 90 to 53. If the Steelers being on Chuck Noll field somehow helps trimming the roster easier is up for debate.

In my opinion, I feel the Steelers making the trek to Latrobe does matter. I think the bond which is developed on the road, albeit in Latrobe, is one which is tough to duplicate elsewhere. Anyone who has ever attended a camp, doesn’t have to be a sports camp, which was away from home typically talks about how the experience was different...usually for the better.

But this is when I want to open up the question for you to respond. Do you think the Steelers going back to Saint Vincent matters? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for training camp in just a couple weeks.

When will Kenny Pickett take over as the Steelers QB?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/04/2022 - 7:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have a three horse race for their next quarterback, and many are wondering when Kenny Pickett will be named the starter.

The question posed as the headline of this article is what every Pittsburgh Steelers fan wants to know. You don’t draft a quarterback with your top pick, 20th overall, just to have him be a perennial backup. This doesn’t mean Kenny Pickett will be the full-time starter in Week 1 of his rookie season, but the question remains...

When will Kenny Pickett take over as the Steelers quarterback?

At ESPN, they asked this very question to those who cover teams with rookie quarterbacks. Brooke Pryor, who is the beat reporter for the Steelers for ESPN, took the honors with answering the key questions for the fan base.

Let’s get the background information every fan knows out of the way...

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers

Drafted: Round 1, No. 20

Competition to start: Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph

So, according to Pryor, what are the odds Pickett is the Week 1 starter when the Steelers travel to Paul Brown Stadium to play the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals?

Chance of winning the starting job in Week 1: 2%. Throughout OTAs and minicamp, Pickett consistently took third-string reps behind Trubisky and Rudolph. To supplant Trubisky as the starter by Week 1, Pickett would have to be the second coming of Johnny Unitas as soon as he hits training camp. That’s not happening. And that’s OK — the Steelers don’t need to rush Pickett’s development.

Trubisky has looked comfortable and confident throughout offseason workouts, and his early rapport with the locker room signals that he’ll be a leader on this team. Add in the fact that the Steelers open on the road against the AFC champion Bengals, and it’s even more likely Trubisky begins as the starter.

Clearly Pryor doesn’t foresee the Steelers throwing Pickett out right away, but is there a chance he does nothing but hold a clipboard his entire rookie season?

Chance of sitting all season: 40%. The Steelers must believe Pickett is the future of the organization; otherwise, they wouldn’t have selected him in the first round. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the immediate future. If the Steelers navigate the season-opening gauntlet that includes games in Cincinnati and Cleveland, along with home games against Tampa Bay and New England, and Trubisky isn’t losing them games, they should stick with him.

If the Steelers can field a strong defense and improved offensive line to aid running back Najee Harris, they just need a steady quarterback who doesn’t make big mistakes. Assuming Trubisky has truly matured and learned a lot in Buffalo behind Josh Allen, he’ll be that guy.

With a 40% chance of sitting all year, there is a 60% chance, according to Pryor, Pickett does start in 2022. So, what game would be the best choice, or best guess, for Pickett to start?

Best prediction for first NFL start: Week 18 vs. Cleveland Browns. Truthfully, I have two weeks circled as possible 2022 NFL debuts for Pickett. The first is Week 10 vs. the Saints after the bye. If Trubisky isn’t performing, the bye gives the Steelers a natural break to make a starting quarterback change. But if Trubisky is playing well, there’s no point in making a change at that juncture.

The second — and more likely — date is Week 18. Even in years in which the Steelers weren’t supposed to be part of the playoff conversation, they’ve still had a fighting chance late in the season. This season might not be any different, and as long as Trubisky isn’t losing the team games, it makes sense to stick with him. But if Week 18 turns into a formality game with nothing on the line but bragging rights, then the Steelers might give Pickett a taste of an AFC North rivalry game.

When you look at the above questions, how do you answer them?

  • What is the chance Pickett starts Week 1?
  • Will Pickett sit the entire 2022 season?
  • What is your prediction for Pickett to get his first start?

Put on your prognosticator hats, and let us know what you think about these questions in the comment section below. And be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for all the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason before reporting for training camp on July 26th at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.

Kenny Pickett goes back to New Jersey to have field named after him

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/04/2022 - 6:30am
Tanya Breen / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Pittsburgh Steelers new quarterback was honored in a special way in his hometown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers wasted little time making Kenny Pickett their top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Being the only quarterback taken in the first round, and having a tremendous five year career at the University of Pittsburgh, Pickett was back in his hometown of Ocean Township, New Jersey for a unique honor.

