Ryan Shazier on Devin Bush’s development: “We all knew it would come”

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles ChargersJake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Shazier has been mentoring Devin Bush since he was drafted, and gave the rookie some very high praise heading into the bye week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a move during the 2019 NFL Draft many didn’t expect them to make. They traded up 10 spots, giving up valuable draft stock in the process, to select Devin Bush 10th overall out of the University of Michigan.

What most didn’t think about what how this would look to the man who used to patrol that area of the defense. Mr. Ryan Shazier.

How difficult must it have been for Shazier to watch the Steelers make the move, yet completely understand why they did it at the same time. As Shazier continues to recover from his spinal chord injury suffered in December of 2017, he has been mentoring the young linebacker and helping him through those growing pains he knows all too well.

“I thought he had a great game,” Shazier told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s making a lot of plays. He’s starting to become a playmaker. . . .

“You can definitely tell he’s getting more comfortable. We knew it would come. It takes time.”

This praise came after the Steelers’ 24-17 win over the Los Angeles chargers on Sunday Night Football. A night where Bush led the team in tackles, had an interception and a fumble recovery which he took back for a touchdown.

Not a bad day at the office, and some might say it was a very Shazier-like night for the first round pick. But it isn’t just Shazier who is noticing Bush’s overall ability. Other members of the defense are starting to take notice.

“He’s just a really good player,” Joe Haden said of Bush. “He’s always around the ball. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He’s a very instinctive player. He’s very ball aware.”

‘Very ball aware’ might be an understatement. The Steelers have 15 takeaways this year, the same amount of takeaways they had in all 16 regular season games last year, and Bush has been a part of 6 of those takeaways in one way or another. He just seems to have a knack for finding the football, or is the football finding him?

Either way, as Bush puts together a rookie season which should have him in consideration for the Defensive Rookie of the Year, the Steelers are starting to see the playmaker they knew they drafted after trading up to get him. As Shazier said, it takes time, but Bush is only going to get better — and that is a scary proposition for opposing offenses for years to come.

Emotional MJ unveils 1st of two medical clinics

12:46 PM ET

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An emotional Michael Jordan unveiled the first of two medical clinics he and his family funded in Charlotte, North Carolina, that will provide care to underprivileged members of the community.

The six-time NBA champion and Hornets owner was on hand Thursday for the grand opening of the $7 million Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic. Tears streamed down Jordan’s cheeks as he said, “this is a very emotional thing for me to be able to give back to a community that has supported me over the years.”

“I can only do this in gratitude… I can never repay what you’ve actually given to me, but this is a start.” – Michael Jordan, Hornets Chairman & Owner https://t.co/xzsOCvpMPK

— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) October 17, 2019

The clinic, located in a lower-income section of the city, will provide vital

Steelers fan confidence gets a big boost after Week 6 heading into the bye week

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Los Angeles ChargersJake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers were able to defy the odds and beat the Chargers in Week 6. The win, combined with a well-timed bye week, has the Steelers fan base feeling better about their team.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to do the unthinkable when they traveled to the west coast and beat the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6. Now, as they prepare for their Week 7 bye, the team has some momentum. Granted, their 2-4 record is nothing to boast about, but the team has shown some positives heading into their annual week off.

With the win, the Steelers vast fan base has started to see some signs of life. In other words, they are starting to regain some of the confidence that was lost when their record was 0-3, and 1-4.

The latest FanPulse results certainly paint a pretty accurate photo of how fans truly feel:

After the gut-wrenching loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5, the confidence marks for the fans dipped to 28%. However, after the big win over the Chargers the confidence mark jumped to 51%. This marks the highest the confidence has ranked since prior to Week 1 when the team squared off with the New England Patriots on prime time.

The Steelers fan confidence is likely two-fold. First, the fans see the team pull off a big win on the road heading into the bye week. In other words, the Steelers can’t break their hearts this week no matter what. Second, fans also see the next game being a Monday night game vs. the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field in Week 8. This means there is a very good chance the team could be 3-4 heading into a Week 9 game vs. the Indianapolis Colts at home.

There is still a lot which can go wrong, but as of right now the Steelers fan base is starting to see this team take shape. The defense is taking the ball away, sacking the quarterback and showing an ability to stop teams in the red-zone. Offensively, Mason Rudolph will be back under center in Week 8, and the hope is he continues to develop along with the offense throughout the remainder of the regular season.

It might be the bye week, but Steelers fans are showing some excitement about this team moving forward.

Do you want to be a part of the BTSC Steelers FanPulse? It is easy to sign up for, and takes mere minutes a week. Simply click HERE and fill out the appropriate information!

