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Are you still thankful for the Steelers despite their struggles in 2022?

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/24/2022 - 6:30am
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Times are tough for the Steelers in 2022, but that hasn’t stopped them from getting out and giving back to the Pittsburgh community this Thanksgiving season.

“I’ll be a Steelers fan until the day I die.”

I’m not so sure I can agree with the popular refrain of your average diehard Steelers fan. I’m pretty sure I won’t be a fan of much of anything on my last day on this planet—especially if I know it’s coming. But I do appreciate the sentiment.

How about this one: I’ll always be a Steelers fan, win or lose.

That level of fandom is a bit more appealing, even if the rate that the phrase suggests—a .500 record—has been far out of reach for Pittsburgh’s favorite football team in 2022.

Nope, instead, it’s been win, lose, lose, lose, lose, win, lose, lose, win, lose through 10 games.

That’s right, the Steelers are 3-7 and about as far away from playoff contention as they’ve been at this point of the regular season in almost a decade.

Are they still your team? Are you still invested? Do you still scan social media for the latest Steelers news? Do you still listen to talk radio and podcasts about your Steelers? Do you still have black-and-gold-themed parties every Sunday (or the occasional Monday night)? Do you still invite friends and/or family over to watch the game, and do they do the same in kind?

Do you still actually watch Steelers contests in spite of their insistence on only scoring 30 points in a game once a year?

That last part has been a bit harder for me this year (and last), but I’m still in the fight. I refuse to stop caring about the Steelers, even if they don’t care about winning. Actually, they do care about winning, but they’re just not very good at it these days.

Despite their transgressions on the field, I realized something this Thanksgiving season: The Steelers are still pretty awesome off the field, as evidenced by their willingness to get out in the community and give back in the form of serving families in need. If you click on the link provided which takes you straight to the Steelers' official website, you’ll see that Cam Heyward did his part. T.J. Watt. Chris Wormley. Heck, even Steelers players I failed to recognize without their names on the backs of their black-and-gold jerseys were out there serving the community.

In addition to the Steelers, members of the Pirates and Penguins joined in to help the Pittsburgh community and give back for Thanksgiving.

It’s certainly a reason to be thankful, not only for the professional sports teams I get to cheer for but the fact that they also employ wonderful human beings.

This season is perhaps a reminder that, in spite of what’s going on on the field with our Pittsburgh Steelers, life still must go on for the folks who support them. Oftentimes, life is hard for their fans. Do they still get joy out of seeing their favorite sports team(s) win? Do they get depressed after a loss? Sure. But neither of those emotions can put food on the table.

It’s nice to know that the Steelers—and Pirates and Penguins—are still there for their fans, even when times are tough on all sides.

The Steelers are an important part of the Pittsburgh community, and that’s something that will never change, win or lose.

I’m truly thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

2022 NFL Week 12: Steelers vs. Colts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/24/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers and Colts are going head-to-head in Week 12.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts are preparing to go head-to-head in Week 12 of the 2022 regular season, and it pits the 3-7 Steelers vs. the 4-6-1 Colts. These two teams have quite the one-sided history, with the Steelers winning the last seven games in the contest. In fact, the last time the Colts beat the Steelers was with a Peyton Manning led unit at Heinz Field in 2008. The Steelers hold a 26-6-0 overall lead in the history between these two teams.

The Colts could possibly have had even more of a roller coaster season than the up-and-down Steelers. The team benched Matt Ryan, then fired head coach Frank Reich. After Reich was removed, the team brings in former player Jeff Saturday as the team’s head coach. Saturday, although having no NFL coaching experience, has brought a run-first mantra to Colts along with bringing Matt Ryan back into the lineup.

The results have been positive thus far, and the Steelers will have to find their footing quickly if they want to upset the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday.

Be sure to keep tabs of this stream as all articles relating to the upcoming Monday Night Football game will be placed into this one-stop-shop for all things Steelers vs. Colts.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Thu, 11/24/2022 - 5:30am

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

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

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

The Steelers War Room: Where to from here for a strange Steelers team?

The ‘22 Steelers are a strange team. After falling to 3-7, where do they go from here? This will be one of the topics discussed as BTSC invites you to check out our Aussie perspective and stay a while with Matt Peverell in The Steelers War Room. Join Matty P. for his solo show as he examines the ins-and-outs of the Steelers in an attempt to put you in the mind of Art Rooney II, Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan, Andy Weidl, Sheldon White and Dan Colbert when it comes to personnel.

Rundown of the show:

  • What’s next in a strange season?
  • Much More

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

Know Your Enemy: An inside look at the Disappointment Bowl in Indy

It’s time once again to become a scout for the Steelers before their latest game. This time around, we get to know more about the Colts of Indy in the latest edition of Know Your Enemy. It’s the show where Geoffrey Benedict and Shannon White break down the upcoming opponent for the black-and-gold. This week, Geoff and Shannon, welcome . Lawrence Owen host of Bleav in Colts to the podcast.

  • News and Notes
  • A look at the 2022 Indianapolis Colts
  • Special Guest: Lawrence Owen host of Bleav in Colts

Geoffrey and Shannon walk you through everything you need to know regarding the black-and-gold.

The Steelers Stat Geek: Talkin’ stats, not turkey

There are so many significant Steelers statistics to share, it would be a shame to pigeonhole them in just one category. Thank goodness for the Stat Geek to break it all “dahn”. This is just one of the topics that will be discussed by Dave Schofield on the Thursday episode of the AM podcast lineup, “The Steelers Stat Geek”. Join BTSC’s Editor as he pulls out the Steelers slide rule and geeks out only like he can.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • A Thanksgiving Cornucopia of Stats
  • and more geeky numbers!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

Power Rankings: Team Tiers Edition

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/23/2022 - 2:00pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Splitting all 32 NFL teams into tiers through 11 weeks of the regular season.

Looks like we’re finding out what the Pittsburgh Steelers really are in 2022. Good enough to beat other mediocre and bad teams and make things interesting against more skilled opponents, but with enough issues to sabotage themselves when it counts. Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals truly was the litmus test for this squad, and the loss reflects their position in the NFL Landscape in 2022.

For the Week 12 edition of my NFL Power Rankings, my goal is to group teams into tiers based on their outlook and potential for the remainder of the year. By this point of the season, it’s reasonable to say, “We know what they are,” for most of the league’s squads. I came up with five distinct categories to rank the 32 teams. Let’s dive in!

TIER 1: Super Bowl or Bust

1. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (9-1)

2. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (8-2)

3. BUFFALO BILLS (7-3)

4. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-4)

5. DALLAS COWBOYS (7-3)

These 5 teams have set themselves apart in recent weeks as the NFL’s heavyweights. My preseason Super Bowl contestants (Philadelphia, Buffalo) boast the league’s most complete rosters from top to bottom, but have struggled with some inconsistency in recent weeks from their signal callers. That has not been the case for Kansas City, who’s roster may not be quite equal to the Eagles and Bills, but their All-World QB has played near flawless football for 10 weeks. As long as Patrick Mahomes is upright, the Chiefs feel invincible. The ‘9ers and ‘Boys have championship caliber D’s and explosive offenses to complement. For these 5 teams, anything less than a Super Bowl appearance is a let-down.

TIER 2: Playoff Caliber

6. MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-3)

7. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-2)

8. BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-3)

9. TENNESSEE TITANS (7-3)

10. CINCINNATI BENGALS (6-4)

11. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-4)

These are the units we know are good, but how good? You could argue the Dolphins belong a tier higher, but the inconsistencies on defense concern me compared to the truly elite rosters above them. The Vikings topped the Bills in a moving comeback effort, but then were absolutely decimated by the Cowboys IN THEIR OWN BUILDING! The Ravens offense has recently been stagnant, but the defense is coming alive. These Titans can’t keep winning with their overall lack of talent at the skill positions, right? The Bengals could climb into the next tier with more offensive performance like Sunday’s at Pittsburgh. Not saying they’ll win a playoff game, but the Seahawks definitely deserve to be in them with the way the’ve come to play every week this season.

TIER 3: Are They Good?

12. NEW YORK GIANTS (7-3)

13. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-5)

14. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (5-5)

15. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (6-4)

16. NEW YORK JETS (6-4)

17. ATLANTA FALCONS (5-6)

18. WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (6-5)

Look at this group and you’ll see some decent records, but every one of these squads has some serious issues to address if they want to move up a tier. Outside of a revitalized Saquon Barkley, the Giants are starting to look like a team that has severely overachieved to start the year. The Buccaneers lead the ugly NFC South, but they haven’t looked the part of a division champion for most of the year. If the Chargers played the Chiefs every week, they’d be the best 5-12 team EVER! I want to put them higher, but they still can’t figure out how to close out games. The Patriots and Jets are mirror images of each other with terrible offenses but elite defenses. How far can that really take you, though? What is it about these Falcons and Commanders that they just keep hanging around despite bad QB play at times and not-so-stellar defenses? They face off on Sunday in a weirdly spicy matchup. Several teams from this group will make the dance, but it’s hard to believe they’re up for anything more than that.

