The Steelers are probably right not to give up on Mason Rudolph yet

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York JetsPhoto by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

To say Rudolph had a roller coaster season is an understatement.

It’s pretty easy to be wishy-washy on Mason Rudolph. In fact, wishy-washy is a compliment to him if you listen to most NFL analysts. For many, his die is cast as a dud. Such is the life of an NFL quarterback. Few positions get evaluated so quickly as all eyes are on the QB. It’s the beauty of the position – and the curse.

Let’s face it, Mason Rudolph dodged a bullet on draft day. Analysts, experts, and Steelers fans alike had mocked that a quarterback was a definite need, especially since Ben Roethlisberger still has to be a question mark coming off his surgery, cute video complete with beard shaving or not.

Steelers fans hope Roethlisberger rebounds and it is 2018 all over again. With him at the controls during his last season of play, he put up record numbers all around. His 675 passing attempts led the league.

But reality just dictates there is a very real possibility he will get injured again, even if it is just for a few games.

Well, the Steelers’ brass decided if that does indeed happen, it will be Mason Rudolph at the helm once more. As good of a story as it was that an undrafted man called “Duck” performed admirably under the circumstances, Devlin Hodges looks the part of a third stringer. And, when Cam Newton and Jameis Winston floated out there deep into the free agency period, the Steelers seemingly made no inquiry about either. In fact, they looked for nobody at quarterback.

Instead, they placed all their chips on Mason Rudolph. When you push all in, you’d better win. With the Steelers thought to be a playoff team, losing this gamble could bankrupt the Steelers chances if Roethlisberger misses even a few games to injuries.

Rudolph still has the pedigree and skills he showed off in college and the Steelers felt high on him when they picked him, even reportedly pegging him as a “first round talent.” The Steelers seem to believe giving him the hook after one partial, interrupted season starting is hasty.

Jared Goff, anyone? Left for dead after a bad career start, he righted the ship. Hey, one can hope.

If you look at his season last year, the coaching staff — I believe wrongly — put training wheels on him to a ridiculous degree. A player who was touted for deep ball throws was suddenly throwing 3 yards down field. I don’t recall a more conservative approach to an offense. Maybe Tim Tebow. Well, except for that one Tebow pass in the playoffs that haunts the Steelers.

Why did they go so conservative? Ask them, but it seems a combo of factors. First, the defense was top-notch and the team was playing not-to-screw-up. Understood, but that’s never a sustainable approach. Teams recognize this, of course, and it becomes a trudge to move the ball. Rudolph also was leading an offense with many moving pieces in addition to himself. James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, and Benny Snell Jr. all missed time. His best receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, obviously struggled through injury most of the season, and Dionte Johnson, while showing flashes of (shall I say it?) Antonio Brown at times, was still a rookie.

It wouldn’t have been an ideal situation even had Ben Roethlisberger been behind center. But, those could all be excuses and the reason could be he is just not that good. Thus, the wishy-washyness of trying to label him at this point in his career.

In watching his game versus the Baltimore Ravens recently on NFL Network, I was reminded he actually seemed to be settling into his role and things were opening up. Maybe the training wheels were about to come off, little by little.

Then the Ravens do what they do, and badly concussed Rudolph. I still see it as a cheap shot. He was out of the pocket and there was no need to go for his head other than just wanting to go for his head. What followed was the most comical handling of a scary head injury I ever witnessed. With what appeared to be no cart working at the stadium, Rudolph walked off the field with support — and with no facemask. Rudolph, obviously out of it, wobbled off the field with a dazed look which was clearly visible. If that sight is not a meme used by Baltimore fans to troll Rudolph for the rest of his career, then nothing is.

Anyway, this was bad timing for Rudolph. New quarterbacks need reps and consistency. Missing games due to a concussion isn’t good for any quarterback, yet alone a virtual rookie. I’ve seen Roethlisberger look mighty shaky after coming back from concussion, too. It’s not easy to come back and be sharp right away. It’s magnified when you’re still learning your role.

In that game versus the Ravens highly rated defense, Rudolph was arguably playing better against Baltimore than the eventual league MVP Lamar Jackson who struggled for his worst game of the season. The great ‘what-if’ is what would have happened if he could have continued to grow into the role instead of walking off the field looking like a stooge.

Now, he wasn’t setting the world on fire, but he was 13-20 for 131 and 1 TD when he left in the early third quarter. Most important, it was versus the Super Bowl contender Ravens, and he looked sharp under the circumstances. He looked poised to lead the upset, playing more aggressively while still protecting the ball.

