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BTSC Bookie: The final results of the 2019 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 3:05pm
Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With six different bets on the Super Bowl, how did the BTSC community finish the 2019 season betting on various aspects of games

It is time for the final installment of BTSC Bookie for the 2019 season. This was a chance for the BTSC community to collectively choose where to place an imaginary wager of “BTSC Bucks.” Starting with $500 in BTSC Bucks for the season, we never came close to busting at any time during 2019. Bets varied all season from against the spread, moneyline, over/under, parlays, and even prop bets on the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl Wagers

Between the outcome of the game and all the prop bets, we had eight different wagers on the Super Bowl. The two major wagers of $100 each were on the winner of the game and the over/under. We correctly chose the Chiefs as the winner with a payout at -115 which earned $86.96 above the original bet. Unfortunately, the game came up a little short of the 54.5 points total so we lost our $100 bet on the over.

Six different bets of $25 each were placed on various “prop bets” for the Super Bowl. The first was Super Bowl MVP which we correctly predicted Patrick Mahomes at +115 and earned $28.75. The night started off on a positive note as we correctly predicted the coin toss of tails and earned $23.81 on the bet at -105. In the closest of all the polls, we lost $25 on which team scored first as San Francisco came up one vote shy of Kansas City.

Another bet was on a player who would score either a rushing or receiving touchdown. This poll actually ended in a tie between Travis Kelce at -150 and Raheem Mostert at -130. Since both players scored, splitting the bet between the players earned a total of $17.86. The next bet was somewhat tricky as we placed a wager on Patrick Mahomes to have more than 2.5 touchdowns. Since the specific terminology did not say passing touchdowns, Mahomes rushing touchdown was also included and $22.12 was earned at the payout of -113. Finally, we also earned another $22.12 for correctly choosing Jimmy Garoppolo throwing for less than 239.5 yards.

While we ended up losing money on the two large bets due to splitting the results, correctly choosing five of the six prop bets gave us an overall increase on the game. In all, we gained $76.62 on the Super Bowl.

Week 20 Balance: $1,361.52 Week 21 Net Gain/Loss: +$76.62 Week 21 Total: $1438.14 Evaluating the season

For 2019, The BTSC community did an excellent job in betting on games. In all, we turned $500 into a profit of $938.14! Walking away with almost triple of what we started with, the only time we dipped below our initial starting bet of $500 was at the end of the Week 1.

There were two weeks of the season in which we lost every bet we placed ($175). During the Steelers’ bye week we were unable to cash in on any bets as well as two weeks later during Week 9. Sandwiched in between the two low weeks was our top money winner when we earned just shy of $300 in one week. Part of the reason our payout was so large was connecting on a $25 parlay bet of three different wagers.

Being a Steelers community, the only time one of our wagers was not placed on the Steelers during the regular season was during their bye week, when they played on Thursday night and those games were not eligible, and in Week 16 when users chose to only place one large bet on one game. Wisely, BTSC chose not to bet on the Steelers-Jets game and went with a more sensible wager in which we earned $150. In all, looking at only bets placed in games involving the Steelers, we earned $264.41.

It’s been a very fun season placing wagers on games. I hope you all enjoyed the activity and learned a little bit more along the way about how sports betting works. Also, it was a very safe environment in which no real money was gained or lost. For those who believe they are now ready to conquer the world of sports betting, I would remind everyone that placing a bet with no real consequence is completely different than making the decision when real money is involved. So let’s take our nice winnings of “BTSC Bucks” and call it a victory.

Steelers sign General Manager Kevin Colbert to 1-year contract extension

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 2:24pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Colbert is now under contract through the 2021 NFL draft

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert signed a contract extension on Wednesday keeping him in Pittsburgh through the 2021 NFL draft.

We have signed Vice President & General Manager Kevin Colbert to a one-year contract extension.

MORE: https://t.co/kxIOXeJPrz pic.twitter.com/uc94h9L0kv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 5, 2020

Hired in 2000, Kevin Colbert has nine division championships and two Super Bowl victories in his 20 years in Pittsburgh. Colbert announced last off-season he would operate on a year-to-year basis as the Steelers General Manager.

Colbert’s current contract had him with the Steelers through the 2020 NFL draft. With the Steelers already losing their Football Administration Coordinator Samir Suleiman to the Carolina Panthers earlier this off-season, it is important to know Colbert is remaining on board for another year and the Steelers will not have another void to fill in the front office. With the Steelers currently up against the salary cap and limitations on restructuring contracts due to being in the final year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, keeping stability in the front office is a positive step as the Steelers navigate the 2020 off-season.

The financial terms of Colbert‘s new contract were not disclosed. With coaches and front office contracts not affecting the NFL salary cap, the financial ramifications of Colbert’s contract is of little consequence to operations.

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

Several Steelers find their spots on PFF’s Top 101 player of 2019 list, their ranking is up for debate

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 12:25pm
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

The folks at Pro Football Focus have started their Top 101 players of 2019 list, and while the complete list has not been released yet, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been well represented thus far.

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

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

94. S MINKAH FITZPATRICK, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

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

86. CB STEVEN NELSON, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

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

68. DI JAVON HARGRAVE, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

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

The fact PFF had Minkah Fitzpatrick ranked 94th almost immediately makes their entire list invalid, but it is their list, not mine. I’m sure other Steelers, like Cameron Heyward, David DeCastro and T.J. Watt will be coming up on the list soon, but what do you think of their selections/rankings so far?

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

Is retaining either big money UFA the right decision for the Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 11:01am
Bud Dupree and Javon Hargrave could be lining up for different teams come the start of the 2020 season | Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

bringing back any of the UFAs could open up more roster holes then they fill

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2020 offseason with just $4,895,081 in cap space. While also being faced with two free agents expecting lucrative deals. Obviously, the quickest way to shed some money would be to cut players who are not living up to their current deal. But is cutting 5 starters/rotational players the right call, just to save one of those Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs)?

According to salary cap site Sportac, Bud Dupree’s market value is $16.6 million and Javon Hargrave would command another $14.7 million on the open market. But I can't see a world where the Steelers could create enough cap space for both (plus RFAs and the 2020 draft class) contracts. Hargrave comes from a position of depth and will likely not get a competitive contract offer, but the Steelers have had continued interest in re-signing Dupree.

So what would have to be done to create the $16 million in cap? Well I think we can expect the terminations of both Ramon Foster ($4,000,000) and Anthony Chickillo ($5,000,000), but that only gets us to $12 million dollars.

And this is where I feel like it will get dicey cutting anyone else.

I’m sure some of you are screaming at your screen calling for Mark Barron’s head, but the reality of the situation is while Barron wasn't stellar, he still played big minutes for the Steelers and lined-up in situations that the team didn't feel confident having either Devin Bush or Vince Williams in. Cutting Barron would force the Steelers to find another depth linebacker, and they'd have to do it for less than the $5.25 million.

Same goes for Vance McDonald. How many tight ends could be brought in for less then $6.55 Million? Because, Eric Ebron, Hunter Henry, and Austin Hooper will command a much higher price-tag. Gambling on Vance being healthy would save the Steelers from drafting the position in the second round or spending any money on the open market.

Instead, what if the Steelers went outside linebacker with their 2nd round pick? Even if that player only amassed 4.5 sacks in 2020 and combine that with the 2019 Steelers sack total (minus Dupree) and they'd still amass 47 sacks, which would've been good enough for 6th in the league (and about $13 Million cheaper).

Signing Dupree to a $16-17 Million dollar deal means the Steelers would have to fill guard, ILB, TE, and back-up OLB positions, all with virtually no cap-space. Letting Dupree walk means the Steelers have to fill OLB (+ back-up), and guard positions with about $11 Million in cap-space.

