August 27, 2019
There has been so much fallout since Andrew Luck surprisingly retired last weekend when he seemed to have so much football left in him. Is his retirement being criticized too heavily?
For those who think Luck screwed his team by suddenly retiring, it may have not been so sudden and there are signs that Indianapolis knew this announcement was coming. But Luck certainly did not set any precedents. Athletes retiring in their prime are nothing new. There have been plenty of star players of different sports who simply walked away when they have plenty of game left in them. Examples?
Just last year Rob Gronkowski fresh off another Super Bowl victory said I’m done. There have been rumors of his return as well as he going into the world of professional wrestling. There have been other football players as well who called it quits while still young.
Aside from the sport of football there athletes in other sports who also had plenty of gas left in the tank but walked away without expending it.
With Andrew Luck now on the sidelines as I mentioned yesterday, their chances in the AFC South have diminished greatly. The Colts come to Pittsburgh on November 3, so without Luck, what’s the impact?
NFL futures odds: Which teams benefit most from Andrew Luck's retirement?
C Jackson Cowart, theScore.com
Two days after Andrew Luck stunned the NFL by announcing his retirement at age 29, the NFL futures market is just beginning to settle down. The Indianapolis Colts predictably took a massive hit from Luck's sudden departure. The Colts were 12-1 to win the Super Bowl before the news; their odds moved to 30-1 on Saturday night and sat at 60-1 by Monday. Indy opened at 20-1 in January and was one of the most-bet teams in Las Vegas before the Luck news. With the star quarterback stepping away, here are some other team’s bettors could target and whose Super Bowl odds tightened.
Pittsburgh Steelers (20-1 to 18-1)
In theory, the Steelers' playoff odds were boosted with Indy slipping out of the race, though Pittsburgh hasn't exactly had a stellar offseason that would suggest shorter than 20-1 title odds. We've already discussed the under potential for this year's Steelers team, and they'll have to stave off Cleveland (18-1 to win the Super Bowl) and Baltimore (40-1) from within the division. If you didn't like Pittsburgh at 20-1, there's little reason to jump at 18-1. Grab one of the other AFC North teams whose odds remained steady and have as good a chance to win it all.
With the NFL season on the horizon, there are all types of rankings and player evaluations out there. As Steelers Nation should always expect the respect for success of our team in the ensuing season is minimal and the disrespect of the team’s players and how good they really are not credited as it should be. An example follows.
2019 NFLRank: Predicting the NFL's best 100 players for this season
Jeremy Fowler, ESPN.com
With the 2019 NFL season about to kick off, it's time for our annual ranking of the top 100 players in the league. We asked a panel of more than 40 ESPN NFL experts to rate players based on how good they will be in the 2019 season in comparison to their peers. Emphasis was entirely on predicting potential greatness for the upcoming season, rather than past performance or positional value. From those ratings, we were able to rank the best of the best.
#35. JuJu Smith-Schuster
2018 rank: NR
Smith-Schuster is taking the responsibility of replacing Antonio Brown seriously, showing up to camp in excellent shape and catching everything thrown his way. Last season, the Steelers had a 67% completion rate throwing to Smith-Schuster, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt. He knows the next step is consistently beating double teams, and he says he's ready for that.
Signature stat: Smith-Schuster leads all wide receivers with 1,316 receiving yards from the slot in the past two seasons.
2019 projection: 103 catches, 1,310 yards, 8 TDs
#38. Ben Roethlisberger
2018 rank: 18
Roethlisberger hasn't won an MVP, but might have an argument for one with a successful 2019, as it's all on him now. He led the league in passing attempts in 2018 with 675, and there's no reason he won't get close to that this season. Tight end Vance McDonald says Roethlisberger has been an "excellent" leader this offseason.
Signature stat: Roethlisberger's 11 touchdown passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield last season were tied with Russell Wilson for the most in the NFL.
2019 projection: 4,777 passing yards, 29 TDs, 16 INTs
#79. James Conner
2018 rank: NR
Conner has big plans for his second season as a starter. He wants to play a full 16-game slate, and the numbers will be there if he does. Conner averaged 113 yards and one touchdown per game last season but missed three weeks with an ankle injury. Conner has Ben Roethlisberger's full trust in the passing game, as well. -- Jeremy Fowler
Signature stat: Conner scored 13 scrimmage touchdowns last year, tied for third most by a running back in Steelers history and two more than Le'Veon Bell ever had in a season as a Steeler.
2019 projection: 1,434 scrimmage yards, 13 TDs
#83. T.J. Watt
2018 rank: NR
Watt racked up 13 sacks despite playing in coverage on 131 snaps, which PFF says ranks second among outside linebackers last season. Those numbers highlight Watt's versatility, and he might have more chances to rush the passer thanks to secondary upgrades. He said he's spent this offseason trying to refine every area of his game. --
Signature stat: Watt had six forced fumbles last season, tied with Khalil Mack for third most in the league. Who did Watt trail? Big brother J.J. and Dee Ford, both with seven.
2019 projection: 69 tackles, 12.0 sacks
The Pittsburgh Pirates recent success last weekend did not last long. The all-Pennsylvania battle began again last night and with former Bucco Corey Dickerson facing his old team for the first time since being dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this year, Dickerson chipped in with a home run in four at-bats to help his new team defeat Pittsburgh 6-5. While Phillies fans showed up at the ballpark about 28,000 strong, down in Miami, their attendance on a nightly basis in an embarrassment.