TIER 4: Berserker Squads

19. GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-7)

20. DETROIT LIONS (4-6)

21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (4-6-1)

22. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (3-7)

23. CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-7)

24. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (3-7)

25. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (3-7)

26. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (4-7)

These are the frisky teams you don’t want to face the last 7 weeks of the season if you are contender vying for playoff seeding, but these team’s just aren’t good enough in 2022 to make a serious run at relevance. The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, so you never count them out. Dan Campbell has this Lions team believing they’re more, but can they prove it? The Colts and Steelers have bad offenses but boast defensive units that can keep them in any game. That’s a fun matchup for Monday Night Football! The Browns get their big offseason investment back this week, and can lean on Nick Chubb most weeks to keep things interesting. For Jacksonville, maybe it’s time to see that defensive line that everyone was excited about early on this season start to make some plays. The Raiders are 2022’s biggest mystery, but an offense with Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs cannot be overlooked. The Saints could easily be a tier lower, but when Andy Dalton plays a clean game, they can hang with a lot of teams on offense.

TIER 5: The Walking Dead

27. ARIZONA CARDINALS (4-7)

28. LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-7)

29. DENVER BRONCOS (3-7)

30. CHICAGO BEARS (3-8)

31. CAROLINA PANTHERS (3-8)

32. HOUSTON TEXANS (1-8-1)

These last 6 teams are ready for 2022 to be over so they can blow things up and reset for 2023. The Cardinals are as discombobulated and fractured as any team I’ve seen, despite having talent on their roster. For Rams and Broncos fans, Super Bowl was on the mind to start the year. They are the most disappointing teams in the league this year. Chicago has seen tremendous growth from it’s young stud QB (Justin Fields). There’s a lot to build on for the offense, but that defense is in line for a total overhaul this offseason. The Panthers and Texans might well be vying for the draft rights to 2023 NFL Draft’s best QB prospect, and have no visible direction as organizations. As they say, “Stick a fork” in these half-dozen units.

So what do we think, Steelers Nation? Did I misplaced anybody in my tier system? Can the Steelers be more than just a tough out the rest of the season? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to answer the poll question! As always, go Steelers!

T.J. Watt tops the Steelers defensive PFF grades

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/23/2022 - 12:30pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF from Week 11, the defensive front held all the top spots.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got an expected performance on both sides of the ball in their 37-30 loss to the Bengals. The offense delivered more points than they have all season yet disappeared for a long stretch and couldn’t deliver in key moments. As for the defense, I doubt any players in the meeting room would be satisfied with surrendering 37 points.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for the Steelers Week 11 performance. Remember, these are just the grades for the Steelers for this past game and not combined with their previous performances. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. Next up is the defense. Included will be all the players who played at least one defensive snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 66 snaps on defense in Sunday’s game.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

OLB T.J. Watt: 83.3 (54 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 82.8 (11 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 80.4 (52 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 70.7 (26 snaps)
DT Larry Ogunjobi: 69.7 (38 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

CB Cam Sutton: 55.2 (66 snaps)
CB Levi Wallace: 54.0 (59 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 48.9 (38 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 41.7 (55 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 41.3 (14 snaps)

Defensive Front Five

OLB T.J. Watt: 83.3 (54 snaps)
DT Montravius Adams: 82.8 (11 snaps)
DT Cam Heyward: 80.4 (52 snaps)
DT Chris Wormley: 70.7 (26 snaps)
DT Larry Ogunjobi: 69.7 (38 snaps)
OLB Alex Highsmith: 61.7 (56 snaps)
DT Isaiahh Loudermilk: 60.0 (2 snaps)
OLB Malik Reed: 57.7 (19 snaps)
OLB Jamir Jones: 56.9 (3 snaps)
DT Tyson Alualu: 41.3 (14 snaps)

Being the one responsible for reporting these grades over the last two seasons, I’ve never seen all the players in the top five come from one position group for the Steelers. But this is what happened on Sunday with the Steelers defensive front five. Although their overall scores were actually down from the previous week, except for T.J. Watt, they were still strong. Watt was back on top of the defense with his 83.3 which was mainly the result of an 82.4 pass rushing score. Larry Ogunjobi is continuing to now get some love from PFF, and unfortunately Tyson Alualu is coming in at the very bottom once again . Since the bye, Montravius Adams has really stepped up with another great score in the 80s.

Inside Linebackers

ILB Devin Bush: 66.0 (35 snaps)
ILB Myles Jack: 57.9 (41 snaps)
ILB Robert Spillane: 48.9 (38 snaps)

Although many have been very critical of his play early on, Devin Bush has been turning in solid performances for the Steelers over the last several games. Generally scoring high in the tackling department in the upper 70s, Bush had a season-high of 81.3 in Week 11. Additionally, his 81.1 rush defense score is the best of his career. Unfortunately, where Bush was brought down was his 47.0 coverage score. But honestly, it was the highest among the inside linebackers as Myles Jack was a 46.7 and Robert Spillane was a 38.4.

Defensive Backs

S Minkah Fitzpatrick: 67.2 (66 snaps)
S Damontae Kazee: 57.2 (26 snaps)
S Terrell Edmunds: 55.4 (65 snaps)
CB Cam Sutton: 55.2 (66 snaps)
CB Levi Wallace: 54.0 (59 snaps)
CB Arthur Maulet: 41.7 (55 snaps)

While some fans were complaining that the Steelers should not have played Minkah Fitzpatrick this week as he didn’t really affect the game, I would argue that he did simply because the Bengals avoided him. With the highest score of any player not on the defensive line, Fitzpatrick was the only player in the defensive backfield that had a score above 60.0. It’s quite concerning that four of the bottom six scores came from the Steelers secondary, but when the team surrenders the yards and touchdowns they did it is to be expected. Minkah Fitzpatrick was the only player with a coverage score above the line at 63.2 with Arthur Maulet coming in as the worst score on the defense of a 37.7.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

The Steelers fall short at a turning point in their season

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/23/2022 - 11:30am
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Against the Bengals on Sunday, the split personality of a team not ready for prime time was clear for all to see.

As anyone knows who remembers the Pittsburgh Steelers in the years preceding their first Super Bowl win, when an NFL team is several bricks shy of a load, it sometimes manages to conceal its flaws for a game here and there. But over the course of a grueling, 17-game season, the team’s true nature invariably emerges, particularly when facing quality opponents. In their Sunday matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bad Steelers actors showed up at the worst possible times to upstage any cameos by the Good Steelers.

Within a relatively brief period during the second half of their 37-30 loss to the Bengals, the game slipped entirely away from the Black-and-gold. A Steelers defense that held up so well in the second half against the Saints on the previous weekend had no answers for Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense — particularly at the stage of the game when it mattered most. Sinking to a 3-7 record, it’s obvious the Black-and-gold has now reached a turning point in their 2022 season from which they’re unlikely to substantially rebound.

Cincinnati’s first-half TD drives sliced far too easily through the home team’s weak resistance. But in the second half, the Steelers offense put even more pressure on their harried defense by continually stalling and punting the ball back to the Bengals. Pittsburgh scored only three second-half points prior to garbage time — not nearly enough to keep pace with Burrow and the Bengals.

An offense that had shown signs of life in the first half by scoring 20 points came entirely unglued following the intermission — to such an extent that the Bengals defense spent most of the game’s final 30 minutes toying with Kenny Pickett and company as though they were playing an exhibition game with the Pitt Panthers.

Having performed reasonably well in the first half, Pickett looked every bit the typical, green rookie after halftime. He was hounded by the Bengals pass rush and several of his throws were badly off-target. For the first time in his short career, Pickett’s confidence appeared to waver and he looked indecisive. But this collapse definitely was a group effort and essentially what one might expect from a rebuilding team led by a novice quarterback and playing without the benefit of either a strong OL or a stout defense. Overall, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

Because the Steelers’ overall performance on both sides of the ball was so far below the line, it’s not particularly useful to analyze this game statistically. Nevertheless, some general conclusions are possible in the wake of this disappointing defeat:

1) Barring injury, Kenny Pickett will need every one of the Steelers’ remaining regular-season games to answer nagging questions about whether he’s the legitimate heir to Roethlisberger’s throne. Pickett certainly can’t grow as a young QB while sitting on the bench.

2) T.J. Watt is a great football player but he alone cannot cure the many ills of this Steelers defense.

3) Without the ability to consistently pressure opposing QBs, the Steelers’ defense becomes quite an easy target for opponents.

4) The Steelers’ offensive line has improved but still isn’t nearly good enough personnel-wise.

5) The Steelers need an entirely different offensive scheme which utilizes the team’s available talent to better advantage. Matt Canada seems incapable of providing that level of leadership.

The Steelers’ shortcomings as a team nowadays simply are too extensive to correct during what remains of this season. The loss to Cincinnati underscores the fact that any NFL team with a semi-potent offense enjoys a significant advantage over the Steelers, including some teams currently outperforming the Bengals. During Sunday’s game, as in several others this season, the Steelers swung widely between plays encouraging hope and those prompting despair. These are precisely the earmarks of a “three bricks shy” team which generally lacks the overall talent to credibly compete.

As many observers had noted at the beginning of the season, 2022 was bound to be a transitional year and a major rebuilding phase for the Black-and-gold. We had plenty of preseason warnings that it simply wasn’t realistic to expect too much too soon from this group. And today the validity of those warnings has come home to roost.

