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Steelers roster ranks in the bottom half of the NFL, per ESPN

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/30/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers roster is rather unproven, and their ranking among the NFL would explain just that.

The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers are an unknown commodity at this point in the offseason. There is plenty of potential up and down their roster, but it is a far cry from being the known commodity fans have grown accustomed to the past decade.

A lot of the uncertainty hinges on the fact no one knows what to expect with the offense without Ben Roethlisberger on the roster. Not only is the production an unknown, but so is the next quarterback.

Will the next quarterback be Mitch Trubisky? Mason Rudolph? Kenny Pickett?

No one knows, and this makes the 2022 roster more of a complexity. On top of the offensive questions, the defense, which ranked 32nd in the NFL last season, has their share of unknowns as well.

Will the loss of Stephon Tuitt to retirement end up being a death knell for the defense for a second consecutive year? Will Devin Bush return to form, finally? How about the free agent signings of Myles Jack, Damontae Kazee and Levi Wallace impact the production of the defense?

These concerns are not isolated to the Steelers. Plenty of teams have these concerns, but in Pittsburgh the expectation is different. It makes you wonder just how the Steelers’ roster ranks when compared to the rest of the league. ESPN recently ranked all 32 NFL rosters, but before we get into the rankings, there is some background information on this exercise which is needed:

With the 2022 draft and free agency behind us, we’re breaking down each team’s roster using the PFF database, with an eye toward the projected starters. We looked at both the PFF grades from the 2021 season — a number included for every projected starter — and a more comprehensive assessment of each player’s career using both PFF grades and statistics.

- Pro Football Focus grades of 90-plus categorize as elite, 80-89.9 are good/high quality, 70-79.9 check in as average and 69.9 or lower are considered below average.

- For rookies and players not active (or barely active) in 2021, we used college grades or NFL grades from earlier seasons. NFL grades from 2020 or earlier are marked with (*), college grades from 2021 are marked with (**), and college grades from 2020 or earlier are marked with (***).

With that being said, let’s take a look at the rankings, and where the Steelers rank among the league’s best.

ESPN Roster Rankings

1. Buffalo Bills
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. Los Angeles Chargers
4. Los Angeles Rams
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Cleveland Browns
7. Philadelphia Eagles
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. Kansas City Chiefs
10. Miami Dolphins
22. Pittsburgh Steelers

Biggest strength: It’s hard to find many better duos along the defensive front than T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward. Over the past three seasons, both Watt and Heyward rank among the top three players at their respective positions in both quarterback pressures and run stops. Their ability to make impact plays regardless of the situation is at the center of Pittsburgh’s defensive success over that three-year stretch.

Biggest weakness: The Steelers’ offensive line has deteriorated from a unit that five-plus years ago was one of the best in the league under offensive line coach Mike Munchak. Now it profiles closer to the bottom of the league. This group was aided in pass protection by Ben Roethlisberger’s 2.2-second average time to throw over the past two seasons (fastest in the NFL), making how it fares in what should be a different-looking 2022 offense something worth monitoring.

X factor for 2022: The two-year, $8 million contract Ahkello Witherspoon signed to remain in Pittsburgh this offseason doesn’t scream No. 1 outside cornerback, but that’s what the Steelers are counting on him to be when looking at the rest of their roster. From Week 13 through the end of the season, Witherspoon allowed a passer rating of just 20.2 on throws into his coverage. His play has been hot and cold throughout his five-year career, but the Steelers will be hoping he carries over that momentum into 2022.

It’s hard to argue with much said about the Steelers ranking, and even the description of the unit. You can argue the Steelers’ roster is better than a team, or two, above them, but ultimately the Steelers will find themselves near the same ranking until they prove they can go out and win games in 2022.

As for the division, here are how all four teams who call the AFC North home ranked:

AFC North Rankings

6. Cleveland Browns
8. Cincinnati Bengals
12. Baltimore Ravens
22. Pittsburgh Steelers

With all that being said, what do you think about all of this? Do you think the Steelers should be given more credit for the roster they assembled? Or do you think the experts have this pretty spot on?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason and prepare for training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 26th.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will continue their streak of 50+ sacks in a season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/30/2022 - 10:00am
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 will continue their streak of 50+ sacks in a season

Why it will happen: When looking at the numbers, a team needs to average three sacks a game in order to get to 50 on the season now that there are 17 contests each year. With the added game, it gives the Steelers a better chance. Plus, the streak began in 2017 and is currently at five years. What else began in 2017? That would be the career of 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt. With the Steelers having a knack of getting to the quarterback from all kinds of places, the question isn’t if they will reach 50 sacks for a sixth-straight season, it’s will they reach 60 sacks for the first time in franchise history.

Why it won’t happen: While 2017 did see the arrival of T.J. Watt to the Steelers defense, it also came with the addition of cornerback and Joe Haden. With better defense in the secondary, the Steelers have been able to have more confidence in their pass rush as they have been better equipped to defend the pass. With Joe Haden not currently on the Steelers roster, and the fact that father time was catching up with him anyway, there are some question marks with the Steelers cornerbacks going into 2022. Will the Steelers secondary hold up enough to give the players on the defensive front the time to get to the quarterback this season?

Additionally, the Steelers also have a new defensive coordinator in 2022. The retirement of Keith Butler should not be taken for granted as he could dial up blitz packages and pressure schemes as good as anyone. Will the Steelers still be able to get the same pressure without their former coordinator?

Prediction: Being the eternal optimist, I will once again agree with this scenario. I am in the camp that one would think the Steelers are closer to the 60-sack threshold than they are falling under 50. The additional game helps, and looking at the Steelers defensive front it seems to be improved from 2021.

While some people may dismiss the Keith Butler factor, it is a concern. It’s not that things will be worse, especially with Brian Flores stepping up to coach the linebackers, but things will be different. Will the emphasis still be on pressuring the quarterback? I believe it will. Why would the Steelers not look to utilize their strength of not only having their best defensive player, but the best defensive player in the league last season who is an expert pass rusher.

As much as I would like to see the Steelers hit 60 this year, I’m going to set my number at 57. This would be a franchise record for the Steelers as they reached 56 sacks in both 2020 and 2017.

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.

Steelers Vertex: Can Chase Claypool take his game to the next level in 2022?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/30/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

After a lackluster second season, how can Claypool be put in a position to take a leap in year three?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are chugging on through the 2022 offseason. Looking at a number of players and positions as the roster has fluctuated, sometimes it’s players the Steelers have on their roster taking a step that can really add to the coming season. Hoping that 2021 was a year Chase Claypool saw a jump from his rookie season, Claypool didn’t build on his outstanding 2020 season. So can 2022 be the year Claypool takes his game to the next level? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

Let’s get a quick reminder of where this nerdiness is coming from.

Vertex- a single point where two or more lines cross.

Sometimes to make a great point, it takes two different systems of analysis to come together and build off each other in order to drawl a proper conclusion. In this case, the two methods are statistical analysis and film breakdown. Enter Dave Schofield (the stat geek) and Geoffrey Benedict (the film guru) to come together to prove a single point based on our two lines of thinking.

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

A lot has been said about Chase Claypool‘s down season in 2021. While Claypool did not come through with improved play that one would hope for in a second season, the numbers show there was not very much of a drop off except in the category of touchdowns. Although he played in one less game in 2021, Chase Claypool did see 131 more snaps than in his rookie season. When looking at the difference in the numbers, Claypool had four less targets, three less receptions, and only 13 less yards than what he had in 2020. Additionally, Claypool saw an increase in rushing statistics as he had four more rushing attempts for 80 more yards.

Where the numbers really went down for Claypool in his second season was having seven less receiving touchdowns and two less rushing touchdowns. Going from 11 total touchdowns as a rookie down to only two in his second season makes everything else seem small in comparison when it comes to the numbers.

