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8 former Steelers among nominees for the 2021 HOF class

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 1:45pm

There are 130 nominated modern-era players who will go through several rounds of eliminations before joining the three senior finalists.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced the 130 modern-era players who have been nominated for enshrinement for 2021. Among the players are seven with ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers who will join the already announced senior member finalist Bill Nunn according to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.

#Steelers Alan Faneca, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Joey Porter, Casey Hampton & Gary Anderson are nominees for the @ProFootballHOF Class of 2021. Bill Nunn is a finalist as a contributor. Rohn Stark, who spent one season w/the team, is also a nominee. https://t.co/0Jglt03Z1x

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) September 16, 2020

In an announcement in August, Bill Nunn is one of three senior finalists for the Hall of Fame and the only one as a contributor. The other two senior finalists are Drew Pearson (player) and Tom Flores (coach). The three finalists will simply have a “yes” or “no” election along with the other modern-era finalists.

Alan Faneca has been a finalist in the last five years and is hoping 2021 will finally be when he gets the call. Seeing other offensive lineman going in with less accomplishments has been what Faneca has seen over the last two years. Faneca played 13 years in the NFL, 10 of which were for the Steelers. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was All-Pro six times.

Hines Ward has been a semi finalist the previous four years. Ward spent all 14 of his NFL seasons in Pittsburgh and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times. Playing in three Super Bowls with the Steelers, Ward was the Super Bowl MVP for the 2004 season.

First-time nominee, Heath Miller played right end 11 NFL seasons all in Pittsburgh where he had two pro bowl selections.

Other nominations are Joey Porter, Casey Hampton, Gary Anderson, and Rohn Stark. Stark spent 16 years in the NFL is a punter but was only a member of the Steelers in 1995.

Earlier this offseason, Hall of Fame kicker Morton Andersen gave a ringing endorsement for Gary Anderson to enter the Hall of Fame in an exclusive interview with BTSC.

Modern-era finalists will be trimmed down to 25 in November and again to 15 in January before going down to 10 and then five during Super Bowl weekend in February. The five finalists and three senior finalists will undergo a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote and must receive 80% in order to be selected.

Three former Steelers were selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 but will not have their enshrinement until 2021. Troy Polamalu, Donnie Shell, and coach Bill Cowher will be a part of the 2021 festivities as well as the Steelers playing the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game which was postponed this year due to COVID_19.

A complete list of all players who were nominated for 2020 can be seen below courtesy of the Pro football Hall of Fame.

BREAKING: The Modern-Era nominees for the Class of 2021 have been unveiled. The list is comprised of 130 players. Among the group are 14 first-year eligible players.

See all nominees: https://t.co/NlwbZvxoeD#PFHOF21 pic.twitter.com/2oIwVP7PAU

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) September 16, 2020

Podcast: The Steelers hit the ground running to start 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 1:30pm

In a rebranding of the BTSC podcast, Steelers ‘Stat Geeks’, brothers Dave and Rich Schofield, break down all things surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

The Steelers victory over the New York Giants on Monday Night was prognosticated by many. However, the shutting down of Giants running back Saquon Barkley was not expected. Neither was Bennie Snell Jr. emerging as the No. 3 rusher in the entire league after Week 1. The Steelers definitely hit the ground running. This is the subject that will be discussed in the latest installment on the BTSC family of podcasts, The Scho Bro Show.

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! Joining the Scho Bros will be Shannon White from BTSC.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers hit the ground running to start 2020
  • Looking ahead to the Broncos
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave and Rich walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Power Rankings: Steelers climb up the rankings after Week 1 victory

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 12:45pm
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have shot up the latest Power Rankings after their 26-16 win over the Giants in Week 1.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, along with the rest of the NFL, are coming off the first week of a journey which has never been done in the history of the game. Playing games amidst a global pandemic.

The league has done tremendous work with protocols and adjustments to make sure this season goes off without a hitch, and while many didn’t think it was possible, here we are with the season opening week in the rear view mirror, and all 32 teams going full steam ahead into Week 2.

Who do the experts think will be the team to beat this season? Power Rankings are one way to decipher who they like, or don’t like, at any particular juncture of the season. Heading into Week 2, there is a lot which can be expected. The Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens find themselves near the top of most rankings, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Green Bay Packers are everyone’s favorite now in the NFC.

Where do the Steelers fall? Well that depends. Some see the black-and-gold as a Top 10 team, while other see them on the outside looking in. Take a look at some of the Power Rankings below, and be sure to let us know what you think of the rankings in the comment section below!

NFL.com

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Green Bay Packers
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Tennessee Titans
6. Buffalo Bills
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
“A hugely promising start to the season for the Steelers, who got a vintage Ben Roethlisberger start in his return from elbow surgery, a 100-yard rushing day from Benny Snell and a smothering performance from the front seven, which limited Giants star Saquon Barkley to 6 yards on 15 carries. Big Ben’s return stands out, however: He shook off some early rust to throw for 229 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover. We wondered last year how far the Steelers could go if they combined their world-beating defense with strong quarterback play. We’re about to find out.”
8. Seattle Seahawks
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Los Angeles Rams

ESPN

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Seattle Seahawks
5. Green Bay Packers
6. San Francisco 49ers
7. Buffalo Bills
8. Tennessee Titans
9. New England Patriots
10. Los Angeles Rams
...
11. Pittsburgh Steelers
“The Steelers spent training camp hyping up the second-round pick from Notre Dame, who delivered on his first catch Monday. Claypool got started with a 28-yard, toe-tapping reception to keep a drive alive on third-and-long. He followed that with an 11-yard catch to open the fourth quarter, helping set up a 36-yard field goal. The Steelers drafted him to be a big, athletic target for Ben Roethlisberger, and though he had only two catches on two targets in his debut, he was exactly that.”

CBS Sports

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Green Bay Packers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
“It took them a little time to get going, but once they did they rolled against the Giants. Ben Roethlisberger looked good once he got past the early part of the Giants game. The defense is nasty.”
5. Baltimore Ravens
6. Buffalo Bills
7. Seattle Seahawks
8. Arizona Cardinals
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sports Illustrated

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. Seattle Seahawks
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
“This is such a fun defense to watch. They gave up a couple of long drives against the Giants, but every few snaps there would be a handful of defenders in the backfield at once or three guys waiting in the area of an intended pass. Ben Roethlisberger’s return significantly raises the team’s floor, but the defense is what gives them a high ceiling.”
6. Green Bay Packers
7. New England Patriots
8. Buffalo Bills
9. Los Angeles Rams
10. Arizona Cardinals

Film Room: The Steelers dominate the Giants run game with a full team effort

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 11:45am
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Looking at the Steelers run defense in week 1.

One of the biggest stories of the week 1 Steeler win was the run defense, and when you hold a great running back like Saquon Barkley to 6 yards on 15 carries, it should get attention. The Steelers held Barkley to 0.4 yards per carry, 8 of Barkley’s runs were for negative yards, more than half of them. and only 4 of his runs gained more than 2 yards.

Those kinds of numbers don’t happen by accident, and they don’t happen because of a good gameplan, or a few great plays or players. What the Steelers did on run defense week 1 took complete domination by numerous players on the defense. So in this film room we are going to look at five plays that show how the Steelers as a team dominated the Giants run game.

