Antonio Brown gave a glimpse of how he’ll handle Smith-Schuster becoming Roethlisberger’s top target

How would Antonio Brown handle if Juju Smith-Shuster became Ben Roethlisberger’s top target this season and out-produced Brown?

Two weeks into the season, we got our answer and it won’t go over well.

Despite being targeted 17 times and having 9 catches for 67 yards, Brown was visibly unhappy from the second quarter on in the Steelers 42-37 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday afternoon.

Brown went on a tirade early in the fourth quarter on the sidelines as his frustrations were vented towards offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner as Brown got into Fichtner’s face.

Later in the 4th quarter when Ben Roethlisberger scored a rushing touchdown to cut the Chiefs lead to 5, Brown was seen sulking in walking off the field after failing to celebrate with his teammates.

Brown opted not to speak to reporters after the game and left with his agent.

Just AB being AB?

Pretty much.

The Steelers had just hoped this stuff would end after Brown was given a monster contract in February 2017 and the obvious being that Brown would mature into his 30’s.

Don’t bet on that happening.

Brown is who is. — A dominant receiver who is always going to be stats driven. Just wait for the messy divorce between these two sides when Brown is no longer a great player. It won’t be a fun sight for the Steelers organization. —

All of this happened Sunday as Juju Smith-Shuster had a monster day with 13 receptions for 121 yards and 1 touchdown. Jesse James also had a field day against the Chiefs secondary with 5 catches for 138 yards and a TD.

Even if the constant double-teams of Brown are leading to Smith-Schuster becoming Roethlisberger’s top security blanket because of Brown’s presence, it won’t matter to Brown.

If Brown doesn’t get his numbers, win or lose, the star receiver is going to be a problem with his antics.

And the Steelers have to live with it no matter what. They did nothing in the past and nothing is going to change. They’ve let him run wild for years, why would this change anything?.

A bigger concern might be that Brown doesn’t look himself in getting separation beyond 8-10 yards. That continues to be something to watch moving forward.

Is it the calf injury? Is it no Le’Veon Bell whose sheer presence changes how teams attack the Steelers? Is it age? Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"


Week 2: Steelers – Chiefs What We Learned

Steelers – Chiefs: What We Learned

The Pittsburgh Steelers got a quick introduction Sunday afternoon that this wasn’t Tyrod Taylor and the dink and dunk Cleveland Browns offense they were up against like in week 1.

Led by a rising star in Pat Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs were a machine on offense from the get-go and the Steelers defense was as hapless as it can get.

Starting with coaching, the Steelers didn’t have a chance in a 42-37 loss to the Chiefs. They were unprepared for defending the Chiefs elite passing attacking and surprise, surprise, admitted communication issues put the Steelers in a 21-0 hole.

The Steelers offense willed this group back in the game with a 37 point performance, highlighted by a vintage Ben Roethlisberger outing, 452 yards and 4 touchdowns, but let’s not absolve that group from blame either.

Similar to the Jacksonville playoff loss, it played a part in putting the Steelers in a hole.

Pittsburgh went 3 plays, minus-2 yards on their opening drive, 3 plays, minus-3 yards on their second drive and then a missed field goal on their third drive of the game while the Chiefs scored 21 points on just 13 offensive plays to open the game.

And let’s not forget, the Chiefs had a touchdown nullified with 54 seconds left in the first quarter off a sack on Roethlisberger.

A lucky break was involved in the Steelers even making a game of this.

Pittsburgh’s debacle was squarely on the defense but at home on a gorgeous day, the offense has to set the tone much earlier than they did.

As for the defense, where to even start.

Pittsburgh has put a lot of capital into this defense. Draft pick after draft pick + they’ve dished out some money to free agents to no longer be getting exposed like this.

Joe Haden was missed but this was beyond missing their best cornerback.

This was a group of players who just don’t know what they’re doing.

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Communication issue after communication issue, the Steelers have embraced this mantra of loading up on cornerbacks/safeties to attack offenses with a number of different personnel groupings, but if the players as a whole are not in sync on who’s coveting who, you’re already losing.

The coaches surely failed this group too on Sunday. It wasn’t just once or twice the Chiefs got a favorable matchup with Travis Kelce matched up 1-on-1 with T.J. Watt or Jon Bostic.

Just in-excusable from the Steelers end to be put in that position to the extent they were.

If you have no hope of stopping the pass as the Steelers didn’t, you better be able to get some stops against the run.

Pittsburgh couldn’t, as the Chiefs averaged 5.1 yards per carry and Pittsburgh couldn’t get a stop late.

— Bud Dupree showed his true self with an awful performance against a real opponent, while Artie Burns was shredded on the outside.

Just another day at the office, right?