In all for 2021, Chase Claypool had 59 receptions 105 targets for 860 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He added 14 rushes for 96 yards as well. Claypool’s most productive game came in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos where he had 130 receiving yards on five receptions and a touchdown, his only game of 2021 where he crossed the century mark in yardage. Additionally, according to Pro Football Reference Claypool only had five drops on the season which were spread out throughout the year with no more than one in a given game.

So while the numbers were comparable with Chase Claypool as he moved from year one into year to, except for the obvious decrease in touchdowns, how did his play evolve on the field? This will come down to looking at the film.

The Film Line:

Chase Claypool had a similar season in 2021 to his 2020 rookie campaign, outside of touchdowns. But despite growth in several areas of his game, his season is likely most remembered for plays like this.

Steelers vs. Bengals, fourth quarter, 11:53.

This wasn’t a new addition to Claypool’s game though, it showed up plenty in 2020.

2020 Steelers vs. Ravens, first quarter, 12:02

Chase Claypool is the receiver in motion to the bottom of the screen.

Claypool doesn’t do well securing the catch or protecting the catch window on either of these passes. These passes both are to Claypool’s outside shoulder. You can see he is trying to square up his frame to make the catch and isn’t able to defend his space when he does.

Compare those to a similar throw when he has no one around him.

Steelers vs. Chargers, second quarter, 13:02.

He makes the catch with laser focus, but he gets narrow and doesn’t protect the catch at all. A better move here is slowing down early to stack the defender and catching the ball over his shoulder. Chase Claypool doesn’t do that. A lot of Claypool’s drops are on these deep balls to his outside shoulder.

Some of the problem can be solved with quarterback play. Go back and look at the Bengals’ clip. That ball could easily have been led in front of Claypool without any threat from the safety. In fact, the biggest difference in Claypool’s game in 2021 is the lack of throws leading Claypool up field or inside. Ben Roethlisberger’s arm wasn’t the same, and I don’t know if the ball just carried outside or if Roethlisberger didn’t trust his arm to split the defense anymore, but those throws were there in 2020.

2020 Steelers vs. Jaguars, second quarter, 7:00.

Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

That’s not an easy catch at all, but the ball is in front of Claypool and in-stride and he makes the play for a touchdown.

Even when passes aren’t on target, Claypool does a good job fighting back to the ball when it is thrown inside.

Steelers @ Bengals, first quarter, 6:01.

Claypool suddenly looks like a bully when he is working toward his eyes instead of backwards. In 2021, Chase Claypool’s two touchdown receptions were 18 yards and 6 yards. Five of Claypool’s nine touchdown receptions in 2020 were longer than that, most of them on passes that led him either directly up field or to the middle of the field.

2020 Steelers vs. Eagles, second quarter, 11:57.

Chase Claypool is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Chase Claypool is explosive on slants and post routes, and teams started sitting defenders in hook zones to take those throws away not long after this game. But when Ben Roethlisberger was still leading him effectively, Claypool was still producing. It wasn’t just Roethlisberger either, this one was from Mason Rudolph in the only game he has played with Chase Claypool, one of Claypool’s three 100+ yard games.

2020 Steelers @ Browns, 4th quarter, 10:13.

Again we see Claypool work back to the ball, stack the defender, and make the catch.

This is Chase Claypool at his best. When Claypool has to adjust to balls that are underthrown or to his back shoulder, he isn’t the same player at all. He doesn’t protect the ball well, and he struggles to stay on his feet. It’s on Chase Claypool to work on his game and get better at making catches he currently struggles to make. But it is also the Steelers responsibility to put him in places where he can succeed more reliably.

I’ve been saying for a while that Chase Claypool isn’t a great Z receiver, and this shows why. He isn’t that streak down the sideline and make contested catches type of receiver that thrives in that role. I think the Steelers saw the same thing and addressed it this offseason.

The Point:

The Steelers added a player in George Pickens that better fits what they want from the Z receiver, and as a rookie, he will likely be used in that role the way Mike Wallace and Martavis Bryant were. Lots of deep routes to stretch the field, open up space for other receivers and have plenty of chances to make plays on throws to the sideline.

We’ve been hearing that Chase Claypool is working more in the slot, a spot he played well in 2021. That’s a role that works well with his skillset. It allows him to work the middle of the field more, run more in-breaking routes, and he won’t be regularly asked to run deep sideline routes that require catches that he isn’t good at.

If the Steelers quarterbacks can develop chemistry with Chase Claypool, we could see a breakout season from the Steelers third-year receiver.

2023 Mock Draft: Steelers use 6th overall pick to select a CB

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/30/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the latest 2023 NFL Mock Draft, the Steelers, who possess the 6th overall pick, use it on a Georgia cornerback.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team in the midst of transition, in many ways. The Ben Roethlisberger era is officially over, and so are the eras of both Kevin Colbert and Keith Butler. There is a massive amount of change going on within the Steelers organization, and it is something which is concerning to many.

Some might believe it is too soon to talk 2023 NFL Draft, but not the fine folks at ESPN. In fact, in their most recent mock draft simulation, Matt Miller outlines who he has tabbed to go to each team in the first round.

But before going any further, there is some important information to know about this exercise:

A few important notes before we get started: This Round 1 order is based on the 2023 projections from ESPN’s Football Power Index, which are different from what Todd McShay used on his early mock draft in May. Underclassmen in this projection are noted with an asterisk, and it includes the five first-round trades that have already been executed.

With all that being said, here is the full first round of Miller’s mock draft. The Steelers have the 6th overall pick. Take a look at who gets taken ahead of the Steelers, who they pass on and who they ultimately end up taking in the first round.

1. New York Jets - Will Anderson Jr., DE, Alabama*
2. Chicago Bears - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State*
3. Houston Texans - Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia*
4. Jacksonville Jaguars - Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama*
5. Atlanta Falcons - C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State*

6. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia*

With rookie first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett on the roster, the Steelers could look to improve in other places. Ringo had eight pass breakups and two interceptions on a loaded defense last season, and you might remember his clinching pick-six in the title game. If the 6-foot-2 corner can make plays without 10 future NFL starters around him, his coverage ability and physical traits will put him in the running for CB1 in this class.

7. Carolina Panthers - Bryce Young, QB, Alabama*
8. Detroit Lions - Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
9. Seattle Seahawks - Jaren Hall, QB, BYU*
10. New York Giants - Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami*
11. Miami Dolphins - Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas*
12. Washington Commanders - Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern*
13. Miami Dolphins (via SF) - Andre Carter II, DE, Army
14. Tennessee Titans - Jordan Addison, WR, USC*
15. Cincinnati Bengals - Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame*
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via NO) - Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson*
17. Las Vegas Raiders - Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson*
18. New England Patriots - Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU*
19. Philadelphia Eagles - Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina*
20. Baltimore Ravens - Henry To’oTo’o, ILB, Alabama
21. Minnesota Vikings - Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina*
22. Arizona Cardinals - Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State*
23. Houston Texans (via CLE) - Isaiah Foskey, OLB, Notre Dame
24. Kansas City Chiefs - Habakkuk Baldonado, DE, Pitt
25. Seattle Seahawks (via DEN) - Trenton Simpson, ILB, Clemson*
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Antonio Johnson, DB, Texas A&M*
27. Indianapolis Colts - Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida*
28. Detroit Lions (via LAR) - Jermaine Burton, WR, Alabama*
29. Los Angeles Chargers - Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor*
30. Dallas Cowboys - Noah Sewell, ILB, Oregon*
31. Green Bay Packers - Felix Anudike-Uzomah, DE, Kansas State*
32. Buffalo Bills - Layden Robinson, G, Texas A&M*

What do you think about the pick? Would you be on board with that selection, or does it leave you shaking your head? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare to report to Saint Vincent College on July 26th for training camp.

