Monthly Archives: November 2020

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Spending big has finally caught up to the Steelers. Here are four players who could be cap casualties after the 2020 season.
How can anyone fault the way the Pittsburgh Steelers do business? Though I’m guilty of complaining from time to time about some of the decisions they make, the Rooney family has a terrific thing going as the Steelers haven’t had a losing season since 2003. They know as well as anyone that in order to have a routinely competitive team, you need to spend money – and lots of it.

Nearly every year, the Steelers spend close to the top of the salary cap ceiling, and it’s not hard to see why. By doing so, they are almost always able to retain their best players while still managing to bring in free agents who can come in and help them succeed. Unfortunately, it looks like all of the contract back-loading has finally caught up to them.

Nobody could have predicted that a pandemic was going to sweep through in 2020, but as a result, the NFL cap stands to be much lower in 2021. As a result, the Steelers will have to cut some players in order to get under the cap. Here are four players who could be cap[ casualties this coming offseason:

TE Cheap Vance McDonald Jersey
This one seems like an obvious candidate. Despite playing sparingly for the Steelers in 2020, McDonald’s cap hit is among the top ten on the team for 2021 and he is scheduled to make roughly $8 million next season. By cutting him lose in the coming offseason, Pittsburgh would save $5.2 million while absorbing just $2.7 million in dead cap space, according to Over the Cap.

McDonald had his time in the spotlight with the Steelers in 2018. However, he will be 31 years old next season and his value to the team has become increasingly small. Don’t be surprised if he gets the ax when the season is over.

Tomlin earned his 140th regular-season victory, breaking a tie with Cheap Tony Dungy Jersey for the most wins by a Black head coach in NFL history, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Tomlin was hired as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive backs coach in 2001 during what would be Dungy’s last season in Tampa Bay.

After an all-around uninspiring first half in which the Steelers, with one of the league’s best run-stopping defenses, gave up 179 rushing yards, and their veteran signal-caller completed just 4 of 10 passes for 24 yards, quarterback Cheap Ben Roethlisberger Jersey and the defense worked in sync to overcome a 17-7 halftime deficit.

“You’re going to be up against it if you don’t play good,” Tomlin said. “We can’t allow the emotions of the moment for us to miss that fact. I am proud of these guys. I am proud of the fight. I am proud of how they supported one another. It’s important that we don’t lie to ourselves. Boy, we did not function well in a lot of ways today.”

Roethlisberger’s first drive of the third quarter looked like the stagnant offense of the first half, but he shook off his slow start after that. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter. Then, in the fourth, he orchestrated a scoring drive in which the Steelers didn’t run the ball once, and he completed 7 of 9 passes for 80 yards. He finished it off with his second touchdown throw of the day, this one to Cheap Chase Claypool Jersey, to go ahead 28-24.

“This is a really, really good football team,” Roethlisberger said of the Ravens (5-2). “They’re ranked really high on defense for a reason. They got after us, and it wasn’t pretty. I don’t think at any point in this game, offensively, was it a pretty game. The first half wasn’t pretty, second half wasn’t pretty. Nothing about this game was pretty from our perspective until the game was over and we looked at the scoreboard and saw that we had won. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”

The victory was especially sweet for Roethlisberger, who relishes the rivalry and missed both meetings last season because of his elbow injury. He was spotted on the sideline getting that elbow massaged by the team doctor after taking a hard sack in the first half.

“Just a funny bone, I’m good,” Roethlisberger said of his elbow afterward.

While Roethlisberger bounced back in the second half, so, too, did the run defense.

The Steelers came into Sunday’s game boasting the league’s second-best rushing defense, holding opponents to an average of 68.8 rushing yards per game. The Ravens and their NFL-best rushing attack more than doubled that in the first half with 179 rushing yards. The Steelers lost nose tackle Cheap Tyson Alualu Jersey early in the first quarter, and with the Pittsburgh defense already down Devin Bush and Cheap Mike Hilton Jersey, losing another defender in the run game allowed the Ravens to run roughshod — even without two starting offensive linemen.