The same fields Pickett grew up playing pop warner football were being named after him.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Ken Pickett Sr. told Yahoo! Sports. “This is where I spent most of my time with him when he was growing up, on these practice fields.”

Like his father, Pickett has fond memories of growing up playing football on the field which now carry his name.

“I remember being on this particular field when I was 9 or 10 years old,” he said. “Bill Cowley and my dad were my coaches, and I’m best friends with a lot of the guys I played with back then, and they’re here today.

“For me, this is special because I grew up there, and all these kids are doing the same thing I did. And hopefully I give them motivation to keep chasing their dreams.”

The honor goes well beyond Pickett, the player. It goes deep into the area and those who had a hand in helping Pickett become the player he is today. A professional in every aspect of the word.

“It’s more than just recognizing Kenny’s accomplishments,” Ocean Township head coach Don Klein said. “It is important for our community because of the person that Kenny is.

“I remember being at a Pop Warner camp when he was about 10 or 11. We had passing drills in the afternoon he was in like fifth grade and camp went up to 8th grade. And the older kids were all asking him to throw the ball to him. And he said, ‘I only have one football and I am going to throw it to the person who gives us the best chance to score.’ When you have that awareness at that young an age, you have a chance to be pretty special.”

Pickett has just under a month until he reports to his first professional training camp, and he is planning on spending the majority of the next month on the jersey shore training and spending time with family and friends.

But don’t let that fool you, Pickett is focused on the new task at hand — to be the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“The goal is to get on the field. You can’t do anything without getting on the field,” Pickett said. “I’m just trying to work as hard as I can to put myself in the best position.”

Pickett views the naming of the field after him as his football journey almost coming full circle. A chance for him to help motivate the next group of young players who have their eyes on big goals.

“Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces is really special, and I’m just incredibly grateful to have the field named after me,” Pickett said.

“So many people helped me get to where I am today and a lot of them were here, a lot of them were at my draft party. I hold those people close to me. They are very special and they all know who they are. I definitely wouldn’t be here without their love and support.”

The Steelers report to training camp on July 26th at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA, something the team hasn’t done since 2019. In this regard, Pickett won’t be the only player getting used to their new surroundings, but expectations are high for the former Pitt quarterback to put his best foot forward when it matters most.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 07/04/2022 - 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 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: Defending the AFC North Best

Who has the best line of defense among the Bengals, Browns, and Ravens and where do the Pittsburgh Steelers rank? 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
  • The defenses
  • Special Guest: Brandon Herriott
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Steelers Sunday Night Q&A: Independence Q&A

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 Andrew WIlbar and Shannon White 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: How does the 2022 Steelers roster stack up?

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 roster has a lot of question marks on it, but how do they stack up to the previous Super Bowl teams since 2000? BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman dives head-first into this topic on the latest episode of the “Let’s Ride” podcast.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the Steelers 2022 roster
  • 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, 07/03/2022 - 3:30pm
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via 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 6/27

EXCLUSIVE: #Steelers WR Calvin Austin III
"I don't see myself as a guy who fits in one role - I'm not that type of player. I can do a variety of things and contribute in a variety of ways."https://t.co/6OM5VepRIS pic.twitter.com/N0sBdTxwcV

— Steelers Takeaways (@PittsburghSport) June 27, 2022

There is a lot of hype over CA3. If he is able to bring to the Steelers what he knows that he has to offer, look out!

Tuesday 6/28

Mark Kaboly: "Unless Trubisky gets hurt or plays terribly in camp and the preseason, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t start the season as the No. 1. How long he stays there will depend on how he plays." #Steelers #NFL

— Blitzburgh✨ (@Blitz_Burgh) June 28, 2022

A lot can happen in Latrobe, but at least the Steelers have a possible blueprint.

Commanders’ Terry McLaurin is signing a 3-year extension worth up to $71 million in new money that places him amongst the NFL’s top-five highest-paid WRs, sources tell ESPN. Buddy Baker and Tony Bonagura of Exclusive Sports Group finalized deal today w/ Washington SVP Rob Rogers. pic.twitter.com/9O6nxXzNXd

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 28, 2022

Yeah, Diontae Johnson is going to ask for a lot of loot after another receiver signs for big bucks.

Wednesday 6/29

The hottest unis on the market

Whose jersey are you getting next? pic.twitter.com/TA9ppNAgPZ

— NFL (@NFL) June 29, 2022

Kenny Pickett is popular. He is the highest 2022 draft pick as far as jersey sales go. Even BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman wants a Pickett jersey. That is, of course, after he gets his Dick Shiner Throwback.

