Stephon Tuitt not present at the start of Steelers OTAs


NFL: Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are starting Phase 3 of their OTAs Tuesday, and Stephon Tuitt is not present.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Organized Team Activities (OTAs) have been ongoing for the past several months. They are broken down into three phases. Phase 1 is when teams can start working with the strength and conditioning staff, Phase 2 is when players can work with individual coaches and position-specific drills, but Phase 3 is the culminating event. In fact, it’s probably what most people think of when they think of OTAs.

Phase 3 of OTAs is when team drills can be run. 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and even 11-on-11 drills can take place. There is no contact or pads, but when it comes to “football in shorts” this is as close to football as it gets.

For the Steelers, there were several burning questions surrounding the team heading into this final phase of OTAs, and none were larger than the presence of Stephon Tuitt.

Tuesday, with the vast majority of the team present, Tuitt was not in attendance. It should be noted these workouts are strictly voluntary. Players can choose to attend, or not, and no punishment can be handed down for their absence.

In most cases, a player choosing to skip OTAs isn’t a big deal, but in Tuitt’s case fans want to know what the future holds for the defensive line standout. As reported by Will Graves of the Associate Press, Tuitt was not present Tuesday, and head coach Mike Tomlin reiterated the voluntary aspect of these workouts.

While OTAs are voluntary, mandatory minicamp, which is held a the end of OTAs, is exactly what it’s called — mandatory. Fans are clamoring for an answer with Tuitt, but they might have to wait a few weeks until they get an answer.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they continue through OTAs and minicamp.

UPDATE

Cam Heyward was interviewed post-practice and shared how he expects Tuitt to play this year. Knows he is putting in the work necessary. This per Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

6 things to watch at Steelers OTAs and mandatory minicamp


NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are slated to start Phase 3 of OTAs and mandatory minicamp in the coming weeks. Here are six things to keep an eye on…

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be reporting for Phase 3 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) today, Tuesday, and there are some fans who are wondering if there will be anything of note during these workouts.

Before going any further, it is worth explaining what can, and cannot, be done during this phase of OTAs, as well as the schedule for mandatory minicamp following the 10 voluntary workouts.

This is the phase of offseason workouts where the most football-like drills and activities can take place. In case you don’t know what can, and cannot, be done during these workouts, here is a description of Phase 3:

Phase Three (May 23-June 17): Teams may conduct a total of 10 voluntary Organized Team Activities, OTAs, during this phase. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted. The team’s mandatory minicamp takes place during this time.

As stated earlier, Phase 3 begins on Tuesday, May 24, and includes three sessions a week over two weeks, ending on Thursday, June 2. Then, mandatory minicamp is held from Tuesday, June 7 through Thursday, June 9.

Outside of mandatory minicamp, these workouts are still considered strictly voluntary; however, most organizations expect their players to be in attendance so they can start to hone their crafts prior to the start of the regular season.

So, what can be gleaned from these practices, or as Mike Tomlin calls it, “Football in shorts”? If you ask me…there is plenty to learn over the next few weeks.

Here are six key storylines to keep your eye on:

1. Stephon Tuitt’s future

While OTAs are purely voluntary, mandatory minicamp is…well…mandatory. Unless Tuitt has a specific excuse for missing minicamp, the fans who have been waiting months for an answer to whether he will be a part of the 2022 Steelers might get their answer sooner, rather than later. If he misses both workouts, you can expect the speculation to run rampant, and rightfully so. If he shows up to workouts, you can count on Tuitt to be a part of the Steelers this season.

2. Diontae Johnson holdout?

Rumors have been rampant about Johnson wanting a new contract, but will Johnson show at either OTAs or minicamp? Will this be the start of a holdout? That is a big question, and one which will be answered when the team reports to OTAs. Just a reminder to everyone reading this, OTAs are voluntary. If Johnson chooses to workout away from the team it shouldn’t be held against up. Minicamp is a different story…

3. Minkah Fitzpatrick approach to new deal

Last season Fitzpatrick had a front row seat to how T.J. Watt handled his business when wanting a new contract. He showed up. He never missed a practice, just didn’t participate in team drills/preseason games. So far Fitzpatrick has been at both Phase 1 and 2 of OTAs, and it looks as if he is following the Watt model to get a new contract before the 2022 regular season begins.

4. Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett take the field

Outside of those who will, or won’t, show up to workouts, this will be the first time Trubisky and Pickett will be throwing to teammates in an official practice setting. To me, this is the official start of the quarterback competition between Trubisky, Pickett and Mason Rudolph. Every throw will have pressure attached to it, and it should be something everyone wants to see play out throughout the offseason/preseason.

5. Rookies and Free Agents work with new team

Speaking of new teams, the seven rookies of the 2022 NFL Draft class and the free agents will be with their teammates doing football-like things for the first time. How does Pickett handle himself in an NFL huddle with veterans for the first time? How does someone like DeMarvin Leal acclimate to the new defensive system? Do players like Ahkello Witherspoon and Montravius Adams benefit from their first full offseason with the team? Plenty to see here…

6. First team activities for some since Dwayne Haskins’ death

Coming on the heels of the toxicology report being released from the Haskins tragedy, several Steelers teammates will be in a familiar setting and not seeing their friend who they saw in early April before his death. This process won’t be a quick, or easy, transition for those who were close with Haskins. The team, and organization overall, will have to remember the struggle many will feel seeing Haskins’ old locker, expecting him to be in meetings or any other situation which might jog memories. This is the start of the healing process, but it doesn’t mean it will be easy.


For a more detailed explanation of the above things to watch during OTAs and minicamp, check out my Let’s Ride podcast in the player below:

Toxicology report shows Dwayne Haskins was intoxicated when killed in Florida


NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida toxicology report shows Haskins was legally drunk at the time he was struck by a truck and killed.

It was April 9th when the news broke of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins being struck by a truck and killed in Florida. As the news sent shockwaves throughout the Steelers, Washington and Ohio State communities, there was always an aspect of the accident which didn’t add up.

Why was Haskins out of his vehicle on the side of a busy road before dawn? If his vehicle ran out of gas, why didn’t he call for help? Without running the gambit of questions which were brought up after his passing, everyone knew answers were going to be a while off as the Florida Highway Patrol had to launch an investigation into the accident.

Monday afternoon the Broward County Medical Examiner released the toxicology report on Haskins. This is what the report showed, via ESPN:

According to the toxicology report, two separate samples taken from Haskins’ body had alcohol levels of .20 and .24, both of which are above the legal limit in Florida of .08. According to the report, Haskins also tested positive for ketamine and norketamine, drugs that are used by medical professionals as anesthetics but that also have been known to be used recreationally.

The medical examiner’s report also gave more details on Haskins time in Florida, which wasn’t just spent with his Steelers teammates while working out with newly signed quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

The report included:

Haskins, 24, was in Florida that weekend to train with Pittsburgh Steelers teammates. According to the investigation report, a Steelers official told the medical examiner’s office that the night before his death, Haskins went to dinner with a cousin or friend, whose name was “Joey,” and then later went to a nightclub, “possibly in Miami.”

“They drank heavily and at some point, they got into a fight, separating,” the report states.

The news of Haskins having alcohol, and other substances, in his body at the time of his death doesn’t change the tragedy surrounding the event. The loss of a 24 year-old, about to turn 25 in May, is tragic enough. Our thoughts go out to Haskins’ family and friends as they now have to deal with this news months after the accident.

AFC North News: Lamar contract, Watson hearings and offseason grades


Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal
Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

Time to get caught up on all the AFC North news…

The other day I was perusing the internet and stumbled across some news surrounding AFC North teams not named the Pittsburgh Steelers. Obviously, this news intrigued me, considering the competitive balance in the division, but they weren’t necessarily things I would cover in articles for the site.

