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Numero Uni: Of the 25 most prolific Steelers jersey numbers of all time, which is ranked 22nd?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/05/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have had a plethora of great players representing one number over the years. Find out which one number is ranked 22nd.

BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. One BTSC author has wondered aloud “what is the most accomplished number in Steelers history?” Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by various players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 32, 52, 59, 36, 63 and 47 as it would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked 22nd. Enjoy.

22) No. 67

Most Notable: B.J. Finney 2016-2019, Kimo von Oelhoffen 2000-2005, Jamain Stephens 1996-1998, Duval Love 1992-1994, Gary Dunn 1976-1987, Craig Hanneman 1972-1973, Bob Schmitz 1961-1966

Current Wearer: Calvin Taylor 2020

Possibly the best to wear the No. 67 was Gary Dunn, a two-time Super Bowl champion in XIII and XIV and a mainstay on the Steelers’ defense for 12 seasons. The Miami Hurricane defensive lineman was a sixth round-pick in 1976 who never expected to stick on the loaded Steel Curtain. Dunn was just hoping to make $700 and play well enough to get on another team. But Gary played well enough that Chuck Noll kept an extra defensive lineman spot to retain Dunn. Named an All-Pro in 1984, Dunn had 18 sacks and nine fumble recoveries during his Steelers days.

Not far behind Dunn would be an unsung hero of the 2000’s defense...Kimo Van Oelhoffen. While his surname sounds like he would have been hanging out with Rose Nylund back in St. Olaf (Sorry. The wife has me watching Golden Girls reruns), the Hawaii native was a more than solid performer for the Steelers after five years as a Cincinnati Bengal. Abhorred now in Cincy after his clean hit took out Carson Palmer in the Wildcard Round back in January of 2006, he was a beloved figure in Pittsburgh and a Super Bowl champion. Over a 14-year career, Kimo’s finest days were in black-and-gold. Of his 26.5 career sacks, 20.5 occurred as a member of the Steelers.

Check back soon for the 21st best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers’ history. But first, a recap of the countdown so far.

Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24
24) No. 43
23) No. 67

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Antoine Brooks Jr.

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/05/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

We are now 12 parts in on our 90-part series— assuming the roster does not change before we are complete— which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Today we’re going to look at the first member of the 2020 draft class to be featured on the list:

Antoine Brooks Jr.

Position: S
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 215 lbs
College: Maryland
Draft: 6th round, 198 Overall in 2020

2019 stats (Maryland)

87 Total tackles
1 Interception
5 Passes defended
1 Fumble recovery

Contract remaining

Has not reached an agreement at this time, but the contract will run through 2023

Likelihood of making the roster

Lock. Usually there is a cut-off around the 5th round where if you are selected before the 5th round you’ll be given at least one season, even if you stink it up at training camp. This is mostly due to teams investing so much in a player, and also because they don't want to look like fools by cutting someone less than a year after drafting them. While Brooks does sit outside this general rule I can't see a world where he doesn't make the team. The Steelers are thin in both safety, and linebacker positions. Which Brooks could produce in both roles.

2020 projection

I don't expect Brooks to make much of an impact on the defensive side of the game right away, but I would expect a big contribution in the third phase of the game. Like much of the 2020 draft it will be hard to pick up an NFL playbook so quickly, but Brooks and his contemporaries can impact this team by going all out on special teams.

Projected stats:

14 Games Played
2 Healthy scratches (Week 1 & 2)
8 Tackles

Summary

Antoine Brooks Jr. has the potential to become a really nice depth/sub package type player for the Steelers. Something you’ll hear me say a lot for the rookies over the course of the series is the 2020 class will be hard-pressed to making impacts anywhere but on special teams. The lack of practice time will hurt what they'll be able to do and we’ll need to keep this in mind before judging these kids. Brooks will be fine, just be patient.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell

The Steelers’ history of playing down to inferior opponents should not be an issue in 2020

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/05/2020 - 11:00am
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

With some questionable losses over the last several seasons, the recipe for disaster should be fixed

The Steelers have accrued great success in the past 5 seasons, including making an AFC Championship appearance in the 2016 and earning 3 playoff berths over that span.

However, outstanding play over the last half-decade has not been without tumult.

Despite going 51-28-1 in the regular season since 2015— good for a .6375 winning percentage— the Steelers had several prototypical “trap games,” or matchups they have lost to inferior opponents. Unfortunately, this trend has obfuscated the greatness coach Mike Tomlin has accomplished as well may have even cost the Steelers the chance to play in the postseason several times.

The story begins in Week 6 of 2016, the first true game in which the Steelers indubitably “played down” which I can remember in recent history.

In the contest, the Steelers fell at the hands of the Dolphins in Miami by a score of 30-15. Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi absolutely emasculated Pittsburgh’s defense to the tune of 204 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Ajayi wreaked havoc by posting 3 carries of 20+ yards and put the game on ice with a 62-yard score with just 50 seconds remaining on the clock.

Just to emphasize how much the Steelers lost a golden opportunity to earn a victory, Pittsburgh entered the game 4-1 while Miami had the inverse record before the matchup.

The game was one to forget for nearly the entire black and gold fan base, though the Steelers’ playoff chances were not inhibited by such a dismal showing. The squad would ultimately go 11-5 and play in the AFC Championship game.

However, a fresh slate in 2017 did not halt the trend of losing to subpar competitors.

That season, Pittsburgh had 2 games in which they faltered to teams that were unquestionably worse.

In Week 3 of 2017, the Steelers rode into Chicago’s Soldier Field with an unblemished 2-0 record; the Bears, on the other hand, entered 0-2. In one of the zaniest games that I’ve ever seen (I was also at this matchup, unfortunately), the Steelers lost 23-17 in a simply embarrassing overtime effort. Chicago’s young running back duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen gashed Pittsburgh’s shaky defense for 218 yards and 2 touchdowns, including gallops of 36, 18 and 19 yards to seal the win for the Bears in the extra period.

Just two weeks later, Tomlin’s team lost once again to a foe many thought Pittsburgh should have beaten: The Jacksonville Jaguars.

In one of his worst career games, QB Ben Roethlisberger launched 5 interceptions; coupled with 181 rushing yards and 2 scores from Jags RB Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville mauled Pittsburgh 30-9 at Heinz Field. The game, much to the chagrin of Steeler fans, would be a harbinger of Pittsburgh’s futility against Jacksonville in the postseason the same year.

Based on the aforementioned 3 games, the Steelers lost to opponents that were, in many facets, worse because of the inability to stop the run.

But the motif of losing “trap games” would proliferate in 2018, though not just because of lackluster run stoppage: the Steelers’ dearth of road success against mediocre opponents directly spurred 3 inexcusable losses.

In the team’s first game of 2018, Pittsburgh tied with the Cleveland Browns in a game which saw a combined 4 interceptions between Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor. Despite the valiant efforts of James Conner (135 yards and 2 touchdowns) to replace Le’Veon Bell— at that point, little was known about the duration of Bell’s holdout— the Steelers still could not emerge victorious against what was thought to be a weak Browns team with Taylor at the helm. The Steelers allowed Taylor to total 77 rushing yards— nearly a career high.

The majority of Steelers faithful was confounded by this draw, as the franchise had historically pummeled the Browns and, up to that point, had not lost in Cleveland since 2014.

Despite their initial woes, the Steelers would go 7-2 in their next 9 matchups. At the same time, Pittsburgh’s hot stretch would not be maintained for long because of losing to second-rate squads.

The Steelers fell to the 4-6 Broncos in a rather shocking Week 12 loss. The defeat could easily be assuaged by excuses such as former tight end Xavier Grimble’s fumble at the goal line, a blocked field goal, or Roethlisberger’s interception near the end zone by Broncos defensive lineman Shelby Harris with just over a minute left in regulation.

Pittsburgh’s offense did not struggle even a tad in the contest. Pittsburgh outpaced Denver 527-308 in total yardage, and the Steelers had the ball for a whopping 10 more minutes than the Broncos.

At the same time, such metrics overshadow the inability of Pittsburgh’s defense to harangue Denver’s offense. Then-Broncos starter Case Keenum amassed two touchdowns; the Steelers had 0 takeaways and had a -4 turnover differential.

Ultimately, the Steelers’ West Coast struggles were perpetuated just two weeks subsequent to the loss in what was formerly known as Sports Authority Field.

The Steelers were unable to mitigate the ferocity of the “Black Hole” and lost to the 2-10 Oakland Raiders in Week 14, 24-21, in truly heartbreaking fashion. What makes the loss even more mortifying is that the Steelers entered 7-4-1.

In the game, JuJu Smith-Schuster made a ludicrous, astonishing toe-tap catch in the back of the end zone, but it still was not enough for the Steelers to prevail. In an infamous moment, Boswell slipped on a game-tying 40-yard field goal attempt after an absurd hook-and-ladder play.

In this particular vanquishing, Tomlin’s offense was not entirely to blame. The Steelers’ run game was rather miserable— Conner did not suit up, and Jaylen Samuels totaled just 28 ground yards—and former Steelers QB Josh Dobbs entered for 4 futile series. However, Roethlisberger was solid with 289 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a near-comeback.

It should be noted the Steelers have not won in Oakland since 1995, though this loss was particularly egregious.

What truly prevented Pittsburgh from prevailing? Once again, its defense.

In the 4th quarter, Roethlisberger returned to game action after suffering a rib injury in the first half and readied his red cape and blue suit to lead the Steelers on a 6-play, 75-yard drive capped with another TD reception for Smith-Schuster.

But Oakland reciprocated and marched right down the field with under 3 minutes remaining. The Steelers were able to force a 4th and Goal, but their defense capitulated and surrendered a touchdown to give Oakland the lead for good. The demoralizing loss somewhat prevented Pittsburgh from making the playoffs, as the team finished 9-6-1.

