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Showing posts from 2011

Penn State's in trouble if Mangini is a candidate

The Penn State football coaching search can't be going very well.

If you're considering hiring former Browns and Jets coach Eric Mangini, well, you're in trouble.

Browns fans probably would like to forget about the Mangini years. Jets fans probably have the same thoughts.

Why would Penn State want Mangini?

Maybe they're desperate. Maybe the program isn't what they thought. Maybe candidates are scared off by what might happen down the road. Maybe they just don't know.

After all, when was the last time Penn State had to look for a coach?

Mike Munchak, Tony Dungy and Chris Peterson (Boise State) all have denied any interest.

Meanwhile, many schools, including Pitt, have filled their vacancies.

Whenever Penn State names a coach, that person will be behind on the recruiting trail.

Nittany Lions fans should just hope that person isn't Eric Mangini.

Steelers should play it safe with Roethlisberger

I don't believe for a minute that Ben Roethlisberger is healthy enough to play against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Could he hobble around and throw the ball? Yep.

Is it worth the risk? Nope.

The Steelers should know around kickoff if their game against the Browns has any meaning. If the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens, then a Steelers' win gives them the AFC North title. If the Ravens win -- and I think they will -- then the Steelers' game is meaningless.

Roethlisberger should sit either way.

The Steelers shouldn't risk further injury to Big Ben.

I understand his desire to play.

But the Steelers need to understand the need to keep him healthy. Do you think the Browns would like a shot at injuring him as payback for Colt McCoy's concussion? I do.

Any playoff run needs Roethlisberger to be as close to 100 percent as possible.

I don't see how letting him play gets him closer to that goal.

Miami Heat get revenge? Hardly

Sometimes, perception doesn't equal reality.

That's the case with the Miami Heat's victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Day.

My guess is you have seen or will see headlines saying "Heat get revenge," or something along those lines.

The Heat really can't get revenge for their loss to the Mavericks in last season's NBA Finals on opening day.

They can't.

They could beat the Mavs in the Finals this year.

That would be revenge.

We have a while to go to see if that can happen.

Steelers need to rest Roethlisberger the next two weeks

I can't blame the Pittsburgh Steelers for starting a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

A win put them in the driver's seat in the AFC, and Roethlisberger gave the Steelers the best chance to win.

It didn't work out.

It was obvious that Roethlisberger had trouble and it hurt the Steelers throughout the night. He couldn't scramble, he couldn't follow through on his throws and he couldn't heave the long ball.

I can't imagine Charlie Batch or Dennis Dixon doing much worse. After all, the Steelers scored just three points.

With little chance to win the division, coach Mike Tomlin should rest Roethlisberger the rest of the season.

He should give Big Ben a big break, let him heal as much as possible and have him ready for the playoffs.

The Baltimore Ravens aren't going to lose in the next two weeks against the Browns and Bengals, which would wrap up the AFC North.

That makes these next two games against the Rams and Br…

Steelers' run to division title gets short-circuited

It was all there for the Pittsburgh Steelers to take.

The inside track for the top seed in the AFC playoffs, a game up on the Ravens for the division title, a chance for a bye week.

Instead, the Steelers short-circuited Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers.

Ben Roethlisberger didn't have the magic this time, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble. It was a heroic effort by Roethlisberger to take the field, but the performance wasn't there.

The usually strong defense gave up 20 points to a team that's struggled scoring touchdowns.

One night earlier, the Ravens lost on their trip cross country to face the San Diego Chargers. You would think the Steelers would have taken notice.

Instead, the Steelers flopped on Monday Night, a game that was delayed 35 minutes by two power outages at Candlestick Park.

The power certainly was missing from the offense.

Now the Steelers will need a Christmas miracle to gain the division title.

It looks like any path to the Super…

Ravens stumble, giving Steelers quite a gift

So much for the Baltimore Ravens being in control of the AFC North.

Facing a closing schedule of the Chargers, Browns and Bengals, it looked like the Ravens had the edge in winning the AFC North and sending the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in the NFL playoffs.

Like I said, so much for that.

The Chargers ran all over the Ravens, beating the Dirty Birds on Sunday night, 34-14.

Now, the Steelers control their own destiny.

But first, it starts with needing a win against the 49ers Monday night.

A loss Monday, and the Ravens will be back in control.

The good news is Ben Roethlisberger should start against the Niners.

I'd expect the Steelers to show up and take advantage of this opportunity.

Mario Cristobal to Pitt? I'd like it

There are a lot of names out there being tossed around as possible candidates as the next Pitt football coach.

There's one name that I like, Mario Cristobal.


He's the coach at Florida International.

He's turned around a program that was dreadful and has a team with two winning seasons and two bowl berths. Actually, I don't thin dreadful is a strong enough of a term.

He runs a spread offense, something I think is needed in college football, despite what Todd Graham unveiled this season at Pitt.

Some are quick to disqualify Cristobal because he'll leave after a couple seasons for a bigger and better job.

I understand that argument, but I don't think you'll find a coach to stay that long at many places.

I especially don't think you'll find one to stay that long at Pitt.

The key would be finding one that would be the anti-Graham, leaving the program better than you found it, and leaving with class.

That shouldn't be too hard.

Graham abandons Pitt for Arizona State

I liked the Todd Graham hire by the Pitt football team in January.

I was looking forward to seeing his high-powered offense in action. I liked the idea of his commitment to Pitt he said after his hire. He talked a great game.

Less than a year later, I have lost all respect for the man.

Graham up-and-left for Arizona State, leaving Pitt, his players and the program on a whim.

Well, maybe it wasn't a whim. Maybe he knew his up-tempo style just wasn't going to work in Year 2 at Pitt. Maybe he couldn't get the right quarterback to run his offense. Maybe he wanted to leave before everyone else figured out that he wasn't as good of a coach as he made himself out to be. Maybe he didn't like the weather.

He's a Sun Devil now.

Ask a Pitt player, and I'd guess they'd say he's something like the devil instead.

Graham notified his players by text or email -- how nice. Nothing being committed to your job.

Athletic director Steve Pederson agreed:

"First an…

Pens fans should be worried about Crosby

Deep in the back of many, if not all Penguins' fans, there should have been concern about Sidney Crosby's health.

There was probably some who worried more than others, but the threat was real: What if Crosby gets another concussion?

It didn't take too long to find out. Crosby missed two games last week as a precaution after a hard hit against the Bruins.

That precaution has been elevated. Crosby is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. He didn't suffer a concussion, they say, it's just his body's not right.

I don't know about you, but I'm worried.

Yeah, I'm worried about the Penguins and Crosby's career. But that's nothing compared to Sid's health. That should be everyone's concern.

I'm afraid what might happen if a goon takes a cheap shot on Crosby. It doesn't even have to be a cheap shot. Crosby could get leveled by a clean check and that could end his career.

It might not matter how long Crosby sits. It could be …

Steelers on target to be Tebowed

Ready or not, Steelers fans, you could be looking at a 13-win season and a wild-card berth.

It's not the end of the world, especially when it's not impossible to win the Super Bowl as a wild-card team.

