NFL teams’ secrecy is unrivaled in the sports world. So, when the Pittsburgh Steelers review their in-house security, look for them to add a chapter about online gaming. That’s what happens when a move to beef up the offensive line for Ben Roethlisberger during NFL free agency period gets aired through a gaming system and on Reddit.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are overhauling Ben Roethlisberger’s protection
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with multiple concerns about an offensive line. The group struggled over the final two months of the 2020 season as the running game began to deteriorate. And while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t taking more sacks than usual, he was being hurried. Roethlisberger threw six interceptions in his final six starts.
Steelers fans have seen significant changes since the 48-37 loss to the Cleveland Browns n the AFC wild-card round.
Center Maurkice Pouncey has retired, right tackle Matt Feiler signed with the San Diego Chargers, and free-agent left tackle Alejandro Villanueva remains in limbo. In response, the Steelers signed Cincinnati Bengals center B.J. Finney and Tampa Bay Buccaneers right guard Joe Haeg. They also re-signed right tackle Zach Banner. David DeCastro and Kevon Dodson remain in the fold.
In total, then, the Steelers have enough in place to build a starting lineup, but depth remains a concern for a revamped coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball. Look for at least one more move in free agency and/or the NFL draft.
Rashaad Coward has been added to the mix
The Pittsburgh Steelers announced this week that they have signed free-agent lineman Rashaad Coward, 26, who spent the past three seasons with the Chicago Bears. Coward has 15 career starts, but he was not tendered as a restricted free agent.
Coward’s background is unconventional in that he arrived in the NFL as an undrafted defensive lineman out of Old Dominion. The Bears converted him to offensive guard with mixed results, but he’s young enough to continue improving.
The Steelers don’t have a lot invested, so they can walk away from the acquisition if necessary. On the other hand, the Steelers Depot website points out they had success in recent years with Alejandro Villanueva and Brian Mihalik, both of whom were also converted from defensive linemen. Additionally, Steelers practice-squad player Jarron Jones made a similar switch after leaving Notre Dame.
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ plan leaked on ‘Call of Duty’
The way the football world learned of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ signing of Rashaad Coward is a better story than the signing itself. An online gamer stumbled into the pending development while playing Call of Duty and shared clues on Reddit on March 27. That was enough to break the story open before the Steelers were ready to announce it.
According to Yahoo! Sports, the unidentified sleuth was playing a Call of Duty game called Warzone and had randomly teamed up with another gamer. That person just happened to be Coward’s wife. As luck would have it, the gaming system was picking up not only her voice as she played the game but also the lineman’s phone conversation in the background.
The sleuth heard Coward talking about a deal with Pittsburgh and asked the player’s wife if she could identify him. She declined, but the gamer looked up the wife’s Twitch/Instagram profile and saw she was wearing a Chicago Bears jersey. Cross-reference the uniform number with a roster, and suddenly the unidentified player is identifiable.
“I know this is big speculation,” the gamer wrote, “but I heard what I heard.”
As the story gained legs on Reddit the following day, one of Coward’s agents all but confirmed what the Steelers would announce on Monday.
“Can confirm that @OohTally is an entertaining gamer and y’all should follow her on all platforms @RashaadCoward,” Brian Adkins posted on Twitter.
So much for keeping secrets in the NFL.