There are several “what ifs” which could have drastically altered both of the last two matchups discussed. For example, if Roethlisberger had not been intercepted near the goal line by Harris, and if Boswell had successfully converted the field goal attempt, the Steelers could have gone 2-0 in such games, and neither would have been described here.

The point is not hypotheticals, however. What needs to be evaluated is if the Steelers had a lacuna in their preparation for lesser opponents or if Tomlin simply became complacent.

In my opinion, neither is valid.

Rather, what sticks out like a sore thumb is the Steelers’ lack of defensive competence in all 6 “trap game” defeats since 2016.

Had Pittsburgh not allowed Oakland to score with just over 20 seconds left, they almost certainly would have won the game. Had the Steelers’ defense not permitted a ludicrous number of rushing yards against Cleveland in 2018, Jacksonville and Chicago in 2017 and Miami in 2016, they easily could have— and probably should have— triumphed in each of those contests.

The matchups in which Tomlin’s team has “played down” have become topics eschewed by the Steelers’ fan base, and understandably so— they are painful, poignant and raw.

But as we gear up for the 2020 season, it seems very fitting to reminisce on them— largely because these defeats are very unlikely to happen any time soon.

As evidenced by the 6 games outlined between 2016-18, the Steelers suffered cataclysmic losses because of, holistically, poor defensive showings.

Despite having several subpar opponents on their 2019 slate, though, the black and gold still emerged with a “W” against each— all because of a stingy defensive unit led by Keith Butler.

Some may view Pittsburgh’s unforgettable “Thursday Night Football” defeat in Cleveland as yet another “trap game,” but I’m not going to classify it as such because of a cavalcade of injuries and simply porous QB play from Mason Rudolph.

A week after one of the most virulent fights in NFL history, Rudolph was unseated by Devlin “Duck” Hodges, who was far from superb: he posted just 118 yards and a touchdown. Nevertheless, the Steelers still eked out a 16-10 win in Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium by holding Ryan Finley and the winless Bengals to under 250 yards.

Another game in 2019 that the Steelers arguably should have lost was Week 14 at Arizona, which was 3-8-1 at the time. The Steelers ravaged rookie QB Kyler Murray by forcing 3 interceptions, one of which was thrown with Arizona in the red zone.

The Steelers were certainly better than both Cincinnati and Arizona on paper. In terms of talent, both of Pittsburgh’s opponents were superior, to some extent, on offense. In spite of quarterback quandaries, the Steelers were able to win both games— yes, even on the road— because of stout defense.

By no means is defense the only potion to concoct a win versus a lesser opponent. But history tells us not only has it worked in recent memory, but the solution should very well suffice for the Steelers for quite some time.

Upon examining Pittsburgh’s 2020 schedule, games such as Week 1 at the Giants and Week 12 at Jacksonville may cause some anguish due to both fitting the criteria for “trap games”: being on the road and versus teams that are seemingly not in the Steelers’ echelon.

Steelers fans, recency tells us there should be no need to worry.

In fact, the Steelers should not be concerned about losing at the hands of inferior teams for the immediate future. With a defense whose projected starters have an average age of 26.5 and young stars in 21-year-old Devin Bush, 23-year-old Minkah Fitzpatrick and 25-year-old T.J. Watt, this team’s defensive nucleus is quite youthful.

Defense very well may be a nostrum to avoiding “playing down” and losing to bad teams, something which has plagued the Steelers for years. But with more defensive talent than ever, it seems Tomlin and Butler have found the answer to turn the corner and avoid more quixotic losses to bottom-dwellers for the next few years.

Does resting a quarterback in Week 17 lead to playoff success?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/05/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There is a delicate balance between risking injury in a meaningless game and maintaining momentum going in the postseason

Last offseason,I entertained some numerical questions as users submitted various items to “Ask the Stat Geek.” After moving into the deputy editor role, and ultimately the editor position, diving into a lot of research is something which took a bit of of a backseat at times. But when an interesting question is proposed, I can’t help but dive into the research in finding an answer.

In this case, I wish I could give credit to where the question was raised, but I can’t remember if it was in a comment on a podcast or an article. If this is your question, please let me know.

So here’s the question: When a team rests their quarterback in Week 17 in preparation for the playoffs, does it lead to greater success on the field?

There are several factors which could lead a team to rest players, specifically their quarterback, in preparation for a playoff run. Not knowing the exact motive in each case, I simply just state the results. Of course, if the team’s quarterback were to get injured in a meaningless Week 17 game, chances of successfully navigating through the playoffs take a serious hit. Also, if a player is dealing with some minor injuries, it would probably benefit some added rest in order to get fully healthy. So there are other factors to consider.

But when it comes to the numbers, the results are not encouraging.

There are several ways in which to look at the numbers. Teams who wind up with a bye in the first round of the playoffs yet still rest their players in Week 17 are going to be a different category than those having to play the very next week. Additionally, I even broke down teams who completely rested their quarterback to a degree where they didn’t even play a snap versus those who played their quarterback some, but did not complete the first half. Needing to establish a cut-off point somewhere, any team whose quarterback played up through the final series of the first half was not included as a team who “rested their quarterback for the playoffs.”

For the purpose of the study, I went back 15 seasons. It seemed like a good round number, and it encompassed the Steelers Super Bowl run of 2005.

When an NFL team was facing a bye the first week of the playoffs and chose to completely rest thier starting quarterback, those teams have gone on to lose their first playoff game four out of the six times it occurred since 2005. Of the two victories, they were both achieved by the New Orleans Saints, once in 2018 and a previously in 2009 when they went on to win the Super Bowl. The year the Saints won in the playoffs in 2018 after resting their quarterback Week 17 was sandwiched between two different losses— the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers who lost in the divisional round after resting Ben Roethlisberger in Week 17, and the 2019 Baltimore Ravens who got bounced immediately from the postseason by the Tennessee Titans after resting Lamar Jackson to end the regular season.

As for teams who rest their quarterback for more than half of the game but did at least have him play, those teams went 3-5 in their first game of the playoffs. Even though there were more losses than wins coming from playoff teams hosting a game after a bye, two of those three winning teams went on to win the Super Bowl in the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers.

One game which was not included in these latest set of numbers was the 2015 Denver Broncos who saw Peyton Manning come off the bench in Week 17 after returning from injury and then take over the team for their playoff run which concluded with a Super Bowl victory. Being such a special circumstance, this example needed to fit into its own category.

So between either completely resting the team’s starting quarterback, or playing him minimally in the final week of the season, those teams have a combined record of 5-9 in their first playoff game after getting a first-round bye.

But what about teams who play on Wild Card Weekend? Is it better to rest their quarterback for Week 17 in these situations?

The simple answer is better than those teams who had a bye, but not much better.

Of the teams who completely rested their quarterback in Week 17 to turn around and play the following week in the playoffs, they have a record of 5-9 over the last 15 years. As for teams who rested their quarterback for more than a half but still had them play, they ended up being the most successful with an even chance of winning the first playoff game at 5-5.

For teams who played in Wildcard Weekend but fully rested their quarterback the week before, none went on to win the Super Bowl. As for those who gave their quarterback a limited number of series, the only team to go on and win the Super Bowl was the 2012 Baltimore Ravens.

One interesting item of note is a team which only appeared once on the list over the last 15 years— the New England Patriots. Even when things are locked up for “that team up north,” they still continue to play Tom Brady the final week of the season at least through halftime with the exception of the 2005 season.

Other interesting factoids which arose during this research was 2014 is the only year in the last 15 seasons where a quarterback was not significantly rested in Week 17 heading into the playoffs. Surprisingly, 10 of the 15 years had teams resting a quarterback even though they had a bye the next week with half of those having multiple teams. Additionally, the two years in which the most teams rested their quarterback— 2007 and 2005 which each had five teams— none of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl in those years with seven of them losing their first game.

When looking specifically at our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, they fit into a variety of categories. In 2017 the Steelers rested Ben Roethlisberger the final week of the season and ended up losing coming off the bye. In 2016, the Steelers also rested Roethlisberger the final week of the season yet won their first playoff contest on their way to the AFC championship game. In 2008, the Steelers partially rested Ben Roethlisberger before their playoff bye and the Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl. But in the previous season, the Steelers rested Roethlisberger fully in Week 17 only to fall to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the opening round of the playoffs. So for the Steelers, the results have been all over the board.

In summary, regardless of where a team placed going into the postseason, if they rested their quarterback in Week 17 they only went on to win the Super Bowl 1 in 20 times. As for teams resting their quarterback for more than a half, they went on to win the Super Bowl 3 out of the 18 opportunities.

Obviously, there are other factors involved as to whether or not a team should rest their quarterback and the risk/reward associated with it. Sometimes it could be a team who has the opportunity because things are already wrapped up but changing things ultimately kills their momentum. On the flipside, teams who struggle and fight both to make the playoffs or for their best possible position, they can continue their fighting mentality into the postseason.

Exactly why these are the results are up for debate. But when it comes to the numbers, an NFL team resting their quarterback the final week of the season for a half or more has not led to an immediate playoff victory the majority of the time.

The Steelers having to conduct training camp on the South Side is sad, but smart

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/05/2020 - 7:45am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. for the Steelers this year? It’s sad, but it’s smart.

In times like these, indeed.

In a decision that really wasn’t much of a surprise, it was reported on Tuesday all 32 NFL teams must conduct their 2020 training camps at their home facilities this summer.

The move is another in a long line of safety measures taken by the NFL as a means to control the spread of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic which still has the sports world in an Andre the Giant-style bear hug.

For the Steelers, one of 10 NFL teams who like to have their training camps at off-site locations, this means they will not be traveling to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. for the first time since 1966. Instead, they’ll be conducting training camp at the same place they conduct rookie camp, OTAs, mini-camp and their in-season practices— their South Side facility.

