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Top Pitt recruit changes mind, chooses Cincinnati

One of the first questions about Pitt football after the firing of coach Dave Wannstedt was whether new coach Michael Haywood would be able to keep Wannstedt's recruits in the fold.

Highly touted Bishop McDevitt running back Jameel Poteat has changed his mind about the Panthers, choosing instead to go to Cincinnati, a school many Pitt fans would consider inferior to Pitt.

Penn Live has more details on Poteat's move.

Poteat was the star back for Bishop McDevitt, the PIAA Class AAA champs. He rushed for 31 TDs this season, bringing his career total to 84.

While Pitt has two strong running backs already in Dion Lewis and Ray Graham, the move is troubling for Pitt. Penn Live reported that Poteat is " is one of a number of Pitt recruits who have de-committed" since Wannstedt was forced out.

One of Wannstedt's strengths was the ability to recruit. It was his coaching that got him in trouble.

Hopefully Haywood does better coaching than Wannstedt did. While it's too …

Hey, would it be too much to ask Pitt to do a better search?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have earned a reputation of being cheap.

Add the University of Pittsburgh to that list.

The Panthers reportedly are interested in Michael Haywood as their next football coach.

For a university that wants to think of itself and its football program as great, you don't consider a coach from a MAC school.

If you're cheap and are looking at saving a few bucks, then Haywood is your guy.

The firing of Dave Wannstedt led folks to believe Pitt wanted more from its program, that Pitt thought it was capable of being an elite football school.

Haywood as a leading candidate after two better ones have gone elsewhere doesn't confirm what Pitt fans wanted to believe.

Sure, Haywood turned around Miami (Ohio) after going 1-11 in his first year. Pitt doesn't need a turnaround. The Panthers need to move up a level.

Maybe Haywood can accomplish that. He reportedly is a good recruiter, and that's half the battle.

But this reminds me of Mike Gottfried.

Perhaps Pit…

Yep, he's Lyle Overpay with the Bucs

Meet your new first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates: Lyle Overbay.

The Bucs continued their overspending spree on mediocre or washed up players Tuesday by signing Overbay to a one-year, $5 million contract.

Overbay, 33, hit .243 last season with the Blue Jays with 20 home runs. The last time he hit 20 homers was 2006 when he hit 22.

He's solid defensively, but lacks the skills to make contact. He certainly doesn't have the profile of your prototypical first baseman, which is probably why he was available for the Pirates.

The Bucs' new plan is to have Overbay play first base with Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz splitting time in right field.

At $5 million, it's a bad plan. I can't imagine fans going out to buy season tickets as Christmas gifts because of this signing.

Pitt running out of finalists for football coaching job

One of the big risks when firing a coach is the ability to get a better one.

By many accounts, Pitt AD Steve Pederson lost two picks as the replacement for Dave Wannstedt.

Al Golden went to the University of Miami while Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen went to rival West Virginia.

If either were Pederson's top pick, he blew it by waiting too long. If Pederson still needed approval to make a hire, then there's too much red tape at the university to be efficient.

Leave it to WVU to trump Pitt and get Holgorsen. 

There's still time to make a good hire, but time is of the essence. A new coach needs to be in place to lock up the players that committed to Pitt. And the new coach will have to hit the recruiting trail to build his incoming class.

My hope still is for an offensive-minded coach, one that doesn't play the conservative game that was a Wannstedt hallmark.

I'm still waiting for Rich Rodriguez to get canned at Michigan in time for the Panther…

Big Ben is the new Shaq

There was a time in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Shaquille O'Neal was an unstoppable force in the NBA.

Part of the reason for his dominance was his physique. He was big (7-foot-1) and tipped the scales at over 300 pounds. You couldn't stop him.

The only way to slow him down was the aptly named Hack-A-Shaq defense. That's where the defenders would simply foul O'Neal when he got the ball close to the basket. The reason it worked, or at least gave the opposition a chance, was the poor foul shooting by O'Neal.

Because Shaq was so big and strong, referees would allow the opposition to get physical with O'Neal. Sometimes, they got too physical. The problem was, no one else was allowed to get away with it on another player in the league.

Which brings me to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Opposing defenses are teeing off on Big Ben, with some very questionable hits going unnoticed by officials.

He's become the new Shaq.

Roethlisberger isn't as d…

Polamalu's picks prime Steelers' defense

There was lots of speculation about what was wrong with the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.

After Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, there's no mystery. The problem with the 2009 Steelers was the absence of safety Troy Polamalu.

No ifs, ands or buts about it.

Polamalu makes the Steelers. Without him, they simply are an average team.

With him, he turns a team with a banged-up offensive line and a quarterback that looks like he can barely walk and breathe into a title contender.

Polamalu's interception return for a touchdown Sunday kick-started the Steelers and turned the Bengals into the Bungles.

Another Polamalu interception and a LaMarr Woodley pick-six later, and the Steelers beat the Bengals 23-7.

It was quite a showing by the defense. And it all happened because of Polamalu.

Polamalu's play the past couple weeks elevates him into the frontrunner for the defensive player of the year award.

More importantly, it sets the Steelers up for a long playoff run.

Bucs' spending remind me of my son

My wife made the mistake of telling my son he had some extra cash left from his birthday a couple of months ago.

The money likely was misplaced, but my wife, being the dutiful mother that she is, quickly told our son of his new wealth.

I, however, thought that would be a mistake.

"He'll want to spend it as soon as he can," I said.

I was right.

As soon as he found out, he wanted to buy something. It didn't matter what, he wanted something.

He could have saved the money for a bigger purchase. He could have saved it for something nice.

Nope.

He had to spend it.

Which is kind of how the Pittsburgh Pirates approach free agency.

They have a certain amount of money and they'll be sure to spend it.

Instead of getting a quality player, the Pirates sign the same type of player each year.

