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Steelers News: Facing Heisman-winning quarterbacks in the AFC North

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Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers

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Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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 Steelers are unable to hold their typical OTA’s 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 pedigree of the quarterbacks from around the AFC North.

Let’s get to the news:

  • The Steelers look to have six games against Heisman-winning quarterbacks

Steelers’ defense looks for right mix vs. AFC North’s Heisman QBs

By: Brooke Pryor, ESPN

Mike Tomlin wants a team full of hunters — and not just ones after ducks and deer.

The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach crafted his defensive roster to hunt the Heisman-winning quarterbacks his team will face in their division this year. And with moves dating back to last season, the Steelers are quickly assembling the kind of defense needed to not just survive, but thrive in the AFC North.

After the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with the top pick last month, each of the Steelers’ divisional opponents has at least one Heisman winner on the roster. The Ravens have three: quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III and running back Mark Ingram, while the Cleveland Browns have one: quarterback Baker Mayfield.

“We now have three Heisman Trophy-winning [starting] quarterbacks in the AFC North,” Tomlin said after the draft. “We’ve got to employ people to hunt those guys.”

The Steelers most recently made moves toward that end in the draft, selecting Charlotte defensive end Alex Highsmith with the intention of turning him into an outside linebacker. He joins an elite position group that also includes Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt, who combined for 26 sacks last season.

But the process to further fortify the defense began in earnest a year ago when the Steelers traded up in the 2019 NFL draft to acquire inside linebacker Devin Bush and then traded away their 2020 first-round pick in Week 2 to acquire safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from Miami. Then the Steelers placed a franchise tag on Dupree prior to the 2020 draft, ensuring they can keep two of the NFL’s best pass-rushers together for at least another season.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)


  • Calculating the number of wins for the Steelers in 2020

SportsLine.com projects Steelers tied for 3rd-best record in AFC

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The consensus of the gambling sports books appears that the over/under for Pittsburgh Steelers wins in 2020 is nine.

A computer-modeling mathematical service appears to agree. SportsLine.com pegs the Steelers as a nine-win team this season, based off its simulations. And while on face value that does not sound overly impressive, consider that only two AFC teams (the Baltimore Ravens at 11.9 and the Kansas City Chiefs at 11.6) have more projected wins.

Taking into account the entire NFL, the Steelers are tied with the Buffalo Bills for the eighth-most projected victories. NFC teams rated higher are the San Francisco 49ers (10.9), New Orleans Saints (10.4), Minnesota Vikings (9.3), Seattle Seahawks (9.3) and Dallas Cowboys (9.1).

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)


  • Looking a some of the low-profile additions to the Steelers this offseason

Labriola on interesting XFL, undrafted players

By: Bob Labriola, Steelers.com

Ready or not, here it comes:

• One of the interesting facets of every training camp is getting a look at the undrafted rookies and the futures contract signees to see whether any of them can make a real run at either a spot on the roster or on the practice squad. Often referred to as “camp phenoms,” these are the guys who attract a lot of attention during the early portion of a training camp.

• It’s important to understand the difficult path these guys have to travel to be employed by the Steelers after the final cuts are made and the practice squad is assembled, but this summer, with the cancellation of OTAs and minicamps, plus the unknowns associated with the length and the composition of training camp and the preseason because of COVID-19, it’s likely there will be fewer opportunities for these kinds of players to make a sufficient impression to unseat a veteran or a drafted rookie.

• When handicapping the chances of an NFL longshot, it’s helpful to remember the case of Donnie Shell, who has to be considered the best undrafted rookie signing in franchise history during the Super Bowl era because he’s a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020. What really helped Shell was a players’ strike during the first two months of the 1974 training camp/preseason process, which allowed players like Shell extra repetitions in practice and more playing time in the early preseason games to attract the coaches’ attention. This group not only won’t have that advantage, but it’s fair to describe their situation as a disadvantage.

• We start with the XFL refugees:

WR SAEED BLACKNALL

• At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Blacknall fits Coach Mike Tomlin’s description of a one-trick pony, and his trick is speed. Blacknall, who turned 24 in late March, ran a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash at Penn State’s Pro Day in 2018. Blacknall has impressive timed speed, but it never really translated into much production from the time he enrolled at Penn State as a four-star recruit from New Jersey. In 30 college games Blacknall had 50 catches for 979 yards (19.6 average) and seven touchdowns, and then he had brief stints on practice squads in Oakland and Arizona and was waived injured by Miami.

• Speed made him a pick in the XFL’s supplemental draft, but in three appearances for the Los Angeles Wildcats (he was inactive twice), Blacknall caught four passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Based on the competition he’ll face for one of the receiver spots here and the kind of offseason he’ll have to navigate to manage that, Blacknall’s top end for 2020 looks like it would be a spot on the practice squad. And if he gets there, it will be because of his speed.

To read the full article, click HERE (Free)


  • BTSC articles you may have missed

Highlighting some possible quarterbacks the Steelers could target in the 2012 draft

Will Zach Banner contribute in a different manner next season?

It’s hard for Mason Rudolph to prove a negative

When looking at size, the Steelers have options at nose tackle already on their roster

A look at possible free agents still on the market


  • Social Media Madness