The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.
Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at whether the Steelers can find some players who can actually, you know, create turnovers on the defensive side of the ball?
Let’s get to the news:
By: Chris Carter, DKPittsburghSports
The Steelers brought in defensive backs coach Tom Bradley last season to help a secondary that gave up several chunk plays in 2017. But with the secondary still struggling, the Steelers hired Teryl Austin as a defensive assistant to address the new problem of decreased turnovers.
While the team likes what Bradley helped put together with the discipline of the Steelers’ defensive backs, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin know it needs more turnovers, and Austin was hired to complement Bradley’s discipline by improving the unit’s ball skills.
We dive into what that future might look like, as well as the secondary’s grades:
While no defense can be great without the right playmakers, they can be disciplined enough to stick to their schemes. The Steelers’ secondary did that much better in 2018, but not enough to improve the team’s stats.
The Steelers ranked tenth against the pass in 2018, but they lacked the key turnovers that other top-ranked pass defenses forced. The Steelers’ eight interceptions ranked them 28th in the league, compared to 2017 when their 16 interceptions were the ninth most.
That difference is why the Steelers fell from the No. 5 pass defense in 2017 to No. 10 in 2018. While they got an improvement at free safety with Sean Davis calling out the plays and being in position more often than Mike Mitchell, teams were able to capitalize when their quarterback mistakes resulted in just incomplete passes instead of interceptions.
Incomplete passes only end drives on third and fourth down, but interceptions are guaranteed game-changers.
The key statistic showing improvement was the Steelers rise in passes defended. In 2017 they ranked No. 14 in passes defended with 73, tied with the Bengals.
But in 2018, they ranked as the No. 3 team in the NFL in passes defended with 83. While just ten more passes defended may not seem like many, it’s important to note because the entire NFL saw a surge in dominant passing offenses early in the season, with teams like the Chiefs and Rams lighting up scoreboards.
(To read more, click the link in the headline...)
By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert covered a lot of ground Wednesday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side.
Not as much ground as was covered by Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown during their years in Black and Gold. But a lot nonetheless.
It appears neither will be covering any additional ground in Pittsburgh again.
Unless they come back as visiting players.
During a 35-minute Q&A session, Colbert said Bell won’t get any type of tag and will become a free agent. He said the Steelers will try to trade Antonio Brown, but they won’t do so unless the return is worthy.
He also stood by his quarterback, put his kicker on notice and left some questions open regarding a former first-round draft choice.
So let’s go line-by-line through the most critical items of what Colbert discussed Wednesday — via the reporting of Tribune-Review Steelers beat reporter Joe Rutter— and try to peel back the layers to what should really matter to Steelers fans.
The most important development of the day is that Colbert said the Steelers wouldn’t place a franchise tag or transition tag on their former All-Pro running back.
The Steelers must’ve given up—or lost—the quest to get the transition tag set at $9.5 million as opposed to $14.5 million because Colbert kept referencing the higher number throughout his comments.
Regardless of cost — whether it’s $14.5 million or $14.50 in pocket change — this is the right move. As we’ve said before, turning Bell loose into unrestricted free agency is the right call at this point.
The permutations and unknowns of tagging a player, waiting for offer sheets, trying to work out trades and involving third-party teams was too cumbersome. Also, imagine dealing with potential repercussions if the Steelers had to keep Bell or tried trading him to a destination he didn’t like.
I didn’t want an iota of free-agency planning taken up by the prospect of waiting on any sort of decision making by Bell. It’s smarter to allow that $14.5 million to be freed up and put to use elsewhere.
The hassles and uncertainty of waiting out a tag process with Bell were too risky and may not have resulted in better compensation than the 2020 third-round pick they are assured of now, anyway.
(To read more, click the link in the headline...)
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The start of free agency will be a critical time for two Pittsburgh Steelers players that remain under contract for the 2019 season.
Kicker Chris Boswell and outside linebacker Bud Dupree have unsettled contract situations that will be defined by what the Steelers do – or don’t do – by the middle of March.
Boswell, after making just 65 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2018, is due a $2 million roster bonus. Dupree’s fifth-year option worth $9.2 million will become guaranteed once the new NFL calendar starts March 13.
General manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday he is comfortable with both players returning to the Steelers under their present contracts.
Colbert said Boswell will face competition in training camp, which would assure the kicker of receiving his roster bonus in March.
“We believe that Chris Boswell has the ability to do better than he did,” Colbert said. “He’s already proven that. He set the standard for himself in 2017 as a Pro Bowl player. As a young player, we believe he can find his way out of that, and we will support him.”
The Steelers signed Matt McCrane for the final game of the season when Boswell was placed on injured reserve. Colbert didn’t rule out the Steelers adding a “young kicker” to compete with Boswell in training camp.
Dupree had 5.5 sacks and set career marks with 42 tackles, three passes defensed and an interception in his fourth NFL season. T.J. Watt, the Steelers’ other starting outside linebacker, had 13 sacks in his second year.
The Steelers could try to negotiate a long-term contract with Dupree to lower the $9.2 million salary-cap hit for 2019.
“Bud Dupree had his best year last year,” Colbert said. “Collectively, he and T.J were pretty good. Does Bud still have more? Absolutely. Bud is a starter on a winning team. … From an effort standpoint, it’s not a lack of effort. It’s turning effort into more production. Can he? Will he? We’ll see.”