We’re entering a situation where the Steelers draft philosophy is going to start coming into focus much more. They targeted these raw players from college high in the draft and despite the physical skills, they’re not very good nor smart players, Dupree and Burns among the notables.

In the short-term, If the Steelers have 2-3 players often confused on who picks up who, the coaches need to scale back the multiple personnel groupings.

It’s not full panic mode yet but you have the Le’Veon Bell drama with the holdout, Antonio Brown already pouting as others are getting their #’s, the defense not being improved one bit from the Jacksonville debacle, Monday night will be fascinating on how this group responds.

When the schedule came out, week 1 against Cleveland and week 3 against Tampa Bay without Jamis Winston’s were certainly W’s to put by the Steelers side.

Pittsburgh coming out of next Monday night 0-2-1 would be trouble with an improved division.

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Mike Sullivan’s father George has passed away at age 81

Mike Sullivan’s father George passed away today at the age of 81, the team announced.

Assistant coach Jacques Martin will take over the day-to-day duties with the team in Mike’s absence to mourn the passing of his father.

The Penguins second Stanley Cup run during the Sullivan era in 2017 gave a glimpse of the relationship between Mike and his father where there was a segment on the Showtime Stanley Cup series of the two playing cards and smoking cigars following the Penguins Game 1 win over the Predators.

Sullivan had often talked of the great relationship the two had.

— Our condolences to Mike and his family —


Takeaways: Tomlin on the “awesome guy” Tyreek Hill, AB threatening a reporter, James Washington & More

Key Takeaways from Tuesday Tomlin

— Tomlin raved and raved about Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill and understandably so.

“He’s just a talented player, one that has to be minimized because every time the ball snaps he’s capable of running through the end zone,” Tomlin said. “That’s reflective of not only his speed but his talent, and I think vision is an element of that. He’s a great open-grass football player.”

With a quarterback now in Patrick Maholmes who can make any throw and gets the ball out so much quicker, Hill becomes that much more dangerous to defend.

Where Tomlin dropped the ball, though, when discussing Hill was calling him an “awesome guy” after being around Hill for a week at the pro bowl.

Guess Hill beating a woman must have slipped Tomlin’s mind.

— Tomlin dropped the ball too on Tuesday when asked by Jacob Klinger of Penn Live about Antonio Brown threatening to break a reporters jaw on social media.

Tomlin doesn’t care…..

“Guys don’t ask me about social media things. You know, we could talk all day about things that are online or on the internet or on social media. I just choose to stay away from it because it’s a waste of my time. There’s very little accountability, there’s very little journalistic integrity, ect. Guys say things they don’t mean.”

Tomlin gives vague answers on James Washington

“He’s just got to keep working,” Tomlin said. “He’s a young guy. He’s made some plays in preseason football. He’s made some plays in a training-camp setting. He played some on Sunday. That will continue. It’s just the natural maturation process or development that all players go through. “What happened with him Sunday is no reflection of the trajectory of his career, whether it was positive or negative. I think it’s important that young guys just wipe the slate clean and clock in and work each and every day and don’t overanalyze the here and now because the reality is, in the big scheme of things, he’s been here a very short period of time. I know it seems like he’s been here for a long time for him. He just needs to keep coming to work, as do all the others.”

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Week 1: Steelers – Browns What We Learned

Week 1: Steelers – Browns What we Learned

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns played to a 21-21 tie on Sunday afternoon.

Of course to the Steelers who have Super Bowl aspirations, if felt like a loss. For the Browns who still haven’t won a game in 625 days and counting, the tie is being looked at a lot differently in those circles.

Pittsburgh had won 80 straight games when leading by 14 or more points to start the fourth quarter, according to ESPN stats and information.

You could write a book to go through the squandered opportunities the Steelers had in somehow not winning this game.

Instead of rehashing how neither team deserved to win, here’s a big picture look at the Steelers coming out of week 1:

1. Another season, same lack of discipline issues are going to continue it appears.

To go with a minus-5 turnover differential, Pittsburgh was penalized 12 times for 116 yards. When you combine those two factors, it shows how bad the Browns still are that Pittsburgh had a 14 point 4th quarter lead and multiple opportunities in OT to get the ‘W’.

There were so many turning points in this game but here’s an underrated one.

The Browns 10 play, 86 yard touchdown drive to open the 3rd quarter that was self-inflicted by the Steelers.

What happened:

Tyrod Taylor was sacked for a 10-yard loss to setup a 2nd and 20 at the Cleveland 4.

Pittsburgh has themselves in position to get a short field with the Browns backed up and what happens next is Javon Hargrave getting a defensive holding penalty on a Carlos Hyde short-run, giving the Browns an automatic first down.

