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Steelers' hit illegal; punters are defenseless

Well, the NFL has weighed in on the Steelers' hit of Bengals punter Kevin Huber Sunday night.

Illegal.

Apparently, the punter is a defenseless player.

And maybe you could throw in the term helpless, too.

Tell that to kick returners who have been tackled by the punter and missed out on touchdowns.

If the punter is defenseless, maybe he should trot off the field after he makes the kick.

Yeah, it was a brutal hit by Terence Garvin. But if a punter doesn't want contact, get him off the field.

SIU hoops coach has meltdown for the ages

I love it when a coach goes off after a loss.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy's famous "I'm a man, I'm 40" tirade rates right up there.

We'll have to add Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson to the epic meltdowns of our time.

Hinson went off after a loss Tuesday night dropped his team to 2-8.

Some of the highlights:

"Our three starting guards had one assist and seven turnovers. They must think it’s a tax credit."

"There was a sniper in the gym. Didn’t you see that? We had guys falling down. We had a guy snipered at half-court. "

"I've been telling my wife this for years, size doesn't matter."

You gotta check out the full video:




Free throws haunt Pitt in crunch time

One of my biggest beefs with the Pitt basketball team has been its inability to hit free throws.

That happened again Tuesday night.

Up one and shooting two, the Panthers had a chance to get some breathing room.

Clank.

Clank.

Cincinnati gets an offensive rebound, puts it back in.

Game over.

I still think Pitt's a Top 25 team.

Tomlin still likes Bell over Lacy

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he's happy with the coach at running back the team made last spring.

Given the choice of Eddie Lacy and Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers choose Bell.

What else would they say?

One of the rumors after the draft was the Steelers liked Bell better because of worries about Lacy's health.

Well, Bell has had his share of injuries this season.

So far, Lacy has rushed for 1,028 yards on 248 carries (4.1 avg.) and eight touchdowns. He has 31 catches for 236 yards.

Bell has 646 yards rushing on 198 attempts (3.3 avg.) and six touchdowns. He has 43 catches for 388 yards.

Bell has been fine for the Steelers, running behind a make-shift line all season.

But I would have taken Lacy in the spring, and nothing since then would have changed my mind.

Pitt basketball still not in Top 25 after 10-0 start

Let's get this straight: A team from a power conference, one with a history of regular appearances, has a 10-0 start to the season and still hasn't cracked the Top 25 in the Associated Press poll?

Yeah, the schedule might be easy, but it always is to start the season.

And it's not like other teams are going through a grinder to start the season.

The big test will be against Cincinnati on Tuesday.

A win there, and there's no excuse for avoiding the Panthers.

But they really should be Top 25 right now.

Hey, Dez, there's no crying in football

Tom Hanks made the line famous in "A League of Their Own."

Maybe Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant should take it to heart in football too.

Bryant said he walked off the field before the end of the 'Boys' stunning loss to the Packers because of his emotions.

Bryant said he went into the locker room and cried.

Really? In a regular-season game?

Wow.

He really is an emotional wreck.

He seriously needs to grow up.

What's with the low crowds at Heinz Field?

The national media has raved about the dedication of Steelers fans.

They're called Steelers Nation because of their following.

But what's going on with the crowds at Heinz Field?

On Sunday night, just 45,000 and some change showed up for a prime-time game against the Bengals.

This was after a less-than sellout crowd showed up for the Dolphins game.

Is it because the team is all but mathematically eliminated? Is it because of the weather?

I'm not casting blame, just looking for answers.

I know all the games have been sold out since 1972. The Steelers announce the attendance based on the bodies that show up.

But to see the yellow seats, it makes me scratch my head.

Can anyone shed some ideas?

Matt Elam calls out Megatron

You're a rookie safety and you're about to go up against the best receiver in the NFL.

What do you do?

Call him out of course.

That's what the Baltimore Ravens' Matt Elam did to the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson.

Elam called Megatron pretty old.

Why fire up Johnson before the game?

Athletes can really, really be dumb sometimes.

Time for Steelers to play young players

There won't be any playoffs for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A winning record won't happen either.

It's likely that the team will finish with a losing record.

So what's the point in playing veterans?

It seems like coach Mike Tomlin might be too tight with them. What the team should be doing is evaluating the younger players on the roster.

If you lose, so what?

Losing actually makes sense. It will improve the Steelers' draft position.

The team surely needs all the help it can get at this point.

Why would Tomlin, Harbaugh consider going to Texas?

Did you see the report that Mike Tomlin and Jim Harbaugh are possible candidates for the Texas job?

We're talking Texas Longhorns, not Houston Texans.

I don't see it.

You have two coaches from flagship franchises in the NFL that might go to the college ranks?

I don't see it.