But what do you do when your first-round opponent is Tim Tebow -- I mean the Denver Broncos?

The Broncos, winners of six straight, have a one-game lead over the Oakland Raiders. It looks like a lock that the AFC West division winner will be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. That means the top wild-card team, and unless the Ravens lose it looks like the Steelers, would get the Broncos.

I keep waiting and waiting for Tebow to fail, and he just keeps winning and winning. He'll play the ugliest three quarters of football and somehow spur his team to victory.

I'm sure the league will catch up to him, just like the league caught up to the Miami Dolphins' Wildcat offense.

But for now, it looks like Steelers Nation will square off against the mystic powers of Tebow.


Browns take hit over McCoy

The Cleveland Browns can't win on the field.

They apparently don't know how to keep players healthy off the field.

The Browns didn't conduct a concussion text on Colt McCoy after he was hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison last Thursday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.

A few years ago a mysterious staph infection plagued the team. It was so bad, former player LeCharles Bentley sued the team in 2010.

Maybe there's more to the losing than just the performance of the players.

Just one more reason I'm glad I'm not a Browns fan.

If it's a positive test, strip Braun of the MVP

Baseball got a black eye Saturday night.

ESPN reported that National League MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and faces a 50-game suspension.

Braun denies doing anything wrong and is waiting an appeal.

Braun reportedly was tested during the playoffs and was informed of a positive test in late October.

Two quick things out of all of this: I'm glad to see baseball is testing during the playoffs.

Second, if confirmed, Braun needs to be stripped of his MVP award. The writers can either make the second-place finished the MVP or vote again.

Stern makes wrong move voiding trade

At first blush, it's easy to agree with NBA commissioner David Stern's decision to squash a three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul from New Orleans to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hey, why let a large-market team get another elite player, right?

Well, it's not the NBA's place to make such a call.

Paul, a top-10 player in the league, will bolt New Orleans at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent, so the Hornets should be allowed to get something before Paul leaves.

Second, while it arguably makes the Lakers better, it makes the Hornets better, too.

The Hornets would have received Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a draft pick.The Lakers would have sent Pau Gasol to the Hoston Rockets to complete the deal.

Problem was, the small-market owners complained. Loudly.

They were tired of the big bullies getting all the players.

So Stern listened.

I, like most people outside Miami, shuddered at the display LeBron James showed during his fr…

Roethlisberger erased a night of wrongs

I'll admit it.

When Ben Roethlisberger left the field in the second quarter Thursday night, I thought the Steelers were going to lose to the Browns.

There was no way Roethlisberger was going to return from that injury, I thought.

The heck with losing to the Browns. From the looks of that injury on the replays, I thought you could kiss any dreams of a Super Bowl run goodbye.

Yeah, I was way off on that one.

Roethlisberger returned to start the second half and the Steelers did just enough to beat the Browns on national television.

It looked like one of those games the Steelers would squander away. Hines Ward and Heath Miller each lost a fumble inside the red zone, and the Steelers started another drive inside the Browns' 40-yard line and came away with zero points.

Ward, as a side note, didn't have another catch after that fumble.

Even at the end, with Roethlisberger doing his best Willis Reed, it looked like the Browns would take the lead after the Steelers were stopped fo…

Best-case scenario for BCS: It'll be wrong

I've lost my appetite for hating the BCS system.

For years now, we've been told it's great by the people who created it. We've been told how it matches the two best teams in the country for college football's national championship.

Instead, we're usually left without the two best teams playing for the title.

We complain, gripe and do everything we can to slam the system. Ideas are tossed around, but they never gain traction. Five of six weeks later, everyone turns on their television after the new year to watch college football again and the slime that run the BCS and the bowls smile while counting their dollars.

Yeah, college football is grand.

Sunday night was another reminder of how bad the system is. For this year's version of the national championship, we're left with a rematch of LSU and Alabama. The two team's played earlier in a battle of field goals -- yawn! -- with LSU beating 'Bama 9-6.

We're left to believe that a system that say…

Yes, the Pirates ornament goes on the Christmas tree

Call me a Pittsburgh Pirates fan? Yep. Guilty as charged.

Can me a fan of the Nutting ownership group? No way.

I'm so dissatisfied with the way things are with the Pirates that I haven't been to a game in two seasons. That broke a long-running tradition of attending opening day.

Today, we finished decorating our Christmas tree. My one son found a Pirates ornament at the bottom of the box.

"Here, you have to put it up," he said.

Well, no, I don't, I thought.

Instead, I did put it up. It's on the back of the tree however.

That still doesn't mean I'll be going back to PNC Park for opening day in 2012.

Penn State needs clean break

I agree Joe Paterno had to go at Penn State.

Tom Bradley was the logical choice to fill in while the university conducted a search.

However, John Smallwood from the Philadelphia Daily News thinks Bradley would be the best choice as the replacement.

Penn State needs a clean break from all things Paterno. Bradley has done the right things as the interim coach, but any reminder or link to Paterno or Sandusky needs to go away.

If that means losing Bradley, so be it.

Bad call helped Del Rio get extension

Maybe, just maybe, if officials at the Steelers-Jaguars playoff game after the 2007 season had called a holding penalty, Jack Del Rio would have been fired as the Jaguars coach before this week.

The Steelers completed a remarkable comeback against the Jaguars in that wild-card game at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh led and had Jacksonville facing a fourth-and-2 late in the game.

Jags quarterback David Garrard ran for the first down, but Jacksonville should have been called for holding on the play, setting up a fourth-and-long. Nearly everyone who watched the game knew it, except for the officials.

Jacksonville went on to win the game 31-29.

Garrard got an extension after that season. So did Del Rio, who was hailed as one of the league's up-and-coming coaches.

Since, Jacksonville's franchise quarterback got released just days before the 2011 season started and Del Rio got fired before the season ended.

The correct call could very well have sent Garrard and Del Rio into a different dir…

Thank goodness Haywood's not at Pitt

I never was a big fan of the Mike Haywood hiring by Pitt last year.

I thought he was overrated and got too much credit for his Miami (Ohio) team's 9-4 record.

Why, nearly a year later do I bring up Haywood? A quote from today's Post-Gazette:
Pitt senior Chas Alecxih: "Our first meeting with Haywood, he came in with a wrinkled suit, the worst suit I've ever seen, then acted like we owed him something. He was very arrogant. And when we walked out of the meeting we all said, 'Wow, this is going to be our next coach.' So when he got fired, I was happy, and obviously we got a great coach in Todd Graham to come in." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Haywood. That quote alone should keep colleges leery about hiring Haywood.

Palko helps cure Steelers' lack of turnovers

The Pittsburgh Steelers sure know how to make an inferior opponent look good on Sunday night.

After escaping a game with the terrible Indianapolis Colts earlier this season, the Steelers survived the Kansas City Chiefs.

A defense that had six takeaways all season entering the game took four away from Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko in Sunday's 13-9 win. The clincher was an interception by Keenan Lewis with less than a minute to go.

And you have to thank Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe for his lack of effort on the game-ending interception. Bowe looked deathly afraid to take a hit with the game on the line.