1st quarter, 8:29. Bud Dupree is on the line, to the top of the screen.

The Giants are running to their right, away from Bud Dupree, so they leave him unblocked. This is a great way to get a numbers advantage to the play side, and it works against most teams in the NFL. The Steelers are not most teams in the NFL. Bud Dupree doesn’t just get a good jump at the snap, he meets Saquon Barkley when Barkley has taken one step with the ball. You can’t leave Dupree unblocked, everyone talks about T.J. Watt’s play in backside pursuit, but honestly, Dupree is even better. This is pure athleticism, and you don’t get much at this than Bud Dupree.

2nd quarter, 9:01. Bud Dupree is on the line, to the bottom of the screen.

This time the Giants pull their right tackle to seal Dupree out of the play, but Dupree is too fast for that, and Barkley gets one step with the ball again before Dupree puts him on the ground.

1st quarter, 13:09. Olasunkanmi Adeniyi is on the line to the bottom of the screen, Bud Dupree to the top.

They get away from Dupree by bringing Daniel Jones to Saquon Barkley on the play side, but that kind of sell out to one side takes away Saquon Barkley’s ability to make cuts. Barkley is best when he can get the defense going one direction and cut back into an open gap. On this run he is just going to his right, and Adeniyi sheds Evan Engram’s block to meet Barkley for a big loss and a Tyronn Lue step over.

The Steelers were showing a lot of attitude early in this game, they were dominating the Giants run game and letting them know it. When a defense is taking this kind of pride in their play, they are pushing themselves and their team mates to keep it going, they are establishing that they are the alpha dogs on this field, and I love it.

2nd quarter, 14:39. Tyson Alualu is the nose tackle, lined up on the “F” in the mid-field logo.

Tyson Alualu destroys the Giants center and is in the backfield almost immediately to drop Barkley for another loss. But look around Alualu, T.J. Watt is upfield taking away anything to his side, Alex Highsmith is in for Dupree, and beats the Giants blocking tight end and is coming, Stephon Tuitt gets involved late, there is nowhere for Barkley to go.

3rd quarter, 8:57. Alex Highsmith (#56) is on the line, to the top of the screen. Robert Spillane (#41) is in at linebacker, on the 40 yard line.

Evan Engram had a lot of good blocks in this game, including winning some reps against T.J. Watt. Here Engram drives Highsmith back, but Highsmith keeps fighting, gets loose and makes it to the sideline to hold Barkley to a 1 yard gain. Robert Spillane comes from the far side of the play, navigates traffic to get there with him. But there’s more, Chris Wormley is able to get free in the backfield to force Barkley farther outside, Joe Haden comes flying in to take out a lead blocker and Terrell Edmunds is there to make the tackle if Highsmith and Spillane can’t. Team defense, stuffing the run on a play without Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt or Vince Williams. This run defense was good enough that Vince Williams and his phenomenal game didn’t even need to show up in this film room.

The Giants offensive line had a bad game, the Steelers run defense had a great game. How much of this was on each team will get sorted out over the rest of the season, but the intensity and pride this team brings to run defense, and the full team effort they showed is a great sign for this defense being great against the run again this season.

Ben Roethlisberger details how his body, and arm, feel after win over the Giants

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 11:03am
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Steelers’ franchise quarterback is reminded of what it feels like to play in an NFL game again.

The Pittsburgh Steelers checked a lot of items off their to-do list Monday night in MetLife Stadium.

First win. Check.

First road win. Check.

Undefeated season in tact. Check.

Getting Ben Roethlisberger back and used to the speed, and physicality, of the game. Check.

That last caveat is equally important to the aforementioned goals based on the fact Roethlisberger is so important to the overall success of the team. Use 2019 when Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges were called into duty as a blueprint for how important Roethlisberger is to not just the offense, but the team.

Roethlisberger got out of the win over the Giants unscathed, and had a nice statistical with 3 touchdowns and no interceptions on the night. But let’s be honest, the biggest question fans had was how Roethlisberger was feeling after his first game action in nearly a calendar year.

“I was saying today I feel like I was just in a car accident.” Roethlisberger said via Zoom Wednesday. “Yesterday, I felt like I was in a train wreck. Hopefully, tomorrow it just feels like I fell off a bike or something. I’m definitely sore. The good news is my arm is the only thing that doesn’t hurt. That’s good.”

Although he got through the game, and his elbow was no worse off after throwing 32 passes, Roethlisberger detailed how the team is preparing to handle his work load throughout the season. As it turns out, it won’t be very different from years past.

“My arm feels great. We will just keep the same routine in terms of Wednesday rest day and then get back into it.” Roethlisberger said. “The biggest thing I’ve been told from the doctors is keep it warm, hence the sleeve on the sideline [pictured above] and the sleeve I wore during the game. That’s going to be the biggest thing from what I have been told is making sure it stays warm, throw some passes on the sidelines if there is a long series or something. For the most part, we are just going to do everything we can to keep it healthy and warm.”

Will there be a time when Roethlisberger’s elbow isn’t a main focal point after a game? Maybe, but not in the near future. Eventually questions will be geared to just his performances, and not how his 38 year old body is handling the rigors of life in the NFL.

Speaking of performances, Roethlisberger remains hyper critical of his play, and sees plenty of areas where he, and the offense, can improve heading into Week 2.

“I evaluated it the same way that I would. I looked at the way I played and decision making. I was self critical a lot.” Roethlisberger stated.

“There was rust early. Even late, it’s not like I played perfectly. I looked at sometimes that I maybe got up in the pocket a little too quick or didn’t have the same feel in the pocket early on that I’m probably used to having. I think that just comes with not getting hit even in practice. Yeah, you have a pocket and you step up, but defenders aren’t hitting you in practice. You kind of lose some of that feeling of where you can slide to, where you can step to. I think that will come back as the more reps and the more games you get into.”

The news from Roethlisberger is almost all positive after Week 1. His elbow feels great, the team is handling his workload moving forward to avoid future issues and the Steelers have started the year 1-0. Next up? The Denver Broncos in Week 2 at Heinz Field.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for Denver as the next test in the 2020 regular season.

Podcast: Steelers win in opener answers questions, but raise more

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 11:00am

In the latest episode of “Steelers Q&A” show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo look at the Steelers season and how far they could go in 2020 if injury free.

The Pittsburgh Steelers saw injuries derail their 2019 season very early and way too often. There was much jubilation in the opening night victory over the New York Giants, but injuries to Zach Banner, Stefan Wisniewski and James Conner have Steeler Nation recalling the agony of 2019 all over again. With questions on Ben Roethlisberger’s return answered somewhat, the trio of injuries suffered raises more. This the subject that will be discussed on the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Q&A Show. On this show, Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo break down all things Steelers! Join the veteran duo as they analyze all things black-and-gold

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Steelers win answers questions, but raise more
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Bryan Davis and Tony Defeo of BTSC walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1

Part 2

Snap counts for the Steelers from Week 1 include a few surprises

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Looking at the snap counts from the Steelers’ Week 1 win over the Giants.

The Steelers week one snap counts were mostly what you would expect, but there were a few surprises. Rookies and new players got to play, some due to injury, while other players never left the field. Let’s take a look.