Money that could be spent chasing All-Pro Guard Joe Thuney, or Pro-Bowl Guard Brandon Scherff. Which lets the Steelers draft its Bud Dupree replacement, and they still could draft players that push Mark Barron or Vance McDonald, but in this situation it wouldn't be a rush to move them out before the draft, and it would truly allow the Steelers to take the best player available.

Two OLB prospects the Steelers could target to replace Dupree are Terrell Lewis from Alabama, or Josh Uche from Michigan. Uche, is a great pass-rusher and could pick up where Dupree left off in 2020 while Terrell Lewis is a better all around player than Uche who can be disruptive in the run game yet still make it to the Quarterback.

Lewis likely would've been a lock as a first round pick had he not torn his ACL in the summer of 2018, but he is still quick for his large 6’5” 260 pound frame and has a chance to fall to the Steelers.

So the question is do I bring up good points or was this exercise too much of a stretch for you! Let us know if you'd bring back either high priced UFA below in the comments section.

Steven Nelson’s fantastic 2019 season continues to be overlooked

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers’ cornerback took exception to an article from Bleacher Report which listed his starting position as an “area of concern”

It was one of the most beneficial free agent signings the Steelers had in quite some time. Adding cornerback Steven Nelson to the roster for the 2019 season was one of a series of moves which moved the Steelers secondary from average to elite. Overshadowed at times by the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Nelson put up numbers placing him at the very top of the league at the cornerback position. Unfortunately, some around the league still did not recognize his great season as he wasn’t selected to the NFL Pro Bowl.

Nelsons exact stats for the 2019 season vary depending on the source. According to profootballreference.com, Nelson was targeted 74 times for 37 completions and 491 yards. He had one interception and did not surrender a touchdown. Other than interceptions, Nelson’s numbers were better than his Pro Bowl teammate Joe Haden who gave up 44 completions and five touchdowns according to PFR. Unfortunately for Nelson, interceptions seem to be what gets the attention of those following the NFL.

The disrespect of Nelson continued on Tuesday as Bleacher Report published an article of power rankings for the 2020 season. In the description that has since been changed, the report initially said “Defensively, the cornerback spot opposite Joe Haden remains an area of concern.” The statement brought reaction from Nelson himself.

Who controls that account I need answers we going to have a chat

— Steve Nelson (@Nelson_Island) February 4, 2020

As with many issues that arise when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, there is a tendency for some of the national media to not really be in tune with what is going on with the team. In the same description, the article also speaks about how the Steelers need more help at wide receiver without even mentioning the Steelers leader in the category in 2019 in rookie Diontae Johnson. Even as Maurkice Pouncey struggled on the offensive line at a level in 2019 which was unheard of compared to the rest of his career, Pouncey continued to be praised by media members who probably just assumed he was playing at a high level rather than judge his performance for themselves.

As for Nelson, I hope he continues to use The fact he is constantly overlooked as an elite cornerback as fuel for his 2020 season. If Nelson can match his play statistically from 2019, it would be extremely difficult for those in the national media to overlook him yet again. But with other stellar play by his teammates on the defensive side of the ball, Nelson’s name has yet to register among others across the NFL. But ask for Steeler nation, we understand the gem that we had in 2019 and are looking forward to an even better 2020. hother s’Ne

Adding speed on offense should be a top priority for the Steelers this offseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers need a lot of help on offense, but adding speed to the roster would top the list.

With a little more than seven minutes remaining in Super Bowl 54, the Kansas City Chiefs, trailing the San Francisco 49ers 20-10, faced a 3rd and 15 from their own 35 yard line. To that point, the 49ers defense had assaulted the Chiefs offense for most of the night, sacking star quarterback Patrick Mahomes three times and harassing him into a pair of ugly interceptions and several other errant throws. According to ESPN, as the teams lined up for that crucial 3rd down play, San Francisco had a win probability of 94.3%. The odds seemed fairly certain that Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid would extend his streak as the winningest coach in NFL history never to claim a Super Bowl.

But then Reid, whose explosive offense was built largely on versatility, deception and the freakishly talented Mahomes, leaned on the other element that made it so good: speed. The Chiefs are fast at just about every skill position on offense, with no one faster than wide-out Tyreek Hill. Hill, who ran an absurd 4.29 40 yard dash coming out of college, used his blazing speed to create separation on a post-corner route. The offensive line provided just enough protection for Mahomes, who took a gloriously deep drop to buy Hill time to run. The quarterback launched the ball into the Miami night, and when it came down Hill was waiting. Kansas City had a 44 yard gain deep into San Francisco territory. The completion galvanized the Chiefs’ offense. They finished the drive four plays later with a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce, then scored twice more in the final six minutes to earn Reid his long-awaited Super Bowl ring.

The completion to Hill illuminated just how important speed is in professional football. The Steelers have plenty of it on defense, where recent acquisitions Devin Bush, Mark Barron, Steven Nelson and Minkah Fitzpatrick, all of whom can run, have helped transform them into a Top 5 unit. On offense, however, they lack players with elite burst capable of making plays like the one Hill did in that crucial situation on Sunday. Let’s take a closer look at the play that saved the Super Bowl for the Chiefs before addressing the following questions: Are the Steelers fast enough on offense? And, if not, what should they do about it?

Here’s the completion to Hill in its entirety before we break it into smaller parts:

Kansas City aligned on the play in a 3x1 formation with second tight end Blake Bell (81) in a “nub” position opposite the trips. San Francisco bracketed Bell with a linebacker underneath and corner Richard Sherman over the top. This took Bell away but left a single deep safety to defend the three receivers to the field.

Or did it? It’s hard to say how San Francisco intended to defend the trips look. The problem is corner Emmanuel Moseley (41), who drove on the inside cut by Sammy Watkins (14), the widest of the three receivers. Watch Moseley come into the frame late at about the San Francisco 42 yard line as he chased Watkins to the post:

Because no route threatened the flat, and because two San Francisco defenders were taking zone drops underneath of Watkins, it feels like Moseley should have provided deep help here. To leave that responsibility to a single safety (Jimmie Ward, #20) with the speedy Hill in the slot and Watkins outside, seems reckless on San Francisco’s part. One of three things is probably true, then: either Moseley blew the coverage (probably cover-2 or cover-3) and left Ward to defend the entire deep half of the field; or, Moseley did the right thing by carrying Watkins, in which case it was probably cover-4, and slot corner K’Waun Williams (24) screwed up when he failed to stay with Hill as he went vertical; or, most likely, the 49ers were playing a combo coverage where they went man on the outside receiver (Watkins) while playing some sort of trap on the inside receivers (Hill and Kelce).

Whatever the defense, the thing that made this play work was Hill’s brilliant speed and exceptional route-running. Look in the still frames below at how Hill drove to the post until he got Ward to open his hips. Ward still had a five yard cushion, but because Hill is so fast, he got out of his backpedal early and started to run. The second Hill saw Ward open to the post, he put his foot in the ground and burst away from him to the corner.

Ward (20) reads the release of Hill (circled) and begins to backpedal Hill drives to the post, setting Ward up Ward opens to the post and Hill immediately bursts back outside; there is no way Ward can recover in time.

The Chiefs bet on their team speed here and took a calculated risk. Knowing San Francisco would guard the sticks, they gambled that they could protect Mahomes long enough to get Hill in space against the safety, where they knew he could win over the top. The gamble paid off and an epic Super Bowl comeback commenced.