But for as strong as the defense looked, the offense never found a rhythm.

Throughout Sunday's game, the announcers praised the Chiefs' defense. However, the Chiefs had the 28th-ranked rush defense in the league, and Rashard Mendenhall picked up just 57 yards for the game.

However, when Mendenhall did get the ball, he looked strong.

Roethlisberger looked fine playing wi…

Pitt should sit Sunseri vs. Syracuse

That wasn't a Backyard Brawl in Morgantown, W.Va.,  on Friday. It was a display of how to lose a football game. And it was classic Pitt football from the 2011 season.

I bailed on Tino Sunseri as Pitt's quarterback back in September. Pitt escaped with a win against Maine, and Sunseri looked like a quarterback better suited for Division II or Division III, not a team that had aspirations for winning a Big East championship.

Nearly two months later, Sunseri hasn't changed.

Left with a chance to beat West Virginia, Sunseri looked awful. I'm not sure awful is strong enough, but Sunseri stunk when it mattered most.

Faced with a three-man rush, Sunseri got sacked four times on the team's final series and had an intentional grounding call, all of which were poor decisions.

Sunseri can't be counted on when the game is on the line. Heck, he can't be counted on to protect a lead.

Maybe things would have been different if running back Ray Graham didn't suffer a s…

Couldn't the NBA stay away longer?

I woke up Thanksgiving Day to find out the NBA will be back in time for Christmas.

I never asked for hoops as a Christmas gift.

Can I get a do-over, please?

Cash, maybe? Anything?

I could use a season without greedy owners and greedy players.

Now I can just go back to rooting against LeBron James.

All this Tebow mania is too much for me

I'm sorry, I just can't catch the hype with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.

Maybe I can't catch it because Tebow can't throw it without it bouncing to me. I watch him play quarterback, a position that usually requires the player to throw the football, and I see a first baseman.

The reason I make that comparison is not because Tebow reminds me of a power hitter capable of hitting 40 home runs in a season. I see him as a first baseman throwing groundballs to infielders between innings, because that's what his passes look like.

Look, Tebow seems like a fantastic person. He has high morals, strong convictions and doesn't come across as a phony individual.

That doesn't mean he can play quarterback or is immune from criticism.

Last Thursday he led the Broncos on a game-winning drive to beat the New York Jets. Then the hysteria began.

Denver Post columnist Woody Paige immediately jumped on the bandwagon. Tebow's 95-yard march drew instant comparisons to …

Welcome back, Sidney


After missing almost 11 months of hockey, the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby returned to the ice Monday night and didn't miss a beat.

Rarely has a hockey game in mid-November been must-see television, but Crosby's much-anticipated return made it a can't-miss game.

Boy, did Crosby deliver.

He picked up right where he left off in January when two concussions forced him from the game when he was the best player on the planet.

Less than six minutes into Monday's game against the Islanders, Crosby delivered his first goal. He followed with two more assists.

In the third period, Crosby's backhand found the back of the net to give him two goals and two assists in his return.

Every time he touched the puck, it was excitement. It felt like watching an overtime hockey game in the playoffs. You just knew something could happen at any second.

And it nearly did, too.

Crosby's game sure hasn't missed a beat while he was gone, but we sure did miss seeing him …

McQueary said he stopped alleged incident with Sandusky

When news of Jerry Sandusky's alleged sex abuse scandal broke, my first reaction to the reported incident that then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary witnessed, was why didn't McQueary do something.

Well, NBC News obtained an e-mail from McQueary to former teammates. The e-mail indicates McQueary did something.

"I didn’t just turn and run," McQueary says in the e-mail. "I made sure it stopped … I had to make quick, tough decisions."

The New York Daily News has a story.

I also didn't understand why McQueary was still on staff when others, including Joe Paterno, were let go.

After hearing Gov. Tom Corbett on Sunday, and he didn't say this specifically, but I'm of the opinion that McQueary's testimony is important. If McQueary ended up being charged or implicated, he could plead the Fifth, and not help the investigation. Maybe his paid leave is one way to keep him cooperating.

On a separate note, Sports Illustrated has an interesting article on…

AFC race is wide open

Entering Week 10 in the National Football League, it appeared that the Houston Texans might have been the best team in the AFC.

The Texans tumbled from the top after news reports revealed quarterback Matt Schaub could be lost for the season.

The Texans (7-3) have a great running game, an excellent defense and have one of the best wide receivers in the game in Andre Johnson. Now they won't have a quarterback to throw Johnson the ball when he returns after his bye week.

Matt Leinart is Schaub's backup, which means the Texans don't have a quarterback. Leinart couldn't win the quarterback job in Arizona after Kurt Warner retired and Leinart's former coach, Pete Carroll, didn't work out a reunion.

The Texans' woes is good news for the Steelers, who have a week off to get healthy. The Steelers close out the season with the Chiefs, Bengals, Browns, 49ers, Rams and Browns again. The only tough test will be the road game against the 8-1 49ers.

The main competition w…

Sandusky scandal takes another bizarre turn

What do you do if you've been charged with sexual acts with minors? If you're former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, you do an interview on national television and admit that you've showered with kids.

From there, we're to believe Sandusky did nothing wrong.

I watch with stunned silence the denials from Sandusky during his interview with Bob Costas. To me, Sandusky sounded cold and calculating.

What really was revealing was Sandusky's reply to this Costas question: Are you sexually attracted to young boys?

After an uncomfortable pause of about two seconds, Sandusky tells us he's not, but he enjoys being around young boys.

I was expecting a defiant, "No!" Instead, Sandusky said, " I enjoy young people, I love to be around them, but, no, I’m not sexually attracted to young boys.

The whole setting for the interview was out of normal as well. Costas interviewed Sandusky by phone while Sandusky's attorney was seated next to Costas…

Joe had to go

It had to happen.

Penn State needed to get rid of coach Joe Paterno.

I don't care how many wins he has or how much money he has given to the university.

Joe had to go.

Did Paterno do the minimum required in the scandal that's rocked State College? Apparently.

But there was a moral obligation, too. Paterno had the power to stop Jerry Sandusky but failed.

Paterno's a man that was bigger than anything at State College. He called the shots there, and he knew it.

He was even defiant earlier Wednesday. Check out his statement:

"At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can."

Joe thought he could go when he wanted.

The school's trustees thought differently. They rightly showed him who was in charge.

In my opinion, Paterno was all about Paterno, building a legend, setting records and coaching forever -- or at least …

Suisham isn't so sweet for Steelers

After almost a day to digest the Steelers' loss to the Ravens on Sunday night, there are a few things still unanswered.

-- If Shaun Suisham can't be relied upon to kick a field goal, why still have him on the team?

Kickers are booting 50-yard field goals with regularity these days, so why can't the Steelers find one?

Yeah, I know Heinz Field is an awful place to practice your craft if you're a kicker, but this wasn't a 50-yarder, either.

I'm not sure if the delay of game penalty on the Steelers' last drive was planned or not, but it certainly wouldn't have been my call.

