Category Archives: Uncategorized

Memories of Ivan, from Michael Bean

For those of you who are truly old-timers, Michael was the person who began Behind the Steel Curtain, back somewhere in the mid-2000s. He is also one of the main people who is directly responsible for my Steeler fandom. Whether he should be congratulated or execrated for this I leave to you all to decide. 

Ivan was a giant in my eyes because he embodied many of the characteristics I hoped to be better at and grow into as I progressed through life. Pragmatic but optimistic. Serious but with a funny streak. Welcoming to others but intensely loyal to those in his original orbit.

On the website, everyone always wanted to raise their game a little bit when Ivan was involved in a conversation. To try to be a little more thoughtful with their analysis, a bit more crisp with their writing, and definitely to leave the ad hominum nonsense at the door.

Ivan brought people together. In my small little sandbox of the website, that meant bringing more readers into the site and making more people feel emboldened and safe to share their thoughts in a respectful way.

When I asked Ivan to write for the preseason magazines we did for three years, I learned through the stories he shared in his pieces that Ivan was the type of guy everyone knew and respected, no matter the neighborhood, no matter the campus, no matter the setting.

This impression has been strengthened in my cherished conversations with Ivan’s friend Mike Silverstein, who explained to me just recently that Ivan was able to connect him to a whole new wide range of fellow Yinzers even decades later.

Even though we never got to meet in person, I certainly felt like I knew Ivan. We talked like friends, but I always made a point to treat him like an elder whose respect I had to earn. I cherished our phone calls over the years, and I am especially thankful that Keith Thomas alerted me to the importance of trying to reach out a few months ago when Ivan was not feeling well. On every call we would talk football first and foremost, but he would ask about my life, my girlfriend (and now wife), and he would always have a new story to share about his daughter. Then we’d get back to football and I’d learn something new, or reconsider something I was passionate about with that year’s team or upcoming opponent.

So even though we never met, and even though it’s been awhile since I’ve been involved with the whole Steelers fan writing community, I say from the bottom of my heart that I loved the man.  I couldn’t be more appreciative of everything he taught me about the game, about how to tell stories, and about how to be a man at a time in my 20s when I was craving for role models just like him.

RIP Ivan and thank you for everything you meant to me.

A Tribute to Ivan Cole

by Mike Silverstein

His name on Behind the Steel Curtain was Rick(VA), and he was a regular contributor. Mine was HomerJ, and so was I. We were both rock solid Steeler fans.

He was from the East End of Pittsburgh. And so was I.

We were both living in the DC area, and we decided to take in a Steeler game together at one of the many Steeler bars in the area. 

It turned out we grew up in the same general area at about the same time, that his brother was a classmate of mine, and many of his closest friends in the DC area were high school friends and classmates of mine. Some of us had been friends since grade school. There was a strong connection.

Ivan and I grew up during the time of the great Civil Rights movement, when there was so much hope. Ivan, the introspective football player, navigating his way through high school and college as a black kid, seeking new opportunities. For me, the world brought opportunities my parents never had. Both of us had done relatively well professionally, 

And now, forty-some years later, we were able to reflect on our lives – the parallels and the differences, how race, class, and so many other factors came into play. And, from day one, we felt comfortable talking about these things with a liberating sense of honesty.

Ours was a deep and abiding friendship, and the Pittsburgh Steelers were the river that ran through it. Read more

In Memorium

Like many of you reading this, I “met” Ivan Cole many years ago on Behind the Steel Curtain, first through his comments (always intelligent and to the point) and then through his articles. After a while I noticed when he published a new article that the topic was frequently something I had been mulling over in my mind for a possible article. Ivan had basically written what I would have, only better. I commented to this effect after it happened several times, and he was kind enough to note that he felt the same way about some of my pieces.