Matt Diaz is that player this season. The Bucs and Diaz reached a preliminary two-year, $4.25 contract Wednesday. That comes on the heels of the team getting pitchers Kevin Correia (two y…

Pitt shows it's interested in winning with Wannstedt gone

Dave Wannstedt is gone as the Pitt football coach.

A season that started with high expectations, a No. 15 ranking and a clear shot at a BCS bowl bid ended with a berth in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Maybe that was just the ultimate embarrassment for the administration. Their football team ended up playing in a bowl that has zero recognition. C'mon, the BBVA Bowl? Really? 

Wannstedt was a good recruiter at Pitt, but he'll never be remembered as much of a game-day coach.

For me, he'll be remembered as the guy who didn't think Joe Flacco was good enough to start for the Panthers.

Being humbled by rival West Virginia at home was surely a big blow to keeping Wannstedt on board. And I'm sure not being able to sell out a rivalry game with major bowl implications didn't sit well with many people as well.

The fact is, Wannstedt never took the program to another level after replacing Walt Harris.

The next step is figuring out who will be the next coach. Maybe recently fired …

No Pirates ornament on our tree this year

We're putting the finishing touches on our Christmas tree.

Inside a big box of ornaments I found a couple ones with a Pittsburgh Pirates theme.

"Nah, we're not putting those up this year," I told my kids. "They stink."

I think I turned into a Scrooge when it comes to the Pirates these days.

Roethlisberger impressive while in pain

I've been slow to warm up to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

After all the distractions this past year, I've stayed away from cheering him.

Before I went to the Steelers-Raiders game at Heinz Field a couple weeks ago, I didn't wear my No. 7 jersey. I just couldn't bring myself to root for him.

After Sunday's win over the Ravens, I'm starting to come around.

Yes, it might be fickle, but you have to give the guy some props simply for what he's been playing through on the field.

Whatever the problem is with his foot, you can clearly tell it's an impediment to his game. On top of that, he played through a broken nose in Sunday's come-from-behind victory.

That's toughness.

Roethlisberger's saying and doing the right things on and off the field. I took notice after the Raiders game when Roethlisberger asked about Richard Seymour's cheap shot. With an open microphone in front of him, Ben stayed above the fray.

Whether he's being c…

How about Rich Rodriguez as the new Pitt football coach?

Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt is on the hot seat after Friday's blowout loss to West Virginia.

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is on the hot seat after losing again to rival Ohio State.

If the Wolverines can Rodriguez, Pitt should put him at the top of the list of potential replacements for Wannstedt.

Rodriguez did wonders for West Virginia and could revive the Panthers' attack with his spread offense. It's far more dynamic that Wannstedt's and could dominate the rest of the Big East.

And if such a move could come to pass, imagine how much fury would be added to the Pitt-West Virginia rivalry.


Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/green_rick.

It's becoming harder to stay a Pitt football fan

When it comes to Pitt athletics, I have a simple rule: When given the chance, the Panthers will disappoint you.

It's never been more apparent than with the football team under coach Dave Wannstedt.

Friday's Backyard Maul by the West Virginia Mountaineers was the latest example.

Pitt owned the first half statistically, except for the scoreboard. On WVU's first drive of the second half, the Mountaineers broke the Panthers' spirit on a long pass play for a touchdown on third down.

For the second year in a row, Pitt entered the rivalry game controlling its destiny for a BCS game. And for the second straight season, Pitt came up short. This time, way short at home.

This was supposed to be the season the Panthers won the Big East and play in a big-time bowl game. Instead, we get treated to a litany of excuses from Wannstedt.

This loss stings, even when you don't expect much from the Panthers.

Now, some of the area media members are starting to question Wannstedt. He talk…

Derek Anderson rants better than he plays

Check out these other famous football rants:

Derek Anderson:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqpkaa2NR6A
Jim Mora:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwq7BYOnDrM
Jim Mora II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tie0tz7jGDI&feature=related
Mike Gundy:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoMmbUmKN0E
Dennis Green:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYKIcnj1MJY
Herm Edwards:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRxm0oGbnRI

If foul language offends you, you might want to avoid some of those links.

Raiders sure know how to complain

Before leaving town with their tails between their legs, the Oakland Raiders had a parting shot for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hey, your field stinks ... or something like that.

If it makes the Raiders feel better about their 35-3 loss at Heinz Field on Sunday, that's OK with me.

For their complaining about the field conditions Sunday, the Raiders didn't seem to have a problem winning on it last season.

And it could have been worse. Heinz Field will see plenty of action the rest of the week with Pitt playing on Friday and the WPIAL championships Saturday.

I think the bigger problem is that the Raiders were exposed as an average team.


Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/green_rick.

Yet another reason to hate the Yankees

The New York Yankees didn't win enough last season.

Apparently, the Yankees didn't make enough money, either.

The team announced it will raise ticket prices on some of its top seats.

To determine the amount, the team studied the resale prices on StubHub.com.

My guess is the team needs more money to sign Cliff Lee.

If the Pirates used this approach, my guess is they'd lower prices each season.

Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/green_rick.

Steelers need to give Reed the boot

I've seen enough of Jeff Reed.

I grew tired of him last season when he gave half-hearted effort while trying to tackle the opposing team on kickoff returns. He put more effort into beating up towel dispensers than going after kick returners.

I could let that pass. Besides, if the returner gets tackled earlier, then Reed wouldn't be put into that position.

Make the kicks and everything is cool with me.

Well, he's not making the kicks, which is the key job for a kicker.

Sunday's miss (from 26 yards) against the Patriots was Reed's seventh in nine games. I'm sure his comments complaining about the fans and the Heinz Field turf didn't endear him to many.

Now come reports that the Steelers are going to bring in some kickers Tuesday.