Tomlin on the Steelers’ wide recievers: “There’s a fine line between being a Pro Bowler and a special teamer”

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Head Coach Mike Tomlin is less concerened about the depth chart and more concerned about production

Head coach Mike Tomlin spoke to the Pittsburgh media on Wednesday before the team headed into their bye week. After addressing injury updates and the quarterback situation, Coach Tomlin then took several questions. Tomlin was asked how important it is for the Steelers to establish a number two receiver to complement JuJu Smith-Schuster.

“It’s important for those guys to make plays when called upon,” Tomlin answered. “Who you designate as number two, number three, number four, all of those guys are ones in their mind. They need to be. This is professional football. There’s a fine line between being a Pro Bowler and the special teamer. From a mentality standpoint, I want all those guys to be ready when called upon. Really, that’s what’s important. How you choose to identify them is less important.”

Although it can be tied to the unfortunate but necessary switching when it comes to the quarterback position, the Steelers receiving numbers for 2019 are a fraction of what they were last season. JuJu Smith-Schuster currently leads the Steelers in receiving with 340 yards which puts him on pace for just over 900 yards on the season. In 2018, Smith-Schuster was leading the team in receiving through six games with 561 yards.

Another troubling statistics compared to last season is the player who is second on the team in receiving yards: James Conner. Through six games, Conner has almost identical receiving yards to last season with just 26 more at this point last season. But in 2018 he ranked fifth on the Steelers through the teams first six games as compared to second in 2019.

With Conner being the second biggest receiving threat so far for the Steelers in 2019, many are looking for someone else to step up to complement Smith-Schuster down the stretch. Coach Tomlin was asked if JuJu and Diontae Johnson could be the Steelers’ next generation of a solid wide receiver tandem.

“They need to be,” Tomlin replied. “And others. We don’t care where the plays come to be quite honest with you. Again, we’re not in style-point mode. We’re not even in personality mode. We just need to do what’s required to move the chains, to ring up the scoreboard, to score one more point than our opponent in an effort to win football games.”

When the Steelers come off of there bye after Week 7 of the NFL season, they will be looking to find a stable identity for 2019. Mason Rudolph will be in line to start his fourth game at quarterback after missing Week 6 with a concussion. As the young QB gains more experience, the desired outcome is more of a connection with his young wide receivers.

While better receiving numbers is a desirable statistic, it all comes secondary to putting tallies in the win column. Yes, a greater output from the Steelers receiving corps can help lead to more victories. Whether it’s through the air, on the ground, or with a stifling defense, ultimately the Steelers’ need to start stacking wins any way they can get them.

Taking a look at the laundry list of Steelers injuries heading into the bye week

NFL: Preseason-Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh SteelersCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

During a media session before the bye, Mike Tomlin update the status of several Steelers who are battling through injuries.

The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Pittsburgh Steelers, considering the laundry list of players who are dealing with an injury of some kind. There are some who have significant injuries, and will miss an extended period of time, while others are hopeful to not miss a beat when they report back to the team prior to their Week 8 Monday Night Football game vs. the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field.

On Wednesday, the day before the team jettisons from the team headquarters to do their own thing for the weekend, Mike Tomlin held court to local media and updated several injured players’ statuses heading into the bye.

There was first some good news from players who missed the Week 6 game in Los Angeles vs. the Chargers. Tomlin said Roosevelt Nix, who was injured his knee during the Week 1 loss vs. the New England Patriots, could return to practice, and the same could be said about James Washington (shoulder), Steven Nelson (groin) and Mark Barron (hamstring).

This via Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports:

There are also some players who played on Sunday Night Football, but left for various reasons. Tomlin said there are a few who could be limited when they return, and, as always, their practice participation will dictate their game availability.

Tomlin said James Conner (quad), Joe Haden (groin) and T.J. Watt (oblique) could all be limited, even after the week off.

This per Brooke Pryor of ESPN:

Unfortunately, the team will be without Stephon Tuitt for the remainder season, but Tomlin did say Tuitt could undergo surgery on his torn pectoral muscle as soon as Wednesday.

The other players who are nursing injuries which aren’t as significant as those mentioned previously would be:

JuJu Smith-Schuster (Toe)
Vance McDonald (Shoulder)
Devin Bush (ankle)

Now the team will turn their attention to the Miami Dolphins at home on Monday Night Football in Week 8 in hopes of winning back-to-back games for the first time in 2019. Could this be the start of a winning trend for the Steelers? Only time will tell…

Steelers Throwback Thursday: Dupree and Shazier combine efforts for win at Arrowhead

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Bud Dupree

Steel City Underground presents “Steelers Throwback Thursday” featuring plays from recent seasons which you may have forgotten about! Now we’re “bringing them back!”

