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Patchwork Steelers’ Secondary Aced Tough Test against Terry McLaurin, Faces another in Stephon Diggs

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The Steelers’ pass defense has been one of the best in the NFL all season, having allowed the fewest yards, the lowest completion percentage, lowest passer rating while also coming up with the most interceptions of any defense in the league.

Monday against Washington, that unit was facing a significant hurdle. The Steelers started the game without starting right cornerback Steven Nelson, who missed the game with a knee injury. In the second half another arose, as starting left cornerback Joe Haden left the game with a concussion.

Usual Dime corner Cameron Sutton moved out to the outside to replace Nelson. When Haden went down, second-year backup Justin Layne stepped into a starting role for the first time in his career, earning 28 snaps, his most ever.

In the midst of all of that, the Steelers were facing one of the very best wide receivers in the entire NFL in 2020. Despite having three different starting quarterbacks, second-year Washington receiver Terry McLaurin entered Monday’s game in the top 10 in the league in receiving yards and targets.

But the thrown-together Steelers secondary was able to shut McLaurin almost completely out of the game. The likely Pro Bowler had just two catches for 14 yards on six targets, making him the most inefficient of Washington’s receiving options.

“We did a good job,” Sutton said on Thursday. “Obviously, a player like that, we’ve seen for the last two years what he does out there each and every week. … Obviously, we didn’t do enough as a whole to come out of it with what we wanted to. That’s something for us to continue to keep building off.”

This week, the Steelers are expected to get Nelson back, but might once again be without Haden, who has not practiced in either of the team’s first two sessions of the week while in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

They’ll once again be faced with a tall order of business, as well. After the Steelers shut down McLaurin, leapfrogging him in the NFL’s receiving yards leaders list was Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stephon Diggs.

Diggs came to Buffalo this offseason in a trade with Minnesota and has quickly become Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s favorite target. Diggs has 1,037 yards, which is currently fifth in the NFL, and his 120 targets are second in the league.

“They got him, and he’s a tough guy to defend,” Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “They do a lot of different things, and most of the time they keep three wide receivers on the field. Sometimes they’re going to keep four.”

That will mean another full night of work for Layne, Sutton and Nickel corner Mike Hilton.

Steelers

No Guaranteed Money in Dwayne Haskins’ Low-Risk Steelers Contract

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Further details of quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ new contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers have emerged, demonstrating just how low-risk the acquisition is for the club.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, Haskins’ Reserve/Future contract with the Steelers is a one-year, $850,000 deal with no guaranteed money.

Simply put, the Steelers will not be on the hook for any money if they decide to part ways further down the line. If Haskins turns out to be a diamond in the rough for Pittsburgh, they will have acquired him on a tremendous bargain.

Haskins is not getting a raw deal financially either, as he is still being paid on his four-year, $14,416,611 rookie deal with Washington. Signing with the Steelers gives him an opportunity to prove himself with a steady organization without worrying about the financial implications.

A first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Haskins was waived by Washington in late December after the young quarterback was photographed maskless at a strip club, in clear violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocols and mid-pandemic common sense.

Haskins was shaky over two seasons in Washington, passing for 12 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, while completing just over 60% of his passes.

The Steelers are hoping Haskins can flash the talent he showed in his final season at Ohio State, where he completed 70% of his passes for 4,831 yards with 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 2018.

By signing Haskins to such a low-risk, team-friendly contract, Pittsburgh will have an excellent opportunity to determine if some of that talent is still there.

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Steelers

Report: Steelers Interviewing Mike Sullivan for QB Coach Vacancy

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly interviewing Mike Sullivan for their quarterbacks coach vacancy, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.

A 17-year coaching veteran at the NFL level, Sullivan was most recently the quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos in 2018. He also has previous experience as an offensive coordinator with the New York Giants (2016-17) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-12).

Sullivan is currently the Director of Recruiting at his alma mater Army, a position he has held since March of last year.

Sullivan would also bring additional championship pedigree to the Steelers, having won Super Bowls XLII and XLVI with the Giants.

Former Giants quarterback Eli Manning had one of the best seasons of his career in 2011 under Sullivan, passing for a career-high 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns.

The Steelers are looking to fill the void left by Matt Canada, who was officially promoted to offensive coordinator on Monday.

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Mic Drop: Rooting for Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell Is Easy Choice

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The idea that either Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell will become a Super Bowl champion after Super Bowl LV isn’t exactly something that makes Steelers fans excited for the big game. With that said, Mike Asti feels deciding who to root for should be an easy choice for Steelers fans. He wants to set the record straight once and for all of why Pittsburgh fans need to stop grouping the two former Steelers together.

While they both left the franchise in a cloud of drama, Le’Veon Bell doesn’t deserve to be treated as if he committed the same kind of sins against the Steelers that Antonio Brown did.

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