AFC Championship flashback: Steelers vs. Oiliers, January 7, 1980

Houston Oilers v Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

With the AFC Championship Game going on this weekend without the Steelers, BTSC looks back at an epic and controversial win that led to their fourth Super Bowl title and helped lead to instant replay.

Let’s dial the time circuits on the black-and-gold Delorean back to a time when the forecast was frigid, but the mental thermometer in the City of Champions read downright tropical. It’s fitting that you join me as we head back to a time when the top song on the radio was still Escape (The Piña Colada Song), television viewers were watching Three’s Company and President Jimmy Carter authorized $1.5 billion in loans to bail out the Chrysler corporation. Meanwhile, the Steelers were gearing up for their sixth AFC Championship appearance in eight seasons, as they welcomed the Houston Oilers once again.

Welcome to January 7, 1980.

Houston came in to the title game with the seventh-ranked defense and the most takeaways in the NFL. That seemed to potentially bode well for the Oilers against the team that gave the ball away a league leading 52 times. Leading the takeaway charge for Houston was Safety Mike Reinfeldt with twelve interceptions to best the NFL in 1979 and Vernon Perry, who was the defensive star the week before in San Diego with four interceptions and a field goal block that he returned 57 yards before being tackled by the holder. But the defending champs still had three Lombardi Trophies on their resumé and were hosting a dome team on a frozen field in 22 degree weather. Even Pirate World Series MVP Willie Stargell was on hand for this one.

The Steelers won the opening kickoff and elected to receive. The black-and-gold were in Oiler territory almost immediately, courtesy of Terry Bradshaw passes to John Stallworth and runs by Franco Harris. However, Vernon Perry wasn’t done yet and intercepted a Bradshaw pass to Bennie Cunningham from the Oiler 36 and returned it 75 yards for the touchdown. Two-and-a-half minutes in, Bum Phillips’ team led 7-0.

After the Steelers punted, Dan Pastorini and the Oilers took the field for their first drive of the game. However, the league’s leading rusher, Earl Campbell, was stopped for 2 yards on two carries and LC Greenwood sacked Pastorini to force a punt. Behind a timely pass to Swann and a scramble on third and 14 from Bradshaw for 25 yards, Pittsburgh was threatening deep in Oiler territory. The drive stalled at the Houston four. Matt Bahr hit from 21 and the Steelers cut the lead to 7-3.

The Oilers began to storm back with a 72 yard drive though. Behind a 45-yard screen pass reception by Tim Wilson and Pastorini connecting with Ronnie Coleman for 32 yards, Houston was driving at the Steeler 16 at quarter’s end. The Steel Curtain stiffened once again though and Austrian Tony Fritsch added a 27 yard field goal to extend the Houston lead to 10 to 3.

Bradshaw and the top-scoring offense of 1979 got back to business on the next drive at their own 33. The “Blonde Bomber” tore up the Houston defense with swift passes to Bleier, Harris and twice to Swann with 9:55 remaining in the first half. Bennie Cunningham caught a pass from No. 12 over Vernon Perry for a 16-yard touchdown and a 10-10 tie.

On their next possession, Houston was driving despite Earl Campbell‘s (15 yards on 17 carries the entire game) inability to get going. Pastorini was connecting with Mike Renfro. But No. 82 was changing hands and fumbled at his own 49 after being hit by Donnie Shell with Mel Blount recovering.

To follow, great running by Bleier and Harris on trap blocks by Gerry Mullins (subbing for Steve Courson) set up a Bradshaw touchdown pass to John Stallworth from 20 out with 2:35 remaining in the half.

Houston tried to answer, but rookie Dwayne Woodruff intercepted Pastorini at the Pittsburgh 45, and Matt Bahr missed a 46-yard field goal to close out the half.

Down 17-10, The Oilers got the football to start the second half and an opportunity to tie the score. The problem though was that George Perles’ defense was a picture of absolute dominance, as they forced a Cliff Parsley punt. This was temporarily good news for both squads as Theo Bell slipped trying to field the ball at his own 38 and the pigskin squirted into Houston’s hands at the Steeler 42. But once again, Houston squandered their best field position of the day.

For a short time in this game, Houston lost communication in their head sets. So the Steelers had theirs disconnected and both teams had to use hand signals temporarily.

