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Stat scientist on “Renegade” Effect: “This is the thing everyone wants”

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/05/2022 - 10:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A Point Park University study shows Styx song’s statistical advantage.

Football fans pour over stats and figures, trying to find the advantage that explains why a team wins or loses. But so much of the game comes down to intangibles: heart, fatigue, momentum, concentration. The playing of “Renegade” in the fourth quarter has become a tradition, if not a superstition, that’s now ingrained into the Pittsburgh Steelers home game experience.

But does “Renegade” actually make a difference during the games? The scientist with the answer may be the person you’d least expect to be tasked with the job.

“It’s interesting, because I’m actually not a football fan,” says Dr Matt Pascal, professor of Mathematics and Chair of Point Park University’s Department of Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology. “I’m a Pittsburgh native through and through. Every Sunday during the Steelers season my entire family gathers for games, and I’m the only one not there. When this came to me, I think my entire family was excited and nervous that I would screw it up.”

Pascal is a graduate of Duquense and Pitt, and was once on staff at WVU, but never got the black and gold bug. He says that worked to his advantage on this project.

“It actually kind of gave me this unbiased thing,” Pascal says. “I’m just looking at numbers. I’m not in love with the Steelers like everybody else. I have, however, been to home games. I have experienced “Renegade” live, so I did know what I was getting into.”

Pascal and his students worked directly with the team to gather their research. There’s not exactly a public record of every time “Renegade” has been played. TV footage wasn’t always reliable because the song was played during commercials.

“We simply asked the Steelers, and they they were able to give us some data,” Pascal says. “But, it was more like scratch work on a note they had from the games. We had to correct a lot of the data, but that enabled us to get all the way back to 2014 through this this past season, and we’ve got every single game.”

Pascal found the power of “Renegade” was strongest when the Steelers had to protect the lead. They are 33-8 for an 80.5 win percentage. When the Steelers were trailing in the 4th, “Renegade” led the team to a record of 6-7.

But the most interesting stat, and maybe the most convincing proof of a “Renegade” Effect, is the fact that opposing teams are 7 times more likely to fumble on the very next play after the song, than on any other given play. Is that because the Steelers defense is feeding off the energy, or are the opponents distracted by the crowd? Pascal can’t say.

“I can’t pretend to know what it’s from,” Pascal says. “We need psychologists or sociologists or somebody to tell us what they’re doing right. This is totally organic and a perfectly timed moment, where it’s the right song, the right highlight reel of defensive plays, in the right moment in the game, and it just it works.”

According to Pascal, much of professional sports is aware of the “Renegade” Effect in Pittsburgh, but it remains out of their reach.

“This is just the thing that everybody wants, and nobody can explain how we got it,” Pascal says. “This is known apparently in the industry. People want their own version of ‘Renegade’ and nobody’s got It.”

Pascal and his students will be watching closely this season to see if the Steelers can make “Renegade” history. No Pittsburgh defender has yet to intercept a pass on the first play after the song plays.

“This new field of research, we might have to start calling it ‘Styx’-tistics.”

Kyle Chrise is the host of the BTSC podcast “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout” and the upcoming live post-game show “What Yinz Talkin’ Live,” premiering on September 22.

Steelers finalize their 2022 practice squad

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/05/2022 - 9:26am
Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

With the Steelers signing half of their practice squad yesterday, they added three more players today.

NFL cut down day has become something highly anticipated by fans across the league. Seeing if their “diamond in the rough” makes the roster or if their team parted ways with a particular player many feel should have been cut loose years ago, dissecting the initial 53-man roster feels like a true start to the regular season. But for those players who were left go on Tuesday, Wednesday brings a new day and perhaps a new opportunity to continue their NFL dream.

Welcome to the NFL practice squad.

After players with 4 or less accrued seasons clear waivers, each team can sign players to their official practice squad. For three seasons now, the practice squad was expanded to 16 players and 6 of those players can be of unlimited accrued seasons (and therefore are players who were not subject to waivers). The players on the practice squad can be promoted by the Steelers or signed by other NFL teams, but once again for 2022 each team can protect up to 4 players from Tuesday on each week who can’t be claimed by another team until after their game. And don’t forget, each week a team can promote up to 2 players from the practice squad to the active roster without having to remove another player.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, they announced 8 players of their 2022 16-man practice squad last Wednesday, and the list of players is below:

RB Anthony McFarland
OL William Dunkle
OL John Leglue
OL Ryan McCollum
WR Cody White
OLB Hamilcar Rashed
DT Carlos Davis
DB Elijah Riley

On Thursday, the Steelers then added the following three players to the practice squad:

DB Mark Gilbert
TE Justin Rigg
LB Chapelle Russell

The three players added on Thursday were not a part of the 2022 Steelers preseason. Defensive back Mark Gilbert was on the Steelers 2021 practice squad before being signed to the Detroit Lions. The breakdown now comes as 6 players on offense and 5 on defense. Obviously there will be 5 more players to come.

On September 2nd the Steelers added two more players to their practice squad:

RB Jason Huntley
DL Renell Wren

Huntly was a draft pick of the Detroit Lions and played previously with the Philadelphia Eagles. Wren was formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals.

This left just three spots remaining on the team’s 16-man practice squad, and they were filled by the following trio of players.

S Andrew Adams
CB Josh Jackson
LB Delontae Scott

We have signed S Andrew Adams, CB Josh Jackson and LB Delontae Scott to the practice squad. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 5, 2022

Safety Andrew Adams was an undrafted free agent out of UConn in 2016 when he signed with the New York Giants. Spending two seasons in New York, Adams appeared in 30 games with 17 starts with one interception and seven passes defensed. After failing to win the starting job in 2018, Adams did not make the 53-man roster and landed in Tampa Bay a couple weeks into the season. After a season of appearing in 13 games with four starts where Adams had four interceptions and nine passes defensed, he signed with the Detroit Lions for the 2019 season. Failing to make the roster out of training camp, Adam‘s headed back to Tampa Bay for two more seasons before signing with the Philadelphia Eagles. Once again failing to make the Eagles squad, Adam was back in Tampa Bay for 2021. In his four years in Tampa, Adams played in 57 games with 18 starts and six interceptions with 16 passes defensed. In 2022, Adams was in the New York Giants training camp but failed to make the team.

Cornerback Josh Jackson was a second-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers out of Iowa in the 2018 NFL draft. After three years in Green Bay where Jackson played in 42 games with 15 starts with 86 tackles and 12 passes defense, he was traded to the New York Giants in exchange for cornerback Isaac Yiadom. Released by the Giants in October after not appearing in a game, Jackson landed on the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad where he was elevated for two games and had four tackles. Jackson spent the 2022 preseason with the Arizona Cardinals but did not make the team.

Linebacker Delonte Scott was on the Steelers 2022 preseason roster after spending 2021 on the Steeles practice squad.

The practice squad can change, just like the team’s 53-man roster can certainly change between now and the Week 1 game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. For this reason, stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for any updates on any roster moves and all Steelers news as they prepare for the kickoff of the 2022 season.

To hear more on this half of the Steelers’ 2022 practice squad, check out the breaking news podcast below when available...

Steelers players set their jersey numbers for the 2022 season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/05/2022 - 8:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Two members of the Steelers 53-man roster have reportedly changed their jersey numbers from the preseason.

It’s game week! The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 of the 2022 regular season. With the team getting a ‘bonus practice’ in on Monday after not having played in more than a week, there are several players with new jersey numbers for the 2022 season which have been reported.

There were obviously going to be at least some changes in jersey numbers coming as the Steelers had a pair of players who made the 53-man roster and had duplicate numbers. These players were offensive tackle Dan Moore Jr. and defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi who were both wearing No. 65 throughout the preseason. With Dan Moore wearing number 65 his rookie season with the Steelers in 2021, it has been reported Ogunjobi will be wearing number 99, which was previously used by Henry Mondeaux.

Pittsburgh Steelers DT Larry Ogunjobi (@Mr_Ogunjobi) is now wearing number 99. #HereWeGo

— NFL Jersey Numbers (@nfl_jersey_num) September 5, 2022

There was also another member of the Steelers who has changed his number since returning to the roster. Trent Scott was not on the Steelers first 53-man roster but returned to the team when two players went onto the Reserve/Injured List (IR) on Thursday. Despite wearing number 64 throughout the preseason for the Steelers, Scott is reportedly changing to number 72 which was already in use when he arrived to the Steelers in mid May by UDFA Jordan Tucker. More recently, number 72 was also worn in the preseason for the Steelers by Adrian Ealy.

Pittsburgh Steelers OT Trent Scott (@_tscott78) is now wearing number 72. #HereWeGo

— NFL Jersey Numbers (@nfl_jersey_num) September 5, 2022

The Steelers also added three new players to the roster last week who were not with the team during the 2022 preseason. According to the Steelers Media Website, outside linebacker Malik Reed, who the Steelers acquired via trade last Tuesday, will wear number 50 which was used this preseason by Delontae Scott. Offensive tackle Jesse Davis, who was also acquired via trade on Tuesday, is wearing number 77 which was utilized by John Leglue who landed on the Steelers practice squad the next day. The final new player for the Steelers was Jamir Jones, who they claimed off waivers on Thursday. Jones will return to his number 40 he wore for three games in Pittsburgh in 2021.

There are more duplicate numbers from the Steelers preseason when taking into account the practice squad and players on injured reserve. Damonate Kazee was placed on IR this week and had a duplicate number with running back Benny Snell Jr. In an unconfirmed report, Kazee is set to wear number 23 when he hopefully returns to action later this season. As for the practice squad, these are the reported numbers at this time for new players as well as those who made a change:

31: Mark Gilbert
33: Jason Huntley
45: Hamilcar Rashed Jr. (was #46)
49: Chapelle Russell
74: John Leglue (was #77)
87: Justin Rigg
96: Renell Wren

So there you have it, Steelers fans, the jersey numbers for the 2022 season appear to be locked in. If you were ready to rush out to get your Jamir Jones, Larry Ogunjobi, Trent Scott, Malik Reed, or Jesse Davis jerseys, you now have a number to go along with the name.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL regular season against the Bengals in Cincinnati at 1 PM this Sunday.

2022 Isaac Redman Award winner: Mark Robinson

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/05/2022 - 7:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Congratulations to Steelers rookie inside linebacker Mark Robinson for winning the 2022 Isaac Redman Award.