It sucks, but I got it right away before even hearing the why. After all, as a person who has been trained in the many complex ways to navigate through various Giant Eagle locations for the past few months— “You can’t go that way, sir”— I realize the NFL is just trying to limit and control where and how far people travel.

And when I say people, I’m referring to NFL personnel, only. I don’t know about you, but well before the NFL made things official there was no way I could envision the league or the team wanting to deal with the logistical nightmare of trying to control where Steelers fans went as they walked around the massive training camp complex at Saint Vincent College—not a great recipe for practicing safe social distancing—and how many of them would have been allowed to go there in the first place.

Why even mess with it this year? It’s just not worth the extra work, nor is it worth the potential harm which could befall fans, coaches, and even the players.

In keeping training camp at the South Side facility, a place I assume has already been fortified for COVID-19, it’s much easier to control who comes in, when they come in, and how many come in.

Will fans be allowed to attend and watch? This is just a guess, but heck no, and that’s as it should be. The NFL and its teams have to do all that they can to make sure they get to play football this year. And for a league that’s still holding out hope for full stadiums this September, there’s no point in risking the over nostalgia, over tradition.

Speaking of tradition, the Steelers are all about that and that’s why it’s no surprise that they have already made it quite clear they’re going to be back at St. Vincent College for 2021’s training camp. The organization knows how important the site is to so many Steelers fans, many of whom travel from all parts of the world just to see them practice each summer. More importantly, the Steelers realize how much of an economic boom it is for the city of Latrobe.

There has been talk for years of the Steelers possibly breaking the tradition and holding their training camps on the South Side. This talk has never come from the organization, of course, and it’s probably because there’s simply no point in permanently breaking from tradition.

Why would the Steelers even consider it? Latrobe is only an hour away from Pittsburgh, and once you’re there, you’re there until training camp breaks just a few weeks later.

Steelers training camp will indeed be back at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. next season and many seasons after that. As for this year, in a time like this, keeping things closer to home is necessary— the less everyone travels the better. It’s a sacrifice, sure, but everyone is making them.

Things will hopefully be back to normal for the Steelers next year. They, like the rest of us, just have to get through this year, first.

Steelers RB James Conner takes his motto "Conner Strong" very seriously

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/05/2020 - 6:30am

Based on the images flooding social media, the term "Conner Strong" is as relevant as ever this off season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are presently blessed with numerous talented players that are both young and hungry. Hungry for success on the field, and everything which accompanies it. Success equates recognition, and along with it, financial rewards. Money can be a great motivator.

If you want to see what that type of motivation looks like, look no further than Steelers RB James Conner. Pictures of a jacked up Conner are posted all around social media. It is truly an impressive transformation from the former Pittsburgh Panthers standout. He looks quite different than when he entered the NFL.

Conner has always been a determined athlete; displaying discipline, focus, and an ever present work ethic. He has overcome every obstacle standing in his way, even cancer, to make his NFL dreams a reality, but something seems to have amplified his resolve to an even greater level lately. I believe the answer to be two-fold.

The desire to prove the naysayers wrong would be one. Those individuals, to which I admittedly am guilty, who love him as a player and person but doubt his ability to stay health and productive on the field.

Conner's troubling history of nagging injuries has had nothing to do with a lack of conditioning or desire. If anything, the opposite is true. Conner runs like a man possessed. He is a hard-nosed, determined back committed to running through contact for the extra yard. He willingly sacrifices his well-being for the betterment of the team.

Last season Conner was beset with hurdles and obstacles right from the start of the season. After Big Ben was lost to injury, the passing game suffered greatly. Without the benefit of the fear factor associated with the big play vertical game, Conner and his fellow running backs were consistently facing stacked boxes. Talk about running into a brick wall. Conner tried to persevere, run a little harder even, and give it his all. This only lead to the inevitable aches and pains. Conner displayed the necessary toughness to play through the pain, but his performance suffered.

Conner has never needed extra coaching or incentive to play or work harder. He already possesses that personal work ethic. Driven players like Conner are always looking for an edge— the proverbial chip on their shoulder if you will. Conner is utilizing the doubters as fuel for the fire.

The second factor fueling Conner's drive to be in supreme condition is the desire for financial and professional stability. Be careful to not confuse the drive for financial well-being with greed. This is a young man who has worked hard for every penny he has earned. He loves the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh. It's his home, and he doesn't plan on going anywhere.

You can tell when a player loves putting on the Steelers uniform— when it is so much more than just a means to an end, more than just their job. This type of passion and commitment to give the team everything you’ve got every time you step on the field is impossible to hide and ignore.

Whether we like it or not, the fact is the NFL is big business and tough decisions will have to be made concerning the length of Conner's career and legacy in Pittsburgh. Conner's admirable conditioning work this offseason displays his willingness to do everything in his power to help make any decisions concerning his future employment with the Pittsburgh Steelers that much easier to make.

Hopefully Conner has a productive and healthy season this year, with more to come. If not, even if the injury bug bites again and things don’t work out exactly as planned, it definitely won't be from a lack of effort. You can count on that.

Steelers Podcast: Will holding training camp in Pittsburgh hurt the 2020 Steelers?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/05/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “The Steelers Preview” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was in Steeler Nation.

For fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers there is a huge honor and a genuine sense of pride in the fact that their team has conducted training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe since 1966. There were so many great moments over the course of the last 54 years spent there. With Covid-19 forcing NFL teams to have training camp at their respective facilities, will it be a disadvantage for the Steelers not to be at Latrobe? Join Dave Schofield and Bryan Anthony Davis as they welcome Michael Beck to the show and discuss this timely topic and more. Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC podcast The Steelers Preview. On this show Dave, Michael and BAD break down all things Steelers.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Will holding training camp in Pittsburgh hurt the 2020 Steelers?
  • Previewing 2020 draft pick Kevin Dotson
  • Steelers Trivia
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Players discuss adjusting to virtual OTAs

Behind the Steel Curtain - Fri, 06/05/2020 - 4:30am
Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at how several Steelers’ players are handling the virtual format of team meetings.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Steelers’ players are still connecting even though they aren’t on the field

A virtual learning curve

By: Teresa Varley, Steelers.com

Technology has come a long way, but never did Steelers’ players think technology would come so far that their offseason would be a virtual one.

While it obviously wasn’t by choice, it was the only way to go once the COVID-19 pandemic hit and kept players away from team facilities for workouts.

On a regular basis, players and coaches have meet this offseason via zoom, an app many players didn’t even know existed before March.

“It’s a cool experience,” said Steven Nelson. “I am glad to be a part of it. It was a smooth transition. The coaches gave us information. The players gave feedback. It’s a combination of information. A lot of it is critiquing last season and helping guys understand how to correct themselves on their own. It’s not challenging at all. It’s like taking online classes.”

Football players are very accustomed to routines, though. This is the time of year that they were normally in town for organized team activities (OTAs). Doing it from home isn’t routine at all. But they make it work because the coaches bring as much normalcy to it as possible, keeping the meeting schedule the same as it is when the players are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Like many NFL teams, the Steelers have depth issues at multiple positions

Steelers’ lack of depth no shallow concern

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

There are certainties in life. Death, taxes and injuries throughout an NFL season.

Every season as pundits discuss and debate the outcomes of a 16 game season, injuries are always discussed. Why? Because they always happen.

The 2019 Steelers know all about the injury bug running rampant through their roster, and crippling their chances at a postseason berth. The obvious injury, and most important, was the season-ending elbow injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger’s injury in Week 2 vs. the Seahawks put the offense in a downward spiral they would never recover from. Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges both tried, but neither succeeded when it mattered most.

But that wasn’t the extent of the Steelers’ injury woes last season:

JuJu Smith-Schuster: 4 games missed
James Conner: 6 games missed
Roosevelt Nix: 13 games missed
Benny Snell: 3 games missed
Jaylen Samuels: 2 games missed
Vance McDonald: 2 games missed
Mason Rudolph: 6 games missed
Vince Williams: 2 games missed
Stephon Tuitt: 10 games missed

These aren’t all the injuries sustained last year, but, as you can see, the Steelers lost some key players for an extended period of time on both sides of the football. While every team in the league suffers injuries, not all injuries are created equal. The loss of Roethlisberger, Conner and Smith-Schuster were crippling to the Steelers’ offense.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Missing out on training camp in Latrobe isn’t a concern for Steven Nelson

Steelers’ Steven Nelson: Moving camp to South Side ‘won’t have a great big effect’

By:Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

For the first time since before most of the parents of most of the current players were born, the Pittsburgh Steelers will not be headed to Saint Vincent College next month for training camp.

By directive of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell out of concerns relating to the coronavirus pandemic, all teams are to hold training camps at their on-site facilities. While roughly two-thirds of the league does that anyway, this will mark a significant change in preseason routine for the Steelers. They have been training at Saint Vincent since 1966.

Veteran cornerback Steven Nelson, though, isn’t concerned that will impact the Steelers’ preparations for the season.

“I don’t think it’s going to have a great big effect on us,” Nelson said Thursday in a video conference call with media. “Coach (Mike) Tomlin runs a pretty tight ship, and it’s all about getting prepared and ready for battle. We’re are all professionals, so we can handle it.”

Tomlin is enamored with running his camp out of the Saint Vincent campus in Unity Township. He annually gushes about its benefits in terms of team-building and avoiding distractions.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

The Steelers have made some questionable moves at the quarterback position

The personnel in the Steelers’ secondary have been pieced together nicely

Looking at the tight ends available in the 2021 draft

The Steelers coach staff can return to the building on Friday

The best Steelers’ draft choices in picks 21 through 32

  • Social Media Madness

Steve Nelson on his relationship with @joehaden23: Joe's my guy. We're like Batman and Robin. Ever since i got to Pittsburgh, he's been a very genuine guy on and off the field. We bounce off each other and we're both competitive guys and feed off each other on the field.

— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) June 4, 2020

Ju Ju with James Conners Book! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/GxY8vKNw2a

— BlitzburghVideos (@BlitzVideos) June 4, 2020

The biggest mistakes the Steelers ever made at quarterback

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/04/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images

Although having featured two of the greatest QB’s in NFL history, the Steelers have had more misses than hits at the games premier position

The Steelers have featured two of the greatest franchise quarterbacks in NFL history, which is two more than almost any other NFL team has ever rostered. But what if I told you the Steelers passing record books could have been written by a lot more QB’s than just Ben Roethlisberger and Terry Bradshaw? Well you better believe it as the Steelers have let go, and passed on a ton of quality quarterbacks throughout history. Let's take a look at the biggest mistakes the organization has ever made at the position.

Dan Marino Snubbed in the 1983 draft Photo by Sylvia Allen/Getty Images

This is undoubtedly the biggest mistake the Steelers EVER made in the NFL Draft. The only reasoning for the Steelers to decide against drafting Marino was because they took Mark Malone in the first round 2 years prior. But it was really no excuse, Malone struggled mightily in relief of Terry Bradshaw and had showed no sign of becoming a great quarterback, which he never did.

Dan Marino is a Pittsburgh native, attended high school at Central Catholic, and went to the university of Pittsburgh. The Steelers had no excuse when it came to scouting the QB. Marino would go on to finish his illustrious career leading the NFL in:
Passing yards
Touchdowns
Most attempts
Most competitions among so many other records.

A list of Marino’s achievements include:
Pro Bowl
3× First-team All-Pro
5× Second-team All-Pro
NFL Most Valuable Player (1984)
NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1984)
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (1998)
NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1994)

The most important thing missing from Marino’s career is a Super Bowl championship. But if the Steelers never screwed this selection up, that probably wouldn't be the case. In fact the Steelers Super Bowl trophy case would probably sitting around 10 titles. If you think that's a stretch, just remember how close those early-to-mid 90’s teams were to winning the big one. The only thing they lacked was a quarterback.

If presented the opportunity again, the Steelers would obviously re-do this all-time gaff. God, please don't let the Steelers make the same mistake again when Big Ben hangs them up.

*I tried to avoided other draft snubs because it’s impossible to say a team should’ve taken a player that ended up going 20 selections after the Steelers were on the clock. I will give you a brief list of QB’s the Steelers decided against drafting, during times they needed a quarterback:

Brett Favre, selected 18 picks after the Steelers in 1991
Drew Brees, selected 13 picks after the Steelers in 2001
Ken O’Brien, selected 3 picks after the Steelers in 1983

Johnny Unitas Released in 1955

Another Pittsburgh native, except this time he was even on the roster! Dan Rooney, himself wrote in his 2008 autobiography that then head coach, Walt Keisling thought Unitas was “not smart enough to quarterback an NFL team.” What a mistake that turned out to be as Unitas would go on to achieve:

Super Bowl champion (V)
3× NFL champion (1958, 1959, 1968)
10× Pro Bowl (1957–1964, 1966, 1967)
5× First-team All-Pro (1958, 1959, 1964, 1965, 1967)
3× Second-team All-Pro (1957, 1960, 1963)
3× AP NFL Most Valuable Player (1959, 1964, 1967)
NFL Man of the Year (1970)
4× NFL passing yards leader (1957, 1959, 1960, 1963)
4× NFL passing touchdowns leader (1957–1960)

Keisling’s decision to cut Unitas is made worse by the fact Keisling went with Ted Marchibroda as his starting quarterback, whom would leave the club a year later.

Makes you wonder if he really wasn't “smart enough” for their job...

Len Dawson Traded in 1959 Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The Steelers quickly recognized the mistake they had made with Unitas and would turn to the NFL Draft in 1957 in hopes to finally end their quarterback curse. Unfortunately, they never truly realized what they drafted in Dawson. Instead of giving Dawson a glimmer of a chance to play, they pulled off a trade for for future Hall of Fame QB Bobby Layne in the twilight of his career. Layne would go on to make the Pro Bowl in his first two years in Pittsburgh, but his star would quickly flame out.

Dawson on the other hand would be traded to Cleveland in 1959, after a tough pair of seasons with the Browns where he just couldn't pass Milt Plum on the depth chart, Dawson would be released. But a trip to the AFL shot Dawson’s career to the stratosphere and ultimately the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Some of Dawson’s achievements include:
Super Bowl IV champion & MVP
Pro Bowl (1971)
NFL Man of the Year (1973)
3× AFL champion (1962, 1966, 1969)
6× AFL All-Star (1962, 1964, 1966–1969)
2× First-team All-AFL (1962, 1966)
2× Second-team All-AFL (1964, 1968)
AFL Most Valuable Player (1962)

The Release of Dawson should be a lesson to every GM. Never give up on high potential for an aging star.

Earl Morrall Snubbed in 1956 & Traded in 1959

Somehow the Steelers didn't mess this up once, but they did it twice within 4 years. The Steelers held the 1st pick in the 1956 NFL Draft and selected Saftey Gary Glick (Fun fact, Glick is the only DB to be drafted 1st overall in NFL history), with the 2nd overall pick the San Fransisco 49ers took Earl Morrall. Glick, would only play 4 seasons in Pittsburgh, while the Steelers would have to trade linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks to acquire the player they should have taken from the beginning in Morrall.

A year and some change later the Steelers would deal Morrall straight up for Bobby Layne. Just check out what Morrall accomplished over the next 18 seasons (Layne would only play 5 more years)

Morrall:
3× Super Bowl champion (V, VII, VIII)
NFL champion (1968)
2× Pro Bowl (1957, 1968)
2× First-team All-Pro (1968, 1972)
NFL Most Valuable Player (1968)

Now I ask, what do you think? Which miss was the biggest mistake? Did I miss any players? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Chris Boswell

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/04/2020 - 12:30pm
Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

We are on to part 11 of out 90-part series— assuming the roster does not change before we are complete— which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Lets check in on the wizard of Boz and if he can play more like 2019 Boz and not 2018 Boz:

Chris Boswell

Position: K
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 185 lbs
College: Rice
Draft: UDFA in 2015

2019 stats

31 FG attempted
29 FG Made
93.5 Kicking percentage
28/28 on Extra points
51 Yard long
72 Kick offs
31 Touchbacks

Contract remaining

Expires in 2022

$2,589,333 salary cap number (1.33% of total cap)
$1,683,333 dead money
$915,000 cap savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Lock. Chris Boswell bounced back from a rough 2018 season and regained an above average kicking form in 2019. He’s also the only kicker on the roster. So unless something drastic changes, he’s not going anywhere.

2020 projection

I would expect Boswell to pick up where he left off a year ago. Whatever was effecting his confidence— either injury or mental— in 2018 appears to be gone, and he could be in contention to return to the Pro Bowl in 2020. Steelers fans should have no worries about the kicking game heading into this season.

Projected stats:

35 FG attempted
32 FG Made
91.4 Kicking percentage
34/35 on Extra points
54 Yard long

Summary

There were some series questions about Chris Boswell heading into the 2019 season, he has completely rewrote the script moving into 2020. If Boz can replicate what he did a year ago, the Steelers won't have to worry about its kicker for years to come.

A better offense also means the kicker will have more opportunities to score points. So anticipate even better stats for the Texas native.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders

NFL Coaching Staffs now clear to return to team facilities

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/04/2020 - 11:00am
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NFL increases access to team facilities, raises limit of employees in buildings.

The progression towards starting the NFL season continues with the latest statement from the NFL:

Memo sent by NFL to teams this morning says, in part: "This will advise that, beginning tomorrow, June 5, coaching staffs may be among the employees returning to your facility."

— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) June 4, 2020

Teams have been allowed to have employees in their facilities, but were not allowed to have coaches among them. This will change tomorrow, June 5th, when coaches will be allowed to return to work in the facilities.

This is a big step in the process to getting players in and training camp started. If you are wondering about the logistics of the process, here is a relevant section from the memo:

Members of the coaching staff will count toward the maximum number of permissible club employees in the facility. Beginning tomorrow, clubs may increase the number of employees in the facility to a total of 100 subject again to state and local regulations and implementation of the protocols developed under the leadership of Dr. Sills.

This move is part of Phase 2 of the NFL plan to re-open, if things go well with this stage Phase 3 will see the players return and the beginning of training camp, to be held at the team facility as earlier reported.

Mike Tomlin will now be able to get his coaches together in person, welcoming quarterbacks coach Matt Canada and wide receiver coach Ike Hilliard to their first Steelers training camp in their current roles. As Steelers fans look forward to the return of Ben Roethlisberger to the Pittsburgh offense, it’s nice to think the coaches will finally be together in person, drawing up the blueprint for what we hope will be a Super Bowl season.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for all breaking news as the NFL season comes closer to starting.

A way-too-early look at the 2021 NFL Draft: Tight Ends

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/04/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Which towering pass-catchers could be donning the black and gold next year? Let’s look at the top tight ends Steelers fans should be watching this college football season.

From the second the 2020 draft came to a close, speculation had already started up for the 2021 class.

So, in that spirit, here we are with an article series highlighting prospects who look to be this upcoming draft’s biggest stars.

And the season hasn’t even started yet.

Admittedly, “way too early” draft predictions are exactly what they’re titled: Way too early— and as a result, are very rarely, or perhaps never, accurate at all.

In this draft primer series, we won’t be mocking players to any teams, but rather looking at the top players at each position who could get drafted by the Steelers with their first few picks in 2021. Prospects such as Trevor Lawrence, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Fields, and Penei Sewell, who are all expected to be gone long before the Steelers are projected to pick in the first round, will not be included.

The goal? Not to make any “hot take” predictions, but rather to look at some players who Steelers fans might want to watch a little closer than usual this college season.

Fourth in this series will be a position that takes a while to adapt at the NFL level, but has been a pivotal part of many successful teams: tight ends. They are ranked in no particular order.