Offense

Some interesting numbers stand out on those lists, Diontae Johnson and JuJu-Smith Schuster led the way with 55 snaps each at WR, with James Washington and Chase Claypool the third and fourth respectively. Wide receivers totaled 166 snaps, or 2.59 wide receivers per snap, that number is much closer to the 2019 average of 2.54 wide receivers per snap than the 2018 rate of 2.77. the rate the Steelers use wide receivers should be an interesting side note this season, as the Steelers added Eric Ebron, Derek Watt, and have a running back room that is as deep as their wide receiver group.

The tight ends saw a combined 78 snaps. Eric Ebron leading the way with 40, with Vance McDonald logging 38 as the only two active tight ends. Derek Watt also accounted for 8 snaps, most of them at the end of the game when Benny Snell was running the clock out. Watt showed his versatility lining up in the backfield and as a wingback (right outside a tight end, just off the line of scrimmage) where he blocked like an in-line tight end, but also pulled into the middle to block on inside runs. If he can keep that up, he could be in line for more snaps when the Steelers want to run the ball, it makes it hard to counter his blocking when you don’t know where he is likely to be making them.

James Conner saw 15 snaps early, before leaving with an injury. Benny Snell started after that, giving way to Jaylen Samuels on obvious passing downs. If James Conner misses games, it will be interesting to watch how many snaps Anthony McFarland will get as a change of pace runner.

Before Zach Banner went down, Chukwuma Okorafor played 4 snaps as a 6th lineman, then took over for Banner on the last 5 snaps after his injury. The Steelers will need to bring up a tackle to provide depth behind Okorafor going forward. With DeCastro out and Stefan Wisniewski hurt for the last 6 plays, rookie Kevin Dotson played 6 snaps, and the Steelers even ran Benny Snell his way on their game ending drive.

On special teams Chase Claypool was used as a gunner on punt returns (he didn’t do poorly but not great either), and Derek Watt lived up to his special teams ace billing. Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell split special teams snaps, Diontae Johnson and Ray-Ray McCloud were the returners..

Defense

Devin Bush joined Joe Haden, Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick as 60 minute men in week one, while Steven Nelson missed one play. Mike Hilton played 61% of the game as the nickle back, while Cameron Sutton played 20 snaps (29.4%). Vince Williams played 40 snaps, and Robert Spillane played 8 snaps on defense.

There was a lot of discussion of the Steelers inside linebacker depth, and a good amount of focus on both Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert III. Gilbert was inactive and Allen played 7 snaps, all on special teams while Spillane came in for Vince Williams and looked solid in coverage. With Devin Bush looking like a player Tomlin won’t be taking off the field, Robert Spillane might have a good chance at being the #3 inside linebacker, especially if he can continue to play sound zone defense.

The Steelers averaged 2.39 defensive lineman per snap. (compare to HIlton’s .61 per snap and you can line up the distribution of 3-4 vs. nickle/dime pretty accurately) That’s a bit higher than they averaged last year as they countered the Giants’ focus on establishing the run with Saquon Barkley. Tyson Alualu was the third lineman, playing nose in 3 DL sets, followed by Isaiah Buggs and then Chris Wormley, whose 9 snaps reflects his time missed during training camp. He will likely be worked in slowly. It appears the Steelers were working in Wormley and Buggs primarily in 3 DL sets, a move that works with their skill sets and also prioritizes Tuitt and Heyward’s snaps in the 2 DL fronts where they are more valuable.

Alex Highsmith and Olasunkanmi Adeniyi both saw snaps on defense, giving Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt 11 and 10 snaps off respectively. They both played well, which will be good for the Steelers as they manage their phenomenal edge rushing duos’ workload.

As for defenders on special teams, Alex Highsmith, Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, Robert Spillane and special teams captain Jordan Dangerfield all played 18 snaps (69% of ST snaps), behind only Derek Watt’s 19 snaps. Justin Layne took the gunner spot opposite Claypool, and was the better of the two. Cameron Sutton, Mike Hilton, Sean Davis all saw the snaps they usually take, with Marcus Allen and UDFA rookie James Pierre joining the units with 7 each. Of all the rookies, would anyone have guessed that James Pierre would see the field before Anthony McFarland?

Interestingly, Ulysees Gilbert III, a special teams stud in his rookie season before his injury, was inactive for week 1, and the Steelers played the game with 47 players active, one less than they were allowed to have. This off season had far less information coming out from the team’s training camp, but it appears that while Gilbert looked great to the media that was present, he has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff, at least for Week 1.

Stock Report: Whose stock is rising, and falling, after the Giants game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 8:30am
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Discussing which Steelers players or positions are trending up, trending down, or simply treading water.

Welcome to the first edition of the Steelers Stock Report of the 2020 NFL season. I have been granted the distinguished opportunity to attempt to determine which direction individual players, or units, are trending after each weekly matchup, to the best of my ability.

I will attempt to make each determination without the use of my Black-and-Gold glasses, but admittedly I can make no promises.

Let's get started...

Stock trending up: Bud Dupree

Stats can be misleading. Dupree in no way stuffed the stat sheet Monday night against the New York Giants. He registered neither a single sack or forced turnover. I find that incredibly ironic, because Dupree was the most dominant, disruptive defender on the field for the entirety of the game.

I acknowledge that in multiple occasions Dupree enjoyed favorable matchups, even going unblocked a few times, but it is still up to the player to make the opposition pay dearly in those situations, and Dupree did just that. He setup camp in the Giants backfield and made himself at home, much to the dismay of Giants RB Saquon Barkley.

I don't want to imply that Barkley will be haunted by visions of Dupree in his nightmares for the foreseeable future, but I feel certain that he checked under his bed and in his closet for Dupree's presence before climbing into bed Monday night.

If Dupree wasn't plastering Barkley in the backfield a nanosecond after he received the handoff, he was running the superstar runner down from behind. For me, the most impressive display by Dupree on the night wasn't the unbelievable athleticism displayed by a 270 lbs individual, but the nonstop determination he showed to make an impact every single snap.

I have referenced Devin Bush's ability to play sideline to sideline due to his speed and athleticism often in previous articles, but Dupree's range is unbelievable, coupled with that size and the nonstop motor.

Dupree made some series moolah under the Monday Night Football spotlight.

Stock trending down: James Conner

It pains me to write this, because I am a big fan of the young man and it was apparent to anybody paying attention how hard Conner worked this off season to report to camp in the best shape of his career. Conner is the epitome of courage and determination, and his work ethic is unquestioned.

That's what makes his tendency for nagging injuries that much more frustrating. No matter how hard he works to get himself in supreme physical condition, he has simply been unable to remain healthy and on the field.

Head Coach Mike Tomlin remains resistant to a running back by committee scenario, expressing his belief and desire for Conner as the bell cow back for the team, but even he has to see the handwriting on the wall.

It would be a sin to not use the talented stable of running backs at his disposal. Benny Snell showed the improved quickness and burst that we heard being reported out of training camp, filling in admirably for the once again injured Conner. Snell enjoyed the first one hundred game of his career against the Giants.

At the least, Snell has earned more touches moving forward this season, and the coaching staff has to be encouraged by the potential he has shown.