The theory is there's no salary cap, the coach has ultimate control of the team, etc., compared to their NFL jobs.

I still don't see.

Can someone make a better argument?

Will Volquez be a $5 million blunder for Bucs?

I'm seeing positive comments about the Pirates' signing of Edinson Volquez to a $5 million contract.

Generally, it's a no-lose deal with plenty of upside?

Is it?

I don't think so. For the Pirates, $5 million is a big deal.

Yes, the Pirates had success with A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano. Will it happen a third time?

Did it work with Erik Bedard?

Did it work with Jose Contreras?

Did it work for Jonathan Sanchez?

There's no guarantee. And now, $5 million from the Pirates' limited budget is tied up for us to find out.

Their money could have been better spent.


Let's keep Steelers playoff talk on hold

It's still too early to talk about the playoffs for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I know it's nice to think positive, but before you can entertain thoughts about the postseason, the team should be at least .500.

We'll know a lot more about the direction of the team in the next week-and-a-half.

The Steelers face the Browns on a Sunday and then have the Ravens on Thanksgiving.

Win them both, and we can talk playoff scenarios. Lose one or both, and talk draft picks.

Steelers take small step toward recovery

The Steelers won Sunday, which is a good thing.

The defense caused trouble and had some sacks, too. Also a good thing.

But is it time to celebrate that everything is OK in Steeler Land?

Nope.

Look no further than the opponent for a reason why.

The Buffalo Bills were starting a rookie QB, EJ Manuel, who was making his first appearance after an injury.

The Bills' best player, C.J. Spiller, is a shell of himself.

The Bills' best wide receiver, Stevie Johnson, is hurt.

Hats off to the Steelers for taking care of business at home.

But things aren't all that better.

But maybe things are pointed in the right direction.

Did the Steelers hit bottom with the loss to the Raiders?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had better teams lose to the Oakland Raiders, so it should come as no surprise that this one lost Sunday.

What was surprising was the first play for Oakland.

I'm not sure I can remember nearly an entire defense going for a fake by quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Just like that, a 93-yard TD. The longest ever by a QB.

Game over.

Yeah, I know the Steelers had their chances. If Shaun Suisham doesn't miss two field goals then they might even win that game.

The first play set the tone.

This season is over. Hopefully, that game was the bottom.

Up next, a test against the Patriots.

Pirates memory: Listening to game outside Three Rivers

The Pirates' first playoff appearance in more than 20 years brought back memories from their last run in the early 1990s.

I was lucky to attend college in Pittsburgh then, so I was in the middle of all the activity in the playoffs. I even attended playoff games in 1991 and '92.

I also remember heading out to Point State Park and listen to the reaction to the crowd and the play-by-play on the radio. I also miss hearing Lanny Frattare.

But it's a new generation and finally a team fit for playing in a jewel of a ballpark at PNC Park.

Have any memories you'd like to share?

Let's go Bucs.

Triple crown of good news for the Pirates

The Pirates got some good news in their pennant chase Friday night.

First, they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that's trying to be a wild-card contender.

Second, the Cardinals lost to the Cubbies, giving the Pirates a three-game lead in the NL Central.

Finally, the surging Reds blew a lead in the ninth and lost.

That's a better feeling than after Starling Marte's dropped fly ball.

Liriano plays stopper for Pirates

Pirates Nation can breathe a sigh of relief.

Francisco Liriano erased the bad memories of Tuesday night's loss to the Cardinals with a complete-game gem Wednesday night.

Liriano needed just 94 pitches to turn back the Cards in a 5-1 win.

It was enough to forget Starling Marte's blunder in the ninth last night. Marte furthered his redemption with a two-run double to give the Pirates a 5-0 lead.

The Pirates got a boost before Marte with homers from Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez.

It's a big win to ease worries about any potential collapse. It was another superb start from Liriano.

The Bucs now lead the Cards by three games in the NL Central and the Reds by 3.5 games.


My, oh my, Marte. Bucs lose tough one

Do you believe the Pirates are jinxed?

That thought has to be going through Bucco fans' minds after Tuesday night's 4-3 loss in 14 innings to the Cardinals.

That's the Pirates' fourth loss in a row.

The Pirates had the game locked up when Starling Marte got lazy and dropped a lazy fly to left.

It would have been the second out of the ninth inning.

The Cardinals tied it, thanks to Marte's error, and won it in the 14th, thanks in part to the Pirates' inability to score Andrew McCutchen from third base with no outs.

In the 14th, Clint Barmes couldn't handle a grounder by John Jay, who scored the winning run.

The Cards are now just two games behind the Pirates in the National League Central.

Let's get back to being jinxed.

You have to think that after going through the last two seasons.

It's hard to fathom the Pirates not getting to 82 wins this season.

