One crucial moment in the Steelers’ OT win is going overlooked

Cam Heyward didn’t get much credit for stopping a scuffle on the sideline. But make no mistake: his leadership was crucial.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have punched their ticket to the postseason despite entering Week 18 with an 8% chance, per ESPN’s FPI. The Steelers entered the season with offensive line issues, largely due to inexperience and slow starts. They didn’t look like a playoff contender, particularly not after they opened the season with a 1-3 record.

But all the dominoes that had to fall to seal their spot as the seventh seed fell exactly where they needed to yesterday. It wasn’t neat or tidy, but rather stressful and chaotic. And they have the Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders and the quiet command of Cam Heyward to thank.

Yes, Heyward’s leadership, highlighted in one overlooked moment, was a massive factor in the Steelers’ postseason berth.

The Steelers’ offense was driving down the field in the waning minutes of overtime, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completing passes to running back Najee Harris and tight end Pat Freiermuth. He then targeted receiver Diontae Johnson, who made a critical 3rd-and-long reception for a first down. At the end the play, Johnson was twisted of bounds by safety Geno Stone. Before a scuffle could even begin, Johnson was pulled aside by Heyward, who calmly spoke to him to quell the frustration. Just skip ahead to 1:20 to see it go down:

Earlier in the season, it wouldn’t have been surprising if this escalated into an unnecessary and avoidable penalty, pushing the team 15 yards back and killing momentum. But the captains of this team are serious about winning. It’s a seemingly insignificant encounter. But it made all the difference in the outcome of the game.

The discipline that seemed so lacking mid-season, well, the captains are taking care of that. They’re reigning in the tempers of their younger teammates and taking control of their destiny.

One victory at a time.

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The Bengals put the Steelers’ embarrassing flaws on display

The Steelers have failed to address their issues and continue to be exposed by opponents as a team that just isn’t good.

The wheels have officially fallen off the Pittsburgh Steelers’ wagon. There isn’t much going right for this team, and that’s putting it mildly. All of their issues came to a head on Sunday as they were absolutely routed by division rival Cincinnati Bengals. This peak of embarrassment came on the heels of a string of embarrassing games, all compounding on one another. It seems safe to say – this is just not a good football team.

So what in the world is going on? Why, for all their issues, do they refuse to change anything?

For starters, in order to fix a problem, you have to admit you have one. And from management to the coordinator level, heads are buried deep in the sand. By all accounts they have no intention of removing them any time soon.

The Steelers have gaps at every position and in every area of play. Ranging from their porous front seven, which allowed over 100 rushing yards in the first half …

… to their anemic secondary letting Tee Higgins absolutely light them up …

… to their receivers making bone-headed plays …

… to just, well, overall lack of effort …

These are problems this team has struggled with on-and-off dating back to 2017, and after years of crossing their fingers and putting off finding a solution, it’s all come to haunt them in major ways.

Instead of addressing the weak offensive line with their remaining cap space, they let it stand. And let it crumble. They saw fit to toss a bunch of young players lacking experience on the field and allow them to be torn apart limb-from-limb. And boy, with the exception of a couple games, it has been brutal.

Instead of telling Melvin Ingram to suck it up and get on board with his role as a depth-piece (you know, the agreement they had in place when they brought him in), they obliged and traded him away, tails between their legs. And now they have no linebacker depth to speak of.

Instead of pulling Devin Bush from action until he deals with whatever has been plaguing him, coach Mike Tomlin throws him to the wolves week by week and watches his run game suffer as a result.

Instead of telling their young receivers to use diplomacy on the field and in media scrums, they let them run loose with suggestions, like one from Chase Claypool, of “playing music at practice.” The lack of self-awareness after such a defeat at the hands of a divisional opponent is…something.

Seriously. Check this out.


For a team that prides itself on never having a losing season under its current head coach, they are well on their way to making history. This is a group who seems poised to potentially lose (or tie) the rest of their games. And as for the future of the franchise, a dark cloud is settling overhead; if the last 5 years are actually a pattern, then the next several are probably going to get even worse.

Buckle up, Steelers fans. This may not be pretty.

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Steelers offense is finding its identity in the most surprising place

Despite an aging quarterback, a rookie running back, and a questionable line, the Pittsburgh Steelers have finally begun to find their offensive identity.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have finally begun to find their offensive identity. For all the offseason talk of a supposedly weak offensive line, an aging quarterback and rookies at skill positions, things are starting to click in ways not even Steelers’ superfans could have imagined.