While the possibility still remains that the Steelers will upgrade their play and add a few wins before season’s end, we also must face the stark reality that the team’s many faults also will be waiting in the wings to emerge without warning to dash our hopes. Unfortunately, that’s simply the way it is with this team which remains a work-in-progress, clearly still struggling to establish a positive identity.

There’s no denying the painful spectacle of a Steelers team being humbled in its home stadium by a divisional rival which Pittsburgh historically has owned. This is one defeat that definitely is going to sting for awhile. Having won only three of their first 10 games, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers’ front office surely must realize that the remainder of this season looks much more like an unwelcome extension of the preseason than any serious quest for a playoff berth.

In the wake of this defeat, it’s clear that the seven weeks of football ahead will have much more to do with nailing down the team’s offseason needs and gathering evidence for hard decisions about which players and coaches deserve to stay in the Steel City and which ones ought to go. But just because the team’s collapse comes as no real surprise doesn’t make it any easier for Steelers Nation to swallow.

Steelers bring back Master Teague to the practice squad

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/23/2022 - 10:09am
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers added two players to the practice squad on Wednesday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made several moves in regards to the practice squad on Wednesday. With an opening on the squad after the release of Quincy Wilson on Tuesday, the Steelers have announced they have signed running back Master Teague and wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley. In order to make room for both players, the Steelers have released defensive lineman Renell Wren.

We have signed RB Master Teague and WR Ja’Marcus Bradley to the practice squad and released DL Renell Wren from the practice squad. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 23, 2022

For those who think the name Master Teague sounds familiar, it’s because he was with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the preseason. Playing in preseason Week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks, Teague had six rushing attempts for 31 yards with a 5.2 yards per carry avearge. Looking impressive in his first preseason game, Teague ended up with a foot injury during practice the following week and was waived/injured in the middle of August before being released six days later. Teague played his college football at Ohio State where in four seasons he had 1,661 rushing yards on 317 attempts and 16 touchdowns.

Wide receiver Ja’Marcus Bradley was an undrafted free agent of the Cleveland Browns in 2020. Spending two seasons with the Browns both on the practice squad and active roster, Bradley appeared in eight games we had nine receptions for 124 yards.

The player who was released from the practice squad was Renell Wren, who was signed to the Steelers practice squad before Week 1 after spending the preseason with the Philadelphia Eagles. Wren was a fourth-round draft pick for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019.

Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to take on the Colts this Monday night in Indianapolis.

Steelers Vertex: Struggles in covering running backs in the passing game

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/23/2022 - 8:30am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers have been defending the run well, but the Bengals used their backs effectively in the passing attack.

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 regular season is rolling on. Giving up less than 100 rushing yards total over the last two games, the Steelers have really turned around this part of their game which was historically bad last season. But there is more than one way to use a running back, and on Sunday the Bengals found a way to use their rushers effectively in the passing game. Exactly what caused the Steelers to get exploited in this manner? This is the subject for this week’s Steelers Vertex.

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

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

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

Here comes the breakdown from two different lines of analysis.

The Stats Line:

The Pittsburgh Steelers have done an excellent job at stopping the run in the two games since their bye week. After only surrendering 29 rushing yards to the New Orleans Saints, the Steelers held the Bengals to their second-lowest rushing output of the 2022 season. Only rushing for 62 yards on 24 attempts, the Bengals averaged 2.6 yards per carry. Their leading rusher was Samaje Perine with 11 rushing attempts for 30 yards and a 2.7 yards per carry average. Before leaving the game with injury, Joe Mixon had 20 rushing yards on 7 attempts for a 2.9 yards per carry average. Finishing out the rest of the players, Joe Burrow had 5 yards on 4 carries for a 1.3 yard average while Trayveon Williams had 7 yards on 2 attempts for 3.5 yards per carry.

With the Steelers defensive front doing a nice job of bottling up players in the run game, the Bengals utilized the philosophy of getting their running backs the ball in space as part of the passing game. Attempting to get the running back to most likely be dealing with a linebacker in coverage, the defensive line is basically taken out of the equation. The Bengals utilized the running backs in the passing game for 7 receptions on 7 targets for 94 yards and 3 touchdowns. Joe Mixon had 3 receptions for 42 yards with a long of 24 yards while Samaje Perine had 52 yards on 4 receptions with a long of 29 yards and 3 touchdown receptions.

So what exactly are the Bengals doing to utilize their running backs so effectively in the passing game, and what can the Steelers do in the upcoming games to stop it? It’s film time.

The Film Line:

The first target to a Bengals running back didn’t come until close to the end of the first quarter. I want to note that before this play not only had Joe Burrow not targeted a running back, he had yet to target Tee Higgins either, and the score was a 3-3 tie.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 1st quarter, 3:58.

Joe Mixon is the running back.

First I want you to notice Robert Spillane sitting in zone in the middle of the field and the Steelers dropping both safeties deep. While most defenders look like they are in man coverage, the Steelers have three who are clearly not. With a four-man rush that leaves 4 defenders in what looks like man coverage, and Joe Mixon is completely un-covered.

Burrow finds Mixon and it’s a nice gain. The Bengals notice the Steelers focus, though, and come back to their running back later in the drive.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 1st quarter, 2:06.

Joe Mixon is the running back but lined up at the bottom of the screen.

Notice Devin Bush moving with Tyler Boyd, focused more on handing off Boyd to the outside zone than covering Mixon. There’s a good reason for that. . .

Look at Burrow’s eyes. He’s looking at Boyd until he is already in his throwing motion, watching Mixon with his peripheral vision until just before he releases the ball. Burrow knows the Steelers are focusing on shutting down his receivers, and he uses that against them. It’s a great play by Joe Burrow to take advantage of the Steelers focus on defense.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 1st quarter, 0:48.

Samaje Perine is the running back.

Two plays later the Bengals take it a big step farther, calling this play that is purely designed for Samaje Perine. Every receiver runs to block a defender, Tyler Boyd pulls Robert Spillane across the play, and the right guard comes out to find Devin Bush who is in man defense on Perine. The left guard gets downfield to make the last block needed and the Bengals go up by seven exploiting the Steelers concerns over the wide receivers.

Dave’s note: Notice the Bengals lineman is four yards downfield. Why was that not called?

The Steelers adjusted, but the Bengals next drive saw three straight passes to Tee Higgins beating the Steelers man coverage without the extra focus they were giving on the first drive. The Steelers, mid-drive, had no recourse but to switch to a zone defense.

This drive was the most important in the game to me. The Steelers tried to adjust to the Bengals offense twice in a very short span of time.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 2nd quarter, 9:23.

Joe Mixon is the running back.

Just a simple dump off against a zone defense that is rightfully scared of Tee Higgins. Myles Jack makes the tackle, but it still gains 7 yards.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 2nd quarter, 8:01.

Samaje Perine is lined up farthest to the bottom of the screen.

The empty set allows the Steelers to send Myles Jack out wide to cover Perine without worrying about a run play. Jack is a solid but not great cover linebacker, and the Bengals run a simple route pattern to give Perine space for 6 easy yards on first down.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 2nd quarter, 6:46.

Samaje Perine is the running back.

With the Bengals moving the ball steadily against their zone defense, the Steelers go back to man again. A well-executed route from Tyler Boyd gets in the way of Robert Spillane (#41), and he ends up missing the tackle. Spillane’s miss is bad, but look at the other defenders. A good number of them are watching the play or jogging towards the ball, especially Arthur Maulet (#35). Compare Maulet to Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has to come much farther to get involved, but is actually running to the ball.

Steelers vs. Bengals, 4th quarter, 4:35.

Samaje Perine is the running back.

The Bengals went away from throwing to their running backs from the middle of the 2nd quarter to this play, which is almost identical to the previous touchdown play above. A route gets in Myles Jack’s way, and Samaje Perine is able to put it into the end zone for the Bengals final touchdown of the game.

The Point:

The Steelers initial approach to defending the Bengals was to focus on the wide receivers and hope pressure got to Burrow quick enough to prevent him from getting the ball to his running backs in space. The Bengals offensive line did just enough to give Burrow time to find the open players, and the rest of the game was really just the Steelers trying to cover for the mismatches in personnel the Bengals kept attacking.

The Steelers corners could not stop Tee Higgins without help. That help came at the expense of being able to cover the running backs. Joe Burrow had enough protection to keep finding and exploiting the mismatches.

That’s a recipe for giving up 37 points to a good offense.

10 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin during Tuesday’s press conference

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/23/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Steelers head coach held his weekly press conference with the Pittsburgh media ahead of their matchup with the Colts.

With the Steelers falling to the Cincinnati Bengals 37-30 this past Sunday, there were a lot of questions at the Mike Tomlin press conference on Tuesday. With many players discussed, it’s time for another players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

Kenny Pickett

As expected, there were plenty of questions about the Steelers rookie quarterback. To start, Coach Tomlin was asked how important it is to Pickett’s growth that he’s able to recognize pressure and step up in the pocket.

“It is significant. Very.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about the signs of growth from Pickett he saw in the first half of Sunday’s game. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned an answer he had about George Pickens which is highlighted in the next section below.