Pat Freiermuth, TE #87, Penn State

2019 stats: 43 receptions, 507 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 6’5”, 256 lbs.

Any tight end with the nickname “Baby Gronk” deserves the top spot on this list of prospects.

Freiermuth offers everything you could want in an NFL tight end, with strong hands, great size, blocking ability, athleticism, and more. Not being just a pure blocker or pass-catcher makes Freirmuth a diverse weapon who could fit in any offense.

Freiermuth still has some room to bulk up in his 6’5” frame, but his size and strength are far from being any type of concern. In fact, he’s an excellent red zone threat and one of the best blocking tight ends in this year’s class.

If Freiermuth can continue to bump up his production this season, there’s a good chance he’ll be the top tight end off the board in 2021.

Some notable articles about Pat Freiermuth:

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth a top option for 2021 - Pro Football Network

Pat Freiermuth Draft Profile - The Draft Network

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth brings elite skills to new offense, and he expects to shine in 2020 - The Tribune Review

Pat Freiermuth could cash in on weak TE class - NFL Mocks

Brevin Jordan, TE #9, Miami

2019 stats: 35 receptions, 495 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 6’3”, 245 lbs.

Brevin Jordan was underused in Miami’s offense last year, but still managed to shine as one of the top tight ends in the nation in 2019.

Jordan is extremely athletic, and is a huge threat going down the seam thanks to his speed and hands. He’s a excellent “move” tight end who is a mismatch versus defensive backs and linebackers, but he’s also a solid blocker.

Jordan is great in contested catch situations, and more touchdowns this year should solidify him as a red zone threat. A late season injury hurt his stock at winning the Mackey Award last year as the nation’s top tight end, and definitely affected his production as well.

Jordan is the complete package as a modern-day tight end, but there’s always room to improve, especially when it comes to his production and blocking.

Miami has a proud tradition of pumping out NFL tight ends, and Jordan should be no different. An expanded role in his team’s offense in 2020 will continue to up his draft stock, which looks to be within the first round already.

Some notable articles about Brevin Jordan:

2021 NFL Draft: The unlimited potential of Miami tight end Brevin Jordan - Pro Football Network

Brevin Jordan Will Be Key Part In Rhett Lashlee’s Offense - State of the U

Brevin Jordan willing to do what it takes to help Miami football win - Canes Warning

Kyle Pitts, TE #84, Florida

2019 stats: 54 receptions, 649 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 6’6”, 239 lbs.

Pitts is a wide receiver trapped in a tight end’s body.

He’s a massive, 6’6” target with speed and athleticism— the ultimate matchup nightmare. Paired with quarterback Kyle Trask, a top-10 quarterback in this year’s draft class, Pitts was very productive last year and looks to improve upon those numbers in 2020.

Pitts is a decent blocker already, although he’ll definitely need to improve in that area to succeed at the NFL level. He apparently bulked up to 246 lbs this offseason, which should help him that area a lot. He looks to be used more in the slot than as an in-line tight end, but six-and-a-half feet and 245-plus pounds might be too much blocking potential to pass up.

As Florida’s top returning offensive weapon, Pitts should break out in an even bigger way in 2020, putting himself in the first round conversation if he wasn't already. His connection with Kyle Trask is special, and should only improve this season.

Some notable articles about Kyle Pitts:

Gators TE Kyle Pitts bigger and stronger in 2020 - Gators Territory

Gators’ TE Kyle Pitts Ranks Top 25 in Mel Kiper’s 2021 ‘Big Board’ - AllGators

Kyle Pitts is a problem for defenses - Alligator.Org

Jalen Wydermyer, TE #85, Texas A&M

2019 stats: 32 receptions, 447 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns.

Height/Weight: 6’5”, 250 lbs.

Wydermyer broke onto the scene as a freshman last year. As a draft-eligible candidate, his sophomore season may be more pivotal than most.

The speed and size of Wydermyer allowed him to quickly adapt into Texas A&M’s college offense. After a slow start, injuries to those ahead of him thrust Wydermyer into a starting role and he didn't look back. With solid hands and his aforementioned size, Wydermyer produced six touchdowns last year and looks to up that number next year. He’s a big-play waiting to happen, as well.

Wydermyer is slowly becoming a better blocker. The college game has been producing less and less true blockers at the tight end position, as spread offenses prefer the oversized receiver-type tight ends than true in-line blockers. If Wydermyer can improve in this area, his draft stock should continue to rise.

There’s every reason to expect Wydermyer to continue to improve this year, especially with his talented quarterback, Kellen Mond, returning to school with him. He’s a sleeper first-rounder who can solidify his stock with another good season.

Some notable articles about Jalen Wydermyer:

Learning fast: Texas A&M TE Jalen Wydermyer becoming key piece to Aggies’ offense as true freshman - Dallas Morning News

Jalen Wydermyer: The X-Factor in Disguise - AllAggies

Some other names to look out for this season include BYU’s Matt Bushman, Louisville’s Kemari Averett, Ohio State’s Luke Farrell, Kansas State’s Nick Lenners, Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, and Alabama’s Major Tennison.

Should the Steelers draft a tight end in 2021?

It’s definitely a better class at that position than it was last year where only two tight ends were taken in the top 100 players. In fact, all four players mentioned in this article have a chance at being first round picks.

The Steelers’ current two starters at the position, Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald, are both injury-prone, dynamic-when-healthy veterans, neither of whom have a guaranteed future with the team.

If the Steelers want to go younger and cheaper at the position next year, tight end could very well be one of their first few picks. A reliable, security-blanket tight end would be a valuable asset to Ben Roethlisberger as he nears the end of his career, as well as a huge help to whichever young signal-caller is tasked with replacing the future Hall-of-Famer.

As always, it’s impossible to make a reasonable draft projection with an entire season to be played between now and the 2021 NFL Draft. However, tight end is certainly a possibility and would add another dynamic option to a talented Steelers offense.

Film Room: The Evolution of the 2019 Steelers secondary, Part 2: Solving the personnel puzzle

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/04/2020 - 7:45am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Finding the best fits for the talent in the Steelers secondary

In Part 1 of this film room series we looked at the first three games of the 2019 season, focusing on the three different free safeties the Steelers started. Starting in Week 4, the Steelers had the players who would come together to form one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

But with so many changes in a short span of time, Keith Butler, Teryl Austin and Tom Bradley needed to quickly find the best roles for each of their players. They needed to find a way to combine their strengths and weaknesses into a cohesive unit.

The Cornerbacks

The Steelers had a deep group of corners, with Joe Haden and Steven Nelson outside, Mike Hilton in the slot and Cameron Sutton as the dime back. Each of them have different strengths.

Week 4, 2nd quarter 9:12. Steven Nelson is the CB to the top of the screen.

Steven Nelson didn’t give up many receptions or yards in 2019. He did have weaknesses though, and one was sharp cuts. Nelson didn’t get beat deep, but he gave up ground on cuts as his burst to the ball wasn’t a strength. Like on this play, he was most frequently playing with outside leverage, taking away outside and deep routes while being vulnerable to in-cuts that would run receivers into the heart of the defense.

Note 1: Look at the WR in motion before the snap. By Week 4 the Steelers were starting to switch man assignments. Hilton switches to the RB and tackles him right off the play action, while Mark Barron picks up the motion receiver at the bottom of the screen.

Note 2: Minkah Fitzpatrick is moving up on this play, and ends up in front of the receiver and unable to impact the throw. Edmunds is the safety who makes the tackle.

Week 4, 4th quarter, 4:00. Mike Hilton is the slot receiver to the bottom of the screen.

Mike Hilton is at his best squared to the play, eyes on the QB and breaking aggressively on the ball. He doesn’t have great speed, but he has great short-range quickness. This shows up here with a pass breakup. Having safeties behind him who could take care of receivers that got past him allowed him to play to those strengths. If you look at the top of the screen you can see Joe Haden also playing under his WR, while to the bottom of the screen Steven Nelson is playing farther off, taking away anything deep.

Week 5, 2nd quarter, 0:36. Joe Haden is the CB to the top of the screen, Mike HIlton is in the slot to the top, while Steven Nelson is to the bottom of the screen.

You see it again on this play— Haden and Hilton are both playing the short routes aggressively, while Steven Nelson is keeping his receiver in front of him. Hilton and Haden’s aggressive play pays off on this play with a sack on Lamar Jackson.

Cameron Sutton is good at mirroring receivers, and is behind only Steven Nelson in deep coverage ability. He’s not a good run defender, and the Steelers almost never ask him to take on those roles which is a big reason he isn’t the nickel back.

One of the best ways to show the difference between Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton in deep coverage is the last two plays the Chargers offense had in Week 6.

Mike Hilton is the second DB from the top.

Hilton doesn’t have much of a backpedal, often he turns and runs like this right off the bat and you can see him struggle to read and adjust to the deep ball.

Cameron Sutton is the CB to the bottom of the screen.

Sutton took over for Joe Haden when he left the game, and in a game where the Chargers were throwing the ball to try and make a comeback he acquitted himself very well. You can see his backpedal, a fluid turn, quick read on the ball and a smooth adjustment for the game sealing interception.

I don’t have film of Cameron Sutton in run support from 2019, the Steelers learned that lesson well before these games.

Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds

Minkah Fitzpatrick’s first game in black and gold established he wasn’t a player the Steelers wanted to blitz, but there was still a lot left to learn. Finding the best way to use their new safety pairing was the biggest part of the puzzle.

Week 4, 4th quarter, 5:11. Terrell Edmunds is the safety to the bottom of the screen, Minkah Fitzpatrick is deep in the middle of the field.

Minkah Fitzpatrick bursts toward the receiver as the QB is throwing the ball, and because of that he beats Edmunds to the receiver, even though Edmunds was only a few yards away when the ball was thrown. This is Minkah’s best trait. He reads the play and reacts to it with incredible quickness. On this play covering 8 yards and making the tackle before Terrell Edmunds can react much at all.