Team speed is a theme in Kansas City, especially on offense. While Hill is by far their fastest player, he is by no means the only one who can run. Watkins has Juju Smith-Schuster’s size (both are 6’1 and weight between 210 and 215 pounds) but is faster (Watkins clocked a 4.43 at the NFL Combine, while Juju ran 4.54). Rookie receiver Mecole Hardman is a speedster and a legitimate home-run threat who averaged over twenty yards per reception this season. Meanwhile, running backs Damien Williams (4.45) and Darwin Thompson (4.50) have receiver speed and freakish athleticism, with Thompson recording a remarkable 39 inch vertical jump at the Combine. Even Kelce, the tight end, can run. The Chiefs like to split him out wide to take advantage of the match-up problems his combination of size and speed create for opposing defenses. Pair all of that speed with the dynamic Mahomes, who can make any throw from just about anywhere on the field, and the Chiefs are, to put it mildly, hard to defend.

The Steelers? Not so much. An offense that was dangerous just two years ago looks quite ordinary at present. Forget the 2019 debacle for a moment and look ahead to 2020. Offensively, the Steelers will feature an aging Roethlisberger returning from serious injury at quarterback; a trio of backs in James Conner, Benny Snell Jr. and Jaylen Samuels who are capable players but lack explosiveness; and a host of wide-outs who are young and talented but, like the running backs, lack anyone who can threaten a defense the way Kansas City does.

The Steelers thought they had signed a speedy outside receiver to play opposite of Juju when they inked free agent Donte Moncrief last off-season. Moncrief’s stint in Pittsburgh was brief and unspectacular, leaving the team without a player who can take the top off of coverage. Juju, for all of his assets, is not typically a deep-ball threat. His career average of 13.7 yards per reception is modest by league standards. Juju is more physical than he is fast, and when he breaks big plays it’s usually his power that shakes him loose.

Ditto for James Washington. Washington has become the team’s go-to vertical threat. But Washington, despite an average of 15.9 yards per catch through two seasons, is also more of a physical receiver than a speedster. Washington often uses his powerful 5’11-213 pound frame to out-muscle defenders rather than to run by them. His 4.54 40 time is mediocre for an outside receiver.

Then there’s rookie Diontae Johnson, who showed potential as a home run hitter due to his quick change-of-direction and precise route running. It will be interesting to see if Johnson becomes more dangerous once Roethlisberger returns. Under Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges, though, Johnson was the definition of a possession receiver, averaging 11.5 yards per catch.

Last week I argued in favor of adding a “move” tight end to pair with current starter Vance McDonald as a means of making the offense more explosive. McDonald is another big, physical target who lacks elite speed, while his current backup, Nick Vannett, is a solid blocker but a plodder in the passing game. Available free agents who could fill the “move” role and stretch the middle of the field include Hunter Henry and Eric Ebron. But those players may be too expensive for Pittsburgh’s limited cap space. The draft may not provide a tight end in this mold, either.

One player on the current roster who does seem to have the type of speed that can threaten defenses vertically is Deon Cain. Cain, at 6’2-200 with sub 4.5 speed, has great measurables. But Cain has mostly been a practice squad player in the NFL and has just nine career catches. Betting on Cain seems like a risky proposition.

What to do, then? How can the Steelers become more explosive offensively? To preface that question, it’s hard to gauge what they will look like since Roethlisberger’s injury rendered 2019 useless while 2018 is uninformative since so much of the offense revolved around Brown. However, as I’ve documented in the past, I believe bolstering the Steelers run game, which has finished near the bottom of the league the past couple of seasons, would provide Roethlisberger a much-needed security blanket. Big Ben is more likely to resemble Jimmy Garoppolo than he is Patrick Mahomes when he returns. Still, the Niners ranked in the top ten in passing efficiency in 2019 because their run game allowed them to exploit teams who loaded the box with play-action and vertical concepts that created easy throws for Garoppolo. A better run game would do the same for Roethlisberger, who at age 38 is not likely to win many games if he’s asked to throw the ball two-thirds of the time like the Steelers did in 2018.

Will they? I don’t know. The addition of Matt Canada to the offensive staff is intriguing but I hesitate to suggest it will lead to a transformation. Big Ben is an old dog and I don’t know how many new tricks he’s willing to learn. My suspicion, then, is the 2020 offense will look a lot like the 2018 offense, with plenty of vertical and horizontal stretches out of 11 personnel formations. An improved run game and an athletic tight end would be great but I don’t expect the passing game to look like San Francisco’s with an emphasis on play-action. Nor do I think the offense will look like Kansas City’s with a host of shifts, motions and gadgets. Canada should provide some fresh ideas but I’m not anticipating much of this:

(For the record, I thought this play was gimmicky as hell and I don’t think we should load the offense with this sort of stuff. You gotta love the choreographed pirouettes, however).

Even if the Steelers do invest in the run game or add an athletic tight end, they will need more speed to be successful. It is unrealistic to expect that, simply because Roethlisberger is back, the Steelers can plug in the 2018 offense with 2019’s personnel. That 2018 unit succeeded because of a healthy Big Ben and a prime Antonio Brown, with Juju a perfect compliment as the #2 receiver. This unit is not as dynamic. A home-run hitter who can put defenses on their heels feels like a necessity.

Pursuing Moncrief last off-season was the right idea, if not the right result. Who might the Steelers target this year to fill that role? One realistic option is Tampa Bay free agent Breshad Perriman. Perriman, 27, is a five-year pro who caught 36 passes for 645 yards and an impressive 17.9 yards per catch in 2019. Perriman is a burner who ran 4.24 at the Combine back in 2015 and remains one of the fastest players in the league. The knock on Perriman is he’s played for three teams in five years, which suggests he is unproductive. That was indeed the case in Baltimore, where Perriman caught just 43 balls in three seasons. He moved on to Cleveland in 2018 but was made expendable when the Browns acquired Odell Beckham. That landed Perriman in Tampa on a one-year deal.

Perriman has not caught a lot of passes in his career (95 receptions in 51 games) but in the past two seasons he’s gone 52-985 for an average of 19 yards per catch. Of those 52 catches, nearly forty percent of them (20) went for twenty yards or more. Perriman might be a one-trick pony but his one trick — stretching the defense — is a good one. He is big at 6’2 and his combination of size and speed makes him an ideal candidate to both attack press coverage (see below) and to take the top off of a zone. He would be a nice fit in Pittsburgh’s four receiver packages and could push Washington or Johnson for reps in 11 personnel sets.

Perriman’s one-year deal in Tampa paid him $4 million so it would likely take slightly more to get something done. The Steelers signed Moncrief last season to a two-year, $9 million contract which included a $3.5 million signing bonus. They would probably have to go higher to nab Perriman. Whether they would be willing to pay $10 million on a potential two-year deal to a guy who would be slotted as the fourth receiver is questionable. The addition of Perriman to the receiving corps, however, would make the Steelers much more dangerous in the passing game.

The Steelers may look to the draft for a speed receiver, where, according to the Artist Formerly Known as Drop The Hammer, TCU’s Jalen Reagor would be a great fit. In that case, they could improve their team speed by adding a quick back. Kerith Whyte emerged as a runner who could get to the edge late in 2019 while also showing some potential as a kick returner. But Whyte was bad in pass protection and could not run between the tackles, thus limiting his effectiveness.

The RaidersDeAndre Washington would be an upgrade from Whyte as a player who can run both inside and outside in addition to catching the ball well. Washington had 387 rushing yards and 292 receiving yards for the Raiders in 2019 and is coming off a rookie contract that, as a 5th round pick out of Texas Tech, earned him an average of just under $700,000 a year. He would be a much more affordable alternative to Perriman if the Steelers prefer to address the backfield. Washington is just 5’8 but is powerfully-built and finishes runs hard. With his short, choppy steps and ability to cut quickly, he is reminiscent of a poor man’s Darren Sproles:

One way or another, a player who can stretch the field either vertically or horizontally would be a boon to the offense in 2019. With Roethlisberger returning to the lineup and help (hopefully) on the way through the draft, the addition of a speedy play-maker could provide the big-play element necessary to make this a dangerous offense once again.