I then felt if the news was intriguing to me, it is likely intriguing to others who read the site. So, I decided to put together an AFC North News article a couple times a week where I compile links and parts of articles so you can keep tabs on what’s going on within the division, outside of the city of Pittsburgh.

Just as a reminder, these are not the full articles. If you want to read the entire article, click the link next to the headline.

With that out of the way, let’s get to the AFC North news…


Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson Contract Update (ESPN)

Jackson and the Ravens have been at a standstill for quite some time. Baltimore is prepared to do a deal, but Jackson hasn’t forced the issue — and has even dodged it, as he would an open-field tackler. He’s either incredibly patient or he wants to get to free agency.

And you have to give Jackson credit here: He has made himself millions by waiting. The market has gone up exponentially since last summer, with four passers (Watson, Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen) all above $43 million per year. As a former MVP with 105 total touchdowns and an astounding 37-12 record as a starter, Jackson can justify at least asking for something in the ballpark of Watson’s five-year, $230 million deal.

The flip side is Jackson isn’t coming off a great year — his 50.7 QBR was well below what he put up in the previous two seasons — and was sidelined for five games, fueling the conversation about whether his dual-threat style of play will affect long-term durability. One league exec said the Ravens would be foolish not to at least consider paying Jackson on a year-to-year basis, going from the fifth-year option of $23 million for next season to two franchise tags.


Long-time Ravens punters Sam Koch retires (ESPN)

Before a packed team auditorium, Baltimore Ravens punter Sam Koch announced his retirement Thursday during a tear-filled press conference, which ended the career of the longest-tenured player in franchise history.

Koch, 39, will remain with the Ravens as a special teams consultant this season and mentor Penn State punter Jordan Stout, who was drafted by Baltimore in the fourth round 19 days ago.

A 16-year veteran, Koch played in a team-record 256 games in Baltimore, 27 more than any other Ravens player. The only active player with longer current service with his team is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.


Ravens Pro Football Focus Offseason Grades (PFF)

Offseason Grade: A

Free Agency Grade: Average

Draft Grade: A+


Do the Ravens have any quality wide receivers?? (PFF)

@WILLOFHOUSEWILL: WOULD THE RAVENS BE BETTER SERVED EXPANDING THE ROLES OF THE YOUNG RECEIVERS AND ADDING DEPTH IN THE SECONDARY OR SIGNING JARVIS LANDRY?

I think the Baltimore Ravens need to add a veteran wide receiver. Will Fuller could be a pretty decent facsimile of traded wideout Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, as well.

As Baltimore’s roster currently stands, it has 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman and a bunch of guys with little-to-no NFL experience.

Devin Duvernay has 53 career receptions for 473 yards with two touchdowns and 11 carries for 120 rushing yards, James Proche has just 17 career receptions for 216 yards, and Tylan Wallace caught two passes for 23 yards as a rookie in 2021. The Ravens could probably enter the season with one of those receivers as a third option, but they need more certainty at the position even in a run-heavy offense with receiving options at running back and tight end.


Cincinnati Bengals

Jessie Bates Contract Update (ESPN)

Expect Bates to stay away from the Bengals for an extended period this offseason while bound to a franchise tag he has yet to sign.

This is one where I don’t sense much optimism. There has been no tangible progress on a deal, and it’s uncertain how close to the top of the market Cincinnati is willing to get. I can confirm the USA Today report that Bates does not intend to play on the tag, and when I asked a source involved what will happen if no deal is reached by July 15, the source said things will get “interesting.”

Whether Bates would be willing to miss games is still unclear. But the threat for this to snowball is certainly there. Bates would do very well in 2023 free agency, so he could play on the $12.9 million tag this year and hit the open market. The Bengals could also always opt to trade Bates, though there hasn’t been any movement on something like that.