Thursday 6/30

Fun fact: Larry Ogunjobi and Alex Highsmith played college ball at Charlotte together (they were there at the same time in 2016).

In 6 combined college seasons between these two players, Highsmith and Ogunjobi combined for 76.0 TFLs and 26.5 sacks. #Steelers

— Tommy Jaggi (@TommyJaggi) June 30, 2022

Since Ogunjobi was signed, I have contended that Alex Highsmith would benefit the most from the addition of the former Brown and Bengal. I hadn’t known that they played together at Charlotte. This is promising.

Friday 7/1

& it’s official nothing else needs to be said, let’s gooo pic.twitter.com/lBGwwI7nyg

— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) July 1, 2022

Anything to stay relevant. I, personally, would rather see hobos battle in an alley over a half-eaten Arbys Beef ‘N Cheddar.

For all you nerds out there. #StrangerThings4 pic.twitter.com/xZXq6tgZg0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) July 1, 2022

The Steelers celebrating the release of Season 4, Volume 2 of Stranger Things with a fun tweet. Let’s hope 2022 isn’t as disturbing as what I watched on Netflix over the weekend.

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: John Leglue & Isaiahh Loudermilk

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/03/2022 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Day 22 of Going For Two, featuring John Leglue and Isaiahh Loudermilk

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:

John Leglue Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Position: Offensive Lineman
Age: 26
Year: 2
Height: 6’7”
Weight: 310
Drafted: UDFA 2019 (Denver Broncos)
College: Tulane
Roster Outlook: Bubble
Analysis:

One year ago, John Leglue was a longshot to make the Steelers practice squad, let alone a the 53-man roster. After a solid preseason, Leglue found his way onto the Steelers practice squad, a place which was familiar as he spent 2019 on the New Orleans Saints squad. But when the injuries kept piling up at the guard position for the Steelers in 2021, Leglue found himself getting his first NFL action against the Baltimore Ravens after B.J. Finney went out on the third snap of the game. Leglue started the remaining five regular season games and the Steelers Wild Card game and logged a total of 407 regular season snaps. While his playing time to end the year gives Leglue an advantage for 2022, he still will find himself on the bubble to make the roster based on the Steelers making additions to the position group. The fact that Leglue has played center, guard, and tackle throughout his NFL career may bode well for him, but he also may be looking for another practice squad position depending on how everything else shakes out.

Isaiah Loudermilk Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Position: Defensive End
Age: 24
Year: 2
Height: 6’7”
Weight: 293
Drafted: Round 5, Pick 156, 2021
College: Wisconsin
Roster Outlook: Very likely
Analysis:

While Loudermilk is very close to a roster lock after the Steelers traded into the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft to acquire him, it is a very crowded defensive line room at this time. For that reason, they are very well could be a player expected to make the 53 who ends up released come September. Although I doubt it will be Loudermilk after he showed promise in 2021 when he ended up with two games started, three passes defensed, and a sack on the season while playing 288 defensive snaps. What’s more important is to see how much Loudermilk progresses in 2022 and if he can emerge as one of the young players to be the future of the Steelers defensive line.

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, Steel Radial edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/03/2022 - 12:00pm
Photo by Adam Glanzman/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, the coordinator conundrum, the next 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 Fosters Forever

Sal Vulcano may hail from Brooklyn, but when it comes to his NFL team, the comedian doesn’t joke about hailing the Pittsburgh Steelers. Back in 2015 on Twitter, the organization was pleasantly surprised to learn that the standup and Impractical Jokers star is a self-professed Steelers die hard.

@steelers Born in 76. Fan since I'm a kid. I'm freaking out right now. #STEELERSNATION I'd wear all 6 of my jerseys on the show if u let me!

— Sal Vulcano (@SalVulcano) March 9, 2015

Staying up through the night to watch this game in London. @steelers #SteelersNation #Steelers #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/6JppM54JxO

— Sal Vulcano (@SalVulcano) January 16, 2017 BTSC Steelers Jeopardy

(Answer at bottom of article)

Steel Facts

This is kind of a bizarre stat, but in 8 Steelers Super Bowl appearances, the Men of Steel have only played after seasons with years ending in zero, four, five (3 times), eight (twice) and nine. Upon thinking about the Steelers being crowned AFC champions after the 1975, 1995 and 2005 seasons, I figured that their best combined record since the Chuck Noll era began in 1969 would be in years that ended in cinco or ocho due to the Super Bowl wins after ‘78 and ‘08. But actually, four is the winner here. Only the combined nines are the seasons under .500, but barely. Let’s take a look.