“He’s getting better in all areas, guys, just the same way that George Pickens is getting better. I’m not going to comb through it every week. It’s moving in the direction that we would like it to. Sure, could it move faster? Absolutely. I don’t think anybody is patient, including Kenny. This is not a patient man’s business. You work while you wait, and that’s what he and we are doing. But he’s doing a nice job just in general.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about what he learned from Kenny Pickett the last time they were in Indianapolis which was for the combine and if he spent any time with him specifically.

“I didn’t. I knew all that I needed to know about him prior to going to Indy. I focused on guys that I knew less about.”

In another follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about surrendering less sacks on Sunday and if it was from better blocking or better recognition from Pickett.

“All of the above.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked how Pickett deals with the adversity behind the scenes.

“He’d be better equipped to answer that than I. But he’s a football junkie. He’s a competitor. Obviously, in the stadium he’s emotional, there’s emotions, but out of the stadium, he’s a professional.”

Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, & Pat Freiermuth

One player who has struggled compared to years past with the Steelers is wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Coach Tomlin was asked if the numbers being down for Johnson were from the way he’s being defended or if it’s the rookie quarterback to looking his way. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth.

“Let’s be frank, okay? Diontae is a known commodity within the group. People are going to have an agenda to minimize his impact on the game, particularly in significant moments, possession-down, redzone football. When you’ve got a guy that’s been a Pro Bowler —and really, he’s kind of the only one when you’ve got a young group— that’s a component of it. So, how do you open up opportunities for a guy like that? Other guys make plays. [George] Pickens had a nice game, [Pat] Freiermuth had a nice game. Those things create opportunities and balance within your attack, and opportunities for a guy like Diontae, which you mentioned.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked how to keep Johnson’s spirits up when he’s not getting targets and he’s wanting to be more involved.

“He is a professional. Obviously, there’s frustration; he wants to be a component of why we win and the significant component. But he is also a professional and he understands the dynamics of team play and what has to transpire for him to get opportunities. As a young guy, he’s been a beneficiary of that in the past, as people have focused their energies on other known guys, for example.”

The next question was in regards to George Pickens where Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen from his growth and what more he needs to see from him (which was referenced previously).

“Just the continued growth in all areas. Nuances of the game, situational play, fundamentals, things specific to his position, releases, route running, hand selection. There’s a lot of meat on that bone. He’s a very talented guy, and he’s making plays along the way, but it’s reasonable to expect his growth and maturation to continue and really to continue at an accelerated rate as he logs snaps and gains experience and learns from those.”

The very next question went back to Diontae Johnson where coach Tomlin was asked if he has to pull Johnson aside to talk about his frustration or if it’s kind of understood.

“There’s nothing new about that. You talk about any experienced receiver that gets minimized on a weekend, there’s frustration associated with it. I imagine Tyler Boyd wanted the ball more than he got it, but we were able to identify and try to minimize his impact on the game because they didn’t have [Ja’Marr] Chase, for example. So, that’s just things that transpire each and every week inside NFL stadiums from a strategy standpoint.”

Jaylen Warren, Najee Harris, & Benny Snell

Running back Jaylen Warren was injured early in the Steelers Week 11 matchup and Najee Harris had to carry the load throughout the game. Coach Tomlin was asked how much it affected Harris to have the increased workload, especially the second half when he didn’t get a lot of carries. In his response, Coach Tomlin also brought up running back Benny Snell.

“It affected our intentions, but Benny Snell steps up and Naj [ee Harris]absorbs more snaps, that’s football. The attrition component of play is a significant component of play. We tend to focus our energies on those available to us and don’t waste a lot of time lamenting the people that we don’t have. We have that mindset when we’re planning during the course of work week like this, or we have that same mentality when things transpire in game.”

T.J. Watt & Alex Highsmith

The Steelers have now had two-straight games with T.J. Watt in the lineup. Coach Tomlin was asked how he’s feeling about his performance and dealing with a massive amount of attention that’s paid to him and the holds he’s been dealing with. In his response, Coach Tomlin also brought up Alex Highsmith.

“Typical T.J. stuff. He’s playing at a high level; he’s playing so well. Alex [Highsmith] has been Defensive Player of the Week since he’s been back, I mentioned that. He’s going to find ways to be disruptive whether they put two people on him, whether they hold him or what have you. I think that’s what elite guys do. I did an offseason study a number of years ago as he was moving into that elite status in an effort to have clear conversations with him. I put Von Miller’s career sacks on a reel, I put some elite guys’ career sacks on a reel. All of their reels worked through chips and double teams and tight-end body positions and so forth. Top notch guys, they deal with a lot of things, schematics, multiple people holding, and they’re still top-notch guys. I know that T.J. embraces that component of being him. When we know that those things occur, that creates pure one-on-one opportunity for others, and everyone eats because of it. That’s just a function of team football.”

Pressley Harvin III

In his opening statement, Coach Tomlin specifically mentioned how he liked the contributions from the punting game on Sunday. Coach Tomlin was asked what stats he specifically looks for to measure if his punter is doing well.

“Net punting. Inside the 20 relative to touchbacks. There’s a ratio there given opportunities. There’s a component of play that we evaluate and value that doesn’t get a lot of recognition. It’s placement. This is not checkers; this is chess when you’re punting in the National Football League. We want distance, we want hang time. We also want ball placement. Balls in the middle of the field are not good. Balls on the sideline are great. And so, there’s a lot of things that come into the evaluation of punting play in today’s game, and Pressley’s doing a good job in year two of really growing in all areas and checking the boxes that we need him to check in terms of being a positive contributor to our efforts.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if the directional punting to the sideline on Sunday was the best he had done at that in his young career.

“He’s been working extremely hard. I can’t really pinpoint exactly right now, but it was a good performance, yes.”

For more information on Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out the podcast below:

Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of our Week 12 game against the Colts.

#PITvsIND Monday at 8:15 PM ET on ESPN https://t.co/lEApU2uSEj

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 22, 2022

If you want to watch Mike Tomlin’s press conference, you can see it in its entirety below.

The Steelers were unable to match the Bengals in loss

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/23/2022 - 6:00am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Bengals at Acrisure Stadium was exciting, but it was also a reminder that Pittsburgh has a ways to go to match the level that the Bengals are currently at.

The good news is the Steelers' offense scored 30 points for the first time during the 2022 regular season. The bad news is the defense gave up 30-plus points for the third time during the 2022 regular season.

I believe that perfectly sums up the Steelers 2022 regular season, as well as their latest defeat, a 37-30 downer at the hands of the visiting Bengals at Acrisure Stadium on Sunday evening.

Of course, the struggles of the Steelers, who dropped to 3-7 with the loss, can’t be explained away that simply. It’s been more nuanced all throughout the first 10 results, even if blame has been almost universally centered on one man: Offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Canada is deserving of blame for Sunday’s loss, along with the struggles of Pittsburgh’s anemic offense over the first 10 games of the season. Having said that, the Steelers' offense did play its best game of the season on Sunday, amassing 351 total yards—including 249 through the air and 102 on the ground—and those aforementioned 30 points. But Canada did have those moments that made you go “Fire him!” For example, the shovel pass to tight end Zach Gentry, the human vending machine, midway through the first period that turned a second and seven into a third and eight.

There were the three-straight three-and-outs to open the third period after the Steelers had established a 20-17 halftime lead on the strength of Kenny Pickett’s right arm, Najee Harris’s legs and George Pickens’s hands and feet. Unfortunately, the Steelers' offense simply couldn’t keep up with Cincinnati’s in the second half. That was especially the case with Pickett, who seemed to have a hard time adjusting to whatever adjustments the Bengals’ defense likely made at the break.

That brings me to the defense.

While the Steelers' second-half offense failed miserably to match its first-half output, the defense mostly failed miserably all evening. It may be sacrilege to place even half the blame on the defense for any loss, but it is more than fair to do so when talking about Sunday’s game.

Yes, the defense did have its moments. It did manage to pressure Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow a bunch throughout the game—including seven quarterback hits and two sacks—but it really didn’t slow the former Heisman Trophy winner down. Burrow completed 24 of 39 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns. True, Pittsburgh did manage to intercept Burrow twice—once by Levi Wallace at the end of the first half that set up a Matthew Wright field goal; and a second time by T.J. Watt late in the third quarter (his second line-of-scrimmage leaping grab against the Bengals in as many games) which led to a second Wright field goal—but what about the rest of the game?

Tee Higgins did his best Ja’Marr Chase impression all evening, pulling in nine passes for 148 yards against various defensive backs but especially Arthur Maulet, who did his best impression of William Gay trying to cover Rob Gronkowski many years earlier.

The defense did contain Joe Mixon, who actually missed most of the second half with a concussion. The unit limited Cincinnati to 62 yards on the ground—including 30 yards on 11 carries by backup Samaje Perine—but that didn’t stop the Bengals from using Perine out of the backfield to exploit the Steelers' pass defense, as the sixth-year back out of Oklahoma scored three receiving touchdowns on four catches.

All-in-all, Sunday’s game was an exciting one, but, much like most close contests involving the Steelers in 2022, you just never felt like the team had quite enough firepower—on both sides of the ball—to keep up with a superior opponent.