What followed was missed time due to the concussion, not surprising shakiness upon his return, the Miles Garrett ugliness and his resulting suspension, then the dreamlike ‘Duck days’ and his heroic underdog story. All of this certainly allowed Rudolph no consistency in improving his craft after the Baltimore game. After sitting several games due to the coach’s decision, he made a brief return in Week 16 versus the Jets after the Duck was grounded. It looked like the time off did him good. He was looking sharp and confident. It was interesting to see how he’d finish the game.

Then he got hurt. End of his season. A rollercoaster analogy goes well here.

He finished the year with 13 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and a 62.2% completion percentage on just 283 attempts. Not bad for a career start — historically — for a new quarterback. Where it goes from here is up for debate, for sure, but the Steelers decided on draft day and free agency that he would be their number two. So, we will all find out.

Fans have to hope the interruption for a severe concussion and the interruption due to the Miles Garrett fiasco derailed his progress, and his revolving cast of teammates played into his uneven growth in 2019 as well. It’s certainly possible. If Roethlisberger misses time, more answers will come and we will see if the Steelers made the right move. This should be a playoff-contending team and Rudolph will have to help keep it on course.

With all that being said — Ben, please stay healthy!

Washington's NFL franchise to drop team name and logo after 87 years


Sports Pulse: Mackenzie Salmon reports on how Washington is finally changing their NFL team name after financial pressure from sponsors. USA TODAY

A little more than seven years ago, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder told USA TODAY Sports that the franchise would “never” change its team name — a moniker that many Native Americans considered a racial slur.

“NEVER,” Snyder said at the time. “You can use caps.”

Now, it appears “NEVER” has arrived.

In a monumental and long-awaited move, Washington’s NFL franchise announced Monday it will drop its polarizing team name and logo at the conclusion of an ongoing review. The franchise did not immediately announce a new name for its team, or when it will finalize its new branding.

“Dan Snyder and Coach (Ron) Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years,” the team said in a statement.

The decision to retire “Redskins” comes as the team conducts a formal review of the name, which was announced July 3 amid mounting pressure from key stakeholders — including FedEx, a major sponsor that holds the naming rights at the team’s stadium.

It also follows decades of simmering frustration from many Native Americans and activists, who have criticized the name as either insensitive or downright racist.

“Today we celebrate the retirement of the Washington NFL football team name that has long perpetuated racism and harm against Native peoples,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, the executive director of IllumiNative, a nonprofit that has long advocated for name to be changed. 

“We will not rest until the offensive use of Native imagery, logos, and names are eradicated from professional, collegiate, and K-12 sports. The time is now to stand in solidarity and declare that racism will not be tolerated.”

Washington will be the first NFL franchise to change its team name without moving to a new city in the same year since the Tennessee Oilers became the Tennessee Titans in 1998, less than two years removed from the franchise’s relocation from Houston. And it will be the first major professional sports team to make such a change since 2013, when the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats became the Hornets.

Another team with a Native American mascot, Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, also announced earlier this month that it would explore changing its team name. Manager Terry Francona is among those who have expressed support for a change.

FOUNDATION: Dan Snyder’s once-touted Native American foundation has gone dark

For Washington, Monday’s change marks the end of an 87-year stretch under the name. The franchise, which was originally based in Boston, switched to “Redskins” from Braves in July 1933. Owner George Preston Marshall moved the team to Washington a little less than four years later.

Snyder, 55, purchased the team in 1999 and has defied calls to change the name since.

For years, the billionaire argued that the “Redskins” moniker was a meaningful part of the team’s history, one that dates back to the early days of the NFL and includes three Super Bowl titles. He pointed to favorable polls, which he equated to proof that most Native Americans do not find the name offensive. Publicly, he declined to so much as even entertain the idea of rebranding the team.

“I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means,” Snyder told USA TODAY Sports in 2013.

Meanwhile, the chorus calling for change has grown, particularly in recent years.

There was a renewed — and, ultimately, unsuccessful — legal push to revoke the team’s trademarks in the past decade, on the grounds that the name is disparaging to Native Americans. Several high schools moved to abandon the name and find new monikers for their sports teams. And well-known figures, including then-President Barack Obama in 2015, have publicly urged Washington to make a change.

Then, in May, the death of George Floyd brought increased attention to issues of racial injustice across American society — including within the NFL.

As the league took steps to condemn racism, many began to wonder: What about Washington’s team name?

With pressure continuing to swell, Snyder and his associates began having conversations with the league office about the name. FedEx — which holds the naming rights to Washington’s home stadium, and counts its CEO among the team’s minority owners — released a statement in which it requested the name be changed. Two other top sponsors, Nike and PepsiCo, soon followed.

Less than 24 hours after FedEx first made its stance known, the team announced it would be undergoing a “thorough review” of its name and logo. And on Monday, after decades of scrutiny, Washington’s NFL franchise took its first official step toward adopting a new moniker.