Kenny Pickett currently has the 4th highest selling jersey in the NFL

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/30/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kenny Pickett’s No. 8 Pittsburgh Steelers jersey is a hot commodity right now with fans.

There might be some who wonder who Pittsburgh Steelers fans are pulling for to be the next quarterback of the team in 2022. Some might suggest Mitchell Trubisky, considering he was a free agent acquisition. Others might lean towards Mason Rudolph, with his experience in the system. There are also those who want the next era to go ahead and start with the man who was drafted 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Steelers’ top pick — Kenny Pickett.

There are times when you are social media platforms and you wonder if Pickett genuinely is a popular player with the global Steelers fan base. There are many who didn’t like the pick, but then I ran across this tweet from the NFL’s official Twitter account showing the Top 10 jersey sales so far this offseason.

Guess who is No. 4?

Kenny Pickett.

Take a look at the list:

The hottest unis on the market

Whose jersey are you getting next?

— NFL (@NFL) June 29, 2022

Taking a look at the Top 10, it is easy to see why some of these names are so high, and then there are some which make you scratch your head and wonder. Otherwise, here are some players who Pickett’s jerseys are out-gaining at the moment:

  • Tom Brady
  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Justin Herbert
  • Joe Burrow

Let’s look at the Top 10:

1. Russell Wilson — New tenure with the Denver Broncos begins, making his jersey a must have for fans of both Wilson and the Broncos.

2. Josh Allen — After last year’s Divisional Round loss, Allen’s stock has never been higher. Combine that with the expectations from the Buffalo Bills and you have a red-hot jersey market.

3. Davante Adams — Much like Wilson, with Adams leaving Green Bay for the Las Vegas Raiders, the black hole is clamoring for their new Adams jersey.

4. Kenny Pickett — Some might find this to be a head-scratcher, but don’t think for a second the global Steelers fan base isn’t behind this kid. He has brought an excitement for the future of the position/organization.

5. Tom Brady — Despite being 5,000 years old, Brady’s jerseys will continue to be a must-have for fans.

6. Mac Jones — This was a surprise, but Mac Jones has the Patriots’ faithful believing in the second year quarterback out of Alabama.

7. Cooper Kupp — The Super Bowl MVP is getting plenty of love from not just Rams fans, but also for the casual NFL fan. Kupp and Adams are the only two non-quarterback jerseys to make the Top 10.

8. Justin Herbert — Herbert plays in a large market, and is as exciting as they come. I wasn’t surprised at all to see his name grace this list.

9. Patrick Mahomes — People aren’t sick of Mahomes yet, or getting the “Patrick Price”. Mahomes is one of the faces of the NFL, and his jersey sales always reflect that.

10. Joe Burrow — A trip to the Super Bowl and having monstrous expectations heaped on you is tough for some. We’ll see how Burrow responds. Otherwise, Burrow is a very popular player in the league right now.

As you can see, fans love quarterbacks, especially when giving out their hard earned cash to get a new jersey. What about you? Would you fork over the money for a Kenny Pickett No. 8 jersey? Let us know what you think 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 the rest of the offseason.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

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

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

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

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

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

The War Room: Steelers over-drafted foes in the division

Check out BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers in an attempt to put you in the mind of Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan, Brandon Hunt and Kevin Colbert when it comes to personnel. This week, Matty recaps and ranks the various AFC North Draft Classes to help preview what’s to come during the season, contextualizes the Steelers draft class, and demonstrate some of the surprise ‘wins’ each team had, while sharing who might have over-drafted some players.

Rundown of the show:

  • Recapping & Ranking The AFC North’s Draft Classes
  • Much More

Check out the BTSC’s Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matty in The Steelers War Room.

The Steelers Curtain Call: Steelers over-drafted foes in the division

It’s the show where Geoffrey Benedict and Shannon White break down a black and gold off-season full of change in the manner in which they examine the enemy. This time around, Geoff and Shannon welcome Nick Farabaugh to talk the Steelers’ 2022 defense.

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the state of the Steelers on defense
  • Special Guest: Nick Farabaugh

Geoffrey and Shannon walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

The Steelers Stat Geek: Breaking down the Steelers best defensive years

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had tremendous defenses over the years. When did the Steelers’ best “D’ play in the Steel City? Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed by Dave Schofield on the Thursday episode of the AM podcast lineup, “The Steelers Stat Geek”. Join BTSC’s Editor as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • The best versions of the Steelers’ Defense
  • A breakdown of the number in regards to BTSC podcasts
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

Going For Two: Diontae Johnson & Tyree Johnson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/29/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

It’s Day 19 of Going For Two, featuring Diontae Johnson and Tyree Johnson

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:

Diontae Johnson Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Position: Wide Receiver
Age: 25
Year: 4
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 183
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 66, 2019
College: Toledo
Roster Outlook: Lock

There are a lot of different ways to look at Diontae Johnson when it comes to his status as a wide receiver around the NFL. He is one of only six players who finished in the top 16 of receivers in all three categories of yards, receptions, and touchdowns in 2021. Based on this alone, it appears the Johnson is a top-six receiver. But when looking at the numbers for individual games, Johnson only went over the century mark in yardage three times in 2021 with his most yards in one game being 105 on two occasions. Another concern of Steelers’ fans is the number of drops. Based on the numbers provided by Pro Football Reference (PFR), Johnson saw his drops decrease from 13 to 5 from 2020 to 2021 during the regular season. But the other concern is when the five drops occurred, as they were all late in the season as they came in Week 13 or later. Additionally, PFR has Johnson with two additional drops on his 10 targets in the Steelers Wild Card loss.

There is no question about Johnson’s roster status for 2022. The biggest question comes down to if he gets a new deal this year after the insane explosion in the wide receiver market, or if he must wait until next year and possibly test free agency.

Tyree Johnson Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Position: Linebacker
Age: 23
Year: 1
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 240
Drafted: UDFA, 2022
College: Texas A&M
Roster Outlook: Outside looking in

Not all undrafted rookie free agents come into identical situations. While players trying to catch on with the Steelers in crowded rooms such as a defensive line have a long road ahead of them, Tyree Johnson does not have a large number of players ahead of him on the Steelers depth chart at outside linebacker. With the reserve roles at the position not obviously locked down in the eyes of Steelers’ Nation, Johnson will have an opportunity to impress in training camp and put his name in the mix at the position. But not only will Johnson have to move high enough on the death chart, his play would also have to impress the Steelers to make them want to keep more players at outside linebacker rather than use the roster spots at other positions. At worst, Tyree Johnson has an honest shot of landing on the Steelers practice squad if he shows promise as an NFL-caliber player.

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.

Steelers Burning Question: How many sacks will T.J. Watt have in 2022?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/29/2022 - 12:45pm
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Will the reigning Defensive Player of the Year be able to raise the bar even higher?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a fortunate franchise in many ways. There is obviously the six Lombardi trophies which reside at the team’s facility on the south side of Pittsburgh, but also just the wealth of talent they’ve had come through the organization.

When you even just consider the Mike Tomlin era, starting in 2007, the top notch players who have come through are aw inspiring. The player who might shine the brightest is reigning Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) winner T.J. Watt.

It was in 2021 when Watt tied Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record with 22.5 sacks. A tremendous feat for any pass rusher, but then you have to wonder how he will follow up that amazing season?

This past Sunday I looked back at players who had over 20 sacks in a season since 2000, and how they did the following season.

It wasn’t pretty.

Check out that article below:

In the article above I talked about how I feel Watt’s sack numbers could decrease in 2022, but he could still be as dominant as ever. Then again, who am I to suggest Watt’s production will decrease at all?