We continued to communicate through the medium of BTSC articles and comments until one summer Ivan, an ex-pat Pittsburgher, expressed an interest in driving up from Virginia and attending training camp. I invited him to stay with my husband and me. Although my husband is lamentably uninterested in the NFL, he is interested in people, and he was also curious to meet Ivan.

Ivan showed up at our house the afternoon before we were scheduled to go to camp. I’m guessing he was, like me, slightly apprehensive as to what he’d gotten himself into, but mostly was excited to finally meet in person. The rest is history. Ivan was a “brother from another mother,” as my kids would say. Read more

RIP Ivan Cole

For those of you who don’t know, our longtime contributor and dear friend Ivan passed away last Wednesday. He had an injury last December which required surgery, and somehow things went from bad to worse—complications, multiple surgeries, and more. Eventually his body couldn’t support his great soul any more.

The stories of how his life became intertwined with some of ours, and what he meant us, can be found in various locations. My piece and one by Mike Silverstein are below. I know that several other people are writing about him for other sites, and when I get locations for them I will update this with links to the other articles.

I hope those of you reading this will also take the opportunity to look at some of Ivan’s work. I’m going to link a few of my favorites below, but there is much more available.

Training Camp for Fans Part 8: What is the Steeler Way?:

Comments on the Tree of Life shooting:

Training Camp for Steeler Fans, 2018:

The Real Issues Facing the 2018 Steelers:

The NFL’s Problem:

Packers@Steelers—Something for Everyone:

Pittsburgh Peculiarities, Part One:

Knowing What We Don’t Know, Part V—Coaching in the Fog of War:

Roasting the Goose, Part 3


Open Season?

Screen Shot 2019-08-05 at 8.53.40 PMKarl Rosen/

As many of you perhaps noticed, the flow of commentary from the pens (or keyboards, really) of Ivan and me slowed to a trickle last season and then dried up altogether. As I sort of explained in the comments section of the last published article, both of us have gone through somewhat of a wringer in the past year, mainly because of family health issues, and haven’t had the time and/or mental energy for posting about the Steelers.

But we haven’t lost interest, as you can see when I tell you that Homer J and Ivan drove in from D.C. to meet me in Latrobe last Friday, and we attended Friday Night Lights, the evening practice at the Latrobe Memorial Stadium.

But I suppose I shouldn’t have piqued your interest, because I’m not going to write about the experience, except to say that all of us feel very good about this team. The lack of drama is refreshing, and there is definitely the feeling that everyone is on board with a team-first attitude. Let the national writers talk about the Browns all they like—and I do think the Browns will be a force to be reckoned with—but barring catastrophic injuries, the Steelers really ought to take the division this year.

However, the main reason for this post is because of a request by MTSnot that I put up a post that will serve as sort of a placeholder for you all to visit and discuss things in the comments. So let’s consider this the place to discuss any pre-season thoughts, and we’ll see where it goes from there. I may feel led to put up an article from time to time (although I don’t make any promises) but I can certainly put up the occasional post to basically open a discussion forum, if nothing else. So let’s hear your thoughts! I’ll start by saying that from what we saw on Friday night, it was worth the cost to trade up and grab Devin Bush. How about y’all?


Homer’s Travel Misadventures and Game Report

892ABF86-C29A-4ACC-9909-24F0301EA370.jpegBy Homer J.

Homer begs your indulgence, as he is a bit late to the party this week, for he was unable to watch Sunday’s game as it happened. Thereby, as Shakespeare would say, hangs a tale. A tale of Paradise, turbulence, sexual assault, and tardiness.

Homer woke up Sunday morning in Paradise, which is actually a town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Having covered the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald as a young reporter, he had always wanted to visit Whitefish Bay (12 miles north of Paradise) and see the famous Shipwreck Museum, and this was the weekend to cross that one off the bucket list. And Sunday was the day to head back home.