If the Steelers are lucky, they'll have a new kicker Tuesday night.

I guess you could call that a shellacking

Ugly.

There's no other way to describe Sunday's dismantling of the Steelers by the Patriots.

Whatever Tom Brady wanted to do, he did.

Whatever the Patriots defense wanted to do, it did.

The final score really did not indicate how bad it was.

Hines Ward's streak of consecutive games with at least a catch came to a painful end.

Yeah, nothing went right.

The Patriots' defense was supposed to be vulnerable. Their offense wasn't supposed to be as lethal.

Heck, the Browns beat this team. And the Browns beat the Saints, too.

What's that mean for the Steelers going forward?

Their line looks bad -- real bad.

The defense can't stop the pass. It's one thing for Drew Brees and all of his weapons to shred them. But Tom Brady doesn't have the talent at receiver that Brees does. Yet, Brady looked magnificent Sunday night.

Even Carson Palmer looked good against the Steelers last week.

There's no doubt injuries have taken a huge toll. But, as the sting of defeat…

Bucs have a big Hurdle to clear

I'm often perplexed by the moves made by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I didn't like the hiring of John Russell a couple of seasons ago. It didn't make sense to me for an organization to hire a manager that wasn't good enough to stay on the coaching staff.

With the slow-as-molasses approach to hiring a new manager, it appears Clint Hurdle is the front-runner.

My guess is the Bucs wait until there are no other managerial vacancies. They can offer Hurdle a take-it or leave-it deal and get a manager on the cheap. In other words, they can get someone no one else wants.

Another thing I find troubling: Hurdle makes Jim Tracy look like a genius. Hurdle was fired from the Rockies and Tracy took an underachieving team and made it a winner.

Tracy wasn't good enough for the Pirates. Why should we expect Clint Hurdle to be an improvement?

Hopefully, Hurdle isn't hired.

Where I've been ... I'm back at it

It's been more than two months since I made my last post. For those of you that have followed, thanks, and my apologizes for not being more frequent -- there certainly has been enough sporting news to comment on.

For the last part of summer, I spent my time getting the nursery ready for our new arrival. Plastering, painting and cleaning can be such a chore.

She arrived in late September and I've been adjusting to life again without much sleep.

I figured I better re-commit myself to posting more regularly again instead of waiting for our new one to sleep. Who knows how long that would take!

Most minor league teams have more wins than Bucs

No. 39.

Dave Parker, one of my favorite Pirates growing up, wore No. 39.

Willie Parker, a favorite of mine from the Steelers, wore No. 39.

I like the number. Unfortunately, 39 doesn't suit this year's Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Pirates have been stuck on 39 wins for a few days now. That wouldn't be too bad if it were June. It's mid-August and they have the worst record in baseball.

How bad is it?

A quick look at minor league baseball tells the story.

In the Pacific Coast League and International League in Triple-A, no team has fewer than 46 wins. That's 30 teams total.

If you go to Double-A and examine the Eastern League, Southern League and Texas League, the lowest total is 34 by the New Britain Rock Cats. Everyone else has at least 43 wins. That's another 30 teams covered.

Add it all up, and there are 88 of 90 teams with more wins than the Pirates.

These Bucs are so bad, they could challenge the worst record of all time.

Normally, fans could hang their hats on t…

Maybe I was wrong about Evan Meek

I wasn't thrilled with the choice of Evan Meek as an All-Star.

But after watching the All-Star Game on Tuesday, I realized I could have been wrong about the Pirates reliever.

Meek belongs in the same class as the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.

Both didn't play in the Midsummer Classic.

Not bad company, eh?

Remember the Boss as the Big Spender

The Boss is dead, and by Boss, I don't mean Bruce Springsteen.

Many people are lavishing praises of George Steinbrenner after his death Tuesday. The ones that aren't are holding him up as Exhibit A of what's wrong with baseball.

Jay Mariotti over at FanHouse calls the Boss the "best of owners." Over at the New York Post, a column there isn't very friendly.

I disliked what Steinbrenner did to baseball. He bought the best players at the highest prices. If it was a failed free-agent acquisition, well, there was enough Yankee money to go around to cover the mistake. Just replace the underachieving player with another -- either by another free-agent move or a trade with a bottom-feeder like the Pirates.

He took advantage of the system. It doesn't take a smart person to buy the best players. It takes deep pockets.

For that, Steinbrenner should be lauded, not his greatness as an owner. He wasn't great in the sense that he knew about baseball or made smart ba…

Tomlin gets to roam sidelines for three more years

Mike Tomlin will be with the Steelers at least through 2014.

To me, that's good news.

I've been a fan of Tomlin's since he popped up on the radar screen during the team's coaching search to replace Bill Cowher.

Tomlin's no-nonsense approach appeals to me, and I appreciate a coach who tells it like it is. I especially appreciate someone like Tomlin compared to coaches like Bill Belichick who offer non answers to simple questions.

The move also provides stability for a team that has gone through an offseason unlike any other. The Steelers certainly do not need to go into training camp with a lame-duck coach.

We just Witnessed one heck of an ego by James

I've had a few days now to take in all the hype and hysteria over LeBron James' decision to play basketball  for the Miami Heat.

Like nearly everyone else -- unless you are a Miami Heat fan -- I was disgusted with the whole process.

A one-hour show on ESPN? Having potential suitors visit him? Spare me.

Three things really stood out during the past two weeks: James is a narcissist, James can't win by himself and James doesn't like Cleveland.

The first doesn't need much explanation.

The second? Well, it was pretty evident James couldn't win by himself when he begged the Cleveland Cavaliers to get him better players.

He made a mad dash to win a title. It doesn't always work that way. Karl Malone and Gary Payton tried to take the easy way out and win a title with the L.A. Lakers in 2004. They lost easily to the Detroit Pistons in the finals.