The Steelers soon hope to be at the same level as the Bengals, a team with a third-year quarterback who just went to the Super Bowl a season ago.

How soon? That remains to be seen, but the Steelers clearly have much more work to do before they get there.

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

Behind the Steel Curtain - Wed, 11/23/2022 - 4:30am

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

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

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

The Steelers Fix: Drafting the Most Valuable Steelers Offensive players in 2023

The Steelers did just score 30 for the first time in 2022, but the offense still needs work. How can they add value to that offense for the future? Join BTSC’s Jeremy Betz and Andrew Wilbar as they break it all down on The Steelers Fix.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Drafting Value for the Offense
  • and MUCH MORE!
The Mike Tomlin Weekly Press Conference Recap: Week 12 at Indianapolis on Monday Night Football

After a frustrating Week 11, there’s even more questions to be addressed. Mike Tomlin took to the podium Tuesday to discuss his team, the injury situation, and the Indy Colts. Dave Schofield, editor of BTSC, gives you all the details on what Coach T had to say leading up to the game in the latest Mike Tomlin Recap podcast.

The Scho Bro Show: Trying to figure out this 2022 Steelers team

There’s so much confusion surrounding who the Pittsburgh Steelers are and what their football identity really is. This will be just one of the subjects that will be discussed on the Scho Bro Show. the brotherly love entry of the BTSC family of podcasts.

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

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The chartered course for the remainder of the Steelers’ season

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

Let’s Ride, Wednesday: The Steelers defense was the most disappointing part of the Week 11 loss

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost in Week 11 to the Cincinnati Bengals 37-30, and it was the defense, not the offense, which was the worst part of the game. Jeff Hartman talks about this topic, Steelers injuries, news and the Wednesday Mailbag segment on this episode of “Let’s Ride”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • For those blaming the offense, what about the defense?
  • The Mail Bag
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

BTSC Survivor Pool Update: Week 11 results

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 5:00pm
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We are down to only three as the choices get fewer and fewer.

The Behind The Steel Curtain survivor pool is rolling along as each week those who make it through are one step closer to the prize. With four leagues completely filled with 100 entries, the fifth league finished with 35 participants. While technically there are 435 total entries, I have one entry in each league as the commissioner so there were 431 different contestants. Hundreds have entered, but only one can go home with the autographed Cam Heyward football.

Once again there were three different games selected from the four remaining contestants. Two of the choices were the Washington Commanders over the Houston Texans. The Commanders jumped out to a 20-0 lead at halftime and never looked back as they cruised to a 13-point win.

The other two choices this week were the Green Bay Packers over the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills over the Cleveland Browns. The Titans led the entire game over the Packers but didn’t make it by more than one score until the fourth quarter and pulled out the victory to give us the first elimination since Week 8. As for the Bills, they took the lead just before halftime and never looked back and a score with 0:25 left brought the final score difference down to eight points.

So after 11 weeks, only 0.67% of the entries still remain and there are only contestants remaining in three of the five leagues. If you are still alive, make sure you enter your pick early so you don’t get knocked out due to a lack of selection. This is your reminder, so go make your pick now! Even being the only contestant remaining in your league, you must make your pick and outlast the remaining leagues.

Here are the picks used and remaining by contestant. Remember in Week 15 we go to making two selections each week.

Weekly Update:

Used teams are crossed out, Week 11 pick is in bold.

Upcoming Week 12 Games of Note:
  • Most heavily favored: Kansas City (-14.5) at home over L.A. Rams
  • Closest match up: Cincinnati (-1.5) at Tennessee
  • The Steelers match up: Pittsburgh (+2.5) at Indianapolis

BYES: None

(all lines are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.)

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

Steelers release a defensive back from the 16-man practice squad

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 3:25pm
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have made a roster move on the 16-man practice squad.

Since the NFL decided to expand the practice squad of all 32 teams to 16 players, it has become a carousel of players depending on the team need depending on that given week.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, as they prepare for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12 on Monday Night Football, the team felt the need to make a move on their practice squad. On Tuesday the team announced they have released defensive back Quincy Wilson from the team.

This per the Steelers official Twitter account:

We have released DB Quincy Wilson from the practice squad. @BordasLaw

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 22, 2022

What is odd about this transaction is how there wasn’t a coinciding move made. Typically when one player is released, another is added. This should tell fans another move is likely to be made in the coming days with the team having an opening on their practice squad.

The player added will likely depend on the position the team feels is a greatest need heading into Monday’s game. It could be an extra offensive lineman with Mason Cole nursing a foot injury, another running back with Jaylen Warren nursing a hamstring injury or even a receiver with Myles Boykin dealing with an oblique/abdominal injury.

To stay on top of the latest news, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the most up-to-date news on the Steelers as they press on throughout the 2022 regular season.

Power Rankings: Loss to the Bengals sinks Steelers even further

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 2:30pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss in Week 11 has the team sinking even further down the latest rankings.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were losers in Week 11 of the 2022 regular season, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadum. Through eleven weeks of the regular season it has been extremely difficult to gauge where the Steelers rank among their NFL peers.

How far did the team rise after losing in Week 11? Based on this week’s NFL Power Rankings, not too far, but that isn’t say much considering where they were ranked before their third win of the season.

All in all, the Steelers’ rankings this week were all over the map. The truth might be somewhere in the middle, but it’s that time of the week where we take a look at other outlets’ rankings after Week 11 of regular season action.

Let’s get to the rankings...

ESPN

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Miami Dolphins
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. San Francisco 49ers
9. Tennessee Titans
10. New York Giants
...
28. Pittsburgh Steelers

What/who is underachieving? Red zone offense

The Steelers have underachieved in more than one area this season, but the most glaring is the red zone offense. They are scoring touchdowns on about 48% of red zone trips. Even though they managed to score TDs on three of five such trips in Sunday’s loss, the Steelers haven’t scored enough points overall, averaging just 17 points per game. Sunday’s performance might be a sign things are close to turning around, but the offense won’t have proved anything until it is consistent.”

NFL.com

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Buffalo Bills
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. Tennessee Titans
7. Miami Dolphins
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Minnesota Vikings
10. Cincinnati Bengals
...
25. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers remain very much under construction. Pittsburgh had its two longest offensive touchdown plays of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals — a 19-yard touchdown run by Najee Harris and a 24-yard touchdown catch by George Pickens — but the Kenny Pickett-led attack also disappeared for extended stretches, most noticeably during a third quarter in which Pittsburgh failed to register a first down. The defense was similarly scattershot. The Steelers constantly pressured Joe Burrow and grabbed two interceptions, but they still surrendered touchdown drives of 79, 92 and 93 yards despite the absence of Ja’Marr Chase (hip) from the Bengals’ lineup.”

CBS Sports

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Tennessee Titans
6. Dallas Cowboys
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Cincinnati Bengals
...
24. Pittsburgh Steelers

“Kenny Pickett did some good things against the Bengals, but the defense let them down. Pickett’s play is encouraging for the future.”

Pro Football Network Tier 5 | Ugly, But There Are Positives

26. Pittsburgh Steelers

The score won’t reflect it, but Pittsburgh really hung in there against the Cincinnati Bengals. They were down just four points heading into the final quarter, but the Steelers’ offense just couldn’t keep things moving when they needed to.

George Pickens looks like an absolute stud and future No. 1 WR. Pittsburgh has always excelled in drafting receivers, and he appears no different. Pat Freiermuth is another outstanding weapon to have, and Diontae Johnson is no slouch.

The Steelers are an example of bad offensive scheme, play-calling, and quarterback play. The QB is young and they probably go into 2023 with Kenny Pickett, but he must show marked improvement next season as the starter. He was better against Cincinnati, but still has a lot to prove.

Against Cincinnati, it was their secondary that came up short.

The Sporting News

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. Minnesota Vikings
7. Tennessee Titans
8. San Francisco 49ers
9. Baltimore Ravens
10. New York Giants
...
26. Pittsburgh Steelers

“The Steelers unleashed Kenny Pickett a little more but he was put in a bad situation at home in the end by the defense not doing enough after a big play by T.J. Watt. Mike Tomlin needs to think about an offensive coordinator change for Pickett’s sack in 2023.”

Yahoo! Sports

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Buffalo Bills
4. Dallas Cowboys
5. Miami Dolphins
6. San Francisco 49ers
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. Seattle Seahawks
9. Tennessee Titans
10. Minnesota Vikings
...
27. Pittsburgh Steelers

“In what I’ve dubbed “Fraud Reveal Sunday,” the Steelers’ allegedly great $100 million defense got eviscerated by the Bengals to the tune of 37 points and 408 yards. Fraudulent.”

What do you think of these rankings? Should the Steelers be higher? Are they ranked too high? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12.

Steelers Burning Questions: Playing the blame game heading into Week 12

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 1:15pm
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of issues, so it’s time to play the Blame Game once again!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 12, and with the new week comes a new set of questions for Steelers fans to answer. Throughout the 3-7 start to the season, many fans of the black and gold are starting to see their confidence fluctuate heading deeper into the regular season.

Even after a Week 1 overtime win vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, there were massive questions which remained. Throw in the Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots with a prime time loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 3, and doubt officially crept into every fans’ minds. When you add in the Steelers falling flat in Week 4 vs. the New York Jets, most fans were beyond fed up.