NFL fans were given a close up of the new face of the league during Super Bowl 54

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 6:35am
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If Super Bowl LIV taught us anything, it's the fact you either have a QB capable of winning the Big Game, or you got nothing.

You would think I would have learned by now to stop second guessing myself, and instead listen to my own advice. Seriously, nobody understands me better than me. But there I was, making my final prediction on Super Bowl Sunday, picking the San Francisco 49ers to ultimately win the big game behind the strength of their superior defense. Boy, was I wrong, and I only have myself to blame. What was I thinking?

Over the past couple of years I have written multiple articles waxing poetically about the importance of the QB position. You either have a QB capable of winning the Super Bowl, or you don't. There are no consolation prizes for second place: the winner takes it all. No bonus points for giving it your best effort, second place still goes home the loser.

This Super Bowl presented NFL football fans with a unique storyline. Both Super Bowl starting QBs were first time participants, therefore neither was a proven Super Bowl winning QB. This year the Super Bowl wasn't going to feature a Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, or Russell Wilson; just to name a few of the QBs that have proven capable of not only leading their teams to multiple Super Bowls since the turn of the century, but ultimately in winning the big game.

This year was going to be different, but you couldn't blame the participants. You can't prove capable until your blessed with the opportunity. Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and San Francisco Forty Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo were going head to head to see who was the contender, and who was a pretender. As it always does, the game itself provided all the answers.

Due to the around the clock, wall-to-wall media coverage of the Kobe Bryant tragedy; Super Bowl week didn't really seem to get started till around Thursday. Immediately, the national media's concerted efforts were made known. They were preparing the masses for Patrick Mahomes inevitable ascension into the upper echelon of NFL QBs. Then, as they so often do, they collectively jumped the shark. They couldn't stop themselves from taking their enthusiastic praises just a little too far.

I understand their motive, in conjunction with what's best for the longevity and prosperity of the NFL. You want a Patrick Mahomes to be the face of the NFL. Mahomes appears to be a quality young man of strong character; who's fearless playing style and flair for the dramatic captivates audiences, both young and old. With established stars like Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, and Rodgers nearing the end of their Hall of Fame careers, the NFL is understandably searching for their next bell cow.

All Mahomes had to do to sit on the throne was win the game. It sure seemed like that is what the national media was rooting for all week. Then they took the whole thing a little too far, as they are prone to do, before the actual game had even been played.

Multiple talking heads on various networks suggested that Mahomes may just be the greatest QB in NFL history at this point of his NFL career. That is where they lost me, if I am being honest. I believe that statement to be complete hyperbole and disrespectful to every great QB that has ever played in the NFL.

For example, what kind of mind blowing numbers would a young Dan Marino have put up in today's NFL, where seemingly every rule change over the past few decades has tilted the field for the offenses? There are too many viable examples, such as this, that explains why making statements about a second year starting QB being the best ever have no real merit.

Then the game started, and for a while it appeared the NFL's prayers might not be answered. Honestly, Mahomes struggled throughout most of the game. For a player blessed with an extremely strong throwing arm, he inexplicably short armed throws to wide open receivers. He threw an interception into coverage after failing to properly diagnosis it presnap. He threw another pick after throwing behind his intended receiver on a slat pattern, all while a starry eyed Troy Aikman was earnestly trying to convince the audience that the throw was "on the money".

Even though Mahomes wasn't performing up to his usual standards, there was some good news for Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. Jimmy 'GQ' Garoppolo and the Niners weren't exactly playing up to their own standards either.

Then the fourth quarter rolls around in a tightly contested ball game where both QBs would have ample opportunity to make the plays that would decide the outcome of the game. What happened next really shouldn't have came as too much of a surprise. Mahomes made the plays, Garoppolo did not.

Late in the fourth, with the Niners needing a touchdown to win the game after blowing a ten point fourth quarter lead, JimmyG got his once in a lifetime opportunity. It was the type of opportunity where legends are made. On a critical third down play, Emmanuel Sanders unbelievably got behind the Chiefs defense and was racing wide open toward the endzone. Garoppolo had a great look and let it fly. Overthrew everybody, not even close. He had the perfect opportunity to have the moment every child dreams about playing football in their backyards, but the moment turned out to be too big for JimmyG.

In any title matchup, there has to be a winner and a loser. Did Patrick Mahomes win the Super Bowl, or did Jimmy Garoppolo lose it? Truthfully, Mahomes did just enough; aided by Garoppolo's inability to come through in the clutch. For Mahomes, it was a dream come true. With no obvious choice, they ended up awarding Mahomes the Super Bowl MVP.

Makes sense if you think about it. After all, he is the new face of the NFL.

Podcast: Has the Steelers offensive line gone from a strength to a weakness?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest BTSC podcast, our Steelers ‘Stat Geek’ breaks down the numbers surrounding the black-and-gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over, and the news is still ongoing. With a surge of Steelers news, it was time to get back on the airwaves and discuss the Black-and-gold.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Stat Geek. On this show deputy editor Dave Schofield and his brother Rich break down all things Steelers stats, and also answers questions from fans!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Stats, stats and more stats
  • Close look at the Steelers’ rush defense in 2019
  • Steelers Q&A

Dave walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-gold.

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

The audio of the Stat Geek Q&A will be published at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Here is he audio:

Black and Gold Links: The biggest sin of the past week has to be Alan Faneca missing the Hall of Fame again

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 02/05/2020 - 4:30am

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take at how the biggest sin from the past week was how Alan Faneca was left out of the Hall of Fame...again.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Alan Faneca was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, again, and failed to gain entry into those hallowed halls, again. This was the biggest issue from the Super Bowl weekend.

Mark Madden: Excluding Steelers guard Alan Faneca from Hall of Fame is outrageous

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Put your little hand in mine. There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb.”… as long as we have refreshing sports notes! Too early for flapjacks?

Troy Polamalu was absolutely worthy of first-ballot induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is arguably the best safety ever, and no one ever has been a better representative for football and the NFL. But the exclusion of Alan Faneca for a fifth straight year is outrageous, especially when juxtaposed to the inclusion of Steve Hutchinson, also a guard. Faneca was first-team All-Pro six times to Hutchinson’s five. He was a nine-time Pro Bowl pick to Hutchinson’s seven. Faneca won a Super Bowl, and Hutchinson didn’t. Are the resumes meaningless? What’s the criteria?

• Polamalu does little media but speaks plainly when he does. When former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis talked about getting Polamalu to bite on play-action, Polamalu replied: “That’s because you guys had our playbook. A big asterisk next to those play fakes.” Yikes. Polamalu also spoke plainly about the deterioration of the Steelers’ locker-room culture during the latter stages of his Pittsburgh tenure.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Chiefs fans have suffered a long time since their last Super Bowl. Good for them, right?

John Steigerwald: Chiefs fans deserved Super Bowl title

By: John Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The right team won.

With the possible exception of the Browns, no team’s fans deserved a Super Bowl win more than the Chiefs.

The 49ers fans have had five Super Bowl wins to celebrate, and I’m pretty sure there are a lot more real fans in Kansas City than there are in San Francisco.

Imagine if the Steelers’ last Super Bowl win was XIV in 1979 and the next one came in 2029. That’s what it’s been like for Chiefs fans. Fifty years.

