Once a week, BTSC Managing Editor Jeff Hartman lets the film room gang out of our windowless basement dungeon to have a chat. What you are about to read is pretty much as intelligent a conversation as we can muster.
This week, we hear from Mike Frazer, Fred Zang (you know him as 58Steel), Nicholas Martin (you still known him as Fear94) and Nathaniel Bodnar.
Ladarius Green had a breakout game Sunday, with a career high for yards at 110. Is the next breakout Steeler already on the roster, and if so, who is it?
Fred: Jarvis Jones??
Mike: He's due, Fred!
Nathaniel: Bud Dupree. I think he is bound to take off here soon. His rookie season started off strong and then he hit his "rookie wall". I believe in the next week or two we will see a few sacks from Dupree, who is coming back from injury.
Nick: Good question, I think the next breakout star on the team is Bud Dupree. I believe he will only get better every game and eventually it will click, and I will feel bad for whoever is the opposing tackle who's tasked with blocking him.
Fred: I don't think we have a "breakout" guy in the wings right now. Bud would see like the likely choice, though.
Nathaniel: Hey Nick, great answer, bud. They say great minds think alike.
Mike: I have to go with Sean Davis. He's shown flashes of it, especially since he was moved to a full-time starter at strong safety. He had his first interception last week against the Giants and showed some pretty good athleticism to get it.
Fred: I kinda think Davis already had his versus the Giants.
Nick: Davis, I believe, already broke out
Mike: It was a solid game, Fred, but I think we are just beginning to see what he can do.
Fred: Besides the interception, he was fantastic in run support, but I agree that Davis is capable of much more, Mike. Nick posted Davis' hip flip from the combine — WOW!
Nathaniel: Agreed. He is very capable of becoming an even better athlete. Just takes time.
Nick: Man do I really enjoy what he did against Beckham Jr with “Bob Ross” Cockrell. I think “Bob Ross” Cockrell is about to get his [breakout game] this Sunday.
I was all over Javon Hargrave but Sean Davis was probably the freakiest athlete I'd seen at the safety position in that draft. He was like an alien.
Mike: I agreed during the draft with a lot of folks that Davis had a strong chance of being our best pick, and I meant no slight to Artie Burns when I said that.
Nathaniel: Did someone say Artie Burns?
Mike: Burns is showing flashes of greatness right now, too. But Davis is so smooth lately. He isn't out of position much, is showing good instincts and athleticism, and he's really improved a lot on his tackling.
Nathaniel: Improved tackling was a must and this team is displaying it lately. That's how you win football games.
You're right Fred. I just liked what I saw from Burns and Cockrell at the cornerback position. Mitchell had a few nice plays as well at safety.
Mike: Nick, what are you expecting from Cockrell Sunday? Aside from getting a chance to stick it to his old team?
Nick: I'm expecting a forced fumble on LeSean McCoy. McCoy holds the ball like a defensive back sometimes, I think Bob Ross is going to flash some Peanut Tillman.
Fred: So, my next "breakout" guy is Senquez Golson. Our secondary next year is gonna be sick.
Mike: Cross your fingers, Fred. Golson is the new Sean Spence, without the catastrophic physical trauma.
Nick: Don't be surprised if they draft another CB just because of the history and the fact CB is super deep next year
Nathaniel: Pray really hard. Guy is injury prone. Too bad Pittsburgh didn't get the college version of Golson. He was a beast and didn't miss many games.
Fred: For sure, Nick.
Nick: [University of Miami cornerback] Corn Elder maybe?
Nate: Is that a person? Who names their kid “Corn”?
Fred: Sounds like a wise farmer.
Nick: Well, there's a defensive end with the first name “Taco”.
Mike: Okay, before we move to the next question, let's circle back to Dupree for a moment. What about Dupree makes you think he is going to have that breakout moment soon?
Fred: Dupree has been working hard on his pass rush moves. But he has to have the hip flexibility.
Nick: He has, and the fact he's only just gotten back on the field means his arrow is pointing up. Hip flexibility, unfortunately, fred, I don't think is on his side.
Mike: What have you noticed from him on Film, Fred, that we didn't see last year?
Fred: I haven't "seen" anything. Just been reported he's been working with [former Atlanta Falcon] Chuck Smith.
Nathaniel: Last year, he was productive early. Hit that rookie wall, like I said. He has another year in the system, but was injured. It will take him a few games to get back into the gist of things, but he will apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks. He has the mentality to do so. Just needs to gain some confidence back from injury and put some new moves to the test.