Zero (‘70, ‘80, ‘90, ‘00, ‘10 & ‘20) 56-38

One (‘71, ‘81, ‘91, ‘01, ‘11 & ‘21) 53-39

Two (‘72, ‘82, ‘92, ‘02 & ‘12) 46-24-1

Three (‘73, ‘83, ‘93, ‘03 & ‘13) 43-35

Four (‘74, ‘84, ‘94, ‘04 & ‘14) 57-20-1

Five (‘75, ‘85, ‘95, ‘05 & ‘15) 51-27

Six (‘76, ‘86, ‘96, ‘06 & ‘16) 45-33

Seven (‘77, ‘87, ‘97, ‘07 & ‘17) 51-26

Eight (‘78, ‘88, ‘98, ‘08 & ‘18) 47-30-1

Nine (‘69, ‘79, 89, ‘99, ‘09 & ‘19) 45-49

Middle Name Madness

We love citing the second name of members of the Men of Steel here at Behind the Steel Curtain. We always cite Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger, Christopher Lynn Boswell and Trent Jordan Watt, but who else? Hence, the “More You Know Middle Name of the Week”. This week we honor a former first rounder that started on the Steelers Practice Squad in 2021 after being released by the Raiders.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images Karl Myrthell Joseph This Week’s Birthdays of Steel

7/3 Neil O’Donnell (1966)

7/4 Frank Lewis (1947)

7/5 Sam Davis (1947), Diontae Johnson (1996), Jerrol Williams (1967)

7/6 Matt Bahr (1956), Gary Ballman (1940), Nat Berhe (1991), Joe Krupa (1933)

7/7 Demarcus Ayers (1994), Chase Claypool (1998), Matt Feiler (1992), Cassius Marsh (1992)

7/8 Colin Holba (1994), Jack Lambert (1952), Bill Mackrides (1925), Mat McBriar (1979)

7/9 Will Blackwell (1975)

Strange Sights for Sore Steeler Nation Eyes

Not every NFL player retires with their original team, having played with no other franchise. We may try to forget the image of our Steel Heroes wearing another uniform, but it’s a part of fandom and legends sometimes change team colors. The Hall of Famer featured today may just be the biggest black-and-gold fish to get away. The legendary cornerback played for the Steelers from 1987 through 1996, but the franchise wanted Hot Rod to switch positions and they were reluctant to pay him what he thought he was worth, triggering an exodus to San Francisco. The first rounder from Purdue was injured in the first game of 1995, but still managed to play, despite a torn ACL, in the Super Bowl XXX loss to Dallas. Woodson did win a ring for, of all teams, the Baltimore Ravens in 2000 as a safety. The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 concluded his career with the Raiders in 2003 and was inducted in Canton in 2009. Rod Woodson does participate in Pittsburgh events as an ambassador to the Steelers, however the sight of No. 26 wearing the silver and black, purple or scarlet was disconcerting.

Varsity Blues Black & Golds

James Daniels is finally back in black and gold, but he was never a Pittsburgh Steeler until now. The dynamic offensive lineman came to the Steel City as a free agent after having been drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2018 in Round 2. When Big James puts the home uni on for the first time, it will be deja vu all over again.

James Daniels Hypocycloids Gone Hollywood

Black Sunday isn’t exactly Die Hard on a blimp, but it is a genuine action-thriller from 11 years earlier. When a suicidal Vietnam vet turned blimp pilot plots with a Palestinian terrorist to crash his blimp into the Super Bowl, action and intrigue ensues as an Israeli military agent teams up with the F.B.I. to try and stop the mass murder-suicide. The teams playing for the Lombardi at the Orange Bowl were the Steelers and Cowboys. Producer Robert Evans did the impossible by getting the NFL to permit Director John Frankenheimer to film Super Bowl X. For 1977, this film was ahead of its time and gave Steeler Nation the chance to see their team on the big screen.

Cliff Clavin Corner

It’s a little-known fact that Uniroyal manufactured a tire that honored the toughness of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Check out the commercial.

Steelers Jeopardy Answer in the Form of a Question: What is Tom Brady?

When Terry Bradshaw had his infamous surgery back in 1983, the Shreveport hospital dubbed the celebrity quarterback “Thomas Brady” for the sake of privacy and to quell a possible media circus. The other TB12 was a mere five-years-old at the time.