Everybody loves a great backstory. The Steelers have been blessed with plenty of success stories about players who have overcome seemingly overwhelming odds to turn their NFL dreams into reality throughout their illustrious franchise history. The subject of this article is merely the latest in a long line.

Congratulations to Steelers rookie inside linebacker Mark Robinson for winning the 2022 Isaac Redman Award in what amounted to easily the closest vote in Redman Award history.

Most vested contributors realized that it was a two man competition between Mark Robinson and offensive training camp sensation Jaylen Warren, an undrafted rookie running back from Oklahoma State.

Both young men exceeded all realistic expectations throughout camp and carried that success into their preseason game performances. Both were also directly impacted by the limitations of their colleagues on multiple occasions, but still managed to showcase their NFL caliber abilities regularly.

In the end, after our passionate BTSC community accumulated over 1500 total votes, Robinson edged Warren by a single vote, 691 to 690. When it was all said and done, they accounted for over 90% of the total vote. I believe that qualifies as a two man race.

The Redman Award is truly a special distinction for Behind the Steel Curtain, solely decided by the majority vote of the BTSC community, and totally unique to the site. The yearly winner encompasses the spirit of it's namesake; a diamond in the rough upstart who has exceeded expectations enough to capture the imagination of the Steelers ravenous fan base.

Many of the previous winners have went on to establish admirable NFL careers, if by nothing more than the longevity of said career. Daniel McCullers carved out an impressive 6 years, mainly standing on the sidelines with the Steelers, where he offered an impressive source of shade for anyone lucky enough to be standing in his shadow.

If Big Dan McCullers was the Shade Tree, then former Steelers standout Mike Hilton is Mighty Mouse. What Hilton lacks in size he makes up for with toughness and heart. He enjoyed the best season of his NFL career in 2021 with the Cincinnati Bengals, after 5 standout seasons as a slot corner for the Steelers. He remains the most accomplished Redman Award winner to date.

Now Mark Robinson gets the opportunity to follow in those footsteps. The young man has an incredible story of his own, having only played a single collegiate season at linebacker, after beginning his career as a running back. Thankfully, that single season was a successful one, playing for the Ole Miss Rebels out of the prestigious SEC, universally accepted as the best Power 5 conference in college football. Successful enough to garner the attention of Steelers scouts, Robinson turned his one season into being a seventh-round draft selection for the franchise.

As expected based on his limited experience, Robinson is an extremely raw prospect, but the youngster is brimming with potential. He has the athleticism, physicality, intensity, and instincts reserved for a NFL starter at the position.

Robinson still has to prove he has the work ethic necessary to maximize his potential, but his already successful transition from running back to linebacker would lead one to believe he does. His fearless and relentless assaults on opposing ball carriers at or near the line of scrimmage offer further confirmation. You either have that burning desire to make every play when the opportunity arises, or you don't. I believe last year's overall performance at the position for the Steelers, or lack thereof, clarified that statement perfectly.

Hopefully Robinson will begin his NFL career as a special teams standout, flying down the field as a contact seeking human version of a runaway freight train. Get off the tracks, because the Mark Robinson hype train is coming through.

In order for Robinson to make an impact, he first has to have the opportunity which means getting a helmet on game days so he can gain the NFL experience he desperately needs to improve. That journey begins on special teams.

I just wanted to say; Congratulations, young man! Great job earning a roster spot and keeping your NFL dreams alive. Good health, good luck, and best wishes.

Outlining the Pittsburgh Steelers weekly schedule during the regular season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/05/2022 - 6:30am

As the Steelers prepare for their first game of the 2022 regular season, here is a reminder of what fans can expect each day.

It’s finally here! The Pittsburgh Steelers are officially in preparation for Week 1 of the regular season.

Since it’s been almost nine months since the Steelers have been preparing for a game in their typical manner, we here at BTSC thought it would be helpful to remind fans how the Steelers generally operate during a game week. The following schedule is based on the Steelers playing a game on Sunday with the next game also being on a Sunday.


This is typically a day off for the Steelers players. Just because they don’t practice does not mean players are not at the facility. Normally being the day after a game, players often come to the facility for treatment and film. If the Steelers did not play the previous week, this is often a day where the team has a bonus practice.


The second day in the week is more affectionately known as ‘Tomlin Tuesday’ to Steelers fans. Typically the Steelers head coach gives his weekly press conference at approximately 12 PM ET. Otherwise, it is a day off for the players as they get ready to begin practice the following day. If the Steelers have a Thursday night game, they generally have some sort of practice this day, usually in the form of a walk through. This is also the day where the Steelers must announce which four players on the practice squad, if any, they would like to protect for the week so they cannot be signed by another team until after the game.


This is typically the day the Steelers have their first practice of the week to prepare for their upcoming opponent. Following practice, at approximately 4 PM ET, the Steelers release their first injury report for the week. If the Steelers have an opponent in a different time zone, they can hold off on the injury report if they choose. In previous seasons, it was also known as ‘Ben’s Day’ as the quarterback generally has his time with the media. Whether or not the Steelers will follow this same routine has yet to be officially established.


The Steelers continue chugging through with their preparation for their game with their second practice of the week and the release of their second injury report. It is also usually ‘Coordinator Thursday’ where the media has time with the Steelers offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators.


The Steelers have their final practice of the week on Friday and release their injury/status report for the week. It’s at this time where we have the best indication if any players will be missing for the upcoming matchup.


Depending on if the Steelers are home or away will determine exactly how Saturday plays out during a game week based if they are traveling. Either way, the Steelers have some sort of walk-through to prepare for the game the next day. Additionally, the Steelers have until 4 PM ET to make any roster moves ahead of the game including an elevation from the practice squad.


It’s game day! About 90 minutes before kickoff, the Steelers must announce their inactives for the game. After this, all that’s left is taking the field and leaving with a victory. After the game, Coach Tomlin and various players speak to the media.

So there is the typical weekly schedule for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their game week. As always, Behind The Steel Curtain will be there for all the coverage as the Steelers prepare to take on their various opponents each week.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Mon, 09/05/2022 - 5:30am

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

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

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

We Run The North: What player is really gonna run the North?

Join BTSC’s Kevin Tate and his AFC North Crew featuring Brandon Herriott, Big G. and Pay Saunders as they break down the division going into the regular season for the Browns, Bengals, Ravens and Steelers.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Note
  • Final 53
  • Game 1 Preview
  • Division & League MVP ROY DPOY
  • Fantasy Football Drafts
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Steelers Sunday Night Q&A: The Final Countdown

The Steelers have completed their preseason slate of games, but Steeler Nation has a lot of questions BTSC is continuing a question-and-answer free-for-all from you the loyal fans. This time, join BTSC’s K.T. Smith and Shannon White as they team up to take questions from the live chat for some good Steelers discussion.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!
Let’s Ride: It’s clear the Steelers need to start investing heavily into the OLine

The biggest issue surrounding the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers is the offensive line. Everyone knows that, and it’s time for the organization to start investing heavily in the position. This is the topic of the latest “Let’s Ride” podcast by BTSC Senior Editor Jeff Hartman.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Investing in the offensive line, Stat!
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

A day in the life of Malik Reed, upon hearing he was traded to the Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 09/04/2022 - 2:30pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired pass rusher Malik Reed via trade with the Denver Broncos, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.

On the day the NFL required all 32 teams to get their rosters to 53 players, the Pittsburgh Steelers knew they had to make some changes. There were a couple positions which needed bolstering, and the outside linebacker position was one of them.

Entering Tuesday, the Steelers depth chart at the outside linebacker positions looked like this:

  • T.J. Watt
  • Alex Highsmith
  • Derrek Tuszka
  • Hamilcar Rashed

In just a day, that depth chart changed dramatically, and it all started with the team traded a 6th Round 2023 NFL Draft pick tot he Denver Broncos for Malik Reed and a 7th Round pick. What’s it like finding out you’ve been traded? Turns out, it’s a whirlwind...

“I found out I was traded in the morning, went in and saw a lot of my old teammates, the GM, the coaches and stuff like that,” said Reed. “My wife and I flew out, left around 7 p.m., got in around 11:30, went to sleep around 1 a.m., and got up at 5:50. It was a pretty quick turnaround.

“It’s a new opportunity. A fresh start. I am ready. I am happy to be here. Happy to meet the guys and see what type of guys they have. I am ready to get going. That’s why we’re all here, to win games. That is what I am excited about.”

The actual process of Reed coming from the Broncos to the Steelers is something certainly noteworthy, but players headed to new teams doesn’t always work out. There are aspects of the team/defense which can make for a good match, or frustration all around. As it pertains to Reed joining the Steelers, he is ready for whatever comes his way.

“I am embracing whatever opportunity I get,” said Reed. “I know I am here for a reason, so I am ready to embrace it, ready to go. I am comfortable playing on both sides.”

What did Reed know about the trade? What did he hear about the Steelers as an organization? As you can imagine, everything he heard was positive.

“I heard there was a lot of interest,” said Reed. “I know the Steelers are a top-notch organization and Coach (Mike) Tomlin is a top-notch coach. I was more than happy to be able to come here.

“I am just ready to be a Steeler.”

Reed comes from an organization in Denver which he was able to learn from some tremendous pass rushers. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb both taught Reed a lot, but he is excited to learn from the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, T.J. Watt.

“I watched a lot of film of their defense last year, T.J. leading the league in sacks,” said Reed. “They do a lot of great things out there on defense. I see how they get after the quarterback, how aggressive they are, and I think I fit in well.

“So many things they do on defense, the terminology is different, but the technique is the same as where I came from,” said Reed. “I am just trying to get it all down. I pride myself on being kind of smart, picking up on things.”

The Steelers are hoping they can get the same production/participation from Reed they got from Melvin Ingram last year without the off-field issues. For those who want to compare the two acquisitions, it is difficult to do considering Ingram joined the Steelers as a free agent, while Reed was a trade acquisition. Who knows what the Steelers told Ingram his role would be before his signing, but as for Reed, the Steelers acquired his skill set and will use it as they see fit.

At least at this point of the process, Reed is excited to be a member of the Steelers. The hope is the new outside linebacker depth chart of T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, Malik Reed and Jamir Jones will be far superior to that depth chart of just a few weeks ago.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Week 1 game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.