In losing to the Cincinnati Reds last night, there were just over 5,000 fans in attendance at the ugly Marlins Park. It doesn’t help that the Marlins are in last place in their division with a record of 47-83 and are 31 ½ games behind first place. But Miami’s front office should not feel too badly. After all, on April 29, 2015 because of security concerns the Baltimore Orioles were hosting the Chicago White Sox and NO FANS were allowed to attend so basically the game was played in an empty stadium.
But when tickets have been sold, nothing beats what took place on April 17, 1979 when in Oakland at the Oakland Alameda County Stadium for a game with the A’s and Seattle Mariners, just 250 fans showed up. That’s right…250! Reportedly 653 tickets were sold but the official attendance was listed as those 250 that were in the seats.
For the Athletics it goes down as their worst night of attendance in history and by some accounts, the worst ever for a Major League Baseball game. On that night, Oakland first baseman Dave Revering is said to have attempted to count all 250. The weather probably played a part, cold and overcast and some rain. The temperature was said to be in the 40s.
At one point in Oakland former infielder and team captain Sal Bando started calling his home stadium the “Oakland Mausoleum.” With baseball having been around long before 1900, on the internet I found news of a game that took place on September 28, 1882 between the Troy, New York Trojans and the Worcester, Massachusetts Ruby Legs where only six fans came to watch at the old Worcester Driving Park Grounds.
For my Pittsburgh Pirates, attendance at their stadiums in Exposition Park, Recreation Park, Forbes Field, Three Rivers Stadium, and now PNC Park have always been an issue. At the old Exposition Park where the team played from 1882 to 1886, they never averaged more than 3,000 fans but still their season total of 195,000 was better than the National League average for its teams that was 119,968.
At Recreation Park, the Bucs in 1890, the final season at that stadium drew just a 236 per-game average and only 16,604 as a season total. The team went back to Exposition Park in 1891 only to have a per-game average of 1,896. That would improve to 5,707 in the final year at that stadium a total of 4,967. Pittsburgh played in that stadium and partly in Forbes Field in 1909 when Forbes became their permanent home.
The largest average attendance for one season at Forbes Field came the year that Bill Mazeroski became a hero with a walk-off home run to win the World Series in 1960 when an average of 22,154 watch the Pirates finish the season with a series victory of the mighty New York Yankees.
In 1970 the Pirates moved into their new 50,000 seat home at Three River Stadium. This would be the site of many sellouts for the Pittsburgh Steelers but for the baseball playing Bucs, sellouts did not happen as often. In fact the highest per game average the Pirates achieved came in 1991 when the final figure was 25,498. Even in the two years the Pirates knocked off the Baltimore Orioles to win the World Series again in 1971 and again in 1979, the final marks for fans in the seats was 18,532 and 17,722.
Football has been #1 in the Steel City since the Steelers first made the playoffs in 1972 with Franco Harris making a name for himself with the infamous “Immaculate Reception.” I can still recall in 1978 the Pirates had gone into the final weekend of the season trailing the Philadelphia Phillies by 3 ½ games with four games to play for the weekend. I bought my tickets at the gate on Friday for the games to be played.
It began with a twi-night double header something they used to do back then. With a sweep of the series the Pirates would be in the playoffs. Two crazy finishes that were victories for Pittsburgh propelled the Buccos into Saturday’s game now just 1 ½ back. The attendance was a near sellout with 45,134 butts in the seats.
A passed ball by in the bottom of ninth by Philadelphia’s Bob Boone allowed Ed Ott to score the walk-off winning run. In the night cap with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Dave Parker scored a walk-off on a balk by Phillies pitcher Warren Brusstar and now the Pirates were still alive for a shot at the division title. It would be Brusstar’s second balk of the game.
With the 45,000+ in attendance on Friday night I went back to Three Rivers Stadium on Saturday expecting another huge crowd given the circumstances. Incredibly but not surprising because of the lack of interest in the Pirates versus the Steelers there were 16,229 (28,905) fewer fans at the stadium. It was highly disappointing and a real disgrace.
As for the game, it was a wild one. The Pirates opened up a first inning 4-1 lead and then by the seventh inning had fallen behind 6-4 only to surrender another four runs in the top of the 8th. They tried to make a heroic comeback to stay alive in the division race in the bottom of the ninth scoring another four but fell short losing 10-8. Philadelphia pitcher Randy Lerch had an amazing day on the mound and at the plate. Two at bats and the Phillies pitcher smacked two home runs. Both dingers were single home run blasts giving him two runs scored, two RBIs, two hits, and two homeruns.
Lerch also got the win and in the process pitched five innings giving up five hits and four earned runs but also striking out four. Willie Stargell had the Pirates only home run that off of Lerch. Former third baseman for the Pirates Richie Hebner had a bit of revenge on his old team as he now was a Phillie and Hebner went two-for-four with four RBIs including two doubles.
The next day in a meaningless game, the Pirates won 5-3 to finish the season 88-72 and two games behind first place Philadelphia. Oddly enough 30,224 fans came to the stadium in a game that had no meaning. So here we are in 2019, the Pirates are having an awful season, attendance is low…again and what do Pirates loyalists have to look forward to?
30 potential callups to get excited about
By Jim Callis, mlb.com
The 2019 Major League season is heading for the home stretch as the final month of the schedule is just around the corner. The big marker of that final turn comes on Sunday, Sept. 1. That’s the date when teams can expand their rosters at the big league level as the Minor League season comes to a close. Teams can add as many players who are on their 40-man rosters as they desire. And those September callups can serve in a number of roles. For teams out of the race and looking to the future, September can provide an outstanding opportunity to evaluate what that future looks like by giving prospects a month-long look in the big leagues. For teams still vying for a playoff spot, callups can give a boost of energy and talent for that push.