The good news is Conner's ankle injury isn't believed to be serious, more the nagging variety. Sound familiar.

Conner has some real competition for touches on a Steelers offense filled with talented skill position players. He either stays effective and on the field, or runs the real danger of being left behind.

Stock holding in limbo: Steelers offensive line

During the off season, I proclaimed the demise of the Steelers offensive line had been greatly exaggerated. I still feel that way, but I am admittedly concerned after Monday night's game.

An offensive line has to be a close knit group, where chemistry and cohesion are invaluable elements for effectiveness. Trust and familiarity are key components.

Ramon Foster's retirement was warranted, as he play had declined noticeably last season, but it inevitably impacted the offensive line brotherhood. The Steelers made the immediate decision to move proven performer Matt Feiler to fill the vacancy at left guard. I believe the decision was made with the ideology of staying strong up the middle because it is easier to provide help on the outside. The Steelers made the move early in camp to give the unit as much time as possible to gel. Zach Banner won a hard fought battle for the right tackle position. Tomlin expressed his confidence in the starting unit and the available depth. That depth is about to be severely tested.

Already playing with standout RG David Decastro, inactive due to a nagging knee injury, the line struggled early on in their first taste of live action. The line struggled to get push in the running game, long an issue for a group known more for their athleticism than their brute force, but the pass protection provided was subpar by their own standards.

Just when the offensive line was starting to find it's rhythm, particularly in the running game, tragedy struck. One play after Stephen Wisniewski, Decastro's replacement for the game, went down with a pectoral injury, Banner was lost for the season with a obvious ACL injury.

Now the Steelers have more questions than answers moving forward on the offensive line. While there are no easy answers at first glance, the Steelers have no choice but to make the most of a less than ideal situation. The proficiency of the Steelers coaching staff moving forward concerning these decisions may just make, or break, a Super Bowl caliber season.

Ben Roethlisberger discusses his return to the Steelers in Part 4 of YouTube series

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 8:21am
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The guarded Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback opens up about his return to the Steelers in Part 4 of an amazing YouTube series.

Ben Roethlisberger is guarded, and for good reason. Throughout his lengthy tenure in the NFL Roethlisberger has been to the pinnacle of the sport, as well as the bottom of the barrel.

Entering the 2019 season Roethlisberger faced serious media scrutiny, and thoughts on whether he could still play at an elite level for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Needless to say, the 2019 season was one to forget for Roethlisberger and the Steelers.

A promising training camp was abruptly put on hold after the death of Darryl Drake, and we all know about the season-ending injury to his throwing arm in Week 2 vs. the Seahawks at Heinz Field.

But throughout it all, we heard very little from Roethlisberger.

Without the mandate of meeting with the media, Roethlisberger was present, but not heard. Fans were wondering what his intentions were for his future, his feelings on the injury and more.

Fans don’t have to wonder anymore.

Rep 1 is producing a series on Roethlisberger’s return from surgery title “Bigger than Ben — Bigger Circumstances”, and Part One of this series doesn’t disappoint. Watch below as you not only hear from Roethlisberger himself, but his wife, Mike Tomlin, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Dr. Bradley of the Steelers’ medical staff.

These are must-watch TV for the die hard black-and-gold fan.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

NFL Week 2 Betting Preview: Steelers currently a 7.5-point favorite against the Broncos

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 7:15am
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Steelers are set to return to Heinz Field for a quick turnaround by both them and the Broncos.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to go 2-0 to start their season for the first time since 2017. After a balanced victory against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, the Steelers lose a day of preparation as they get ready to take on the Denver Broncos this coming Sunday. But with a MNF doubleheader to start the season, the Broncos are in the same boat as they fell to the Tennessee Titans in the late game.

Can Steelers continue to run the ball like they did against the Giants? Will their defense be able to shut down Denver’s rushing attack like they did to Saquon Barkley?

When it comes to the betting lines for Sunday’s game, the following information is the current consensus spread and over/under for the Steelers this week as reported by oddsshark.com. These numbers were recently adjusted based on both team’s performance on Monday.

Game Info: Week 2 Pittsburgh Steelers vs Denver Broncos Sunday, September 20, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Betting line: -7.5

Over/under: 41.5

Last Regular Season Meeting: Steelers (L) 17-24 vs Broncos

Win streak: 2 game DEN

Last 3 Meetings: PIT 1 - 2 DEN

Last 10 Meetings: PIT 3 - 7 DEN

The opening line on the game was at -5 when the schedule was released in May. With both team’s games from Monday along with the injury to Von Miller which has caused a slight shift, the Steelers are now favored by more than a touchdown.

Being favored on Sunday, the Steelers have a current moneyline of -350 to win the game straight up, which is the equivalent of 2/7 odds. So a $20 bet placed on the Steelers over the Broncos would have a payout of $25.71 ($5.71 plus the original $20 bet). The Broncos have a current moneyline of +285, or 57/20 odds. Therefore the same $20 bet placed on Denver to win straight up would have a payout of $77 ($57 pus the original $20 bet) .

According to Oddsshark.com, the Steelers are 1-4 straight up in their last 5 games against the AFC West as well as being 1-4-1 against the spread the last 6 times they have faced any AFC team. The Steelers also have gone OVER in 9 of their last 13 games against Denver and have gone OVER the last 5 home games against the Broncos.

If looking at the futures bets, the Steelers odds to win the Super Bowl vary from 20/1 to 25/1. They have odds to win the AFC Championship of 12/1 odds. As for winning the AFC North, the Steelers are currently at 17/5 odds behind Baltimore at 10/21 odds. The Browns are next at 13/2 odds with Cincinnati coming in at the bottom at 20/1 odds to win the AFC North.

12 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin in Tuesday’s press conference

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 6:00am
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Steelers head coach was asked lots of questions the day following the Steelers 26-16 win over the Giants.

The Steelers 2020 regular season has officially begun! The only time we can expect to hear from head coach Mike Tomlin is during his regular Tuesday and post game press conferences, although he may sprinkle in some practice interviews along the way. While not always asked about specific players, this week had plenty of questions. Since Coach Tomlin gave us the material, we’ll take a look at the players mentioned in Tomlin’s press conference. Remember these players are ones brought up during the question and answer period.

Benny Snell Jr. & James Conner

The Steelers were forced to make a change at running back early in their Week 1 game. Coach Tomlin was asked if it was a schematic issue which kept Conner from getting going early and if it was cleaned up by the time Benny Snell took over.

“A lot of what happened in the early portions of the game can be attributed to that. Like we talked about last week, we didn’t have any video evidence of their personality on offense, defense or special teams. We knew the reputation of the individual coaches, but we didn’t necessarily have an understanding or a definite understanding of what the collective would look like and how they would utilize the talents of the players that they have. Some of that stuff was being discovered at the early portions of the game. There’s consequences for that.”

Tomlin was asked a follow up question if Snell is able to be the “bell cow”?

“I think he displayed that last night.”

In yet another question, Coach Tomlin was asked if Conner was banged up coming into the game and if Conner’s durability concerns him.

“It does not. I lean on the expert advice of the medical staff in terms of availability and things of that nature. He didn’t have anything wrong going into the game. It occurred at the early portions of the game.”