Week 5, 2nd quarter, 6:50. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the safety right next to the hash marks toward the bottom of the screen.

Fitzpatrick reads the play, bursts to the TE and Kam Kelly ends up with an interception. A lot of Minkah Fitzpatrick’s big plays were similar to this one, when he could read the play and attack the ball. Fitzpatrick destroys what looks like a nice gap and what would normally be an easy completion.

Even Minkah Fitzpatrick has weaknesses, and they showed up a good bit in these games.

Week 5, 2nd quarter, 11:26. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the safety in the deep middle.

The Baltimore Ravens passed a lot out of jumbo sets in Week 5, the Steelers countered their heavy sets by pulling Terrell Edmunds off the field and putting all three inside LBs on the field.

Here the Ravens score a TD right where Terrell Edmunds most frequently lined up. But the thing to see here is they scored the TD less than 8 yards away from Minkah Fitzpatrick, and he barely even gets moving toward the play. Minkah Fitzpatrick was deadly reading plays and going toward the line of scrimmage, but he wasn’t as dangerous laterally. The Steelers were a cover-1 heavy defense in weeks 2 and 3, but they would increasingly go away from it after that.

Week 6, 3rd quarter, 2:52. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the deep safety to start the play.

This play shows Fitzpatrick’s ability to read and follow the play fluidly, but it also shows one of the ways teams were avoiding him early in his time with the Steelers. By running a route at him deep, they were able to keep him from attacking the in cutting route. You can see the solution if you look to the top of the screen at Steven Nelson who is deep and nowhere near the in-cut. This is likely a mistake by Fitzpatrick, as Nelson looks like he’s already moving to take over covering the deep route. They had pulled off a similar coverage swap the week before with better result.

Week 5, 4th quarter, 12:26. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the Safety to the top of the screen, right by the hash marks, Steven Nelson is outside him, furthest to the top of the screen.

Here Nelson takes deep responsibility as Fitzpatrick attacks the underneath route. In the play above the Chargers crossed the routes, and it got Minkah Fitzpatrick to follow the wrong receiver.

Setting the secondary up for success

One of the big criticisms of Keith Butler has been that he didn’t put his secondary in position to succeed. While a lot of the problem was the difficulty of finding success with the talent he had, 2019 would show both simple solutions which played to his players strengths along with creativity that had been missing in the Steelers coverage schemes in previous years.

Week 4, 3rd quarter, 10:33. Pay attention to the 3 defenders covering the 3 receivers to the top of the screen.

The Steelers use pattern matching here. The defenders don’t just follow a player, Devin Bush takes the player going inside, while a DB picks up his player heading deep. Using pattern matching allowed the Steelers to keep the defender who was worst at deep coverage from being exploited. If you look at the bottom of the screen you’ll see they are in a much more basic zone. This is a cover-6 defense, with pattern-matching to the open field and a cover-2 style zone to the boundary side of the field.

Week 4, 2nd quarter, 13:24. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the safety to the top of the screen, Terrell Edmunds is the safety to the bottom of the screen.

One of the first alterations the Steelers showed was in their cover-4. Fitzpatrick moves forward and towards the middle at the snap as Edmunds backs up and takes the role as the last line of defense. This kept Fitzpatrick on the first down line, and relieved him of having to make sure no one got past him.

Week 6, 4th quarter, 3:47. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the safety to the bottom of the screen.

Here it really paid off. Notice the similarity in the route combo here to plays we covered earlier, with a deep route running right at Fitzpatrick followed by an in-cut that would have been for a first down. Because he can pass the deep route off to Edmunds in this more diamond shaped cover-4, Fitzpatrick shuts off both routes as Rivers is looking his way, and with time ticking away the Chargers dump the ball off.

But this is just the start of the innovation to the Steelers long yardage defense. Go back to the play above this one and look at the shape the defensive backs end up taking. Two defenders in the middle right at the first down line, 2 defenders short and out to the sides, two defenders deep to either side and one defender even deeper in the middle. The defense would tinker with this look for the rest of the season, and it first really shows up in Week 6 as the defense finds itself desperate to stop the Chargers offense with three of their best coverage players out.

Week 5, 1st quarter, 10:21. watch the deep middle of the defense.

This is the first time we see the slot DB (Kam Kelly on this play) bail and start running deep right before the snap. Notice Mark Barron and Mike Hilton both head outside to cover short zones as the safeties don’t back up but look to play forward. This defense fails because Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kam Kelly are both too deep, and no one is defending the first down line on their side.

Week 6, 4th quarter, 10:00.

Here you see the formation take shape quickly out of a cover-3 look, both LBs drop in the middle, two outside short, two outside deep, Fitzpatrick deep middle. Devin Bush and Vince Williams aren’t equipped to cover that much ground though, and it’s an easy pass over the LBs as Fitzpatrick again shows he’s not the same play maker when he is the last line of defense.

Week 6, 4th quarter, 3:19.

The Steelers do it again, this time borrowing from Tomlin’s Tampa-2 background and dropping Devin Bush deep while the safeties step forward to cover the lion’s share of turf. Devin Bush cannot be your deepest defender, and the CBs dropping deep are in cover-3 alignments, not cover-2 and it leaves the middle wide open for a big gain.

The Steelers would continue to experiment with this idea as the season went on. I’ll cover it more in the rest of this film room as it shows up, because more than just a formation, it is scheming players into positions that makes them the most effective, and it shows the coaches awareness of those strengths and weaknesses as well as innovation in how they maximize those talents.

K. T. Smith covered this concept in his film room earlier this week, and he does a great job breaking down the strategy and disguise aspects of it.

The takeaway

The Steelers defense was taking off at this point of the season and would continue as they utilized the talents in the secondary better. Pairing Minkah Fitzpatrick and Steven Nelson on the same side of the field was a fantastic fit, with Nelson not letting anything get past him, and freeing up Fitzpatrick to attack the middle of the field. Meanwhile Joe Haden and Terrell Edmunds would play on the other side. Haden aggressively attacked short routes with Edmunds limiting the damage when Haden was burned.

Minkah Fitzpatrick was a phenomenal addition, and a top tier talent. But the reason his addition showed up so incredibly in team stats is because of how well his skill set fit with the rest of the secondary, and the job the coaching staff did at maximizing the combination of those different skill sets. The next group of games would see that pay off, as Minkah Fitzpatrick would record 5 passes defended, 4 interceptions and 2 defensive TDs in the next three games.

The best draft picks by selection in Steelers history: 21-32

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/04/2020 - 6:30am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Part 3: The Pittsburgh Steelers have been one of the greatest drafting teams in NFL history, but who are the best picks by number selected.

In the final part of this series, we will see draft picks from the most successful eras of Steelers football. The Steelers never drafted as high as the 21st Pick until 1973, a full 40 years since the teams inception.

Over the course of 88 seasons, the organization has made 78 first round picks at almost every possible drafting position in the first round. For the final time, let’s break down every overall selection of the first round. Today, we will look at picks 21-32

21st Overall
Lynn Swann 1974, Wide Receiver, Southern California Photo by Fred Roe/Getty Images

The first pick of the legendary 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers draft, Swann would go on to have a hall-of-fame career. Perhaps best known for his electric Super Bowl performances. The most prominent being what he did in Super Bowl 10. He only hauled in 4 receptions, but how he caught those passes was absolutely remarkable. The juggling catch up the seem, hovering over the sideline, and his over the shoulder touchdown grab. If you were to rank the most athletic receptions in Super Bowl history to that point, Swann may have been ranked 1-3 for what he did in this game. He also put up 161 yards and one touchdown on his way to Super Bowl MVP honors. Four Super Bowls, and a career full of highlights later, Swann is the obvious choice for pick 21.

22nd Overall
Bud Dupree 2015, Outside Linebacker, Kentucky Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Dupree broke out in 2019, but a deep dive into his advanced analytics would suggest he’s actually been pretty consistent in pressuring the quarterback. If you combine the improvement of the secondary and Dupree adding the ability to finish plays, you get his statistical explosion. Bud looks primed to be one half of a dominant pass-rushing tandem for many years to come should he and the Steelers come to an agreement on a contract over the next year.

23rd Overall
Louis Lipps 1984, Wide Receiver, Southern Mississippi Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Louis Lipps was one of the best Steelers players in the post-Steel Curtain era. One of only three Steelers players to be named offensive rookie of the year, Lipps was a dominant return man breaking the total punt return yardage record for rookies. Lipps would back the season up with a 1st team All-Pro season as a receiver. He would be a steady force in the unit and would even be named team MVP in 1989.

24th Overall
David DeCastro 2012, Guard, Stanford Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

DeCastro has arguably been the best Guard in football the past 5 seasons. Three consecutive All-Pro seasons from 2015-17 and a Pro Bowler each of the past 5 seasons, Big Dave has been a steady force on the Steelers O-line. Considering the talent which has been featured along the Steelers line, it really means something when I say DeCastro has been the best Steelers O-Lineman since Alan Faneca. Depending on how long the Washington native continues to play in the NFL, I can see him ending his career in Canton, Ohio.

25th Overall
Santonio Holmes 2007, Wide Receiver, Ohio State Photo by Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Super Bowl XLIII savior and MVP, Santonio Holmes put the Steelers offense on his back for the entirety of the 2008 playoffs. From his punt return in the divisional round against the Chargers, to his 65 yard touchdown in the AFC championship game vs Baltimore, Holmes capped off his postseason with one of the most clutch performances in Super Bowl history. Despite only playing 4 seasons in the ‘Burgh, Holmes deserves every bit of being on this list.