If something similar happens in Miami, James is a failure. If he does win a title, James accomplishes that with the help …

Help the Blue Streak at Conneaut Lake Park

Conneaut Lake Park's Blue Streak needs your help.

The historic roller coaster in northwestern Pennsylvania is in need of repairs to be operational again. It's be down since 2009 when the park reopened.

It's a classic wooden coaster and a fun ride. However, the park needs some cash to get the ride, which is an American Coaster Enthusiasts historic landmark, going again.

I'm not seeking money. The Pepsi Refresh Project is awarding money based on votes, so your vote can help. Check out the project and vote for the Blue Streak.

You can read more on the park and project here and here.

Meek? That's weak. Gimme Strauburg in All-Star Game

Evan Meek.

All-Star.

It's been more than a day and I still can't get used to those two words being tossed together in the same sentence.

It's not that Evan Meek didn't have the statistics to deserve being an All-Star. Everyone is throwing around his ERA (0.96) and assures us it's a good choice.

And, besides, someone from the Pirates had to make the team.

I would prefer it be someone else. I'd prefer someone other than a middle reliever.

I don't think middle relievers belong in all-star games. Sorry, I just don't think they are that deserving.

I understand middle relief is part of the game these days, I don't believe it should be part of the All-Star Game.

While Meek has a stellar ERA, he does have five blown saves this season and only five holds (one of the few, unreliable statistics out there for relievers).

They way I look at it, the All-Star Game is still an opportunity to showcase the best players in the league for the fans. And while commission…

Penguins focus on defense

By all accounts the Pittsburgh Penguins improved on the first day of free agency Thursday.

A little sampling:
The P-G's Ron Cook calls it a change for the better.The Trib Review has the Penguins positioned for many Stanley Cup runs.And USA Today has the Pens as the No. 1 winner after Day 1.
One a team featuring plenty of offense, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin, the new acquisitions, should add what was missing from last year's team.

I agree with Cook's assessment that this team needs to focus on defense. That's what winning's all about on the playoffs.

But as for the No. 1 winnner? It's wayyyyy too early to tell. Michalek and Martin might not mesh with the Pens.

I've seen it too often in many sports when a free-agent acquisition or player acquired in a trade hasn't led to a championship as originally thought.

We'll need to wait and see.

But what is encouraging is GM Ray Shero is being aggressive and filling needs.

That's all that can be asked.

Can we play the Cubs more?

Thank goodness for the Cubs.

The Pirates have a 9-3 record against the Cubbies this season after Wednesday's 2-0 victory at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, the Bucs are 18-48 if you take away their record the Cubs.

That's bad. That's a .273 winning percentage. That's a 50-win season.

So, again, a big round of applause for the Cubs. Without them, this season would be one for the record books -- for all the wrong reasons.

It's too bad there are only three games left against the Cubs.

Break time is over

It's been two months since I've posted last. To those that check out this blog with any regularity, I apologize.

A lot has happened in the sports world since. The Penguins lost in the playoffs much earlier than anyone had hoped, the Pirates continued to lose at alarmingly frequency and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was suspended by the NFL.

I'm recently coming off a vacation to Cape May, N.J., that included a stop at Six Flags to ride Kingda Ka, among others. Maybe I'll have a post in the coming days on that trip, which was pretty cool. I also took some time to move my kids into another bedroom to make way for a new son or daughter coming in a couple months. The kids have their "new" room, and now we need to get their "old" room baby ready.

And right after our Cape May trip, I threw out the first pitch at an Altoona Curve game. That was tremendous. I'm sure I'll post a video soon an add some additional thoughts.

Again, thanks for reading an…

I've heard this Roethlisberger apology before

The apology almost has become part of a professional athlete's uniform.

Do something wrong, apologize and get along with your career.

They all sound the same, probably because those apologies are written by public relations experts. They all know what to have their athlete say -- or not say.

So after reading Ben Roethlisberger's apology Monday, I remain skeptical. But I'm not skeptical because of my preconceived notions.

I remain skeptical because I've heard it all before.

Back in 2006, Roethlisberger apologized to teammates, fans and his family after his near-miss with death after a motorcycle accident.

"In the past few days, I've gained a new perspective on life," Roethlisberger said in a statement released by the team. "By the grace of God, I'm fortunate to be alive ..."

Good. He's learned his lesson. He'll get his life on track.

At least that's what I thought, and I suppose others did too.

Then came the sexual assault accus…

With Ben, it's all about the Benjamins

I wanted to see commissioner Roger Goodell step up to the podium Thursday night and announce that the Pittsburgh Steelers traded quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

I didn't care where; I wanted him out of Pittsburgh.

Deep down, however, I didn't think it would happen.

Despite all his problems, Roethlisberger still means something to the Steelers -- money.

If Dan Rooney weren't cashing in his endorsement of Barack Obama with his ambassadorship to Ireland, maybe things would be different. He's more of a no-nonsense kind of guy.

But with Art Rooney II calling the shots, I believe character still counts, but Rooney is more of a businessman.

And in the NFL these days, it's a business.

I don't think it was a coincidence that Roethlisberger's six-game suspension can be reduced to four games.

I don't think it was a coincidence that the end of Roethlisberger's suspension would end when the Steelers have their bye week.

And I don't think it was a coincidence…

Steelers make right call with Pouncey

Maurkice Pouncey is a Pittsburgh Steeler.

That's a good thing.

The Florida center is a perfect fit for the Steelers.

There's a lot to like about him, too.

Sure, there are his physical attributes, but I was impressed with how, after he blocks one defensive lineman, he looks for more opponents. Some players hit their blocks and wait for a running back to go by them and head back to the huddle.

With Pouncey, he attacks. And then he attacks some more.

That will fit in nicely.

What I really liked was his excitement with joining Pittsburgh.