Steelers Throwback Thursday: Dupree and Shazier combine efforts for win at Arrowhead appeared first on Steel City Underground.

3 games to watch in Week 7 which give perspective on the Steelers future opponents

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh SteelersPhoto by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There are several NFL games this week which will help shape the perception of teams the Steelers take on later in 2019

With the Pittsburgh Steelers on bye this week, fans of the choice to either take a break from NFL football altogether or turn their attention to other games. As many look to see what else is going on around the NFL, there are a few matchups between two teams the Steelers have either faced previously or teams remaining on their schedule.

For Week 7, here are the three games which could give the most perspective on what the Steelers can expect with some of their future opponents:

Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens

Sunday at 4:25 PM on FOX

This is by far the biggest game Steeler fans should pay attention to this Sunday. With Pittsburgh falling to Seattle in Week 2, the best case scenario is for all the AFC North teams to fall to the Seahawks as well. So far Seattle is 3–0 against the AFC North with the Ravens being the final matchup for Seattle in 2019.

Obviously, Steelers fans will be cheering hard-core for the Seahawks in this one. Normally I would say playing in Seattle would be an advantage, but with the Seahawks only beating the Bengals and the Rams each by one point and falling at home to the Saints in their only loss of the season, it doesn’t seem to be the same massive advantage it has in the past. But Baltimore has never won in Seattle, so it should make for an interesting game.

Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills

Sunday 1:00 PM on CBS

Did you have this game circled on the calendar to watch during the bye? Me neither. The Miami Dolphins are just as bad, if not worse than they were projected before the season began. But the Buffalo Bills have been a pleasant surprise with their only loss coming to the New England Patriots.

I’m not really sure what anyone can take away from this game. If the Dolphins pull off the upset, it might mean a larger task is in store for the Steelers their next game. If the Bills handle Miami, they will still be the best team remaining on the Steelers schedule record-wise.

New England Patriots at New York Jets

Monday at 8:15 PM on ESPN

This may be the second of these three games which could very well be a blowout. The Jets only have one win on the season, but it was against the Dallas Cowboys last week. With Sam Darnold returning to the starting lineup after being out with mono, facing the Patriots can show if the Jets are a legitimate contender to make a run throughout the middle of the season. If not, their game against the Cowboys may have showed more about their opponent than it did themselves.

So there are the three main matchups which can give Steeler fans an indication as to the quality of upcoming opponents in 2019. While each week is a different game and upsets due to certain matchups are bound to happen, the greater the body of work each team puts on the field can help to draw better conclusions.

So which of these games will be the most telling as it pertains to the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers? Make sure you vote in the poll and give your thoughts in the comments below.

Beal, Wizards agree to 2-year, $72M extension

7:26 AM ET

In a commitment carrying leaguewide ramifications, Washington Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal has agreed to extend his deal for two years on a $72 million maximum contract, agent Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports told ESPN on Thursday morning.

Beal’s extension, which will begin with the 2021-22 season, includes a player option for 2022-23 that keeps him out of free agency for three more seasons and guarantees him nearly $130 million over four years.

Assuming that Beal, 26, declines his player option upon reaching 10 years of service in 2022 to re-sign with Washington, he would be eligible to sign the largest contract in NBA history: five years for $266 million.

To leave Washington in three years, Beal could sign a four-year, $198 million deal with a new team.

For the scores of NBA teams who had been intrigued by the idea of trading for

Film Room: 5 plays from the Chargers game that show the winning formula for the Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Los Angeles ChargersPhoto by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The Steelers beat the Chargers by focusing on the right things for that game.

The Steelers traveled to the West Coast with a rookie who was cut and cleared waivers before the season starting and came away with a huge win. This weeks film room is going to look at the offensive gameplan that allowed the offense to move the ball reliably, score points and control the game enough to seize a much needed victory.

Step 1: Show you aren’t afraid to throw deep

JuJu Smith-Schuster is at the top of the screen.

Great job on the route by JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Devlin Hodges gets rid of the ball at exactly the right time. He just throws it 5 yards short of where he should have. If that ball is between the 47 and 50 yard line JuJu Smith-Schuster likely makes that catch and a big gain.

This is the downside of Devlin Hodges, he doesn’t have a strong arm, and he has almost no chemistry built up with his WRs. His accuracy wasn’t great across the board, but on his deep throws it was terrible. Hodges threw 5 deep balls against the Chargers, with 3 incompletions, a penalty for unnecessary roughness negating one incompletion and an interception. So far this season Hodges has thrown deep 8 times, with one completion for 18 yards, 2 recorded incompletions and a recorded interception to go with an interception and 3 more incompletions negated by penalties.