Chukwuma Okorafor, Kevin Dotson, & Zach Banner

On back-to-back plays, the Steelers had the right side of their offensive line leave the game. Coach Tomlin was asked about the performance of Okorafor and Dotson coming off the bench, and he took the liberty to mention the right tackle competition with Banner in training camp.

“I think those are two different discussions. We’ve talked quite a bit about Chuks along with Banner and the battle that they had for right tackle. And like I’ve said repeatedly, I thought both guys were starter capable and I still feel that way. So, I’m extremely comfortable with Chuks and his ability to play and his overall readiness. Dotson is another story. He’s a young guy who hasn’t had a lot of work throughout this process because of injury and lack of availability. There is some angst there, so if he is called upon this week, it is going to take a tremendous effort by him and by us. And by us, I mean us putting him in the very best position to perform, so there is some dual responsibility there.”

Tomlin was asked another question in regards to Banner and the emotions involved with possibly missing the entire season after winning the job.

“You said it. It can be a cold game, but it is a lot like life. We are not defined by what happens to us, we are defined by how we respond to it. Whenever unfortunate events like that occurs, we talk openly about that. it’s not that he got injured after all that he has been through and the fight he has been through to get where he is, it is about what he does moving forward and responds to it. He is a competitor, he is a professional and I expect him to smile in the face of adversity.”

J.C. Hassenauer

One of two players who was dressed for Monday’s game was reserve center J.C. Hassenauer. Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw in training camp from Hassenauer

“J.C. has been in our program. He was on our practice squad last year. He’s a very capable backup. A guy that we are comfortable with in terms of knowing what to do and having an understanding of his skillset. He’s an interior backup rotational player that is capable of being called upon if need be.”

JuJu Smith-Schuster

It was great to see a strong start to 2020 for JuJu Smith-Schuster as he hauled in two touchdowns on the night. Coach Tomlin was asked if his success was due to his hard work in the offseason or the fact he was healthy.

“That is JuJu. He came in ready to play and he performed well. But we have seen that from him most of the time that he has been here. I don’t know if any of us were surprised by what he delivered last night.”

Alejandro Villanueva

One of the questions Tomlin was asked had nothing to do with game play but rather the name featured on the helmet of Al Villanueva. Coach Tomlin was asked if Villanueva discussed it with him and what the reasoning was behind it.

“Yes, he did discuss that with me. And this is in line with everything we said about participating in elements of social justice this offseason. As an organization and myself as a head coach of an organization, we are going to support our players in however they choose to participate and express themselves or to not participate or not express themselves. As long as they do so thoughtfully and with class. And so that is a blanket approach that we have had. I think it needs no further explanation in terms of our support for Al Villanueva or anyone else in terms of what they do or do not do in terms of social justice as long as they adhere to the outline that I just outlined for you.”

David DeCastro

The only Steelers’ player who missed Monday’s game due to injury was All-Pro guard David Decastro. Coach Tomlin was asked about both the short term and long term availability of DeCastro.

“I don’t know. I’m hopeful he is able to work tomorrow. We will see.”

Matt Feiler

One player on the Steelers offensive line who could be moved around due to injuries is guard Matt Feiler. Coach Tomlin was asked about Feiler’s play on Monday and if moving him to another position is on the table.

“We are making some moves on the offensive line, so I won’t speculate on what that depth or the pecking order will be until we handle that necessary business, but I do like the play of Matt at guard. I do like the play that he had last night. I do know that he is tackle capable and so I’m sure that will be an element of the discussion at the appropriate time.”

Bud Dupree & T.J. Watt

The Steelers speed on the outside when it comes to their pass rush has been well noted. Coach Tomlin was asked about the play of Bud Dupree and he took the opportunity to bring up T.J. Watt as well.

“Bud is a dangerous guy. As is T.J. When you have an outside linebacker tandem like that in the 3-4 defense, you have an opportunity to play great defense and we are cognizant of the contributions of those two men and appreciative of it and that is why were are excited about the group that we have.”

For a full recap of Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out our podcast recap below:

Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here:

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of our Week 2 matchup against the Broncos.@PNCBank https://t.co/8kW2PtVb4z

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 15, 2020

Podcast: Monday was good, but Sunday could be twice as nice for the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 5:30am

Jeff Hartman brings an AM studio show to the BTSC family of podcasts with the latest episode of “Let’s Ride“.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 1-0 and with the opener in that victory column, the prospect of not forecasting the Giants for another four seasons is awesome. The win was nice too, but a victory at home against the Broncos on Sunday would be twice as nice. This is the main topic that will be discussed on the latest episode of the morning flagship show in the BTSC family of podcasts. Join Co-Editor Jeff Hartman with his show, “Let’s Ride” as he looks ahead to the 2020 home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers and what they need to do to go 2-0.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Monday was good, but Sunday could be twice as nice for the Steelers
  • and MUCH MORE!

Jeff Hartman of BTSC walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

You can listen to the show in the player below.

Black and Gold Links: The Steelers unveil new, and improved, defense in Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 09/16/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

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

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. The Steelers have finally taken the field in the regular season! It is to check in on all things black-and-gold as the team rolls through their 2020 schedule!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Steelers unveiled a new defense on the Giants in Week 1.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers defense is already good, and now they are just toying with people.

Defensive wrinkle heads list of 5 things learned in Steelers’ win against Giants

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Defense returns strong, add a few wrinkles

At first blush, it looked like the a continuation of the Steelers defense from 2019 what with the three sacks and two interceptions the group generated at the Meadowlands.

Defensive captain Cam Heyward, though, noticed one difference.

“We had sacks by guys who don’t usually get sacks and interceptions by guys who don’t usually get interceptions,” he said. “We’re a defense that lets its play do the talking, and we don’t care how it gets done.”

The interceptions came from outside linebacker T.J. Watt and Heyward, the first of the defensive tackle’s 10-year career. Heyward’s pick in the end zone with 3 minutes, 17 seconds left in the third quarter ended a 19-play drive in which the Giants went 87 yards in 19 plays and were threatening to take the lead.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Mark Madden: After James Conner’s latest injury, time has come for Benny Snell football

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

James Conner is a great story. Pitt guy. Cancer survivor. We’ve heard the narrative umpteen times, and it is indeed inspirational. Conner even wrote a book.

But the Steelers must move on from Conner as their No. 1 running back.

Conner left Monday’s game at the New York Giants in the second quarter with an ankle problem. He had six carries for 9 yards.

Conner was sidelined six games last season because of injury. In 17 of the Steelers’ last 21 contests, Conner has either missed the game entirely or left it early because he’s hurt.

That’s simply unacceptable. It deprives the offense of continuity and rhythm.

Conner will recover. He may yet write another compelling chapter. It can be included in his book’s second printing.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Yeah, about that offensive line depth...

Offensive line depth is disappearing

By: Bob Labriola, Steelers.com

It can be viewed as the professional football version of a hangover. What was so enjoyable and fun and quasi-euphoric the previous day quickly can turn into a blinding headache the next. And so it was for the Steelers, because while there was much to savor and enjoy from their season-opening win against the Giants on Monday night, their reality on Tuesday morning was that they may have lost much of their depth along the offensive line in addition to their starting running back.