"I'm so happy to be a Pittsburgh Steeler," he told the Post-Gazette.  "I'm so happy they picked me. I just like the Steelers so much."

That's refreshing.

I can't wait to see him play.

Pens' loss to Sens hurts

I love playoff hockey.

I really love overtime playoff hockey.

I'm convinced there's nothing better.

But it stinks when you invest three overtimes in watching a game and see the Penguins fall short.

So Thursday's 4-3 triple-overtime heartbreaker isn't the end of their series with the Ottawa Senators. Pittsburgh still is in control with a  3-2 lead.

But now I'm worried.

Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire stopped about 1,327 shots in the nearly six periods of hockey at Mellon Arena. Or did it just seem like it?

For a guy that hadn't seen much action and was making his first postseason start in the NHL, it was an impressive game.

It was as impressive as the Penguins' start to the game was sloppy.

They were down 2-0 before the NFL draft even got interesting. That the Pens rallied was good. It was even better when they led 3-2 in the third period.

Instead, they head back to Ottawa on weary legs looking to close out a team that's found new life.

Hopefully, they c…

Brewers series ends on ugly note for Bucs

The Penguins can advance tonight and we're all waiting to see if Ben Roethlisberger gets traded during the NFL draft or sometime after.

Before that action takes place, I just have to write about the Pirates.

Did you see the score Thursday afternoon?

20-0.

Yes. Twenty.

And, if you weren't sure, they lost.

That makes it 36-1 against the Brewers in the three-game homestand. The Bucs just can't beat the Brewers. And, for this series, they weren't even on the same playing field.

That drops the Pirates to 7-8 on the season.

To paraphrase the coach from "Bull Durham," how did they ever win seven?

You can check out the scene here, it's one of my favorites from the movie.  Beware, there is some R-rated language there.

Trading Roethlisberger makes football sense

The Pittsburgh Steelers should trade quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to send a message.

The Steelers should trade Roethlisberger to protect their image, or their brand.

The Steelers should trade Roethlisberger because he hasn't grown up.

I've heard plenty of reasons why Roethlisberger should be sent packing, and I agree with most of them.

But here's one reason that I haven't heard much: Trading Roethlisberger makes sense from a football standpoint.

Yes. I think it would be a smart football decision to cut ties with a quarterback that has two Super Bowl rings.

There are a lot of numbers that you can discuss when it comes to Roethlisberger. You can talk touchdown passes, interceptions, wins, comebacks and more.

But there's one thing worries me about Roethlisberger: The number of concussions he has suffered.

He has had at least three concussions. Chances are he has had more than that.

How many more hits will it take to his head that will force him to retire? Steve Youn…

Wow. The Bucs sweep the Reds

Do you think the St. Louis Cardinals are getting nervous yet?

Probably not, but it's fun to think that they might be looking in their rear-view mirror as the Bucs sit one game out of first place after sweeping the Cincinnati Reds this weekend.

What was particularly encouraging is the way the Bucs are going about business.

They rallied in the ninth inning Friday and Saturday to win the first two games of the series.

With a chance to sweep, Paul Maholm had a strong outing on the mound, giving up just four hits.

Meanwhile, the Pirates made the most of their five hits, scoring five runs in the fourth inning against the Reds on Sunday.

Key hitting. Strong pitching. Good bullpen.

It's a recipe for success, and the Bucs have followed it in four of their past five games.

Yeah, it's been fun. And I know the bottom can fall out at any given moment for this franchise. After all, they were 9-6 last season.

But at least not everyone is satisfied with the start.

"It doesn't mean…

Time for someone to suspend Roethlisberger

I hate prepared statements.

Any time I see an athlete read from a prepared statement, I doubt their sincerity.

Anyone can read from a piece of paper. Anyone can rehearse and deliver a speech written by someone else.

I can't help but think that was the case Monday when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger delivered his short words.

Can't an athlete speak from the heart these days?

I know, I know, there are those worried that an athlete could misspeak, so prepared remarks can keep him on topic.

I don't buy it.

And I hope the league or the Steelers aren't buying it either.

One or both need to suspend Roethlisberger.

I'm tired of his antics. I'm sure the Steelers are too. Probably throw in NFL commish Roger Goodell.

Maybe the return of sensibility to the Steelers organization won't end with Sunday's trade of Santonio Holmes.

Santonio Holmes is the fall guy

So long, Santonio Holmes. Thanks for winning the Pittsburgh Steelers a Super Bowl.

I'm not even sure he got that kinds of sendoff after the Steelers traded their Super Bowl MVP to the New York Jets late Sunday night for a fifth-round draft pick.

Yeah, a fifth-round pick.

It seems like a low price to pay to acquire a gifted athlete, but a checkered past can do things like that.

Holmes is facing a lawsuit from a woman who claims he threw a glass at her. Holmes denies it and a witness has claimed responsibility. In 2008, Holmes was arrested for possession of marijuana, and he was involved in a domestic violence incident in 2006; the misdemeanor charges were dismissed.

That can be overlooked by some teams -- but not the Pittsburgh Steelers. Especially when your franchise QB has problems of his own.

Who's easier to replace: the QB or the WR?

That answer's easy. The receiver can be replaced. Holmes is expendable.

Could the Steelers have gotten better than a fifth-rounder? May…

I was afraid the Bucs would do that

The first road trip of the season started with a loud thud in Arizona on Friday night.

The Bucs got clubbed by the Diamondbacks 9-1, bringing to a screeching halt any warm, fuzzy thoughts about that quick 2-0 start to open the season.

Manager John Russell sent Charlie Morton to the mound and the D-backs sent him to the showers early, tagging Morton for eight runs and nine hits. Morton didn't make it out of the fourth inning.

"I just didn't bear down," Morton told reporters after the game.