After what's happened so far, just a winning season won't cut it.

The Pirates need to make th…

What to expect from Andrew Lambo

Andrew Lambo will be in a Pirates uniform tonight.

Will he start?

He should. And if he does, what do you think he'll do against the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (13-7, 2.66 ERA).

I'm guessing an 0-for-4 night with two strikeouts.

Not better than what we've seen in the outfield.

But then again, the Bucs will be facing Wainwright.

At least Lambo, who strikes out a lot, offers a power threat that's been missing.

Give Sidney Crosby a break

Did Sidney Crosby get special treatment while renewing his driver's license?

I don't care either way.

I don't expect the Penguins to admit their superstar got bumped to the front of the line.

And I wouldn't expect the DMV to keep Crosby waiting in line for an extended period of time.

Yeah, it would stink to be there for an hour and see Crosby walk up and go to the front of the line. But can you imagine the problems that would arise if Crosby waited, while everyone hit social media to say where Crosby was?

James Harrison is at it again

James Harrison's game might have slipped, but his mouth sure hasn't.

Harrison told reporters Monday that HBO's "Hard Knocks" shouldn't be at Bengals training camp.

"I don't feel they deserve to be here. They did nothing to be here other than they want to be here. They didn't put no blood, sweat and tears into of this."
Gotta hand it to Harrison, he still knows how to create a stir.

It remains to be seen how much of a stir he can cause on the field. It also remains to be seen how he'll adapt to playing for the Bengals.

He probably should worry more about that.

But he sure is entertaining.

Lambo gets the call from the Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates need an power-hitting outfielder.

They didn't trade for one.

Instead, they'll promote one.

The long-awaited call-up of Andrew Lambo will happen Tuesday.

Lambo has hit 31 home runs in Class AA and AAA this season.

He also strikes out a lot and doesn't walk much, which probably is why it's taken so long for him to get his promotion.

We'll see how he does. It can't be much worse than what they've been putting out there.

All hail King Phil!

Phil Mickelson rules the British Open.

I never thought I'd type those six words.

But after a sizzling final-round 66 Sunday, Mickelson won the major he never thought possible.

For a Phil fan like me, it was amazing. The birdie on the 18th hole left a smile on my face.

And I couldn't stop talking about the charge he made. And the national media couldn't either.

I did get a little annoyed when I heard a host on the radio last say night that Mickelson looked like Tiger winning the British Open.

Ah ... no.

Absolutely not.

Phil did something Tiger never did: win a major coming from behind on Sunday.

It was a memorable day. Lefty had one of greatest closing rounds in major history.

Couldn't ask for a better finish, especially after the U.S. Open last month.

A winning record isn't enough for Pirates this year

Every Pirates fan wants to see an end to the streak.

But, after posting the second-best record in baseball in the first half, is simply finishing with a winning record enough?

For me, the answer is no.

For all the smoke-and-mirrors on offense, I won't be satisfied with a winning record.

The Pirates have done too much in the first half where anything short of the playoffs will be a letdown.

In fact, a wild-card berth isn't so hot either.

In the revised playoff format, the wild card is simply a play-in game to the playoffs. Win, and you move on, lose or have a bad break or bad call, and the season's over.

I want a division title.

Pirates cut Contreras again

Jose Contreras has the distinction of being cut by the Pirates twice this season.

The relief pitcher was released by the Pirates last month.

Pittsburgh picked him up again on a minor league deal.

But the Bucs figured out what most teams already knew: He's toast.

It was a win-win situation for the Pirates, signing him at little cost.

I wish MLB teams would realize what serious fans already knew, Contreras was washed up.

Maybe some other team will buy that lottery ticket. I'm glad the Pirates won't have him at PNC.

Yawn. Jeter's back.

With the NBA season over, the wall-to-wall coverage of LeBron James has subsided.

Now, Derek Jeter is the talk of the sports world, pushing Yasiel Puig off the highlight reels for the time being.

I'm sorry, if Jeter played in a market other than New York, there would be little mention of him.

Instead, since he's a Yankee, his triumphant return will be bellowed all day today.

And tomorrow.

And probably after that.

It's too bad that the rest of the media doesn't recognize him as an aging veteran.

'Lone Ranger' looks like a pass

I have no interest in seeing "The Lone Ranger."

None.

Previews looked like a mess. I never watched the "Ranger" TV series.

Johnny Depp in it? Don't care. It looks like Jack Sparrow was placed into a Western.

Reviews haven't been too kind, either.

Looks like a mistake of blockbuster proportions.

Kraft can't be serious about being duped, can he?

Patriots owner Robert Kraft says he was "duped" by Aaron Hernandez.

Does anyone really believe him?

Plenty of NFL teams passed on Hernandez because of his history at Florida.