You either go for it or kick the field goal. The punt shouldn't have been an option.

-- Will the NFL review the hit on Hines Ward?

It certainly looks like only Steelers get helmet-to-helmet penalties these days.

-- I thought the line was fine protecting Ben Roethlisberger.

-- Antonio Brown looks like a star in the making.

-- Rashard Mendenhall appeared to have Chris Johnson Disease,…

Sad day in Happy Valley

I'm sure the events from this weekend surrounding the Penn State football program and former coach Jerry Sandusky have made the rounds.

AD Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have stepped down, and coach Joe Paterno is said to have been shocked.

I'm not ready to call on Paterno to step down, as Jason Whitlock has, but I'm having a hard time coming to grips over one thing involving JoePa.

If Paterno, the man more powerful and influential than the Penn State athletic director and university president, was so concerned about an alleged incident being reported to him, why did he simply follow the line of command and report the incident to his AD and forget about it?

Paterno couldn't do anything about it? He was helpless?

I think we're in the early stages of information being released. I can't see JoePa emerging unscathed from all this.

And, without a doubt, the university will be rocked by this scandal.

The Walking Dead premiere great way to start Halloween

Man, I just can't get enough of AMC's "The Walking Dead."

I got hooked last season and watched the six episodes of Season 1 at least a couple of times and never tired of it.

It quickly has become one of my favorite series to watch, filling a void left by "Battlestar Galactica." Coincidentally, Bear McCreary did the score for BSG and does TWD as well. The man is incredible.

Anyway, back to the Dead.

It returned to TV on Sunday night and didn't disappoint. Zombies, blood, gore, drama and more. It had it all, including a stunning plot twist that I didn't see coming.

Maybe it was because I was too wrapped up in it. I won't spoil it if you didn't see it. And, if you haven't seen the series, check it out.

Another great time at Cedar Point's HalloWeekends

Our family has made it an annual event to drive to Cedar Point for their HalloWeekends.

This past weekend was cooler than usual, but it was perfect for us to get in the mood for Halloween.

The crowds were sparse on Friday night, which allowed my sons to jump in line for practically any ride with a maximum 15-minute wait.

The downer was WindSeeker, the park's new ride, being closed for the whole weekend because of -- ironically -- high wind.

Otherwise, the rain stayed away and we had a blast.

Millennium Force remains my favorite ride in the park. The ride is pure speed and is a smooth ride. Maverick is my second favorite, and the ride from the front is awesome going down the first hill, which is 95 degrees. And I have to mention Top Thrill Dragster and its 120 mph launch.

We did a first this year going through the many haunted houses at the Point. The houses are very well done and they offer up scares, as my sons can attest.

It was quite a trip this year and we can't wait to go…

Craziest night ever in MLB? Rays win; Red Sox collapse

I've never seen a more exciting night in baseball than Wednesday when the Braves completed their collapse and the Red Sox finished their epic fall, allowing the Cardinals and Rays to earn berths in the playoffs.

The whole night was an instant classic.

Within minutes, the Red Sox blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning. They were just one out away from forcing a playoff for the American League wild card. Instead, closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up a double, another double and a single to blow it.

Papelbon doesn't get all the blame. Outfielder Carl Crawford couldn't come up with a diving attempt at a single to left field, which drove in the winning run.

Three or four minutes later, the Rays capped their rally from seven runs down to beat the Yankees. Evan Longoria smashed his second home run of the game, setting off one heck of a celebration in Tampa Bay. Longoria's homer hugged the foul pole and just cleared the fence.

It was amazing switching from game to game, watching …

Steelers' win over Colts feels like a loss

When you get down to it, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 2-1 after Sunday night's uninspiring 23-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

But, man, it feels like the Steelers are 1-2 and the season could be in jeopardy.

Rashard Mendenhall had no room to run, Ben Roethlisberger committed crucial turnovers and the defense let a third-string quarterback drive his team for the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.

When it mattered, however, Roethlisberger put the Steelers in position to win the game.

So it was, in fact, a win. So that should be enough to celebrate.

Maybe the injuries and the performance of the offensive line are putting me in such a sour mood.

At some point in the fourth quarter, I'm pretty sure Flozell Adams got a phone call in the middle of his 100-chicken-wing snack and beer. The Steelers need some help on the line.


I know the O-line has been criticized endlessly the last couple years, but that weakness is about to catch up with them.

They created enough room f…

Steelers' fall in the division didn't last very long

The Pittsburgh Steelers' fall from the top of the AFC North didn't last very long. Sunday's win over the Seattle Seahawks proved just how fickle life in the NFL can be.

A week after the Steelers were left for dead after getting beat up by the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh has new life.

The Steelers took out their frustrations on the Seahawks, shutting them out 24-0.

The Ravens, on the other hand, the new favorite in the division, lost to the Tennessee Titans 26-13.

That's quite a turnaround in seven short days.

But that's how things work in the NFL these days.

One day, you can be the best player or team ever. The next, you're washed up.

I thought after the Week 1 loss to the Ravens that the Steelers weren't that bad and Baltimore wasn't as good as one might think.

The Steelers simply caught the wrong team at the wrong time.

The Seahawks, however, aren't a very good team, so it was good to see the defense have its way.

As we enter Week 3, all the team…

Pitt to the ACC? I like the idea

The landscape of college athletics could be in for another change if a New York Times report plays out.

Pitt and Syracuse, according to the Times, are taking to the Atlantic Coast Conference about membership.

The second graph of the story was interesting:
No one from Pittsburgh, Syracuse or the A.C.C. denied the conversations were taking place. Officials from all three entities declined to comment on the matter. Maybe it'll happen. Maybe it won't.

I will say this, however, if the Big East can't get Notre Dame or final other colleges to expand, having Pitt jump to the ACC is a good move.

I love the Big East for basketball. I think it's the best conference out there. But for football? As much as I'd like to see Pitt succeed in the Big East, I have to wonder about the future of football playing in the Big East.

The Big East gets no respect when it comes to football. Even when it had Miami and Virginia Tech, the conference didn't get a whole lot of respec…

It's not too soon for Pitt to switch QBs

It's clear that it's going to take a while for the Pitt Panthers to adept and learn Todd Graham's offense.

A much-closer-than-expected game against Maine last Saturday proved as much.

But three things were evident against lowly Maine: Ray Graham really can play, the Pitt defense needs to get better and quarterback Tino Sunseri just isn't getting it done.

The high-octane offense that's supposed to be a trademark of Todd Graham was simply the Ray Graham show, which isn't a bad thing.

But if you can barely beat Maine 35-29, then there's a problem. And if your quarterback goes 21-of-35 for 224 yards and two interceptions against Maine, then there's a problem.

I'd like to see the switch to freshman Trey Anderson.

Now. As in this week's game against Iowa.

I've seen enough of Sunseri. Graham's offense needs someone to make quick decisions, and I don't see Sunseri as one who can perform at a high level.

I'd like to see Anderson, the offe…

Congrats to the Pirates!

A couple months ago, I was sitting at work basking in the Pirates' first-place standing in the NL Central.

"They'll collapse. They always do," a co-worker said.