Diamondbacks starter Rodrigo Lopez looked like an All-Star, tossing six-hit ball and giving up just one run. The trouble was Lopez is a pitcher the Pirates should be able to beat. He missed the 2008 season after Tommy John surgery. He had seven uneventful appearances last season and finished with a 5.70 ERA.

To add insult to injury, the stoic Adam LaRoche had two hits against his former team.

It doesn't get any better Saturday with Arizona sending out Dan Haren, a real starter.

Now those were the real Pirates

Garrett Jones didn't hit a home run Thursday.

So, naturally, the Pirates didn't beat the Los Angeles Dodgers either.

It's too early to tell if Jones needs to hit a home run for the Pirates to win a game. But it is quite easy to determine that the Pirates team that took the field played like the one we saw all spring and the one that closed out the 2009 season with a 19-46 record.

The pitching struggled, the hitting was spotty and the defense was bad, too.

It's not what we were treated to for the first two games of the series.

Maybe it's too much expecting a solid game from them against a Dodgers team that needed to get a win and a starting pitcher the caliber of Chad Billingsley.

We knew the Pirates couldn't win them all, but a 3-0 start would have been on heck of a treat. Luckily, they won the opener, proving they weren't going to lose them all, either.

We'll get a better idea of this team in the weeks ahead. And I have a hunch we'll get a clue wit…

"For Love of the Game" underrated baseball movie

Early April is one of my favorite times of the year.

College basketball wraps up with the Final Four, the Masters tees off and baseball returns.

The return of baseball is the best part.

Each year I bust out my favorite DVDs to get ready for the season.

Among my favorites: "Field of Dreams", "Bull Durham", and "Major League".

Another that doesn't get as much fanfare is "For Love of the Game."

It's one of my favorites.

I'm not saying it deserves to be mentioned as one of the best sports movies of all time, but baseball fans should like it.

As a side note, why doesn't "Back to School" get any credit on the best sports movies list? After all, it features Rodney Dangerfield diving.

Jones gives Bucs chance to believe for a day

Today is a day to remember.

A quick scan of the National League Central Division standings has the Pittsburgh Pirates in first place.

There's no game today, so the perfect record will stay -- for now.

But it won't last forever. A spot in first place won't, either.

And a winning record? Nah. This team's not gonna do that.

But for one day at least, the Pirates are in first place, thanks largely in part to Garrett Jones' two home runs.

Jones smacked a tying two-run shot that bounced into the Allegheny and later hit one that had just enough on it to float into the left-field stands.

The home runs turned around the game. The Pirates went from trailing 2-0 and ended up winning 11-5.

How good of a day was it? The Post-Gazette's Ron Cook went from predicting a 59-win season on Saturday to comparing Jones to Albert Pujols after the win.

I know the Bucs are perfect, but let's not get carried away.

It's just one game, and Jones isn't going to hit two home runs…

Here's the scoop for the baseball season

National League
East
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Florida Marlins
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets
Skinny: The Phillies look too tough. The Braves are re-tooled and look out for Jason Heyward, my new favorite player. The Mets have the worst team in the division. It was easy picking them last behind the Nats.

Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Houston Astros
5. Milwaukee Brewers
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Skinny: This is the Cards' division to win or lose, and they'll win it again. I like the talent on the Reds. If it comes together, they should make it to second place, edging the Cubs. The Astros and Brewers seem close, but I'll give the Astros the edge. The Pirates ... well, they're the Pirates.

West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Colorado Rockies
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. San Francisco Giants
5. San Diego Padres
Skinny: The Dodgers are the best in the division and are an easy choice, let the rest of the NL divisions. The Ro…

Yankees-Red Sox opener way too long

Major League Baseball returned Sunday night.

Of course, they couldn't resist by stuffing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox down our throat.

If you made it through the game, you were treated to a 7-5 Red Sox victory.

However, I wonder just how many people survived the game.

The opener lasted nearly four hours for a nine-inning game.

Four hours.

The game ended at 11:56 p.m.

Couldn't baseball start the game at 7 p.m.? Do they even care?

At least the Yankees lost and we can say they're in last place.

3 good reasons to root for Butler

I'll be up front from the start: I'm not a Duke fan.

With Duke, it's either you love 'em or you don't.

I don't love 'em.

Then The Indianapolis Star ran this illustration last week.

Pretty funny, I thought.

Coach K didn't like it, though.

Here's what the Associated Press reported from Coach K:
"It was kind of juvenile. Not kind of, it was just juvenile. You know, my seven grandkids didn’t enjoy looking at it: ‘That’s not Papi.’"It reminds me of Krzyzewski complaining to an official after not getting a call.

The Blue Devils could be up 25 points with five minutes left in the game and Coach K would complain about not getting a foul call.

The Indy Star didn't like the finished product and pulled it after 30,000 copies ran.

Noted newspaper designer Charles Apple recently commented on the illustration. Apple, like me, liked it. Apple thought it could have been better.

I’d have asked the designer to tone it down just a notch, perhaps. For st…

Bucs don't inspire as Opening Day looms

Spring is supposed to be the time of year where baseball fans -- actually, all baseball fans -- should have some optimism for their teams.

In the past, no matter what the Pittsburgh Pirates have looked like, I've tried to go with that approach.

That includes the Grapefruit League seasons when Derek Bell was on the roster as well.

I can't drum up much optimism for the Bucs this season.

I posted earlier this year when Pirates tickets went on sale. I didn't buy any on that first day.

I still haven't purchased any tickets.

That's probably not a big deal for many people. For me, it's something.

For more than 20 years, I've been going to Opening Day at Three Rivers or PNC Park. It would have been a consecutive-years streak but I lived out of state for two years.

But the point is, the streak looks like it will end.

Will I watch them on TV? Sure.

Will I go to a game this season? I'd like to think I will. But, honestly, I'm not so sure.