This was the first offensive play for the Steelers, and the message was clear, the Steelers would not hesitate to attack the Chargers banged up secondary, even if Hodges couldn’t get it there, the Chargers knew the Steelers weren’t afraid to throw deep. You can blame the Chargers defense for respecting the threat, but the Steelers still committed to showing the risk, and the CBs were giving cushions, and that was important.

Step 2: Stretch the defense to the sidelines

Donte Moncrief is at the bottom of the screen.

This one shows the strength of Hodges, he sees the CB playing off, and leads Moncrief to the sideline where the defense had no chance to stop the play. Moncrief made a great play on the low throw, but look at when Hodges releases the ball. I know last week’s film room covered this as well, but it is worth talking about because it continued in this game, and it backed the defense off the line of scrimmage.

Here’s a zoomed in slow-motion clip of the throw, the GIF goes until Moncrief gets his eyes to the QB, the point where Rudolph has been starting his throws. The ball is already on it’s way by then with Hodges, and the defender has no chance to make a difference because of it.

If Mason Rudolph is the starter week 8 at Miami we’ll be talking about this again in that film room, hopefully showing how Rudolph improved.

Step 3: Exploiting the Chargers LBs

Conner gets the ball, but watch JuJu Smith-Schuster at the top of the screen.

If you notice No. 58 pointing at JuJu Smith-Schuster it’s because JuJu set a beautiful pick on this play. The Steelers run Smith-Schuster right at the zone defender that should be on Conner, JuJu gets away with it here, most likely because the defender was stepping towards him into the contact. With Smith-Schuster clearing out the safety Conner has a first down before dealing with contact. Again the CB is giving JuJu a lot of ground, and even without anyone blocking him that CB is in no position to challenge the first down.

You can see how slow the LBs are in getting to the sideline, the Steelers consistently attacked the Chargers LBs in coverage and forced them to run horizontally. With the LBs slow to recover and help the passing game and CBs far off the line, a big part of the offensive design has succeeded.

Cliff harris is still a punk!, in his filmroom, discussed the Steelers use of heavy sets (check it out if you missed it) and it was a big part of the game plan, not just for the run execution that chisap showed so well, but also in forcing the Chargers to rely on bigger slower players while the Steelers used Conner’s strengths as a receiver out of the backfield to attack their lack of speed.

Step 4: The payoff

Benny Snell Jr. picks up the first down and more.

A couple things to notice here, Devlin Hodges under center, the OL in 3-point stances, but mostly look at the depth of the LBs, and watch both David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva start with double team blocks and then peel off those blocks and find other defenders. Benny Snell here gets 7 yards because the LBs aren’t attacking the line of scrimmage, and that gives the OL time to make double team blocks and still get bodies on the LBs.

The Steelers did a better job run blocking in week 6, but it wasn’t because the players on the offensive line suddenly remembered they were talented, they still had to win their blocks (and they did a great job of it), but they were in a much better position to succeed because the offense had the Chargers LBs worried about other threats.

On the other side of the ball…

Watch Devin Bush, he starts out on the right side of the logo.

The Chargers could not get their run game going, and this play is a good example of why. You can see Devin Bush coming up to the line right before the snap, the Steelers are attacking the line of scrimmage on this play, like they did on a high percentage of plays in this game. Because Devin Bush comes up the center has to block Bush. If the center is free to double team Javon Hargrave there the LG can pass Hargrave off to the center and peel off to find a LB, which would have been Williams. Because Bush hits that gap the guard is stuck on Hargrave.

Also notice Cameron Heyward eating a double team and not letting the LT or TE get away from him. That’s Heyward dominating a run play. And notice Bud Dupree holding the edge and hitting Derek Watt to make sure the run can’t bounce outside his way.

All of that effort leaves Vince Williams alone to do what he does best, fill the lane and squash the opposing runner’s momentum.

This not only shows the value of backing up LBs so that they can’t dictate blocking and keep the OL from peeling off into the run lane, but it also shows Devin Bush playing a key part in the play by filling that space and keeping the Chargers line behind the line of scrimmage. That’s not something Bush was doing well earlier this season. I’ve been commenting on his growth and weaknesses almost every week, and this is a key step in his growth I haven’t had a chance to cover yet. Earlier in the game he had an opportunity to finish a play when the backwards pass was bouncing around and no one seemed interested in touching it, and unlike the safety last week where he took himself out of the play before the whistle blew, this week he jumped on that opportunity and turned it into a TD.

Before his injury Devin Bush looked like he was putting it all together and on his way to being exactly what the Steelers hoped he would be. He was still good afterwards, but he missed some tackles and seemed to be lacking in some quickness and power, which would make sense with an ankle injury. With an extra week to heal it will be exciting to see what the rest of this season has in store for the Steelers rookie phenom.