After another Steeler punt, Pastorini lined up under center with good field position again in an attempt to tie. He was walloped by LC Greenwood and left for a play and came back less than 100%. The Three Rivers crowd then came in to play on 4th and two from the Steeler 37 What appeared to be a first down was nullified when Houston failed to get the snap off in time. Que Parsley to punt again.

On a drive in which Mike Renfro recovered a fumble in the vicinity of five Pittsburgh defenders, drew Mel Blount into a chuck penalty and caught a key first down…the second-year man from TCU was involved in one of the most controversial calls in Title Game history. With 1:30 left in the third, Pastorini threw a six-yard rainbow to Renfro for an apparent touchdown in the corner of the end zone over Ron Johnson. The replay showed that Renfro had clear control of the ball with his left foot down and his right foot hitting the pylon. NFL Films much later showed some movement in Renfro’s hands. If instant replay was in effect, the call on the field very well could have been reversed and Pittsburgh fans would have been hard pressed to argue it. (It was much more borderline than what first appeared on NBC television.) The officials conferred and referee Jim Tunney ruled it out if bounds. Houston was livid. Steeler fans accepted the gift. It was now second down and goal from the six and the Steeler defense held the Oilers to a field goal. It was 17-13 at the end of the third.

The Renfro play was unfortunate, but Pastorini claimed after the game that it was not the sole reason that his team lost. What a lot of people forget is that Houston had other opportunities to reclaim the four points lost and failed to do so.

In the fourth quarter, the Steelers iced it. It started on third and 20 when Bradshaw found a sliding Swann for a first down. After a five minute, clock-draining drive, Matt Bahr kicked a 39-yard field goal. It was still only a touchdown lead. Pittsburgh 20 and Houston 13.

With Houston nearing desperation mode, the impressive Pastorini began to engineer a game-tying drive at his own 11 with 9:42 remaining. But after No. 7 in white found Guido Merkens over the middle, disaster struck. Mel Blount jarred Merkens and Donnie Shell recovered at the Houston 45 with 5:46 left.

Bradshaw, only needing to get his team in field goal range for the victory, went for the kill shot. Rocky Bleier caught and ran for two first downs while the precious seconds ticked away. Then, on third and goal from the five, Bleier took the hand off and burst into the end zone with less than a minute remaining.

The rest is history as the Steelers went on to Pasadena and won a tough game 31-19 over the Los Angeles Rams for their fourth title in six years. This was the first AFC Championship Game I so vividly remember. In fact, the game started with an eight-year-old me actually hoping the Steelers would lose. My parents had just learned a day before that they could get Super Bowl tickets if the Steelers should prevail. I was scared of them going on a plane to California and never coming back, plus the little a-hole in me was pissed that I wasn’t invited. It took me about a minute into the game to revert back to my Steeler fanhood and get over it and root for my team. Three years ago, my dad and I got to meet Terry Bradshaw and briefly told him this story. Bradshaw told me that he wouldn’t have taken me either. I joked that I was still pissed, which I’m not at all. He looked at me and said, “Just be glad that you still have him” and shook my hand. Terry Bradshaw also made me realize how great it is to have such precious memories of an epic team.

If you want to hear more about this game, check out the Steelers Retro Show as Bryan Anthony Davis and Tony Defeo chronicle this game in the player below.

Saturday Night Steelers Open Thread: Duds, Defense, and Dogs

Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Come join the virtual party for some conversation about your Steelers and a few random items

With the off season comes debate and this week started off with a bang or was it a dud? With all the debate over the signing of a former 1st round pick to a futures contract at least we know that the passion for our Steelers runs strong. However, we won’t debate the merits of the signing here as BTSC has already seen about 232,457 and a half comments on the topic, so I think everyone’s position is clear.

Anyway, the polar vortex has made it’s way down to southern Ontario, and it is cold. Not stupid cold, mind you, but cold enough that if you haven’t started your ODR, now is the perfect time. What? You don’t know what an ODR is? You live in Pittsburgh and you call yourself a Pens fan?? Come on…

  1. Last week I gave you the power to be Kevin Colbert for a day to do one thing on the offensive side of the ball. This week, do your thing on the defensive side of the ball. One day, one choice, keep it realistic.
  2. With the announcement by the Vanimal of his retirement, what changes do you think the future holds for the TE group next year? A high draft choice? An elevated role for Rader or Gentry? Does Jessie James make a return? Something else?
  3. Call your retirement shots now… Who retires before the 2021 season starts? Ben Roethlisberger? Maurkice Pouncey? Alejandro Villanueva?
  4. This week you have likely seen footage of Steeler playoff victories, or even Super Bowl wins. Give us your favorite memory.
  5. Most of you surely know about Big Ben’s foundation and the relationship with the police and their canine units. While I did not grow up a dog lover, we are on dog No. 2 here in the canuck household. Are you a dog lover? If not, what about other pets? Tell us about your furry (or not) friend.