Steelers fans are losing their patience with Mike Tomlin because he’s only been to two and won one.

If you’re a fan of Pittsburgh’s pro teams, here’s some perspective for you: In the 50 years since the Chiefs won Super Bowl IV In 1970, the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins have won 14 championships.

The Chiefs and Royals have combined for three — two of them in the last five years.

In 1970, Roberto Clemente was still playing right field for the Pirates.

Chuck Noll had just finished his first season as the Steelers’ head coach with a 1-13 record.

Terry Bradshaw was several days away from being the first overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Franco Harris was a sophomore at Penn State. Jack Lambert was in high school.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Is this CTE stuff a bunch of nonsense? Some are suggesting it is...

John Steigerwald: It might be time to show skepticism about CTE research

By: John Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Maybe Merril Hoge was right.

Hoge, a running back who played eight seasons in the NFL — seven with the Steelers and one with the Bears — retired at 29 because of multiple concussions.

His book, “Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football,” co-authored with Dr. Peter Cummings, an assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology at Boston University School of Medicine, came out in 2018 to lots of bad reviews.

CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), with lots of help from a movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith, had been just about universally accepted as an injury caused by repeated blows to the head in contact sports, especially football.

Hoge was ridiculed by some on Pittsburgh talk radio and in other media around the country for having the nerve to question the connection between football and CTE.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Smith in the movie, made his discoveries while working in the Allegheny County Coroner’s office.

Since then, major changes have been made at all levels of football. Live hitting in practices has been reduced greatly and, in some cases, eliminated.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

.@CowherCBS & @tpolamalu speak about their time in Pittsburgh, their relationship on and off the field, their election into the @ProFootballHOF and more. pic.twitter.com/itJPpes60X

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 3, 2020

DB @tpolamalu discusses his "Knock" while being fitted for his HOF Gold Jacket.#PFHOF20 | @HaggarCo | @steelers pic.twitter.com/xWJeJtO5AH

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 3, 2020

.@CowherCBS being fit for his new HOF threads!#PFHOF20 | @HaggarCo | @steelers pic.twitter.com/VhWgcmKKXc

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 3, 2020

.@donnie_shell gets measured for his Gold Jacket!#PFHOF20 | @HaggarCo | @steelers pic.twitter.com/6fnvDIr0wm

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) February 3, 2020

Mike Tomlin Tuesday: In regards to Roethlisberger, “I’m not a doctor”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 2:10pm
Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

With no more press conferences from Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin in the foreseeable future, we’ll look back at some of interesting quotes from the 2019 season

Once again, it doesn’t seem like a Tuesday unless we are graced with words from Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin from his weekly press conference. Since it is unlikely we will hear from coach Tomlin again until the draft, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting quotes Tomlin has given us this past season.

We’ve experienced several “Throwback Tomlin Tuesday” quotes so far this off-season. So far we have re-lived the following:

A nose guard is like Blockbuster video
We weren’t ready for prime time tonight
So that’s how you lay an egg
We’ve got to make plays

As we continue trough the 2019 season, let’s go back to the first press conference following Ben Roethlisberger going onto the Reserved/Injured List before the Steelers’ Week 3 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. In his opening statement, coach Tomlin jumped right in to discuss the Steelers’ quarterback situation.

“Obviously we’re disappointed for Ben,” Tomlin started. “From a team perspective, we’ve got a great deal of confidence in Mason [Rudolph].”

In typical fashion, Coach Tomlin chose to focus on the players available on the field rather than his franchise quarterback who was out for the season. After outlining the promotion of Devlin Hodges and the signing of Paxton Lynch to the practice squad, Tomlin moved on to discuss the trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick (which will be addressed next week).

Once opening up the press conference for questions, Tomlin was immediately asked if he knew any specifics about Roethlisberger’s injury.

“I do, but you guys know I try to avoid getting into specifics in this forum,” Tomlin answered. “I’m not a doctor and I think a lot of those things will be confirmed when he gets his surgery.”

Thanks for clearing that up, Mike.

With the benefit of hindsight, this was the first step in Coach Tomlin‘s deflection over the injury with Ben Roethlisberger. At first he claimed to not be a doctor and would wait until things were more confirmed. But as the season rolled on, Tomlin still lacked answers as he claimed to not be privy to the information. But Tomlin was not finished outlining how he expected to report on Roethlisberger‘s progress as they move through the different stages of dealing with the injury and the recovery.

“I’ll probably wait until after that to get into specific details of what they found and the prognosis in terms of recovery. We released some statements yesterday that really kind of outlined our collective sentiments as we sit here right now. And Ben released a statement as well.”

Unfortunately, news beyond the other statements previously released has been scarce. Yes, we got an update that Roethlisberger had his surgery, but the exact procedure was not ever outlined other than saying it was not Tommy John surgery. One thing which has been clear from the beginning, even though news of his injury and progress has been kept private, the hope for a Roethlisberger return in 2020 has always been the main statement.

“He fully intends to come back from this injury and everything we’ve heard, we’re comfortable that that is a strong possibility,” Tomlin concluded.

Four months removed from Ben Roethlisberger going on the IR, the Steelers have pretty much kept the same statement without revealing anything else. The only report on Roethlisberger‘s progress so far is he has a doctors appointment in Los Angeles on February 21 where he hopes to be cleared to begin going through the throwing motion with very light objects.

As for the statements of Roethlisberger making a full recovery, it is the hope of all invested in the Steelers in order for the team to make a run in 2020.

Steelers will be playing the Jaguars in Florida in 2020, not in the United Kingdom

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 12:31pm
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

There was some though the Steelers could be traveling overseas to play the Jaguars in 2020, but that won’t be happening this year.

The NFL schedule is cyclical, and can be predicted for many years down the road except for a few opponents. Sure, the dates and times of these games have not been decided yet, but the location and opponent have long been settled.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers were slated to visit the Jacksonville Jaguars as one of eight away games, many wondered if the team would be playing in the continental United States, or possibly going to London for the second time, their last trip was in 2013 vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

The 2020 regular season schedule won’t be released until this spring, but Steelers fans know now the team will be playing the Jaguars in the sunshine state.

Interesting news on the NFL in London - next season the #Jaguars are to become first team to play back to back games in the UK. More pic.twitter.com/gIlBDZvLsh

— Omar Ruiz (@OmarDRuiz) February 4, 2020

In the above release from the Jaguars organization, it reads:

“While the opponents for the games to be played in Wembley Stadium have not been determined, the Jaguars can confirm that their home games vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears in 2020 will remain in Jacksonville at TIAA Bank Field.”

This is good news for the fans who were weary of the Steelers potentially traveling overseas to play a game. However, this could also be bad news for fans who were looking at potentially traveling to a game in London to see the black-and-gold abroad.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold as they press on through the 2020 offseason and prepare for the season ahead.

Bill Cowher interviewing Troy Polamalu gives fans a rare inside glimpse to both men

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 10:59am
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the three Pittsburgh Steelers who will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this summer shared a special, and rare, moment in front of the camera.

The sport of football is both an open book and a very secretive realm. Players and coaches give thousands of interviews, practically saying nothing the entire time. When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, both Bill Cowher and Troy Polamalu know this song and dance.

So, when any player and/or coach lets that curtain down and shows fans a glimpse of what is behind it, it can be amazing.