During his weekly news conference at noon today, Coach Mike Tomlin said he didn’t have a lot of new information regarding the status of starting right tackle Zach Banner (knee), Stefan Wisniewski (pectoral) who was filling in for starting right guard David DeCastro (calf), and starting running back James Conner (ankle). But he did outline some potential avenues the Steelers could explore with a game against the Denver Broncos set for 1 p.m. on Sunday at Heinz Field.

“I don’t have a lot of new information, but I think it’s safe to characterize Zach Banner as out for this week,” said Tomlin. “We’re still in the process of getting scans on Stefan Wisniewski and James Conner, but I think their forecast is a more favorable one, so we’ll leave the light on for those two. We’ll make some necessary adjustments and close ranks on a short week and see where that leaves us in terms of division of labor. We acknowledge that injuries are a part of the game, and while unfortunate for those men it could mean opportunity for other deserving and capable men, just like it was on Monday night for Benny Snell, and he put that on display.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Mike Tomlin Press Conference

#LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of our Week 2 matchup against the Broncos.@PNCBank https://t.co/8kW2PtVb4z

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 15, 2020
  • BTSC articles you may have missed...

Mike Tomlin makes what could have been a costly mistake in Week 1

The Broncos’ injuries are mounting

The Steelers are reportedly signing an old face to their roster

Pittsburgh is hopeful to get some good news on some key injuries

How JuJu Smith-Schuster took over the Week 1 victory

Winners and Losers from Week 1

Giving out some grades from the Steelers’ Week 1 win

  • Social Media Madness

Claypool! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/i17vw3LViO

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) September 15, 2020

JuJu celebrating the win! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/BMHIl2Jqs4

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) September 15, 2020

Officially #VictoryTuesday‼️@_TJWatt | #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/t24Zm71OIL

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 15, 2020

Football is back and it's time to celebrate! All season long, vote for your favorite @budlight #BudLightCelly each week. Which was your favorite from Week 1?

— NFL (@NFL) September 15, 2020

Monday night was LIT @TeamJuJu pic.twitter.com/nxJQi9kbpR

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 15, 2020

BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Week 1 results

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 5:00pm
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly half of the contestants were eliminated the very first week.

Entry into the Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool closed at 1 PM on Sunday when the early NFL games kicked off. With three leagues completely filled with 100 entries, the fourth league finished with 55 participants. While technically there are 355 total entries, I have one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 352 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed Maurkice Pouncey football.

The most common selection for Week 1 was the Buffalo Bills at home against the New York Jets which led the way in all four leagues. This game was over early as the Bills had a 21-3 lead at the end of the first half. While the Jets did add two touchdowns in the second half, the first one was on a big play the the second was with less than a minute remaining.

The second most popular pick was an incorrect selection of the Indianapolis Colts traveling to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars. After the leading the game half way through the fourth quarter, the Colts surrendered 10 straight points and eliminated 77 contestants.

The next most commonly picked game was the Philadelphia Eagles at the Washington Football Team. There were 42 people were very confident as the Eagles held a 17–0 lead in the first half. But Washington fought back 27 straight points to secure the 27-17 victory eliminating almost 12% of the league. Ironically, in Week 1 of 2019 it was Washington who jumped out to the 17-0 lead against the Eagles only to lose.

For the 32 people who chose the Steelers over the Giants, they were nervous early only for the Steelers to take the lead just before halftime.

One good sign was only 11 contestants failed to make their pick in time. Hopefully this number will drop to zero over the rest of the contest.

So after one week, only 56% of the entries still remain. If you are still alive, make sure you enter your pick early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. This is your reminder, so go make your pick now!

Weekly Update: Upcoming Week 2 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: Tennessee (-11) at home over Jacksonville
  • Closest match up: Los Angeles Rams (-1) on the road over Philadelphia
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (-6) at home over Denver

(all lines are courtesy of oddshark.com as on 9/14)

So there you have it! Make sure you check back at Behind The Steel Curtain to stay updated on the contest. Even if you did not enter or have already been eliminated, feel free to check in and see how you would have fared each week.

AFC North Recap: Steelers and Ravens make statements in Week 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 3:30pm
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens were the only AFC North teams to claim victory in Week 1.

The first week of NFL football is behind us, and it was quite the week in the AFC North division. With that said, it is time to see how the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns all did in the week that was.

Time to take a look...

Baltimore Ravens - 38
Cleveland Browns - 6

If someone just saw the box score they would think the Ravens absolutely dominated this game. They did dominate, but it wasn’t as if they ran away with the game. The first half was more competitive than the score might indicate, and if it weren’t for some really poor play by Baker Mayfield and company this game could have been a lot closer. Nonetheless, the Ravens took advantage of the Browns’ mistakes and made a big statement heading into Week 2. Meanwhile, the shell-shocked Browns have to prepare for Thursday Night Football.

Los Angeles Chargers - 16
Cincinnati Bengals - 13

Joe Burrow got an indoctrination to the Bengals culture in this game. After showing he looked every bit the part of an NFL quarterback, Burrow put the Bengals on his back and was determined to get the team back in the game. Trailing by three, Burrow drove the offense down the field and threw a would-be game-winning touchdown to AJ Green. However, Green was called for offensive pass interference and the offense had to settle for a 31-yard Randy Bullock field goal to send the game to overtime. Bullock pulled a muscle in his leg on the kick and missed, giving the Bengals a very Bungle-like loss to start the season. Welcome to the Bengals Joe Burrow!

Pittsburgh Steelers - 26
New York Giants - 16

It wasn’t pretty, but the Steelers are never going to complain about starting the season 1-0. Getting off to slow starts has been the common denominator for the Steelers, and games against a team like the Giants have to be wins, no matter how ugly. Win and correct is a good problem to have, and the Steelers are living that heading into Week 2.

AFC North Standings

Baltimore Ravens - 1-0
Pittsburgh Steelers - 1-0
Cleveland Browns - 0-1
Cincinnati Bengals - 0-1

Week 2 AFC North Schedule:

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns - Thursday Night Football
Denver Broncos at Pittsburgh Steelers - Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans - Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

A look ahead...

Next three opponents for all AFC North teams:

Baltimore Ravens: at Texans, vs. Chiefs, at Washington
Cleveland Browns: vs. Bengals, vs. Washington, at Cowboys
Pittsburgh Steelers: vs. Broncos, vs. Texans, at Titans
Cincinnati Bengals: at Browns, at Eagles, vs. Jaguars

Mike Tomlin admits to roster gaffe in Week 1 victory

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Steelers played their Week 1 game against the New York Giants with one less player than allowed.

If you are someone who has visited Behind The Steel Curtain much over the last two years, you will know that I am what you would call a “numbers guy.” Whether it be statistics, salaries, or roster make up, I’ve always been a mathematical mind and enjoy breaking those sort of things down as much as possible, hence the “Steelers’ Stat Geek” podcast. But for 90 minutes prior to the Steelers Week 1 kickoff against the New York Giants Monday night, I had an unusual combination of frustration and curiosity when the Steelers announced six players on there inactive list.

The numbers simply didn’t add up.

The Steelers did not take advantage of a rule which is new in 2020 where they can elevate one or two players from their practice squad to the active roster on game day without making a corresponding move. With any player they brought up not needing to be active, doing so would just be a waste. Since there was yet another rule which is new to 2020 is where teams can have 48 players active for a game rather than 46 in previous seasons (as long as they have eight offense of lineman active), the Steelers should have only had five players on their list.

