Saturday Night Open Thread: Substitute edition


New England Patriots Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers At Heinz Field
Every football fan knows it was a touchdown! | Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Come and join this merry band of Steelers’ faithful for some lively debate about our Steelers, good food and the merits of the odd cold beverage.

This week we will substitute some of my questions with some of yours. You know, the opposite of “me for him” or your gin for my coke! I’m hoping that with all this time saved at least I’ll get my washing done. I understand that some of you might call this lazy while others might know that the simple things you see are all complicated.

  1. Ok, call your shot. What will happen with the 24th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft?
  2. With the news that we are indeed getting the band back together (looking at you Mr. VinnyVidiVici and you too Mr. Rocket Scientist) why are the Steelers waiting so long to get the Outlaw back into the fold?
  3. Last week YourBlitzIsShowing gave this as one of his responses … “love rock and metal, but I can’t stand the things like air guitar and other stereotypical stuff that gets associated with the fans of the music.” I can understand the sentiment but I can tell you I don’t really care what other people think of my music. In my humble opinion, good music is meant to be played loud and celebrated. Anyway, give us your best stereotype of a metal head or an 80’s hairband lover.
  4. Next up is SNW… clearly the man loves words. I mean check out this suggestion for a future question. And I quote “literature”. That’s it folks! That’s what got thrown out there. I know, about as useful as maple syrup on a pancake... Can you read? Do you read? Maybe we will go with, what book would you recommend to this group?
  5. Last but not… we have Les. You know that guy in your group that loves to not only argue about everything BUT has to be right all the time? No, I am not talking about myself (disclaimer, I am but this post is titled “Substitute”) but Les Norton dropped this suggestion on us “During the week I caught up with some buddies and as usual it descended into a “———-” contest, this time on who each of us would have in a all-time band, any genre, and era.” He later added that his rules also specified that you could only choose one band member from each band to make this super band. So, give us your Les Norton All Star Band! However, nothing in the rules as laid out by Les say you can’t use a lead singer (say Roger Daltrey) from the band ‘the Who’ and then the lead guitarist (say Pete Townshend) as a solo artist… #winning!

Zach Banner and former linemen speak glowingly of offensive line coach Adrian Klemm


NFL: JUL 26 Steelers Training Camp
Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a new offensive line coach, and the players who play/played for him are excited to get to work.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching ranks underwent some overhaul this offseason. Gone were the likes of Randy Fichtner and Shaun Sarrett, and promoted to replace those aforementioned individuals were Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm.

Canada’s ability to mold an offense has been on display for years, but not many knew what to expect from Klemm. As a former player, and a two year assistant offensive line coach in Pittsburgh, Klemm has a tall task ahead of him with his first year in charge of the men up front.

While the task might be daunting, the players who played for Klemm are more than confident in his ability to improve the Steelers’ up front.

“Our offensive line needs to get better. We know that, not only as individuals, but as a unit,” tackle Zach Banner told Dale Lolley courtesy of Steelers.com.

“I wouldn’t want to go into an offseason like this with anyone other than Klemm.”

In fact, Banner has credited Klemm for his overall development the past two seasons, seasons where he has gotten new contracts with the Steelers. On top of that, Banner sees a tremendous improvement not just in his game, but also his fellow linemates.

“My development in these past two years is a huge chunk (owed) to him. Head offensive line coaches are so into the week to week, they don’t really get to work with developmental guys. My game, Chuks (Okorafor), Kevin Dotson, J.C. (Hassenauer) a lot of that individual work came from Klemm,” Banner said of backups who have been called into duty for one reason or another.

“That’s one thing I’m very excited about. From a technique standpoint, I’m very excited.”

Talk about a ringing endorsement for the first year offensive line coach. Then again, with Banner just signing a new two-year contract, what else would you expect him to say? What about someone who isn’t affiliated with the team anymore? That is exactly what former left guard Ramon Foster is now after his retirement, but if you thought because he wasn’t in Pittsburgh anymore he wouldn’t still tell the truth about Klemm, think again.

“Man, his ability to relate,” said Foster, who spent only one year with Klemm, but was impressed. ”Never taking the hype of a what the other person can do and focus on yourself. No matter how good the media portrays your opponent, it’s about what you’re willing to do to them instead. The idea of being the hammer and not the nail.

“He takes his job very serious and expects the guys to be the same way. Even while being the assistant offensive line coach, he was well involved with the younger guys and did a lot for us vets too as far as film study and confirmation of what we did right or wrong. He’s a guy I would have loved to play for in a head OL role because I know it’d be all accountability and the focus on pulling the absolute best out of you. Knowing when to press guys and when to pull back in coaching.”

When you see comments like this about a coach like Klemm, you wonder if it is more of an endorsement for the new coach, or a damning comment on the former coach, in this case Sarrett. Either way, the Steelers haven’t had the same offensive line since Mike Munchak departed Pittsburgh for a lateral job with the Denver Broncos. Will Klemm be able to get the Pittsburgh line back to those standards? Only time will tell, but the players who know him best certainly think so.

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

Could Avery Williamson still be in the Steelers’ plans for 2021?