It’s unclear which potential replacement names for the team are being seriously considered by franchise leadership, though fans and oddsmakers have floated several possibilities. Rivera, whom the team hired earlier this offseason, told The Washington Post earlier this month that he and Snyder had come up with “a couple of names” and “two of them I really like.” But he declined to specify those preferred names to the newspaper.

A name beginning with the letter “R” would allow the team to continue to use “HTTR,” a key marketing slogan that previously was short for “Hail To The Redskins.” But some fans have also expressed a preference for “Warriors,” among other possibilities.

Contact Tom Schad at or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

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Numero Uni: Who were the most notable Steelers to wear number 39?

Steelers Darren PerryPhoto by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

In a countdown of the most prolific Steelers jerseys of all time, No. 39 comes in 6th place.

BTSC continues to rank the best numbers in team history on a standpoint of thriving over time throughout multiple players. It seems there are a few numbers which are always represented with quality play in Steelers lore. One BTSC author has wondered aloud “what is the most accomplished number in Steelers history?” Through player and jersey value rankings found in Pro Football Reference, we have ranked the most successful numbers in Steelers history worn by multiple players. You won’t see numbers like 12, 58, 75, 31, 32, 52, 59, 36 and 47 as it would be basically ranking an individual player over the other and not the cumulative effort. In today’s submission, we take a look at those ranked 6th. Enjoy.

6) No. 39

Current Wearer: Minkah Fitzpatrick 2019-Present

Most Notable: Willie Parker 2004-2009 (pictured below), Darren Perry 1992-1998, Rick Moser 1979-1982, Bobby Walden 1968-1977

NFL: Steelers Beat Panthers 37-3Photo by Bob Leverone/Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Willie Parker is one of the fastest men to ever run the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a commitment to a power running scheme and inconsistent play at North Carolina led him to a reserve role and not being drafted. But the Rooney’s noticed him on scouting trips and signed Parker as an undrafted free agent. Parker didn’t see much playing time his rookie year, but got a chance in a meaningless Week 17 game in 2004. Willie, in only three quarters, ran for 102 yards against Buffalo and the seeds of greatness were starting to be sewn. Fast Willie Parker wasn’t supposed to start in Pittsburgh in 2005 either, but when both Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley were deemed unable to play in the opener, Parker ran the rock for 161 yards and finished the season with 1,202. Parker was only the second undrafted player (Priest Holmes was the first) to rush over 1,200 yards. In Super Bowl XL, Parker’s 75-yard dash is still the longest running-play in Super Bowl history. Injuries cut short the career of the 2-time Pro Bowler, who finished his career as the third best rusher in team history with 5,378 yards, 29 touchdowns and two Super Bowl rings in a mere six seasons with the team. Parker held the record for most rushing yards in a single game, notching 223 on a frigid December night against Cleveland in 2006, until Le’Veon Bell broke it in 2016. With the emergence of Rashard Mendenhall as the Steelers starter, Willie Parker left the team in 2010 for Washington, but failed to make the roster in DC. Officially retiring in 2012, Parker spends his days now coaching.

Darren Perry was a late round pick in 1992 when the Steelers selected the All-American safety and second-leading interceptor in Penn State history in the eighth round. Perry impressed right away when his six interceptions as a rookie marked the first time in 37 years a rookie led the Steelers in picks. That first-year excellence earned Darren the Joe Greene Great Performance Award as Pittsburgh’s top rookie. The free safety was durable as well, starting 110 of a possible 112 games as a Steeler, missing only two in 1998 for a groin injury. No. 39 ended his career in Pittsburgh after seven solid seasons in 1998 as Pittsburgh’s seventh-best interceptor of all-time. Perry moved on to the Chargers and Ravens in 1999, but didn’t record any playing time. His last season as a player was 2000 with a one-year stint with New Orleans. Since then, Darren Perry has joined the coaching ranks, including winning two Super Bowl rings as a defensive backs coach with the Steelers (2003-2006) in 2005 and the Packers (2009-2017) in 2010. Out of the game currently, Perry is reportedly seeking getting back on a NFL sideline.

Fans might not quite remember Rick Moser for his prowess on the football field, but his face might just be familiar to quite a bit of people. The Academic All-American was drafted out of Rhode Island by the Steelers in the 8th round of the 1978 draft. The running back did not see a lot of carries with the likes of Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Sidney Thornton and Greg Hawthorne in the Pittsburgh backfield, but he was a special teams ace for the Steelers. In fact, Moser recorded five tackles on kick coverage in Super Bowl XIV, then a Super Bowl record. After two rings in his first two seasons and a rushing touchdown with the Steelers, Moser moved on to Miami and Kansas City before returning to Pittsburgh in 1981 and 1982. One more game in Tampa in 1982 closed Moser’s career. Since then the football player turned to acting and modeling where he appeared in many print ads, commercials, the big screen an the small one as well. Many times Moser has portrayed football players like in Fighting Back, HBO’s 1st and 10 and Everybody’s Al-American. In Dazed and Confused, Moser was featured as the high-socked assistant football coach. On television, Rick appeared on favorites like General Hospital, The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes.