Just an inexcusable penalty from Hargrove when Pittsburgh had Cleveland backed up and then Artie Burns happens…….

Burns loses his mind on the next play, takes his helmet off, gets an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Cleveland goes from being at their own 4 yard line to the 31 because of bonehead mental mistakes.

2. Ben Roethlisberger Home/Road Splits:

Home Stats since start of 2016 season: 68.3 Completion %, 36 touchdowns/13 interceptions
Road Stats since start of 2016 season: 60.2 Completion %, 22 touchdowns/17 interceptions

Road Big Ben is a thing that is also not likely going away in 2018.

Roethlisberger had some brilliant throws vs the Browns but from the start he was airing balls throughout and most concerning was the lack of feel from Big Ben when the pocket was closing in.

Roethlisberger never having a great feel of the pocket was much more surprising than his accuracy issues or forcing throws.

Few would be surprised if Roethlisberger comes out in week 2 at home with a great game but the drop off in play on the road has been going on for two years now.

It’s going to continue…….

Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" 3. Against a defense that Ben Roethlisberger called maybe the best defense they’ll see all year, James Conner rushed for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns to go with 5 catches for 57 yards.

Conner had a long-run of 22 yards (TD) and a long catch of 19 yards. The splash plays were there in a big way.

What we’ve now learned from Conner since training camp is that he can ball and in this system, he’s more than capable of holding down the No. 1 running back job until Le’Veon Bell decides to show up.

One thing that can’t get overlooked with the Bell drama is that this system is built for running backs to put up big numbers.

The costly Conner fumble shouldn’t be pushed aside but this offense had opportunity after opportunity to close out the Browns. There was a lot more blame to go around than Conner’s fumble.

Pittsburgh’s last six drives in regulation when leading 21-7.

Punt (12 plays, 52 Yds)
Punt (4 plays, -3 Yds)
Lost Fumble (1 play, -1 Yard)
Lost Fumble (2 players, 9 Yds)
Punt (6 plays, 14 Yds)
Punt (3 plays, -1 Yard)

“It’s just frustrating that you can’t make the plays down the stretch,” Ben Roethlisberger said afterwards. “We didn’t make them.”

Assuming the Le’Veon Bell holdout drags on a couple more weeks, what has to emerge is the coaching staff showing a willingness to spell Conner to keep him fresh late in games.

Conner’s effectiveness in the running game hit a roadblock in the 4th quarter/overtime.

4. JuJu Smith-Schuster had 5 catches for 119 yards, including a catch of 67 yards. Antonio Brown got his numbers with 9 catches for 93 yards, though, Roethlisberger/Brown weren’t in-sync as they normally are, but one glaring issue with the offense throughout was the lack of a third option to stretch the field.

Vance McDonald who is always injured was badly missed and if the overcoaching towards a rookie of not playing James Washington continues over the next little while, the Steelers are going to continue to lack that needed presence.

Where Le’Veon Bell was mostly missed and will continue to be is his sheer presence. Conner was great, can get the job done, but no Bell also saw the Browns play a lot more cover-2 that saw Roethlisberger throwing into a lot of bodies.

Have to think that continues…..

5. T.J. Watt 11 tackles (8 solo), 4 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, blocked field goal. This was a J.J. Watt in his heyday type performance from the younger brother T.J.

Watt surely took advantage of some poor tackle play from the Browns but the Steelers have believed Watt is primed for a pro-bowl type season and hard to get off to a better start than he did.

The rest of the linebacker crew also had a stats day.

Bud Dupree 1 sack, Vince Williams 12 tackles, Jon Bostic 9 tackles, 1 sack.

Dupree was his usual hit or miss self met with aggressiveness that worked at times and also was a detriment in over- pursuing against a mobile quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. Dupree is still looking to find that even ground of when to go all out and when not too.

Bostic had a surprise performance. He was so bad in training camp and the preseason that he warranted being cut if the Steelers had any resemblance of ILB depth, some on the inside feel.

Bostic had a positive game and Vince Williams was aggressive at the line of scrimmage.

However, don’t expect this to be a sign of things to come for the insidebacker group. Much different animal next week against the Chiefs.

6. Mike Hilton has turned into a player who is built for today’s game to cover in the slot. He’s trending into a player to get excited about with this secondary that is implementing young upside defensive backs in Hilton, Terrell Edmunds, Sean Davis and Cam Sutton.

At the safety position, it remains to be seen where Morgan Burnett falls into everything moving forward.

Burnett played just 40 snaps (45%) compared to Edmunds, 74 snaps (84%), and Davis who played all 100% of the defensive snaps.

How important is Joe Haden’s health to this defense?

All you had to do was watch the Browns 4th quarter comeback.