Kenny Pickett singularly focused on improving

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 09/04/2022 - 12:00pm
Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers rookie quarterback had himself a stellar preseason, but his focus is on just getting better every day.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Kenny Pickett 20th overall, and the first quarterback off the board, in the 2022 NFL Draft, the fan base was mixed on the selection. Some, especially those who follow the University of Pittsburgh, were thrilled with the selection. They viewed it as a steal at pick No. 20. Others were less than excited, focusing on things like his age and hand size.

Either way, throughout the offseason Pickett has gotten every opportunity to prove himself as the future quarterback of the organization. Mixed reviews early in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and even training camp had fans wondering if the team made a mistake. However, as camp progressed and the preseason arrived, Pickett proved he is more than capable of quarterbacking the team.

How far has he progressed? He at least injected himself into the conversation for the starting quarterback job with Mitch Trubisky, and made Mason Rudolph more of an after thought. While Mike Tomlin hasn’t announced a starting quarterback for the team’s Week 1 matchup vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in Ohio, Pickett’s focus isn’t on his coach’s decision, it’s on getting better.

“I am just focused on getting better,” said Pickett. “Still learning a lot of things, getting my first true game plan going into Cincinnati. So, a lot of things I am learning, taking it all in stride and enjoying it.”

With this being Pickett’s first real preparation for a regular season game, he understands the difference between what he experienced in the preseason, and what is about to develop this week.

“A lot more goes into it,” said Pickett. “Preseason games you are focused more on yourself than the opponent. Now were starting to get into Cincinnati and game planning and scheming, seeing what we want to do versus them, so it’s definitely an adjustment.”

Nonetheless, what Pickett has experienced in-game throughout the Steelers’ 3-game preseason has been invaluable for not just his development, but also his confidence and readiness.

“Practice is incredibly important, but game reps, you can’t duplicate those in practice,” said Pickett. “Having those games reps under my belt heading into the season I think is incredibly important.

“All the positives that I built on from minicamp, OTAs, into camp and the preseason games,” said Pickett. “I thought I continued to get better. I just want to build off of that going into the season now.”

When the Steelers entered the 2022 season, the first without Ben Roethlisberger since 2003, no one knew what to think about the quarterbacks they were having in camp. Now, with the regular season on the doorstep, it isn’t the quarterback play which is the paramount concern. Whether Turbisky, Pickett or Rudolph, the fan base has a belief the Steelers are in a good spot with the quarterback position.

Now the offensive line, that’s a different story.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Week 1 game vs. the Bengals in Cincinnati.

The ever-changing narratives in regards to the Pittsburgh Steelers

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 09/04/2022 - 10:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The opinion of a player or a position group can turn in a moment, or linger for far too long.

NFL football is unlike anything else. It is a unique sport with the players playing at the highest level one can reach. It brings hours of entertainment each season as well as an unmeasurable amount of discussion in anticipation by its fan base.

Steelers’ Nation is no exception. One of the more ravenous fan bases in all of professional sports, the Steelers have great fans across the world, many of which at some point find their way to the North Shore to cheer on their beloved black and gold in person.

Like many fan bases, Steelers’ Nation is also very opinionated. They have no problem sharing what players are bound for Canton and which ones should have already been placed on the scrapheap.

Whether they are the positive or negative variety, there are constantly a number of different narratives surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers. And it’s not that they are incorrect. While which narratives come to the forefront are constantly changing, sometimes the narratives either float away into forgetfulness or get turned 180° which is exactly what they should do.

It’s perfectly fine for the narratives around the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers to constantly be evolving. Much like their roster, the Steelers themselves are constantly changing. It’s very difficult to define exactly what this team is going to be this season. Hopefully something which appears to be a glaring weakness could evolve into a strength by mid season. Unfortunately, the inverse could just as easily be true as in something thought to be a strong point cracks and crumbles.

To remember how quickly these things can change, let’s look at an example of some of these evolving narratives:

Fading into nothingness

Just over two months ago as I was working through the “Going for Two” series and outlining two players from the 53-man roster each day leading up to training camp, there was some interesting discussion when it came to Steelers linebacker Buddy Johnson. For the roster outlook, I placed him on the bubble going into his second season because he’d only appeared in four games as a rookie and only had six defensive snaps. Not knowing much about him left him in a more vulnerable position in a crowded inside linebacker room.

First, I was told how wrong I was because Johnson was a near lock to make the roster and the bigger question was if he would land in the starting lineup. I understand that’s how some people felt and I was fine with it. But then I was accused of saying something that I didn’t. As I mentioned the Steelers had a lot of players vying for roster positions at inside linebacker, I also said they must not have been completely set on them as they didn’t hesitate to take a flyer on another player at the position in the seventh round of the draft. One person went as far to accuse me of having a “hot take” of Mark Robinson beating out Buddy Johnson for a roster spot. While that was not at all what I was saying as I was merely bringing up the fact the Steelers may not be sold on many of their inside linebackers because they felt the need to take a flyer on another one in the draft, it is what ultimately came to fruition. And since I wasn’t making a “hot take” about this at that moment, I am in no way trying to take credit for calling it before it happened.

The point of this example is that this was something that throughout the course of training camp faded into the background. The fact Buddy Johnson was released may have been somewhat surprising to some Steelers fans, but it wasn’t shocking. I think the more shocking move would have been to release Mark Robinson. But the narrative of Johnson being a lock for the roster and some felt he could be an answer as a starter in 2022 slowly faded out until it was forgotten.

Going from a weakness to a strength

There are a number of examples which could be used here, but going with the most recent I’ll pick cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. Using a fifth-round draft pick in 2023 to acquire the cornerback from the Seattle Seahawks, Steelers fans were frustrated with the trade. Not only did Witherspoon come in to play in the Steelers compensatory formula and cost them another pick in 2022, the only game he appeared in in the first 10 weeks was one where he was credited for giving up a long touchdown.

With one man’s misfortune being another man’s opportunity, when Joe Haden went down against the Detroit Lions Ahkello Witherspoon found himself active on game day for only the second time in 2021 and kept his helmet for the remainder of the season. Ultimately leading the Steelers in interceptions with three, Witherspoon went from “Kevin Colbert’s worst trade ever” to “the Steelers can’t afford to lose this player next season” in a matter of weeks.

Going from strong to weak

When something like this occurs, it’s not really the narrative which is the driving force but the play on the field. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that something is sliding into a weakness and it takes some fans even longer for reality to kick in.

The Steelers 2021 rush defense is a prime example. Early in the season, the Steelers were a top 10 run defense until the wheels fell off and they came plummeting down the list to where they resided at the bottom for the last portion of the season. But this is what really occurred with the Steelers, so the narrative around it was both unexpected and justified.

These examples are all not about narrative being incorrect, but merely how they can, and should, change. Remembering how things can change can help fans understand the reality of the situation their teams are facing. Heading into the season, fans are encouraged by various things such as increased quarterback mobility and young weapons at skilled positions on offense. Some of the things that really have Steelers fans down is the production of the offensive line and the inside linebackers.

Just remember, even if it’s bad now doesn’t mean it will stay that way. How likely will these be the same narratives at the conclusion of the 2022 season?

One player currently in the majority of Steelers Nation’s doghouse is inside linebacker Devin Bush, or as some fans want to call him, Devin “Bust.” His play on the field last season left a lot to be desired, and those who were still holding out hope, like myself, that getting a full summer of training and not rehabbing would help him overcome his knee injury and get closer to his 2019 form. While this has yet to be the case, and his words to the media have not helped at all, it’s not that all hope is lost.

I seem to recall many people complaining about “Dud” Dupree for seasons only for some to even suggest keeping Dupree and allowing T.J. Watt to walk after his fifth-year option. Where the Steelers showed faith in Dupree by picking up his fifth-year option, which they did not do for Devin Bush, it still goes to show that the narrative can flip at any time.

As the Steelers prepare to enter their routine weekly preparation for the first contest of the 2022 season, there is going to be a lot of change with his team as the process goes on. Hopefully there will be more change for the good than for the bad, but things that seem to be a big deal now may fade into nothingness as other concerns creep in. Players who look poised to have fantastic seasons could be derailed due to injury or ineffectiveness, and players who seem to be on the edge of their NFL careers could break out into stars.

It’s why we watch. It’s why we cheer. And it’s also why it’s okay to change our opinions as things get better or worse. Just remember, what makes it feel like the sky is falling right now may end up being perfectly fine as something else takes its place.

A Letter From the Editor: The calm before the Steelers storm

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 09/04/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

This marks the last weekend without Steelers football until the bye week. Are you ready?

There are moments when time flies. This can be said in all walks of life, but for this Senior Editor it is especially true for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When you cover the team as closely as we do at BTSC, there are always events on the horizon. Stepping stones to getting back to the games which actually count. Considering how the NFL has become a year-long activity, there are plenty of events to keep tabs on while fans wait for the shortest regular season in professional sports.

  • Regular season ends
  • NFL Draft preparation begins
  • Start of the new league year
  • Free Agency begins
  • NFL Scouting Combine
  • NFL Draft
  • Rookie Minicamp
  • OTAs/Mandatory Minicamp
  • NFL schedule release
  • Training Camp/Preseason/Roster Cuts
  • Regular season begins

With each of these events, there are times when the regular season seems so far away, and yet it always arrives in the blink of an eye. Sadly, as fast as it arrives, it departs and the aforementioned cycle begins again.

As I sit here writing this article, I find it hard to mentally grasp just how crazy it is to know the Steelers season starts next Sunday in Cincinnati. There has been so much change and turnover within the team/organization this offseason saying it has been eventful is extremely understated.

The offseason was crazy, chaotic at times and downright fun, the hope is it all leads to a competitive 2022 season. The expectation of making the postseason and making a run, something which hasn’t happened in a while, remains the standard, but with so much change this offseason a competitive season ending in a playoff stint will be viewed as a massive success.

It is at this point in the preseason where I always tell myself to just slow down. Take it all in and enjoy the process. We all get so wrapped up in the minutia of the season it often feels like just a blip on the radar. We pour over the schedule and look ahead at things like the bye week or prime time games.

Not for me, not this year.

My declaration, right here and now, is to just take each game for what it’s worth. To enjoy the season in its entirety, win, lose or draw. I want the Steelers to win, but I also want to enjoy every ounce of this 2022 season.