“We went in the game minus some significant run defenders like Mike Hilton,” Tomlin said. “The loss of Tyson Alualu really stretched us, in terms of matching their power in that area. They’re a strong, strong run team, coupled with the fact that their quarterback is a legitimate runner. We had to do what we had to do to settle it down.”

That meant getting contributions from under-the-radar players such as Cheap Isaiah Buggs Jersey, who replaced Alualu. He came up with the crucial fourth-down stop of Jackson that kept the Ravens from regaining the lead late in the fourth quarter. Other low-key Steelers also came up big, including Cheap Robert Spillane Jersey and rookie Cheap Alex Highsmith Jersey, who each intercepted Jackson. Spillane picked off Jackson on the first drive and returned it for a 33-yard touchdown, the first pick-six of Jackson’s career.

Highsmith’s interception came less than a minute into the third quarter and turned the momentum of the game.

With injuries piling up and the Ravens’ ground game gashing them, the Steelers had to get creative with their alignments and went to a substitution package in which they used three outside linebackers, including Highsmith.

He picked off Jackson on his first throw of the second half, and two plays later, tight end Cheap Eric Ebron Jersey was in the end zone to pull the Steelers within three.

“I think when you go against unique offenses, you have to do unique things on defense,” Pittsburgh linebacker Cheap T.J. Watt Jersey said. “It was just another way to get a mobile player that can play the run and the pass and have more guys on their feet to protect the quarterback scrambles and be able to play in coverage and help in the run game, as well.”

The Ravens finished with 265 rush yards, the most allowed by the Steelers in a game since 1993, when the Seahawks rushed for 267, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

But in the third quarter, Baltimore had just 16 rushing yards and just 27 total yards of offense. The next quarter, the Ravens got back to what worked and started pounding the ball with seven minutes left, taking time off the clock as they moved methodically down the field. They ran nine straight run plays, including a 20-yard gain by running back Gus Edwards after the Steelers went up by four points.

But the Steelers stopped the Ravens on fourth down when Jackson attempted to go for it just yards from the end zone. The offense couldn’t sustain the next drive, though, and had to hold off the Ravens one more time with just 52 seconds left.

“Day in and day out … a lot of people say, ‘You all beat the Ravens, you all really are legit,'” Ebron said. “I’m like, ‘But we went 6-0, how are we not a legit unit?’ So, now that we beat the Ravens, more people understood that we’re legit, and we’re coming with our A-game every single time. That’s the players we have in this locker room. That’s the kind of team we have. That’s the kind of coaching staff we have, and we’re just going to come out here and continue to bring our A-game.

“We look adversity in the face and we attack it, and that’s why we came out victorious.”

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The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the field Sunday when they played the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11 of the regular season. After the AFC game on Sunday, it is time to see who performed well, and who left a lot to be desired.

Improvement was evident in some ways, and hopefully will continue, but the judgement process must go on. Players who play well can be considered ‘Winners’, while those who left plays on the field can be deemed ‘Losers’. It may sound harsh, but it is the crux of this exercise.

Let’s check in to see who fell on which side of the ledger after Week 10…

Winners
Terrell Edmunds
Stat Line: 4 tackles, 2 solo, 2 pass defenses, 2 INTs

I’ll put this as simply as I can. Terrell Edmunds Jersey hasn’t found himself in my Winners column very often during his young career. In fact, I am pretty sure I can count on one hand how many times Edmunds has been a Winner in my opinion after a game. This isn’t to say he is constantly a Loser, but Edmunds stepped up in a big way for the defense in Week 11, and you got a glimpse of what this defense could look like if Edmunds turns into more of a playmaker. This was a huge step in the right direction for the former Virginia Tech safety, let’s see if he can build on this performance.