Bobby Walden started his professional football career in the Canadian League from 1960 to 1963 where he led the led the league in punting, rushing and receiving in 1961 and 1962. The Georgia Bulldog then transitioned into the NFL with a sole focus on punting with the Minnesota Vikings from 1964 to 1967. In 1968, Walden joined the Pittsburgh Steelers and stuck with the team for ten seasons, winning rings for Super Bowl IX and X. Bobby was named to the Pro Bowl in 1969 and is a member of the Steelers all-time team. The last Steelers punter to wear a position player’s number, the punter averaged 41.1 yards-per-punt for the Steelers. Bobby Walden passed away in 2018 at the age of 80.

Check back soon for the 5th best jersey in BTSC’s countdown of the most prolific jersey number stables in Steelers history. But first, a recap of the countdown so far.

Honorable Mention: No. 51, No. 93, No. 27 and No. 33
25) No. 24
24) No. 43
23) No. 83
22) No. 67
21) No. 53
20) No. 10
19) No. 20
18) No. 63
17) No. 50
16) No. 34
15) No. 78
14) No. 98
13) No. 68
12) No. 77
11) No. 56
10) No. 86
9) No. 73
8) No. 99
7) No. 55

Bud Dupree didn’t do anything wrong in his franchise tag dispute

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Most of the criticism the Steelers’ pass-rusher has received over his grievance with the NFL has been unwarranted.

Late Friday night, news broke that Steelers’ pass-rusher Bud Dupree had filed a grievance with the NFL, hoping that his franchise tag in 2020 would be paid to him as a defensive end rather than a linebacker. Defensive ends make $2 million more than linebackers when it comes to the franchise tag system, which is most likely what prompted Dupree to file his grievance.

Ian Rapoport, who reported the news of Dupree’s grievance, also noted that “the sides are not close on a [long-term] deal” in his tweet.

That report might have confirmed that 2020 would be the end of Dupree’s stay in Pittsburgh. He and the team only have until July 15th to get a deal done, and him asking for more money might have shown he has has resigned himself to playing on the tag in 2020. Regardless, there was never much of an expectation Dupree would have been able to get a long-term deal with team in the first place, so the news wasn’t much of a surprise.

While the general reaction to Rapoport’s tweet was similar to the one above, there were many who were frustrated Dupree was asking for more money, not that he might not be a Steeler in 2021. And, while it’s understandable to be disgusted by millionaire NFL stars and billionaire NFL owners squabbling over large amounts of money in a time of economic hardship, it’s hard to find any fault in what Dupree did.

Dupree wasn’t being petty when he filed his grievance, he actually has a great argument to be paid as an defensive end.

Bud Dupree and his teammate T.J. Watt essentially play defensive end in the Steelers’ defense, even though they are both listed as outside linebackers. They rarely dropped into coverage in 2019, and spent most of their time rushing the passer and setting the edge.

Brooke Pryor of ESPN noted that Dupree led the Steelers in EDGE snaps in 2019, spending 89% of his snaps from that position.

The Steelers’ hybrid look has the team playing with a 2-4 front quite often, which is typically made up of two defensive tackles in the middle and two pass-rushing outside linebackers on the edge. In other words, it’s a hybrid 4-3 defense where both Watt and Dupree play defensive end. The only difference is it’s described using 3-4 defense terminology, in which both Watt and Dupree would play outside linebacker.

The Steelers themselves have changed up their defensive terminology, listing Cameron Heyward, their star defensive end, as a defensive tackle. Heyward is technically a 3-4 defensive end, but due to the Steelers’ new defensive look, he’s been playing more as a 4-3 defensive tackle.

In other words, the definition of defensive end is what Dupree is challenging with his grievance. In each defensive scheme it can mean something different. When it comes to franchise tags, ‘defensive end’ seems to be defined as a pass-rusher.

Pass-rusher is one of the most valuable, if not the most valuable position on a defense, and it’s evidenced by how the defensive end franchise tag is worth $2 million more than the linebacker tag. There’s an argument on whether or not Dupree’s play is worthy of $17 million in a year (the amount of a defensive end franchise tag), but it has nothing to do with whether or not Dupree is entitled to it like he claims he is.

Also, when a pass-rushing outside linebacker like T.J. Watt or Bud Dupree eventually gets a long-term contract, how will they get paid? Like a defensive end.