Is it a protest again…

Pirates shouldn't worry about Mauer

Joe Mauer's new $23 million-a-year contract shouldn't make Pirates fans worry.

There's been some nervousness out there that Mauer's deal will have some ramifications on the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I wish that could be true.

First, you have to suspend belief that the Pirates will ever develop a player of Mauer's caliber. Mauer is a three-time American League batting champion and is the reigning AL MVP.

When was the last time the Pirates had that?

Then, taking the leap of faith that an Andrew McCutchen or Pedro Alvarez becomes a player like that, you need to buy into the theory that Nutting and Co. would keep a player like that on the roster long enough to negotiate such a deal.

Chances are McCutchen or Alvarez would be traded before negotiations would ever get reasonable close to a deal happening.

In fact, with Alvarez being represented by everybody's favorite agent, Scott Boras, it's highly doubtful Alvarez would spend a second longer with the franchise than he…

Pitt still isn't it in the tournament (and Dixon, too)

I've always had this theory that Pitt athletics will break your heart.

This year's basketball team lived up to that saying once again.

By all accounts, the Panthers overachieved this season. They reached the top 10 in the polls at one point, they finished second in the Big East and they received a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.

All great accomplishments.

Yet it means nothing when you lose in the second round of the NCAA tournament against a team your supposed to beat.

But that's Pitt basketball. It seems every season they fall about one round short of what they're supposed to do.

Here's their recent history:
2009: 3-1: They lost to Villanova in the regional final.2008: 1-1. They lost to Michigan State in the second round.2006: 1-1. They lost to Bradley in the second round.2005: 0-1. They lost to Pacific in the first round.The Villanova loss last season was a tough one to take. But as a No. 1 seed, Pitt was a better team than Villanova and should have earned a…

Bracket Racket picks the tourney winner

St. Patrick's day is tomorrow, so it's definitely a day of celebration.

But before you go out and have a great time, fill out your college basketball bracket. By the time you recover on Thursday, the games will have tipped off.

And before you turn in that sheet, take a look at my Bracket Racket formula. It's picked three of the past six winners, with narrow misses in the years that it failed.

Let's get right to it:

Eliminate all No. 16 seeds. We start off simple by crossing out a seed that never has won a game.

Next, letters spell disaster. A team that goes by a couple letters won't win the couple games it needs to cut down the nets. That means UNLV, UTEP, BYU, Texas A&M, N.M. State and UC Santa Barbra are out of consideration.

My wife gets directionally challenged sometimes, and that applies to this year's tournament. Don't bet your bracket on Northern Iowa, North Texas and West Virginia.

I know teams like to make a statement, but State schools won…

The Sports Monitor turns 1

One year and 100-plus posts later, the Sports Monitor turns one today.

We watched Pitt come within a shot of the Final Four, the Penguins hoist the Stanley Cup and the Steelers fall short in the defense of their Super Bowl championship. The Pirates, well, last season was forgetful.

A sincere thank-you to everyone who has checked us out the past 12 months.

McLouth opens my eyes to some problems with Pirates

Braves outfielder Nate McLouth greeted his former Pirates teammates Thursday with a run scored in Atlanta's Grapefruit League win.

That's not so much news.

What really stood out were two comments from McLouth, as reported by the Post-Gazette.

The first, from Chuck Finder's story:
"Guess they do [an eye exam] in spring training, but a blind man could pass that test. So I'd never really done a full eye exam. Got home a couple of days after the season ended and ended up getting contacts. It was kind of interesting to find that out when I got home. ... The way I describe it, it's kind of like going from watching standard-definition television to watching HD. It just kind of sharpens things up a bit. It has been a big help. Absolutely. Both in seeing pitches and in the outfield." 
Can the Pirates, who really need every advantage they possibly could get, really cut short eye exams? Did anyone in the organization see "Major League"?

Ricky "…

Pirates' promises fall to bottom -- just like the team

If you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.

That adage might work in politics, but it certainly doesn't work when it comes to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

At least that's my feelings a week after Pirates president Frank Coonelly uttered the phrase that soon will not be forgotten. "Today is our future because 2010 is the beginning of the next dynasty of the Pirates for me."

I'm sure you heard it. And it's probably a safe bet that you're just as flabbergasted as I am this long after his proclamation.

2010 simply will be another year in a long line of losing seasons for the Pirates, no matter what Coonelly says.

Spring training is supposed to be a time of optimism. I don't have it this season when it comes to the Bucs.

Bob Nutting can boast about a great team. GM Neal Huntington can, too. Same goes for manager John Russell.

I can't trust or believe a word these guys say -- just like a politician.

Do they really think anyone that follows the Pir…

Quick thoughts on the Super Bowl

Random thoughts from Super Bowl XLIV:
Give Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams some credit. He was masterful with his adjustments. After giving up 10 first-quarter points, the Saints outscored the Colts 31-7.Drew Brees is a logical choice for MVP. I couldn't argue with Tracy Porter being picked, too, after his game-clinching interception. Heck, coach Sean Payton deserved consideration if a coach could get the award. What about Thomas Morstead? He's the kicker who had the best onside kick ever. It doesn't get much better than that.My memory's fuzzy, but I recall Santonio Holmes having a touchdown overturned in last year's AFC Championship Game against the Ravens. He fumbled after diving into the end zone after getting two feet down to make the catch. I'm still not sure how that was ruled incomplete and the Saints' Lance Moore got credited for a catch on the 2-point conversion.That said, Payton made a great call to challenge the catch.  Porter made a g…

Manning doesn't stack up to Big Ben in big game

Peyton Manning had a chance to cement his legacy Sunday night.

The Colts were trailing the Saints 24-17 with less than 6 minutes left in Super Bowl XLIV. The Colts needed a touchdown. Manning needed to lead his team.