Haden might not be the player he used to be but is still Pittsburgh’s best go-to cover corner and how important Haden is to this team showed already in week 1.

A badly coached Cleveland today even figured out to immediately target Cam Sutton when Haden exited with a hamstring injury.

Andy Reid and the Chiefs will be licking their chops if Haden is out.

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TIOPS Daily 5: Le’Veon Bell Watch, Trade Talks, Movement of NHL superstars & the Crosby Contract…..


TIOPS Daily 5

*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*

Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" 1. As Le’Veon Bell remains MIA, the situation now turns to Saturday.

Does he finally report by 4:00 p.m. Saturday to collect his week 1 check and force the Steelers hand to pay him or not.

This will be fascinating to watch if Bell actually reports before Sunday.

The Steelers look weak if they cave in and don’t apply the 2-week roster exemption to Bell.

With how vocal that locker room has been this week towards Bell, the organization has the perfect situation to make a statement and make Bell lose two paychecks.

Here’s guessing if Bell shows up Saturday, though, Pittsburgh will pay him.

As frustrated as the organization is, its easy to see them wanting to turn the page and not alienate Bell.

2. The San Francisco 49ers lost their No. 1 running and have over $35 million in cap space.

How’s a 2nd round pick for Le’Veon Bell sound?

It might sound like a win-win on paper for both sides but if Pittsburgh even gave permission to the Bell camp to seek a trade (Bell would have to sign his tag first to officially facilitate a trade), a team trading for Bell still can’t sign Bell to a long-term deal until the off-season and would potentially just be renting Bell for this season, which severely limits any trade value as there are only 7 teams that could take on Bell’s cap hit straight up.

At the end of the day, though, what ultimately limits Bell’s trade value is that If Bell’s goal is to preserve himself for free agency in 2019, why would a trade change that?

Few organizations also see paying a running back $14-$15 million per season as smart business.

It would take the perfect storm for a trade to happen.

Right now the Steelers don’t see a trade market for Bell because of those factors and they remain perfectly fine to just rent him for another season, once he finally reports.

3. As teammates went public with their frustrations towards Bell, a narrative has started nationally with criticism towards the Steelers from pundits and former players that the Steelers are in the wrong for not paying the man Lev Bell.

The Steelers pay their stars and superstars top dollar and market value. That’s been going on for years.

In the Ben Roethlisberger era, the Steelers just don’t let star players out the door.

Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, were among highest paid players at their respective positions, to Ben Roethlisberger being one of the highest paid quarterbacks since 2008 now on two different contracts.

David DeCastro was given one of the latest contracts ever to a guard at the time of his signing, Antonio Brown’s AAV of $17 million was tops in the NFL until the Odell Beckham Jr contract.

Non-superstar players like Cam Hayward, Stephon Tuitt got contracts worth around $60 million in total value.

Pittsburgh’s structure in how they do guaranteed money is different than other teams but the big money contracts still set up where the team is pretty much locked in to those players for 3 to 4 years of the contract.

Le’Veon Bell not signed long-term is a rare occurrence and more on the player than the team.

One of the biggest frustrations with Bell that the Steelers have is a belief that Bell never took the time to actually understand their contract offer which Steelers officials privately contend was right on par with Todd Gurley’s eventual deal with the Rams that was signed after the franchise tag deadline.

Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" 4. Is the NHL going to start seeing more movement among star players in free agency over the next 2-3 years?

Unless Erik Karlsson lands in Tampa Bay, NHL exec’s believe he’s destined to hit the market In 2019.

As NHL players are often too loyal and always jumping to re-up for 8 years, a defenseman of Karlsson’s caliber going to July 1 just doesn’t happen.

Still a while to go and he may love wherever he’s eventually traded, but the feeling around the league for past couple months is that Karlsson has every intention of going the Tavares route.

Where the movement is starting to slowly happen for superstar players getting to July 1 or thinking hard of testing the market is players in situations with unproven or bad ownership groups.

All eyes are on Tyler Seguin in Dallas but his situation is different.

He actually wants to stay in Dallas and will likely work something out soon…..

Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" 5. One of the most important things former Penguins GM Ray Shero was able to do during his tenure in Pittsburgh was develop a culture where the stars/superstars gave no thought to wanting to leave.

Jordan Staal was the lone exception and that was a unique situation.

The Sidney Crosby 12 year contract that was signed in June 2012 was a cheat deal when you breakdown the entire contract (Crosby will make $3 million per season In the final 3 years of the contract) but it was a big, big deal to get Crosby to make that type of commitment.

Shero and Penguin ownership were among the main reasons why and it wasn’t as easy it seemed to be.

Crosby at the time had two contract proposals his camp worked out:

The 12 year contract he signed and a 5 year contract said to have carried a cap hit of Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"