Will you join me? There’s plenty of space on the bus...

Are Mike Tomlin and the Steelers setting up Mitch Trubisky for failure?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 09/04/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers will likely go with Mitch Trubisky and Week 1, but is he getting a fair shot to win the job?

The Pittsburgh Steelers officially start the 2022 season on September 11th when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, OH, and Mike Tomlin has yet to officially announce who is starting at the most important position — quarterback.

The options are:

  • Former No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Mitch Trubisky
  • Pittsburgh hero, native to New Jersey, Kenny Pickett who brought an ACC Championship to University of Pittsburgh and has been elevated to high status in the hearts and minds of the city

Back at the start of training camp, I wrote an article referencing why Kenny Pickett should, and will, be given an opportunity to state his claim to being QB1. In the article I listed Pickett’s accomplishments to that point, but stated if Pickett made the starting lineup Week 1, not due to injury, it would be because of what he did in a Steelers uniform. Throughout training camp and preseason, and he would have to outperform Mitch Trubisky.

Now that the meaningless games are completed, and game tape is out there, the debate is high on who won the battle. Mike Tomlin has alluded he may have a starter, but at the time of writing this article, he has refused to officially announce the starter, stating in a recent press conference when asked if was ready to name a starting quarterback, “No, I'm Not”.

Tomlin was then asked how close the competition was, Tomlin replied, “Who's to say it's not settled, I’m just not making any announcements because its fruitless for us. We just have work ahead of us and so that’s not on our agenda to make any announcements to feed the beast. We don’t care about the beast.”

I learned a long time ago watching Tomlin and the Steelers to believe what you see, not so much what is said. Trubisky has been taking the majority of the snaps with the starters in training camp, practice and preseason. Several players independently have confirmed Trubisky as being QB1.

So, why not announce Trubisky as the starter?

Sure, there is a potential competitive advantage by not telling the Bengals who the Steelers plan to start, thus making them plan for two different quarterbacks. However, I think the Bengals have figured Trubisky the starter already.

Could not naming Trubisky as the starter do more damage than good? Giving the black and gold fan base, who already look up to Pickett as the heir apparent, hope that Pickett will be given the nod ahead of Trubisky is building up great anticipation that will lead to mass disappointment. Don't be surprised if the boo birds are out early, similar to what was heard in Acrisure Stadium when Mason Rudolph walked on the field for the first time in 2022. I don't think the boos were entirely directed at Mason as much as it wasn't Pickett entering the game. Nonetheless, once Trubisky makes an error, the “Kenny” chants will be heard louder than before.

What could be worse than the fan base investing into the battle for QB1 narrative is that the media has also bought into craze. There isn't a sports channel or network not covering the Trubisky vs. Pickett battle. As stated before, the players are already answering questions about the battle. If Mitch struggles, those questions will be magnified and could lead to a distraction to the team. It also could lead to a swift transition to Pickett.

The Steelers don't plan to fail, so when Tomlin announces Mitch Trubisky as the starter, the plan is for Trubisky to be successful and lead the Steelers on a playoff run. But if Trubisky struggles early, the Steelers may have to transition to Plan B much sooner than anticipated.

Could holding off on announcing Trubisky the starter create a huge disappointment from the fan base that will reflect in the stadium towards Trubisky when he has an error? Do you think holding the announcement could affect Trubisky’s confidence? Let us know in the comment section below!

Steelers 2022 Awards Projection: Preseason Edition, Part 2

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 09/04/2022 - 6:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Part 2: Nontraditional Awards

It’s “awards prediction season” in the NFL, folks. Earlier this week, I posted an article projecting the Pittsburgh Steelers award winners for traditional categories like MVP and Rookie of the Year. In this piece, part 2 of the same project, I wanted to speculate about some less traditional “awards” for 2022.

Just like with the previous essay, I’ll include a short descriptor to each, and make a case for who I’ve picked. But I’ll also include a poll for each category, including “other” as an option (in case you feel like I missed an important choice).

My goal, as always, is to start a few arguments in the comments section, so have at it. Also, since there is an opportunity to revisit this stuff at midseason or the end of the year, if anyone has a suggestion for a category to add, toss it out in the comments. On with the show. Go Steelers.

The shorthand list. Explanations and polls to follow.

People’s Choice Award: Kenny Pickett
People’s Goat “Award”: Benny Snell Jr.
Biggest (projected) Disappointment: Takeaways
Pleasant (projected) Surprise: Mid-range passing
Weakest Link: Offensive Line
Strongest Unit: Wide Receivers
Biggest Loss: Joe Haden
Addition by Subtraction: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Unsung Hero: Terrell Edmunds
Biggest Wish for Regular Season: 6-0 division record

People’s Choice Award —

This is a good place to start. I think there are guys that, every time they do something (anything), we all get stoked. Think of fans chanting “Heeeeeath” even after he retired. Or how Brett Keisel’s beard became a sensation while he was playing Pro Bowl level, or how likeable Juju in his rookie season. Who do you expect to say, “man, I love this guy!” at least once or twice per game?

My Choice: Kenny Pickett. Man, this is a tough one. It came down to Pickett and Robinson for me. Pickett’s charisma and local ties are already borderline legendary (you can hear the “Kenny” chants from Ohio). And Robinson has a great story (who converts from running back to ILB in the middle of college, and makes it work?); plus he’s a hard hitter and big-time hustler. I love his play. But I’ve got a feeling we’re not going to see enough Robinson in the defensive rotation to make us all excited. I expect to see Kenny under center before season’s end.

People’s Goat “Award” —

I’ve asked this one a couple times; it’s one of my more favorite questions for the polls. I consider it an opportunity for Steelers Nation to admit that we’re not always fair to our own. If you were a fan in the 90s, think of Kordell Stewart as a good example. A dozen years ago, you might have said Rashard Mendenhall — a two-time 1000 yard rusher who carried the offense during Ben’s 2010 suspension, but was oddly hated by many. Five years ago, it might have been Bud Dupree, who was never a bad player, but got smeared as a bust for years (before his breakout in 2019). These aren’t necessarily stars, but they’re also not bums — they’re perfectly fine players who are just detested for some reason.

My Choice: Benny Snell. Few players take as much abuse from the fan base (at least on BTSC) as Snell — a backup running back who really hasn’t played badly at all, despite suspect offensive line play, mediocre offensive scheming, and inconsistent QBs. I’ve never understood it. (Did Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala have this many haters?) Whether you think he’s a useful fourth quarter clock-bleeder that the Steelers under-utilize (like I do), or that he’s an under-performing backup who gets his hat for special teams (like most of you probably do), the passion behind hating Benny Snell has always seemed disproportionate to me. Mason Rudolph is probably the betting favorite for this award (for good reason), but Snell is my winner.

Biggest (projected) Disappointment —

This is not really an “award” of course. I’m thinking of it as an element of the team that appears to be a strength (or at least solid), but which you think will wind up disappointing us all. Nothing would make me happier than to have all of these areas remain strengths, but no one can know just yet.

My Choice: Takeaways. The Steelers defense led the league in takeaways over a two-year period during their recent resurgence (2019-2020). While the turnover numbers dropped in 2021, they still weren’t bad. In fact, during their late-season 5-2 sprint, they averaged 2.4 takeaways per game, which would have led the league by a mile. So I think we’re all expecting the trend to continue. But I’m always nervous about TOs. Interceptions can be manufactured by an aggressive defense, but fumbles are a fickle mistress — when the ball hits the grass, chaos follows, so recovering fumbles is a craps-shoot. I’m crossing my fingers that the Steelers keep up their outstanding pace, but I fear they may not.

Pleasant (projected) Surprise —

This is the opposite of the Biggest Disappointment: the area that we’re most concerned about based on recent history, but that you predict will be a strength this season.

My Choice: Mid-range passing. One of my most consistent irritations from the last two or three years has been the Steelers inability/unwillingness to throw those 8-12 yard passes that sustain drives. Part of this derived from the offensive line’s failure to protect Ben Roethlisberger, who had to get the ball out of his hands at lightning pace as a result — thereby preventing his guys from getting up the field. But just as often, the Steelers’ offensive philosophy was (as former Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner put it): “pass short; run long.” But 25 two-yard passes, followed by five 50-yard bombs is not how you win games. You have to work the field. I’m hoping that the mobile young QBs can throw some mid-range darts this year.

Weakest Link —

This one is probably self-explanatory. In choosing the options, I decided to emphasize units rather than individual players, since players could be replaced if they aren’t measuring up. For example, if we thought the weak link in 2020 was “RB,” it wouldn’t just mean James Conner, but all the guys behind him who couldn’t beat him out.

My Choice: Offensive Line. I’m going for the low-hanging fruit here. But I have a feeling this one is going to win in a walk. I’ve defended the offensive line several times recently — noting that OL is more of a coordinated unit than we usually think, and with a bunch of new faces, there’s going to be some bumbling. But I’m troubled by some of the actual individual performances too. I expected James Daniels and Dan Moore to be rising stars this year, but it’s not looking that way right now. In the end, I can’t think of a unit or facet of this team that is shakier.

Strongest Unit —

My Choice: Wide Receivers. Let me acknowledge off the top that I can’t believe I’m including special teams on this list, but honestly, they look terrific. Several good returners, one of the best kickers in the league, an (apparently) improved punter, and good coverage teams. What will the Danny Smith haters do if they keep showing up? That said, it’s obvious to me that the WR room is in a class by itself. There were probably eight or ten bodies in camp/preseason who could be legit NFL players, which is absurd depth. But the top of the chart is also spectacularly high. Diontae Johnson has been to the Pro Bowl already, and the potential for Claypool, Pickens, and Austin is through the roof. Meanwhile, would you feel nervous if Gunner O. and Myles Boykin had to see some offensive snaps? I wouldn’t. The Tomlin/Colbert Steelers are borderline legendary for drafting wide receivers. This year’s crop is a good example why.

Biggest Loss —

A team can feel the absence of a missing head in a lot of ways — sometimes it’s because their physical presence is missing; sometimes it’s their leadership; sometimes it’s their intelligence.