This made me wonder what you, the fan/reader, thinks about Watt’s sack total in this upcoming regular season? Let us know what you think in the SB Nation Reacts poll below, and feel free to explain your vote 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 on July 26th.

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Each week we ask questions of the most plugged-in Pittsburgh Steelers fans and fans across the country.

Please take our survey

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

PFN: OT the biggest Steelers need, Eric Fisher the solution

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/29/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Steelers are weak at offensive tackle, but Eric Fisher could solve that problem.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been quite thrifty at the offensive tackle position, finding quality depth in the mid to late portions of the draft while purchasing formidable patchwork in free agency. However, at a position as important as left tackle, finding the best possible option is paramount.

In a league that continues to become more pass-happy, the value of an elite left tackle has gone through the roof. At this stage of free agency, there are not going to be any elite players available for the taking, but it does not take away from the fact that there are several starting-caliber players available.

One of those players is Eric Fisher. Fisher never lived up to the billing of his draft status, but he developed into a rock-solid left tackle, protecting the blindside of Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes for eight seasons. After suffering a torn ACL in January of 2021, the Chiefs released Fisher, although the primary reason was because of salary cap issues.

Fisher then signed a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts, hoping to regain his footage and perception around the league following the injury. Unfortunately for Fisher, he was not his normal self and was noticeably hampered for the majority of the season. On the bright side, he began to display improved mobility as the season progressed, indicating that his health is trending in the right direction. He is still a free agent, but when considering the league-wide demand for quality tackles, one cannot expect that to be the case for much longer.

Dallas Robinson of Pro Football Network recently named the biggest need for each AFC team, and he pegged offensive tackle the biggest area of need for the Steelers. Here is what he had to say about the matter.

You don’t often see a fourth-round pick come in and start at left tackle for the entirety of his rookie season, but that’s exactly what Dan Moore Jr. did in 2021. The Texas A&M product improved as the year progressed, but his results were uneven overall.

In the same article, Robinson outlined the solution for each team’s problem, and for the Steelers, the solution was Eric Fisher. Robinson explains.

Fisher could take over as Pittsburgh’s starting LT if the team decides they want more experience on the blindside. Yet, he could be an option for the Steelers even if they decide to roll with Moore again. Right tackle Chuks Okorafor is below replacement level, so it wouldn’t hurt Pittsburgh to roster a veteran who could take over at either tackle spot if needed.

Dan Moore, Jr. displayed tremendous growth in the later stages of 2021, but outside of the Week 17 matchup against Myles Garrett and the Browns, the overall body of work was less than stellar. On the other side of the line, Chukwuma Okorafor was his normal self, displaying relative consistency in pass protection while struggling mightily as a run defender. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Steelers’ offseason was when they decided to give him a three-year contract worth nearly $30 million.

Things do not get much better behind the starters either, as Joe Haeg and Chaz Green are the only noteworthy depth pieces currently rostered. No matter which part of the depth chart you choose to look at, it is clear the Steelers need to upgrade this position. Will they pull the trigger on a free agent tackle such as Fisher? We will have to wait and see.

What would you think of a potential Eric Fisher signing? Do you think he would solidify the Steelers’ corps of offensive tackles? Be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, and stay tuned to BTSC as we get you ready for the 2022 NFL season!

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: The Steelers will give away two new contracts before the season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/29/2022 - 10:00am
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: The Steelers will give away two new contracts before the regular season

Why it will happen: The Steelers are in a good spot with their 2022 salary cap, but they could be in a spot where they look to lock up some players who have earned new contracts. Two player who fit this description would be placekicker Chris Boswell and wide receiver Diontae Johnson. While Johnson’s next contract, and if it happens in Pittsburgh or not, is a hotly debated topic throughout the Steelers’ fan base. There isn’t anyone really complaining if Boswell gets a new contract, but the scenario is the team will deliver two new deals before the regular season begins.

Omar Khan said the Steelers won’t negotiate contracts during the regular season, so there is a hard stop on if/when a deal gets done. While fans might not want to give Johnson a new deal, he certainly could get one to try and get him at a bargain, considering the sky-rocketing price tags on wide receivers. Throw in Boswell’s new deal and you have yourself two new deals done before the season begins.

Why it won’t happen: The Steelers value both Johnson and Boswell, but how much they value them, individually, is certainly something which is less certain. Diontae Johnson has been great, but there are a lot of questions still surrounding his game and future with the team. This isn’t to suggest the Steelers don’t give out a new contract, but the approach to Johnson could be more of a wait-and-see variety. If Johnson plays well in 2022, the Steelers could offer their most competitive offer, and if it doesn’t fit what Johnson has in mind the team moves on. Johnson leaving would help the team in the compensatory pick formula, and young receivers like George Pickens and Calvin Austin III could step into a larger role in Year 2.

Prediction: I foresee the Steelers giving out one new contract, but not two. The thought of singing Johnson at a discount is certainly appealing, but is far from realistic, in my opinion. I think the Steelers lock up their Pro Bowl kicker for the long term, and while this won’t help them much in terms of their cap situation, will help the special teams for the long haul. As I wrote in the “why it won’t happen” section, the Steelers should be okay with waiting to see how Johnson does in 2022 before offering him a new contract. I see one contract, not two.

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.

Who is the most athletic player in Steelers history?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/29/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

In my opinion, Steelers legendary cornerback Mel Blount is the greatest pure athlete in team history. Number two on that list is another legendary corner.

Welcome to the dog days of the summer offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Consider this as the perfect time for cookouts and family vacations, because it is the calm before the six month storm that is the NFL season, even longer for the playoff participants.

Noteworthy news is in high demand, but in short supply, during this portion of the offseason. Some Steelers faithful checkout for a few weeks, recharging their batteries to assure maximum voltage for the season.

We all consider no news to be good news, for the most part, because the last thing we want to hear about are injuries or legal issues during this short break. Hopefully the only stories are about players’ vacation getaways with their family and friends.

I usually try to focus on thought-provoking articles that tend to be a little out of left field for this month of nothingness. Potential trades and/or free agent signings are always a fun topic for discussion, as are Steelers legacy articles.

This is a Steelers legacy article, about Steelers legendary cornerback Mel Blount, one of the greatest pure athletes the league has ever seen.

The inspiration for this article came from a recent Top 10 list posted on Twitter. The focus of the list was the Top 10 pure athletes in sports history. All sports were taken into consideration. Obvious names like Carl Lewis, Michael Jordan, and Usain Bolt made the list. Number one on this particular list was Bo Jackson, which I personally agreed with. Bo Jackson had a tragically short football career, but he was the best pure athlete I ever saw when healthy.

That got me thinking, which is always a dangerous proposition, who is the greatest pure athlete in Pittsburgh Steelers history?

Two names immediately came to mind, and they actually played the same position. Mel Blount and Rod Woodson are not only legendary Hall of Fame cornerbacks for the Steelers, but they are the two best athletes in Steelers history.

First, I should admit I consider Blount and Woodson to be the two best corners in NFL history, so I am biased. However, that's not a problem, because this is a Steelers Top 10 list, and no rational individual would ever question their elite level athleticism.

Next, how did I come to the final conclusion that Blount was No. 1 on my list? In an incredibly close decision, Blount eked out the victory.

Blount was an Adonis. He was tall, fast, and powerful. He was always the alpha in every matchup. He ran like a gazelle, and hit like a bull. He personified intimidation at the cornerback position.

At a legit 6'3" and 215 lbs., Blount had the length and girth of a linebacker. Reportedly, he was basically the same size as Steelers enforcer Jack Lambert by the end of each season, as Lambert's weight consistently dropped during the season. Blount never varied, due to the fact he is a genetic freak.