NFL: NOV 22 Steelers at Jaguars
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If Avery Williamson reunites with the Steelers the teams plans will be drastically altered

Bringing back inside linebacker Avery Williamson would lock down the Steelers at the inside linebacker position. The inside linebacker room would feature Devin Bush, Vince Williams and Robert Spillane with real starting experience, and, with just one signing the defense would have a depth of defenders that can play most situations. Williamson provides a big body that is a menace in the run game, and a tackling machine. Based on his skill set, he would compete with Vince Williams in the buck linebacker spot and provide on early downs.

Williamson should also be viewed as someone to breakout with the Steelers in 2021. When he was acquired last November, Williamson was given a tough role being tasked with learning the Steelers’ complex defense while playing out of position in a coverage type role. Now, with the return of Devin Bush, we would see Avery used as a blitzer and run stuffer. Despite being used out of position last year, Williamson was still able to rack up 52 tackles, and a sack in just eight games (with only four starts). Those 52 tackles were still good enough for sixth on the entire team (his combined 111 tackles places him comfortably in first place).

Williamson’s addition would also provide clarity on how the Steelers will use Robert Spillane. I would expect Spillane to be used as a sub package linebacker as well as the primary back-up, playing significant snaps in relief of Bush, Williams, and Williamson. Monitoring snap counts may be a wise move for the Steelers, especially if they are comfortable with having any of those three players on the field at any given time. Anything the Steelers can do to make sure their guys are healthy come playoff time is key, especially with an expanded 17 game regualr season schedule.

As for the 2021 NFL Draft, I think it is fair to say the Steelers are out of the linebacker market, unless one of the big fish prospects are still available. The Steelers could still select Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame, and use him in a hybrid, linebacker-safety-nickel type role. Or, and hear me out on this, they could still draft Zaven Collins and transition the defense from a base 3-4 to a base 4-3. The latter option would mean sandwiching Williamson between Bush and Collins and allowing the crazy athletic guys to play hybrid type positions while Williamson only has to worry about stuffing the run and minor coverage responsibilities.

But what do you think? Do you think the Steelers will still re-sign Avery Williamson? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

Man who accused Rams' Aaron Donald of assault backpedals on claim, offers apology

De’Vincent Spriggs, the man who accused Los Angeles Rams star defensive lineman Aaron Donald of assaulting him, offered a public apology on Saturday through his attorney — taking back his claim from last Sunday. 

Spriggs’ attorney, Todd Hollis, issued a statement noting that Spriggs mistook Donald during a fight on Pittsburgh’s South Side. 

The statement read: “I wanted to make this statement public. And to extend an apology to Aaron for what he’s gone through, but I clearly know this was not him.” 

The 26-year-old Spriggs filed a criminal complaint on Sunday with the Pittsburgh police, according to Hollis. Spriggs provided an initial account of the alleged attack during which he suffered 16 stiches to the head, a broken eye socket, a broken nose, a sprained or broken arm and a concussion during. He initially claimed he was assaulted by Donald and several others. 

Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald during a 2020 game against the New York Jets at SoFi Stadium.

Donald’s lawyer, Casey White, appeared on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Friday morning and denied the claims against his client, citing surveillance video. White said Donald actually helped his accuser and saved him from further injury.

“He actually saved Mr. Spriggs from further injury,” White said. “It’s fantastic, from a defense attorney’s perspective.”

White said Spriggs was intoxicated and initiated the altercation in an alleyway — first throwing a bottle at Donald’s head — when several of Donald’s supporters were defending Donald in attacking Spriggs. 

“(Spriggs) does get punched, he does get slammed, he does get kicked in the head,” White detailed. “It’s violent, but the whole time, Mr. Donald, Aaron is being restrained.”

Hollis initially said before the surveillance video went public that he spoke to witnesses who corroborated details of the incident that allegedly took place at about 3 a.m. Sunday at a nightclub on East Carson Street in Pittsburgh’s South Side.

“(Spriggs) was in the nightclub and he accidentally bumped into Mr. Donald,’’ Hollis told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “Mr. Donald believed that he (Spriggs) bumped into him very hard. Mr. Spriggs apologized. That didn’t satisfy Mr. Donald. There was an incident that followed. 

“The young men were asked to leave the club. Both did. After my client exited the club, he attempted to leave. He was stopped by Mr. Donald, allegedly punched by Mr. Donald in concert with other individuals that were part of Mr. Donald’s group.”

Hollis said Spriggs was taken by a friend to a hospital for treatment and Hollis released a photo that showed Spriggs with facial injuries and swelling.

Contributing: Josh Peter

Keep reading this sports article on USA Today - NFL Top Stories.

Is Tyson Campbell a mid-round pick with tremendous upside the Steelers should target?


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Arkansas State at Georgia
Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For teams who are looking for a cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft, Tyson Campbell might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a cornerback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their defensive back depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but after players like Patrick Surtain, there are a lot of talented defensive backs who could be available to the Steelers at pick No. 24, or after.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a cornerback to bolster their depth at the position in 2021, and if Georgie cornerback Tyson Campbell is available when the Steelers pick in the middle rounds, is he an option for the team? Or would Campbell be just another mid-round cornerback selection we’ve all seen so many times?

I did some digging on Campbell, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Campbell. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Campbell in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.


Draft Profiles

NFL.com

Overview

Outside cornerback with undeniable physical traits and athletic tools. Smooth hips and agile feet guide him around the field, but he doesn’t always trust his footwork and overall technique, which leads to occasional bouts with imbalance in coverage. Length and quick-twitch agility could lead to robust improvement and success in man coverage. Poise and confidence in matching routes and playing deep throws are the first order of business and those areas might take a couple of seasons to fine-tune. Campbell’s traits outweigh the lack of polish and could lead to a solid NFL career.