Shockingly, with Kenny Pickett’s entrance into the lineup vs. the Jets, confidence grew despite a loss in Week 4. The good vibes for Pickett didn’t last after the debacle vs. the Buffalo Bills in Week 5.

With fans about done with having any confidence in the team, the Steelers rebounded in Week 6 to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, but needing two quarterbacks to do it. Was the win over Tom Brady and the boys enough to lift the fans’ confidence? Following the prime time loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 7, probably not much. In Week 8 the team fell flat against the Philadelphia Eagles, another dud against a Super Bowl contender. After the bye week, the Steelers got back in the win column with a nice win over the New Orleans Saints, but those good vibes didn’t last long after a 37-30 loss to the Bengals in Week 11.

So, with that being said, it is time to ask some key questions to the fan base as the Week 12 quickly approaches. We call them the ‘Steelers Burning Questions’, and there is one which is consistent every week.

Are you confident in the team moving forward?

Other than that staple question, some other questions can be added to help give readers at BTSC, and Steelers fans in general, a voice in what they think about the team. This week it is a question about a common question among the fan base. It’s the classic game called the “Blame Game”. How do you play? Simple...you answer who you think is to blame for the Steelers poor season thus far. Here’s the official question and options:

Who is to blame for the Steelers 3-7 start?

The options to answer are:

  • Mike Tomlin
  • Matt Canada
  • Teryl Austin
  • Injuries
  • Poor Player Performance

How do you participate in this exercise? It’s easy. All you have to do is scroll down to the polls and place your vote. The results of the votes will be published on BTSC later in the week, but getting as many votes as possible is the key with the SB Nation Reacts, powered by DraftKings Sportsbook.

So, go ahead in place your votes below, and feel free to explain yourself in the comment section below the article! In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the remainder of the regular season.

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Pittsburgh Steelers fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate.

Please take our survey

Hines Ward, James Harrison semifinalists for 2023 Hall of Fame Class

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 12:29pm
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The two former Steelers are among 28 semifinalists.

On Tuesday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 28 semifinalists for the class of 2023. Among those selected are former Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison and wide receiver Hines Ward.

.@mvp86hinesward & @jharrison9292 are semifinalists for the @ProFootballHOF Class of 2023!

: https://t.co/fhulYVLJoN pic.twitter.com/nRHjS1i8gv

— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 22, 2022

Undrafted in 2022 out of Kent State, James Harrison spent time with the Steelers practice squad and appeared in one game his rookie year where he recorded no statistics. After spending time with the Baltimore Ravens and the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, Harrison returned to the Steelers in 2004 where he stuck for the next nine seasons before departing for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. In all, Harrison spent 14 different seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and appeared in 177 games with 107 starts. More notably, Harrison was a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time First-Team All-Pro, and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. Harrison is also currently the Steelers all-time sack leader with 80.5. This was Harrison’s first year of eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hines Ward has now made it as far as a semifinalist for seven-straight years. Ward spent all 14 of his NFL seasons in Pittsburgh and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times. Playing in three Super Bowls with the Steelers, Ward was the Super Bowl MVP for the 2004 season.

There were 129 modern-era finalists announced in September. Now trimmed to 28, the list will again be trimmed to 15 in January before going down to 10 and then five during Super Bowl weekend in February. The five finalists and three senior finalists will undergo a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote and must receive 80% in order to be selected.

A complete list of all semifinalists for 2023 can be seen below courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

NEWS

We are excited to reveal our 28 Modern-Era Semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023.

The list includes five first-year eligible candidates.

Full List Of Semifinalists: https://t.co/yC5UKWUE7r pic.twitter.com/xGyuX5emrB

— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) November 22, 2022

Steelers are hoping for good news with several key injuries heading into Week 12

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 11:30am
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are dealing with several key injuries heading into a prime time game vs. the Colts in Week 12.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a disappointing 37-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at home in Week 11, and the loss didn’t just plummet their record to 3-7, but also any legitimate thoughts of a revival of the season.

But, even though the odds are against them, the Steelers still have seven games to play and there is a lot to learn about this team down the stretch. On the offensive side of the ball, questions about from the play caller to the players executing those play calls. On the defensive side of the ball, it remains to be seen if the defense they have made the highest paid defense in the league will be as dominant as Mike Tomlin spoke about before the season began.

Speaking of Tomlin, he met with the media Tuesday to talk about all things Steelers as they prepare for the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football in Week 12. There was a lot discussed, but the biggest news surrounded the injuries the team is dealing with heading into Monday night’s game.

Quite possibly the biggest injury was sustained by center Mason Cole when he left the game in Week 11 with a foot injury. Tomlin said after the game it was labeled a mid-foot injury, but on Tuesday the Steelers coach said while Cole might be limited in the early portions of the week the coaching staff has confidence Cole will be available when the team heads to Indianapolis.

Another injury to a player who might not be labeled as significant as Cole, is wide receiver/special teams gunner Myles Boykin. Boykin suffered an oblique/abdominal injury and was unable to return to the game vs. the Bengals, and Tomlin said his overall participation will be key for him to return to the lineup in Week 12.

Another significant injury of note was to backup running back Jaylen Warren. In the early portions of the game, following his lone reception for 9 yards, Warren left with a hamstring injury. Tomlin said the hamstring injury was not significant, but also mentioned how Warren’s overall availability in question at this juncture of the week.

Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon continues to be hampered with his hamstring injury, and it is unclear whether he will be able to return to practice this week.

With all of these injuries, Tomlin made it clear how the fact the Steelers play on Monday Night Football gives them almost an extra day and a half for these players to get healthy and be available when the Steelers play the AFC South Colts on the road.

The Steelers now turn their attention to a trip to Indianapolis in hopes of righting the ship and winning their fourth game of the season. The health of the aforementioned players will be vital in this endeavor. Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the regular season.

For a complete rundown of Mike Tomlin’s time with the media, check out BTSC’s Press Conference Recap podcast below:

Stock Report: See whose stock is falling after the loss to the Bengals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 10:00am
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Let's take a look at what direction Steelers stock is trending after the season altering home loss to the Bengals.

Sunday afternoon's season defining home loss perfectly encapsulated the 2022 NFL season for the rebuilding Pittsburgh Steelers. While I believe that the majority of Steelers fans realized that there was bound to be growing pains after the face of the franchise for nearly the past two decades sauntered into his well deserved retirement, I highly doubt many saw the Steelers enduring such a precipitous decline.

Great players have a tendency to make those around them better. Ben Roethlisberger was an all time great player, and the ultimate competitor. It's easy to take exceptional ability for granted when you see it regularly, and for an extended period of time. Roethlisberger's unique abilities, especially his unmatched clutch factor, disguised and minimized multiple shortcomings within the organization. Issues ranging from personnel evaluations and development, to coaching staff inadequacies, remained obscured by the very large shadow his HOF talent created.

As the sun sets on the Steelers 2022 season, all issues are clearly visible. The Steelers struggling offensively in the second half against the Bengals on Sunday was easily predictable, as I had already mentioned in the BTSC staff prediction article earlier in the day. The Bengals defense has been one of the best second half units in the NFL this season, and they have consistently dominated their opponents after making any necessary halftime adjustments.

The Bengals made effective halftime adjustments on Sunday, the Steelers did not.

Steelers Stock Up: Kenny Pickett

It was a tale of two halves for the Steelers young signal caller. The Bengals tried to rattle Pickett with an aggressive defensive game plan in the first half, seeing if the rookie would crack under the pressure. Much to Pickett's credit, he produced the best half of football of his professional career. Pickett was accurate and decisive as he efficiently spread the ball around the field to multiple receivers, standing tall in the pocket until the last split second before delivering the pass. His touchdown toss to fellow rookie George Pickens was just such a throw, offering further evidence of their growing connection.

In the second half, the Bengals wisely adjusted. They mixed up their coverages and pass rush concepts. The Bengals did a much better job of disguising their intentions, and in disrupting Pickett's rhythm. Pickett struggled to find open options, and to fit throws into the tightened throwing windows. His teammates contributed to the second half struggles with missed assignments, penalties, and dropped passes. The play calling definitely left much to be desired, which has become a reoccurring trend.

At least for one half of football, Pickett gave us a glimpse of what the Steelers offense could potentially look like in the not too distant future, with him at the helm. At the very least, it was an encouraging performance from which to build.

Steelers Stock Trending in both directions: George Pickens

Pickens performance against the Bengals ran the gauntlet of emotions for this old Steelers fan; as I went from being excitedly encouraged to extremely disappointed all within the same game.

Now we get a glimpse of precisely why the freakishly talented young receiver lasted until the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Pickens sullied a breakout performance with some immature moments late in the game.

His fourth quarter dropped pass of a perfect throw from Pickett that should have been a touchdown was very Limas Sweed like. That miscue escalated into Pickens spearing Tyler Boyd with his helmet after an unsuccessful onside kick attempt, and getting ejected from the game. That will prove to be a costly mistake.

Pickens already has WR1 abilities, but lacks the maturity and focus to harness them. That's understandable for such a young player. It's OK to burn hot, as long as you can contain the blaze.