Blount had the superior speed of a elite corner. Since Blount played prior to the whole NFL Combine craze that we all have come to know and love, official numbers are simply not available, although all reports suggest at least a 4.4 forty time, with many claiming a sub-4.4 time would be spot on. Put it this way, Blount appeared to be as fast as he wanted to be, or at least needed to be.

Blount was far from a kind and gentle cornerback, in the mold of a “Neon” Deion Sanders. Blount looked at opposing receivers like a frustrated mother looks at unruly toddlers, basically saying "Don't you make me chase you!" He put the bump into the bump and run coverage, but he could run step for step with even the fastest receivers. If you can't tell by now, I believe any corner being considered in any best-ever discussion should be a complete player, not just elite in one aspect of playing the position.

Blount was indeed an explosive athlete, even nearing retirement. I read a story about high hurdle track star and eventual 49errs wide receiver Renaldo Nehemiah doing a private workout for multiple NFL teams in the early 80's, with some Steelers scouts in attendance. Nehemiah was a world class athlete, and was putting on a show. Blount happened to pass by at some point, and demonstrated his vertical for those present that day. He checked in at 40"+, in dress shoes no less.

I believe I read the story in Sports Illustrated back in the day, but I am not certain. I wholeheartedly believe that report, because of what an unbelievable physical specimen Blount remains to this very day. The man is 74 years young, and he still looks like he could go a down or two.

Finally, Blount had the punishing hitting ability of a safety, which makes perfect sense, because he played both cornerback and safety in college at Southern University at a All-American level. Don't believe me, look it up.

My best present day comparison for Mel Blount happens to be a wide receiver. Seattle Seahawks D.K. Metcalf. For those too young to remember Blount, Metcalf's unbelievable physique and athleticism is a legitimate comparison.

So there you have it. The reasoning behind why I believe Mel Blount is the most athletic player in Pittsburgh Steelers history, just edging out Rod Woodson.

Who do you think was the best athlete between the two? Maybe you think it's someone else who I may have overlooked. Share your opinion by voting in the attached poll, and by commenting in the available thread.

It promises to be an intriguing discussion.

Updating the Steelers’ salary cap situation after reports of Larry Ogunjobi’s contract

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/29/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The exact details still have some questions to be answered, but it appears as if the cap hit for 2022 is known.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have filled up their 90-man offseason roster heading into the 2022 NFL season. While there still could be some significant swapping of players, there is always the chance something else changes things whether large or small. As reports come in of these deals well before they are official, even after pen is put to paper it can sometimes take some time to know the exact financials within the contract. Relying heavily on reliable salary cap websites such as or, when they are able to report a player’s contract numbers over the specific years I then update the salary cap situation with a more precise number.

On Tuesday, there appeared to be some movement with the Steelers salary cap according to the NFLPA report. While I do not believe the total the NFLPA reports is correct, I do look for how much the report changes. From Monday to Tuesday, the Steelers salary cap space dropped $8,767,801 on their site. With one of those contracts assumed to be from Kenny Pickett, once subtracting off his salary cap hit (after displacement) of $1,662,801, the amount remaining was exactly $7.105 million. This amount just so happens to be the amount of change from a salary of $8 million coming on the books after the $895k displacement was subtracted. For this reason, it appears that Larry Ogunjobi’s contract would count for the full $8 million against the salary cap.

Later on Tuesday, also had a Ogunjobi with an $8 million salary cap hit for 2022. Their breakdown of Ogunjobi‘s contract has him with a $1.535 million base salary and a $6.465 million prorated bonus.

The question remains exactly how this bonus is specified. If it is strictly a signing bonus, then reports of Ogunjobi having incentives in his contract appear to be incorrect. If this is some other kind of bonus, it appears for now it is of the “likely to be earned” category and counts on the 2022 salary cap.

At this time, based on the reports from two different sources, I am moving forward assuming that Ogunjobi‘s contract does count $8 million towards the 2022 salary cap. If more details emerge and the prorated bonus ends up to include incentives that are not likely to be earned, I will adjust the available salary cap space at that time.

To determine how much each player changes the Steelers’ salary cap space, their cap number must be adjusted due to roster displacement. As a reminder, roster displacement is taking into account only the top 51 contracts for a team count towards the salary cap during the offseason. As a larger contract comes on the books, it bumps a smaller contract out of the top 51. Therefore, it’s only the difference in those contracts that increases the salary cap number.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the Steelers salary cap space based on their recent moves by my own calculations. The numbers are strictly the salary cap hit for each player in 2022. Players who were released, were given a tender, or had their exact salary reported are indicated below and the precise numbers are known.

(NOTE: Unless indicated, reported salaries displaced a $825k salary.)

Steelers salary cap space heading into free agency: Approximately $28.8 million

Dwayne Haskins: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement++: -$1.715 million
Miles Killebrew: Reported $1.5175 million; After displacement: -$0.6925 million
Arthur Maulet: Reported $1.535 million; After displacement: -$0.71 million
Mitch Trubisky: Reported $3.66 million; After displacement+: -$2.765 million
Mason Cole: Reported $2.556666 million; After displacement+: -$1.661666 million
Chuks Okorafor: Reported $4.333333 million; After displacement: -$3.508333 million
Robert Spillane: Tendered $2.433 million salary; After displacement: -$1.608 million
Marcus Allen: Tendered $2.54 million salary; After displacement: -$1.715 million
James Daniels: Reported $4.166666 million; After displacement: -$3.341666 million
Levi Wallace: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement*: -$1.672317 million
Montravius Adams: Reported $1.7675 million; After displacement+: -$0.8725 million
Zach Banner: Saved $5 million salary; After displacement: +$4.175 million
Myles Jack: Reported $4.75 million; After displacement*: -$3.90139 million
Joe Schobert: Saved $7.834 million salary; After displacement+: +$6.939 million
Ahkello Witherspoon: Reported $2.5175 million; After displacement+: -$1.6225 million
Gunner Olszewski: Reported $1.5825 million; After displacement+: -$0.6875 million
Genard Avery: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
Karl Joseph: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Miles Boykin: Reported $2.54 million; After displacement++: -$0
Terrell Edmunds: Reported $1.1875 million; After displacement+: -$0.2925
Damontae Kazee: Reported $1.0475 million; After displacement+: -$0.1525
George Pickens: Reported $1.22767 million; After displacement+: -$0.33267
Trenton Scott: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
DeMarvin Leal: Reported $0.943072 million; After displacement+: -$0.048072
Bryce Watts: Released with $10k in dead money: -$0.01
Tuzar Skipper: Reported $895k; not in the top 51: -$0
Stephon Tuitt: Saved $9.05 million salary; After displacement+: +$8.155 million
Minkah Fitzpatrick: Reported $8.124235 million; Replaced $10.612 million: +$2.487765 million
Kenny Pickett: Reported $2.557801 million; After displacement+: -$1.662801
Larry Ogunjobi: Reported $8 million; After displacement+: -$7.105 million

Estimated salary cap space: Approximately $14.3 million

*The salaries displaced by these two contracts were $845,183 (Tre Norwood) and $848,610 (Pressley Harvin)

+A $895k contract was displaced

++Displaced by each other, giving no change to the cap

So where does this number compare to those reported by the major salary cap websites (at the original time of publishing, before any potential updates)?

According to, the Steelers are $14,338,932 under the salary cap. OTC has everything on their books at this time, and we have the exact same dollar amount.

Another credible salary cap website is, which has the Steelers at $20,956,076 under the cap. Spotrac has the above contracts except Ogunjobi and also has Miles Boykin’s prorated bonus incorrectly counting for the Steelers instead of it sticking with the Ravens. Spotrac does not have the offseason workouts counting against the salary cap at this time either. Additionally, Spotrac counts the potential dead money hits of players outside the top 51 salaries in their totals.