Strengths

  • Enticing combination of height, length and speed.
  • Athletic gifts for natural man cover potential.
  • Impressive short-area twitch and agility shadowing route.
  • Improved press posture/balance in the last two seasons.
  • Easy hips for easy flips.
  • Speed and footwork for optimal route phasing.
  • Flexibility provides sudden sink and stop, mirroring comebacks.
  • Rangy to challenge high-low concepts from space.
  • Swivels for smooth directional change in coverage.
  • Ability to recover, close and make plays on the ball.
  • High school sprint champ in Florida.

Weaknesses

  • Must continue to get comfortable trusting feet.
  • Occasional battles with imbalance through lateral transitions.
  • Leaning from trail position diminishes stickiness to route.
  • Can improve downfield positioning to play the ball.
  • Inconsistent whipping head around to locate throws.
  • Coasts when he doesn’t feel threatened.
  • Needs to adjust zone coverage rather than guard grass.
  • Contain duties in run support are erratic.
  • Slow getting off receiver blocks.

Pro Football Network

  • Position: Cornerback
  • School: Georgia
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 185 pounds

Positives: Nice-sized, athletic cornerback who showed terrific development the past two seasons. Engages receivers at the line of scrimmage, quickly flips his hips in transition, and mixes it up with opponents throughout the route. Stays with assignments, sticks with receivers downfield, and stays on their hip out of breaks.

Battles throughout the play, displays a sense of timing on pass defenses, and has a burst to the ball out of his plant. Jars receivers at the point of attack, shaking the ball free. Fires up the field, works getting off blocks, and willingly defends the run.

Negatives: Slow getting his head back around and does a bit of face guarding. May struggle in bump-and-run coverage early in his career. Had a combined 1 interception and 11 pass breakups the past three seasons.

Analysis: Campbell possesses the size and underlying ball skills to start at the next level, but needs to continue to develop his game. He’s athletic and physical with the ability to line up in zone or man-off coverage. Campbell’s potential is enticing, and if properly coached, he could easily develop into a No. 2 corner on Sundays.

The Draft Network

Tyson Campbell aligns at cornerback for the Bulldogs defense. He plays the position with very good athleticism overall, as evidenced by his agility and short-area quickness. He has the NFL body type and frame teams covet for the position. When combined with his movement skills and length, it is easy to see why this player would be intriguing to NFL scouts. He has very good man coverage ability, but struggles with situational awareness. He remained healthy in 2020, which worked to answer durability concerns. However, when on the field, he has struggled to consistently make plays in the passing game.

Ideal Role: Starting outside (only) corner in sub-packages.

Scheme Fit: A team that implores press coverage and sprinkles in some zone. Would probably make more plays playing off and in a predominantly zone scheme.

Walter Football

Strengths:

  • Excellent height
  • Superb length
  • Good weight, strength
  • Strength to jam and reroute
  • Straight-line speed
  • Size to match up against big receivers
  • Quality instincts
  • Plays the ball well in air
  • Good feel in coverage
  • Skilled to slap passes away
  • Willing tackler
  • Physical
  • Does a good job of preventing separation
  • Good fit as a bump-and-run corner
  • Maintains correct positioning downfield
  • Contributed on special teams
  • Athletic upside

Weaknesses:

  • Not a serious interception threat
  • Outside corner only
  • Lacks twitch
  • Could have some change-of-directions problems
  • Not a good fit for off-man coverage

Player Comparison: Xavier Rhodes. Campbell reminds me of a thinner Rhodes. Rhodes (6-1, 218) is a big corner who can play press man and defend big receivers. Campbell could do that as well in the NFL. In the 2013 NFL Draft, Rhodes was a late first-round pick, and Campbell could be a late first-rounder in the 2021 NFL Draft.I think Campbell could be a pro corner similar to Rhodes after he gains some weight in a pro strength and conditioning program.


Breakdowns / Highlights


Game Film


Other Breakdowns

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RB

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Podcast: The brilliance of bringing back Vince Williams



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

Vince Williams is returning to the Steelers one month after being cut for salary cap purposes. James Conner is in Arizona looking for a fresh start. Also, plenty of draft talk and your questions and comments on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack! Join Tony Defeo on those those subjects, engaging in draft talk and much, much more.

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

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • 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

Spotify: CLICK HERE

Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Part 1:


Part 2:

Black n’ Gold Best: The Steelers Top 10 Round 5 Draft Picks since 1969


Steelers Mike Webster
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft on the horizon, BTSC takes a look at the best of the Steelers’ No. 5 picks since 1969.

The NFL Draft is coming up and the Steelers will, once again, rely building heavily through the draft instead of free agency. There are some rounds that the Steelers excel in. Of course, the first round the Steelers have brought in a plethora of Hall of Famers like Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Rod Woodson, Alan Faneca and Troy Polamalu. Teams are expected to find their best talent at the top of the draft. But the other rounds are where it becomes tougher. BTSC will go back to 1969 (when the Chuck Noll era began) and rank the best Round 5 picks in team lore. Rankings were aided somewhat by the Career Average Value stat from Pro Football Reference. The fifth-round is infamous due to the fact that the Steelers drafted two prominent future 49ers, Brent Jones and Dwaine Board, and did not allow themselves to reap the benefits of those selections.