The Patriots took a chance on Hernandez based on his exceptional talent. Hernandez took that opportunity and ran with it on the field. He was one of the top tight ends in the league.

The Patriots rewarded him with a mega-contract.

The Patriots acted like any college team or pro team, they rewarded a player that can help them win.

If Kraft was angry, mad or extremely disappointed, then I'd buy it.

You can't blame the Patriots for Hernandez's actions, and they have to be commended for cutting Hernandez.

But duped? C'mon.

I wouldn't expect a Steelers fan to have an obit like this

Every now and then, there's an obituary that will stop and make you laugh.

There was one today that made me want to pass it along.

Scott E. Entsminger's obit described him as a lifelong Browns fan and a season-ticket holder.

He also had an unusual request: He wanted six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.

You can check out the full obit here.

Pitt made right move with Shell

Heralded running back Rushel Shell wanted to leave Pitt in the spring.

So coach Paul Chryst let him go.

Shell supposedly was going to enroll at UCLA, but it didn't happen.

Last week, Shell wanted to return to Pitt.

Chryst said no.

Great move.

I'm stunned that there are people saying Chryst should allow Shell back. Some are saying give him a second chance.

Hey, if Shell wanted to enroll at Pitt, he's free. He has no right to be on the football team, however.

What Chryst did will help more in the long run than the Panthers might experience in any hurt this fall.

I applaud Chryst.

There are other options for Shell close to Pittsburgh. West Virginia immediately comes to mind.

What to expect from Lefty?

I've said it before, but I'll say it again up front: I'm a Phil Mickelson fan.

I know what to expect the next three days at the U.S. Open.

Mickelson is just a couple hours from teeing off in the second round at Merion. He had a fantastic round of 67 to take the clubhouse lead after the first round was delayed.

That doesn't guarantee any success the rest of the tournament.

Mickelson is know for his high-risk, high-reward play, which isn't the best approach to the Open.

Lefty will stay near the lead, put up a bogey-bogey stretch to fall behind and find a way to get a birdie to get everyone jazzed up again about his chances.

It's exhilarating and frustrating all at once. It's the Phil Mickelson Experience.

Will he win? Don't think so.

But that doesn't mean I won't be rooting for him. I want to see him get his breakthrough win at the Open.

And after one round he has a shot.

But it's usually an errant shot that takes him off course.

Cole has smashing debut with Pirates

It had been more than two years since I had been to a baseball game.

That ended Tuesday night.

And what a night to catch a game; it was a playoff-like atmosphere at PNC Park.

Gerrit Cole had a smashing debut, striking out his first batter faced on three pitches. In his first at-bat, he drove in two runs.

Starling Marte hit a homer, Pedro Alvarez hit one, too, and the Pirates beat the World Champion Giants 8-2.

What more could you want?

Well, I guess the timing for the metal-detector wands, but the Pirates admitted their mistake on that one.

That wouldn't have been much of a problem if there weren't 30,000 fans there.

Everyone, it seemed, wanted to see Cole's first start.

He hit the upper-90s, including 98 in the seventh inning.

He only struck out two, but he had tremendous control -- he didn't walk a batter and had a three-ball count on only one batter, I believe.

It's one game, I keep telling myself, but it was quite a game.

It's one to remember, especially i…

Pittsburgh, we have a problem with the Penguins

Ever watch a high school game when one team was very, very good and the other was, well, not so good?

It was that bad for the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night.

And that's putting it mildly.

The Pens lost 6-1 to the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference finals.

It was a must-win game for the Pens, who now trail 2-0 and head to Boston for Games 3 and 4.

The only thing Pittsburgh can take from the shellacking is it hit bottom.

The big problem is there might not be enough time left to save the season.

Tuukka Rask was solid in goal while Tomas Vokoun and Marc-Andre Fleury were equally bad.

I understand if there is a goalie switch; with the season on the line the Pens would want their top goalie on the ice.

Only I think their top goalie is Vokoun.

Either way, without being too simplistic, the better goalie usually wins in the playoffs.

The Pens will be hard-pressed to solve Vokoun four times in the next five games.

Pens fire blanks, get blanked by Bruins

What happens when you run into a hot goalie?

Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins.

They trail their Eastern Conference finals 1-0 after a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins Saturday night.

It also was another example of good goaltending beats a good offense.

Hopefully, the Pens will be able to figure out Tuukka Rask before Monday night.

If not, they face a 2-0 deficit heading to Boston.

Maybe the Pens got the wake-up call they needed.


After thinking about it, I'll pass on 'After Earth'

If I see a movie trailer and don't get the plot, I just avoid it.

I don't care who's the lead. I want to have an idea what I'm getting into.

I saw the "After Earth" promos and despite Will Smith being in the movie, I'll pass.