My Choice: Joe Haden. I considered including Stephon Tuitt in this list, but he didn’t play last season either, so that loss happened in 2021. For this year, I think the team will miss Joe the most. Importantly, the Steelers top three corners (Wallace, Sutton, Witherspoon) are all solid players, and I wouldn’t necessarily put Haden ahead of them at this point in his career. But Joe was a consummate professional, a locker room leader, and a reliable veteran who knew the game. (Witness: his short-of-the-sticks game-sealing tackle against Tennessee late last season.) His presence will be missed, and there are sure to be one or two plays this year that I’ll think, “Haden would have made that stop…” or “Haden would have broken that up...” Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Addition by Subtraction —

The opposite of “Biggest Loss,” this one is about getting rid of dead weight. It doesn’t have to be mean-spirited, though it probably sounds that way. The big question is: who’s departure will help the Steelers improve the most?

My Choice: JuJu Smith-Schuster. I like JuJu. I always liked JuJu. He played physical and worked hard, and was both a high-end possession receiver and better big play man than most remember. Plus he left Pittsburgh with a certain amount of class — taking no shots at the Steelers on the way out the door (at least none that I saw). But JuJu was (and is) immature and easily distracted. His interest in self-branding wasn’t just a bad tone for a veteran player (I think he was no good for Chase Claypool), but he also fired up Steelers opponents frequently — dancing on their logos for TikTok or giving them unnecessary bulletin board material (remember “Browns is Browns”?) Losing him also compelled the Steelers to look at WRs in the 2022 draft, which yielded George Pickens and Calvin Austin. JuJu was a good guy and I wish him well. But the Steelers offense is better today than it would be if he was still in town.

Unsung Hero —

This is also probably self-explanatory, but let’s say the Unsung Hero is a secret weapon of sorts — a player who doesn’t get his due in the talking head world, or even sometimes down here among the fans, but who does the damned job and does it well.

My Choice: Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds was my choice last year, and he’s still my guy now. The former first round draft pick is one of those guys who’s been maligned often, but is actually very solid as a player. He’s never been a takeaway machine, and that’s why (I think) he has a bad rep. But every time I’ve done stat breakdowns on the Steelers defense, I’m shocked at how good Edmunds is. He very quietly had an outstanding 2020 season and somehow got better in 2021. (Did you know he had eight tackles for loss last season? That was 2nd in the league among all defensive backs.) Edmunds probably won’t go to the Pro Bowl this year but I’m predicting that he might just deserve it.

Biggest Wish for the Regular Season —

I’m not including “Steelers win the Super Bowl” because that’s too easy. I’m also not including any of the steps along the way (like “Steelers win out” or “Steelers get the 1-seed”). Those things are too obvious — we all want them. Instead, these options are a little more modest, and therefore both likelier and more debatable.

My Choice: 6-0 division record. I always wish for this because the AFC North is almost always the best division in the league (or at least has an argument for it). You could argue that the Steelers’ 4-2 division record last year was the biggest driver for their unexpected playoff berth in 2022. Importantly, though, while they swept both Baltimore and Cleveland, they got blasted twice by upstart Cincinnati. Just split those games, and the Steelers host a playoff game while the Super Bowl Bengals miss the playoffs. That’s how meaningful each game in this division is.

To go undefeated in the AFCN is extraordinarily hard, but it would be the kind of gauntlet that would battle-test this team. The Steelers have only swept this division three times since the 2002 realignment — 2002, 2008, and 2017. Their combined record in those years, counting playoffs? 39-14-1 (.731), with a Lombardi. I’d settle for a season like that again.

Alright, check back in for the results. Otherwise, let’s get this season started. Go Steelers.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sun, 09/04/2022 - 5:30am

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

Steelers 2022 is ongoing and we here at BTSC, and our podcast platform, are here with you every step of the way. In the past we have given you the podcasts in individual articles on the BTSC website, but we’ve decided to go with a ‘Podcast Roundup’ article which has the latest two podcasts for your enjoyment. The reasoning behind this is to take up less space on the site for the great written content we have at BTSC.

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

Steelers Touchdown Under: Are the Steelers set for a super or sad season?

The 2022 NFL Preseason is complete, rosters for the true season are taking shape, and we’re now in a bye week. So as is custom on Touchdown Under, a bye week means it’s time for a Steelers win-loss record discussion and predictions for each game. Join Matty Peverell and Mark Davison who will share their predictions for the Steelers’ performances in 2022, as they bring a global perspective to how the Steelers can achieve success and chase a seventh Lombardi.

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Are the Steelers set for a super or sad season?

Listen to the show below

Tune into the latest episode of Touchdown Under, the Australian sensation from the BTSC family of podcasts.

Last Minute Thoughts

There’s always a lot of material rolling trough a Steelers fan’s cranium on Game Day. What’s the injury report telling us? Did something happen that I missed? Am I going to even see the game in my broadcast area? What’s the line if I want to bet my mortgage on the game? At BTSC, we’re no different. Join BTSC with our last minute thoughts as you prepare to wave that Terrible Towel. This week, Dave Schofield gives his last minute thoughts about the last week before things get real for the Men of Steel.

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

Saturday Night Open Thread: Labor Day weekend edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/03/2022 - 6:00pm
Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

Time for another meeting of the black and gold minds!

Henry is almost 40 lbs at 6 months (minus 8 days). He chases his tail, gets the hiccups, and has the most front paw dexterity I’ve ever seen in a dog. Still loved by everyone who meets him.

1. My major summer project is done, terraced raised bed vegetable garden needed completely rebuilt. Has a 6’ rise and a 25’ run. Moved lots of dirt, some more than once. What big summer project did you accomplish this year?

2. Who are you happiest about landing on the Steelers Practice Squad?

  • RB Anthony McFarland
  • OL William Dunkle
  • OL John Leglue
  • OL Ryan McCollum
  • WR Cody White
  • OLB Hamilcar Rashed
  • DT Carlos Davis
  • DB Elijah Riley
  • DB Mark Gilbert
  • TE Justin Rigg
  • LB Chapelle Russell
  • RB Jason Huntley
  • DT Renell Wren

3. We had the craziest ending of the Redman award balloting ever. Robinson shocked many by coming from behind at the last second and winning by one vote. How many times did you check the vote count?

4. Saturday requires food. What’s the meal for Monday look like for all those getting a three day weekend? No matter where in the world you are.

5. We’ve been satellite free all summer, but haven’t found a good way to watch sports on Fox. I’ve managed CBS and ABC on antenna. Non cable/satellite Fox sports app do you have?

Have a BAD Week: A look back at the Steelers week from a black-and-gold mind

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/03/2022 - 3:00pm
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

BTSC’s random-thought renegade is back with his bizarre look at the Steelers week that was.

The Steelers’ season ended over seven months ago and a new one is about to begin with the Steelers prepping for their final preseason game. Of course, there’s plenty of news coming out of Latrobe. BTSC continues their recap of the past week’s events for our readers. So, let’s all take a look at the week in the ‘burgh together.

Sunday 8/28

.@_TJWatt lands at #️⃣6️⃣ on the #NFLTop100


— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 29, 2022

Some thought that No. (0 should be at the top of the list, but this still a well-deserved honor. I couldn’t even crack the Top 20 writers at BTSC. Wait, do we have more than that here at your one-stop/non-stop shop for everything Steelers?

Bad news for Steelers: Backup safety Damontae Kazee needs surgery on injured wrist/arm and will go on IR.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 29, 2022

Kazee was an under-the-radar pick up on the free agent market, but was showing signs of being well-relied on at safety.

Monday 8/29

Najee Harris revealed after the game that he had been out with a sprained Lisfranc injury. Said recovery time is 4-6 weeks and he just passed four weeks.
"I never did 'just' get my foot stepped on," Harris said of the injury he sustained early in camp.

— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 29, 2022

Najee has to problem disclosing things, but the result of this admission could be a novel by Stieg Larrsson, The Running Back Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Speaking of the specific injury that flew in the face of Mike Tomlin’s statement. If you ever meet up with a woman at a bar named Liz Frank...Run! Wait a second, it may be hard to do.

Successful surgery be back soon

— Carlins Platel (@CarlinsPlatel) August 29, 2022

This is what I talk about when some fans disregard players like Carlins Platel. They are human beings trying to make it, not video game characters.

Source: Steelers expect to keep Mason Rudolph and not trade him.

— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) August 30, 2022

Wasn’t this news from days ago? With every new day, it’s seems more likely that the Steelers want to keep Rudolph in his package just in case. It’s like having an original stormtrooper action figure and hoping it rises in value, or just hold on to it in case your Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker break.

Tuesday 8/30

Trade: Broncos sending LB Malik Reed to the Pittsburgh Steelers for late draft-pick compensation, per sources.

— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 30, 2022

The compensation for a guy who had five sacks last year is a 6th in 2024 and the Steelers get a 7th back. It’s like shoplifting and the store throws in a free gift. Omar is a bad ass.

We have made roster moves in advance of today’s 4 PM deadline to trim the roster. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 30, 2022

Some surprises, especially on the offensive line. But the Steelers have a strategy and Omar may just be lying in wait.

It's a 2025 conditional 7th rounder going to MIN.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 30, 2022

Again, it’s like Omar is stealing lunches in the school yard and even the parents are good with it.

Steelers officially announced trades to acquire LB Malik Reed and OL Jesse Davis.

Also cut CB Justin Layne, ILB Marcus Allen, OL Joe Haeg, OL Trent Scott and RB Anthony McFarland.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 30, 2022

Are the trades blockbuster moves? No. But they are steps in the right direction. As for the cuts, it’s like getting dumped by Chris Hemsworth or Tony Defeo and waiting by the phone to come back if beckoned.

The Steelers hosted free agent TE Dalton Keene for a visit.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 30, 2022

Do the Steelers even need a tight end?

Wednesday 8/31

That was fast: The #Bengals are hosting FA TE OJ Howard on a visit today and assuming all goes well with the physical, he’s expected to sign, source said. The former first-rounder was a surprising cut yesterday and this should come together today.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 31, 2022

O.J. could be a dangerous and lethal to defenses when added to this group. Just like another O.J. was dangerous to ex-wives and waiters...allegedly.

Jaylen Warren said he called his mom at 4:01 pm yesterday to tell her he made the roster. Said people were congratulating him at 3:55 and he told them he still had 5 minutes before he was safe.

— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 31, 2022

This is a great feel good story akin to B.J. Finney announcing his UDFA contract with the Steelers in a garage seven years ago (below). Now where can I get a pair of Warren’s pants?