Finish this sentence with something other than "a Super Bowl win", because that would be too easy: "All I want for Christmas from the Steelers is a _____."
Nick: An 11-5 record.
Mike: In a perfect world, I'd say "lifetime season tickets and a private plane." Since this isn't a perfect world, I'd say I want them to play the rest of the season like every game is a playoff game.
Fred: Well, I'm going to the Ravens game, so I could say a win on Christmas Day...
Nathaniel: Jeez. I want a freaking Super Bowl victory, man.
Nick: No more injuries.
Fred: A top-ten defense.
Nathaniel: I want Pittsburgh to win the AFC North.
Fred: A wide receiver not named Antonio Brown to get 50 receptions.
Nick: Fred that isn't happening.
Fred: It's a Christmas wish, Nick. Don't you believe in Santa?
Fred: Shh, don't tell Nate he's not real.
Mike: For the record, I'm seriously wearing a Santa hat right now.
Nathaniel: For the record, pics or it didn’t happen.
Fred: Really, no more injuries, and for Coates to play like he did before his injury, and we'd be set.
Nathaniel: Yep. Fred, do you think that's possible? As the weeks progress are his fingers actually healing?
Nick: I really hope it is possible!
Fred: It's possible. I don't know how likely [it is]. I've heard one of [his fingers] is better, but still wearing a splint on the other.
Nick: Nate, he's actually been catching passes great in practice but hasn't gotten work on offense much lately. Curious why though.
Fred: Ben talked about that a bit. Said that when Sammie comes in, the defense knows they're going deep.
Nick: Yeah, I read that.
Nathaniel: Makes sense. Need to get him healthy and have him run some routes that make him not a one trick pony, and this offense would be even better.
Fred: Just have him run some shorter routes. Is it that simple?
Nathaniel: I think so.
Fred: Nate, that's what the Ravens have done with Wallace.
Nathaniel: Yup. How has that worked out Fred?
Fred: Well enough to have Joe Flacco look good.
Nathaniel: Went from one trick pony with a spice of some other plays in Pittsburgh to a slant and shallow cross master. Sure opens up the offense doesn't it. Hell, won Baltimore the game against Pittsburgh.
Nick: Baltimore has the best defense in the league, and Pittsburgh can't afford to lose anymore. Flacco is also playing his best football right now and he always plays well against New England.
I'm telling you, Pittsburgh cannot afford to lose.
Mike: If you guys had to give odds on the Steelers winning the AFC North, what would you give them?
Nick: "Don't tell me the odds."
Fred: I don't know "odds", but I'd say the Steelers' are better than the Ravens.
Mike: Looking at the schedule, a neutral team with the Steelers' schedule would have a much easier time than a team with the Ravens' schedule. Well, maybe not "much" easier, but certainly easier.
What is playing the most against the Ravens is they have three tough road games left. At New England, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Bengals are better than their record, or at least capable of being better than their record.
Fred: I hear you Nick. I still am not buying the Ravens offense, though.
Nick: They're going to beat New England.
Nathaniel: Nick you are insane.
Mike: Not a chance, Nick. Not in Foxboro.
Fred: Ravens historically have given the Patriots a tough time, but...
Nick: How am I insane? Have you seen their run defense? Do you see how disciplined they play on defense? Do you see how they don't beat themselves up with stupid penalties?
Fred: Their offense is nothing.
Mike: And the Patriots barely run anyway. So that negates the top run defense.
Fred: And they have Deion Lewis back.
Nathaniel: Run some routes with him. It's going to be the Brady show.
Nick: Mike, tell that to Blount's 230 carries for 957 yards. They run a lot, if you remember early in that Patriots vs. Steelers game they couldn't do crap through the air but they ran all over us.
Fred: The Pats will pass 55 times if they need to. Look how they beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Nick: I'm telling you, they are not going to win.
Nathaniel: Nick wanna bet?
Nick: Five bucks, Nate
Mike: Wait, wait, wait, you guys already have a steak dinner on the line.
Nathaniel: What's it about? I forget.
Mike: The bet was that Burns would get a pick while covering Beckham.
Nathaniel: Yup. I owe Nick a steak.
Mike: Alright guys, we have one more question, and I imagine Nate needs to go to bed before he gets really cranky.
Nathaniel: Ha ha ha I'm super tired.
What are you going to be watching most closely on Sunday when the Steelers take on the Bills in Buffalo?