And it’s all starting with that so-called weak line.

With the exception of a handful of mistakes by young guys still finding their way, this offensive line has been the source of the Steelers’ offensive success. They struggled early and struggled often, but as we approach the halfway point of the season they’re finding their form and playing to their potential. Their mistakes are becoming fewer, their successes are more regular. In turn, the Steelers have returned to their run-first approach, opening up things in the air for their 39-year-old quarterback.

There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but it’s worth celebrating when they do things they wouldn’t have even come close to sniffing through the first few games. Like this progression:

They moved as a unit. They didn’t back down. They created holes for Najee to exploit. He did just that.

All day.

Harris had 26 carries for 91 yards and a rushing touchdown. That would not have happened if the line hadn’t set up Harris, even if the rookie has been a behemoth of a back in his rookie year.

And that’s all before taking into account the contributions from Diontae Johnson:

Even more notably, tight end Pat Freiermuth was a beast:

There will continue to be growing pains for this offense. But they are certainly trending in the right direction at the right time. And if they can keep heating up despite the winter weather, they may still have some playoff-push left in them.

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What Steelers need to do in 2021 to draft a top-tier QB

Landing a franchise quarterback in the NFL, even in the first round, remains a total crapshoot.

Landing a franchise quarterback in the NFL, even in the first round, remains a total crapshoot. The Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the league’s most successful franchises, have been so lucky just twice in their 88-year history — Terry Bradshaw, first overall, in 1970, and Ben Roethlisberger, 11th overall, in 2004.

Once Big Ben finally decides to hang up the cleats, the Steelers and their fanbase should prepare for years of misery. Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins (a first-round NFL draft pick), and similar-caliber quarterbacks will be the theme in Pittsburgh for what could be a long and painful spell.

For those who tried to forget or weren’t around to experience the quarterback plight between Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger, starting signal-callers were Cliff Stoudt, David Woodley, Mark Malone, Scott Campbell, Bubby Brister, Bono, Todd Blackledge, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomczak, Jim Miller, Kordell Stewart, Kent Graham, and Tommy Maddox.

For 14 seasons, from 1979 to 2003, Malone was the only quarterback Pittsburgh selected in the first round (28th overall). Because of Bradshaw, Malone wasn’t named the starter until 1984.

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For their first three decades of existence, the Steelers were an utter embarrassment to Pittsburgh. The 1969 season took the cake, though, with one win to 13 losses, which earned the franchise the first overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft and, ultimately, the selection of Terry Bradshaw.

In 2003, the Steelers 6-10 record got them the 11th overall pick and Ben Roethlisberger in the 2004 NFL draft.

As far as first-round quarterbacks go, though, for every Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, there’s a Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Jake Locker, Robert Griffin III, Mitchell Trubisky, Sam Darnold. Just as in Pittsburgh, for every Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger, there’s a Stoudt, Bono, Campbell and Graham.

Hopefully, the Pittsburgh Steelers won’t be bad enough this season to be in a position to draft a franchise-caliber quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft. Unless they’re one of the five worst teams in the NFL this season, you can kiss their chances of drafting a top-tier QB goodbye.

While losing doesn’t guarantee a franchise quarterback for any team, winning most definitely won’t.

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Pro Football Focus gives Steelers 1 percent chance to win the Super Bowl

Could the Steelers make a deep run in the playoffs at last?

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So you’re saying there’s a chance?

No Pittsburgh Steelers fan, no matter how biased thinks the road for the Steelers this year is going to be easy. The AFC has become more competitive than ever and even just within the AFC North, the road to the playoffs is brutal.

So when Pro Football Focus put out their new power rankings heading into the start of the 2021 season and has Pittsburgh at 13, no one should be shocked. Based on their rankings it also has the Steelers at No. 7 among teams in the AFC.

This would put the Steelers into the playoffs but PFF doesn’t seem to give Pittsburgh much of a shot. They have the Steelers with a whopping one percent chance to win the Super Bowl. This is in contract to the top-rated AFC team, the Kansas City Chiefs who have a 14 percent chance and are the No. 1 team in their poll.

Given the Steelers history with the playoffs, it is hard to argue they are a longshot. But it seems every year a team or two no one expects makes a run so maybe this year it will be Pittsburgh.