This interaction between Cowher, interviewing Polamalu is absolute gold. You don’t hear these type of stories very often, and getting these behind-the-scenes stories is something all fans should enjoy.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here:

.@CowherCBS & @tpolamalu speak about their time in Pittsburgh, their relationship on and off the field, their election into the @ProFootballHOF and more. pic.twitter.com/itJPpes60X

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 3, 2020

I can’t speak for all Steelers fans, but this past weekend when I heard Polamalu was going to be inducted as a first ballot Hall of Famer, it made my weekend. I didn’t care who won the Super Bowl, but couldn’t wait to celebrate Polamalu, Cowher and Donnie Shell as the latest trio of black-and-gold legends to be forever enshrined in the hallowed halls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Someone asked me the other day which was my favorite Polamalu of all-time. That is like asking which song is your favorite, but it made me think about it. I still haven’t figured it out yet, but what is your favorite Troy moment? Let us know in the comment section below!

Ben Roethlisberger currently has the second highest NFL salary cap number for 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 9:34am
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

At $33.5 million, Rothlisberger’s 2020 cap hit is second in the NFL at the moment

It has been said that change is the only constant in life. Although I don’t believe the Greek philosopher Heraclitus had NFL contracts in mind, we have seen time and time again how the highest paid player sometimes only lasts days before a new contract is signed. Heading into the 2020 off-season, it is certain that several players will be signing some large contracts before another NFL game is played. But for the time being, Ben Roethlisberger has the second highest salary cap number for 2020 according to the experts at overthecap.com.

Top 10 NFL salary cap charges in 2020

1 Goff- $36M
2 Roethlisberger- $33.5M
3 Cousins- $31M
3 Wilson- $31M
5 Garoppolo- $26.6M
5 Mack- $26.6M
7 V. Miller- $25.6M
8 Donald- $25M
9 Ryan- $24.2M
10 Flacco- $23.7M

— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) February 3, 2020

The reason it is important to note that Rothlisberger‘s current cap number is the second highest is because two different factors could come into play to change this list:

Other players could sign larger contracts before the beginning of next season

While this is possible, it’s probably unlikely any new contract will surpass Roethlisberger‘s current $33.5 million cap hit for 2020. Usually when a player signs a new contract, it comes with a large signing bonus which gets spread over the length of the contract and reduces the cap hit for the first year. But with this being the final year of the CBA and the 30% rule governing new contracts, teams can’t simply have a minimal base salary the first season of the deal and have everything be signing bonus. With these constraints, it is possible a contract could get that high, but not very likely.

Roethlisberger’s cap number could be lowered slightly

Another possibility which would change Roethlisberger’s salary cap situation would be for the Steelers to do a slight restructure of his current deal. The reason the restructure would be “slight” is due to the 30% real governing the final year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. With a player salary not permitted to be increased or reduced by 30% from the previous year, there is only so much of Rotehlisberger’s base salary which can be converted into a signing bonus in 2020. The most the Steelers could do would be right around $6 million which they could spread into the final two years of his contract. Therefore, Roethlisberger’s salary cap number could be reduced by a little more than $3 million for 2020. While it might not be much, it may be necessary for the Steelers to conduct business. If a new collective-bargaining agreement is signed prior to the start of the league year on March 15, 2020, the 30% rule would no longer apply and the Steelers could choose to push a larger percentage of Roethlisberger’s cap hit into 2021 if they deem it necessary.

Regardless of where Ben Roethlisberger‘s salary cap number finishes in terms of the rest of the NFL for 2020, there’s no mistaking he is using up a large portion of the Steelers cap space. Currently at 16.8% of the total salary cap, Roethlisberger is commanding a lot of money of the Steelers salary cap for a quarterback who did not throw a touchdown in 2019. With so much of the Steelers hopes and money tied into the surgically repaired elbow, Roethlisberger does not hold the Steelers future in his hand as much as in humeroulnar joint.

Tight End Greg Olsen sure would look good in a Steelers uniform

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 7:45am
With a positional need and drive to win a championship, Greg Olsen to the Steelers makes a ton of sense.

The recently released TE seems to be a fit for both

The moment that news broke of Greg Olsen’s Panthers release, all I could think of was how could the Steelers bring him in. From a positional need it’s a perfect fit, looking at it from a financial perspective it (sneakily) also looks like a fit. This sort of deal also has the appearance of something the Steelers would do, bring in a vet in the back end of their career that's a positional need. I'd compare it to the DeAngelo Williams’ contract.

2019 marked the healthiest year for Olson since the end of his 159 game iron man streak back in 2017. Playing in 14 games this past season Olsen put up 597 yards on 52 receptions for 2 TDs, mostly thrown by Panthers back-up QB Kyle Allen. While not earth shattering numbers I could only imagine those stats increasing catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger.

I view this deal as an affordable one, simply for two reasons. First, Olsen has had two of the past three seasons cut short by foot injuries, and second he's 34 years old and probably chasing one last championship run. How many contenders have a need at the position?

The answer is not many.

Out of all the postseason teams, I'd only consider the New England Patriots and Houston Texans looking at adding someone to their tight-end group, and if Tom Brady leaves New England I would no longer consider the Pats a contending team in 2020. I’d imagine Olsen will take less then the 11.8 Million that he was due to be paid by Carolina and I could foresee a 2-year deal to spread out that money.

Plus, after big name tight-ends Hunter Henry, Eric Ebron, and Austin Hooper have been scooped up, Pittsburgh may find themselves the far and away leader for Greg Olsen’s services.

With how many of the Steelers offensive contributors are under the age of 25, the veteran presence could help mold the locker room (especially the receiving group) long after Olsen is gone.

Greg is clearly only coming back to football if it’s with a team with a legit Super Bowl shot, and banking on Big Ben getting healthy and being backed by the Steelers defense should be enough to convince him that he should be wearing back-and-gold come September.

I think this could be a savvy move that would help bring both talent and leadership to Pittsburgh, and it’s one that Kevin Colbert should strongly consider.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Explaining the NFL Free Agency terms and terminology

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 6:29am
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

It is officially the NFL offseason, and that measn you will hear a lot of talk about free agents, etc. Time to get familiar with the terminology to help better understand the Steelers’ situation.

The NFL’s free agency season is less than two months away — with the NFL there really is no offseason. The offseason leads to terms that can be confusing when dealing with free agency. Pittsburgh has 14 players headed to free agency in one form or another. The designation of these players is complicated. The issue with the terms is that they are laid out in the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which is written by lawyers to be able to stand up against other lawyers’ challenges. The main point of this article is to lay the terms out to a more fan friendly environment that hopefully brings clarity to a sometimes confusing aspect.

Credited Season (CS)

This term is used to describe the benefit level a player will receive once they retire from the NFL. CS is any season in which an NFL player has been on a team’s roster for at least three games. It includes both active and inactive roster, injured reserve (IR), and physically unable to perform (PUP). Suspended players do not accrue time toward CS.

Accrued season (AS)

AS is used to determine a player’s free-agent (FA) eligibility when his contract expires. A player must be on a team’s active or inactive roster, PUP or IR list for a minimum of six games to gain an AS. Players on a team’s practice squad, or who are suspended or on the non-football injury list (NFI), do not accrue an NFL season. Unfortunately, the two terms often get confused even though they have completely different ramifications.

The three designations of free agents.

Unrestricted free agents (UFA)

This term is the most familiar to fans. These players are not under contract with any NFL team and can freely sign with any team. Bud Dupree will become a UFA when the new league year starts March 18. He will be eligible to negotiate a contract with any other team. The only thing that could prevent this from happening would be Pittsburgh’s use of a franchise tag or transition tag.