Minkah Fitzpatrick
Stat Line: 5 tackles, 3 solo, 2 pass defenses, 2 INTs

Don’t look now, but 2019 Minkah Fitzpatrick Jersey has entered the chat. Fitzpatrick is a tremendous player, and he has the ability to always be in the right place at the right time. We saw this in 2019, and while it took some time to get started in 2020, Fitzpatrick has the same look he did last season when the Steelers sent a first round pick to the Dolphins to acquire the safety. Fitzpatrick and Edmunds together were as dynamic as they come Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger Jersey
Stat Line: 32/46, 267 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 89.7 Rating

The interception to end the half was bad, but any time the Steelers can give Roethlisberger a rest in the fourth quarter is a good day. Roethlisberger, and the offense, had their struggles at times, but the distribution to his weapons was impressive. Five receivers had 4 receptions or more on the day, and he seems to have found a new favorite target…

Diontae Johnson
Stat Line: 12 receptions, 111 yards, 9.3 average, 16 targets

Maybe it is Diontae Johnson Jersey route running which creates space, or his big play ability after the catch. Whatever the reason, Johnson has become Roethlisberger’s new favorite target as he racked up 100+ yards for the second game in a row. What has surprised me the most on this recent tear is Johnson is not just an underneath route runner. He has had explosive plays in back to back games down the left sideline, and this adds yet another wrinkle in the Steelers’ dynamic passing attack.

James Conner
Stat Line: 13 carries, 89 yards, 6.8 average

Conner has long been the fan base’s whipping boy when the offense fails to run the ball effectively, but that wasn’t the case Sunday. I have long said the issues in the Steelers’ running game aren’t solely on Conner. Play calling, scheme and blocking play a huge part, if not more of a factor than just Conner alone, but Conner’s 6.8 average will certainly get the job done for the Steelers’ struggling ground game.

Chase Claypool Jersey
Stat Line: 4 receptions, 59 yards, 14.8 average, 1 TD

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I never saw this coming. I thought Claypool would come into the league and be a very nice niche player for the Steelers. Think red-zone threat, deep threat and eventually developing into a steady player by the second half of the season. In other words, I expected Martavis Bryant Jersey 2.0. What fans have seen is a receiver who is a more polished route runner than most expected, has impacted the offense as a runner and pass catcher and his ability for the big play has been huge. Claypool makes an impact every game. It might not show up on the stat sheet, like when he draws pass interference penalties, but absolutely has been a pleasant surprise.

Bud Dupree Jersey
Stat Line: 3 tackles, 2 solo, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 pass defense, 1 QB Hit

The Jaguars weren’t about to let T.J. Watt Jersey kill them in this game. When this happens, and they shift almost all of their protections to his side, it is Dupree’s job to win. And that he did. Dupree was dynamic and flashed on more than one occasion. Sacks were hard to come by with Jake Luton getting rid of the ball quickly, but Dupree was living in the backfield all game. A great performance for the former Kentucky product.

Losers
3rd Down Offense
Stat Line: 7-for-17 on 3rd downs

Anyone who watched the game knows the 27-3 score was slightly deceiving. While the Steelers dominated on defense, it was far from dominating on offense. Jordan Berry Jersey was called on to punt too many times, and that was largely due to the team’s failures on third downs. For the Steelers to be a complete team, they have to avoid those lulls on the offensive side of the ball which result in short possessions.

Running Back By Committee (RBBC)
Stat Line: It isn’t working

For about the third game in a row, the Steelers’ offensive game plan seems to be focused on throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall just to see what will stick. That would include their decisions at running back. James Conner Jersey got the start, as he always does, then Benny Snell Jersey got a series and then Anthony McFarland. I am all for spelling Conner when he needs a break, but at what point does the coaching staff realize this philosophy, and practice, just isn’t working. Conner is the cow bell, and the team needs to ride him out. If the are fearing him getting injured, then they might want to re-think how they go about getting him some rest.

MORE FROM BEHIND THE STEEL CURTAIN
Buccaneers vs. Rams, Week 11: Monday Night Football open thread
Steelers to wear their color rush uniforms Thanksgiving night against the Ravens
Injury Report: The estimated list of 15 players who would not have practiced on Monday
AFC North Recap: In the race for second place, the Browns leap frog the Ravens
Steelers avoid getting caught in the trap once again in win over the Jaguars on Sunday
Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins test positive for COVID-19