I knew it was true, but I wanted to enjoy the moment. How often can you celebrate something with the Pirates?

Since that day, the Pirates have erased anything good from those fun months of the summer.

Since that day, the Bucs have utterly collapsed, shamelessly raised ticket prices and inexplicably extended general manager Neal Huntington's contract.

Talk about promoting goodwill. But, hey, that's how these Pirates operate.

Yet on the heels of all that good news, the Pirates continued their track record by extending their own mark of failure on Wednesday.

The Battling Buccos clinched their 19th straight losing season.

It's been well documented, but just typing those two numbers is unbelievable.


I had to type it again just to get used to that number, because you know we'll see it a whole l…

Picking the divisions in the NFL

Before the season begins, here's my quick take on the league:


New England
New York


San Diego
Kansas City

Green Bay

New York

New Orleans

St. Louis
San Francisco
(QUICK EDIT: Seattle should be in last place here instead of Arizona.)

Playoffs: AFC Wild Card: Baltimore over Houston, Pittsburgh over New York.
AFC Division: San Diego over Baltimore, New England over Pittsburgh
AFC Championship: San Diego over New England

NFC Wild Card: New Orleans over St. Louis, Atlanta over Tampa
NFC Division: Philly over New Orleans, Green Bay over Atlanta
NFC Championship: Green Bay over Philly

Super Bowl: Green Bay over San Diego

Quick thoughts: Yeah, I know, I have the Patriots beating the Steelers. I just don't like …

We need more dogs. What about cow bell instead?

There have been some good coaching meltdowns in the past. Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State and Dennis Green of the Cardinals quickly come to mind.

But check this out by David Bennett of Coastal Carolina. This one is just plain crazy.

Huntington extension? Oh, no!

I was caught up in the football frenzy yesterday and missed this on

Jon Heyman is reporting that the Pirates are considering extending GM Neal Huntington.

I'd really like to see a real GM in Pittsburgh. I guess that might happen when they get a real team.

I've been thoroughly unimpressed by Huntington's evaluation of major league players.

But, when you're a cheap franchise, you get what you pay for.

Saints really messed up on fourth down

First, let's start off by saying that was one heck of a game between the Packers and Saints.

It sure had the makings of a rout, but it turned into an entertaining opener to the NFL season, with the Packers stopping the Saints at the goal line to preserve a 42-34 victory.

But let's look at the final play.

The Saints, loaded on offense with weapons at wide receiver, tight end and with a pass-catching running back, decided to take the ball out of Drew Brees' hand (and arm) and give it to rookie running back Mark Ingram with the game on the line.

One yard to go. Ingram didn't make it.

Not surprised, because earlier on fourth-and-short the Saints failed.

I know the Steelers get criticized for their play-calling, but the Saints need to be looked at for those two calls.

Maybe it was a case of trying to catch the other team off guard.

Whatever the reason, I'm left with the feeling of an exciting game and some questionable calls.

Now, on to Sunday's games.

Reeling Pirates could put .500 in jeopardy

It was fun while it lasted.

Playoff fever, however slight, was enjoyable for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Oh, I'm sure there are those that still see the Pirates as on the fringe, or even still in contention.

But, where I sit, the Pirates entered play Saturday night eight games out of first place. Coincidentally, they have lost eight straight games.

Here's a rundown:
10-37-46-55-311-61-07-615-5That last loss, to the Padres on Friday, was tough. So was the sweep by the Cubs, a team the Pirates have owned of late.

Thinking of a wild-card berth? Think again. The Bucs are 10 games out.

And they're five games behind second-place St. Louis.

So, for me, after a week of vacation, comes is the realization that the Bucs' playoff dream is over.

I enjoyed those two weeks in July. It was fun thinking about the Pirates as buyers at the trade deadline.
Heck, I was impressed the Pirates made a trade for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick.

They made an attempt; I'm glad they took those steps.


Please, no more Brett Favre rumors

I thought Brett Favre retired.

I mean for good.

A couple of times.

Especially after last season.

Instead, the rumors have started up again.

Maybe Favre likes to see his name in the headlines.

Whatever the case, the Favre Watch started up again when a report surfaced over the weekend that the Eagles would be interested in Favre as a backup.

I wish it all would stop.

Finally, some football talk

I've always liked courtroom dramas on TV, but the NFL lockout never appealed to me.

Maybe it's because I never considered it much more than a ploy by the owners to grab a few extra dollars. I didn't think we'd lose any games over the squabble.

Sorry, Canton, I don't consider the Hall of Fame game a loss. And I don't think the players mind missing this past week of intense heat and high heat indexes sweating off a few pounds during training camp.

For me, nothing of substance was missed. We had a draft and we'll have an uninterrupted season.

And it looks like the real NFL talk will soon kick into high gear.

The players and owners are on a path to an official, signed-and-sealed deal which will lead to a free-agent frenzy unlike any we've seen.

Soon enough, the season will be here and the weeks and weeks of legalese will all be a thing of the past.

And that's what we all wanted anyway.

Big stretch for the Pirates

The next 10 days will go a long way to determine the Pirates' fate this season.

Today, the Bucs start a three-game series against the Cardinals at PNC Park. After that, it's a brutal, seven-game trip on the road against NL East powers Atlanta (four games) and Philadelphia (three games).

The Pirates begin play today percentage points ahead of the Brewers for first place in the NL Central. The Cardinals are only one game back while the Reds are four. The Braves and Phillies, for now, look like two playoff teams, with the loser of their NL East race likely the wild-card winner.

If the Pirates can survive these 10 days, then they head into August a contender.

If they stumble, especially in the first half of this stretch, I can easily see management holding off on any big moves before the July 31 trade deadline.

Hopefully, the Pirates can continue their strong play, find some key hitting and get some big wins. Then it's up to general manager Neal Huntington to show us what he c…

Bucs need to be buyers at the deadline

I want to buy into the hype that the Pirates are contenders.

The crowds and excitement generated last weekend were unbelievable. They're playing good baseball, to boot.

But I'm still not convinced. Maybe it has something to do with 18 straight losing seasons. That's a long history that's hard to erase.

So I'm still on the fence.

But I know what will get me to buy into this season. The Pirates need to be buyers at the trading deadline.

If the organization believes in this team and is willing to spend money, then I'm on board.

The Bucs begin the second half only one game out of first place. This division is up for grabs.

The Cardinals and Brewers don't have the look of inevitability this season, even with the Brewers acquiring Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez.

The Bucs need to take their shot. You never know when that chance might come around again.

Teams are looking to shed payroll -- like the Pirates used to -- and key hitters could be acquired. And you don&…

Steelers' Harrison leaves another mark

Steelers linebacker James Harrison knows how to make an impact.

He does it on Sundays in the fall, usually with such reckless abandon that he inflicts punishment on his target.

He did it again, with NFL commish Roger Goodell caught in the crosshairs.

Harrison ripped Goodell in Men's Journal magazine, and along the way took a shot at teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall.

You can check out a story here, if you haven't heard the ruckus.

And as swiftly as his words hit the Internet, the criticism followed.

I find it ironic that the media longs for an athlete who speaks his mind yet when those comments don't agree with his or her view, the athlete is criticized.

And don't read that as a defense of Harrison. It's not.

There's plenty to dislike about Harrison's comments, which calling them over the top would be an understatement. However, who didn't think Roethlisberger's play in the Super Bowl hurt the Steelers? Anyone else think Mendenhall…

All-Star Game has makings of a big yawn

My idea of baseball's All-Star Game is that the best players in the world would gather for an exhibition game for one night.

So much for that.

One by one Sunday, the list of players to miss the game grew.

I think the total is up to 16 players who will miss the game -- as of this writing. Some, like Alex Rodriguez, who will miss four to six weeks, it's understandable.

Others, like Derek Jeter, should play.

Some of the best pitchers in the game won't be there Tuesday. Justin Verlander, C.C. Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Cole Hamels pitched Sunday and are ineligible (another bad idea by baseball -- they should at least be allowed to participate in the festivities).

Instead, players like David Robertson, Kevin Correia and Michael Pineda will be in Phoenix.

The biggest story in the first half of the season was Jeter's 3,000th hit. He won't be there, either. Instead of being celebrated, he'll be watching on TV. Apparently, he's too exhausted from the pursuit of …

Pens should pull offer for Jagr

I wasn't too enthusiastic when a possible return of Jaromir Jagr started not too long ago.

I'm even less enthusiastic after the Pittsburgh Penguins offered $2 million and were expecting to hear an answer from Jagr.

Instead, no one seemed to know where Jagr was on Wednesday, the day is was supposed to decide his future.

Maybe he's trying to get more money from the Penguins or another team.

Or maybe he's being the same old Jagr.

Either way, I'm not too thrilled with the Penguins getting strung out like this by a 39-year-old primadonna.

A simple, "I'm still deciding" would have been sufficient.

We'll probably hear today, but I'd rather not see a reunion. Let some other team deal with Jagr and is baggage. I don't think it's in the Pens' best interest to sign him.

Miss Tiger? No way. This Open still is exciting

I don't usually delve too much into the world of golf, but with the U.S. Open in full swing, this is as good a time as any.

What prompted me was a column by Associated Press columnist Tim Dahlberg about Tiger Woods. Dahlberg, it seems, is missing this tournament without Woods not being there.

In a "letter" to Woods, Dahlberg writes, "Believe me, this tournament needs something to make it interesting."

Ah, did you happen to watch the first round, Dahlberg?

Rory McIlroy blew threw Congressional Country Club. And on Friday, he did it again. McIlroy's 11-under is a record through 36 holes at the Open.

That's not too shabby. Not many expected it, I'm sure, especially Dahlberg.

Maybe we just need to embrace change. I don't miss Woods and his surly attitude. I don't miss Woods swearing after every errant tee shot.

When McIlroy withered on the final day of the Masters in April, he handled it with class and grace. I'm confident enough to say that…

Pitt-Penn State football series to resume


Pitt and Penn State will resume their once-storied football rivalry.

The only problem is, we have to wait until September 2016 for it to happen.

The wait will be worth it, however. If you're a fan of college football and you're from western Pennsylvania this series was the one to watch.

The rivalry ended in 2000, so it'll be a long gap between games. So long, in fact, many young fans from western Pennsylvania don't have an idea what it was like to have such a heated rivalry. It was Auburn-Alabama, UCLA-USC or Ohio State-Michigan.

Some blame Penn State coach Joe Paterno for the end of the series in 2000.

I'm just glad it's back.

Do you think JoePa will be on the sidelines for the game in 2016?

Battlestar Galactica back on the air

No, it's not first-run episodes, but BBC America is running one of my favorite series of all-time, Battlestar Galactica.

This, of course, is the revamped version, with former Victoria's Secret models as Cylons, not the 1970s version.

Great drama, great action, and great acting.

It's worth checking out.

LeBron stirs passion for NBA again (Go Mavs)

I want to give a sincere thanks to LeBron James.

He single-handedly made me interested in the NBA Finals.

I used to be a big NBA fan. My all-time favorite player was Hakeem Olajuwon. But I soon started to drift away from the NBA. There were many reasons, I guess, but I'll spare you the details today.

I would check in from time to time, but it wasn't like it used to be.

Then came The Decision.

I didn't mind seeing Cleveland lose a dynamic player. I just didn't like the way James went about selecting his new NBA home.

From then on, the Heat were at the top of my list of teams to dislike.

When the Finals came around, I had to watch. I had to root against LeBron.

The series against the Mavs, however, has turned into something more.

Yes, it's great to see LeBron disappear. And it's even better to see the Heat one game away from losing.

But this series has been fantastic to watch.

I wouldn't have noticed too much without James' decision nearly a year ago.


The circus is leaving Morgantown

OK, Pitt football fans, you have to admit, this was fun to watch.

The West Virginia football program tried to clean up its coaching mess Friday when Bill Stewart resigned and Dana Holgorsen took over.

Holgorsen, AD Oliver Luck's coach-in-waiting, doesn't have to wait any longer to be the man.

The man I find partly responsible is Luck himself.

Luck's hiring of Holgorsen and refusal to fire Stewart cultivated the troubles that led to Friday's events. It was supposed to be a smooth transition. It turned out to be anything but smooth.

Stewart and Holgorsen didn't like each other. You can't blame them, but you could expect them to act like adults.

Holgorsen allegedly got unruly at a casino and had to be removed. Then, the allegations got interesting. Stewart reportedly tried to dig up dirt on Holgorsen.

Maybe Stewart thought that he could survive if more reports surfaced about Holgorsen.

Instead, when that news broke, it hastened Stewart's departure.

Now that th…

Cole's statistics don't live up to hype of No. 1 pick

No surprise yesterday as UCLA's Gerrit Cole was selected No. 1 overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the baseball draft.

The big surprise to me is the statistics put up by a supposed elite college pitcher: six wins, eight losses and a 3.31 ERA.

I'd expect him to lead his team or conference in strikeouts and reach double-digits in wins.

Oh, that's right, Cole's teammate did all that. Trevor Bauer went 13-2 and set a Pac-10 record with 203 strikeouts. His ERA was 1.25. And this stat really stood out: he ended the season with nine straight complete games.

But back to Cole. My big question: If he's struggling to get college hitters out with a fastball that can hit 100 mph, how is he supposed to get major leaguers out?

The Pirates feel pretty confident he will.

"We felt he'd have the biggest potential impact for us of anybody on the board," general manager Neal Huntington said.

The Pirates obviously project him to be an outstanding pitcher. And they're…

Cole could be the one for Pirates -- but it's a risky pick

Gerrit Cole looks like the No. 1 pick overall in tonight's baseball draft.

Ordinarily, I'd say that might be a good choice. However, that first overall pick belongs to the Pittsburgh Pirates, so I'm skeptical that they'll make the right choice.

The Pirates have a long and storied history of losing for nearly 20 years. Along those same lines, they have a long and storied history of making bad selections in the first round of the draft.