It’s always easy to tell someone else what to do with their money and Dupree has felt that, being vilified by some fans and members of the media for filing his grievance. However, Dupree has been professional throughout the entire process, and hasn’t publicly complained about his pay, threatened a holdout, or even written passive-aggressive raps about it like a certain former franchise-tagged Steeler. He’s gone through all of the right avenues when it comes to getting his franchise tag upgraded as well, and has a legitimate case to be reviewed. Simply put, Dupree found a no-risk way to possibly make some more money which he might actually have the right to and most people in his situation would probably do the same.

Dupree isn’t playing the system any more than the Steelers did when they first placed the tag on him.

He isn’t alone in his line of thinking, either. Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ pass-rusher Shaquil Barrett, who led the NFL in sacks in 2019, found himself in a similar position as a pass-rusher placed under the linebacker franchise tag in 2019. Barrett had filed a grievance a few hours before Dupree. Both players have a valid complaint regarding how they’ve been classified and deserve to be heard out.

This article isn’t to say that Dupree did anything right. If he does play under the defensive end franchise tag in 2019 it could hurt the Steelers’ delicate salary cap situation and a player who is going to get $15 million this season wanting another $2 million seems to be a very insignificant problem.

But he didn’t do anything wrong, either.

Patrick Mahomes new contract is a wake up call to the Steelers: Parameters

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In the first part of the series, we’ll take a look at the basic structure of Mahomes contract and what the Steelers can learn from it.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, signed the largest contract in sports history on Monday. News of the deal started trickling out with the usual unsubstantiated and incorrect information that his massive contract was somehow tied to the salary cap. (Not sure if this is even a legit practice yet.) Then numbers of $400 million, $450 million, $477 million and finally the reported number of $503 million (max value) came out. Anyone who has followed my cap articles or others who break down contracts knows that there are twists and turns in contracts and that the $503 million is not guaranteed. What makes this contract unique and forward thinking on both sides — the structure of the contract. This is where I wish the Pittsburgh Steelers would get more creative and come out of the stone ages. I really believe how the team handles contracts have cost us valuable free agents while losing others to free agency.

Basic contract structure

10 year extension: Why is this important? Mahomes had two years left on his current contract, which was left untouched except $2 prorated signing bonus money added per year. This gives the Chiefs flexibility and a cheap quarterback while the NFL deals with the uncertain financial times.

New signing bonus money: The extension included $10 million in signing bonus money. Nope, not a typo. In the day and age of players demanding more and more guaranteed money, the signing bonus has been the prime vehicle in which guaranteed money is assured. Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson landed a four-year extension which gave him a $65 million signing bonus for comparison. Just keep in mind signing bonus money can only be prorated out over the first five years — this includes the two years before the extension starts.

Per year average: The figure I will use is $45 million per season, but you can pull that amount down if you want to calculate the two years remaining before the extension starts. The figure beats Wilson’s newly minted contract by $10 million per season, but is still the largest contract in NFL history.

Guaranteed money at signing: Do not fall for false terms that are not indicative of guaranteed money. Rolling guarantees are not fully guaranteed money. The reigning Super Bowl champ’s deal fully guarantees him $63 million at signing. Only? His fully guaranteed portion is over $31 million less than league leader Matt Ryan and ranks fifth behind Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Wilson, and Carson Wentz. If the Chiefs cut Mahomes at any time between now and the third day of the league year in 2021, that is all they would owe him as long as it was not injury related.

Injury guarantees: $141 million at signing. If he were to sustain a career ending injury before mid-March 2021, that is all they would pay him.

Rolling guarantees (Guaranteed mechanisms): New terms being bandied about this year. Let me start out applauding whoever made up these phrases. The term was made up to fool people into thinking there is more guaranteed money in a contract than what there really is. Rolling guarantees work when a player is on a team’s roster at a certain date — future money in his contract becomes fully guaranteed.

Incentives: Mahomes is eligible to earn $1.25 million per year, on the new contract if he wins the league MVP and another $1.25 million if he wins the AFC Championship Game — both of which he already has under his belt.

No-trade clause: With no guaranteed money after five years, trading Mahomes would be very easy. If things get rocky between the two sides, Mahomes could always waive the clause and choose where he would want to be dealt.

This is just the parameters of the contract and not the meat of it. The meat of the deal will come in the second part of this three-part series.

I knock Colbert and company for not getting with the times on contracts, but I agree with how they handle 95% of them. When T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, or others start entering contract extension talks, I believe the Steelers have to change with the times and look at the structure of the Mahomes contract as a possible blueprint to satisfy their lofty contract demands. I am not meaning the length, but the myriad of caveats that will make up the deal.

Wearing masks would be a small sacrifice for fans to attend games at Heinz Field in 2020

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh SteelersCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Wearing a mask? That would be a small price to pay to be able to attend Steelers games at Heinz Field in 2020.

The Steelers recently announced that if fans are, indeed, allowed to attend games at Heinz Field this fall and winter, the Steelers anticipate fans will be required to wear masks to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

I don’t know how you took that news, but I was excited to hear it. Not because I plan on attending any Steelers games at Heinz Field in 2020. I never go. In fact, the last regular season game I attended was early in the 2017 season. Before that? 2014.

I realize I live in Pittsburgh, just 10 minutes away from the stadium by car, but I’m one cheap SOB. I don’t want to pay $100 for a ticket, not when I can sit at home and take in a game in my comfortable recliner while also Tweeting about each and every play in the name of likes and retweets.

Besides all that, I’m almost secretly rooting for NFL games to be played without fans in the stands in 2020. Legendary Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier joked many years ago that NFL head coaches would like nothing more than for their teams to play games in a sterile environment, preferably in a dome, and with zero fans around to make noise of the positive or negative variety.

I just want to see what it’s like, you know? How would the officials be influenced if there aren’t people screaming for them to make a call that will benefit their favorite football team?

But that’s just me. I realize there are plenty of folks out there who would be crestfallen if they couldn’t attend Steelers games at Heinz Field or any NFL stadium this year. Like an old buddy once told me, attending NFL games, especially ones that are accompanied by raucous pregame tailgate parties, is almost like an addiction. And if you miss just one week, you feel lost.

Imagine missing an entire season?

But you may not have to, provided you wear a mask. Does this seem like an even trade? I’m asking, because, to reiterate, I don’t really care if any fans attend Heinz Field in the fall. But if I did truly want to go to a game, I’d wear a mask. Heck, so many fans wear them just for fun—our very own Dave Schofield has been known to wear a Darth Vadar-like mask (Editor’s Note: It’s a Kylo Ren mask to be exact) to games which I saw it with my own eyes.

Obviously, it’s still a little unclear as to how many fans will be allowed to attend games at Heinz Field, but if the standard the Ravens set for M&T Bank Stadium is any indication—the cap will be less than 14,000 in 2020—not many.

Baltimore has yet to make an announcement about masks, but even if Ravens fans don’t have to wear masks as they spread out in their team’s 71,000-plus seat professional football stadium, I don’t see the Steelers allowing even double the amount of their faithful into Heinz Field just because they’ll have masks on.

It goes without saying this is all cart-before-the-horse talk by this writer. Each NFL team may just decide it’s simply not worth the risk and/or bad publicity to allow even a single fan into stadiums this year.

But, again, if masks are a requirement, I’d be all for it. You can still tell an official he or she needs glasses while wearing a mask. You can still calmly ask Ben Roethlisberger why he’s holding onto the football too damn long. You can still tell Browns fans to go home. You can still predict plays after they happen. You can still sing Renegade.

And, heck, when December rolls around, and it’s 20 degrees at kickoff, that mask might be the greatest thing to ever happen to you.

I may not have a dog in the race as it pertains to whether or not I’ll get to attend games at Heinz Field in the fall, but the fact that the Steelers and other teams are preparing for that possibility tells me the NFL is still serious about having football in 2020.

That’s really all that matters to me.

Podcast: The 2020 Steelers run game needs to go beyond just James Conner

In the latest episode of “The Homer and the Hater” show, we break down all the news you need to know surrounding the Black-and-Gold.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long and accomplished history when it comes to their ground game. The last couple of seasons the rushing attack has been ranked towards the bottom of the league. Last year with Ben Roethlisberger injured, defenses stacked the box against the Steelers giving no respect to the passing game. The Steelers success on the ground revolves around the health of James Conner. But with No. 30’s injury history, shouldn’t the team make sure the other running backs see a fair share of action as well? This question leads to the topic of the latest episode in the BTSC family of podcasts.

Take a look at the rundown for the BTSC podcast The Homer and the Hater Show. On this show Lance Williams and Bryan Anthony Davis break down all things Steelers.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • News and Notes
  • The Steelers run game needs to go beyond just James Conner
  • Week in Review
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

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

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE
Google Play: CLICK HERE

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

Black and Gold Links: Monday is a big day for the NFL’s 2020 season

Dallas Cowboys v Pittsburgh Steelers

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

It has been a one-of-a-kind offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. Unable to attend most player pro days and participating in the NFL’s first virtual draft, the Steelers keep pushing forward toward a return to football activities. Just because the NFL has cancelled the 2020 Hall of Fame Game and cut the preseason to an undetermined amount of games doesn’t mean we stop providing you with features, commentary and opinions to tide you over throughout the offseason!

Today in the black-and-gold links article we take a look at the NFL and Players Association attempting to finalize the specifics of the 2020 season in the face of the current global pandemic.