There are many things that come into play in terms of trying to determine who will get a September callup, including whether a player is already on a 40-man roster, whether there’s an opportunity to contribute in some capacity at the big league level and even if a player would be better suited developmentally to experience a Minor League playoff run or head to the Arizona Fall League, now with its earlier start time of Sept. 18. The potential callups listed below are far from guarantees, but we should see many of them in September.
Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B (Pirates No. 2, MLB No. 37)
Hayes hasn’t set the world on fire in Triple-A, but no one questions that he’s the future at the hot corner for the Pirates. He’d certainly be a defensive upgrade for a team that has struggled on that side of the ball this year.
One more football story to share…former NFL player and running back Le’Ron McClain has gone to social media on Twitter to post some very disturbing declarations. What he tweeted follows.
“I have to get my head checked. Playing fullback since high school. Its takes too fucking much to do anything. My brain is fucking tired.... @NFL i need some help with this shyt. Dark times and its showing. Fucking help me please!! They dont care I had to get lawyers man!”
“Need help and but more paperwork....Fuck man."
“Like im mad im pissed im crying im upset im a fucking mess!!!! Please man.”
“Need to tell my story of how my head is crazy and how football did it.... Please someone help me get this out the @NFL puts paperwork in out faces and thats it. Yes its programs fuck all that I need help now I need a plan..... Fuck Man. They dont fucking get it man.”
“Watch how fast they come to aid if I was som3 QB or anything but no I was fucking fullback that did it all. @NFL I need help and i need the process to speed the fuck up Im about to crash out and its paperwork I dont wanna hear it. Fuck man im done.... Im out.”
“Man had a moment but just know Imma fight this thing and block it like im blocking 60 Pwr on the goaline. We gonna score!!!! I got this. Its just LiFE. #AlphaMental.... Thank you to my biscuit lol. Control what I control.”
“Great career Luck I pray you don't have to go thru shyt on your mental like me now. I swear if you called and I answered cool but if I aint answered stop fucking calling me please. Yall dont care!!!!!! Leave me alone got damn it. Imma handle this the best way I can....”
Can someone say psychiatrist?
Let’s talk a little MMA. After two straight losses to Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal Great Britain’s Darren Till is returning to the Octagon to face Kelvin Gastelum who is also coming off a loss his to Israel Adesanya. The fight will be on November 2 in Madison Square Garden at UFC 244. Also on the card thus far is light heavyweights Corey Anderson who battles the fast rising Johnny Walker, and a few big boys in Derrick Lewis who will fight Blagoy Ivanov.
If you like grapping then you’ll be watching Demian Maia vs Ben Askren which has become the main event for UFC Fight Night 162 on October 26. Some negative UFC news as middleweight CB Dollaway has been popped for use of anastrozole, growth hormone-releasing peptide 2, and growth hormone-releasing peptide 6. For testing positive Dollaway gets a two year ban and at 35 years old he’s pretty much finished.
Three up Three Down and It Doesn’t Matter
The Pittsburgh Steelers have played three preseason games thus far and have won them all with one more to go.
Obviously, the games have no impact on standings for the forthcoming season and so we are left to wonder, the fact that the Steelers have not lost a game yet in 2019, will that have any reflection on what is to come? For the first time this season, Ben Roethlisberger saw action and after a slow start, Big Ben began to warm up and was then promptly removed from the game.
He did lead one touchdown drive in the first quarter, an impressive drive that culminated in a touchdown toss to his new #1 receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. It was a 17-yard hookup and after an unsuccessful two point conversion, Roethlisberger’s night was over.
James Connor also saw his first action and he too appeared to be ready for the season opener with 41 yards on five carriers rushing the ball including a 21-yard romp. Connor also caught two passes for 15 yards. In relief of both Big Ben and Connor, in came Mason Rudolph, Jaylen Samuels, and Trey Edmunds. For Rudolph, in most people’s minds, he outplayed Joshua Dobbs and will most likely be the primary backup to Roethlisberger.
Rudolph put together a 6/9 night for 75 yards and one touchdown pass but he did throw on interception on what appeared to be a broken route. Dobbs on the other hand was 4-of-9 for 79 yards and threw on interception that was picked off on a tip but he wasn’t as sharp and didn’t seem as in control of the offense as was Rudolph.
For Edmunds, he ran the ball six times and picked up just 12 yards, but he ran hard. Samuels toted the ball four times for 16 yards. In the air, James Washington had one touchdown thrown by Rudolph and it was his only catch of the night good for 41 yards. JuJu caught four for 37 and his one score.
Trey Griffey, son of Ken Griffey Jr. made one catch showing great footwork on the sidelines. Newcomer Donte Moncrief gave indication he is going to serve primarily as a slot receiver hauling in two passes but for just 11 yards. But it was the defense that shined on national television last night, shutting down Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill, and Logan Woodside. Mariota, the proposed starter for the moment only threw three passes and completed none.
Mariota was sacked once but when Tannehill came in he ended up being tackled behind the line three times as was Woodside so Pittsburgh’s defense finished with seven sacks. The starting defense stuffed the Titans opening running game but once the starters were pulled Tennessee did have a little success running the ball.
Several defenders earned the right for the Steelers to have their name called out based on performance and they are Stephon Tuitt, Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, Vince Williams, and while he didn’t show up in the stats, top rookie Devin Bush. This kid showed speed, a great nose for the ball, and appears to be ready for the NFL as a big time player.