Other Notable No. Fives: John Staggers (1970), Cliff Stoudt (1977), Dwaine Board (1979), Greg Garrity (1983), Brent Jones (1986), Darin Jordan (1988), Myron Bell (1994), Jerame Tuman (1999), Tee Martin (2000- a round ahead of Tom Brady), Chukky Okobi (2001), Verron Haynes (2002), Brian St. Pierre (2003), Dennis Dixon (2008), Jesse James (2015), Marcus Allen (2018), Jaylen Samuels (2018)


10. Lee Flowers – Georgia Tech (1995 – 151st overall)

Lee Flowers

A Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, Lethon Flowers was a big-league hitter and an all-league talker for the Steelers from 1995 to 2002. Lee never met a microphone he didn’t like. His ‘Paper Champion” label of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in response to Warren Sapp and Co. disrupting their warmups in 2001 was his most memorable mic drop. A special teams demon early on in his eight-year career, Flowers moved full-time to strong safety in 1998 and had four picks, 432 tackles and 12 sacks. Lee appeared in three AFC title bouts and Super Bowl XXX for the Men of Steel.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Flowers in 1995: 1) Mark Bruener – Washington, 2) Kordell Stewart – Colorado, 3) Brendan Stai – Nebraska, 4) Oliver Gibson – Notre Dame, 4) Donta Jones – Nebraska

Player drafted one spot ahead of Flowers in 1995: Cedric Davis – Arizona Cardinals (Tennessee State)

Player drafted one spot behind Flowers in 1995: Rich Owens – Washington Redskins (Lehigh)


9. Steve Courson – University of South Carolina (1977 – 125th overall)

Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Steve Courson came to the Steelers in Round 5 of the 1977 NFL Draft out of South Carolina. He played in Super Bowl XIII and XIV and was a starter in 1981 and 1982. After six seasons in Pittsburgh, the Gettysburg HS star played two more years in Tampa after a trade. As a Gamecock, Courson started using steroids and his weight went from 225 to 260 in 45 days. In the pros, Steve could bench press 605 pounds and became ashamed that he wasn’t achieving on his own. The drugs also caused him to need heart surgery and other problems. The offensive lineman became one of the first players to speak out about the drug in Sports Illustrated in 1985. Conducting 100 speeches a year to high school students, Courson allegedly fell out of favor with the league because of his outspokenness of the problem. The former Steeler died at age 50 when a tree he was cutting changed directions from the wind and struck Courson as he was attempting to save his labrador.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Courson in 1977: 1) Robin Cole – New Mexico, 2) Sidney Thornton – Northwestern State (LA), 3) Tom Beasley – Virginia Tech, 3) Jim Smith – Michigan, 4) Ted Petersen – Eastern Illinois, 4) Laverne Smith – Kansas, 4) Dan Audick – Hawaii, 5) Cliff Stoudt – Youngstown State

Player drafted one spot ahead of Courson in 1977: Clarence Williams – San Diego Chargers (South Carolina)

Player drafted one spot behind Courson in 1977: Lester Hayes – Oakland Raiders (Texas A&M)


8. Steve Furness – University of Rhode Island (1972 – 113th overall)

Steelers Steve Furness
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The replacement for Ernie Homes on the Steel Curtain defense, Furness was a very effective pass rusher for the Steelers. Accumulating 32 sacks in his time in Pittsburgh and a career high 8 12 in 1977, Furness ranks 13th all-time on the Steelers’ sack list. The alum of the Rhode Island Rams ended his career as a Detroit Lion for one season in 1981. Furness returned to the Steelers in 1992/1993 as a defensive line coach. Sadly, the four-time Super Bowl Champ passed of a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 49.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Furness in 1972: 1) Franco Harris – Penn State, 2) Gordon Gravelle – BYU, 3) John McMakin – Clemson, 4) Lorenzo Brinkley – Missouri, 4) Ed Bradley – Wake Forest

Player drafted one spot ahead of Furness in 1972: Carl Johnson – New Orleans Saints (Nebraska)

Player drafted one spot behind Furness in 1972: Dick Harris – New York Jets (South Carolina)


7. William Gay – University of Louisville (2007- 170th overall)

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

“Big Play” Willie Gay knew how to justify his nickname with the Steelers. The fifth round pick out of Louisville in 1997, Mike Tomlin’s first draft, spent 10 of his 11 seasons as a Steeler. Of his 11 career interceptions in black-and-gold, five were of the pick-six variety. That is a team record Gay shares with Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.

Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Gay in 2007: 1) Lawrence Timmons – Florida State, 2) LaMarr Woodley – Michigan 3) Matt Spaeth – Minnesota, 4) Daniel Sepulveda – Baylor. 4) Ryan McBean – Oklahoma, 5) Cameron Stephenson – Rutgers

Player drafted one spot ahead of Gay in 2007: Roy Hall – Indianapolis Colts (Ohio STate)

Player drafted one spot behind Gay in 2007: Clint Oldenburg – New Orleans Saints (Colorado State)


6. Clark Haggans – Colorado State University (2000 – 128th overall)

Super Bowl XL
Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

Clark Haggans is most certainly an underrated player in Steelers history. But a team can’t win without pieces of the puzzle and the all-time sack leader in Colorado State history was a major one in the 2000s. After drafting Joey Porter in the third round of the 1999 draft, the Steelers went back to the Ram well in the fifth round of the 2000 draft and selected his college teammate. Porter helped acclimate Haggans to life in Pittsburgh and welcomed him to a tight-knit linebacking corps. Ultimately spending 13 years in the professional ranks, Clark had his most success in his eight Steelers seasons ranking 12th on the all-time team list with 32.5 sacks. An unrestricted free agent after 2007, Haggans joined the Arizona Cardinals, but he went on IR in December and was not on the field for the Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh. However, he was on the field three years earlier and earned a ring in the Super Bowl XL win over Seattle.

Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Haggans in 2000: 1) Plaxico Burress Michigan State, 2) Marvel Smith – Arizona State, 3) Kendrick Clancy – Mississippi, 3) Hank Poteat – Pittsburgh, 4) Danny Farmer – UCLA

Player drafted one spot ahead of Haggans in 2000: Mao Tosi – Arizona Cardinals (Idaho)

Player drafted one spot behind Haggans in 2000: Matt Johnson – Indianapolis Colts (BYU)


5. Barry Foster – Arkansas (1990 – 128th overall)

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The talented ball-carrier from Arkansas served five enigmatic seasons for the Steelers after being drafted in 1990. Foster enjoyed the finest single-season ever in club history in 1992, rushing for a team mark of 1,690 yards and earning the team’s MVP honor. Barry ran and received for nearly 5,000 yards and scored 28 times in Pittsburgh and ranks as the eighth all-time leading rusher in team history on the ground with 3,943. The emergence of Bam Morris plus some nagging injuries hastened his departure in 1995. Foster joined Carolina and Cincinnati in 1995, but he never played a game for either club.

Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Foster in 1990: 1) Eric Green – Liberty, 2) Kenny Davidson – LSU, 3) Neil O’Donnell – Maryland, 3) Craig Veasey – Houston, 4) Chris Calloway – Michigan

Player drafted one spot ahead of Foster in 1990: Ken Hackemack – Kansas City Chiefs (Texas)

Player drafted one spot behind Foster in 1990: Rob Burnett – Cleveland Browns (Syracuse)


4. Craig Wolfley – Syracuse University (1980 – 138th overall)

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Craig Wolfley is a well-known familiar face and voice for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but ”Wolf” played ten years in Pittsburgh mostly at left guard. Arriving after the Super Bowl years of the 1970s as a fifth-rounder out of Syracuse, Craig was a key factor on a team that went to the playoffs four times during the 1980s. In 1981, Wolfley placed fifth in the World’s Strongest Man competition for the United States. He has also competed in sumo wrestling, martial arts, boxing, and weightlifting as well. A member of Syracuse University’s All-Century Team, Wolf is currently a sideline reporter for Steelers broadcasts.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Wolfley in 1980: 1) Mark Malone – Arizona State, 2) Bob Kohrs – Arizona State, 2) John Goodman – Oklahoma, 3) Ray Sydnor – Wisconsin, 4) Bill Hurley – Syracuse

Player drafted one spot ahead of Wolfley in 1980: Kenny Johnson – Atlanta Falcons (Mississippi State)

Player drafted one spot behind Wolfley in 1980: Herb Williams – San Francisco 49ers (Southern)


3. Hardy Nickerson – University of California (1987 – 122nd overall)

Hardy Nickerson

Hardy Nickerson spent six productive years in Pittsburgh before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During his Steeltown days, Nickerson recorded 9.5 quarterback sacks, more than he did as a Buc. After leaving the Steelers, Nickerson was a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro in Tampa. He is also a member of the NFL’s All-90s team. Drafted in the great 1987 draft alongside Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, Merrill Hoge, Thomas Everett, Delton Hall and Tim Johnson… Nickerson didn’t stay too long in Pittsburgh, but made his mark before leaving via free agency in 1993.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Nickerson in 1987: 1) Rod Woodson – Purdue, 2) Delton Hall – Clemson, 3) Charles Lockett – Long Beach State, 4) Thomas Everett – Baylor University

Player drafted one spot ahead of Nickerson in 1987: David Alexander – Philadelphia Eagles (Tulsa)

Player drafted one spot behind Nickerson in 1987: Milton Mack – New Orleans Saints (Alcorn State)


2. Larry Brown – University of Kansas (1971 – 106th overall)

Steelers Larry Brown
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

After being drafted out of Kansas in 1971 as a part of a loaded Pittsburgh class two picks after Dwight White, Larry Brown started his career with the Steelers wearing No. 87 as a versatile tight end. He caught a touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl IX. In 1977, Brown was approached by Chuck Noll to switch positions to tackle and his number to No. 79. The position change was only to be temporary due to a knee injury Brown suffered that year limiting his cutting ability. But for eight more seasons, Brown remained there and was a more than solid presence on the line, earning a Pro Bowl nod late in his career in 1982. Brown is one of 22 players to play in all four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He spent 14 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Brown in 1971: 1) Frank Lewis – Grambling, 2) Jack Ham – Penn State, 3) Steve Davis – Delaware State, 4) Gerry Mullins – USC, 4) Dwight White – East Texas State

Player drafted one spot ahead of Brown in 1971: Tim Kelly – Boston Patriots (Notre Dame)

Player drafted one spot behind Brown in 1971: Donnie Green – Buffalo Bills (Purdue)