Nick: Daniel McCullers. I'm afraid of the counter runs and the lateral runs. Hargrave is better suited for that. I don't expect Hargrave to play, which scares me.
Nathaniel: I want to watch to see how the run defense maintains Shady McCoy and if this secondary can prevent two not-100-percent receivers (Watkins, Woods) from going off.
Fred: The Bills O-line vs our D-line.
Mike: I'll be watching what we do with our linebackers. This would seem to be a perfect game to be aggressive and blitz heavily (but logically). So long as the pressure comes mostly up the middle, I'm okay with bringing a lot of heat on Tyrod Taylor. We just can't come at him from the edges and lose contain in the middle.
Nick: Can't lose containment, OLBs are going to be key.
Fred: Have to clog the line, not necessarily blitz, and wait for McCoy's cut back.
Mike: I think we will see a varied mixture of blitzes. We'll be coming at him from all over the field. He still doesn't read defenses well. Much better than E.J. Manuel did, though. Manuel reading a defense was like an American third-grader reading Swahili.
Fred: Play eight in the box if you have to. Make Taylor beat you passing. If they can run, we are in trouble.
Nick: I will say again, OLBs, DO NOT LOSE OUTSIDE CONTAINMENT. That is literally the key to limiting Tyrod. Keep him in the pocket.
Mike: I'm not as worried as some are about McCoy. Aside from two late carries, we had Ezekiel Elliott locked down.
Fred: Why not, Mike?
Nathaniel: He can cut on a dime though.
Fred: We also had Hargrave in that game.
Mike: McCoy is fantastic, don't get me wrong. But our run defense has been outstanding lately.
Losing Hargrave does hurt, though.
Nick: He's going to fumble.
Fred: Bills only have like 8 turnovers, so they haven't been fumbling this year.
We are scary thin on the D-line now.
Nick: Yeah Fred, this team represents a big challenge.
Mike: But I think a mixture of Ricardo Mathews and Dan McCullers will be fairly solid.
Mike: McCullers has looked pretty doggone good against the run this year.
Nathaniel: I liked what Sean Davis did against the run when facing the Giants. He was a key athlete that made a few plays.
Mike: And that's the other key, Nate. When we were getting gashed on the ground early in the season, it was partly because of missed tackles by Burns and Davis.
Both of them are tackling a lot better now.
Nick: Okay I will say it again, Davis had one terrible game and it was against the Eagles. People continue to exaggerate.
Mike: Our secondary as a whole is doing better in run support. Even Mike "Unguided Missile" Mitchell.
Nick: Yes Mike they're playing a thousand times better.
Fred: The entire "D" is more familiar with each other, playing as a unit.
Mike: Much more cohesive, Fred. Much.
Fred: Mitchell and Davis look quite good together.
Nick: Good is an understatement Fred. They cover a lot of ground in a hurry.
Mike: Fred, Mitchell and Davis look like Mitchell and Golden did through the first two games.
McCoy may get 100 yards on us, but I don't expect him to totally kill us.
And I don't see Taylor doing enough to really do a lot of damage. If Eli Manning couldn't throw on us, Tyrod Taylor isn't either.
Fred: Yes Mike, but we didn't have to worry about the run with the Giants.
Nick: No we did not Fred, hence why this team represents a much better challenge than the Giants.
Mike: If we get an early lead, the run will be less of a problem, Fred. My argument is reliant on several things going very right, and very early. I admit that. We need to score on our first two or three drives, keep them off the board early, and get consistent pressure on Taylor. Do that and we win it easily.
Fred: We should be able to score.
Nick: It's going to be a close one.
Fred: Their defense leads in sacks (I believe) but can/has been gashed.
Mike: Hey, I'm on a roll right now. I've been almost perfect on my predictions for one Steelers game in a row.
Fred: Gotta start somewhere, Mike.
Nick: Mike, you better knock on wood.
Fred: I hope it snows. Snow, with no wind, is good for the offense.
Nathaniel: How many interceptions do you expect? My guess is three.
Mike: I think we pull down one or two, Nate. If we get good pressure, we will force Taylor to make mistakes.
Alright, guys, I think we've gone far enough past Nate's bed time. Don't want Santa to put coal in his stocking for being a bad boy.
Nathaniel: Yup. I'm about to pass out here.
Fred: Make sure you brush your teeth, Nate.
Nick: Nate goes to sleep earlier than my dad.
Mike: Nate takes a bottle of warm milk and a sleeping bag to afternoon parties.