The secondary coverage was good as that has always been Pittsburgh’s Achilles heal, but Sean Davis had a hamstring injury and left the game although he says he will be ready for the world champion Patriots come opening day.
The Rest of the NFL
Overall for week three of the preseason, it was not a good weekend for some teams, individuals and the league itself left red-faced when they put the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders game in Canada on a field in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The field conditions there were so poor that officials had to shorten the field to 80 yards. The stadium, Investors Group Field also saw field goal posts moved to the back of the end zone, NFL style because in the Canadian Football League, the posts are at the front of the stadium like how it used to be in the National Football League.
To accommodate the game and shorten the field, from the 10-yard line to the goal line was made to be the “new” end zone. Then on Saturday, the world got the announcement from Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback Andrew Luck that he was done with football. Retiring. Quitting. Turning his back on the game. Luck had been battling another injury this one to his calf area and he simply said fighting through injuries has changed the perspective had on the game so he had no desire to continue.
Luck got booed off the field by some Colts fans and there are those in support of his decision and others who are critical. Many players have played through injures and so that is evident of their desire to play football, obviously for Luck it’s not as important.
HOWEVER, I also heard there were three to four teams interested in trading for Luck’s backup Jacoby Brissett prior to the trade, but Indianapolis wanted nothing to do with it. So they must have been aware of Luck’s desire to quit. If Luck ends up in the return of the XFL next year where his father is the commissioner his retirement is going to then appear to be quite fishy and a ploy to go play in the new league.
As for Brissett taking over, history is not in his favor. Most think the Colts have instantly gone from contenders to a team that will finish behind the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. I believe the Jacksonville Jaguars will also finish ahead of the Colts. While Brissett was original a draftee of the New England Patriots, he was there for just one season in 2016 before joining Indianapolis.
Because of injuries to Andrew Luck, Brissett became the starter in 2017 and the team finished with a 4-12 record. That season saw Brissett throw for 3,098 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions and a quarterback rating of 81.7. When Luck returned last year, it was back to the bench for the 2017 starter.
While Brissett was in New England for his rookie season, the Colts went 8-8 so they were four games worse when he took over in 2017. Backing up the new starter for this forthcoming season which is only two weeks away will be Walker is an undrafted rookie out of Temple, and Kelly a 2017 seventh round draft pick by Denver. His exit from Denver was marred by his arrest for criminal trespassing when he was accused of entering the residence of an unnamed woman after being at teammate Von Miller’s Halloween part. Kelly ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of second-degree criminal trespassing.
The Colts took a chance on Kelly signing him this past May as a backup to Andrew Luck and he will be unavailable for the first two games due to his arrest and violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. This puts Indianapolis in an even more precarious position.
Kelly did play this past weekend and in a loss to the Chicago Bears, he threw for 209 yards on 16 completions with one pick and was sacked three times. As for the new starter Brissett, he was 6/13 for 65 yards also with an interception and also sacked three times. On the surface it appears the Colts are in TROUBLE.
The Antonio Brown goofball show continues with a conclusion to the latest chapter as for the second time in a short period of time, the former Steelers wide receiver has filed a grievance against the NFL and lost. Still trying to get his way regarding his helmet his argument was a moot point and he is now seeking to have a helmet that meets the league’s approval specially made for him.
The biggest injury from week three of the preseason happened to the Houston Texans who have lost running back Lamar Miller after he suffered a torn ACL on Saturday.
Too Little too Late
The Pittsburgh Pirates did something this past weekend they have not done much of this season. They swept a series. Three straight wins over the Cincinnati Reds the Bucs did at home in PNC Park and their bats came alive winning on Saturday 14-0 and yesterday 9-8. Desperately trying not to finish last in the National League Central division, Pittsburgh with the sweep of the Reds are now 4 ½ games behind Cincinnati but still in last. Neither team has a shot at a wild card or worse the division title as it has come down to a three way race between front running St. Louis, the Cubs who are 2 ½ back, and Milwaukee who is 4 ½ behind.
Around the Diamonds
Will the New York Yankees claim yet another World Series title? If they do, it might be the home run ball that gets them there. The pinstripes set a new MLB record last night by clubbing their team 59th round tripper which represents the most ever by a team in any month of a baseball season. To date they have smacked 241 but that is still not more than the Minnesota Twins who have smashed 253 thus far. The history books show that the Yankees hold the all-time single season record by hitting 267 last year, so the Twins need 15 more to break that mark.
Both the Twins and New York could meet in the post-season as both are heading for division title seasons. To put these home run totals in perspective, the Miami Marlins are at the bottom of the leaders with just 108 dingers in 2019. The Marlins also have the worst attendance and despite beating Philadelphia yesterday only 9,286 were on hand to witness it. Last Friday in a crazy game where Miami scored 19 on the Phillies on 19 hits, the attendance was just 9,065.
The Little Guys
Finally in baseball, on Saturday the United States are kings again of the Little League World Series as River Ridge, Louisiana defeated Curacao 8-0 to take the title. With Honolulu, Hawaii winning in 2018, that’s two straight series wins for the Americans after Tokyo won it in 2017. Prior to that, the U.S. had not won since Huntington Beach, California defeated a team from Japan in 2011.
In a World Series for 10-12 year olds that is played in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a contest that began in 1947 with a team from the host city playing a team from Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, the first international team to win was Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 1957. Then Japan reached the finals in 1967 and the Asian teams began their domination.