Read more

Talent vs. Effort vs. Tyler vs. Tomlin

[Photo via]

One of the things which has been said about the 2017 Steelers, at least since the draft was over, is that the depth at inside linebacker is dangerously thin. Ryan Shazier has certainly missed some time in the past, and he missed Games 4-6 last season. (He missed seven games in 2014 and four in 2015, so I guess you could say the arrow is pointed up.) Williams has been remarkably durable. The only season he didn’t play 16 games was his rookie year (2013) and that was the first game of the season, so I’m guessing he just didn’t “get a hat.”

As they say in the financial industry, previous performance is no guarantee of future results. But one thing to consider is just how often both Shazier and Williams will be on the field, because the Steelers have been using sub-packages an awful lot of the time. And Williams won’t be on the field anyhow on third and long. But somebody has to be, and, more to the point, there has to be a backup plan, and a backup to the backup plan. Read more

Knowing What We Don’t Know, Part One: Did the Steelers Fix the Secondary?


Coty Sensabaugh gets to be on the same team now…

By Ivan Cole

That was the question posed by Hombre in response to my last piece on the draft. The only responsible answer is, we don’t know. But in the sports matrix that we occupy, one where attitude often trumps facts, acknowledging ignorance can seem equivalent to weakness.

I have been thinking about a series that focuses upon our ignorance because I subscribe to the idea that ignorance is strength, in that it is the entry point to the path to wisdom. With that in mind I’d like to tackle some of the general assumptions that we make concerning the draft and related matters, as well as Hombre’s specific concern. Read more

RIP Dan Rooney

dan-rooney-rule-ap-810x540I’m certainly not the best qualified person on this site to talk about Mr. Rooney, and I suspect others who are better qualified will be writing pieces about his passing, but I couldn’t let the day go by without touching on what Dan Rooney has meant to the Steelers and to Pittsburgh.

One of the things which first intrigued me about the Steelers, long before I truly became a fan of the team, was the different way the team seemed to go about their business. All of this has been very well documented. The color blindness of Art Rooney (aka “The Chief”) and his multitudes of friendships with the most unlikely assortment of people. The strong commitment to family, church and community which pervaded the organization from the beginning.

Dan Rooney exemplified the best traits of his father. Like his father, he was a humble man. He lived his entire life in a small house in a not particularly salubrious area of town. He could have afforded something far more palatial but chose to remain there. Part of that was from a desire to see the neighborhood he loved return to the vital place he remembered as a child. He wrote a lovely article for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette in 2013 about the neighborhood, and in fact co-authored a book published that year.

He continued in his father’s tradition of caring about every person in the Steelers organization. One of the refrains you hear from players who come to the Steelers from other teams is how odd but refreshing it is to see the owners in the lunch room or in the hallway, and what a shock it is (in the case of an unheralded small-contract signee) to find out they know your name.

NFL teams are a business, and after all “NFL” stands for “Not for long.” And if you’re going to win, you have to take the “What have you done for me lately?”approach. But I appreciate that the way the Rooneys have always conducted the team brings an element of dignity to what would otherwise be a sausage mill.

One of the things I have always loved about the Steelers is training camp. And one of the things I have always loved about training camp is watching what happens when Mr. Rooney came on the field. He was never a tall man, and became quite bowed in recent years. But the players would inevitably gravitate to his spot on the field if they were free, and it was quite a sight to see Mr. Rooney with, say, Ben Roethlisberger. It was clear that he was held in great esteem.

Mr. Rooney was one of the most influential owners in football, and a true advocate for fairness, as demonstrated by the rule named after him, the Rooney Rule.

I suspect Art II was the de facto chairman of the team by the time Mr. Rooney was named Ambassador to Ireland. But I believe he passed on his values to his son, and expect the team to continue to be a place where new players marvel, as Alejandro Villanueva did recently, that the organization actually cares about you as a person. Thank you, Mr. Rooney, for showing the world that you can run a franchise without disregarding the humanity of the men who pass through your doors, however briefly.

There is a much more extensive article on Dan Rooney on the site, which you can find here.

« Older Entries