Remember Bryan Bullington at No. 1 overall? How about the great John VanBenschoten? He's the guy that led college baseball in home runs and the Pirates thought he'd be better as a pitcher. Then there's J.J. Davis, Bobby Bradley and Sean Burnett.


That's why I'll watch with trepidation tonight to see who the Pirates select.

Normally, I'd be all for drafting a pitcher who has a fastball that can hit 100 mph. But Cole's dominance just isn't there for a first-round pick. He's not even the best pitcher o…

I'm not interested in seeing Plaxico Burress back with Steelers

Former Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress will be released from jail in a couple days.

That doesn't mean the Steelers should actively pursue Burress once he's free and a deal between the players and owners happens.

I've seen it before.

Burress, as talented as he may be, also is wildly inconsistent. He'll also be 34 years old when a season eventually begins, not exactly his prime as a football player.

Those are just two reasons why.

And I'll give you three more: Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Those are three young receivers I'm impressed with.

Wallace's contributions have been evident. Sanders and Brown have a bright future in front of them. Then there's that guy who can dance a little, Hines Ward.

The Steelers are fine at receiver. There's no need for Burress to return.

Giants' Sabean losing his cool over Posey's injury

I used to have a lot of respect for Giants general manager Brian Sabean.

Sabean, who built the Giants into a World Series champion, seems like he's falling apart.

The GM ripped into Scott Cousins the other day. And if you don't know who Cousins is, that's probably OK. He's an outfielder for the Marlins, which isn't noteworthy.

What really ruffled Sabean was Cousins' gritty play on May 25.

Cousins plowed into Giants catcher Buster Posey, who was blocking the plate. During the jarring collision, Posey broke a bone in his leg and tore ligaments.

Posey was a key member of the Giants' run to the title last year, so he's also a key cog for any title defense.

But that doesn't defend what Sabean said several days after the play took place.

"If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy."

That wasn't all.

"He chose to be a hero, in my mind, and if that's his flash …

Some ideas for the Stroll Inn's next promotion

The story about the Pirates strong-arming the Stroll Inn seems to be taking a life of its own.

The latest revelation is that the owner claimed Frank Coonelly scolded her. You can hear the an interview here.

Again, the Pirates really should be more concerned with what's happening on the field than what others are doing off the field.

I still think the Stroll Inn should have kept the promotion. Maybe, however, the Stroll Inn realized that before too long, they would be giving away free pitchers of beer, or, it would have to pay customers to buy a pitcher, if losses exceeded the cost of the pitcher.

I'd like to see other bars offer a similar deal as a show of solidarity.

To help them along, here are some ideas to consider:

Bad Trade Night. Half off a beer every time the Pirates trade an established player for a minor leaguer.

Bad Pitcher Night. Half off a pitcher of beer every time a Pirates starter gives up more than five runs in a game.

Another game under .500 Night. For every g…

Pirates' workers need a drink of their own

Nothing like a Pirates controversy to bring me out of my slumber.

Apparently, the Stroll Inn had a special that if the Pirates lose -- and, frankly, when don't they lose -- patrons could get a nickel off a pitcher of beer.

That didn't sit well with two employees of the Pirates.

They called for a boycott of the bar. Frank Coonelly, according to WTAE, supports his employees actions.

So, naturally, the bar caved.

You'd think the Pirates' employees, along with Coonelly, would focus instead on improving the team. Instead, they go after a business.

I'd like to see more bars offer a similar deal, not to increase the number of drunk Pirates fans out there, but to stand up against the Pirates.

At least the bar is getting some free publicity out of all this. The Pirates, however, take another PR hit.

Maybe the franchise was jealous they couldn't think up of a creative promotion and they missed out on cashing in on such an idea.

Or just maybe the organization just wante…

Two years in a row missing opening day

I had a nice streak going on opening day in Pittsburgh.

It ended last year. The new streak is two years and counting without watching the first pitch of the home season in person.

You know what? I haven't missed it.

The Nutting ownership has done that to me.

I still follow the Bucs but I know it's a hopeless cause with the Nuttings in charge.

A co-worker asked if I saw the Pirates win Wednesday.

"Nope. I've detached myself from the Pirates," I said.

If I have something else going on, it's not a priority.

I turned them on today to watch the ceremonies and first pitch on TV, so I'm not completely ignoring all things Pirates.

I've just found better use for my money than to line the Nuttings' pockets while they field inferior teams.

Hopefully my attitude changes and so does theirs.

Lyle Overbay is not a cleanup hitter

It's Opening Day and I had the misfortune of turning on the Pirates.

It's early in the game as I write this, but it's hard to get excited about a team that features Lyle Overbay as its cleanup hitter. So even if he does come through with a game-winning homer, I won't change my mind.

I know the Pirates are trying to justify his offseason acquisition, but batting him fourth?

The last time I checked, teams put their biggest home-run threat fourth. Overbay is coming off seasons of 20, 16, 15 and 10 homers. And it's not like Overbay had limited action in those seasons. His at-bat totals were: 607, 500, 627 and 476.

I know new manager Clint Hurdle is full of energy and is ultra-positive, but this move reeks of something John Russell would do.

Pitt's basketball legacy continues to disappoint

Every spring you can count on a handful of things: the return of baseball, preparation of taxes, a wild party on St. Patrick's Day and, of course, the Pitt collapse in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Saturday was the latest chapter in Pitt sports history where the eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs crushed the hopes of Pitt fans with an unbelievable 71-70 win in the NCAA tournament.

It was the second time in three seasons that the No. 1-seeded Panthers failed to make the Final Four.

And this time, they failed to make the Sweet 16 under coach Jamie Dixon.

The ending proved to be typical Pitt. It also proved my theory with the Panthers: They will break your heart.

The Panthers failed to get a shot off with a lead, giving Butler the ball with less than 10 seconds left. Butler scored to take the lead, beating the so-called tough Pitt defense. With less than 2 seconds left, Pitt's Gilbert Brown was unbelievably fouled. It was a so-so call, but it was the gift Pitt needed.

Brown made the…

Why a Final Four trip isn't in Pitt's future

Let me start off by admitting that I'll be rooting for Pitt to earn a trip to the Final Four.

I'll be rooting, but I don't expect it to happen.

That's usually the way it is with Pitt. I've lived by one rule when it comes to Pitt football and Pitt basketball -- they will disappoint you (or break your heart).

This will be Pitt's 10th straight tournament appearance. Over the past nine seasons, Pitt has a strong history of underachieving.Last year, they lost to Xavier in the second round. In 2008 they lost to Michigan State in the second round. In 2006 they lost to Bradley in the second round. In 2005 they lost to Pacific in the first round.

They play in the toughest league and won it. However, their style of physical play doesn't translate into the tournament. First, they enter the game with a reputation of a hard-nosed, tough team, putting the officials on alert. Second, they get officials who don't normally allow such play.

I've always thought the Pa…

Bracket Racket 3.0 has your NCAA winner

The new-look NCAA tournament begins tonight with two games, but the same rules apply when predicting the champion -- follow my Bracket Racket for the winner of the national championship.