First, I began scouring the Internet trying to find an answer to the question. I even reached out to some of the local media for Pittsburgh to get an explanation to no avail. It just didn’t make sense.

The Steelers were playing their first game of the season with one less player than permitted.

Finally, some clarity came to the situation on Tuesday in Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference when Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh post-Gazette asked the question I had waited more than 18 hours to get answered.

Why did the Steelers have an extra player on the inactive list?

“There was some indecision on my part about the rule,” Tomlin admitted. “We didn’t get clarity on it until extremely late in the process. From an overall preparedness standpoint, we decided to put the helmets on the guys who were prepared to play and had an understanding that they were going to play.”

In other words, Coach Tomlin used his famous coach speak to say they collectively, as an organization, screwed up. While Tomlin did step up and owned the mistake, he did also give a bit of an excuse in blaming a lot of information coming from the NFL about various things, especially in regards to COVID-19, and having a difficult time keeping track of it.

“I take responsibility for that miscommunication and it’s a learning process for us,” Tomlin continued. “There’s a lot of memos coming out of New York these days, so it is tough to keep up with them.”

Exactly what happened and why this went down is still unclear, but at least the Steelers know they made a mistake and that they can remedy it in the future. Was there really no one on the coaching staff that understood the rule? Did the Steelers simply inform too many players they were not playing in the game?

I can understand the emotional roller coaster of going from going through warm-ups, to being informed you would not get a helmet, to then only have to rush and get ready for the game after all. But wouldn’t a player such as Ulysees Gilbert III or Anthony McFarland Jr. be better off at least being in uniform even if they weren’t used?

Of course, if the Steelers did not realize the mistake until they turned in their inactive list there would be nothing they could do about it. But I don’t understand how something like this could slip through the cracks.

What’s even worse, one week prior it appeared Coach Tomlin understood they had two additional players who could be active on game day when Mark Kaboly of The Athletic asked Coach Tomlin if the Steelers would be taking advantage of the new role which gave them the additional spots.

“I’m not going to give them back,” Tomlin laughed. “I’m definitely going to use them for many of the reasons that we’ve been talking about, this unusual environment in terms of what our guys are capable of. If we have available guys to us, we better use them, but also, just a lack of in-game play and the number of snaps or the limited number of snaps people may be prepared to play or how fatigue may set in on us. The rules allow for us to fortify our depths so we’re going to take advantage of that.”

Or so we thought.

Through some sort of oversight or miscommunication, the Steelers only took advantage of one of the positions they had in reserve. Hopefully now a player such as Gilbert or McFarland can have a helmet and perhaps bring something to the team if nothing more than gaining experience.

Luckily, the mistake did not cost the Steelers in any way as they won their first game of the season 26-16. But by messing this up before the game even started, my overwhelming optimism toward the Steelers (which I am unafraid to hide) was a bit shaken. Add in the muffed put shortly into the game and all my hopes for the season seemed to be crashing down. Fortunately, things got better.

As for the Steelers making sure this doesn’t happen again, I would gladly offer my services to make sure they understand what they can or cannot do in regards to their roster on game day.

My phone line is open.

For more from Mike Tomlin in his Tuesday press conference, check out the “Press Conference Recap” Podcast below:

Injuries mounting for the Broncos, who visit the Steelers in Week 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 1:30pm
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Broncos may be missing multiple starters next Sunday in Pittsburgh

The Denver Broncos travel to Pittsburgh for their Week 2 matchup against the Steelers, and they will be doing it short-handed. The injury bug bit the Broncos in training camp, and has continued to wreak havoc on the roster into their Week 1 matchup against the Titans.

Starting off with the biggest name on the Broncos injured reserve, Von Miller. Miller underwent successful surgery to repair a tendon in his ankle on Sept. 11. The timeline to return from the injury is rumored to be between 3-6 months and Miller has gone on record saying he’s going to push it to get that number closer to three. If Miller is indeed out for three months he would roughly be back around Week 13, and the Steelers aren't going to have to worry about the former Super Bowl MVP in Week 2.

“What would Kobe do”? That’s exactly what I’m going to do. pic.twitter.com/AkKhYakUqH

— Von Miller (@VonMiller) September 10, 2020

Miller’s pass rushing partner, Bradley Chubb is also still battling back from a torn ACL which he injured in 2019. While Chubb has been cleared to play it has been long rumored that Chubb will be on a snap count, but showed flashes in his first game back against the Titans.

There have been some questions about Bradley Chubb and his knee. He looks really good early. Another pressure there on third down.

— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) September 15, 2020

Second year receiver, Courtland Sutton injured his shoulder during training camp and was held out of the Broncos Week 1 matchup. Sutton is expected to make his 2020 debut against the Steelers but his name will be one to follow on the injury report this week.

Broncos’ WR Courtland Sutton, who sprained his AC joint last week in practice, is expected to be inactive tonight vs. Titans. He tried to go and is said to be “really close.”

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 15, 2020

Broncos running back Philip Lindsay, injured his foot midway through the Broncos Week 1 matchup vs the Titans. Lindsay still needs to be evaluated but lost more than a half of football. This is a situation to monitor.

The Broncos announced Philip Lindsay has a foot injury and is questionable to return. CB AJ Bouye is out (shoulder)

— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) September 15, 2020

A.J. Bouye is believed to have dislocated his shoulder against the Titans, and subsequently tore his labrum. While it’s possible to play through a torn labrum, the Broncos may opt to shut down Bouye’s season and perform the surgery right away. It’s also possible that Bouye will miss a couple weeks before returning to the season.

#AJBouye CB @Broncos done for evening but not season. pic.twitter.com/BfM0r7s1CB

— David J. Chao - ProFootballDoc (@ProFootballDoc) September 15, 2020

The Steelers will need to take advantage of a beat up Broncos team Sunday, especially with plenty of injuries of their own along the offensive line. Nonetheless, you rarely find an opponent in this much injury trouble, this early in the season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they look to improve their record to 2-0 this Sunday when Denver invades Heinz Field for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.

Report: Steelers signing former OT Jerald Hawkins

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 12:13pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The former Steelers fourth-round draft pick is reportedly returning to the Steel City.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are signing former fourth-round draft pick from the 2016 NFL draft Jerald Hawkins according to Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle.

Steelers are signing offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins off of the Texans' practice squad to their active roster, according to a league source. Hawkins is a former Steelers fourth-round draft pick

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 15, 2020

Hawkins spent Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season on the practice squad of the Houston Texans. Traded by the Steelers to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the beginning of the 2019 season, the Steelers received Tampa’s sixth-round draft pick in exchange for the Steelers seventh-round draft pick both in the upcoming 2021 NFL draft. With the Steelers having an abundance of offensive linemen to start the 2019 season, Hawkins was in danger of not making the team so the Steelers gaining any capital for him was a wise move.

In Pittsburgh, Hawkins was injured during training camp in his rookie year and spent the season on injured reserve. In 2017, Hawkins appeared in five games and officially got one start in Week 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals although he only played five snaps. On the 2017 season, Hawkins only logged 48 total snaps over the final five games of the season.