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.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Najee Harris will stay healthy for the entire season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/03/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

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: Najee Harris will stay healthy for the entire season for the second year in a row.

Why it will happen: When it comes to players who take care of their bodies, Najee Harris would certainly rank near the top of that list. You hear it from Mike Tomlin, position coaches and teammates. They all laud Harris’ unbelievable willingness to take care of his body from everything to the way he trains, to what he puts into his body. Harris will need to keep his body in tip-top shape in 2022 based on his rookie workload.

On top of his physical conditioning, I think the Steelers will be more willing to spell Harris more this season. Whether it be with Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, an undrafted rookie or a player to be named later. The Steelers understand the value of Harris, and keeping him healthy will be paramount.

Lastly, Harris will have to understand when it is smart to just go out of bounds, and when it is worth taking the punishment of staying in bounds and fighting for those extra yards.

Why it won’t happen: There are several factors which playing into Harris missing a game or two this season, and the fact Mike Tomlin likes to have a bell cow back would top the list. He wants backs who don’t have to come off the field. He didn’t take Le’Veon Bell off the field, nor did he want to take James Conner off the field. Harris fits the bill, and I don’t expect Tomlin to take Harris off the field, even if another running back is acquired at some point.

On top of running back usage, Harris’ running style is certainly one which seems to draw big hits at every turn. Last season the hit by Jamal Adams of the Seattle Seahawks comes to mind.

Jamal Adams le reinició las ideas a Najee Harris, luego de ese golpazo #NFLEspañol #SNF pic.twitter.com/xKsoaW2lBO

— Mundo NFL (@MundoNFL) October 18, 2021

Playing running back in the NFL isn’t a “safe” position. You are going to take a beating, and when you combine Harris’ style to his usage it seems less likely he would be able to suit up for 17 games for a second year in a row.

Prediction: James Conner was a tremendous running back for the Steelers would couldn’t stay healthy. Le’Veon Bell was one of the most dynamic backs to ever wear the black and gold, but always seemed to get injured at the worst times. Is Najee Harris headed down this same path?

I don’t think he is, and I think the Steelers realize how valuable Harris is to the offense, and team. Whether the Steelers bring in another running back isn’t important right now. Why? Because I think the team is ready to use Snell and McFarland as necessary to take some hits off Harris. 17 games is a long time, but I think Harris is built to handle the abuse, and combined with the Steelers using other backs more it should equate to another healthy season for the former Alabama star.

Lastly, for those superstitious, I just knocked on wood...

Check out yesterday’s prediction in the link below:

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.

A Letter From the Editor: Looking back to the 2002 Steelers for guidance in 2022

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/03/2022 - 9:00am
Photo credit should read DAVID MAXWELL/AFP via Getty Images

How will the Steelers win in 2022? I look back at 2002 for some answers...

The other day in preparation for one of my Let’s Ride podcasts, I pulled Jim Wexell’s Polamalu book off the shelf to look at a blurb from Polamalu’s first season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As I was leafing through this tremendous book, if you haven’t read it yet, you should, and I stumbled upon information about the 2002 Steelers.

This obviously jogged some serious memories, and one game in particular.

The 2002 AFC Wild Card game between the Cleveland Browns and Steelers at Heinz Field.

I remember this game vividly for many reasons. Kelly Holcomb and Dennis Northcutt carving up the Steelers’ defense, and of course the finish. Who can forget the draw play to Chris Fuamatu-Maʻafala in the snow to give the Steelers the lead?! Tack on the two-point conversion, a direct snap to Antwaan Randle El and pass to Jerame Tuman, and the Steelers somehow walked away with a 36-33 victory.

I actually watched the majority of the game just the other day. Want to watch the game in its entirety? Click HERE...

As I was watching Tommy Maddox and company do their best to avoid a deflating postseason loss to the Browns, I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons to the team the Steelers are going to roll out onto the field in 2022.

No, not just the fact Maddox and rookie Kenny Pickett both had No. 8, but the uncertainty the 2022 team faces are some of the same uncertainties the 2002 team faced, especially in that playoff game.

For anyone who thinks the 2002 defense was like the 70s steel curtain, you must be thinking of a different team, and most importantly that specific game. In that 2002 playoff game Kelly Holcomb threw for 429 yards and three touchdowns. During the game, Holcomb, who was the backup for injured Tim Couch, had passes of 83, 32, 29, 15 and 43 yards. In the Steelers’ defense, they were without Chad Scott and Mike Logan, both out due to injuries.