I've picked winners in the past using this formula, so there's a good chance it'll be right again this year. Especially with the upgrades I've installed to cope with a 68-team field handed to us by the NCAA.

Hopefully they don't go to a 96-team field. I'm not sure my computer can handle more changes.

As an added bonus, if you have the right channels on your cable tiers, you can watch all the games. That's pretty cool, unless you own a business and want your employees to be productive.

Now, on to the picks.

First, eliminate all No. 16 seeds. This is a tried-and-true formula. It especially holds true since no No. 16 seed has ever won a game. That eliminates Boston U., Hampton, and the two schools that emerge to face Ohio State and Pitt after the first-round games on Tuesday an…

Sad day for Bucs, Chuck Tanner dies

Sad news for Pirates fans: Chuck Tanner, the team's manager for their 1979 Word Series championship, died Friday. He was 81.

Can't go into much detail right now, but I remember sitting behind home plate for several seasons at PNC Park and Tanner would be several rows in front of me on many occasions.

Every game I saw him, there would be at least one fan walking down to Tanner's seat. Not once did I see Tanner turn away a fan for an autograph.

He will be missed.

Loss of Arians would be welcome

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians could be in jeopardy of losing his job.

The Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that Arians might not return for the 2011 season.

If that's the case, then I'm all for it.

Of course, we went down this road last season when Arians' hold on the job was slippery. He stayed with the Steelers, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

I never was thrilled with Arians from Day One. Maybe that's because he used to be with the Browns, and we all know how well the Browns have been since their return to the NFL.

I know Arians has his defenders, and they like to point to the fact that he has a Super Bowl championship on his resume.

However, how is Arians perceived around the NFL?

If any other team across the league thought he was a good coordinator or had the stuff to be a head coach, surely the offensive coordinator of a former Super Bowl champ would have had his name come up in some coaching searches by now.

That hasn't been the case with Aria…

Playing in Dallas was bad sign for Steelers

A colleague at work went to a Salt n Pepa concert on Friday in Cleveland.

I guess it was a nice flashback to the mid-1990s for him, but I should have taken it as a warning sign.

It turned into a '90s weekend when I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday.

For each turnover, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Steelers loss to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.

If it weren't for Neil O'Donnell, the Steelers would have won that game. I think O'Donnell still is getting paid by Larry Brown, who was voted the MVP of the game because he made two of the easiest catches in NFL history. Brown parlayed that MVP award into a huge contract, which he never deserved.

But back to Super Bowl 45. With the mistakes the Steelers made, it was impossible for me to not think of that horrible Super Bowl 15 years ago.

Ben Roethlisberger had two interceptions Sunday, one of which was returned for a TD. Rashard Mendenhall had a fumble, costing the Steelers an opportunity to take the lead near the e…

Lack of composure at the end troubling for Steelers

I'll get to more posts about the Super Bowl during the week, but I wanted to get this off my chest first.

How can such a veteran team noted for poise and the ability to rally at the end of games, look so inexperienced running the two-minute drill?

Right up to the end of Super Bowl XLV, I thought the Steelers were going to pull it out.

It was a similar feeling I had at the end of Super Bowl XLIII when the Steelers beat the Cardinals.

Instead, Ben Roethlisberger and Co. looked like they were running the hurry-up offense for the first time.

Speedburner Mike Wallace did not know -- or couldn't hear -- what plays were being called.

That's fine. But why still throw to him when he's raising his arms in the air.

The Steelers should have had some plays ready and memorized for the end of the game, just in case they needed it.

Maybe they did -- it just didn't show.

It's amazing, after all the trouble they had, they still could have won at the end.

Maybe I shouldn't ha…

Graham's the man at Pitt

First, let me be up front and say I wanted to see Penn State assistant coach Tom Bradley as the new Pitt football coach.

Why athletic director Steve Pederson bypassed Bradley, we might never know. It could be because WTAE-TV reported -- erroneously -- that Bradley was the next coach. It could be the Penn State ties. It could be because so many people were pulling for him and Pederson won't be told what to do.

Bradley's recruiting skills were so appealing, and the idea that he might take away many from the Penn State staff had to please Pitt fans as well, knowing that JoePa would be left scrambling.

But it wasn't to be.

Todd Graham is your new Pitt football coach after accepting the job Monday night.

As a side note, did anyone else immediately think of Alex Rodriguez's announcement during the World Series a couple years ago when the Graham hiring came about on the same day of the national championship? I guess that's one way to maximize interest to recruits.

Back to…

Wild card playoff picks

The push for the Super Bowl begins in earnest later today, with more than an outside chance of all four home teams losing this weekend.

Will it happen?

Take a look below.

Saints at Seahawks: The Seahawks are the first team with a losing record to make the playoffs. Does it make them a lock to lose? When the Cardinals made the playoffs two seasons ago, they were considered a lock to lose in the first round. That, of course, didn't happen and they made it to the Super Bowl. I think that's where the parallel ends, even though the Saints have never won a playoff game on the road and are missing two running backs. Drew Brees should have a field day. Saints 34-17.

Jets at Colts: This is a rematch of last year's AFC title game. Rex Ryan makes it very easy to root against the Jets in this one. New York has been uneven down the stretch and Peyton Manning has had success against Ryan-coached teams. When it comes down to it, however, I don't see Mark Sanchez making a big play for t…

Tom Bradley closes in on Pitt job

Depending on your choice of news, either Tom Bradley is the next Pitt coach, will be the next Pitt coach or is the leading candidate to be the next Pitt football coach.

Whatever the case, it looks like Pitt is zeroed in on Bradley, despite the other names (Sal Sunseri, Teryl Austin, Paul Chryst, Todd Graham)being mentioned as possible successors to the short-lived Mike Haywood experiment.

Much to my dismay, Pitt doesn't want Rich Rodriguez.

Bradley would be a solid second choice.

It didn't seem that way the first time around. When Bradley contacted Pitt about getting an interview he was turned down. My problem with the ascendancy of Bradley is this: If he wasn't good enough for an interview the first time around, why is he now the leading choice?

The short answer is, it's just Pitt. Dan Rooney recommended Pitt look at Bradley. It wasn't enough to impress athletic director Steve Pederson. For some reason, Pederson saw something in Haywood that not many other people …

Stars starting to align for Rich Rodriguez to become next Pitt coach

Back in late November, I had the idea of Rich Rodriguez as the next Pitt football coach.

I'll be the first to admit that it seemed far-fetched at the time. Dave Wannstedt still was the Panthers' coach and it wasn't certain that he'd be fired, and Rodriguez still was employed by the University of Michigan, although it was a better bet that he would be sent packing.

Wannstedt later was fired, which set the ball in motion. Pitt rushed to make a hire that didn't seem to have many finalists, selecting Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood as its new leader.

The hiring was unimpressive, and the press conference touting Haywood as a man of character and integrity was less than inspiring. Haywood was fired less than three weeks later after a domestic violence charge, creating the vacancy again and making that press conference seem even more laughable.

Then things really got interesting.'s Dennis Dodd touted a Rodriguez-to-Pitt move as a good thing. Later, the P…