Since 1947, teams from Taiwan have won 17 titles. Japan is in second with 11. Then California comes in next with seven followed by Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey who have all won four times. Mexico, Georgia, South Korea, New York, and Hawaii all have won three. Both Texas and Venezuela are double winners while winning it just once are Alabama, New Mexico, Michigan, Washington (state) Washington, Kentucky, Curaçao, and now for the first time ever, Louisiana.
The kids from Louisiana also accomplished something not done since the Little League World Series began a new system in 2001, they lost their first game but from the losers bracket and won six games over eight days to get to the final game where they grabbed the dream every young baseball player wishes for. Jurickson Profar a major leaguer playing for the Oakland A’s was able to watch his little brother play for the losing team on Saturday who unfortunately was also thrown out trying to score on a wild pitch.
Penning the Pens
A couple of columns today on the Pittsburgh Penguins to give you some food for thought.
By Adam Gretz, NBC Sports
Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Three pressing questions for the 2019-20 Pittsburgh Penguins
1. Is the defense good enough?
In the opinion of general manager Jim Rutherford, yes. He has repeatedly defended the construction of his defense and at one point even went as far as to call it the best defense he has had during his time in Pittsburgh. High praise considering he has been in Pittsburgh for two Stanley Cup winning teams.
This team, though, is not coming off of a Stanley Cup win and there is little objective evidence to suggest this defense is anything better than ordinary. They were 12th in the NHL in goals against this past season and even that ranking was driven significantly by the performance of Matt Murray in net thanks to some of the best play of his career from mid-December on.
As a team, the Penguins were one of the worst teams in the league at preventing shots, average in preventing scoring chances, and a little below average on the PK. They have one great defense pairing in Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin (one of the best pairings in all of hockey) and then a bunch of flawed players and question marks after that. Other than shipping out Olli Maatta over the summer, the Penguins have done nothing else to change the look of their defense. Rutherford obviously believes in this group, and he is taking a pretty big bet that he is right.
2. Who is the next salary cap casualty or trade chip?
This is probably more of a preseason question than a question for the season, but somebody has to go. Trading Phil Kessel was supposed to alleviate some of the salary cap crunch, but taking Alex Galchenyuk as part of the return and signing Brandon Tanev in free agency quickly erased that savings. Add that to the returning contracts for Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson and the Penguins have a significant chunk of money going to depth players that probably are not moving them closer to another championship. It has put them in a position where they have to move out someone else.
As it stands, they are slightly over the salary cap and still have to re-sign RFA Marcus Pettersson. After this season, Galchenyuk, Justin Schultz, Jared McCann, Dominik Simon and starting goalie Matt Murray will be in line for new contracts. So who goes? Johnson or Gudbranson could be an option to go off the blue line and would probably the ideal trade bait, while Bryan Rust or Nick Bjugstad seem like logical candidates at forward.
3. Will Evgeni Malkin bounce back?
It is a good bet that he will. The final offensive numbers from this past season look good (better than a point-per-game average) and he had a great start to the season, but his production really slumped over the final three quarters of the season and especially at even-strength. His defensive game was also lacking and he will be the first to say the 2018-19 season was not his best. He can be better, and the Penguins need him to be better. Malkin is a proud player and will no doubt be motivated to show this past season was a fluke and that he is still one of the league’s best and most dominant players. A driven Malkin playing at his best is a season-changing player, and if he gets back to that level it will be more valuable to the Penguins than any other potential offseason addition could have been.
What Penguins need to become championship team again
By Adam Gretz, NBC Sports
There is going to come a point in the next few years where the Pittsburgh Penguins are no longer a playoff team. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are all over the age of 32 and probably only have a handful of high-level years ahead of them. When they start to decline or retire there is going to be no replacing them and no matter what moves the Penguins make today there is not going to be anything that stops them from needing an extensive rebuild in the not-too-distant future. That future is not quite here yet.
After barely making the playoffs and getting swept in Round 1 with a roster that seemed to lose its way, it is not unfair to say that the team has slipped a bit in its standing as a Stanley Cup contender. What do they need to get back closer to the top?
We know the Sidney Crosby-Jake Guentzel duo is going to excel on the first line and the Kris Letang-Brian Dumoulin pairing is going to be great. After that it is a bunch of questions. The obvious keys focus on Alex Galchenyuk fitting in, Evgeni Malkin being better (especially at even-strength), and Matt Murray playing at his best (all things we already looked at today). But that alone will not be enough.
1. Rediscover their identity. I touched on this immediately after their Round 1 loss but the single biggest flaw the Penguins have is their sudden fascination with having players that provide “push back.” For a team that won two Stanley Cups under the mantra of “just play” it was a needless overreaction to some perceived injustices from a select few opposing players. The result was a shift away from what made team so tough to play against (balanced offense, mobile defense, speed, four scoring lines) and a rapidly growing collection of long-term, pricey contracts for depth players (Jack Johnson, Erik Gudbranson, Brandon Tanev). The big thing that would help address this: Another mobile, puck-moving defender that can play on the second pair. The big intangible thing: Go back to “just play” instead of worrying about pushing back.
2. A resurgence from a (hopefully) healthy Patric Hornqvist. Hornqvist’s status as a team leader and gritty forward with a non-stop motor masked the fact that his play rapidly deteriorated in the second half of the season, to the point where he was a complete non-factor offensively. It was a stunning slump after a strong first half. The thing that stands out about that is there is a pretty firm line that separated his season. That line was another head injury that kept him out of the lineup midway through the season. Was it a fluke slump? Was it a result of the injury? Was it a sign of things to come for him in the future now that he is 32 years old? A combination of all three? Whatever it was, the Penguins have Hornqvist signed for four more years at more than $5 million per season. The work ethic and effort are great, but at that price the Penguins need him to produce more than he did this past year or that contract will quickly turn into another drain on the salary cap.
3. Some young players need to emerge. The big focus during their mid-season turnaround in 2015-16 was on the coaching change. But there was another element at play: A bunch of young players became impact players at the same time (Murray, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl; Guentzel a year later). The Penguins need that again. While the farm system is thin, there are some candidates to take big steps forward at the NHL level. Dominik Simon is polarizing because he is a favorite of the coaching staff and struggles to score goals, but he is a good defensive player and playmaker. Jared McCann is a favorite of the front office because they love his potential and he had a strong showing after the trade from Florida. He needs to show it was not a fluke. Dominik Kahun is an intriguing add from Chicago and is coming off a solid rookie season. And even though this might be for a couple years down the line, Pierre-Oliver Joseph is the exact type of defender they need to emerge and become a regular.
The three superstars at the top are the most important ingredient. But they are only part of the recipe. These three keys are just as important.
The Bellator Joke
This past weekend was Bellator 225: Mitrione vs. Kharitonov 2, and while watching the weigh-ins on Friday night, I came to the quick resolution that Dana White and his UFC have NOTHING to fear in regards to competition. The presentation of the fighters on the card and their ceremonial weigh-ins was the worst production I have ever seen of something like this including a scale that must have been a bathroom scale because you could not even see it.
In addition, fighters came to be announced and do a face off wearing anything from jeans to how Colombian flyweight Alejandra Lara came out wearing nothing but here bikini bottoms and a small halter top inked up with a marker that was in protest to the fires going on in the Amazon rain forest. The 14 fights that took place and the 28 fighters that came to the ridiculous stage set up consisted of many fighters that just didn’t look like your typical MMA battlers.
When it was over if you like stoppages than perhaps you enjoyed this card as ALL 14 fights failed to go the distance. Matt Mitrione was knocked out viciously in the second round in the main event and the rest of the card was pretty much ho-hum. Lara did wear normal gear when she TKOd Taylor Turner but perhaps the most impressive fight of the night came as the finale to the preliminary card when one handed grappler Nick Newell submitted Corey Browning. This guy is tough. Don’t let his disability fool you. He can fight. He was born Newell was born with the disability, something termed “congenital amputation” and it is his left arm which you can see ends just below his elbow. But he still struck well and was able to score takedown after takedown.
August 23, 2019
Lucky for the Pittsburgh Steelers that they will go into the forthcoming season without any question as to who is the starting quarterback will be. It’s been Ben Roethlisberger since 2004 but some teams still aren’t sure who will be under center.
There are several quarterback controversies brewing in the National Football League and ahead I’ll give my opinion on those attracting the most attention.
New York Giants
This is probably the most talked about quarterback battle among NFL fans everywhere but primarily in New York. Eyebrows were raised this year when the ‘Gints drafted Daniel Jones in the first round as he was not considered one of the higher rated prospects. Expected to sit this entire 2019 season while he learns from two-time Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning, Jones’s performance in the preseason thus far is making it a very difficult decision for Head Coach Pat Shurmur as to who starts the season opener.
In the first week of preseason, Eli Manning threw one pass and it was a three yard completion. In relief Jones tossed five passes and finished with 67 yards passing including a touchdown toss. The following week Manning played a bit more completing all of his four pass attempts this time for a total of 42 yards. Jones played more and missed on only three of 14 passes while connecting for 161 yards. Another touchdown, but he fumbled twice. Rookie jitters? Perhaps.
Last night the Giants won again for their third win in three exhibition games this time beating the Bengals. Eli Manning got more playing time but only went four-for-eight with 41 yards passing. In comes Daniel Jones who proceeds to hit on nine of 11 pass attempts finishing this time with 141 yards including a nice 35-yard completion.
So who starts in week one? On ESPN Radio this morning it was said that no matter what Daniel Jones does in the final preseason game, Eli Manning will be the starter. I say this…what do the Giants have to lose? They are coming off a poor season and there is no doubt Daniel Jones is the future at quarterback. Why wait? I say they start Daniel Jones from the get-go just as Baltimore did last year during the season to Joe Flacco.
Speaking of Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson forced his exit from the Ravens so Flacco headed west and is now a Bronco. He probably thought there would be no competition for his position. But hold the phone…in the second round of this year’s draft Denver chose a backup to Flacco in Drew Lock. Coming out of the University of Missouri, Lock was certainly no lock at quarterback and not is expected to unseat Flacco, at least not this season.
So in the preseason opener, Lock went 7/11 but for just 34 yards and was sacked twice. His QB rating was a low 68 and Flacco needed not to wipe away any sweat. Flacco was on the field for the first time in orange the following week and he also went seven-for-11 but with just a few more yards (59). Lock nearly repeated his first performance with another night of 7-for-12 and 40 yards with one sack.
Tomorrow night Denver plays its third preseason game in Los Angeles against the Rams. I don’t see new head coach Vic Fangio giving the nod to the rookie over a seasoned veteran and a man who has won a Super Bowl in Joe Flacco. But if he doesn’t have a good start to the 2019 campaign, Flacco could find the bench for the second consecutive season.
With Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee, the Dolphins obtained Josh Rosen from Arizona and brought in crafty Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is one battle that will go down to the wire. Fitzpatrick threw five passes in game one of the preseason completing just two and only for 10 yards. Rosen? 13/20, 191, one pick, two sacks.
Game 2: Fitz: 3/9, 20 yards, one sack. Rosen: 10/18, 102, three sacks.
Game 3: Last night in Miami against the Jags, Fitzpatrick got most of the playing time and threw one touchdown while completing 12 of 18 passes for 126 yards. Rosen went 5-for-7 with 59 yards.
My guess here is that given his experience and how he played last night, Ryan Fitzpatrick starts at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins in the season opener.
The NFL’s #1 pick overall was Kyler Murray this year. There were rave reviews regarding this kid before the draft and while considered small by skeptics, everytime there was that discussion the name Drew Brees was mentioned. In his pro debut, Murray hit on all but one of seven pass attempts for 44 yards and he took one sack. But onlookers were impressed for a first start ever. Then there was challenger Brett Hundley who on 104 yards passing completed 10 of 14. He also had a touchdown pass and was sacked once.
The next time out Hundley was solid again with a 118.5 QB rating based on a night of 10/15, 139 yards and another touchdown. The rookie was just three of eight for only 12 yards and was sacked twice. Not good. Murray will get a real test on Saturday when his team plays in Minnesota.
While Murray has been up and down, I think his high draft selection makes him a no-brainer and rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury should have him under center on opening day. Kingsbury comes directly out of a career as a college coach having led the Texas Tech Red Raiders to a record of 35-40 in six seasons before he was fired. USC hired him as their offensive coordinator but the Cardinals wanted him to go pro and he did.
The word is that Dwayne Haskins drafted in the first round by the Redskins out of Ohio State felt disrespected that he was not selected higher. Haskins did go to Washington with the 15th pick but he feels he has something to prove. He will have to beat out veteran Case Keenum to win the starting job.
In his debut, Haskins completed eight of 14 passes for 117 yards but threw two interceptions. His quarterback rating was just 44.9 and he was sacked twice. Not a good start. Case Keenum in that same game was four of nine for 60 yards and threw a touchdown. Advantage Keenum.
The next time out the Buckeye rookie was better completing half of his 14 passes for 114 yards including a touchdown toss but he was sacked three times however, his QB rating vastly improved to 101.5. For Keenum, he made just seven pass attempts and completed just three for only 52 yards while his rating dropped to 68.8. Advantage Haskins.
Last night as Washington defeated Atlanta, Case Keenum got the start and hit on nine of 14 for 101 yards with one sack. In came Haskins who had one less pass and two less completions for just 74 yards. Advantage Keenum.
This QB race here reminds me of the one in Denver. If Case Keenum fairs poorly in early 2019, then look for Haskins to become the starter.
Marcus Mariota is supposed to be the Titans’ franchise quarterback. However, his career has been plagued with injuries. Ryan Tannehill is a pretty good quarterback just having the unfortunate circumstance of playing for a sub-par team in Miami. Now he comes to Tennessee who in 2018 were 9-7 and narrowly missed winning the division.
In his Tennessee debut, Tannehill was impressive. 12 completions on 16 attempts, two touchdowns. A 138 rating and Mariota countered with a 4/8, 24 yards and QB rating of 56.3. Uh oh.
Preseason #2 sees Tannehill with another strong performance going 7-11 and 84 yards and a touchdown. A 117.2 rating and the pressure was on Mariota who was solid with a 6-for-9, 63 yards, a touchdown and a rating of 123.8. Now head coach Mike Vrabel will two exhibition games remaining to decide. The next one is at home and it’s with my Pittsburgh Steelers. The Titans will prep for the season opener with a final preseason game in Chicago.
Given his injury background and quality of play versus Tannehill’s career, if I were Vrabel, it would be Tannehill. The incumbent Mariotta has been in the NFL four years whereas the challenger Tannehill is two seasons ahead. In comparison, let’s take quarterback rating first. Tannehill’s career mark is 87.0. Mariotta, 89.4. Average-per-season marks?
One key stat to consider is completion percentage. Ryan Tannehill’s career mark is 62.8 whereas Mariotta posts a mark of 63.2. Another factor to consider is win/losses. Tannehill and Mariotta are close on this one too. The former Dolphins quarterback went 42-46 in his six years to the south while Marcus Mariotta in four years is 27-28. So the question becomes, who starts? Mariotta may be better on his feet whereas Tannehill has the better arm, perhaps not by much. In two weeks we will know for sure.
In Pittsburgh Steelers camp if you have not yet heard, Ray Sherman has taken over as wide receivers coach after the untimely death of former coach Darryl Drake. For some in Steelers Nation, the thought of Sherman brings back bad memories as he was an awful offensive coordinator for the one season he held the job with the Steelers in 1998.
Let’s talk a bit of hockey and the NHL…
Top 10 entry-level players of the salary cap era
Matt Teague, theScore.com
With a ton of restricted free-agent chatter around the league - but little action - we thought it would be interesting to review which players performed the best while on their entry-level deals since the salary cap era began in 2005-06. Our list summarizes the 10 most productive players of the cap era during their first three NHL seasons along with the subsequent contract they earned for their efforts. But before we begin, let's go over a few ground rules. Players on the list require a minimum of 200 games played over their entry-level deals. Being in the lineup consistently matters, and this also helps avoid inflated per-game averages for players who weren't regulars.