There seems to be a correlation between being overly demonstrative after making a positive play with failure to control one's emotions when things don't go according to plan. If things go according to plan with Pickens, improvement in this area will be a part of the maturation process.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Pat Freiermuth

As I mentioned in a recent article, the Pickett to Freiermuth connection is growing by the week. Freiermuth has become a much bigger part of the Steelers offensive focus, as desperately needed to happen. His 12 targets against the Bengals was a new career high, a trend I expect to continue. As I also mentioned in the aforementioned article, the offense running through Harris, Pickens, and Freiermuth would be ideal, and could prove to be special.

Steelers Stock Trending Up: Najee Harris

In all honesty, keeping it short and sweet, Harris is finally headed in the right direction. He is running like a man blessed with his size and power should run. He showcased the impressive athleticism on his flying high hurdle maneuver on his first touchdown run that persuaded the Steelers to make him a first round selection in 2021. Back to back solid performances are an encouraging sign, both for Harris and the offensive line.

Steelers Stock Trending Down: Defense

I received more than a fair share of criticism for pointing out that the Saints offense wasn't the best barometer to measure future success for the defense, and that the Bengals would be a truer test. Sunday's defensive performance wasn't befitting a Steelers defense, much less the highest paid unit in the NFL.

The only positive: struggles reveal shortcomings, and the Steelers issues that have plagued them all season were on full display against the Bengals.

The Steelers defense has been solid against the run this season, a Top 10 unit actually. That's a huge improvement from their league worst ranking last year. But the Steelers have deficiencies on all three levels of the defense, and they were glaring against the Bengals.

Cameron Heyward still has moments of dominating play, but not as consistently as before. His fellow linemates were seldom noteworthy against the Bengals.

T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith were nowhere near as dominant in this Bengals matchup as they were in Week 1. Outside of a shared sack, and another unbelievable hand eye coordination interception on the line of scrimmage for Watt, the Bengals did a much better job of limiting the damage of the Steelers Dynamic Duo.

The middle of the field was once again the devil's playground for the Bengals; as Myles Jack, Robert Spillane, and Arthur Maulet took turns getting exploited in coverage. Spillane singlehandedly gave me flashbacks of the Steelers getting destroyed by no name running backs in coverage against the New England Patriots back in the day. I hope that backup running back for the Bengals sends Spillane a Jelly of the Month gift card for Christmas.

Finally, the Steelers showed exactly why they need a proven number one cornerback. The lack of speed and coverage abilities for the Steelers current group of corners allows top level quarterback/receiver combos to easily exploit the inevitable mismatches repeatedly.

The Steelers front office should be gaining improved clarity in regards to their biggest areas of need in the next offseason. Hopefully further clarity is obtained during the remainder of the 2022 season, with a renewed focus solely on an improved future.

3 & OUT: Jekyll-and-Hyde Steelers come up short to Joe Cool and the Bengals

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 8:30am
Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports-The Cincinnati Enquirer

The up-and-down Steelers were unable to finish the job vs. Burrow and the Bengals.

The Steelers lost to the Bengals 37-30 on Sunday. The game was a tale of two halves, particularly on offense. Here, in my 3 & Out column, I look at Kenny Pickett’s progress, why the offense faltered in the second half and how Joe Burrow carved up the Pittsburgh defense.

Pickett’s Progress

It was an uneven contest for quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett played some of the best football of his young career over the first 30 minutes. At the break, the Steelers had scored 20 points and accumulated 213 yards, both season highs for a half. Pickett was 14-19 for 141 yards and a touchdown. He’d also rushed for 14 yards, converting a 3rd down on a zone-read play where he pulled the football and scampered to the edge courtesy of a great block from Pat Freiermuth:

The second half was a different story. Without the benefit of the All-22 film, which comes out after this article is published, it’s hard to pinpoint the root of Pickett’s regression after halftime. At a glance, though, he showed improvement overall, especially in areas where he’d previously struggled.

Specifically, those areas have been coverage recognition and a willingness to hang in the pocket and let routes develop. His progress in both regards was noticeable. Below, we see a good example of the former. On this 3rd-and-7 play to open the 2nd quarter, Cincy tried to fool Pickett with a single-high safety look before rotating late to cover-2. Pickett, though, knew he had an option route to tight end Pat Freiermuth in the left slot, and that the corner to that side, who was positioned outside the numbers, would not defend it. Nor would the linebackers, who were showing blitz. The backers bailed into coverage at the snap, but Freiermuth located the hole between the corner and the backers and sat down in it. Pickett hit him with a decisive throw to move the chains:

There were several examples of plays like this throughout the game. Pickett did not seem fooled by the looks Cincinnati presented, and in the first half at least, he was confident with where to go with the ball.

Pickett also showed improved pocket presence. He hung tough and took hits at times, like on this 22-yard completion to George Pickens in the 1st quarter. Pickens ran an Over route, where he crossed the field from his alignment on the right of the formation to catch a pass outside the numbers on the opposite side of the field. Pickett stood confidently in the pocket as Pickens crossed, then took this hit while delivering an accurate ball:

Pickett took another shot on a 3rd-and-9 snap near the end of the first half that resulted in Pittsburgh’s longest scoring play of the season. This time, he stood tall as Pickens ran a corner route. Rather than bail out as the rush closed in, Pickett leaned back, adjusted his release and lofted a perfectly thrown ball off his back foot for the score:

When Pickett moved from the pocket, he did so with his eyes up, scanning the field to find a receiver. I had some fears prior to Sunday that Pickett was starting to look at the rush as it closed in, which is the ultimate sign of a quarterback who has lost confidence in his ability to process through chaos. Plays like the one below, however, restored my belief that Pickett will improve in this area with experience.

I like how Pickett felt the rush to his blind side here, and rather than spin out from it and attempt to flee, he stepped up through the pocket, allowing him to keep his eyes down the field and his body in good throwing position. Pickett also knew where his outlet receiver was and got him the ball in space. The receiver was Jaylen Warren, whose run-after-the-catch ability is stellar. By finding Warren, Pickett virtually assured the Steelers would convert this 3rd down.

Another encouraging sign from Sunday was Pickett’s developing relationship with Pickens. The two rookies have struggled to find a connection so far, but they are showing signs of improvement. Pickens had four catches on six targets for a team-high 83 yards. He and Pickett hooked up on this play in the second half, which sparked hope that the Steelers’ long-dormant vertical passing game might finally come to life:

One good deep ball doesn’t re-write the narrative. Still, as per the Next Gen hit chart below, you can see Pickett pushed the ball downfield more than he did early in the season, and attacked the middle of the field more frequently as well. Both represent progress.

Pickett did not sustain his success in the second half. Part of that was his fault — he missed some easy throws, and as Cincy ramped up the pressure, he was slow to process. But, as we’ll discuss next, coordinator Matt Canada didn’t help much, either. Pickett finished 25-42 for 265 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers. After throwing eight interceptions in his first five games, he’s gone two straight without one. Pickett should not be judged by his stats this season but by the improvement he makes from a comprehension and execution standpoint. In those regards, he’s progressing. Not by leaps and bounds, but progressing, nonetheless. That, right now, is all that really matters.

Halftime (Mal)adjustments

Pittsburgh rolled into the locker room at halftime feeling good about themselves. They had a 20-17 lead and had just authored their best half of offensive football all season. They were receiving the second half kickoff, which meant Canada had time to digest how the Bengals were defending his offense, anticipate their adjustments and plot an effective opening drive.

The Steelers gained one yard and punted.

Their next drive gained five yards. As did the one after that. Then, following a miraculous T.J. Watt interception that set them up at the +21-yard line, which I’ll post below so you don’t punch yourself in the face after reading this paragraph, they went three-and-out again. All told, they ran 13 plays, gained 23 yards and didn’t make a first down in the 3rd quarter. Momentum turned, the defense tired, and despite Watt playing Superman, the contest slipped away.

What in the name of Joe Walton went wrong?

For starters, Canada could not find good openers. The Steelers gained 1, 3, -3 and 0 yards on their first-down snaps in the 3rd quarter. Those plays put the Steelers behind the chains and made things hard on Pickett. Canada’s openers included a quick screen to Diontae Johnson that went nowhere, an inside zone run for a modest gain and a play-action pass that fooled no one. His worst call came on the drive after Cincinnati had scored to take a 24-20 lead, when he ran a jet sweep to Steven Sims despite the fact Cincinnati had an unblocked alley defender to that side. Predictably, the alley swooped in and dropped Sims for a three-yard loss.

Canada also made a curious call on the play after the deep ball to Pickens, opting for a flea flicker from the +40-yard line that Cincinnati sniffed out. It’s easy to criticize calls in hindsight, but with the Bengals on their heels, running core plays the Steelers execute well, rather than hit-or-miss gadgets, seemed prudent.