I had to read too much to find out what it's about. And now that it's being panned pretty much everywhere, I know I made the right choice.

Maybe I'll rent it when it gets to the bargain side of the video store.

Pacers fan likes the added support

The NBA needs a villain.

LeBron James and the Miami Heat fit that perfectly.

People root for James to lose. They'll be rooting for the Pacers to win in Game 6 Saturday.

If the Heat win, fans will be rooting for the Spurs in the NBA Finals.

Me? I'm a Pacers fan.

I became hooked when I lived west of Indianapolis in the mid-90s.

It's probably too much to ask for the Pacers to win Game 6 and 7 to advance to the NBA Finals.

Either way, I'll be cheering them on.

I'll be rooting against LeBron and the Heat in the Finals, however.

Sometimes, it's nice to fit in.

GateKeeper was worth the wait

Cedar Point's new coaster, GateKeeper, is quite an amazing ride.

It's the world's longest, tallest winged coaster.

And it's worth the wait. Two-plus hours on opening day this past Saturday.

I'm a coaster fan, and my oldest son is a huge fan. He couldn't wait to ride.

It was a cool, brisk day, something more like a fall day instead of a spring one. But it was a blast.

Here's a shot of the coaster and the new entrance to the park:


Penguins need to stick with Vokoun in playoffs

Do you still trust Marc-Andre Fleury?

I don't.

We'll see if the Penguins do when their Eastern Conference semifinal series starts later this week against the Ottawa Senators.

But I can tell you one thing, I certainly don't want to see him in goal again.

Yes, he's won a Cup. But he's cost the Penguins the past two springs in the playoffs. I don't want to see it become a third.

Tomas Vokoun might not be the best goalie around, but with the players the Penguins have assembled, he doesn't need to be.

The shutout of the Islanders in Game 5 was nice (Fleury also had one in Game 1), but Vokoun did enough to help the Penguins win Game 6.

I'm afraid if Fleury would have played in Game 6, the Penguins would have lost.

At a minimum, Vokoun should start until he puts up a Fleury-like game. Then a debate can begin.

Until then, ride Vokoun.

MLB Players Poised For A Rebound After A Tough April

When it comes to fantasy baseball, the regular season is all about making the right waiver wire pickups, and trading for guys at the right time. With about a month of the season in the book, some owners might be getting a bit frustrated with solid players having bad starts. So who are some of the best players to target in a trade that you could probably get for well below value? Here’s a look at three of the best options.

Yovani Gallardo

David Price and Matt Cain are two of the top pitchers who have struggled early, but most fantasy baseball owners will probably be smart enough to hold onto them. However, Gallardo has never truly been elite, so chances are you can trade for him without giving up a ton.

The right-hander is consistent with his strikeouts and walk rate throughout his career, so despite them being out of control right now, they should return to normal. He has had a few slow starts in the past, and it might actually be a pattern for him.

Adrian Beltre

Owners might look at hi…

Hopefully Jones is off the board when Steelers pick

Please let someone take Jarvis Jones before the Steelers are on the clock for the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night.

I know this could be one of those cases where it comes back to haunt you, but I'm not feelin' the Georgia linebacker.

Maybe it's his slow time in the 40 (4.9+).

Maybe it's his spinal issues.

I just hope the Steelers are left with the decision of drafting him or not.

Maybe the Jets or some other team will make it easier for them.

Steelers' match of Sanders quick fix

Emmanuel Sanders is still a Pittsburgh Steeler.

And Steeler Nation can relax until the draft.

Long-term, this wasn't the best move for the Steelers. A third-round pick could have been better for the team. Especially when Sanders likely will leave next season as a free agent.

But I get why the Steelers did it.

They have a franchise quarterback and need to try to win now.

Those type of moves have a way of coming back to haunt a franchise.

But Ben Roethlisberger should be happy he still has one of his targets coming back.

In the meantime, the Steelers are up against the salary cap searching for some players to make impact.

Woods still short of dominant form

Tiger Woods always is the story, isn't he?

He was in control of the Masters Friday when things went awry.

By now you heard what happened, and have heard all sorts of opinions whether he should have been penalized or not, and whether he should have been disqualified.

My point today is if Tiger is the dominant golfer everyone wants him to be, he still would have won the Masters.

If he had regained whatever it is he lost, he would have won.

He would have used all the detractors as fuel to win.

And maybe he tried.

He's just not the same golfer.

The chase for Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 majors continues, but Woods remains four back.

I'm not sure he gets there.


Steelers should let Sanders go

There's still about two days for this to officially play out, but the Pittsburgh Steelers shouldn't be wasting any more time deciding the fate of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

Tell him they won't match the offer by the New England Patriots and take their third-round pick.