It’s not lost on the player that Cincinnati has been active in signing external free agents, yet an in-house playmaker with a second-team All-Pro nod, 10 interceptions and 35 pass deflections in his career and plenty of locker-room credibility as a leader remains unsigned. As a result of recent deals for Trey Hendrickson, D.J. Reader, Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie, more than $52 million of the Bengals’ cap is tied to defensive line and cornerback.

It seems like anything is possible here, including a lengthy holdout.


Bengals Pro Football Focus Offseason Grades (PFF)

Offseason Grade: A

Free Agency Grade: Good

Draft Grade: B+


Cleveland Browns

Deshaun Watson to start meeting with the NFL soon (ESPN)

NFL officials began direct meetings with Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson in Texas on Tuesday as the league seeks to determine if he violated the personal conduct policy and, if so, whether discipline should be imposed, a source told ESPN’s Ed Werder.

The meetings are believed to involve Watson and the NFL investigative team of Lisa Friel.

The NFL has been investigating Watson to determine if he violated its code of conduct. Watson is facing 22 civil lawsuits from women who have accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct during massage sessions. Two grand juries in Texas have declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, and Watson has denied all wrongdoing.

Friel, a former prosecutor in New York, has been heading the investigation. Once it is completed, former U.S. District Court Judge Sue Robinson, a disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and NFL Players Association, will decide if Watson violated the conduct policy and will report to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Watson, meanwhile, will be hosting several of his teammates in the Bahamas this weekend to work out and bond before the start of the team’s organized team activities, another source confirmed to ESPN.


Browns reportedly agree to terms with Jadaveon Clowney on one-year deal (ESPN)

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has agreed to re-sign with the Cleveland Browns on a one-year contract worth a maximum of $11 million after enjoying one of the best seasons of his career with the franchise, sources confirmed to ESPN.

Clowney finished with nine sacks and two forced fumbles for the Browns last season while playing opposite All-Pro pass-rusher Myles Garrett, who, like Clowney, also was a No. 1 overall draft pick.

Clowney’s agreement to re-sign with the Browns was first reported by Cleveland.com.


Browns Pro Football Focus Offseason Grades (PFF)

Offseason Grade: B+

Free Agency Grade: Above Average

Draft Grade: B


Chase Winovich excited to start his AFC North career (PFT)

The Browns traded for defensive lineman Chase Winovich in mid-March in exchange for linebacker Mack Wilson, setting up two defensive players for a needed change of scenery.

After recording 5.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons, Winovich saw his playing time reduced to just 10.5 percent of New England’s defensive snaps in 2021. He ended the year with no sacks and just one quarterback hit.

So as he begins his time with Cleveland as a potential rotational edge rusher, Winovich is optimistic about his opportunity in the AFC North.

“In life, we’re very quick to assign things as good or bad, success or failure, this or that,” Winovich said in an interview with Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “But I think ultimately that removes any possibility, and the possibility is that it could be the best thing to ever happen to me.”

Winovich added that he’s gained 10 to 15 pounds this offseason to help his transition into Cleveland’s defensive scheme.


Deshaun Watson’s lawyer “not optimistic” about HBO’s treatment of the case (PFT)

On Tuesday night, HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel will debut a story that includes interviews with “several” of the women accusing Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, does not have high expectations for the finished product.

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like, but I’m not optimistic,” Hardin told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I believe they’ll air the accusations of the women without attempting to look behind it to see what kind of merit do they have.”

Hardin has tried in the past to get the media to focus on the merits, or lack thereof, of the specific allegations. His efforts didn’t take. He eventually stopped trying.

“My approach all along was that we were not going to win the battle of public opinion,’’ Hardin told Cabot, not mentioning the fact that did indeed tried to sway media and fans Watson’s way in 2021, with multiple press conferences and the release of evidence that potentially undermines the allegations, such as text messages. “And my goal has always been to have these cases examined by law enforcement and I strongly believed that trained investigators would ultimately conclude that there was nothing to them from a criminal standpoint and that’s where my focus has always been.”


Feel free to chime in on the above news in the comment section below, and don’t forget to follow BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of Phase 3 of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp.