5 other Steelers who could be deserving of new contracts before 2022

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills
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While much discussion has been about deals for Minkah Fitzpatrick and Diontae Johnson, there are other players the Steelers could extend before Week 1.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed into Phase Three of the offseason. With 10 sessions of OTAs followed by three days of mandatory minicamp, the full 90-man roster will come together in the middle of June for the first time of the 2022 season.

Even though the Steelers have their roster together for now, there is still the possibility of additions. In 2021, the Steelers added two more players, one following minicamp and another during the preseason, who wound up as starters for the season. But these are not the only moves the Steelers can make.

As is often the case with the Steelers, negotiations for players who are entering the last year of their contract can take place throughout the offseason. The Steelers have a policy of not negotiating deals during the season, so a self-imposed deadline of the start of the regular season will be the cutoff point for any new contracts.

While there has been much discussion about possible extensions for Minkah Fitzpatrick and Diontae Johnson this offseason, there are some other players on the roster who could lock themselves in with the Steelers beyond 2022. With that in mind, here are the top five players who could surprise Steelers fans and sign an extension prior to Week 1.

Chris Boswell

For a lot of Steelers fans who pay attention to these things in the offseason, this player is not a surprise. While he hasn’t been discussed as much as the other two players mentioned, Chris Boswell is the most likely candidate on this list to end up with an extension. Additionally, unlike the situation with Minkah Fitzpatrick, saving money against the salary cap may not be the goal when it comes to Boswell‘s new deal.

If the Steelers were to extend Boswell for two more seasons beyond 2022, the Steelers could simply give him a a minimum base salary for 2022 and a $6 million signing bonus, the same he received with his last contract, and the 2022 cap hit would remain relatively the same. Of course, the Steelers could give more of a signing bonus or more years when it comes to Boswell. The bottom line is, it would be wise for the Steelers to lock him in farther into the future.

Cam Sutton

While it’s unclear at this time exactly where Cameron Sutton is going to fit into the Steelers secondary from a starting cornerback standpoint, he is the only one of the three main players who is in the last year of his contract. Signing a two-year deal last offseason with three void years added on to help with the decreased salary cap in 2021, Cam Sutton is set to count $2.1 million against the Steelers’ salary cap next season while not on the roster. Were the Steelers to extend Sutton, it is my understanding that the $700k each season through 2025 from the void years would simply stay there as a prorated bonus along with whatever else he would have with his deal. So if the Steelers are wanting Sutton beyond this season, getting the deal done now helps to spread out the issue created last offseason.

If the Steelers and Suton were to come to an agreement where he would still get paid the same amount in 2022 that he is set to earn while getting him under contract with a base salary for the next three years, they could actually save over $2 million on the salary cap for 2022. In doing so, Sutton would carry a prorated bonus of $1.4 million for the remaining three years of his contract on top of whatever base salary they would negotiate. To me, the base salary over those next seasons would be the biggest point of negotiation and the ultimate determination of whether or not Sutton would get an extension.

Stephon Tuitt

Before you bust out your torches and pitchforks, hear me out for a moment. First of all, I would not even dream of offering Tuitt an extension until he joins the team on the field in full capacity during a minicamp and training camp. If Tuitt is back and appears to be the player that he was before missing the 2021 season, getting him under contract beyond 2022 would not be a bad idea.

First off, Tuitt also has three void years on his contract which kicks in next offseason. If he were to get extended, the $4.755 million which would come due next offseason would be spread out over the other three years should the extension go that far. Additionally, Tuitt’s cap hit could be greatly reduced this year with an extension so much more than it would with the release because of the void years. While releasing Tuitt would only save $4.295 million on the salary cap while carrying close to a $10 million dead cap hit, extending him for three seasons and merely giving him this year’s salary as a signing bonus would save almost $6 million against the cap.

Much like Cam Sutton, the biggest issue with a Tuitt extension would be his base salary for those additional years. Unsure of what the Steelers are going to be getting from Tuitt, even if he appears to be back and better than ever in training camp, it’s still an unknown until he plays in actual regular season games. Perhaps collecting his salary last season while not playing a down could weigh into Tuitt not pressing for above maximum value in an extension. But these are all big hypotheticals and there would be a lot to work out for this to happen.

Derek Watt

Do I have to mention the torches and pitchforks again? I know the topic of Derek Watt’s salary is a point of contention among many Steelers fans. The biggest issue with his contract at this time is the amount of dead money the Steelers have pushed forward by restructuring his contract last season, even though it wasn’t for a large amount. But even if the Steelers only added one more year to Watt’s contract and paid him no new money than what he would be set to earn this coming season, it could save an additional $815k. The biggest thing with Watt would be his base salary in additional years and how many years the Steelers would add. For each year the Steelers would add on, the more cap savings for 2022.

As for the subject of paying a fullback this amount, make sure you check out the upcoming episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast this Thursday.

Joe Haeg

Offering an extension to Joe Haeg is more of a “take it or leave it” type of situation. Going into his seventh NFL season, Haeg is the most years of service of any offensive lineman on the Steelers roster. Showing he can fulfill the swing tackle position as well as play guard if needed, the Steelers might not want to head into the 2023 offseason with any questions about Haeg’s future with the team. While it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for the Steelers to do so, it also wouldn’t be the end of the world if he were to just play out the last year of his contract.

So there are the five most likely players other than Minkah Fitzpatrick or Diontae Johnson who could sign a contract extension before the start of the 2022 regular season. Even though there are more players that are entering the last year of their deal, such as Devin Bush, Mason Rudolph, and Tyson Alualu, these three players didn’t make the list for various reasons. Devin Bush would have no reason to sign an extension at this time after the Steelers did not exercise his fifth-year option as his entire 2022 contract is already fully guaranteed. Mason Rudolph is unlikely to want to sign with the Steelers with their current quarterback situation unless a lot would change and be much more in focus in his favor by the end of the preseason. As for Tyson Alualu, the factor of age and coming off of an injury would make a deal before he plays another game pretty unlikely.

So what do you think? Do you believe any of these players listed above will get a contract extension? While I am one who is under the impression that Minkah Fitzpatrick will sign an extension and Diontae Johnson will not, feel free to give your opinion on those two players as well.

FILM ROOM: The Steelers are deep enough at ILB, but are they good enough?

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers are very deep at ILB, but is that quality depth?

This article is a follow up to the “Here We Go” podcast Bryan Anthony Davis and I did last Friday. Our focus was on inside linebackers, where the Steelers have seven viable players competing for what will likely be five roster spots. In that sense, the team is deep enough at the position. But is it good enough? That’s a question worth considering as we head towards the season.

The seven players in question include returning starter Devin Bush, free agent acquisition Myles Jack, veteran thumper Robert Spillane, fourth-year player Ulysses Gilbert III, converted safety Marcus Allen, second-year man Buddy Johnson, and rookie 7th Round draft pick Mark Robinson. It’s a group that lacks star power, in the sense there’s no elite player among them, but is deep in terms of athleticism and potential. The Steelers would probably be comfortable keeping any of the seven on their active roster. That won’t happen, though, given the restraints of the 53-man limit. So, at least one, and likely two, won’t make it.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each candidate before we turn to the question of whether the unit as a whole is good enough to be successful.

Devin Bush

Bush struggled last season as he recovered from the knee injury he suffered in 2020. He will have plenty of incentive to play better this year, considering the Steelers declined the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which will make him a free agent after the season. Bush will be playing for a new deal, either in Pittsburgh or somewhere else.

When we watch his film from last season, we see a player who was limited both mentally and physically. The physical part was obvious, given his attempt to make a quick turnaround from his ACL tear. The mental part is probably tougher for fans to understand. I tore my labrum and dislocated my shoulder during my sophomore season in college, which required surgery. I was not the same player as a junior. I developed a bad habit of using the wrong shoulder when taking on blocks for fear of re-injury. A dislocation is not pleasant, and the labrum tear required extensive rehabilitation. It was in the back of my mind that entire season, and it wasn’t until senior year, when I knew the shoulder was healthy, that I felt confident again.

Bush must have similar concerns about his knee, especially since he’s playing on a far bigger stage. You could see him struggle with change-of-direction last season, which likely signaled a hesitancy to push off and burst. Hopefully, his confidence improves this year, which should equate to better performance.

More troubling with Bush, though, are some of the fundamental errors he made that have nothing to do with his injury. Take this play from the Week 11 loss to the Chargers. Bush, aligned on the hash at the 1-yard line, gets fooled on a counter run. He should dual-read the guards, meaning he should diagnose the action of both guards at once. This may seem difficult, but “reading the triangle,” meaning seeing all the movement in the area between both guards to the running back, is common for inside backers. This would allow Bush to see the pull from the right guard and to work in that direction. Instead, he gets influenced by the initial movement of the left guard, the center and the back, leading to a false step from which he cannot recover:

For Bush to improve, he can’t get caught out of position and imperil the gap-integrity of the scheme. He must be better with his eye discipline and play diagnosis. His speed is likely to recover, but the degree to which he can be more fundamentally sound will greatly impact the success of the defense.

Myles Jack

Jack is the best pure linebacker of the seven players we’re examining. He was slowed by injuries in 2019 and 2020, when he missed seven combined games, but he rebounded in 2021 to total 108 tackles, the third time he’s breached the century mark in his six-year career. When healthy, he’s played at a Pro Bowl level and could be the best inside backer in Pittsburgh since Ryan Shazier.

There are questions about how well he’ll fit along side Bush, though, since the two have comparable skill sets. Traditionally, the Steelers have slotted one inside backer at the Buck and another at the Mack. The Buck is often the bigger of the two and is commonly tasked with playing downhill and filling gaps. The Mack is more of a scrape-and-chase weak-side defender who tends to be more athletic and cover more ground. Bush and Jack both seem better suited to play the Mack. Which, then, will draw the dirtier, more physical duties of the Buck?

That may fall to Jack since, at present, he’s more accomplished at reading and shedding blocks. He’s also bigger, at 6’1-245, compared to Bush (5’11-235). When the defensive line can keep Jack clean, he’s shown he can play well on the strong side. Watch here how patient he is, and how he stays in good tackling position by remaining square. This is excellent fundamental linebacker play:

A defensive front that returns Tyson Alualu and, hopefully, Stephon Tuitt should be better at anchoring the line of scrimmage than they were last season. If Jack stays healthy, this may allow him to flourish.

Robert Spillane

With Spillane, you know exactly what you’re getting: a Buck linebacker who plays downhill like it’s 1989. Spillane has limited range and can struggle in coverage. But as a situational run-stuffer, he’s excellent.

It’s hard to forget Spillane’s signature hit on Tennessee’s 250-pound battering ram Derrick Henry in this game from 2020. The GIF doesn’t do the hit justice because you can’t hear the sound it made when Spillane crashed into Henry at full speed. Think two rams colliding in the Rocky Mountain wilderness:

Spillane’s value to the Steelers is clear. He’s not ideal if asked to play every down. But, as a role player who specializes in stopping the run, he possesses a necessary skill set.

Ulysses Gilbert III

No one around BTSC has followed Gilbert’s career as closely as Shannon White, so I reached out to Shannon for his thoughts. Here’s a screen shot of his reply:

The injury Shannon references occurred when Gilbert was a rookie in 2019 and flared up again in 2020. Like Bush, it seems to have affected his performance on the field. Gilbert has made some solid contributions on special teams, including a scoop-and-score off a blocked punt in the season-opening win at Buffalo last season. However, with tough competition for the roster spots at inside backer, Gilbert may have to show he can do more to stick around.

Marcus Allen

Some fans were puzzled when the Steelers brought Allen back this off-season on a one-year, $2.5 million contract. Allen played just 6% of the team’s defensive snaps last season, and was unremarkable in doing so. At 6’2-215, he is undersized at both the Mack and the Buck, so it’s hard to see where he fits. Perhaps, with new defensive assistant Brian Flores on board, Allen will be used as a blitzer and coverage specialist. Flores likes versatile players who can execute a variety of roles, and he may have something in mind for Allen. Otherwise, Allen will have to make the roster on special teams. He was valuable there last season, playing 65% of the special teams snaps. The Steelers will have to decide if that’s enough to warrant a $2.5 million salary.

Neither Allen nor Gilbert has really distinguished themself in Pittsburgh, so It seems unlikely the Steelers will keep both. It may be a competition between the two for a single roster spot.

Buddy Johnson

One of the more intriguing players of the inside linebacker group is second-year man Buddy Johnson. Johnson is built like a Buck at 6’2-240 and certainly hits like one. In college, he had over 200 career tackles while showing good instincts and a knack for finding the football.

Johnson was active for just four games last season, with his only action on defense coming in Week 14 at Minnesota. That provides a limited sample size, but does give us a peek at his abilities.

First, we can see how quick he is to read his keys and react. Johnson (45), aligned on the right hash, recognizes the full-flow of this wide zone run play and does a nice job beating the cut-off block of the right offensive tackle. He’s a little too aggressive and winds up over-pursuing, leading to an attempted arm tackle on Dalvin Cook. But you can see the suddenness with which he plays, which is attractive in any linebacker:

In pass coverage, Johnson was thought to be a liability coming out of college. He had some good reps against the Vikings, though, especially this snap. Watch as Johnson (45, right hash) shows nice agility in recovering from his initial reaction to the play fake, and good fluidity in his hips when changing direction. He does a great job sinking under the crossing route to force quarterback Kirk Cousins to come off that read and throw into a tight window, leading to an interception:

Again, it’s a very small sample size, but there are some encouraging signs on tape.

Interest in Johnson should be elevated by Pittsburgh’s decision to decline Bush’s fifth-year option. This means the Steelers could need a starter to play beside Jack in 2023. With Jack a more natural fit at the Mack, and Johnson a true Buck, those two are an intriguing duo. Johnson has a long way to go before being anointed a starter, but he has the tools to make it happen.

Mark Robinson

7th Round pick Mark Robinson screams “project.” He’s a converted running back who played just one year of linebacker at Ole Miss. There is little chance he will contribute to the defense in 2022. However, he’s an explosive player who accelerates to contact with great aggressiveness and, once he gets there, knows how to finish:

That aggression can be detrimental, as Robinson can be fooled and run himself out of position. He has a lot to learn to master the nuances of playing linebacker. The Steelers would probably love to stash him on the practice squad for a year and work on his development. He may, however, show enough with his ability to run and hit to retain as a sixth inside backer and special teams contributor. One way or another, my suspicion is Robinson will stick around. He’s an intriguing player with enough potential for the Steelers to keep him.

Are the Steelers good enough at inside backer?

I think the answer is yes, but that comes with caveats. Yes, if Bush plays more like he did before the injury. Yes, if Jack can hold up at the Buck. Yes, if Spillane can not get exposed. Yes, if Johnson shows progress. That foursome could be pretty good, provided the Steelers get something close to a best-case scenario out of each.

If things go south, however, and the injury bug that has hindered Bush and Jack resurfaces, and Spillane has to play more than he should, and Johnson isn’t able to handle a bigger role, and Allen and/or Gilbert continue to display their limitations, then the answer is no. There’s an uncertainty about this unit that is concerning. Things have to break the right way for them. Should they, it could be a strength of the defense. If not, the Steelers will lament they didn’t do more to bolster it when they had the chance.

6 things to watch at Steelers OTAs and mandatory minicamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are six key storylines to keep your eye on:

1. Stephon Tuitt’s future

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

2. Diontae Johnson holdout?

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

3. Minkah Fitzpatrick approach to new deal

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

4. Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett take the field

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

5. Rookies and Free Agents work with new team

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

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

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

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

BTSC Top Ten: Diontae Johnson voted the 7th best Steeler of 2021, who is No. 8?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

BTSC voters are choosing the most valuable Steelers from 2021.

As the Steelers continue through the offseason, building 2022 roster, it is a good time to take a look back at 2021 again and rank the Top 10 Steelers players of the season. There are a good number of players who played well, and a lot who didn’t.

Diontae Johnson was one of the Steelers four Pro Bowl players in 2021, and while Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt and Najee Harris joined him in that honor, they appear as the top three players on this list while Diontae Johnson is entering the list as the 7th pick.

Johnson led the Steelers in every receiving total with 169 targets, 107 receptions, 1,161 yards and 8 touchdowns. While his total stats are impressive, his efficiency, and the effectiveness of the Steelers passing game, was not impressive.

With the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger and a re-tooled offensive line, Diontae Johnson returns to a different offense in 2022. But while there are questions surrounding how he will perform, Johnson shouldn’t be undersold here. Diontae Johnson has led the Steelers in targets and receptions in all three of his seasons with the team, He led the team in receiving in both 2020 and 2021, second to James Washington in 2019 and led the team in receiving touchdowns in 2019 and 2021, coming in third in 2020. Over his three seasons he leads the team in every receiving statistic by a good margin.

Diontae Johnson’s three-year stats and the 2nd place in that stat.

Targets: 405 (226 JuJu Smith-Schuster)

Receptions: 254 (154 JuJu Smith-Schuster)

Yards: 2,764 (1,733 Chase Claypool)

Touchdowns: 20 (12 JuJu Smith-Schuster)

Diontae Johnson joins Najee Harris as the only Steelers offensive playmakers to make the Pro Bowl since 2018. (Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro made it in 2019 and 2020).

So while the questions about how good Diontae Johnson will be without Ben Roethlisberger, it’s not so much a question of will he be good, but can he replicate his Pro-Bowl season of 2021 or even improve on it?

Best Steelers of 2021:
1. T.J. Watt
2. Cameron Heyward
3. Najee Harris
4. Minkah Fitzpatrick
5. Chris Boswell
6. Pat Freiermuth
7. Diontae Johnson

With Johnson finally off the list, we add Dan Moore Jr. to our list of ten candidates for the 6th most important Steeler of 2021.

Let’s take a quick look at the candidates:
Bold = led Steelers in stat, * = led NFL in stat

Chase Claypool: Claypool’s 2021 season was considered a drop-off from his rookie season, but statistically that was only true in touchdowns scored, one of the most volatile stats for receivers. Claypool’s second season saw him improve slightly in yards per game, yards per target, broken tackles and drops. While the entire passing game was less efficient in 2021, Chase Claypool saw the least decline in efficiency.
Stat line: 105 targets, 59 receptions, 860 yards, 2 TDs.

Kevin Dotson: Dotson only appeared in 9 games for the Steelers, and it showed. With rookies starting on either side of him, Dotson was the anchor of the line, and that line was improving before he was hurt. The Steelers recorded 5 straight 100+ yard rushing games, a streak that ended with Dotson’s injury. That span of time involved the only two wins the Steelers recorded where their opponent scored 20 or more points.

Terrell Edmunds: Edmunds was labeled a reach when he was drafted, and while he has played in all but one game since then, and started all but 5, Edmunds has been more known for his weaknesses than his strengths. Edmunds has put in the work, improved every season, and in 2021 had his best coverage season, ranking in the top 20 in passer rating against when targeted, while still being a key player against the run for the Steelers.
Stat line: 2 interceptions, 6 passes defended, 1 sack, 8 tackles for a loss, 63 solo tackles.

Joe Haden: The veteran cornerback missed 5 games, but was still the Steelers best cornerback over the course of the season, and the Steelers defense continues to be a much better defense when he plays and the Steelers continue to win far more of their games with him than when he is out.
Stat line: 0 interceptions, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 26 solo tackles.

Alex Highsmith: In his second year, Highsmith stepped into a starting role in 2021. In that role Highsmith recorded only 6 sacks but continued to show he is a sound defensive player who is strong in all phases of the game. While we look forward to Highsmith growing further into his role in 2022, his play in 2021 was definitely above the line.
Stat line: 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 46 solo tackles, 15 tackles for a loss, 15 QB hits.

Dan Moore Jr.: Dan Moore Jr. didn’t have the best rookie season, but he stepped in when he wasn’t supposed to play and solidified the left tackle position while providing a lot of value in the run game. Moore Jr. also had the disadvantage of playing with numerous different left guards lined up next to him and was left on an island to guard Miles Garrett a lot in the Steelers two games against the Browns, allowing 1 sack.

Ben Roethlisberger: The Steelers quarterback was a shell of his former self, and yet it is hard to believe that the team would have made the improbable run to the playoffs without him. Similar to Jerome Bettis being a major reason the 2005 Steelers won the Super Bowl while he was a backup, Ben Roethlisberger’s importance to the 2021 Steelers likely is more than his ability to still play the game.
Stat line: 3,740 passing yards, 22 passing TDs, 10 interceptions.

Joe Schobert: Schobert joined the Steelers via a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he helped hold down the inside linebacker position for the Steelers. He ended up second on the team in tackles, while playing the 5th most snaps on the Steelers defense. While not a long-term solution to the Steelers linebacker needs, Schobert was a solid player for the one season he was on the team.
Stat Line: 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 70 solo tackles, 6 passes defended, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit.

Ahkello Witherspoon: Akhello Witherspoon only played in 9 games in 2021, and ranked 8th in snaps for defensive backs on the Steelers, but he also led the Steelers in interceptions and tied Cameron Heyward for the most passes defended. His shorter time on the field definitely limited his value to the team, and with his awful first game, justifiably so. But it is hard to overstate the impact Witherspoon had late in the season when the Steelers made their push to a playoff berth.
Stat Line: 3 interceptions, 9 passes defended, 14 solo tackles, 1 tackle for a loss.

Chris Wormley: Chris Wormley was put into a much bigger role than he had played before in 2021, when injuries moved him from the #4 defensive lineman on the team to #2. In that increased role Wormley nearly doubled the previous highest snap count of his career, and his production more than doubled. While Wormley was part of the defensive struggles in run defense, he was a major asset in pass defense, ending up third on the team in sacks and 4th in pressures.
Stat line: 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 3 passes defended, 51 total tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 10 QB hits.

Now it is up to you to make your selection. Who should be rated the 8th best Steeler of 2021, and who should come back to compete for 9th?

Podcast Roundup: All the latest of the BTSC family podcasts

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers seasons come and go with no real offseason, at least not for those diehard fans. For those fans, the preseason bleeds into the regular season, the regular season into the offseason, free agency and the NFL Draft. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.

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

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

BAD Language: Erasing history is easy, but erasing hurt isn’t

Everybody’s got an opinion. Some subscribe to conventional wisdom. others are ill-informed, while some are unorthodox and way out there. So, BTSC podcast producer Bryan Anthony Davis decided to make no apologies and share his black-and-gold brand of enlightenment. Join BAD preaching his own gospel of the hypocycloids on the new show, BAD Language. This week, it’s all about time healing all wounds when it comes to players that wronged the Steelers.

  • News and Notes
  • Retiring as a Steeler and erasing the pain
  • A visit from Britsburgh Owen, Voice from Across the Pond
  • and MUCH MORE!

Steelers Hangover: Steelers pick’s “long lost relatives” from black-and-gold draft’s past

Bryan Anthony Davis, Tony Defeo and Shannon White discuss who each member of the draft class reminds us of from Steelers’ past on the latest edition of the Monday show from the Behind the Steel Curtain Family of podcasts, The Steelers Hangover.

  • Black-and-Gold comparisons of Draft Picks
  • and MUCH MORE!

From the Steelers’ Cutting Room Floor: Serious Steelers defensive line questions waiting to be answered

The Steelers have plenty of strengths and one of them is believed to be the defensive line. But the Men of Steel actually have serious questions on the defensive line that need to be answered. Geoffery Benedict examines this and more on the latest episode of BTSC’s “From the Cutting Room Floor”.

Check out the rundown of the show:

  • Serious defensive line questions
  • and MUCH MORE!

Geoffrey walks you through everything you need to know regarding the Pittsburgh Steeler

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

Apple Users: CLICK HERE


Google Play: CLICK HERE

The Heat might not have enough to overcome the Celtics' defense

2:06 AM ET

BOSTON — Midway through the third quarter Monday night as the Celtics were pushing their lead to as much as 32 points, Rudy Gobert couldn’t resist.

“This Boston defense is tough” the Utah Jazz center tweeted.

This was both innocuous and accurate at a time when the Celtics were smothering the Miami Heat and rewriting a slew of records on their way to a 102-82 victory that tied the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2.

But Gobert, it sure seemed, was subtweeting. He had a point, though maybe not his preferred one.

Gobert was noting the Celtics looked great on defense even though Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart was out with an ankle injury.

Gobert, a three-time DPOY, appears to still be salty that Smart beat him out for the award.

What Gobert was saying without saying, though, is the Heat were powerless to score against Boston in the half court, Smart’s absence

Celtics, fueled by 'urgency,' rout Heat to tie series

1:37 AM ET

Tim BontempsESPN

BOSTON — When things have gone poorly for the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, it’s been when they’ve lost focus and allowed the Heat to speed them up and turn them over, leading to fast break points — the one consistent way Miami has scored in this series.

That was the formula Miami used to fuel its victories in Games 1 and 3. And so, heading into Game 4, Boston knew that in order to even this series at two wins apiece, it would have to avoid falling into those same bad habits once again.

Mission accomplished.

The Celtics were utterly dominant at both ends from start to finish, as Boston scored the first eight points and never looked back, cruising to a wire-to-wire 102-82 victory in front of a sellout crowd at TD Garden to send this series back to the shores of Biscayne Bay for

Heat calm despite drubbing: 'Proven we can do it'

1:16 AM ET

BOSTON — Despite a 102-82 drubbing at the hands of the Celtics in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra believes his team can return the favor in Game 5.

“We’ve proven that we can do it,” Spoelstra said. “The margin for error for either team — whatever they have done to us, we can do to them. None of us are happy about what happened tonight.

“This is part of the playoffs. There are these extreme highs and lows, particularly when you have two teams that are pretty closely, evenly matched. But we’ve proven that we can find solutions offensively in a lot of different ways.”

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What gives Spoelstra and his team so much belief is they have spent much of the season dealing with a variety of different injuries and still found a way to earn the best record in the

Sources: U-M's Howard declines Lakers' interest

May 22, 2022

University of Michigan coach Juwan Howard recently declined a Los Angeles Lakers overture for the franchise’s coaching job, electing to remain at his alma mater, where Howard will coach his two sons next season, sources told ESPN.

The Lakers have a formal search process in place, but courting college coaches typically requires a different level of discretion. The Lakers have a finalist list of Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Golden State Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson and former Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, sources said. The Lakers are expected to conduct in-person interviews in the near future.

The Lakers never made a formal offer to Howard, sources said, but it’s clear that if he had expressed an interest in the job, his candidacy would’ve moved quickly to that stage. While Howard has a playing history with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and star LeBron James, he has consistently maintained

Porter exits with foot soreness; X-rays negative

10:37 PM ET

Kendra AndrewsESPN

DALLAS — Golden State Warriors forward Otto Porter Jr. departed Game 3 of the Western Conference finals midway through the second quarter and was later ruled out with what the team described as left foot soreness.

X-rays on the foot were negative and the team said it should know more in the next 24 hours.

The short-handed Warriors managed without Porter. Stephen Curry scored 31 points and added 11 assists as Golden State posted a 109-100 victory to secure a 3-0 series lead over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.

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Porter sustained the injury when he landed after going up for a layup. Porter came up hobbling, and was fidgeting with his left foot at the next stoppage — a pair of Dallas free throws. Porter tried to play through the pain, but called to be subbed out just a few moments later.

During the Warriors’ subsequent timeout, Porter