Sanders is a fine receiver, but I don't expect much more from him in the Steelers' offense.

Sanders' stock didn't rise until the Patriots showed interest. Now, people want to make Sanders out as an indispensable part of the offense.

He can be replaced.

The Steelers need the cap room and they need the draft pick.

They don't need Sanders as much.

Give Kevin Colbert and staff some credit. They know what they're doing.

Let's look at the team after the draft and see who else they sign as free agents.


Walking Dead review: Finale good, not great

I couldn't wait until "The Walking Dead" wrapped up Season 3.

The first half of the season was fantastic, pick up where the second half of Season 2 left off. But the last half of Season 3 had its ups and downs.

I'm glad to see Rick survive, along with Daryl, too. Those two characters add spice to the show.

However, Andrea, was time to go. She started to grow on me in the last two episodes, but it was hard to feel too much emotion to see her go -- and I'm sure it was supposed to be an emotional ending. I was sorry to see Merle go and not Andrea.

Walkers bit the dust, which was cool, and The Governor became unhinged, but there just seemed to be something missing from the episode.

Maybe I wanted more from the big showdown between Rick and The Governor. 

Maybe I wanted another cliffhanger, like the mid-season finale.

Sunday's episode wrapped up too nicely, with Rick leading citizens of Woodbury to a new home in the prison.

It was a good contrast to the Season 1…

All's not lost without Shell at Pitt

Is it possible that Rushel Shell is not the next Tony Dorsett?

It seems that there was a lot pressure on Shell to take the Pitt Panthers to the national championship like Dorsett.

Shell rushed for 641 yards as a freshman last year, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. That's pretty darn good.

Is it irreplaceable?

I guess we'll now never know what Shell would do after he announced he's transferring.

With all the buzz around Shell, I expected more from him, especially that 79-yard effort in the BBVA Compass Bowl on 25 carries in a loss to Ole Miss.

Maybe that's why he's leaving. Maybe he wants to carve out his own path somewhere else.

Who knows?

I'm not convinced it's a huge blow to the team.

There are other running backs on the roster.

Maybe an incoming freshman, McDowell's James Conner, for example, can fill the roll in Paul Chryst's offense. Conner rushed for 1,680 yards on 155 carries (10.8 per carry average).

It's disappoint news to lose Shell, but…

Pitt's Adams leaves, world still turns

I've heard some moaning and groaning about the immediate future of the Pitt basketball program.

Center Steven Adams announced Monday that he was leaving for the NBA draft.

Good for him, I thought. Go pursue your dreams.

Then, I immediately thought of Chris Taft.

He was another touted Pitt basketball player who had dreams of the NBA.

It didn't work out for him.

I'm not sure how well it will work out for Adams.

Adams is a project, so some team likely will take a chance on him, hoping his raw skills will develop.

I wasn't worried about the future of the basketball program.

Yes, they're short-handed right now going into their inaugural season in the ACC.

But there's still time. Jamie Dixon can recruit, although it is late in the game.

I just didn't see Adams as someone who oozed talent, someone ready to play in the NBA.

If he did, maybe the Pitt basketball team would still be playing in the NCAA tournament.

I wish him the best. I don't begrudge him for want…

Three straight years without opening day

Opening day used to be a holiday for me.

I had quite a stretch of going to opening day games in Pittsburgh. In a 25-year stretch, I believe it was 24 opening days. The one I missed, I was living in Indiana and couldn't make the seven-hour drive to the opener.

That's changed; I have a new streak going.

I've missed three straight openers.

And it looks like I didn't miss much Monday.

It's just one game, but opening day gets all the attention. And that attention wasn't too good.

The Bucs had their best pitcher, A.J. Burnett on the mound and they lost to the lowly Cubs.

Jeff Samardzija improved his career ERA to 4.01 after his eight shutout innings.

Go Bucs.

Am I a bad fan? I think not.

Is it a boycott? I don't think so, although some might interpret it that way.

I just choose not to give Bob Nutting any of my money.

Nutting is all about the money. I'll chose to do the same. I'll keep my hard-earned dollars and spend it somewhere else.

Would Wooden cut it at UCLA today?

UCLA basketball might be a destination place to coach, but who still wants to coach there?

Oh, I'm sure there are plenty of candidates that will step up and interview for the job. But there's no chance the next coach will retire and be celebrated in Westwood.

Ben Howland was canned Sunday as coach of the Bruins.

He won a Pac-12 championship this season and posted a 25-win season.

That wasn't good enough. The Bruins lost in the first round, something that was rumored would get him fired.

Turned out to be true.

He compiled a 233-107 record, pretty darned good. He also went to three straight Final Fours, something most fans would consider a dream.

Howland's teams struggled the past couple years, and that was enough to do him in.