Matthew Wright signs a Reserve/Future contract with the Detroit Lions

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The substitute placekicker for the Steelers in 2020 is getting his shot with the Detroit Lions in 2021.

At the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season, they elected to let a group of players’ practice squad contracts expire. Many fans were perplexed by the decision, but it was essentially the Steelers giving these players a chance to start fresh somewhere new. Somewhere they could lock up a role for themselves, and not just sitting on the practice squad wondering if an injury would give them a shot.

Among those names were players like Devlin Hodges, Deon Cain and placekicker Matthew Wright. The day after Cain signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Baltimore Ravens, Wright has found a new home with the Detroit Lions.

Per Aaron Wilson Wright signed a Reserve/Future contract of his own with the Lions.

During the 2020 season, with Chris Boswell nursing multiple lower body injuries, Wright filled in and did so as well as can be expected. During his time in the lineup Wright never missed a field goal or extra point.

The biggest knock on Wright his is leg strength. The longest field goal he attempted, and made, was a 46-yard kick. He made two such kicks during his time with the Steelers, and it made Mike Tomlin’s decision to not even attempt a field goal at that distance in the team’s first loss vs. the Washington Football Team at Heinz Field.

After proving he can make those mid-to-long field goals, it was only a matter of time until Wright got a shot with another franchise, and it was the Lions who came calling. If Wright doesn’t make the roster in 2021, the Steelers would be wise to put in a call in case Boswell gets banged up for the second straight season.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Which remaining team are Steelers fans pulling for on Championship Weekend?

Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills
Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

With the Steelers offseason underway, is there a team this weekend Steelers fans want to see make it to the Super Bowl?

We know. It’s not the Steelers.

Before even diving into looking at the matchups this weekend, it’s inevitable that someone thinks they’re going to be highly witty and original and talk about how the Steelers are the only team they care about winning this weekend and they’re not even playing. We get it. It stinks that the Steelers’ 2020 season has come to an end.

But for many of us Steelers’ fans, even without our beloved Black & Gold playing, the game of football is something we love and will try to enjoy the few remaining games even though we don’t have a dog in the fight. It’s a long time until August, and there are only 3 games left until then.

In the eyes of Steelers’ Nation, there are pros and cons for all four of the remaining teams looking to bring home the Lombardi trophy in February. Whether it be wanting one particular team to win, or simply wanting a different team to lose, those tuning in to the two Conference Championship games on Sunday will likely cheer for one team over another.

So the question is, which team are you pulling for the most this weekend? Let’s look at the matchups.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers

Sunday 3:05 PM on FOX

The NFC signifies the “old guard” when it comes to the quarterback position. Both players have previously won a Super Bowl, but we all know one has a major hardware advantage over the other. Do Steelers’ fans want to see Tampa win it’s first Super Bowl in 20 years, or do they not want to see another championship for Tom Brady or a first one for Antonio Brown? Are Steelers’ fans still bitter over their last Super Bowl appearance where Aaron Rodgers emerged victorious? Do fans want to see an NFC team win and not the AFC? With the Steelers not facing either of these teams in 2020 and not scheduled to face them in 2021, they just might be too far removed for Steelers’ Nation to really care.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday 6:40 PM on CBS

With the old guard holding down the quarterback position in the NFC, the AFC highlights the youth movement. Patrick Mahomes already has his Super Bowl championship in 2019, so some fans may not want to see the Chiefs go back-to-back and begin a dynasty in the AFC. While the Buffalo Bills team may not be the largest rival with the Steelers just yet, their fan base sure does get riled up and can rub Steelers’ Nation the wrong way at times. Can the Black & Gold find it in their hearts to pull for the Bills Mafia? With both teams on the schedule in 2021, the Steelers are definitely facing a Super Bowl team next year. The only question is if they will face the Super Bowl LV Champion.