I have recently updated how much I believe the Steelers will need to still have when the regular season rolls around, which is much as an additional $13 million. Come September, the Steelers need to account for all 53 players on the roster, sign their practice squad, and have some carryover in order to do business throughout the year. But there is one more expense that will likely add to the $5 million the Steelers hoped to take into the season (in years past). If the Steelers elevate players from the practice squad, they must receive a full game check. Taking this into account, along with significant increases in league-minimum salaries of players who could be added to the roster if another player is injured, the Steelers will likely want to carry an additional $2 million to $3 million, increasing what I had estimated before to be about $10.8 million up to approximately $13 million. Also remember, this needed amount could go down depending on the salaries of the players who do not make the roster, assuming there is not too much dead money.

Based on this number, the Steelers only have about $1.3 million above what they need for the 2022. If the Steelers feel they need more money against the 2022 salary cap, a restructure of T.J. Watt’s contract could give more than $17 million if the Steelers chose to do so. Also, the Steelers could do a restructure for a lower amount if they choose.

Does something not make sense? Curious about any of the specifics? Leave your questions in the comments below and I will check in and do my best to answer them.

Are you ready for the Le’Veon Bell boxing career?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/29/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The former Pittsburgh Steelers running back is preparing for a career in the boxing ring.

Le’Veon Bell, the former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets running back, has dabbled in plenty of occupations outside of football. Bell had, and still has, a music career, but is beginning a new career in the sport of boxing.

Yes, boxing.

Bell, who was introduced to boxing as a form of training for football, began to take the sport more and more seriously. Now to the point where Bell is preparing for his first real boxing match of his new career.

After being very critical on social media of these celebrity boxing matches in the past year, Bell is about to enter the squared circle with another former NFL superstar. According to TMZ Sports, the former Steelers, Chiefs, Jets, Buccaneers and Ravens running back will be going up against Adrian Peterson.

A boxing showdown between two NFL superstars is in the works -- Adrian Peterson is currently in the process of becoming Le'Veon Bell's opponent at Arena next month, TMZ Sports has learned.

— TMZ Sports (@TMZ_Sports) June 27, 2022

While nothing official has been announced yet, here is what TMZ had to say about what they’ve learned about Bell’s first opponent:

30-year-old Bell is slated to take his first boxing match as part of YouTube superstar Austin McBroom’s Social Gloves event in Los Angeles ... but his opponent had het to be announced.

Now, we’re told the 37-year-old former NFL MVP is in talks to take the ring against Bell on July 30 ... in what would be a massive fight between two accomplished running backs.

The question for Steelers fans isn’t will he win, but will you even watch? If so, will you hope Peterson lands some shots on the player who reportedly walked away from a lucrative contract with the Steelers only to have the decision be the beginning of the end of his football career.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of 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 - Wed, 06/29/2022 - 4:30am

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

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

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

With that being said and typed, enjoy the shows below with a brief description of each broadcasted episode.

The Steelers Fix: Steelers Fantasy Football Floors and Ceilings

As we start thinking about our fantasy teams for the 2022 campaign, it’s good to consider all things when drafting your players. This week, Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar look at the floors and ceilings of certain players to consider for your 2022 roster.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Fantasy Players Floors and Ceilings
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Scho Bro Show: Where could the Steelers have a surprise starter in 2022?

The Steelers have a good idea who will be starting at most positions. But could somebody emerge from the abyss and be a surprise starter and at what position could that possibly occur? This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed in the latest installment of the BTSC family of podcasts.

As always, it sure is a good time to get on the airwaves and discuss the black-and-gold. On this show, Dave and Big Bro Scho break down all things Steelers, still talk stats, and also answer questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Surprise Starters?

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

Let’s Ride, Wednesday: 5 players who could shock Steelers fans in 2022

There are things that you guess and things that you know. But every once in a while you get a surprised beyond belief. Who are five players that could shock Steeler Nation in 2022? This is is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts, “Let’s Ride” with BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman. Join Jeff for this and more on the Wednesday episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • 5 players who could shock Steelers fans in 2022
  • The Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

Going For Two: Donovan Jeter & Buddy Johnson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/28/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Day 18 of Going For Two, featuring Donovan Jeter and Buddy Johnson

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:

Donovan Jeter Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Nose tackle
Age: 23
Year: 1
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 325
Drafted: UDFA, 2022
College: Michigan
Roster Outlook: Long shot

The Steelers defensive line room is very crowded. With the return of Tyson Alualu and the signing of Larry Ogunjobi, the Steelers have a lot of players who have logged snaps f in the past despite the retirement a Stephon Tuitt. With players who saw the field for the Steelers in 2021 likely not making the cut, even if the Steelers keep more players than expected, the opportunity for young players to find their way into the league by landing a spot on the Steelers 53-man roster as a defense of lineman is a very difficult path. Enter Donovan Jeter. Growing up in western Pennsylvania, Jeter signed with the Steelers following the 2022 NFL draft. With a long road ahead and a very difficult path to making the team, if Jeter can somehow get his name into the mix with the players the Steelers already have on the defensive line, it would be a huge accomplishment.

Buddy Johnson Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Position: Inside Linebacker
Age: 23
Year: 2
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 240
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 140, 2021
College: Texas A&M
Roster Outlook: Bubble

It was an interesting and likely disappointing season for 2021 fourth-round draft pick Buddy Johnson. Getting a helmet his first two weeks due to injuries to Robert Spillane and Devin Bush, Johnson only logged 18 special team snaps before having a long stretch until he saw the field again. Appearing for Steelers in Week 13 and Week 14, Johnson had a total of six defensive snaps on the season with 59 on special teams in four total games. Dealing with a foot injury late in the season, the Steelers kept Johnson on the active roster up until their Week 18 contest when they placed him on the Reserve/Injured List. Due to not really seeing what Johnson brings, it will be a very interesting preseason in 2022. After being considered a roster lock as a fourth-round draft pick last year, Johnson finds himself more on the bubble as the Steelers invested another draft pick at the position in 2022 in Mark Robinson. With so many players fighting for a few roster spots, Johnson will first have to play well enough to make the Steelers roster. Whether or not Johnson can get into the mix when it comes to playing time at inside linebacker is anybody’s guess as there was so little of a sample size to draw conclusions from his rookie season.

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.

ESPN tabs Connor Heyward as the Steelers standout during minicamp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/28/2022 - 12:45pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers have been out of minicamp for a few weeks, but ESPN picked a standout during the three days of workouts.

Every time an NFL team takes the field, regardless of the setting, media are watching for players who stand out in some way. At ESPN, they recently posted an article stating a surprise standout for all 32 NFL teams.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the player who was recognized might not be one you would have picked out of the current 90-man offseason roster. In fact, it was one of the seven rookies from the 2022 NFL Draft class. And it wasn’t Kenny Pickett.

Brooke Pryor, who was the beat writer who provided the name for the article, actually thought out of the box and chose the surprises standout to be tight end/fullback Connor Heyward as the Steelers’ standout.

See what her explanation was for choosing Connor Heyward:

Pittsburgh Steelers

TE Connor Heyward

It’s hard to be truly under the radar as Cam Heyward’s younger brother, but the rookie Heyward impressed in offseason workouts and showed a chemistry with first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett in a nice snag during a two-minute drill in minicamp. Heyward, selected in the sixth round, figures to be in a hybrid tight end/fullback role in an offense that values versatility in its skill players. Because he has been working mostly with tight ends and receivers, Heyward probably won’t be competing for the fullback roster spot with Derek Watt, making it likely both find roles on the 2022 team.

Connor Heyward certainly did make waves with the one-handed catch during the two-minute drill when the Steelers wrapped up their mandatory minicamp a few weeks ago. However, he was also chastised for the catch. No, not because of the catch he made, but because he got up and celebrated the snag at a time during practice when the focus should have been on getting the ball back to the line of scrimmage to execute another play. This earned Connor Heyward a t-shirt with a donkey on it, and you can guess why there was a donkey on it.