"I have heard nothing about that,” Okorafor said of a move to left tackle, “so I don’t even know who’s talking about that.
I haven’t heard a thing of that from Coach T or Omar, so I highly doubt that is what they are saying... That is Twitter talk."

— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 31, 2022

Chuks dubbing something as “Twitter Talk” is hilarious to me. Does this mean that not everything that we hear out there or read on social media is true? Color me flummoxed.

Quarterback Chris Oladokun, the #Steelers seventh-round draft pick this spring, is signing with the Kansas City #Chiefs practice squad.

— Steelers Now (@PghSteelersNow) August 31, 2022

Still not a waste of a draft pick. With the Steelers QB situation the way it is, what UDFA would willingly choose a situation in which he had little chance whatsoever? It’s like me trying to get a date with somebody even borderline cool and pretty back in high school. Unless I paid somebody.... Oh, let’s not go there.

I told you some of these guys would be back. The gamble with Justin Layne failed though.

Franco Harris has stopped by Steelers practice today.

— Will Graves (@WillGravesAP) August 31, 2022

Now, this is awesome. I know I just complained about Ben Roethlisberger being at practice last week. But Franco hasn’t been in black-and-gold since 1983, and didn’t blast current players like he did in an interview with Ron Cook merely a month before.

The initial diagnosis for Steelers S Damonte Kazee is out 6 weeks. That would be around Week 4 against the Jets if all goes right.

— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) August 31, 2022

Some good news. Now if the ex Mrs. BAD would have come back after six weeks, that would have been not so good.

Kenyan Drake has now signed with the #Ravens.

— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 31, 2022

The Ravens bring in a good running back that others avoid. I’ve seen this movie before. It’s a horror flick for the rest of the league and a triumph of the human spirit in Charm City.

Thursday 9/1

: Russell Wilson, Broncos agree to terms on five-year, $245M contract extension

— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) September 1, 2022

I’ll take the salaries of Mitch and Kenny instead.

#Steelers add TE Justin Rigg to their practice squad. Spent the preseason with the Bengals.

— Around The 412 (@AroundThe412) September 1, 2022

Not sure who this dude is, but I trust Omar and friends. But if it was Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon, I’d be ecstatic.

Former #Lions CB Mark Gilbert, cousin of Darrelle Revis, is signing today with the #Steelers practice squad, per source. Gilbert was with Pittsburgh last season before Detroit signed him to their active roster. Steelers get him back now.

— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 1, 2022

Love this. Was still pining for Gilbert upon seeing him in the final preseason game against Detroit.

#Steelers adding interesting name to D-line room — Renell Wren, a fourth-round pick by the Bengals in 2019, is joining Pittsburgh’s practice squad, per source. Steelers hope he’s a better fit in a 3-4 scheme.

— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) September 1, 2022

Another Bengal castoff? Hmmm, are the Steelers in the reconnaissance game now? That’s very Belichicky.

We have claimed LB Jamir Jones off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars and released LB Derrek Tuszka. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 1, 2022

Bringing back an Isaac Redmen award winner. Welcome back Jamir. The edge rusher stable looks stronger than a 20-year old on a pee wee team.

We have made several roster moves, including signing LB Marcus Allen and OL Trent Scott to the 53-man roster + placing WR Calvin Austin III and S Damontae Kazee on the Reserve/Injured List. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 1, 2022

Predicted by many on the BTSC family of podcasts.

Friday 9/2

Upon being traded to the Steelers, OLB Malik Reed agreed to a reworked deal with a base value of $1.5M (down from $2.433M).

Reed had 13 sacks over the past two seasons and projects as a 3rd OLB for Pittsburgh.

— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 2, 2022

Another Bengal castoff? Hmmm, are the Steelers in the reconnaissance game now? That’s very Belichicky.

The @Titans have claimed former @Steelers OLB Derrek Tuszka off waivers.


— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) September 2, 2022

I actually knew this was going to happen after the Steelers signed Jamir Jones and cut Derek. How did I know? The Titans love former Steelers linebackers so much that their coach is even one. Can somebody say Bud Dupree, Tuzar Skipper, Ola Adeniyi?

This was the significant week that was for the Steelers, mixed-in with my black-and-gold loving life. I’m sure next week will be full of Steelers happenings as well, so we’ll have to do this again. Have a great week, but better yet have a BAD one.

When will the Steelers seriously start to invest in the offensive line?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/03/2022 - 1:00pm
Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who should start to seriously invest in their men up front.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team who has seen their division of money for the roster swing from the offense to the defense in the past few seasons. With the departure of Ben Roethlisberger, and the new contracts to T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick have the team’s payroll swaying hard to the defensive side of the football.

But it isn’t just money spent on players, but draft picks at key positions.

Looking at the biggest hole on the team’s roster, none is larger than the offensive line. Some might argue the team’s run defense, but the offensive line’s ability, or inability, to function as a unit could be the downfall of the entire offense.

When you look at the players they deploy, it shouldn’t surprise many. Let’s take a look:

LT: Dan Moore Jr. — 4th Round pick, 2021 NFL Draft
LG: Kevin Dotson — 4th Round pick, 2020 NFL Draft
C: Mason Cole — Free Agent acquisition, 2022 (3rd Round pick, 2018 NFL Draft, ARI)
RG: James Daniels — Free Agent acquisition, 2022 (2nd Round pick, 2018 NFL Draft, CHI)
RT: Chukwuma Okorafor — 3rd Round pick, 2018 NFL Draft

If you want to look at the other linemen on the roster, you can see more Day 2 picks, and beyond.

J.C. Hassenauer — UDFA 2020
Kendrick Green — 3rd Round pick, 2021 NFL Draft
Trent Scott — Free Agent acquisition, 2022 (UDFA 2018)
Jesse Davis — Trade acquisition, 2022 (UDFA 2015)

Fans of the Steelers love to talk about the glory days of Mike Munchak and the group he was able to assemble, but when you look at the players he had to coach it was completely different.

LT: Alejandro Villanueva — Free Agent acquisition
LG: Ramon Foster — UDFA
C: Maurkice Pouncey — 1st Round pick, 2010 NFL Draft
RG: David DeCastro — 1st Round pick, 2012 NFL Draft
RT: Marcus Gilbert — 2nd Round pick, 2011 NFL Draft

While the left side of the above offensive line was far from high pedigree, it is clear the team invested heavily in the offensive line from the center to right tackle positions.

The difference in the team then, and the team now might just be the fact the team has spent some serious money in free agency heading into 2022. The acquisitions of Cole and Daniels are certainly not the norm, but the fact is in recent years the team hasn’t spent valuable draft capital on the offensive line.

It should be noted, it isn’t as if the team has swung-and-missed on draft picks along the offensive line. No, they simply have chosen to spend their top picks on other positions.

2022 NFL Draft

Round 1: Kenny Pickett
Round 2: George Pickens

2021 NFL Draft

Round 1: Najee Harris
Round 2: Pat Freiermuth

2020 NFL Draft

Round 1: No pick (Minkah Fitzpatrick Trade)
Round 2: Chase Claypool

2019 NFL Draft

Round 1: Devin Bush
Round 2: No pick (Trade with Denver Broncos to obtain Bush)

2018 NFL Draft

Round 1: Terrell Edmunds
Round 2: James Washington

2017 NFL Draft

Round 1: T.J. Watt
Round 2: JuJu Smith-Schuster

2016 NFL Draft

Round 1: Artie Burns
Round 2: Sean Davis

Looking at these draft picks you have to wait until you get to the 3rd round before you see draft capital spent along the line. Those two players in the same time frame would be Okorafor and Green last draft.

Say what you want, but it shouldn’t be a shock the organization hasn’t seen a massive improvement along the offensive line. They never replenished the position after players like DeCastro, Pouncey, Foster and Villanueva saw the writing on the wall.

It begs the question, when will the team start to seriously start to invest valuable draft capital into the offensive line? Logic says this process will start in 2023, but some were saying the same thing in 2022, a year where they didn’t address the line once in their six selections.

In 2023 the team is slated to have another six draft picks, as of the time of writing this article, and while free agency is one way to try and fill the holes along the line, growing from the draft has always been the consistent way to get the job done. People want to complain about the turnover with the offensive line coaches, but has any of the coaches since Munchak had the stable of linemen Munchak did?

The lesson here is while being creative on building a line can work, the Steelers haven’t proven they can get the job done. Time to back to what works, and that’s spending high picks on the big men up front.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2022 regular season.

College Gameday, 2023 NFL Draft Prospects and Open Thread

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/03/2022 - 10:45am
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Talking the Steelers and the 2023 draft, will you join us?

Welcome to Week 1 of the college football season!

The deep dive into next year’s NFL Draft eligible prospects begins this weekend with three Top 25 match ups, headlined by the 2nd ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and 5th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

The transfer portal has given college coaches a glimpse at free agency, and some of that is fueled by the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) that has now become a huge part in recruitment. It is what it is, but it sure makes it hard to keep up with prospects. I could have given a list of names, but that would have created an article all by itself. With that said, I apologize in advance if I give a name with the wrong school.

As in years past, feel free to provide input on prospect evaluations or someone that should be mentioned.

Enjoy the season!

Oregon Ducks #11 at Georgia Bulldogs #3 ABC 3:30pm Oregon

Noah Sewell #1 ILB 6’2” 253lbs - One of my favorite players to watch and looking at the current situation at ILB, Noah Sewell should be on every Steeler fans watch list. There is always some give and take along the inside meaning you want a guy blessed with speed and athletic ability to fly around the field and also cover in the passing game. On the other hand you want a guy that can be stout against the run, being able to stack and shed and meeting ball carriers in the hole. Sewell has the latter in spades and his game has an old school feel to it. There are things to clean up but I will be watching his 2022 football maturation very closely.

Justin Flowe #10 ILB 6’3” 220lbs - Could be the better of the two Inside Backers but durability and loss of reps will be the talking point until they aren’t. Let’s just say I know where my eyes will be in this match up against Georgia. The Bulldogs like to run the ball and they have arguably the best Tight End room in the country, led by Brock Bowers. The Oregon duo will have their hands full, should be a great opening test for both Sewell and Flowe.