26th Overall
Alan Faneca 1998, Guard, Louisiana State Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The best guard of his generation, and arguably the best offensive lineman in Steelers history, Faneca was again snubbed from the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2020 (*If it wasn't for the Steelers having 4 other members in the class, Faneca would've gotten in. Faneca is a lock for the class of 2021). The Guard from LSU was named to all but one All-Pro team every season between 2001 & 2007, and he was elected to the Pro Bowl every year between 2001-2009. The Super Bowl XL champ started 201 regular-season NFL games.

27th Overall
Mark Bruener 1995, Tight End, Washington Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Mark Bruener played 14 seasons in the NFL as a primary run-blocking tight-end. When you think of the position nowadays, being so heavily relied upon in the passing game, is an insane amount of longevity. Bruener hauled in 152 career receptions and 18 touchdowns. Today he is in the Steelers scouting department.

28th Overall
Bennie Cunningham 1976, Tight End, Clemson Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have selected 28th 4 times in history, with each player having similar mid-impact type roles. Other names include: Greg Hawthorne, Mark Malone, and Terrell Edmunds. The ladder of which could ascend to the top of the rankings one day, but I decided to go with the two-time Super Bowl Champ Bennie Cunningham for his role in the latter years of the 70’s dynasty. The most memorable moment in Cunningham’s career was catching a flea flicker in overtime to knock off the Browns in 1978. Bennie would play 10 seasons with the Steelers and would be named to the All-Time team.

29th Overall
Jamain Stephens 1996, Tackle, North Carolina A&T Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have only selected in the 29th slot once in their history. Unfortunately it wasn't a very good pick. Stephens came into the NFL with high potential and great size, even managing to start 10 games in 1998. But he famously showed up to the 1999 training camp so out of shape that he couldn't complete fourteen 40-yard sprints (*Which was a custom of the first day of camp in the Bill Cowher era). Cowher was so disgusted by the performance he cut Stephens hours after.

30th Overall TIE
Heath Miller 2005, Tight End, Virginia T.J. Watt 2017, Outside Linebacker, Wisconsin Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Heath Miller is undoubtedly the greatest tight-end in Steelers history. Ranking first in yards, receptions and touchdowns at his position. Miller was an integral part of the Steelers mid-2000’s championship teams and a beloved player by the fan base. One of the most fun parts about attending a Steelers game between 2005-2015 was any time Miller would catch a pass, and hearing 65,000+ serenade the tight end with chants of ‘HEEEATH’.

Heath Miller put up numbers, won Super Bowls and played the game for 11 seasons. T.J. Watt, who I decided should also be featured, is just getting started. It’s unquestioned that Miller has had the greater career but T.J.’s trajectory is one which deemed him worthy of being mentioned with the tight-end.

With 34.5 sacks, 70 QB hits, 15 forced fumbles, and 3 picks in just THREE seasons, if Watt decides to play just another 5 more years he would likely own every pass rushing record in team history. Just think of the great pass rushers that have come through Pittsburgh. Watt is already on pace to supplant every pass rusher that has come before him.

31st Overall
Cameron Heyward 2011, Defensive End, Ohio State Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

When things are all said and done, when Cam Heyward retires he will be the greatest 3-4 D-end in Steelers history. He just keeps getting better and better with age, and honestly if it wasn’t for Aaron Donald, Cam Heyward might just be the best interior D-lineman the past three years. The defensive captain is the vocal and physical leader of the unit and will go down with some of the all-time great defensive lineman in franchise history.

32nd Overall
Evander ‘Ziggy’ Hood 2009, Defensive End, Missouri Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The Steelers have twice held the 32 pick of the first round but only ever drafted once in the 32nd slot (they traded up for Santonio Holmes in 2006). Ziggy Hood, was a fine rotational/depth player along the Steelers D-Line for a half-decade, never quite living up to the hype of a first round pick, Hood, somewhat surprisingly played a total of 11 seasons in the NFL (failing to make the Saints roster a year ago was likely the last of his time in the league). Hood would have 11.5 sacks as a member of the Steelers and 14 total for his career.

And there’s the list! before I sign you out I wanted to share some interesting tidbits I noticed when researching this article:

-The Steelers shift from the worst team in football for its first 40 years of existence, to being one of the best since is remarkable.

-The lower the Steelers pick, the worse the pick tends to be (With some obvious exceptions)

-The Steelers drafting in every slot but 14 kind of made me chuckle and I’ll think back to writing this if it were to ever happen.

-From 1958 to 1967, the Steelers picked only 4 times in the first round.

-Pre-1955 most players drafted never played much more than a season, mostly because there wasn't any money playing football back then.

-Between 1969-1975 the Steelers first round selections would go on to play in at least one Pro Bowl

-Between 1998 through now the Steelers selected 11 Pro bowl players with their first round pick. Some of the surprising names not/or yet to play in a Pro Bowl include: Devin Bush, Bud Dupree, Santonio Holmes, Kendall Simmons, Plaxico Burress, and who knows maybe one day Terrell Edmunds.

Make sure to check out part 1 (picks 1-10) and part 2 (picks 11-20) if you haven't already!

Who’s your favourite first round pick in Steelers history? Let us know in the comments below!

Podcast: Does having fans at Steelers’ home games impact wins and losses?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/04/2020 - 5:30am

In the latest episode of “The Standard is the Standard” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold from the week that was.

With COVID-19 making a mark on the world, NFL and Pittsburgh Steelers fans may see games played in empty stadiums during the 2020 season. This possibility will alter betting lines. More importantly, it could have an effect on wins and losses. Will no raucous crowds forcing silent counts, furiously waving towels and bellowing out the lyrics to “Renegade” negate the Heinz Field home advantage? As always, the news is still ongoing and you crave black-and-gold flavored news. And it is always a good time to talk everything Steelers.

Take a look at the rundown for the latest episode of the BTSC flagship podcast The Standard is the Standard. On this week’s show, Lance Williams welcomes Bryan Anthony Davis into the mix this week to break down all things Steelers!

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • Does having fans at Steelers’ home games impact wins and losses?
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

Lance and BAD of BTSC walk you through everything you need to know regarding the Black-and-Gold on the flagship show.

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

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

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

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

Black and Gold Links: Art Rooney II disappointed the Steelers will not be in Latrobe for training camp

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 06/04/2020 - 4:30am

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the Steelers having stay in Pittsburgh for training camp this season.

Let’s get to the news:

  • Training camp will not be in Latrobe this season, but the Steelers plan to return in 2021

Art Rooney ‘disappointed’ Steelers won’t go to Saint Vincent for training camp

By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh Steelers president and owner Art Rooney II expressed his disappointment Wednesday that training camp will not be held this year at Saint Vincent in Unity.

The NFL informed teams Tuesday that training camps must be conducted at team practice facilities, which meant a change of plans for the 10 teams that took players to remote locations, including the Steelers.

The change was made out of concern for the coronavirus pandemic. The Steelers will conduct training camp this year at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side, where they train during the regular season.

“We are disappointed for our fans and the city of Latrobe that we will not be able to hold our annual training camp at Saint Vincent College in 2020,” Rooney said in a statement, “but we are adhering to the policies and guidelines set forth from the NFL for teams that travel from their facilities each year. We look forward to returning to training camp at Saint Vincent College in 2021.”

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Looking at the Steelers home opener in 2020

Steelers 2020 Breakdown: Week 2, Broncos

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

The Steelers make their triumphant return to Heinz Field in Week 2 when they host the AFC West Broncos. After traveling to East Rutherford, N.J., in Week 1 to play second-year quarterback Daniel Jones and the Giants, they now have to face second-year quarterback Drew Lock.

Unlike Jones, Lock played in just five games in 2019, but before we get ahead of ourselves, time to take a look back at the history between the two teams.

MATCHUP

Opponent: Broncos
2019 Record: 7-9
Overall History (W/L): 20-11-1 for Broncos
Last 4 Games: 3-1, for Broncos
Opening Line: Steelers (-5)
Date: Sunday, Sept. 20
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Location: Pittsburgh

FREE-AGENT LOSSES

DE Derek Wolfe
CB Chris Harris
DB Will Parks
OL Connor McGovern
LS Casey Kreiter
OG Ron Leary

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • James Conner discusses the recent workout pictures shared on social media

Quarantine workouts have Steelers’ James Conner primed for pivotal season

By: Brooke Pryor, ESPN

When Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner flexed for the camera, the muscles in his back inflated and seemed to pop off his body.

The images took the internet by storm a week ago.

Asked about it on Tuesday, Conner laughed.

“Nah man, it’s just the angle — I ain’t been working out,” he said sarcastically.

“But no, honestly, a lot of people comment on it and say I’m going to be stiff or all this. I’m a professional. I know how to work out. I think it starts with genetics, but I’ve also been putting a lot of work into the weight room. It was the way I flexed it. It was nothing. A lot of people look like that.”

Flex or not, angle or not, few people look like that.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Top 5 Steelers defenders for 2020

The best Steelers draft picks in positions 11 through 20

Acquiring a veteran backup at quarterback is not a good idea for the Steelers

Is Breon Border a candidate for sneaking onto the 53-man roster?

  • Social Media Madness

Statement from #Steelers President Art Rooney II on training camp: https://t.co/LCcTX5zdVg

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 3, 2020

Statement from #Steelers President Art Rooney II & messages from #Steelers players:https://t.co/TJYtWC2iTX

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 3, 2020

Numero Uni: Of the 25 most prolific Steelers jersey numbers of all time, which is ranked 23rd?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/03/2020 - 2:30pm
Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Steelers have had a plethora of great players representing one number over the years. Find out which one is ranked 23rd.

BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. One BTSC author has wondered aloud “what is the most accomplished number in Steelers history?” Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by various players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 32, 52, 59, 36, 63 and 47 as it would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked 23rd. Enjoy.