Let’s get to the news:

  • An agreement will need to be made if NFL training camps hope to begin on time

A big Monday ahead for NFL, players’ union

By: Jeff Hartman, DK Pittsburgh Sports

The NFL, like other professional sports leagues before them, are finding their way back to the field not as smooth as they would have hoped. Still amidst the coronavirus pandemic, it has become blatantly clear there is a divide between the owners and the players they employ.

With the NFL and NFLPA slated for a meeting Monday, it is important to take a look back and see where things stand between the two sides as they attempt to find middle ground on everything from preseason games to testing protocols.


The NFL proposed cutting the preseason from four games to two, for the Steelers it would have been from five to two. This would allow players to get acclimated to game play after not having any offseason workouts like minicamp and Organized Team Activities (OTAs).

The players responded with a unanimous vote to eliminate all preseason games. Their thinking behind this decision was it would not only be safer, but allow even more time for players to get acclimated and conditioned for the rigors of an NFL regular season.

This remains on the table between the two sides.


The league gave the players an in-depth protocol they feel would be safe for players to return to facilities. This protocol would be for training camp and the preseason, if that happens, and is very robust in nature. Testing procedures, how the league plans on dealing with positive tests both as asymptomatic and symptomatic cases. Meetings primarily done virtually, and plenty more.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Terrelle Pryor still wishes to join the Steelers

Former WPIAL star Terrelle Pryor interested in joining Steelers, has talked to Patriots

By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Former WPIAL superstar Terrelle Pryor wants to get back into the National Football League.

And the Jeannette Jayhawk alum says he’d prefer to play with either New England or his hometown Steelers.

Pryor tells TMZ that he’s been in touch with approximately five teams. The free agent wide receiver and former quarterback said the Patriots were on that list. He didn’t specify that the Steelers were, but he talked around it and sounded interested at the prospect of a homecoming.

Or going to Foxborough.

“Those two are very intriguing,” Pryor says. “Especially (Patriots quarterback) Cam Newton. I’ve been a big fan of him throughout the years … And, obviously, Big Ben (Roethlisberger), that’s my hometown of Pittsburgh, so that’s just two teams that I really want to play for.”

Pryor says that because of the coronavirus pandemic, he hasn’t been able to get a tryout with any club as of yet.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

  • Head coach Mike Tomlin still finds a way to bring his message to his hometown

Tomlin shares words of wisdom

By: Teresa Varley,

It’s become a tradition, one that Mike Tomlin holds close to his heart because it’s all about his hometown of Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Every year when the Hampton Roads All-Star Football Camp takes place, Tomlin does his part by hosting the Annual Mike Tomlin Meet & Greet Reception. It’s a chance for Tomlin, and professional athletes from the Hampton Roads area, to give back to the kids in the community by sharing stories of where they came from and how they got to where they are today.

The stories are inspiring and uplifting, giving hope to many who need that extra push.

While the event had to be canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing you can never cancel is Tomlin’s energy and enthusiasm for his hometown.

In lieu of the event, Tomlin took part in a two-part grill-side interview with Carl Francis, Director of Communication for the NFLPA and co-founder of the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation (HRYF) and Vernon Lee, the co-founder of the HRYF, as the entire event was virtual this year.

“However we can keep this train rolling and touch people from the house, I am in,” said Tomlin.

Tomlin shared stories of his time growing up in Hampton Roads, those who made an impact on his life from the ‘757,’ and how some of the lessons he learned then still impact him today in his coaching profession.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)

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The 2020 Steelers from A to Z: Tyree Kinnel

Seattle Dragons v DC DefendersPhoto by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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

We are on part 49 of our 90-part series — assuming the roster does not change before we are complete — which will break down each player of the Steelers current 90-man roster in alphabetical order. This series will encompass many aspects of each players game and their current role with the team. At the end, I’ll give some projected stats as well as their chances to make the 53-man roster.

Let’s take a look at the former DC Defender:

Tyre Kinnel

Position: S
Height: 5’11”
Weight: 215 lbs
College: Michigan
Draft: UDFA in 2019 (Bengals)

2019 stats (XFL)

17 Tackles
0 Interceptions
0 Sacks

Contract remaining

Expires in 2021
$610,000 salary cap number (0.30% of total cap)
$0 Dead money
$610,000 Savings if cut

Likelihood of making the roster

Slim but not impossible. Tyree Kinnel has a shot at making this team specifically because the Steelers didn’t address this position in the 2020 offseason. Sure, they drafted Antoine Brooks Jr. in the 6th round but that doesn’t mean Brooks is a lock to make the team himself. Currently, the Steelers back up safeties, behind Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick, goes as follows:

Jordan Dangerfield
Marcus Allen
Antoine Brooks Jr.
John Battle
Tyree Kinnel

It really feels like the back up jobs at this spot could be won by anyone. Dangerfield and Allen have to be the favorites as the vets on the roster, but as career special teamers the Steelers might go in a different direction.