He's a good coach. No, strike that, an excellent coach.

He resurrected the Pitt basketball program. He took UCLA to some pretty good heights.

But he wasn't John Wooden.

The ironic thing is, if John Wooden were alive, he wouldn't last l…

If Dixon leaves Pitt, things could get messy

The rumor mill is churning and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is the one being tossed about.

USC reportedly is after Dixon, who just suffered another early exit in the NCAA tournament as the Panthers' coach.

If Dixon does go, would it help Pitt?

It's a tough question to answer.

Pitt has had some good regular seasons under Dixon. They are an annual choice for the Big Dance, too.

It's when the postseason comes around that Dixon has his troubles.

It's hard to imagine that his teams haven't been able to live up to their billing at tourney time, so it would stand to reason that finding a new coach could change this.

I'm not opposed to seeing Dixon leave, but I don't think it's an easy answer.

When Ben Howland left Pitt for UCLA, people around Pittsburgh thought the Panthers would be able to get a big-name coach to fill the vacancy.

To their surprise, they couldn't. They had to promote Dixon, then an assistant.

It worked out, but it also shows how the rest of the…

Another year, another early exit for Pitt basketball

Is anyone shocked that Pitt lost the opening game of the NCAA tournament Thursday?

Well, maybe if you believe everything you read in some of the newspapers.

I've argued in the past that the Pittsburgh media has a homer complex when it comes to Pitt basketball. Either that, or they really can't objectively watch the game.

Leading up to the tournament, we heard that Pitt could be seeded as high as third but probably would settle for a sixth seed.

Try eighth.

And they didn't even play like a No. 8.

The Panthers lost to Wichita State 73-55.

Another disappointment.

Their staunch defense slipped (Malcolm Armsted had 22 points and averaged 10.4 this season). They found no go-to scorer when they needed it. And they lost to a team they were supposed to beat.

Steven Adams led Pitt with 13 points and 11 boards, but that was it.

Trey Woodall let the Panthers down, committing five turnovers and having only one assist.

Let the excuses begin.




Bracket Racket is back, ready to pick your NCAA winner

This is the fifth version of Bracket Racket, my way of picking the NCAA champion.

Last year was a darn good year for the Racket.

Heck, let's be honest. It was an excellent year. My formula correctly picked the championship game -- Kentucky vs. Kansas -- and it picked the winner.

How do you top it? I guess simply do it again.

I've tweaked the equation over the years, and after last year's success, there's not much to update.

Here's the path to narrow your picks to one champion:

First things first, first-round games are a joke: Honestly, no national champion will emerge from this group. And why does Dayton get to host this every year?

The Sour 16: While we're being honest, no 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed. Go with history.

Capital losses: It's easier to say UNLV instead of University of Nevada at Las Vegas. It still doesn't make them a threat to win it all. Take all teams that use capital letters off your list (UNLV, UCLA, VCU).

Let me state this simply: S…

Thanks for the memories, James Harrison

Steelers linebacker James Harrison is now former Steelers linebacker James Harrison.

Harrison tweeted his goodbye to fans Saturday.

I have plenty of memories of Steelers' Super Bowls, including Lynn Swann's catches, John Stallworth in Super Bowl XIV and Santonio Holmes' game-winner against the Cardinals.

Harrison's interception return is probably my favorite.

His slam of a Browns fan running on the field was a classic. Any hit of a Cleveland player ranks up there, too.

Thanks for all the memories and living up to the Steelers' hard-hitting tradition at linebacker.

Malkin looks marvelous for Pens

Geno's back.

Evgeni Malkin's unassisted goal in the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning was a thing of beauty.

It's good to see him back on the ice.

And, not to be outdone, Sidney Crosby had a nice one-timer for a goal in the third, too.

The Pens look good and they're fun to watch.

Can't wait for the playoffs.

Ravens are too wacco for Flacco

Apparently, the Baltimore Ravens are wacco for Flacco.

Me -- I think they overpaid.

Big time.

Flacco cashed in on his Super Bowl-MVP performance with a six-year, $120.6 million contract, making him the NFL's highest-paid player.

He's not worth it.

Not even close.

Heck, Flacco shouldn't have been the MVP of the Super Bowl. The award should have gone to Jacoby Jones.

On the bright side, the contract takes away cash from others who might be willing to go to the Ravens.

Coaches for youth sports getting out of control

My wife was going through her Facebook timeline the other day, when a cousin was detailing the events of a youth hockey tournament.

They were on their way back home from the tournament when they received a phone call explaining the team still had another game.

It turns out another team in their bracket used an older player and was disqualified.

Was it a big tournament? Nope.

A bunch of 10-year-old girls.

Coaches are out of control.

Don't believe me? Check out this story from ESPN.com.