Cam Heyward’s little brother is a tough player to evaluate for the 2022 Steelers. No one really knows where he fits within Matt Canada’s offense, but his versatility is attractive to the organization, both on offense and on special teams. Heyward has experience in college playing running back, fullback, tight end, H-back and even returning kickoffs. Not that he would be doing all that in the NFL, but the age-old saying of ‘the more you can do’ certainly applies to the younger Heyward brother.

Will he be a lock to make the 53-man roster? Let us know what you think in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare to report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA for training camp on July 26th.

The case of the Steelers green dot likely won’t be settled anytime soon

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/28/2022 - 11:30am
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense needs a communicator, and no one knows who it will be in 2022.

For those who might not pay close attention to the details of the NFL, there are green dots on the back of certain players’ helmets. These dots signify they have a communication device inside them for coaches to communicate with the on-field player.

On offense, the green dot is always given to the quarterback. The offensive coordinator, or head coach, will relay the play to the quarterback who then tells the team in the huddle. The communication device shuts off before the play begins. Defensively, because of substitutions, there are three players who can have the dot on their helmet.

Why does this matter for the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers? Because no one knows who will wear the dot on defense this upcoming season. Some are thinking Devin Bush, now fully healthy off his ACL tear in 2020, will be the guy, while others believe recent free agent additions Myles Jack will wear the dot.

If Jack is the player you had in mind to wear the dot, his history of donning the communication device in Jacksonville isn’t great. This from Jaguars beat writer Jamal St. Cyr who went on 105.9 The X with Tim Benz.

“The Jaguars defensive coordinators kept wanting to put this leadership role (on him). Make him the Mike (middle) linebacker. Give him the green dot (communication helmet). They even did it last year. And Myles Jack does not play well when he has to think, and you put him in charge of other players,” St. Cyr said.

Considering it was a rather vague answer, Benz followed up looking for more specifics.

“He just doesn’t play well with that green dot,” St. Cyr continued. “When he is in charge of lining up other guys, making that play call, his play tanks. As soon as you take that green dot away from him and say go out and do your responsibility, it’s like a light comes on.”

Not a glowing endorsement for Jack to be the player wearing the green dot this upcoming season, his first in Pittsburgh. For the Devin Bush detractors out there, if both Bush and Jack aren’t suitable to wear the dot, it puts the defense in quite the bind.

During the team’s Phase 3 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Jack was asked if the Steelers were going to have him wear the dot in 2022.

“That hasn’t been decided yet,” Jack said. “Right now, we both have the green dot. So we are both just communicating on the field. But if I was called to do it, I could do it.”

Jack continued, and explained what went wrong in Jacksonville, and why he had the dot taken away from his last season.

“In the preseason, [Joe] Schobert had it. Then we traded Schobert (to the Steelers),” Jack explained. “And they just kinda threw it on me. But I was the Will. It created communication issues because the Mike is sitting there waiting for me to give him the call and make the closed call. So eventually they switched it over (to Wilson).

“They felt like me playing Will (weak-side linebacker), they felt like the Mike should have the green dot. That was the miscommunication (in Jacksonville). But if (the Steelers coaches) needed me to do it, I could do it 100%.”

Being able to do it, and wanting to do it are two completely different things. Jack says he can, but also admitted he would much rather just play.

“It’s obviously cool just hearing the call and just playing,” Jack said. “But if I have the responsibility of getting people lined up, that’s not hard to do. It’s one more thing, but I don’t think it will slow me down by any means. If they name me the Mike and give me the green dot, I can do it.”

This continues to be a hot button topic with Steelers fans which won’t be decided until the team reports to training camp on July 26th at Saint Vincent College. It is just one of many questions surrounding the inside linebackers on the roster, and how the Teryl Austin led defense utilizes their inside linebackers could ultimately make this decision a lot easier than many are making it out to be.

Nonetheless, 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 the 2022 regular season.

30 Scenarios in 30 Days: Kenny Pickett will still be 3rd on the depth chart in Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/28/2022 - 10:00am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the 2022 regular season, but before the real games begin, the team has to head to training camp back at 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: Quarterback Kenny Pickett will still be 3rd on the depth chart in Week 1

Why it will happen: It’s where he is starting going into training camp. Although he will have every opportunity to win the starting job, Kenny Pickett will only move up the depth chart if the Steelers choose to do it before Week 1 based on his play, or if one of the other players above him is not available due to injury, trade, or release.

First let’s look at the potential change in personnel. Since it seems futile to predict injuries, it comes down to the other two factors. Releasing one of the two quarterbacks, although possible, would be surprising. As for a trade, I’d say it’s fair to say there’s a 50–50 chance, but I would also say that it’s also about a 50–50 chance whether or not that trade happens prior to Week 1 instead of during the season once another team is dealing with injury. Based on that, the odds are greater that the position group will remain the same for Week 1 than one of the players ahead of Pickett being traded or released.

Now looking at Pickett’s play and his ability to move up the depth chart, let’s look at the chances of him landing at either the number one or number two spot. The last quarterback drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers to start Week 1 of his rookie season was Terry Bradshaw in 1970. But he was the number one overall pick and took over a 1–13 team. So based on Steelers history, the odds of Pickett moving up to start right away as a rookie are stacked against him.

The bigger question comes in who the Steelers will want to have active on game day as their number two option. Will the Steelers want to have the rookie in a situation where he would have to come off the bench in an emergency during his very first game? With the two other options currently ahead of Pickett on the depth chart both having NFL starts and games where they came off the bench, if they could be the safer option, at least for Week 1, based on their experience. So even if Pickett is deemed to be more capable than the Steeler second option, it might not be a scenario that the Steelers want to put their rookie quarterback into if they can avoid it.

Why it won’t happen: The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t drafted a quarterback in the first round in 18 years. With that quarterback retiring this last season, the next man is up for the future needs to be ready to go. If Kenny Pickett proves that he’s worthy and capable of starting, get him out there Week 1 so he can get as much experience as possible. He was deemed “the most pro-ready quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft,” he’s already 24-years old, and if the Steelers weren’t looking to have him ready right away then why bother to draft him?

Even if Kenny Pickett isn’t the starter right away, he’s got to at least be the second best quarterback on the team. If he’s not ready to be the man, he can learn a lot by being the number two guy. And if the Steelers can pull it off, trading Mason Rudolph and getting something out of him is in their best interest.

Prediction: This explanation might take some more time, but I am going to agree with the scenario. One of the biggest reasons is so many of the factors fall in a way to have Kenny Pickett inactive the first week of the season based on this question…

I’m definitely not saying this is what I want. But it just sounds like a Steelers move. If Charlie Batch had not been hurt in 2004, would Ben Roethlisberger have been active for Week 1 of his rookie season? Probably not.

It’s not unheard of for a first-round quarterback to not be active for a team to start the year. Jordan Love spent his entire rookie season inactive for the Green Bay Packers as they opted to have a more experienced player ready to step in during a game if needed.

For fans who are so quick to ship Mason Rudolph out of town, are you sure that is something the Steelers are looking to do, not just their fans? If they do make a trade prior to Week 1, then Kenny Pickett should definitely get a helmet. But if they haven’t, and Mitch Trubisky is named the starter, are the Steelers going to feel like Kenny Pickett had enough practice time to step in and run the offense in his very first game ahead of someone who’s been with the team the last four seasons?

As for the notion of Pickett being “the most pro-ready quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft,” so what? There wasn’t even another quarterback taken until the third round. Was he more pro-ready than the players in the 2021 draft? Because only time will tell if comparing Pickett to the rest of the 2022 quarterback class is the standard in which he should ultimately be measured.