In Tampa, Hawkins only appeared in one game for three snaps.

Released in the offseason, Hawkins landed with the Houston Texans during 2020 training camp. Failing to make the 53-man roster, he was signed the Texans practice squad.

The Steelers are in need of some offensive line depth as it has been reported Zach Banner has been lost for the season due to an ACL injury. With other concerns at guard with Stefen Wisniewski who exited Monday’s game one play before Banner, and David DeCastro who was inactive due to a knee injury, there are still many questions to be answered this week with the Steelers offense of line.

Should the Steelers be signing Hawkins, he must go on their 53-man roster and not the practice squad as he is coming in from another franchise. Most likely, the corresponding move will be placing Zach Banner on the Reserve/Injured List. For the 2020 season, players can return off of IR after three weeks, so placing Banner on the list might not mean he is lost for the season although reports indicate otherwise.

Even with Hawkins joining the team, it is believed he would act as the reserve tackle and Chukwuma Okorafor would start at right tackle. Although the Steelers have the option of moving Matt Feiler back to the right tackle position, with the other injuries the Steelers are facing at guard there are still a lot of questions to be answered.

Stay tuned to BTSC for all your breaking news, player updates, and all things Pittsburgh Steelers as they prepare for their Week 2 matchup against the Denver Broncos.

For more from Mike Tomlin in his Tuesday press conference, check out the “Press Conference Recap” Podcast below:

Steelers are hoping for a “favorable” result with key injuries

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 11:45am
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have some serious injuries on their offensive line, but Mike Tomlin is hoping for the best.

The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line depth is being tested early in the season after the team’s Week 1 win over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. In that game, on back-to-back plays, Stefen Wisniewski left with a pectoral injury and Zach Banner left with a knee injury.

It is being reported Banner’s season is over with a torn ACL, but Mike Tomlin said they are awaiting results of scans before making any long term plans for the starting right tackle. In the meantime, Banner is out in Week 2 vs. the Denver Broncos.

This per Brooke Pryoer of ESPN:

Mike Tomlin doesn't have an official update on Zach Banner's knee injury, but he says "it's safe" to say Banner is out for this week.

But prognosis is more optimistic for James Conner and Stefen Wisniewski - though still waiting on test results on Wisniewski.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) September 15, 2020

While Tomlin told media Tuesday, via Zoom call, Banner is out, he did have hope and optimism for the injuries to both James Conner (ankle) and Wisniewski. Tomlin said their outlooks are “favorable” for them to be available in Week 2.

This per Will Graves of the Associated Press:

Tomlin says team is still waiting for Banner info but he's def out. More optimistic about Conner and Wisniewski's availability vs. Denver

— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) September 15, 2020

The Steelers should be fine at running back if Conner can’t play. Benny Snell Jr. acclimated himself well when given the opportunity, and rookie Anthony McFarland is waiting for his first opportunity to play as a professional.

But there is another key injury in play to keep in mind, and that would be the only player who missed Week 1 — David DeCastro.

DeCastro’s knee injury is not considered to be long term, and while Tomlin wouldn’t comment on his overall outlook, he did say he is hopeful DeCastro can return to practice Wednesday leading up to the Broncos game.

This per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com:

Coach Tomlin said he is hopeful David DeCastro is able to work tomorrow in practice, but doesn't have an outlook on him.

— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) September 15, 2020

On a short week there is a lot to unpack from an injury standpoint, but more clarity will be provided in the coming days as the Steelers’ first reported practice will be tomorrow, Wednesday.

In the meantime, stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they prepare for the Broncos to invade Heinz Field this Sunday for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.

For more from Mike Tomlin in his Tuesday press conference, check out the “Press Conference Recap” Podcast below:

Film Room: JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the Steelers’ offense to victory

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 09/15/2020 - 11:30am
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Steelers ran their offense through their young leader.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 2019 season has been heavily discussed, dissected, digested and even desiccated. With the 2020 season starting, there were questions about how Smith-Schuster would rebound this year. If Week 1 is any indication, it’s going to be a good season for the 4th year receiver who is younger than two rookies the Steelers drafted in 2020.

In today’s film room I want to look at the tape showing Smith-Schuster is the most important receiver on the team still, and how a good chunk of the offense ran through him in Week 1.

2nd quarter, 9:07. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the slot receiver, second from the bottom of the screen.

This is a heavy blitz look for the Giants and all the receivers are one-on-one with defensive backs. Ben Roethlisberger makes the play here if you watch his helmet and the direction it faces through the play. When he realizes the pass rush is coming he throws an almost no-look lob to Smith-Schuster, he looks that direction as he is throwing. That’s one of the most important things JuJu Smith-Schuster brigs to the Steelers as he and Roethlisberger know each other on the field far better than Ben knows any other receiver on this team, and on this play it is enough to score a touchdown.

2nd quarter 0:29. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the slot receiver, second from the top of the screen.

The Steelers run a bit of a rub on this play, but as rookie corner Darnay Holmes runs around Eric Ebron and his defender, Smith-Schuster reverses course and is open for this 14 yard catch and run. The Steelers have a lot of big, physical targets, and that makes rub routes very effective.

2nd quarter, 0:07. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the slot receiver, second to the bottom, James Washington is outside him.

Here Smith-Schuster runs a rub for James Washington that obliterates James Bradberry’s coverage on James Washington. You can see Bradberry catching up as Washington powers across the goal line. If you look closely you can see the push Smith-Schuster gave his defender to drive him directly into Bradberry. James Washington’s incredible effort to finish the play is the highlight on this play, but the execution of this rub is also impressive.

4th quarter, 2:58. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the slot receiver, second from the bottom of the screen.

This time it is Bradberry on JuJu Smith-Schuster, and he’s had enough of the rub routes. You can see Bradberry get physical with Smith-Schuster right before Diontae Johnson crosses underneath them, and you can see Johnson’s defender run past the rub route untouched. But that’s a set up. Smith-Scuster sheds Bradberry as he jams the rub, and it’s an easy looking 2nd touchdown for the Steelers leading receiver.

Here’s another view where you can see the push better.

JuJu Smith-Schuster sells the rub, then easily creates separation and it’s an easy TD pass for his quarterback.

A good offensive game plan was executed well, and the Steelers exploited the Giants man defense with two touchdowns of rub routes. Expect to see more of these routes, especially if teams try to play man to control the matchups with the Steelers receivers through the increased motion the Steelers are using.

Smith-Schuster’s best play wasn’t either of his touchdowns, it wasn’t a result of his sharp route running or great hands, it was old fashioned hustle and heart.

3rd quarter, 2:46. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the receiver to the bottom of the screen.

JuJu Smith-Schuster starts with a good block on James Bradberry to give Benny Snell Jr. a big lane to the outside, and follows that by diving on the loose football in a pile of New York Giants and coming away with a huge fumble recovery for the Steelers.

I expect the debate over whether JuJu Smith-Schuster is a true number one receiver, as well as what a “true number one” receiver is, but I’m not interested in that. JuJu Smith-Schuster makes big plays, leads the receivers in production, but he also leads by executing to set up his team mates for success, and even make big plays that don’t count in fantasy football.

In real football, Smith-Schuster is incredibly valuable, and that is plenty good enough.

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