Restricted free agent (RFA)

The thing that makes RFA players unique is that they have less than three years of AS when their contracts expire. In these cases, the player’s current NFL team holds his rights. They are tendered a one-year contract by their current team at one of three levels, first, second or original draft status (also referred to as low original.). Matt Feiler is an RFA in 2019. As he was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014, the Steelers could designate him as an original round tender. If another team came along and offered him a contract and the Steelers decided not to match it within five days — Pitt would not receive any compensation due to him not being drafted. (The team would not be eligible to make the offer if they did not have a corresponding pick in that round if that was the case.) The more likely scenario is that the Steelers tender Feiler a second round offer, which means the Steelers would receive a team’s highest second round pick as compensation if they did not match the other team’s offer to Feiler. If a player is not tendered, he automatically becomes an UFA. Once a player is tendered, he immediately counts against the salary cap and the contract becomes fully guaranteed.

Exclusive rights free agents (ERFA)

This tag has such a ridiculous name. They are not free to do anything. These players have less than two AS. Unlike RFA players, there is no concern about other teams vulturing these players. They are generally tendered at the league minimum with no bonus. Lavon Hooks is the Steelers only ERFA who has not signed an extension. Hooks is still rehabbing from a torn Achilles suffered in August.

ERFA and RFA players are generally plucked from another team’s scrapheap and in some cases, turned into very lucrative players. Alejandro Villanueva one notable ERFA the Steelers had who turned out to be a gem.

The three different tags that can be applied to a player.

Once any of these tags are placed on a player that player’s salary immediately counts against the salary cap. In a normal league year only one tag can be applied per team per year — 2020 is not a normal league year and teams can use both tags at the same time. If a team does not have the salary cap space to absorb the hit, they are unable to place the tag on a player.

Non-exclusive franchise tag

The non-exclusive franchise tag is a one-year contract that pays the player no less than the average of the top five cap hits in the past five years, at his position, or 120 percent of the player’s current salary, whichever is greater. The salary of the player is fully guaranteed. There is one condition to this. The player must “establish or maintain his excellent physical condition”. If that condition isn’t met, the contract can be terminated, and at that point, the player is able to negotiate a contract with other teams. If the current team declines to match the offer it receives two first-rounders as compensation. The non-exclusive franchise tag is the most commonly used franchise tag because it is generally not as expensive as the exclusive franchise tag. A player has until July 15 to work out a long-term deal or no further negotiations can happen except for a one year contract. The contract tag can be pulled at any time, at which time the player becomes an UFA.

Exclusive franchise tag

This tag is a one-year contract for an amount no less than the average salary of the top five players at a given player’s position during the current league year or 120 percent of the player’s current salary, whichever is higher. Exclusive franchise tagged players are not eligible to negotiate with other teams. A team may only use one of the tags on one player per season. A tag can be used multiple years, but doing so is very costly. If a player is tagged a second year, he would make 120 percent of his previous salary. If tagged for a third season, the increase would be to 144 percent of his previous salary or the franchise tag value for quarterbacks, whichever is greater. Bell was tagged twice with the tag.

Transition tag

The transition tag pays a player the average of the top ten salaries of players in the league in that position or 120 percent of the players current salary, whichever is greater. As with the non-exclusive tag, a transition-tagged player is free to negotiate with other teams. If an offer sheet is extended to the player his current team has seven days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, there is no compensation. Emmanuel Sanders left the Steelers under the transition tag.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has a monumental task ahead of him deciding which free agents to try to sign and which ones to let test the market or let them walk. The Steelers appear to have locked up their ERFA players they want. Five players are eligible for the RFA tag, but as I pointed out before, the team has serious salary cap issues. The team will be making cap space but $16.2 million may be eaten up by franchise tagging Bud Dupree. Could the Steelers be forced to let integral pieces to their playoff hopes walk in 2020 because of the lack of cap space? The next six weeks will be an exciting time in the offseason watching the myriad of transactions.

Podcast: Super Bowl 54 showed just how far the Steelers are from competing for a title

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 5:33am

Join Bryan and Tony with fallout from Super Bowl LIV and how the Steelers stack up to the champs in the latest edition of the Steelers Hangover.

The Steelers 2019 season is over and talk of a return to prominence in 2020 is in full force. But with the Chiefs offense not on full throttle, but still scoring 31 in the Super Bowl, could it be that the Steelers are a lot farther from being a championship club than we all thought?. Join Tony and Bryan as they discuss this and more.

In case you are new to the show, you can check out a complete rundown of the show below:

  • Recap of Super Bowl LIV
  • Did Super Bowl 54 showed just how far the Steelers are from competing for a title?
  • Live chat Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Spotify: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Black and Gold Links: JuJu Smith-Schuster realizes the challenges ahead in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 02/04/2020 - 4:36am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 season is officially over. After finishing the year 8-8, the Steelers, and their vast fan base, has another long offseason awaiting them. Just because the games are done doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take at how wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster realizes the challenges that lie ahead both for him, and the Steelers, in 2020.

Let’s get to the news:

  • 2020 will be a very unique season for the Steelers, especially JuJu Smith-Schuster.

JuJu: ‘We made it work’

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

JuJu at the Super Bowl: JuJu Smith-Schuster is among current Steelers players in Miami this week as a part of Super Bowl LIV hype, and he shared his take of his role in the Steelers receivers room this year.

”We go to where I am the youngest guy in the room who is technically considered the oldest guy on the field based off years of experience. My leadership role, me being more vocal changed a lot. It was a pretty cool experience. You learn about yourself, your teammates, your guys. The guys we had in that room, we made it work.”

Rooney’s legacy: The inaugural Dan Rooney Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. Richard Lapchick at the 15th annual Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Salute to Excellence Awards dinner as a part of Super Bowl LIV week.

Rooney, the late Steelers’ chairman, was the inspiration for the Rooney Rule. Rooney was appointed by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to work with a committee after a report came out in 2002 about the lack of minority coaches in the NFL. Rooney worked diligently with the committee, until what became known as the Rooney Rule was passed. The Fritz Pollard Alliance was founded after the Rooney Rule passed, overseeing that teams abide by the rule. The rule requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for openings in coaching and senior football operations positions. It was recently expanded to require teams to interview women for executive positions as well, and the rule continues to be something that is a point of focus.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

Statement by Steelers President Art Rooney II on Troy Polamalu:

I want to congratulate Troy Polamalu on being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Troy was the kind of player who was able to impact the outcome of games from his safety position, and he did it with uncanny instincts that made it almost impossible for opposing offenses to predict where he would be. A proven playmaker who never failed to come up big in the biggest games, Troy deserves to be considered among the best defensive backs in NFL history. During both the 2005 and 2008 seasons, Troy was a significant contributor to our efforts during our drive to victories in those two Super Bowls, and the interception he returned for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter of the 2008 AFC Championship Game clinched that victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Troy was truly a playmaker every time he stepped on the field, and we couldn’t be happier for him.

It will be an exciting time for Troy and his family this summer when he receives our game’s highest individual honor in Canton.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Like all of us, JuJu Smith-Schuster is concerned about Antonio Brown.

JuJu Smith-Schuster on Antonio Brown: “I’m concerned”

By: Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

The very public unraveling of Antonio Brown over the past year has prompted some to wonder whether Brown has changed from who he was with the Steelers, or whether the Steelers managed to keep that side of Brown under wraps during his time with the team.

One of Brown’s former Pittsburgh teammates made it clear during a Thursday visit with PFT Live that the Brown we’re seeing isn’t the same Brown that played for the Steelers.