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Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster ranked high among slot receivers

JuJu Smith-Schuster was one of the best slot receivers in the NFL last season.

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Slot receivers in the NFL aren’t always given the respect they deserve. Not only are they forced to do all the dirty work on the inside but in many cases, their numbers don’t reflect just what is asked of them on any given play.

Our friends over at Touchdown Wire ranked the 11 best slot receivers in the NFL and as expected, Smith-Schuster scored well, checking in at No. 4 overall.

Here’s what they had to say about Smith-Schuster:

The Steelers went with a short passing game through most of the 2020 season whether they wanted to or not. That benefited Smith-Schuster as a slot receiver, as his numbers in that position went way up in 2020 — he caught 25 of 38 slot targets for 316 yards and two touchdowns in 2019, and saw that shoot up to 39 slot receptions on 119 targets for 888 yards and 10 touchdowns. We’ll see what the Steelers’ passing offense looks like in 2021 — there are questions about everything from the stability of the offensive line to the condition of Ben Roethlisberger’s arm to how things will look under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada — but it’s likely that Smith-Schuster will continue his prolific slot performances.

The most interesting thing about the top four is that Smith-Schuster is the only guy who you could say isn’t a true No. 1 receiver. But the other three, Tyler Lockett, Keenan Allen and Tyreek Hill are. Assuming Diontae Johnson can put the drops of 2020 behind him, Smith-Schuster has a chance to be downright dominant in the slot this season.

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POLL: Who will be the Steelers starting QB in 2022?

Cast your vote for who the Steelers next starting quarterback will be.

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There are plenty of Pittsburgh Steelers fans as well as members of the media who have already written off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Personally, I think Roethlisberger is going to quiet a lot of critics this season being another full year removed from elbow surgery, a new running back and a re-tooled offensive line.

But even if Roethlisberger has a huge statistical comeback in 2021, there’s a real chance he makes his 18th season his final one. This would leave the Steelers being forced to make some hard choices for the first time in nearly two decades.

However, there’s nothing to say a big 2021 couldn’t coax Roethlisberger back for another season. If not, the Steelers have a couple of options on the roster and the draft and free agency will always be there.

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Cast your vote and tell us who you think will be the Steelers starting quarterback next season.

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Steelers HC Mike Tomlin needs a playoff win in 2021

The Steelers cannot continue to settle for the playoffs and not win.

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Mike Tomlin has been the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for 14 years. As he enters his 15th season he might be facing his greatest challenge as the Steelers head coach.

After starting off with a huge Super Bowl title in only his second season as head coach, Tomlin’s proficiency in the playoffs has waivered. Since 2011, Tomlin is 3-6 in the playoffs since losing Super Bowl XLV and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2016.

Tomlin’s current playoff record sits at 8-8 with a 1-1 record in Super Bowls. As this team prepares to potentially head into life without Ben Roethlisberger after 2021, a playoff win this season is a must to help hold onto his legacy as a great coach before what could be a long drought.

There is a clear divide among Steelers fans as to the greatness of Tomlin. Many fans cling to his early Super Bowl win and lack of losing seasons as proof of his greatness while his detractors see a long drought of no Super Bowls and not being willing to settle for just being competitive. Where do you stand? Let us know in the comments.

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Steelers 2021 offseason: 4 position battles to watch in training camp

Several starting spots on the Steelers roster are up for grabs.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers get together for their 2021 training camp, most of the starters will already be decided. But there are several spots that will be highly contested and could significant ramifications this season and going forward. Here are the four position battles we will be watching closely.

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Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger throws shade at his former offensive coordinator

Ben Roethlisberger takes a jab at his former OC in an interview on Tuesday.

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Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke to the media for the first time since he signed his contract in March on Tuesday. Roethlisberger seemed upbeat and excited about the upcoming season and the new offense under offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

He also made a not-so-subtle jab at his former offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. It was pretty clear even before the team lost its 11-game losing streak that Fichtner was no longer running the offense and instead Roethlisberger was forced to improvise given what he had on hand.

The Steelers offense fell into a deep rut last season, completely giving up on the run game and being relegated to a dink-and-dump passing game. Fichtner was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018 having been the quarterbacks coach since 2010. His relationship with Roethlisberger surely played a role in the promotion but from day one, Fichtner was in over his head.

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