23) No. 83

Most Notable: Heath Miller 2005-2016, Louis Lipps 1984-1991 (pictured below), Theo Bell 1976-1980, Buddy Dial 1959

Current Wearer: Anthony Johnson

Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

The trio of Heath Miller, Buddy Dial and Louis Lipps are the best to sport the ocho-tres. Miller was the player that defined the tight end position in Pittsburgh. The first rounder in 2005 served as Ben Roethlisberger’s safety valve in the passing game for years. Twice a Pro-Bowler, his 592 career receptions rank him third in franchise history. Heath, who retired prior to the 2016 season, sits at fourth in team history with 6,569 receiving yards.

The alliterative Louis Lipps ranks right behind Miller at fifth in team history with 358 receptions and 6,018 receiving yards. The Steelers’ top draft pick was electric as a rookie alongside John Stallworth and as a return specialist on that memorable 1984 squad. His debut season earned him the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Joe Greene Great Performance Award. Lipps had three return touchdowns included in his 46 career scores, all with Pittsburgh. The 2X Pro Bowl selection and All Pro in ‘84 and ‘85 spent eight seasons with the Steelers, He retired after a final NFL season with the Saints in 1992. Arguably, Louis Lipps was the Steelers’ offensive MVP of the 1980s.

Gilbert Leroy Dial was a second round selection of the New York Giants in 1959, but was waived and picked up by the Steelers. Buddy spent five spectacular seasons in Pittsburgh by setting team records of 229 receptions for 4,723 receiving yards, 42 touchdown receptions, single-season touchdown receptions (12), single-game receiving yards (235), single-season receiving yards (1,295), career yard-per-reception average (21.6) and single-season yards-per-reception (24.3). Dial was traded to the Cowboys in 1965 for No, 1 pick Scott Appleton, but Pittsburgh lost Appleton to Houston of the AFL and basically gave the star away for no return. The two-time Pro Bowler wore No. 83 for one season as a Steeler. before switching to No. 84. But he wore it well.

In 2018, he was inducted into the Steelers Hall of Honor

Check back soon for the 22nd best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. But first, a recap of the countdown so far.

Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24
24) No. 43

Art Rooney II issues statement: Steelers to return to St. Vincent in 2021

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/03/2020 - 12:22pm
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers team president confirms training camp will not be in Latrobe this year.

After reports surfaced yesterday that the NFL had decided to make teams hold their training camps at the team facilities, today, Art Rooney II released an official statement confirming the change in plans and also stating that the Steelers plan to return to St. Vincent college in 2021.

Statement from #Steelers President Art Rooney II on training camp: https://t.co/LCcTX5zdVg

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) June 3, 2020

It is both disappointing and understandable that the NFL would want more control over training camp location and crowds this year, but it is also nice to know the Steelers intend to return to St. Vincent in 2021.

Here is the official statement.

We are disappointed for our fans and the city of Latrobe that we will not be able to hold our annual training camp at Saint Vincent College in 2020, but we are adhering to the policies and guidelines set forth from the NFL for teams that travel from their facilities each year.
We look forward to returning to training camp at Saint Vincent College in 2021.

The relationship between St. Vincent college and the Steelers has been a positive one over the last 54 years. The team stays in the dorms, building team cohesiveness and allowing coaches to create a more focused environment for the players. The Steelers have also left their mark on the college, with the football field now named for Steelers Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll. Training camp in Latrobe has become a staple experience for Steelers fans and the surrounding community as the nation descends upon the town for what has become an annual pilgrimage for the faithful.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for all Steelers related breaking news.

The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Breon Borders

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/03/2020 - 11:00am
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Breaking down every player one-by-one alphabetically on the Steelers current 90-man roster

We have made it to number 10 of our 90 part series— assuming the roster does not change before we are complete— which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a deep dive on journeyman corner:

Breon Borders

Position: CB
Height: 6’ 0”
Weight: 189 lbs
College: Duke
Draft: UDFA in 2017

2019 stats

12 Games
1 Start
1 Fumble recovery
7 tackles
1 QB hit

Contract remaining

Expires in 2020

$750,000 salary cap number (0.34% of total cap)
$0 dead money
$750,000 cap savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Toss up. Much like previously highlight corner, Trajan Bandy, Borders will have a sneaky shot at making the 53-man roster and actually hit the field on Week 1. The Steelers dressed 6 corners on Week 1 a year ago, and with what current projections suggest, there should be an open spot on the depth chart.

Like I mentioned in prior articles, the last slot will be decided in training camp, most likely between Borders and Bandy.

2020 projection

If Borders can win the job I think we could expect him to put somewhat similar numbers that he did a year ago (Minus the start at corner). Borders will make an impact on special teams, and with his experience could plug in for a play or two if injury deems it necessary.

Projected stats:

16 Games played
6 Tackles

Summary

The battle for the final cornerback spot will be a fun little match-up to keep an eye on during training camp. If Borders loses the job he no longer has practice roster eligibility so he’s literally fighting for his NFL career. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact he would bring to the special teams units. Keep an eye on this one folks!

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall

One BTSC writer's Top 5 Steelers defenders list for the 2020 NFL season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 06/03/2020 - 9:30am
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

My attempt to rank the top five Steelers defenders heading into the 2020 season. It wasn't as easy as I thought.

I have been contemplating this point of discussion and distraction as a topic for an article for a couple days now. I originally considered writing about the top three, easily discernible but surprisingly difficult to rank, so I settled on the top five. More to discuss and appreciate.

Let me start by saying, any evaluation will inevitably have an element of personal preference, but I will try to keep that to a minimum, as always. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, obviously.

I placed as much value on stability and reliability as I did splash plays. Splash plays garner the most attention and get your highlights shown on Sportscenter, but reliable consistency is the foundation for sustained excellence.

#1. T.J. Watt:

Although this was the most obvious choice, it wasn't as clear cut as I thought after closer examination. Chasing Watt is a veteran defensive lineman still in his prime, and a young playmaker who has the potential to be the best safety in the NFL.

Watt is the total package, and a legitimate DPOY candidate. He has no discernible weakness and is the perfect blend of spectacular playmaker and well-rounded contributor. He is constantly striving for improvement and focusing on the finer points of playing the position.

Last offseason, he concentrated on hand eye coordination and utilizing it to create turnovers. In his initial two seasons, most of Watt's forced fumbles came on strip sacks. Last year, Watt became particularly proficient at punching out the ball from the ball carrier’s arms, which was a direct result of all the hard work he put into improving that aspect of his game in the past offseason. The sky is the limit moving forward for this hard working superstar.

#2. Cameron Heyward:

The son of a former NFL star renowned for his Ironhead, Cam has turned out to be the perfect fit for the Steel City. Heyward may just be the best overall defensive lineman in the league. He is a power player still in his prime, equally adept at stopping the run and rushing the passer.

If I was as tech savvy as some of my BTSC colleagues, I would attach a clip of Heyward pancaking Quenton Nelson back into the legs of his starting quarterback last year, which almost resulted in a sack. It was only a single play in a game between two of the best in the business. Nobody dominates Nelson, arguably the best offensive lineman in the NFL. Heyward did the unthinkable in the game, winning more than his share of one-on-one battles between the two. The game film does a far better job of describing Heyward's greatness than my adjectives ever could.

Heyward also happens to be the unquestioned leader of the defense and a role model for the Steelers stable of young defensive linemen. His prolonged period of sustained excellence gives him the edge as number two.

#3. Minkah Fitzpatrick:

Fitzpatrick has yet to play a full season in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform, but already has to be considered as a top three lock. His impact on the defense was almost instantaneous. He single handedly lifted his new teammates by reducing the field of play and their responsibilities with his otherworldly instincts and feel for the game.

His unsustainable production waned slightly as the season progressed due to the opposition game planning for his presence by avoiding his section of the field. This is the ultimate sign of respect, on a Deion Sanders, Troy Polamalu, and Ed Reed type of level. Fitzpatrick is a well-rounded football player with impressive versatility. Being something the Steelers are reportedly planning to display fully this season, he is the prototypical free safety.

Given his propensity for splash plays, it wouldn't shock me to see Fitzpatrick right up there with Watt in DPOY consideration and for the number one spot on this list in 2021. Because of his short history in the league and in a Steelers uniform, I felt obligated to limit his rank on this list to where I did.

#4. Bud Dupree:

This is where the rankings got very difficult, if I am being honest. Two players deserved consideration, but I had to go with Dupree because of his lengthy resume as a Steeler. Bud is a unique player, possessing the talents to be as good as he wants to be, limited only by his own desire and willingness to work for excellence. He is an athletic specimen who finally put it all together last season by benefit of proper motivation.

Bud can use both speed and power to rush the passer, and he has always excelled at setting the edge against the run. If Bud continues to grow as an impact player this season, he will almost certainly earn himself a contract which will price him out of the Steelers reach unless a longterm deal can be achieved prior to the start of this season. I am happy for Dupree on his growth as a player, but I can't help but wish deep down it had happened a few seasons earlier.

#5. Steven Nelson:

My decision to select Nelson at this position may surprise a few people, and I totally understand. I realize that many pundits considered Nelson's running mate Joe Haden as one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs last season, but I considered Nelson to be the best cornerback on the roster last season.

Nelson has been an interesting case study, having improved steadily every year he has been in the NFL. Last season he enjoyed the best season, in my opinion, for a Steelers corner since Ike "Hands of Stone" Taylor patrolled the secondary. Ironically, Nelson shares many of the same qualities once displayed by Taylor. Nelson is more solid than spectacular, but he does what he does with consistency incredibly well. He excels in coverage and enjoyed few opportunities for interceptions, because offenses avoided throwing to his responsibility, enjoying little success when they did.

Nelson has turned out to be the best Steelers free agent signee on defense since the aforementioned Haden. I see no reason for the ever-improving Nelson to not continue his upward career trajectory, and wouldn't be surprised to see him enjoy a Pro Bowl level season yet again.

There is my Top 5 Steelers defenders list heading into the 2020 NFL season, ranked to the best of my humble ability. Please share your rankings and thoughts in the comments below. As always, Go Steelers!

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