Neither happened.

Manning's pass was intercepted by Tracy Porter and returned 74 yards for a touchdown.

It wasn't James Harrison rumbling 100 yards for a score, but it was the nail in the coffin for the Colts.

Game over.

A year ago, a quarterback with something to prove needed to lead his team down the field at the end of the game to win the Super Bowl.

Ben Roethlisberger did it. Manning didn't.

Manning can have the statistics and MVP awards. Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings to Manning's one. I'll take the titles.

Whatever he does the rest of his career, Manning will never be able to join Joe Montana or Terry Bradshaw as having a perfect record in the big game.

Roethisberger still has that chance.

And Manning still had a little chance to win th…

Harrison's play greatest ever in Super Bowl

We knew it a year ago when it happened, but ESPN confirmed it today: James Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown is the greatest play in Super Bowl history.

I guess when ESPN says it, it must be true.

Check out ESPN's page on the play, Inside a Moment in Time.

It's a pretty cool page. There are quotes from players involved and a photo gallery of Harrison's game-changing play.

Saints deliver killer knockouts to QBs

Random thoughts from Sunday's championship games:

The New Orleans Saints have faced two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in back-to-back rounds and still won. They beat up, battered and bruised Brett Favre and the Vikings in the NFC title game and did the same to Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. It's looking more and more likely that the Saints sent both Warner and Favre into retirement. Up next, another Hall of Fame QB, Peyton Manning. I don't think that'll be his last game.The Jets still had a chance to win the AFC title game until Reggie Wayne recovered his own fumble in the fourth quarter. Had the ball bounced the other way, the Jets could be making travel plans for Miami.The Vikings got too cute at the end of regulation trying to confuse the Saints and got burned. The 12-men-on-the-field penalty cost them the game. Well, Favre's interception didn't help either.Vikings RB Adrian Peterson looked like former Steelers RB Tim Worley carrying the football.If I'm calli…

Favre's gamble backfires

Brett Favre just loves to gamble.

With a trip to the Super Bowl, a shot at redemption and a chance to rub it in the faces of Green Bay Packers fans, Brett Favre couldn't help himself and be Brett Favre.

He tried to make a play with the game tied at 28 in the NFC championship game.

The grizzled veteran who was supposed to lead the Minnesota Vikings to the Super Bowl instead made a rookie mistake.

Favre threw the football back across the field and the New Orleans Saints' Tracy Porter picked it off.

So much for a chance to win the game at the end.

Favre could have thrown it away, leaving a long 56-yard field goal. He should have run the ball, which would have picked up at least 5 yards, maybe more.

Nope. Favre wanted to be the hero.

Now, he's the goat.

In a game marred by turnovers, Favre's was the costliest. But we shouldn't be surprised.

If Favre throws enough, he'll get burned. Just like he did Sunday night.

He should have known better than to throw that pass. …

Hopefully, Warner returns for a season

I'm a Kurt Warner fan.

I've been since he took the NFL by storm after rising from the AFL's Iowa Barnstormers and stocking shelves to make ends meet.

So it should be no surprise that I'd like to see him return for another season.

Warner still can play. The Cardinals have one heck of an offense.

And, if I were a die-hard Arizona fan, I wouldn't want to see Matt Leinart taking snaps next season either.

When the Steelers played the Cardinals in the Super Bowl last year, it was one time where I wouldn't have been upset with the opposing  team winning.

The Cardinals have lots to like, led by Warner, and followed by Larry Fitzgerald and Ken Whisenhunt, to name a few.

Usually, I'd rather see an athlete retire a year too early, rather than a year too late. And too often, they hang on too long.

With Warner, it would be at least two years too early.

Hopefully, we can see at least one more.

Big Mac was using special sauce

I look back at the home-run chase of 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and shake my head.

Man, we all were just fools going crazy for those two that summer.

Big Mac and Slammin' Sammy captured the country's attention and brought interest back to baseball after a labor dispute wiped out the World Series a few seasons before 1998.

I was a McGwire fan. I cheered every home run.

I remember working in the newsroom watching SportsCenter to see if Big Mac hit a blast -- or two -- that night.

Usually he did.

After his confession Monday for using steroids, now we know why.

What was startling wasn't the fact that he used performance-enhancing drugs; many suspected him of doing that. The amazing thing was his admission.

If you followed Big Mac you were aware he ducked the question in front of Congress. Now, as he tries to rebuild his image, the truth comes out.

It's a good start.

It's not enough to sway me to think he's now earned a right to go into the Hall of Fam…

Jets get free pass to playoffs

It's aggravating looking at the NFL playoff schedule and not seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers on it.

The team's defense of their Super Bowl championship ended without a trip to the postseason.

The Steelers got their ninth win Sunday, beating the Miami Dolphins 30-24, but they didn't get the help they needed to make a title run.

Now, they get to watch the New York Jets in the playoffs.

I have nothing against the Jets or their fans, but the Jets don't strike me as a playoff team.

It's not bitter energy falsely directed at the Jets because the Steelers didn't get the help they needed to get in.

In fact, a team that loses to the Browns, Chiefs and Raiders in the same season shouldn't be considered playoff material, either.

No, my beef is with the way the Jets "earned" their trip to the NFL's postseason tournament.

To set up their Week 17 showdown with the Bengals, the Jets beat the previously unbeaten Indianapolis Colts. The only problem was the Col…

Happy New Year

After an extended break over the holidays, it's time to get back into the swing of things.

First off, Happy New Year, everyone.

2009 was an exciting year, with the Steelers winning the Super Bowl and the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup. The Pitt basketball team reached No. 1 and the Pitt football team won 10 games, too.

So with all the success, there's one wish for 2010 that I'd like to make.

I'd like to see a new management team in place for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Big dreams, for sure.

What would you wish for?