So there are the Conference Championship matchups this weekend. So which of these teams are you pulling for the most? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Possible replacements for Vance McDonald’s tight end spot

Carolina Panthers v Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Steelers will be in desperate need of some reinforcements at the tight end position following McDonald’s retirement

With Vance McDonald putting a bow on his NFL career. The Steelers find themselves down a tight end. The league waits to celebrate no man, so the Steelers will have already begun prep work on finding a suitable replacement. With Eric Ebron set to reprise his position as the primary pass catching big man, the Steelers will need to find a top blocking option to pair with him.

Now, for this exercise I will be avoiding any players in the draft. The way the Steelers have used their number two tight end is typically just in a blocking type role. With Zach Gentry and Kevin Rader already on the roster, the Steelers aren’t going to replace either of them with a sixth round pick, at least not right away. So let’s get started.

Jesse James

Pittsburgh Steelers v Oakland Raiders
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

I’ll start this list with a very familiar name. Jesse James has done virtually nothing since since his 4-year $22 million dollar deal with the Detroit Lions. With two seasons remaining on his deal with the Lions, James would have to be released before such a deal could be made. However, with the amount of production and playing time he has gotten in Detroit. Getting cut looks like a certainty.

Time heals all wounds, and if James becomes available this would be the most likely move in my mind.

MyCole Pruitt

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans
Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The other tight end in Tennessee. The Titans will have their hands full trying to re-sign Jonnu Smith to a contract extension. But it’s Mycole Pruitt, that will both fit schematically and financially into the Steelers’ system. Pruitt is a devastating blocker, and works extraordinarily well in the second tight end role.

Although not a receiving threat, Pruitt has had to grind his way just to earn an NFL job. His work ethic would be welcomed into the locker room.

Antony Auclair

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

If the Steelers want to take a flyer on a cheep blocking option, Auclair might be a good bet. Missing most of the Buccaneers regular season with a calf injury, Auclair has gotten lost in the fold of the Bucs’ vast depth chart. Auclair might be the biggest dice roll of anybody on this list, and the only player that will get a significant raise in playing time.

Tyler Eifert

Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

I wanted to end this list with two bigger names that are less realistic, but will come cheaper than ever. At one point Eifert was considered one of the top tight end prospects in the NFL. Injuries have plagued his career, however Eifert is a fighter to remain in this league. Still just 30 years old, Eifert played in 31 games over the past two seasons, and has had the best stretch of health in his career. I’m not against a one year flyer for the former Cincinnati Bengal.

Zach Ertz

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Zach Ertz has played his final game as a Philadelphia Eagle. He will either be traded or cut in the coming months, and I would have to imagine the Steelers would at least put in a phone call. Ertz’s [traded] cap hit is a smaller than the savings from McDonald’s retirement, so he’s not unaffordable. Sure he’s on the last legs of his career, however the right team could pull another solid season from the veteran tight end. Keep in mind the entire situation in Philly was a disaster, coupled with some injury issues to Ertz himself and it’s no surprise his numbers suffered. Ertz will be better in 2021.

That’s the list. What do you think? Who do you anticipate the Steelers bring in as their blocking tight end? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Podcast: Don’t fret over the Haskins signing, Steelers fans

There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the popular podcast Steelers Brunch w/ Tony.

The Steelers made a few futures-contract signings this week, but one made major waves among Steelers fans. A large portion of Steeler Nation had less than a favorable reaction to the signing of Dwayne Haskins on Thursday. But don’t fret fans, the signing means less than over-reacting fans think. Join Tony Defeo as he moves his Saturday show to the lights of Friday night and discusses the Steelers with plenty of answers to questions from the fan base. Welcome to Steelers Friday Six Pack with Tony! Join the veteran BTSC contributor as he discusses the Steelers so far and beyond.

Check out the rundown of the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section below!

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Dwayne Haskins
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

There could be a Watt Family Reunion this season, in Houston

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If Ben Roethlisberger decides to hang up his cleats, the Steelers should attempt to trade TJ Watt to the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson.

A few days ago my fellow BTSC colleague, and Steelers brother from another mother, Michael Beck penned a hugely successful article discussing the possibility of Houston Texans star DE J.J. Watt maybe joining his brothers in the Steel City one glad day in the future. The mere thought of the three Watt brothers all wearing the Black and Gold makes for great theater and generates an excitement that their Subway commercials could only imagine.

I immediately commented that the idea itself created a fun topic of discussion, but unless J.J. Watt had somehow been hiding the ability to play lights out at left tackle, the Steelers had far bigger needs that demanded their attention. I thoroughly enjoy articles that generate positive discussions at a time when they are desperately needed for the Steelers faithful. Michael Beck’s creatively inspired article did just that.