I know this is an unpopular opinion. But, ultimately, it’s not something that’s surprising when you look at how the Pittsburgh Steelers operate. The last thing they want to do is put themselves in a situation that could inhibit the growth of Kenny Pickett if they don’t have to. After all, it’s only the first week of the season and a lot can happen from September to January.

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.

2022 is shaping up as the Steelers most fascinating season in years

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 06/28/2022 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is a ton of excitement and anxiety surrounding the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers, and rightfully so.

The title of this article suggests the Steelers upcoming season will be their most fascinating in years. The key term there is “fascinating,” and it’s one I did not arrive at lightly. I went back and forth on which adjective to apply for a good ten minutes before making a decision. I used, at various times, words like “compelling,” “exciting,” and “interesting,” even Googling synonyms that properly conveyed my intention.

Why fascinating, then? While those other adjectives also apply — I am indeed compelled, excited and interested in the prospects of the 2022 Steelers — fascinating seemed most appropriate because of its insinuation that the subject is somehow unique or unusual.

Years ago, for example, I met former NBA player Shawn Bradley at a restaurant. Bradley is 7’6, which, as tall as that may seem on paper, is astonishing in person. I meant no disrespect to Mr. Bradley, nor did I mean to make him feel like some sort of carnival attraction by staring at him the way I did. It was fascinating, however, to behold an individual of that size up close. You just don’t encounter people that large on the day-to-day. When you do, it holds your attention. I thought about him for days afterwards, wondering how he navigated seemingly simple tasks, like driving a car or buying clothes, realizing that for Shawn Bradley, few things were simple.

This Steelers team has certainly held my attention. They are not unusual in the same way as meeting someone who is 7’6. But they are different, more so than any Steelers team in recent memory. The obvious difference is they are replacing their quarterback for the first time in 18 years. In the time that Ben Roethlisberger was Pittsburgh’s starter, I got divorced, was re-married, celebrated the birth of two children, bought four different houses, became an offensive coordinator and then a head coach. Each of those are life changing events, and they all occurred during Big Ben’s tenure with the Steelers. I’m certain I am not alone in this regard. Many people reading this saw their lives ebb and flow while #7 took snaps. He was a constant in an inconstant world.

Roethlisberger’s departure steeped Pittsburgh’s off-season in intrigue. Intrigue, at its best, is a tantalizing prelude to fascination. It suggests the prospect of something worthy of our attention. The Steelers have given us that these past few months, and more. The baseline was the fact we knew they would seek a replacement for Roethlisberger. But who? That speculation was great fun, and though no answer was available in the early days of the debate, it carried Steelers’ fans through much of the cold winter.

In late February, however, a story of a different nature captured headlines. The team announced it had signed former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores as a defensive assistant. It was a bold and brilliant move by the organization. They brought in one of the best defensive minds in the game at a time when many thought the lawsuit Flores had filed against the NFL would make him a coaching pariah. It was another example of how the Steelers have often operated according to their own code of values rather than caving to the group-think that often dominates professional sports at the administrative level.

The Flores signing created its own flurry of speculation on how the defense would change and the impact he would make. It was only February, yet there was already so much to anticipate.

In March, the organization provided a potential answer to the quarterback question when it snapped up Mitchell Trubisky on the first day of free agency. Few saw Trubisky as the long-term solution, which created additional speculation. Would Trubisky be the starter? If so, how would Matt Canada structure the offense with him? What about Mason Rudolph? Would Trubisky and Rudolph compete? Was their room for Dwayne Haskins in that equation? Would the team still pursue a quarterback in the upcoming draft? The situation seemed far from settled.

The Trubisky signing kicked off a free agency period like none other in Pittsburgh. With Roethlisberger’s contract off the books, the Steelers enjoyed the rare luxury of having money to spend. General manager Kevin Colbert, in the final months of his long tenure, closed with a bang. After Trubisky, the Steelers signed James Daniels, Myles Jack, Mason Cole, Gunner Olszewsky, Genard Avery, Levi Wallace, Damonte Kazee and Miles Boykin. They re-signed Chuks Okorafor, Ahkello Witherspoon, Miles Killebrew, Terrell Edmunds and Montravious Adams. It was a free agency feast for an organization that, in most years, typically picked at leftovers.

At BTSC, I could barely keep up with the news. Each signing sent Geoffrey Benedict and I scrambling to the film room. There was little time to focus on the draft. It was frantic yet exhilarating. The Steelers were not taking Roethlisberger’s retirement laying down. They intended to compete, and were going to use their resources to do so. The standard was the standard.

Then, in the midst of the free agency flurry, and just weeks from the draft, the shocking news came that Haskins had been struck by a vehicle and killed while trying to cross a highway in Florida. It was a sobering moment that made the debates over how the new free agents would fare or whose mock draft was most brilliant seem meaningless. Haskins was just 24 years old, with a long life in front of him. It was only natural in the wake of the tragedy to hug our kids a little longer, to appreciate a sunset often overlooked, or to simply take stock of our lives and vow to do better.

Inevitably, life moved on, the draft came, the Steelers selected Kenny Pickett with their top pick and the frenzy resumed. What did this mean? Was Trubisky merely a place-holder? Would Pickett win the starting job outright? Was Rudolph trade bait? Some argued the Steelers should not have taken a quarterback. Others said they took the wrong one. These were conversations many fan bases had on a semi-regular basis. In Pittsburgh, it was the first such debate of the BTSC era.

And yet, with everything that had happened, the intrigue was still building. Colbert stepped down after the draft, and the Steelers had another rare and coveted opening to fill. They hadn’t hired a general manager since 2000, when the position was titled Director of Football Operations. They granted Colbert general manager status in 2010, so technically, Colbert’s replacement would be the first such hire in franchise history. Whomever got the job had the tricky task of replacing a future Hall of Fame candidate who had steered the Steelers through two decades of sustained success. Filling Colbert’s shoes would be as daunting as filling Roethlisberger’s.

When Omar Khan was announced as Colbert’s replacement, reactions were mixed. Yet Khan came out swinging. In his first few weeks on the job, he signed Minkah Fitzpatrick to a contract extension that made him the highest paid safety in NFL history, then grabbed free agent defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi to fill the void left by Stephon Tuitt’s retirement (that happened, too — par for the course in an off-season where the unexpected was the norm).

If intrigue describes my mindset heading into the off-season, fascination describes its product. What the Steelers have done since Roethlisberger announced his retirement has been franchise-altering. New quarterbacks. New coaches. New executives. Each year brings change, but these changes, in a place that values stability the way Pittsburgh does, are seismic.

I have no idea what it will produce once real football resumes. My suspicion is the Steelers have done some good things the past five months. I believe Trubisky will be the starting quarterback. I like him more than most, and I think he will play well in Canada’s offense (which I also like more than most). Trubisky will benefit from an upgraded offensive line, their biggest weakness in 2021. They won’t be a Top 5 unit in the league, or even Top 10. But they won’t stink, either, which is significant.

Elsewhere, I think Flores will pay dividends in both game-planning and in the subtle, unseen work that takes place on practice fields and in film rooms. The draft class is promising, especially at the receiver position, which needed dynamic players. The free agent signings have some hidden gems, in particular Kazee, who I believe will play a larger role this season than many anticipate. And Khan, while the sample size is small, has made a good first impression in his initial month on the job. There is far more to like than to dislike.

This off-season, for the first time in a generation, the Steelers were forced to reassemble from their core. They did so aggressively, in ways that were bold and sometimes surprising. There were arrivals and departures along the way, including a terrible tragedy. The 2022 squad will be very different from the one that walked off the field after the playoff loss in Kansas City in January. Will they be better? That’s anyone’s guess. But no matter what, it will be fascinating to watch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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