1. Mike Webster – University of Wisconsin (1974 – 125th overall)

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Webster was the iron man of the Steelers for so many years. Playing for 15 years in the black-and-gold, Mike was the longest-tenured Steeler for ages until Ben Roethlisberger recently surpassed his record. A member of the legendary, 1974 class, Webster anchored the line that protected Steelers passers and ball-carriers through four Super Bowl titles. “Iron Mike” was named All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl nine times. He achieved the rare feat of being named to The NFL All-Decade team for both the 70s and the 80s. Along with being enshrined in Canton, both the league and the franchise named him to their 75th Anniversary All-Time teams. Webby had a cameo appearance in Terry Bradshaw’s HOF speech when No. 12 bellowed out, “What I wouldn’t do to put my hands under Mike Webster’s butt just one more time.” Unfortunately, Webster was also the first NFL player diagnosed with CTE, and Steelers Nation mourned his passing in 2002 at age 50.

Steelers Player Drafted ahead of Webster in 1974: 1) Lynn Swann – USC, 2) Jack Lambert – Kent State, 4) John Stallworth – Alabama A&M, 4) Jimmy Allen – UCLA

Player drafted one spot ahead of Webster in 1974: Charles Battle – New England Patriots (Grambling)

Player drafted one spot behind Webster in 1974: John Kelsey – Dallas Cowboys (Missouri)


Alex Highsmith’s 2020 season impacted the discussion of the Steelers 2021 first-round draft pick


NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Some not in tune with the Steelers instantly look at replacing Bud Dupree as a top draft need in 2021.

It’s time to revisit some things that I’ve discussed in the past and apply them to situations going on in the present when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

First, I have often said to beware of some of the national media who aren’t really in tune with what’s going on with the Steelers. While it’s improved as the 2021 NFL draft approaches, there were a good number of mock drafts selecting an edge rusher to the Steelers in the first round. While this is not out of the question, their explanation is what was truly troubling. Not to quote any particular mock draft exactly, the basic gist was the Steelers needed a replacement for the loss of Bud Dupree. What they fail to realize is the Steelers already had a plan which was implemented a year ago.

The other point I want to revisit is how I felt the Steelers had made an excellent choice in selecting Alex Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. While I was unsure of Highsmith before the draft due to him coming out of a smaller program, the fact that Steelers loved him made me love him even more.

But what made the selection such a great idea was the uncertainty of the future of Bud Dupree in Pittsburgh. With Dupree going into a season of playing on the franchise tag, and even though the Steelers had said numerous times that hoped to keep Dupree long term, it was wise to prepare for what ended up being a departure for the 2021 season.

By drafting Alex Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft, the Steelers had a player to come in as the rotational outside linebacker, a role filled the previous year by Anthony Chickillo. By having that opportunity, the Steelers were able to get a great gauge on what they had in Highsmith. If the pick worked out great, they did not have to address edge rusher as high in the 2021 draft. If it did not, then the Steelers knew the position would be a high priority the following season.

Not only did Highsmith perform well in the reserve role, he ended up having to start the final five games of the season for an injured Bud Dupree. While this was not the situation the Steelers were hoping for, it did give them an opportunity to assess Highsmith in his rookie season even better.

With Alex Highsmith performing more than adequately in the Steelers defense, despite his rookie status, it has changed the narrative of drafting an edge rusher for 2021. There is no reason to believe that Highsmith won’t perform as well in 2021 as players usually, but not always, see an increase in production in their second season.

As for the draft ahead, it’s not like edge rusher has completely fallen out of consideration for the Steelers. What the Steelers ultimately need at the position for this season is a 2020 Alex Highsmith. If Highsmith is moved into the Dupree role, then the Steelers need someone to fill that role Highsmith held last season.

Had the Steelers not been sure Alex Highsmith was ready to be the starter out outside linebacker, the need to draft an edge rusher would have dominated the Steelers first-round draft pick discussion. If Highsmith was merely nothing more than the rotational reserve player, the Steelers would need to find someone who could be ready to be a starter as soon as possible. In order for that to work out, it likely would have needed to be a first-round draft pick.

With the outlook being Highsmith as the starter, the Steelers can now draft the outside linebacker position at any point in the 2021 NFL draft. If the right player is there in the first round and it’s too much value to pass up, the Steelers could pull the trigger. There is a big difference between “could” and “have to.” Also, if there’s an under-the-radar player they feel they can get later on, it would set up perfectly.

But had Highsmith not performed well in 2020, the Steelers could have been put in a situation to be reaching for whatever edge rusher could be available at the 24th pick. Thanks to Alex Highsmith, the Steelers have a much better situation of being able to draft the best player available with their first draft selection.

Steelers 2020 Review, Week 12: The Real Ben Roethlisberger stands up


Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Ravens showed the Steelers the keys to maximizing Ben Roethlisberger’s last seasons.

Ben Roethlisberger has a history of great games against the Baltimore Ravens, and the Ravens know Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers well. In Week 12 of 2020, that made them the perfect team to exploit the weaknesses in the Steelers offense and reveal what Ben Roethlisberger has left as a quarterback.

1st quarter, 12:02. Watch the Steelers offensive line.