2020 projection

The Covid-19 pandemic is going to hurt everyone who isn’t a veteran on the team. The limited practice time mixed with a reported smaller-than-usual training camp roster won’t be good for someone like Kinnel.

Kinnel had his moments in the XFL including a 10 tackle game, but through no fault of his own, likely won’t be anything more than a practice squad player in 2020.

Projected stats:

N/A —Cut


The Back up safety spots feels like an open competition from top to bottom. Kinnel will have to really impress to win a spot however, as just about everything bad that could happen to a fringe player happened this offseason. That being said, Kinnel has the potential to be one of the former XFL players on the Steelers current roster to actually make the team.

Previously Highlighted

Ola Adeniyi
Marcus Allen
Tyson Alualu
Trajan Bandy
Zach Banner
J.T. Barrett
John Battle
Jordan Berry
Saeed Blacknall
Breon Borders
Chris Boswell
Antoine Brooks Jr.
Isaiah Buggs
Devin Bush
Deon Cain
Kam Canaday
Chase Claypool
Josiah Coatney
James Conner
Anthony Coyle
Jordan Dangerfield
Amara Darboh
Carlos Davis
David DeCastro
Christian DiLauro
Kevin Dotson
Bud Dupree
Eric Ebron
Terrell Edmunds
Trey Edmunds
Matt Feiler
Minkah Fitzpatrick
Zach Gentry
Ulysees Gilbert III
Derwin Gray
Joe Haden
J.C. Hassenauer
Quadree Henderson
Dewayne Hendrix
Cam Heyward
Alex Highsmith
Mike Hilton
Devlin Hodges
John Houston
Anthony Johnson
Diontae Johnson
Jarron Jones
John Keenoy

Realistic expectations for the Steelers offense in 2020

Pittsburgh Steelers v New England PatriotsPhoto by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

What should the be the expectations of the offense going into this season?

As much as the Steelers offense sputtered in 2019, expecting everything to fall back into place would be setting the team up for failure. So what should fans realistically expect from various positions going into 2020?


Heading into 2020, the Steelers are operating with the assumption they will have a fully healthy Ben Roethlisberger. It may be hard for the Steelers to truly know how healthy Ben is due to restrictions with Covid-19. While Roethlisberger does not participate in every practice during training camp or game in the preseason, this offseason was going to be especially crucial for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Their defense is Super Bowl caliber today, but overall team success will solely be on the shoulders of number 7.

Running Back

Pittsburgh has acknowledged they need to get better at running the football. This proud franchise had once established an identity of great defense and running the football. Obviously the game has changed, but for the Steelers, finishing 28th in rushing is unacceptable. When Ben went down, everything changed for the Steelers offensively and it was never going to put up the numbers it was capable of with Roethlisberger than without. The return of Big Ben makes everyone’s job easier and will certainly help out the running game. Given the potential for a shortened preseason and/or training camp, I expect the Steelers to go back to old school Steelers football. Don’t expect 40 rushing attempts a game, but I certainly expect the pass to run ratio a lot closer to 50/50 than in recent years when Roethlisberger was healthy. Kevin Colbert can say they think Ben may come back better than he was pre-surgery, but it does not mean they need to go out and throw the ball 40 times a game either.


A good defense can help build a good offense. To me, this is the key for the Steelers offense heading into 2020. Their defense is stout enough that the offense just needs to not turn the ball over and score at least 20-24 points a game. The Steelers are in win now mode and their defense is championship caliber, so the offense just needs to be slightly above average. I hate to use this term for Roethlisberger, but he needs to be a great game manager and utilize his elite defense.

Wide Receivers

It is fair to assume JuJu Smith-Schuster will also have a strong bounce-back year after an extremely disappointing 2019 campaign. JuJu dealt with injuries all year and suffered from inconsistent quarterback play. He will also be entering the final year of his rookie contract and if the Steelers do not extend him prior to the start of the 2020 season, he will just have more motivation to bounce back. Diontae Johnson had a great rookie season all things considered. Pittsburgh found another receiver gem in the middle rounds with Johnson. He figures to put up monster numbers with the return of Roethlisberger. James Washington also figures to develop more with Ben returning as Washington’s conditioning and work going into last season really paid off.

Tight End

Eric Ebron was signed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, giving the Steelers a weapon at the tight end position they have not had since Heath Miller retired. Ebron is not Miller because he is not as complete of a tight end like Miller was, but his athletic ability as a pass catcher is something the Steelers have simply not had. He will drop the occasional pass, but if the Steelers get the 2018 version of Ebron, they will be very pleased.

Over All

Expect Roethlisberger’s return to have a huge impact not only on offense but for the whole team heading into 2020. Putting all these things together while not asking Ben to do everything will ultimately determine the Steelers success throughout the season and beyond.