That article got my creative juices flowing, got me thinking outside the box so to speak. As anyone who has the misfortune of knowing me personally can attest, it doesn’t take much. Anyone familiar with my writing over my two years with BTSC already knows my suggested acquisition articles often skirt around the edges of reality. I resist taking the deep dive into the practicality of trading personnel as far as salary cap considerations are concerned because the pencil pushers somehow find a way to make it work if they want to bad enough. Push the hit down the road a couple years if need be. Colbert, get out the corporate credit card if you would be so kind.

With that being said, here is my brilliant idea. Keep in mind this whole scenario is only viable if Ben Roethlisberger decides to call it a career, and ride off helmetless on his Suzuki Hayabusa into the sunset. If, and only if, Ben retires; then the Pittsburgh Steelers should look into the possibility of trading All Pro OLB T.J. Watt to the Houston Texans for Pro Bowl QB Deshaun Watson. Before anybody starts sending hateful texts and emails to our BTSC editors, hear me out for a second.

T.J. Watt is the odds on favorite to win the NFL DPOY award this season. That type of recognition for a 26 year old first team All Pro will demand an astronomical number when contract negotiations roll around in the near future. Watt will warrant the largest contract for a defender in NFL history in all likelihood. Think Myles Garrett with the Cleveland Browns, only bigger. Keep in mind T.J. Watt has never attempted to use a piece of football equipment as a deadly weapon in front of a national television audience.

Also keep in mind how poorly the Steelers have handled contract negotiations with their superstar players in recent years, everybody that is besides Ben Roethlisberger. That is because QB negotiations are far more straight forward and easier than other positions. With quarterbacks the market value is all relatively set, with few exceptions. As Mike Tomlin stated a couple of weeks ago, it’s the cost of doing business.

Any team with a franchise QB knows it needs to set aside 30 to 40 million dollars per season, the current cost of doing business with a franchise QB. That is if you are lucky enough to have one; if not, you better get busy acquiring one. In today’s NFL, more than ever, no team is a true contender without one.

I know what you are thinking, that takes up a huge percentage of a team’s salary cap. Consider the four teams playing in the conference championship games this weekend. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Green Bay Packers, and the Kansas City Chiefs are all already paying handsomely for their franchise QBs. Only the Buffalo Bills, with QB Josh Allen, are still reaping the benefits of having a QB still on his rookie contract. As huge an advantage that appears to be at first glance on paper, one would assume that there would be multiple teams in that advantageous position competing for the Lombardi Trophy every season, but that is seldom the case. The franchise QB factor is far more prevalent.

Therefore if Ben retires, the Steelers are no longer legitimate Super Bowl contenders without a franchise QB on the roster. Maybe they no longer are even if their elder statesmen of a QB returns for one last go around. That is certainly debatable and it will be up to Roethlisberger and the Steelers to decide if that is the case. Regardless, it would make little sense to tie up an inordinate amount of the salary cap in a defensive superstar, no matter how talented the individual, if you lack the one player that every true contender must have at their disposal. Especially when you consider that two time All Pro FS Minkah Fitzpatrick will be needed a substantial raise not long after T.J.

The truth is a superstar defender can be game planned for and neutralized for long stretches of games. Double teams and chip blocks can make them nearly invisible at times. Franchise QBs like Deshaun Watson are always impactful as they touch the football on every offensive play. Watson is a true superstar who produced incredible numbers this season surrounded by a talent deficient roster in Houston.

Put Deshaun Watson on the Steelers and the Steelers are back to contender status in no more than a couple seasons. He is a talented young man of solid character who deserves far more support than he is presently receiving. He could be just the man to add to the Steelers already crowded trophy case.

Kevin Colbert needs to pick up the phone and call the Houston Texans. Offer T.J. Watt and next year’s number one for Watson. Throw in Derek Watt for good measure. It would make for a great storyline in Houston. I can see the headlines now as the Texans PR department promoted the Watt Family Reunion. Subway could purchase the licensing rights to the stadium. It might even cause J.J. Watt to reconsider abandoning the franchise.

A man can dream can’t he.

The Steelers have options for managing the 2021 salary cap, they just have decisions to make

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Although the Steelers salary cap situation looks bad going into 2021, there are ways around it depending on what they want to do.