TJ Bass #56 G 6’4” 325lbs

Alex Forsyth #78 C 6’4” 312lbs

Christian Gonzalez #0 CB 6’2” 201lbs


Jalen Carter #88 IDL 6’3” 300lbs - Easily the best IDL lineman in the 2023 draft class. There were a few moves to improve depth during the offseason but non of that would eliminate drafting this talented young man should he fall into Pittsburgh’s draft range. Extremely disruptive and you will see him in the opponents backfield plenty in 2022. Do not pay attention to his stats, remember he played with some of the best defensive players in the country in 2021. I see him as more of a 3 Tech and he may not be a fit technically in the Steeler defense. Trust me when I say he will fit into anyone’s defense and Oregon will have to make it a priority to find and get help along that front.

Kelee Ringo #5 CB 6’2” 210lbs - Probably gonna be on Scott Pavelle’s “not gonna happen” list. I miss that guy being around BTW but I digress. Ringo is blessed with all of the god given talents one could ask for. He has the height, size, strength. length and outside all of that he is a twitched up young man. Oh yeah, there is the speed aspect also. It will be interesting to see what he has in store for 2022.

Tykee Smith #23 SAF 5’10” 198lbs

Broderick Jones #59 OT 6’4” 310lbs

Sedrick Van Pran #63 C 6’4” 310lbs

Arik Gilbert #7 TE 6’5” 255lbs

Kendall Milton #2 RB 6’1” 220lbs

Nolan Smith #4 EDGE 6’3” 235lbs

Cincinnati Bearcats #23 at Arkansas Razorbacks #19 ESPN 3:30pm Cincinnati

Lorenz Metz #51 OT 6’8” 330lbs

Josh Whyle #81 TE 6’6” 250lbs

Tre Tucker #1 WR 5’9” 185lbs

Deshawn Pace #20 LB 6’2” 215lbs

Ivan Pace JR. #0 ILB 6’ 235lbs

Ja’Von Hicks #3 SAF 6’2” 210lbs

Arquon Bush #9 CB 6’ 198lbs


Jalen Catalon #1 SAF 5’10” 201lbs - Outside of the height and wondering how he recovers from last years shoulder injury, Catalon is a guy who you will be drawn to if you choose to watch him play. He is as hardnosed as any in the college game. He possesses one of Coach Tomlin’s favorite things, position flexibility. Let’s just say he has played almost everywhere and anywhere a Safety could play. Safety may not be a huge priority but Edmunds is only signed for one year?

KJ Jefferson QB #1 6’3” 242lbs

Ricky Stromberg #51 C 6’4” 313lbs

Trey Knox #7 TE 6’5” 245lbs

Bumper Pool #10 ILB 6’2 232lbs

Latavius Brini #7 DB 6’2” 215lbs

Jaydon Haselwood #9 WR 6’3” 213lbs

Notre Dame Fighting Irish #5 at Ohio State Buckeyes #2 ABC 7:30pm Notre Dame

Michael Mayer #87 TE 6’5” 251lbs - I think we all know Tight End isn’t a need with Freiermuth on the roster and it would require a first round pick to get Mayer, but one could imagine him and Muuuuuuuth paired together.

Isaiah Foskey #7 EDGE 6’5” 265lbs - Foskey is an interesting read and one that fits the Steeler criteria for the Rush Backer position. Obviously you want the ability to get after the quarterback but the Steelers ask more from their Edge Rushers. Meaning the run isn’t an after thought. Foskey has a well rounded game and he will need to put that on display against maybe the best Running Back in college football, TreVeyon Henderson.

Brandon Joseph SAF 6’1” 194lbs

Jarrett Patterson #55 OL 6’5” 307lbs

Ohio State

CJ Stroud #7 QB 6’3” 218lbs

Paris Johnson Jr #77 OT 6’6” 310lbs - Already took a look at Peter Skoronski in Week 0, now let’s look at another offensive line prospect, maybe this years best! Very interested in his move to the blind side. I liked what was seen at Guard and he has traits that suggest a move to Left Tackle will be an easy one. With the position switch the evaluation starts Saturday night against Notre Dame. Not sure where Isaiah Foskey will line up but it could be a match up worth watching.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba #11 WR 6’ 1” 200lbs - Do we really need another Wide Receiver? Probably not after signing Johnson and having Chase Claypool still on the roster, along with the drafting of Pickens and CA3. Saying that, If we did look in that direction this is the guy I think could complete the room for Kenny Pickett and the near future. You always need guys that can separate and JSN is one of the best. Surrounded by two first round draft choices in 2021 he now finds himself The Man at The Ohio State University.

Dawand Jones #79 OT 6’8” 359lbs

Mathew Jones #55 G 6’4” 315lbs

Luke Wypler #53 C 6’3” 300lbs

Zach Harrison #9 EDGE 6’6” 272lbs

Ronnie Hickman #14 SAF 6’1” 207lbs

Cameron Brown #26 CB 6’ 192lbs

Taron Vincent #6 IDL 6’2” 300lbs

Let us know what games you are watching and who you would like to see in the Black and Gold. As always stay safe and Go Steelers!

2023 NFL Draft Spotlight: Prospects to watch in Week 1 of College Football

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/03/2022 - 9:00am
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Keep your eye on these players in Week 1 of the College Football season.

The 2023 NFL Draft is still months in the distance, but with college football having arrived, the beginning stages of the 2023 draft process has begun. With that in mind, it is time to dive into this week’s biggest games in the college football world, taking a look at potential Steelers draft targets to pay attention to during their respective games.

Offensive line is definitely an area the Steelers need to address, and the most likely resource for the solution is indeed the draft. Concerns at cornerback and linebacker also loom large over the Pittsburgh’s head. Although we will certainly break down prospects at other positions this season as well, these will be the primary positions of emphasis, especially early in the season.

Nearly every week during the season, there are several highlight games that steal the headlines, but even when these games overshadow the rest of the college football landscape, we will not be negligent of the other games and prospects in action. Every week during the season, we will recap the previous week’s action and determine whose stock rose the most as it pertains to the NFL Draft.

As always, be sure to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below, but without further adieu, here are the top prospects and games to keep an eye on this Saturday.

Oregon vs. Georgia — 3:30 ET on ABC

Georgia Spotlight: Kelee Ringo — CB, Broderick Jones — OT
Oregon Spotlight: Noah Sewell — ILB, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu — OT

Oregon has a nice group of young receivers, but this is a great opportunity for Kelee Ringo to prove he is one of the best corners in the nation. At 6’2”, 205 pounds, Ringo has every trait NFL teams look for in a modern-day cornerback. A former high-school track star, the Georgia standout certainly has the speed and athleticism to match just about any receiver in the country. He uses his length well, and he displays great awareness when the ball is in the air.

Georgia’s running game seems to be perennially strong, and if Oregon wants to have a chance in this game, they will need a strong performance from linebacker Noah Sewell, who is coming into the season with the expectation of becoming a top-50 draft pick in April. Sewell is a physical linebacker who displays great burst as well as the ability to rush the passer, but his consistency as a tackler needs to improve if he wants to receive first-round consideration. Saturday’s game will be a good test for him.

Cincinnati vs. Arkansas — 3:30 ET on ESPN

Cincinnati Spotlight: Ivan Pace, Jr. — ILB, Ja’Von Hicks — S
Arkansas Spotlight: Bumper Pool — ILB, Jalen Catalon — S

Cincinnati lost loads of talent to the NFL, but their defense should be good enough to carry them in 2022. The Bearcats boast two of the top linebackers in the AAC, and they are both brothers. Ivan Pace, Jr. is a little more polished and filled out than his counterpart, but both are incredibly talented players. Ivan displays great quickness coming downhill, and he held up surprisingly well in coverage in 2021.

For Arkansas, my eyes are most focused on one of the best names in the draft: Bumper Pool. Bumper is not the most physically gifted linebacker, but his instincts and play recognition are top-notch. Arkansas will be a tough team to run against if their defensive line can keep him clean.

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State — 7:30 ET on ABC

Notre Dame Spotlight: Cam Hart — CB, Isaiah Foskey — EDGE
Ohio State Spotlight: Parris Johnson — OT, Matthew Jones — G

Cam Hart is not at the top of most draft boards, but he is a long, athletic corner worth keeping an eye on. His footwork needs a bit of maintenance, but his long arms and long strides allow him to make up ground if he gets beat at the line. If he becomes more consistent in the tackling department, he could quickly rise on draft boards.

For the Buckeyes, every Steelers fan should have their eyes on Parris Johnson. It is no secret the Steelers need to invest more into the offensive line, and Johnson has a chance to become the best tackle in this class. He has great quickness out of his stance, plays with a nice pad level, and flashes impressive power. Notre Dame’s strong pass rush will be a great test for this Buckeyes offensive line.

For more info on this week’s games, check out Pittsblits56’s weekly College Game Day Thread this Saturday.

Which games and prospects do you have your eye on this weekend? Be sure to share your thoughts on this topic and all things NFL Draft in the comment section below!

Steelers 2022 Awards Projection: Preseason Edition, Part 1

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/03/2022 - 7:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Part 1: Traditional Awards.

Now that the 2022 NFL season is on the horizon, the talking heads are all weighing in on All Pro picks, season records, and award predictions. I read these articles compulsively (and with some irritation), but it occurred to me a few years ago that we never did that for just the Pittsburgh Steelers. So below is a series of “awards” predictions that are specific to this Steelers team.

This will come in two editions: first, the traditional awards (e.g. MVP, Rookie of the Year), then the second will be invented by me (e.g. “Breakout Player,” “Addition by Subtraction/Best Loss”). I’ll include a short descriptor to each, and I’ll make a case for who I’ve picked below, but I’ve also included a poll for each listing, including “other” as an option (in case you feel like I missed an important choice). My goal is to start a few arguments in the comments section, and maybe help get Steelers Nation fired up and ready for the long haul ahead.

If there’s interest, I’ll probably revisit this at the end of the year, and maybe at mid-season as well.

In any case, please make arguments, leave suggestions, and otherwise hash this out in the comments. On with the show. Go Steelers.

P.S. The list got a little long, so in case you wanted to skip ahead, here’s the shorthand version (with my picks). Explanations and polls to follow.