“It’s different, for sure,” receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. “I’m concerned, like you guys. It’s a tough situation for a guy if you take away his job and his passion. Being a guy looking from the outside to the inside, he’s definitely a different dude than who he was on the field.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Social Media Madness

"He's a special Steeler."#Steelers President Art Rooney II spoke with @missi_matthews on the addition of @tpolamalu to the @ProFootballHOF. #PFHOF20 pic.twitter.com/k7qbO2aTwX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 2, 2020

Congratulations, @tpolamalu! #PFHOF20 pic.twitter.com/0D7o8mHo0Q

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 2, 2020

Bring 'em out!@tpolamalu | @CowherCBS | @donnie_shell

: #NFLHonors on FOX pic.twitter.com/mbJROTtOk0

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 2, 2020

Report: Ben Roethlisberger to see doctor this month regarding his progress

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/03/2020 - 4:44pm
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If all goes well for Roethlisberger’s appointment February 21, he could begin throwing light objects.

According to Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ben Roethlisberger is scheduled for a doctors appointment in Los Angeles February 21, 2020. It is hopeful Roethlisberger will get a good report to where he can begin the next phase of his rehabilitation.

A Ben Roethlisberger update: He will see his doctors in LA Feb. 21 and hopes to get clearance to start throwing tennis balls and other light objects. He remains confident he will be ready for the Steelers' offseason work in May. Roethlisberger had elbow surgery Sept. 23.

— Ron Cook (@RonCookPG) February 3, 2020

Roethlisberger only appeared in two games for the Steelers in 2019 and did not throw a touchdown. It was the first time in his career he was placed on the Reserve/Injured List.

Another concern with Roethlisberger is the fact he’s turning 38 years old this off-season. It is somewhat unprecedented for a quarterback at his age to return from an injury to his throwing arm. Regardless, both Roethlisberger and the Steelers seem to believe he will be calling the signals to start the 2020 season.

With an emerging young defense who made great strides in takeaways during 2019 along with continuing their record of sacks, Roethlisberger hopes to give the Steelers the improved quarterback play to put them over the top in 2020. Of all the teams who did not make the 2019 postseason, the Steelers currently have the highest probability to win next year’s Super Bowl according to many odds-makers.

Even if Roethlisberger gets clearance later this month to resume throwing light objects, he still has a long way to go in his rehabilitation. But in order to take several steps, the first one is necessary. Having a hard date as to when Roethlisberger will get an update is most beneficial for all parties.

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

Counting Down the days to key 2020 dates for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/03/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The offseason has officially begun, so the anticipation for the 2020 NFL season is on the clock.

Let the countdown begin!

Although the Steelers off-season began weeks ago, the 2019 NFL season has now officially concluded. Unfortunately, this means we now have no meaningful football to look forward to for more than half a year. With various off-season events sprinkled over the next several months, we can officially count down the number of days to key off-season dates.

0 days: Waivers

Today is the first day of the implementation of the waiver system for 2020. Players can now be waived in order to enter free agency for next year.

21 days: Scouting Combine

The NFL scouting combine begins on February 24, 2020 in Indianapolis. It runs for a week until March 2.

22 days: Franchise/Transition Tag

Beginning on February 25, 2020 teams are able to designate a player with the franchise or transition tag. Teams have two weeks (until 4 PM on March 10, 2020) until the deadline for designation.

42 days: Free Agent Negotiation

For the three days leading up to when free agency officially begins, teams may begin negotiating with players and agents for free-agent signings on March 16, 2020.

44 days: Beginning of the 2020 league year (start of Free Agency)

At 4 PM on March 18, 2020, teams may officially sign free-agent players to contracts for the upcoming season. This is also the deadline for teams to exercise options on players, submit restricted free agent and exclusive rights tenders, and for teams to be under the 2020 salary cap. Teams may also trade players once the 4 PM deadline has passed.

~73 days: NFL Schedule Release

It isn’t usually announced until just before it occurs, but the general release date for the NFL schedule is about a week before the draft.

74 days: Deadline for RFA’s to sign offer sheets

Any restricted free agent must sign any offer sheet from another team by Friday, April 17, 2020. After this date, RFA’s can only sign with the team which offered them a tender.

77 days: Off-season Workouts

April 20, 2020 is the first day teams with returning head coaches can begin their off-season workout program. Teams with returning head coaches may begin two weeks earlier.

80 days: NFL Draft

The 2020 NFL draft will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada beginning on April 23. The Steelers are scheduled to wait another day until their first draft selection, but a trade into the first round is not impossible.

163 days: Franchise Tag Signing

Any player who was designated with a franchise tag must have a signed contract by 4 PM on July 15, 2020. After this date, the player can only play under the tag for the season.

170 days: Transition Tag Signing

Any player who is designated with the transition tag must have a signed contract from another club by 4 PM on July 22, 2020. After this date, only the team who issued the tag has exclusive negotiating rights.

~170 days: Training Camp

Although with the Steelers will not officially announce the official start date of training camp until the preseason schedule is set, they generally report the middle of the final week of July. If the Steelers are playing the Hall of Fame Game, the fist day of training camp will be earlier and looks to be July 22, 2020 (170 days).

185 days: Hall of Fame Game

It appears this date will be insignificant to the Steelers for 2020 as they are projected to play a fifth preseason game. Even if it ends up not being the Steelers, the next time NFL players face off on the field will be in the Hall of Fame Game on August 6, 2020. The Hall of Fame activities will be over the course of the weekend from the game Thursday through Sunday, August 9, 2020.

192-195 days: First Week of Preseason Game

Even if the Steelers are playing in the Hall of Fame game, they will still play in the first full week of preseason games which will fall somewhere between Thursday, August 13 and Sunday, August 16, 2020.

213 days: Last Preseason Game

If the NFL follows their typical schedule, the final preseason games for all teams will be on Thursday, September 3, 2020.

215 days: 53-man Rosters

By 4 PM on Saturday, September 5, 2020, teams will have to make their final cuts in order to determine the 53-man roster.

220 days: NFL Kickoff Game

Thursday, September 10, 2020 will be the first game of the NFL season. Barring a horrendous scheduling conflict much like that in 2013, the game will be played in Kansas City. Since the Steelers do not play the Chiefs in 2020, they should kick off three or four days later on either Sunday, September 13 or Monday September 14.

370 days: Super Bowl LV

Super Bowl LV is scheduled to be played on February 7, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. Get your reservations booked now Steelers fans!

NFL Power Rankings: Steelers head into the offseason in the middle of the pack

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 02/03/2020 - 12:29pm
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 NFL offseason is upon us, and the Power Rankings have begun...

The 2019-2020 NFL season is less than 24 hours old, but don’t tell that to the powers that be at ESPN. To them, the page has officially been turned to the 2020-2021 season as they launch their first NFL Power Rankings of the new season.

Technically, the new league year doesn’t begin till March, but I would assume there is no time better than the present to go over what teams might look like next season, and who would be atop the rankings.

Of course, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are at the top, with the Super Bowl runner-up San Francisco 49ers right behind them. But where the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the rest of the AFC North, fall is always a hot button topic.

Take a look at ESPN’s latest Power Rankings, and remember these mean absolutely nothing. But if these rankings are good for anything it is to drum up discussion about the teams who could bounce back from a mediocre 2019, or who could fall off their lofty perch. Either way, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black-and-gold this offseason.

ESPN

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Baltimore Ravens
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Green Bay Packers
6. Seattle Seahawks
7. New England Patriots
8. Tennessee Titans
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Houston Texans
...
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
Reason for optimism: Ben Roethlisberger. There’s still a way to go to find out if the franchise quarterback is hitting all the marks in his recovery from this past season’s elbow surgery, but Roethlisberger’s return answers a lot of questions for an offense that struggled with two backups in 2019. Every part of the offense needed Roethlisberger — from the running backs who faced a loaded box to the wide receivers who could’ve benefited from a consistent arm — and if his rehab goes as scheduled, he’ll be ready to resume his role for the 2020 season. — Brooke Pryor”

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