During the 2020 offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers chose to restructure basically every contract available in order to maximize their salary cap space. Unfortunately, with the majority of those contracts only running through 2021, all the money they pushed down the road is now coming due. So does this mean the Steelers’ salary cap situation is hopeless?

As we’ve learned in years past, the Steelers always find away.

Ultimately, the Steelers are going to have to decide the route they are going to take. It’s not that they must do the same thing across the board, but they have options with a number of their players. It’s going to take a lot of work, but once the decisions are made when it comes to players the Steelers have options to reduce the salary cap in multiple places. As reported by Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, the Steelers just saved $15 million on the salary cap without having to decide anything themselves:

I spent the last three days outlining which category the Steelers 16 biggest salary cap hits fit into going in the 2021 (It was 17, then Vance McDonald retired). I placed every player who had a cap hit of at least $1.5 million into one of three categories. The reason this figure was chosen is because it eliminated almost all rookie contracts a deals at or close to the league minimum.

The first category was players who would actually increase the Steelers salary cap if they were released because of the amount of dead money would be more than their current cap number. In other words, it’s safe to label these players “uncuttable.” This has nothing to do with how they were performing on the field, but their contract for 2021 is in a way where there’s no benefit in releasing them.

An example of this type of player would have been the Steelers’ situation with Antonio Brown in 2019. By trading Brown, he actually cost Steelers more towards the 2019 salary cap that if he would have been playing under his current contract. Unfortunately, Brown forced his way out and Steelers had to take the hit.

Having contracts such as these are not a problem, but when players end up not playing it can cripple a franchise for years. This is why the Steelers are not parting ways with any of these players.

Hopefully this is a little better explanation for this article as some people seemed to be confused as to why it was even being written and why I was suggesting these players should be cut. That was not what I was intending and hopefully, after the rest of the series came out, it became much more clear that this was simply putting each of the Steelers top 16 salaries into one of these categories.

The next group of players are ones where the Steelers could save salary cap space, but the amount of dead money which would still count towards the 2021 salary cap was more than the savings. It doesn’t mean that these players can’t be released, it just means it would come with notable consequences.

The final category of these players were ones who had some dead money, but the salary cap savings was a much higher figure. These players are ones where it would make sense to move on from a financial standpoint if the Steelers were not happy with their own field production. Remember, this is dealing strictly with the numbers, as the notion of moving on from a player such as T.J. Watt would be much more crippling than 100 bad contracts.

With this basic review session, the Steelers have a number of players in which they need to do something about their 2021 contract. That something could be simply moving on from the player and regaining as much as they can towards the salary cap. Especially with aging players, this is often the case when they head into the last year of their contract. But with a number of players on the Steelers, the best thing to do is a contract extension in order to lower the 2021 cap hit as much as they can and spread the money out into future years.

As much as 2020 was the year of the restructure for the Steelers, 2021 looks to be the year of the extension. Before the extensions start coming, the first thing that will happen is the Steelers will release any players that they’re not planning to extend. Once those players have been determined, look for a number of extensions in order to help Steelers get below the 2021 salary cap and possibly even have a little bit of space to retain a few of their upcoming unrestricted free agents.

Deon Cain signs Reserve/Future contract with the Ravens

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers watched as Deon Cain went to the Baltimore Ravens this offseason hoping for an opportunity.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are often considered a wide receiver factory. General Manager Kevin Colbert has been known to find wide receivers with the best of them, and that isn’t just allocated to the NFL Draft.

If you remember back in 2019, the Steelers were in need of receivers after injuries had hampered the unit, and the Steelers picked up a former Clemson receiver named Deon Cain.

Cain didn’t have mind-boggling numbers, but was a big, tall and fast receiver who could stretch the field. In fact, the majority of the impact he made was by drawing pass interference penalties when given an opportunity.

In 2020 Cain spent the majority of the season on the Steelers’ expanded practice squad, and after the Steelers decided not to extend his contract in 2021, a division rival swooped in and picked up the free agent receiver.

The division rival? The Baltimore Ravens.

Even though the Steelers could be losing JuJu Smith-Schuster to free agency this offseason, the Steelers not extending Cain’s contract was to give the player a chance to find a team where he could see increased playing time.

The Ravens fit the bill.

If you think about the end of last season for Baltimore, who were the receivers Lamar Jackson had at his disposal?

Marquise Brown?

Mile Boykin?

Willie Snead?

Dez Bryant?

While I don’t think Cain will walk into the facility and be the best receiver on their roster, he will be an upgrade.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.