A pee wee hockey coach in Canada was sentenced to 15 days in jail for tripping a player during a post-game handshake.

Disgusting.

Pitt basketball hits home stretch

Will it be another season of disappointment for Pitt basketball?

It's been an up-and-down season for the Panthers, with more ups than downs.

After two disappointing losses last week against ranked teams, the Panthers rebounded Sunday against an outmanned St. John's team.

Pitt (21-7) will close out the season with South Florida, Villanova and DePaul.

If they go 3-0 and pick up a win in the Big East tourney, that should give them plenty of momentum for March Madness and a good seed for the NCAA tournament.

If the 23rd-ranked Panthers stumble, they still should get a spot, but questions will remain.

The Panthers need Tray Woodall, who scored 25 against St. John's, to be the go-to guy.

One thing I've always thought the Panthers lacked in the tournament has been a legit scorer who can take over a game.

Maybe Woodall can be that guy.

If he is, then it could be a really good season for the Panthers.

Alabama offers scholarship to 8th-grader

College football recruiting can be cutthroat.

I get it.

I also think it's a bit absurd for Alabama -- or any school -- to be offering an eighth-grader a scholarship.

Dylan Moses got the offer from the Crimson Tide.

But 'Bama wasn't the first.

LSU offered the kid a scholarship last summer.

This is just out of control.

Pitt has an appealing schedule, starting with FSU

What a difference a year makes.

And a new league.

The Pitt football schedule was released and the Panthers will open the season in prime time, facing Florida State on Labor Day at Heinz Field.

It's a great way to start off play in the ACC.

The game will receive plenty of hype and attention between now and then, and it's likely the Panthers will get routed much like they did in Dave Wannstedt's highly touted debut against Notre Dame.

But that's not the point.

This schedule looks much better than the Big East days.

After Florida State, Pitt gets New Mexico, Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion, Navy, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Syracuse and Miami.

Can't wait for the season to start.

It's not too hard rooting for Ravens in the Super Bowl

People ask me who I'm rooting for in the Super Bowl.

As a Steelers fan, it's supposed to be a tough question.

I guess.

It's not that difficult.

I'm rooting for the Ravens. Yep, the Ray Lewis-led Ravens.

If the 49ers win, they'll have six Super Bowls, putting them alongside the Steelers. Plus, the 49ers will be 6-0 in Super Bowls, I say it's time for them to get a loss.

And, there's a part of me that doesn't mind seeing the Super Bowl champion coming from the same division as the Steelers -- even if it's Baltimore.

Simple question. Easy answer.

Super Bowl XLVII: Randy Moss said what?

It's Media Day at the Super Bowl, so something needs to stand out.

It didn't take very long for Randy Moss to create headlines.

The 49ers' Moss said he's the greatest wide receiver ever to play the game.

"Now that I'm older, I do think I'm the greatest receiver to ever do it," he said.

Whoa.

There's some guy named Jerry Rice that immediately comes to mind.

Moss is talented, but he's also known for being moody and taking plays off. 

Heck, I'll take Hines Ward before I'd want Randy Moss on my team.

Tiger's back stories about to roar into overdrive

Any minute now, Tiger Woods will wrap up the Farmers Insurance Open.

Even before he sinks that final putt, we've heard that he's back.

As much fun as it was to rip him when he was going though his public divorce, the media now wants to build him back up.

Sorry, folks, I'm still skeptical that he's all the way back.

This is just one tournament. It's on his favorite course. It's January.

Heap all the praise you want on Woods. In my book, he's not back until he wins a major.

That may or may not happen again.

He's lost the air of invincibility. In sports, that's difficult to get back.

The players will truly be the judge on Tiger's status. And, it won't be by what they say in the press.

If the pros start to quiver in a major when Tiger's making his climb up the leaderboard, then I'll start to be convinced.

Until then, I won't bestow the comeback label on him.


No one should be surprised by Peyton Manning's performance

The most exciting game to watch this weekend -- for me, anyway -- was the Ravens' upset of the Broncos.

I know, there was a fantastic finish in the Falcons-Seahawks game, but I give the edge to the Broncos' game.

I guess it's because I'm biased. As much as I don't like rooting for the Ravens, I was happy to see Peyton Manning and the Broncos lose.

It's probably because I'm so sick and tired of the Manning show. Since the midway point of the season, we've been told how great he is and it hasn't stopped.

CBS' telecast was a Manning lovefest.

Going into the game, I heard analysts rave about the Broncos' defense. They actually called it the best defense that Manning has had.

That Super Bowl-winning team Manning had with the Colts was led by Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders. I thought that was a pretty darn good team.

That's not the only thing that had me scratching my head.

Everyone had pegged the Broncos for an AFC title game showdo…