The Ravens come with a simple four-man rush, but David DeCastro is driven straight back into his quarterback and Ben throws with a defender in his face. If you watch the pass defenders you can see the Ravens had an idea what they would be facing on this play. To the top you can see the drag route draws a shove from a linebacker and the corner drops into zone. To the bottom Marcus Peters also heads into a deep zone, and he’s able to break up the throw to Chase Claypool because of it. The pressure on the quarterback forces a quicker throw, and Roethlisberger never sees JuJu Smith-Schuster breaking open over the middle.

1st quarter, 11:57. Check out the Ravens bunched up on the Steelers left side of the line (up on the screen)


The Ravens run a very Raven blitz here, but the key is the outside linebacker who drops and waits for the drag route. They know that route is coming, and they know it is Roethlisberger’s hot route, by making sure they have a linebacker to physically interfere with the route, they take that hot route away.

Check out this angle.


Roethlisberger sees the blitz coming, turns to go to his hot route, but it isn’t there. So he goes to Eric Ebron, but he’s hit as he throws. For his part, center J.C. Hassenauer doesn’t see the blitz, and ends up blocking no one while the Ravens get two blitzers facing Benny Snell for a big hit on the Steelers most important player.

1st quarter, 8:32. Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback.


After a fumble recovery gives the Steelers offense fantastic field position, they run this play. This is 22 personnel, the trips to the top is Vance McDonald (on the line), Derek Watt (outside) and Benny Snell (back). To the bottom of the screen is Eric Ebron and Chase Claypool. The play works to the top, except that Benny Snell slips when he tries to make his cut, and as Ben Roethlisberger tries to evade the defense, only Chase Claypool is running to help his quarterback, and it’s an ill advised chuck for an interception.

This kind of awful execution is rampant around Roethlisberger as the season goes on, Randy Fichtner’s offense was predictable, his empty set passes were cute, but cute isn’t a good thing in football. Add in the struggles of J.C. Hassenauer and mid-season David DeCastro and the Steelers offense was a nightmare.

1st quarter, 0:12. Eric Ebron is on the line to the top of the Screen, Anthony McFarland is behind him.


This play shows a few changes that pay off. First, Eric Ebron isn’t lined up in-line, he’s out wide. Benny Snell has been replaced by Anthony McFarland, a much better route runner. The result is a nice out route and a broken tackle for a first down. Notice the drag route and how there’s no linebacker interfering with it, and notice the Steelers empty set formation.

2nd quarter, 14:23. Eric Ebron is second from the bottom of the screen.


Empty set again, Anthony McFarland out wide again with Eric Ebron. This time it’s just Eric Ebron beating a cornerback with his size and strength for a big gain. Also watch the blocking, with just four rushers, David DeCastro and J.C. Hassenauer double team a defensive tackle and Roethlisberger makes the throw without getting touched.

2nd quarter, 7:25. Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback.


Not so lucky this time. A well-timed blitz catches Roethlisberger off-guard and he’s just able to get the ball out before he takes the hit. The pass is straight into the grass and incomplete. The blitzer hits Roethlisberger 2 seconds after the snap.

2nd quarter, 7:21. Chase Claypool is the receiver to the top of the screen.


Look at that pocket. Ben throws this ball about 2.7 seconds after the snap, and it’s a 22 yard gain. You should be picking up on a trend here. It also shouldn’t shock anyone that the offensive line is the foundation of success for any offense.

But you also need to notice how going empty set changes the defense and takes away a lot of the linebacker tricks Steeler opponents were using to thwart Randy Fichtner’s offense.

2nd quarter, 6:41. Ray-Ray McCloud is the slot receiver to the top of the screen.


Look at the spacing on this play. four vertical routes drives almost everyone back while Ray-Ray McCloud comes across on a drag route. Solid gain on the play because the Ravens had very few players in the middle of the field to start, due to the spread out empty set, and the vertical routes gave McCloud a 1v1 that he won with speed and a nice throw from his quarterback.

2nd quarter, 6:06. Benny Snell is the running back.


This play and the previous two were part of the no-huddle offense Ben Roethlisberger runs. Notice that with Snell in the backfield, the middle linebacker takes the drag route. Now look at the other routes from the top of the formation. Those splitting deeper routes drive the linebacker on that side back, as the middle back is defending the drag. That leaves a nice big hole for Benny Snell to slip out, and time to catch the ball, turn and accelerate away from the defense for a nice gain.

Ben Roethlisberger’s offense did a better job of stretching the defense and exploiting gaps that stretching opened up and in no huddle also purposefully attacked the defense for how it adjusted to the Steelers offense. It’s a very Bruce Arians-esque offense when Roethlisberger takes over.

When the blocking held up, it worked really well, at least for most of the field.

2nd quarter, 4:36. Watch the Ravens defense to the bottom of the screen.


The weakness with Arians’ offense in Pittsburgh was in the red zone. You can see it show up here as well. Roethlisberger isn’t a threat to run at all, and on second and goal from the 8 yard line, the Steelers awful run game is no threat either. The Ravens rush three and use 8 defenders to cover ten yards of field.

Look at the spacing, there are defenders everywhere, there’s no good options.

3rd quarter, 14:06. Chase Claypool is the receiver farthest to the top of the screen, Diontae Johnson to the bottom.