MVP: T.J. Watt
Offensive POY: Najee Harris
Defensive POY: Watt
Rookie of the Year: George Pickens
Newcomer of the Year: Myles Jack
Comeback/Improved POY: Chase Claypool
Breakout Player: Alex Highsmith
Assistant Coach of the Year: Brian Flores
Game of the Year: Wk 1, at Bengals


Whether it’s NFL MVP or Super Bowl MVP, league voters are often wildly inconsistent in how they define “most valuable.” For my part, I think of MVP as somewhere between “the team’s best player” and “the hardest to replace.” That is, the guy who, if you lost him you’d feel it the most; not just because his backups are bad, but because he brings something you can’t get anywhere else.

My Choice: T.J. Watt. Big Ben (my usual choice) is now a civilian, and T.J. Watt is now not only established as the NFL’s best defender, but also somehow still disrespected. If he stays healthy, I see no reason to believe Watt won’t have another monster year in 2022. Last season, T.J. made more game-changing plays than anyone else in the entire NFL (on either side of the ball); in fact, you can make the case that the Steelers would have lost at least four more games without #90 on the field. He should have been NFL MVP last year. But even though NFL voters have stars in their eyes for QBs, I don’t. He’s the Steelers MVP in my book.

Offensive Player of the Year –

I think of OPOY (or DPOY) as the player having the finest season. Stats matter (especially with OPOY) but so does the eyeball test. Which player will have the most impressive season in 2019? Here are my candidates:

My Choice: Najee Harris. Whoever starts at QB for the bulk of the year might have a case here. And it sure looks like George Pickens is going to blow the doors off the house. But Najee Harris is going to be the engine that powers this team. Najee is already a star, and he’s going to get a lot of touches in 2022. With the Steelers downfield passing game getting a shot in the arm (in the form of Pickens and Calvin Austin — if Austin gets healthy), I’d look for Harris to get a lot of check-down passes as well as tough yards between the tackles. If he’s healthy (and that’s a frighteningly urgent “if” as the preseason winds down), he’s going to have a big year.

Defensive Player of the Year –

Stats can affect DPOY, but with interior linemen eating up blockers and shutdown corners never being challenged, the eyeball test is at least as important. Who will be the most impressive defender in black and gold?

My Choice: T.J. Watt. I’m torn about this. I hate giving the same guy multiple awards (let’s spread the wealth), and I think Minkah Fitzpatrick might be the best safety in the league, and that Cam Heyward is one of the most underrated players of the era. But T.J. is on another plane.

Rookie of the Year –

This is always tough to predict. For every 2003, with Mike Logan starting all year and Troy Polamalu on the bench, there’s a 2013, with Larry Foote’s preseason injury and sixth round rookie Vince Williams in the lineup all year. This year, though, feels like a season where a rookie will be a legit star for the Steelers.

My Choice: George Pickens. There are a surprising number of options here. I LOVE that. But my choice is easy. If the Steelers offensive line can protect enough to allow Pickens to get downfield, he’s going to be exciting this year. I would never predict a Randy Moss rookie season (where Moss caught 17 touchdowns and the Vikings exploded as an offense). But, assuming there are enough footballs to go around, I’d predict Pickens’ basement looking like Chase Claypool’s rookie year. This kid has excellent hands, outstanding body control and field awareness, and a physicality that we haven’t seen in these parts since Hines Ward retired. (And frankly, Pickens might be, dare I say it, more physical than Ward, given the current NFL rules. Watch him destroy NFL corners who try to jam him at the line. That might be my favorite part of his game.) It’s a crime that he’s not playing with 2014-era Big Ben. Pickens on one side and AB on the other (with LeVeon Bell in the backfield) might have been good for 40 points per game…

Newcomer of the Year –

With the Steelers making a splash in the free agency and trading market this season, I wanted to acknowledge that not all newcomers who matter are rookies. Who’s going to be the best veteran pickup this season?

My Choice: Myles Jack. There are actually a number of options here too. I’m optimistic about Larry Ogunjobi, and even though there were some rough preseasons for the offensive linemen and even Levi Wallace, I still reserve some cautious optimism there (at least in the long term). But Myles Jack is the real thing. The player across from him — be it Devin Bush or Robert Spillane — is another question. But I have high hopes for Jack, who’s old enough to understand the game well, and young enough to play with athleticism and put in a number of years. Outstanding pickup.

Comeback Player of the Year

The Steelers don’t have a lot of guys returning from significant injury, so I’m thinking of this as both “comeback from injury” and “comeback from poor play.”

My Choice: Chase Claypool. This is kind of tricky, and I don’t feel great about it. I’d love to see Devin Bush prove me wrong. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tyson Alualu stabilize the D-Line enough to earn this award. But I think Claypool has matured a bit, and I’m gambling that he’ll feel the pressure from Pickens / Austin / Boykin / etc., and bust his tail this year. And if that’s true, he’ll have a bounce-back season we’ll all be proud of. It’s possible there won’t be enough footballs to go around, but we’ll see.

Breakout Player –

This is different than “comeback” because these players aren’t coming off injury or genuinely bad play, where a good season might be enough to be recognized. Instead, they’re players who I predict will come out of nowhere (or in some cases, out of average-ness) and stand at the cusp of greatness. These are players who are becoming stars this season.

My Choice: Alex Highsmith. Confession: I picked Highsmith last year too, and was a little underwhelmed by his 2021 season. He played very well (finishing 8th in the NFL in tackles for loss), but only managed 6.0 sacks. If he’s healthy (I don’t like how often I’ve had to type that) I suspect his general play will remain above-the-line, but that his sack numbers this year will shoot upward. A stronger D-Line in front of him will help. But I also expect that the Steelers pass rush will be more evenly distributed — instead of T.J. Watt getting home over and over, I expect teams to scheme around T.J. and for Alex to be the beneficiary (as well as Ogunjobi, Heyward, Leal, and others). Given how much time Highsmith spent in opponent backfields last year, that could mean a bit-time leap this year. Here’s hoping.

Assistant Coach of the Year –

The Steelers coaching staff had some turnover, but not a lot. But Assistant Coach of the Year doesn’t have to be a new guy. It’s more like a cocktail of the “most important assistant,” “most successful assistant,” “most groundbreaking assistant,” and “assistant who made the best lemonade with the lemons he got dealt.”

My Choice: Brian Flores. I expect Flores to walk away with this award, but I want to admit that this one is also a little tricky. The most important Assistant Coach may very well be Meyer (or Sullivan, depending on how the season goes). And the coaches who have the most fun this year will probably be Canada and Jackson. But I think Brian Flores has the best opportunity to put his stamp on an already-outstanding unit. Particularly if the Steelers suffer ANY defensive injuries, Flores’ creativity will be crucial to the team powering forward. I hope all these guys have big years.

Game of the Year –

My Choice: Week 1 against the Bengals. This is weird. I don’t really have a particular game that rings my bell this year. The Ravens games are always huge, but they don’t happen until very late in the season — week 14 is the first of the series. Pittsburgh faces the Browns (with Deshaun Watson) in week 18, but that’s, again, WAY down the line. Who knows what the circumstances will be by then? And I don’t see a lot of revenge games in here. The Patriots games have a lot less bang with Brady in Tampa. And the Buccs game has a lot less bang with Bruce Ariens retired and Antonio Brown on his couch. So I’ll go with the Bengals, who have won three in a row against the Steelers, and who are coming off of an AFC Title season. Did the Steelers do enough to raise their game against the Bengals this offseason? Week 1 should tell us.

I’ll be honest: I’m not buying the Bengals just yet. I think they got really lucky down the stretch last year, and were probably a bit of a mirage in the Super Bowl. They’re good (again, three in a row against the Steelers is no joke) but I’ll have to see them deliver before I believe they’re a new AFC power. So this game will mean something. The Steelers went 4-2 in the AFC North in 2021, sweeping both the Ravens and Browns. So those two Bengals losses (neither of which were particularly competitive) were big deals. If the Steelers could have split the series, Pittsburgh would have won the division and Cincinnati would have missed the playoffs. This game means business. I’ll be watching.

Okay, round two on the way…

Steelers football was meant to be played on Sundays, even during the preseason

Behind the Steel Curtain - Sat, 09/03/2022 - 6:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Football was always meant to be played on Sunday afternoon, even during the preseason.

I couldn’t wait for the Steelers' 2022 preseason schedule to kick off on Saturday, August 13 at Acrisure Stadium.

Then, the game started, and I was like, “OK.” As exciting as the Steelers 32-25 victory over the Seahawks was, it didn’t take long for me to get bored with everything happening—yes, even with Kenny! Kenny! Kenny! Pickett.

That’s just how preseason football is for me these days. It’s like watching an old Steelers preseason game on Youtube, only you’re seeing it live and with no trace of those awesome old commercials from the 1970s.

Even though the contest was at night, and even though I was bored rather quickly, I managed to stay awake just long enough to see Pickett connect with receiver Tyler Vaughns for the game-winning touchdown with seconds remaining.

As for the following week, also a Saturday night affair—this time against the Jaguars down in Jacksonville? I’m not going to lie, I didn’t see a second of that game. No, not because I fell asleep before kickoff. I was invited to a party that included a bunch of non-football fans. You might think that’s sacrilegious, but I’m a single guy, and I never pass up an opportunity to potentially find love. After all, the Steelers aren’t going to feed me applesauce when I’m too old and feeble to take care of myself.

So how did I manage to write several articles and do a few podcasts in the days after the Steelers' 16-15 victory over the Jaguars? Talent. Also, Youtube highlights and ESPN’s box score.

Talk radio also got me through it.

Anyway, that brings me to this past Sunday afternoon when the Steelers hosted the Lions at Acrisure Stadium in the preseason finale. I can’t explain it, but I was really looking forward to that game. I mean, I had that sucker circled on my calendar as far back as July. I can’t truly grasp why other than Sunday just feels right for football. And, as the “afternoon” portion of this paragraph suggests, kickoff was at 4:30 p.m. EST. No, not 1 p.m. EST—the perfect time for NFL action—but you can’t have everything when it comes to preseason football.

As is the case with the average Steelers regular-season game, I had to make sure I was done with work in time to get home to see the beginning. I bought snacks. I sat in my favorite recliner. It was going to be great!

Then, the game started, and I remembered why preseason football is so boring.

However, the hours leading up to that game, a contest that was a regular-season dress rehearsal for the Steelers, acted as my own dress rehearsal for when things get real in September.

Sunday afternoon preseason games are rare, but they are the best possible reminder of how awesome the real thing truly is.


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