So, what’s the point?

The point is I could see the 2022 Steelers having to win some wild games this season, just like the 2002 team did on more than one occasion.

Offensively, the Maddox-led team wasn’t always pretty. They had playmakers, but often times had to overcome some bone-headed decisions, especially by the quarterback. I think it’s safe to say the same could be said about whoever is the team’s quarterback this upcoming season.

Defensively, I already mentioned how the Steelers were shredded through the air by a backup quarterback from the moment the game started, till the scoreboard read zeroes. They had to make timely plays, and hope their offense would bail them out. Granted, this isn’t the recipe for success in 2022, but there will be games when things don’t necessarily go the Steelers way on defense.

When you look back at that one particular playoff game, it truly had it all. Turnovers, special teams plays, Randle El’s punt return touchdown, and a down-to-the-wire finish.

Am I drawing too much from one game? Absolutely. However, I do think looking at a game like this provides perspective for the post-Ben Roethlisberger era. When Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004, and went on his magical run that season, everything changed in the organization. Expectations were elevated and it was Super Bowl or bust. When I think back to 2002, even though the Steelers were coming off a 13-3 season in 2001, the uncertainty at quarterback, who can forget the Kordell Stewart experiment, and the question marks in the secondary certainly do sound familiar heading into this 2022 season.

The Tommy Gun era of Steelers football never produced a championship. Division title, yes, but a championship? No. They didn’t even reach an AFC Championship game with Maddox at the helm. But the one thing which was known to almost everyone was how Maddox wasn’t considered the long term answer at the position. Looking at the Steelers’ current depth at the position, and you see more hope for the future at quarterback than the team had in 2002. And I’d also be lying if I didn’t tell you those games were exciting to watch. The team finished 10-5-1 in 2002, and almost punched their ticket to the AFC Championship game if Joe Nedney didn’t happen in the Divisional Round against the Tennessee Titans.

To wrap up this trip down memory lane, be prepared for Steelers football to look different this season. It isn’t going to be the same-old, same-old considering so much has changed. No Roethlisberger, no Butler and no Colbert will leave plenty of opportunities for others to step up and leave their imprint on the team. I, for one, am looking forward to that, and am keeping the faith for 2022...just like I did in the Wild Card game back in 2002.

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

2021 Steelers Top 10: Ahkello Witherspoon takes the final spot

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 07/03/2022 - 6:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

BTSC voters have chosen the most valuable Steelers from 2021.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue through the offseason, building 2022 roster, we took time to take a look back at 2021 again and rank the Top 10 Steelers players of the season. Today we finalize the list with our last addition, Akhello Witherspoon.

Ahkello Witherspoon joined the Steelers one week before the Steelers first game of 2021, when the Steelers traded a 5th round pick for the veteran corner. Witherspoon has had a roller coaster of a career with patches of great and terrible play intermixing throughout his first four years in the NFL. His tenure in Pittsburgh was no less chaotic.

Witherspoon’s first time in a Steeler uniform was in week 2, and it went about as bad as it could, giving up a 61-yard touchdown and getting benched after only 4 snaps, all of them bad. He would next see the field in week 11, and was much better. He wouldn’t give up another touchdown or even 50 receiving yards in any game the rest of the season.

In his 35 targets after the week 2 debacle Witherspoon allowed only 13 catches, while he recorded 9 pass defenses and 3 interceptions. Both numbers led the Steelers despite playing fewer games and far fewer snaps than most of his fellow defensive backs.

With Akhello Witherspoon winning the last spot on our list we now have a complete top ten:

Best Steelers of 2021:
1. T.J. Watt
2. Cameron Heyward
3. Najee Harris
4. Minkah Fitzpatrick
5. Chris Boswell
6. Pat Freiermuth
7. Diontae Johnson
8. Ben Roethlisberger
9. Alex Highsmith
10. Akhello Witherspoon

Our top ten list includes 5 defenders, 4 offensive players and Chris Boswell. A pretty good balance, although the top of the list is definitely headed by the defense.

This list is likely different from the top ten list most of us would make. I would have put Minkah Fitzpatrick ahead of Najee Harris and I would swap out the last two for Terrell Edmunds and Kevin Dotson, but this is a pretty solid list. What do you think?

Everyone knows the most important part of any top-10 list is arguing about what you disagree with. So make sure to give your arguments and superior lists in the comments, and also vote for the worst part of the BTSC Top Ten Steelers of 2021.

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