Getting back to the offensive line, when the quarterback can’t trust that he’ll have a pocket for more than 2 seconds (sometimes not even getting 2 seconds) you get plays like this. Roethlisberger sees the blitz and just takes the quick pass to Diontae Johnson for a 5 yard gain on a not-easy catch. If you look at the blocking, he didn’t have to rush, but if you’ve paid attention this film room you know he can’t trust his blockers to pick up that blitz, even though they do it this time. Ben Roethlisberger is not young, and he can’t take hits like he used too. Steeler fans are not used to a quarterback that throws balls away to avoid taking hits, and Ben Roethlisberger still won’t throw balls away very often, instead you get this.

If he has more faith in his blockers, Chase Claypool to the top of the screen is a much better option. In week 16, with Pouncey and Dotson playing, he grew more confident in his pocket and made those better throws, but when Pouncey was out, it wasn’t good.

4th quarter, 14:37. JuJu Smith-Schuster is third from the top of the screen.


I wanted to show this play, because it set up the only offensive touchdown of the week. This is what it takes to have success with an offense that has to get the ball out in under 2.5 seconds. You need a receiver to catch a ball, meet a defender two yards past the line of scrimmage and gain 6 more yards himself. You need to set up 2nd and 2 at the 4 yard line so the offense can actually try to run the ball and keep the defense honest.

4th quarter, 13:23. JuJu Smith-Schuster is the slot receiver to the bottom of the screen.


After picking up the first down, the Steelers have the Ravens desperate and gambling to create a negative play. The blitz gets pressure to Roethlisberger, but look at how incredibly fast he gets the ball out here. He has two seconds to make this play, and he does it.

Ben Roethlisberger had a terrible stretch of games when J.C. Hassenauer was forced into the lineup. The offense the team started the season with was solved and discarded, the team was largely relying on Ben Roethlisberger to run the offense after Fichtner’s game plan again showed itself to be inadequate, and he had a line that on any given play would fail to give him more than 2 seconds to throw the ball.

It’s hard to succeed in that setting. When Ben Roethlisberger could rely on having more than 2.5 seconds to throw the ball, the Steelers were a much better offense, even with a game plan that stunk and no run game. If the Steelers can give Ben Roethlisberger a better designed offense, with a better game plan each week, and maybe an offensive line that can drive a run game and also give him a consistently reasonable time to throw the ball, the Steelers will be in good hands.

In another Covid-19 affected off-season, with no starting caliber runners on the team and holes on the offensive line and no room under the one-year shrunk cap, that “if” isn’t a small one.

Vince Williams’ return makes the Steelers better at inside linebacker


Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

Vince Williams is back, and that’s great news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was first reported on Wednesday that the Steelers were re-signing inside linebacker Vince Williams to a contract just one month after cutting him for salary cap purposes.

Following the surprise re-signing of both receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, the fan in me says, “Yay!” There’s also that bit about the Steelers’ culture not being as bad as people think; like Smith-Schister and Alualu, Williams reportedly shunned other teams—and maybe better offers—in order to return to Pittsburgh.

But that’s all feel-good stuff that we don’t need to discuss in this article. What we can talk about is how Williams’ addition (or is it re-addition?) to the inside linebacker corps perhaps fortifies it to the point that Pittsburgh won’t have to address the unit with one of its premium selections in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. That’s a matter of opinion, of course. We don’t know what the Steelers’ brass is thinking when it comes to any of these perceived positions of need. For all we know, Micah Parsons could be this year’s Devin Bush, in that the Steelers may pull a 2019 and trade up to snag the Penn State product. If they’re not feeling that wild, maybe they’ll just hope that Tulsa’s Zaven Collins falls to them at 24.

Again, though, that’s all up for debate.

What isn’t up for debate—unless you want to debate me in the comments section—is how the return of Williams makes the Steelers’ inside linebacker position a solid-to-good one in 2021. Will Robert Spillane build on his rather promising 2020 season and reach new heights as the run-stuffing counterpart to Bush’s all-everything in the middle of Pittsburgh’s defense? I’m sure we’ll find that out soon enough. But even if Spillane turns out to be nothing more than a solid backup in 2021, you could do worse than Williams as Bush’s counterpart.

Like Ryan Shazier before him, Bush’s ability to take on a lot of responsibility should free up Williams to do what he does best—destroy running backs and even get after the passer. That’s right, Williams has developed a surprising penchant for sacking the quarterback over the past few seasons, collecting 17 of his career 20.5 career sacks over the past four years.

Not bad for someone who’s considered a step slower than most players who man his position.

We can’t be certain what Williams will add to the Steelers’ future, but we do know his past includes 52 starts since 2017; there actually might have been more starts on Williams’ career resume, but those declined in 2019 when Mark Barron was brought in as a free agent and took some away.

That he outlasted Barron and got his full-time job back in 2020 speaks volumes for the kind of player and teammate Williams has always been for the Steelers.

I know I said I wasn’t going to get into the feel-good stuff, but it’s nice to see Williams come back home for at least another season—the deal is reportedly for one year. Maybe it can be for life if everything falls into place. Williams is 31. Perhaps he realizes he only has another year or two left as a starter in the NFL. After that? Maybe he can wind things down as a reserve.

Hopefully, Williams can do that as a Steeler. How fitting would that be? A former sixth-round draft choice not only makes it in the NFL and goes on to have a lengthy career; he does so with only one team—the one that drafted him.

No matter how you slice it, the Steelers are in a better position now than they were a few days ago when Vince Williams was still looking for a new team to play for.

Welcome home, VinnyVidiVici.