It wasn’t just poor calls that hurt the Steelers. Pickett came up small at times, too, most noticeably on a 3rd-and-4 play after Watt’s interception. Trailing 24-20 at the time, with the ball in the red zone and a chance to re-take the lead, Pickett threw this pass into the ground at Johnson’s feet when an accurate throw would have set up a goal-to-go situation. If the jet sweep to Sims was Canada’s worst call of the night, this was Pickett’s worst throw:

The Bengals deserve some credit for stopping Pittsburgh, too. They got more aggressive in the second half, blitzing Pickett regularly and making him less comfortable. They also played more man coverage, crowding Pittsburgh’s receivers and giving them less space in which to operate. Canada has struggled for two seasons now to find answers in the passing game against man-to-man. Sunday was no exception. It didn’t help that Johnson was a non-factor. His most noteworthy contribution was another pre-snap penalty for a false start. Penalties were ubiquitous and derailed several drives. Freiermuth drew a hold on a 1st-and-10 with the Steelers at the Cincinnati 37 in the 4th quarter, down 27-23. The following play was a botched exchange that produced an ineligible-man-downfield. The offense devolved into self-destruct mode.

Minus the scoring drive the Steelers authored in the final few minutes that Cincinnati basically conceded, Pittsburgh ran 26 plays for 51 yards in the second half. Their performance could not have provided a starker contrast to the ease with which they moved the ball over the first 30 minutes.

Joe Cool

While the offense was a story of two halves, the defense was fairly consistent. Unfortunately, its consistency came in the form of an inability to corral Joe Burrow.

Burrow played most of the contest from a clean pocket. This was a far cry from the first meeting between these teams, on opening day, when Pittsburgh sacked him seven times. On Sunday, they got to him twice. Often, Burrow was able to take his drop and scan the field before delivering a strike to one of his receivers. Tee Higgins inflicted the most damage. With Ja’Marr Chase out with an injury, Higgins did his best Chase impersonation by hauling in 9 passes for 148 yards, including this 33-yarder in the 3rd quarter where he dusted Levi Wallace to set up Cincinnati’s go-ahead touchdown:

The Steelers played a fair amount of zone in the first half. In the second half, they switched to man-to-man in order to generate more pressure. While they did record a couple of sacks, their defenders couldn’t hold up in coverage. Cincy’s receivers continually won on their releases, like we saw Higgins do above. Here, Burrow found him on an in-cut against Arthur Maulet (35), who was beaten throughout the day. The Bengals smartly used empty sets against Pittsburgh’s man-to-man to open up the middle of the field. With time to set his feet, little pressure in his face and no defender to disrupt the route, it looked at times like Burrow was playing catch with his receivers:

No play epitomized how comfortable Burrow and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan were in attacking Pittsburgh’s defense than this touchdown to running back Samaje Perine in the fourth quarter. On 2nd-and-goal from the 6-yard line, the Bengals aligned in a compressed 2x2 formation, with Perine set to Burrow’s right. Cincy knew the Steelers would be in man-coverage, so they ran a pick play where receiver Trenton Irwin (16) aimed for linebacker Myles Jack, who was assigned to Perine. Perine ran a swing route, and Irwin forced Jack to go underneath him, where he lost his pursuit angle to the ball. Meanwhile, tight end Hayden Hurst (88) boxed out Devin Bush with his route, keeping Bush from pursuing Perine as well. That left Wallace to tackle the 235-pound Perine on his own, which led to a predictable result:

The fact the Bengals knew this would be man-coverage, knew which Steeler would be assigned to Perine and knew how to get Perine open all indicate a familiarity with Pittsburgh’s scheme that is troubling. Burrow threw for 355 yards in the game and rarely seemed uncomfortable or confused. While Pittsburgh’s offense wasn’t consistent enough to win the contest for the Steelers, they did score 30 points for the first time all season. Another subpar effort by the defense was the most disappointing element of the day.

And Out...

Najee Harris has quietly produced his two best games the past two weeks. Harris had 99 yards on 20 carries against New Orleans, and 90 yards on 20 carries (with two TDs) against Cincinnati. Harris had his two longest runs of the year as well, including this touchdown on Sunday on a well-executed outside zone play:

With all eyes on Pickett this season, it’s been easy to forget Harris was the team’s offensive MVP last year. A more productive Harris has meant better production from the offense. That’s not a coincidence, and hopefully signals a big closing stretch for No. 22.

The Steelers offensive PFF grades show inconsistent play abounds

Behind the Steel Curtain - Tue, 11/22/2022 - 7:15am
Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the grades provided by PFF, the biggest trend is the difficulty in getting consistent performances.

The Pittsburgh Steelers got an expected performance on both sides of the ball in their 37-30 loss to the Bengals. The offense delivered more points than they have all season yet disappeared for a long stretch and couldn’t deliver in key moments. As for the defense, I doubt any players in the meeting room would be satisfied with surrendering 37 points.

But how did the individual players grade out?

For this exercise, we will be looking at the player grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for the Steelers Week 11 performance. Remember, these are just the grades for the Steelers for this past game and not combined with their previous performances. Before going any further, I must give the typical disclaimer that PFF grades are subjective. While some people rely on them heavily, others are quite skeptical of the process in which they are determined. It is completely up to each person as to how much stock they put into PFF’s grades. For me, I often look at the grades to see if my own “eye test” lines up with what others viewed as how a player performed. If nothing more, the grades create a discussion about how accurate, or inaccurate, they are each week.

Instead of looking at the entire team at once, we break up the scores into offense and defense. First up this week is the offense. Included will be the players who played at least one snap and the total snap counts for each player will be included. For reference sake, the Steelers played 73 snaps on offense in Sunday’s game.

Overall

Top 5 (regardless of position)

RB Jaylen Warren: 80.3 (3 snaps)
TE Pat Freiermuth: 74.6 (52 snaps)
G Kevin Dotson: 73.0 (73 snaps)
RB Najee Harris: 68.0 (67 snaps)
C J.C. Hassenauer: 67.2 (41 snaps)

Bottom 5 (regardless of position)

FB Derek Watt: 54.8 (7 snaps)
TE Connor Heyward: 54.1 (4 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 51.5 (73 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 50.3 (70 snaps)
WR Steven Sims: 43.0 (32 snaps)

Quarterback

QB Kenny Pickett: 55.9 (73 snaps)

I would love to know what Kenny Pickett’s score would have been in the first half because I have a feeling it would have been above the line rather than below. But it takes an entire game in order to be successful and that didn’t happen against the Bengals. Pickett‘s passing score was slightly less than last week at 57.6 but he saw a much lower running score of 57.5 after two consecutive weeks in the 80s. This was the biggest reason Pickett’s score dropped over 10 points from the previous week.

Running Backs

RB Jaylen Warren: 80.3 (3 snaps)
RB Najee Harris: 68.0 (67 snaps)
RB Benny Snell Jr.: 60.5 (3 snaps)
FB Derek Watt: 54.8 (7 snaps)

It’s kind of disappointing that a player who got injured after only three snaps had the highest score on offense for the week. Jaylen Warren’s play on his reception for 9 yards which became to first down was impressive, but it ultimately cost him with a hamstring injury. Najee Harris turned in his best overall score of the season along with his best rushing score this year of 69.5 along with a pass blocking score of 78.0. Benny Snell got his first snaps at running back this season and registered a 74.1 pass blocking grade as well. But when it comes to the consistency factor, Derek Watt seems to be either at the top or at the bottom almost every week with his very limited snaps.

Receivers

TE Pat Freiermuth: 74.6 (52 snaps)
WR Gunner Olszewski: 66.2 (31 snaps)
WR George Pickens: 65.5 (63 snaps)
TE Zach Gentry: 55.9 (30 snaps)
WR Miles Boykin: 55.7 (3 snaps)
TE Connor Heyward: 54.1 (4 snaps)
WR Diontae Johnson: 50.3 (70 snaps)
WR Steven Sims: 43.0 (32 snaps)

If someone asked me the most consistent player on the Steelers offense I would say Pat Freiermuth. And in this case, the PFF scores back it up. Freiermuth was once again at the top of the scores despite the group under-performing. George Pickens has been up and down this season with this week being more in the upper direction. Diontae Johnson was the one who fell down to the bottom as his passing grade was only a 51.5 for the week.

Offensive Line

G Kevin Dotson: 73.0 (73 snaps)
C J.C. Hassenauer: 67.2 (41 snaps)
G James Daniels: 66.1 (73 snaps)
C Mason Cole: 59.2 (32 snaps)
OT Chuks Okorafor: 55.4 (73 snaps)
OT Dan Moore Jr.: 51.5 (73 snaps)

Kevin Dotson comes back in at the top of the group and has now turned in four-straight performances above a 60.0. But this came after three straight games that were below the standard. This week, it was Dotson’s 82.7 pass blocking grade which set him apart and lead the way for the Steelers. His 65.5 run blocking grade landed him third behind James Daniels (67.4) and J.C. Hassenauer (66.2). Speaking of Hassenauer, it must have been because I was paying more attention to the center position when he came in to see how he was performing as I didn’t think he had nearly the game his score reflects and the Steelers couldn’t do as much after Mason Cole exited. But the scores tell a different story.

Dan Moore Jr. came back down to earth after his best performance of his career last week. Going from a 91.3 run blocking score last week to a 42.3 against the Bengals is the definition of inconsistent. And to address all the inconsistencies going on, Chuks Okorafor has now become consistently mediocre after being the strength of the offensive line for the first half of their season to date.

So, what do you think of the above grades? Do they pass the eye test? Let us know your thoughts on the Steelers’ defensive grades in the comments below.

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