The Penguins seem easy to play against.
At forward, the Pens lack grit. Beyond Chris Kunitz, Craig Adams and Tanner Glass, who else gets greasy? Sidney Crosby has exceptional grit for a star, but it’s hardly a specialty. Pascal Dupuis and Joe Vitale are mostly about speed. Brandon Sutter doesn’t have sufficient physical strength.
That’s not enough grit. Certainly not enough to win a playoff series against a team like Boston.
The Penguins seem easy to coach against, too.
The opposition gets every matchup. Crosby lugs Zdeno Chara around all night, or Dion Phaneuf, or St. Louis’ first line, or whoever. Crosby can do it. It would be better if he didn’t have to. He would be even more productive if he didn’t have to.
Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma doesn’t believe in matchups. He needs to. It has to be in a coach’s repertoire. The best coaches in history have sought favorable matchups. Bylsma is an excellent coach, but he doesn’t get to reinvent the job description.
The Penguins seem like a good regular-season team, no better. Intensity comes and goes. It’s a vanilla team. It’s a vanilla dressing room. No tension. Too much fun, not enough work.
Sometimes a get-along gang needs somebody blunt to act as catalyst. Bill Guerin did that. Jarome Iginla didn’t.
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Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and NFL.com reported yesterday that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger may ask the team to explore trade options involving him following the 2013 season.
To read my take on Rapaport’s story, click HERE. To hear Rapaport discuss further, tune in at 4pm.
But now, let’s talk about DENIAL. It’s not just a river in Africa.
Ben’s agent, Ryan Tollner, issued the first denial. Steelers president Art Rooney II posted his denial at Steelers.com by halftime of yesterday’s home win over Buffalo. Roethlisbeger denied FERVENTLY immediately following the victory.
Methinks thou dost protest too much.
The Steelers still have seven games left. None of the involved parties was ever going to come close to confirming.
If Roethlisberger does leave, each side will paint the other as the villain. Dueling denials sows the seeds both ways.
If you want the truth, look someplace besides big-time sports.
Rapoport is an accomplished reporter. There may turn out to be backtracking on this issue. But Rapoport didn’t make this up. There’s smoke. Time will determine whether there’s fire.
The Steelers have a terrible team, a hideous offensive line, and an antiquated offensive game plan administered by an egomaniac at the whim of two other egomaniacs. What the Steelers don’t have is a legitimate No. 1 receiver and the proper respect for a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
Considering the decision purely from a football standpoint – if you were Roethlisberger, would you want to stay?
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ESPN's Jason Whitlock wrote a great column about the Miami bullying scandal. Whitlock called the situation a "prison yard mentality." That's exactly right. Life in Oz. Who's the butch, and who's the bitch?
Here's what Whitlock said about Richie Incognito being called an honorary black man by his Dolphins teammates:
"Mass incarceration has turned segments of Black America so upside-down that a tatted-up, N-word-tossing white goon is more respected and accepted than a soft-spoken, highly intelligent black Stanford graduate."
Like I said, exactly right. Jonathan Martin is the kind of man the black community should embrace and respect, not bully and scorn.
It's going to turn out that lots of people in the Dolphins locker room are way deep in this mess, not just Incognito. Martin's lawyer quoted one player as saying Martin's sister would be gang-raped.
Head coach Joe Philbin and his staff must be fired. GM Jeff Ireland,too. This is classic loss of institutional control.
After all the defending of Incognito the last few days, there has mercifully been a backlash against him. Former NFL player Cam Cleeland was Incognito's teammate at St. Louis. Cleeland minced no words when discussing Incognito:
"I'm not afraid to say that he was an immature, unrealistic scumbag. When it came down to it, he had no personality, he was a locker-room cancer, and he just wanted to fight everybody all the time. It was bizarre beyond belief."
A Dolphins source says Incognito would hold offensive line meetings at a strip club, adding, "Richie wanted to set up Richie’s world as a way for everybody to act. He doesn't get that some guys aren't into that behavior."
I wrote a column about the scandal at timesonline.com. If I may quote myself, "The sub-humans that preach twisted locker-room ethics aren't allowed to warp the definition of good and bad for their own convenience."
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Steelers WR Antonio Brown says he's subject to too much scrutiny.
I can't imagine why a member of a 2-6 football team would be scrutinized.
Memo to AB: Run your routes correctly. Don't drop a pass. Don't signal first down after a punt return. And shut your mouth.
Brown is a No. 2 receiver trapped in an All-Pro's arrogance. How about this quote: "If the team isn't winning, they're going to blame No. 84."
Not hardly, junior. All you do is catch short passes. Your name barely comes up.
Meanwhile, Coach Mike Tomlin reportedly chewed out the Steelers on Monday. On Sunday, Tomlin said the Steelers lacked effort. On Tuesday, he said that was a knee-jerk reaction, and not true. But on Monday, Tomlin yelled.
So, was Tomlin lying Sunday, or did he lie Tuesday? Why did he yell Monday?
That's the hard part about being a BS artist. You can’t keep track of what's true, and what isn't.
"I don’t know what it’s called. I just know the sound it makes when it lies."
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Forget the money. Forget that a qualifying offer wasn't made. Disengage from debating how much A.J. Burnett is worth.
Ask this question instead: Do the Pirates need Burnett in 2014?
Yes, they do. Absolutely.
A.J. Burnett had a career-best ERA. He led the National League in both strikeouts per nine innings and ground ball/fly ball ratio, an amazing and rare double. He only won 10 games, yeah – but it's funny how the same #BUCN Sabermetric geeks that say “wins don’t count anymore” use exactly that stat to vilify Burnett.
If Burnett leaves or retires, who takes his place in the Pirates rotation?
Jeff Locke? His ERA was 6.12 after the All-Star break.
Jameson Taillon? He's pitched zero big-league innings, and exactly 37 above the Class AA level.
Wandy Rodriguez? He didn't pitch after June 5 due to elbow and forearm problems.
Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole ought to be the core of the Pirates' rotation. Charlie Morton is a reliable No. 4. One of the question marks should come through as a No. 5.
If Burnett leaves or retires, the trickle-up probably won't yield much good.
The Pirates need Burnett. That seems undeniable.
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