The contracts must be three-year, entry-level deals, which excludes players like Artemi Panarin, who signed a two-year ELC with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was on his first big-money contract by his third NHL season, and therefore doesn't qualify. All cap-hit shares are relative to the cap for the year each player signed their respective deal.
#3. Evgeni Malkin
The Pittsburgh Penguins marksman holds the modern-day record by scoring in each of his first six NHL contests as a rookie, tallying seven goals and 11 points over that span. That early brilliance was just a sample of what was to come, as Malkin recorded 85 points in his first campaign to take home the 2006-07 Calder Trophy. The 6-foot-3 sniper went on to record back-to-back 100-plus-point seasons in his second and third NHL campaigns, and he ranks eighth all time in points over a player's first three seasons. He's also the second player on this list, along with Kane, to capture a Stanley Cup during his entry-level contract.
Another night at PNC Park for the Pittsburgh Pirates and another sparse 10,587 fans who suffered through another blowout loss as the Bucs lose again to the Nationals this time by a tally of 7-1.
MMA has an event tomorrow night and it is in Bellator with “Bellator 225: Mitrione vs. Kharitonov 2.” The main event is a rematch between Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov. The first fight took place last February 15 and ended in a no contest because in the very first round Mitrione the former NFL player landed a kick directly to Kharitonov’s goods.
Prior to that fight, Mitrione lost miserably to Ryan Bader in Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinal completely dominated by the champion Bader. For Sergei, he had knocked out Roy “Big Country” Nelson last October and then was in another no contest with Anton Vyazigin because of an accidental eye poke in May of 2018. Kharitonov’s career record is 28-6 with 10 submissions and 16 knockouts while he has been KO’d three times and submitted twice in his six losses. He has not lost since November 4, 2016 when Javy Ayala scored a first round knockout.
Since losing to former champion Josh Barnett by an arm triangle choke in 2001, Kharitonov has won 10 of 11 fights including those two no contests. Mitrione on the other hand has the same number of losses but only 13 wins since turning pro in 2009 when he won The Ultimate Fighter finale knocking out Marcus Jones in the second round. Mitrione began his career with five straight victories all but one by knockout. Then he dropped his next two to Cheick Kongo by decision and Roy Nelson by TKO in TUF’s Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson finale.
Mitrione’s other losses were to Brendan Schaub (D’Arce choke), Ben Rothwell (guillotine choke), Travis Browne (TKO) and that loss to Bader. For the record, Matt Mitrione played just one season in the NFL and it was with the New York Giants in 2002 when he played in nine games, made four tackles as a defensive tackle, two which were solo. He was an undrafted free agent rookie signee.
The remainder of the card for Saturday has plenty of fights but none of major significance and the card appears below.
A few final MMA words and the first come by way of an interview ESPN’s Ariel Helwani conducted with Conor McGregor. This after McGregor had issued the following apology for his punching of a bar patron in Ireland last April:
“I was in the wrong. That man deserved to enjoy his time in the pub without having it end the way it did. ... I tried to make amends and I made amends back then. But it doesn't matter. I was in the wrong. I must come here before you and take accountability and take responsibility. I owe it to the people that have been supporting me. I owe it to my mother, my father, my family. I owe it to the people who trained me in martial arts. That's not who I am. That's not the reason why I got into martial arts or studying combat sports. The reason I got into it was to defend against that type of scenario.”
This is a classic case of “damage control.” In the interview, McGregor makes all kinds of excuses for his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov and insists he wants a rematch. He also said he would fight anyone and that the fight game is in his blood and he is going nowhere. As for his supposed comeback?
“Mine is gonna be the greatest one of all.”
I still contend that he will NOT be coming back AT ALL. I don’t believe him and won’t until he actually steps through the doors of the Octagon. When and if he does, I don’t care who he is fighting, I don’t believe he wins. Khabib will give him a worse beat down if they fight again. Another fight with Nate Diaz will result in Diaz more determined to win in a more convincing manner and if that trilogy goes down, Diaz wins inside of three rounds.
Max Holloway would destroy Conor McGregor. So would Tony Ferguson. Dustin Poirier would dust McGregor. If you are thinking Jorge Masvidal…please. Conor McGregor wants nothing to do with Masvidal. Donald Cerrone? Too much talent and heart to lose to the Irish fool.
Speaking of Dustin Poirier, he fights Khabib to unify that division’s title next weekend and after watching some documentaries on Nurmagomedov, I’m more convinced that he is unbeatable for the moment. The man is a grappling and mauling machine. He is going to submit Dustin Poirier in my estimation but I have to give it to the interim champ who is supremely confident:
“I keep going back and forth. I feel like I can submit Khabib, but feel like I’m going to stop him. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I’m either going to knock him out or I’m going to submit him. I’m going to finish Khabib Nurmagomedov.”
Good luck with that.
For football fans we love the National Football League and closely follow the teams we root for. But for the older generation we have memories of great players from the past and for those men who are still with us today, many are suffering in a physical way that most football fans are probably unaware of.
The NFL should be red faced for not providing more care and money to these men many of them who help establish a rich history for professional football. There are some out there though trying to make a difference and within the last year, former Washington Redskins running back and Pro Football Hall of Fame member John Riggins along with his lawyer wife Lisa Marie are doing all they can to change the lives of retired NFL players.
Last September they created the non-profit organization F.A.I.R. which stands for “Fairness for Athletes in Retirement.” Lisa Marie, an outstanding attorney is leading the legal end along with the assistance of her husband John as well as former players Elvin Bethea, Joe DeLamielleure, and Ken Houston. Their intention is to have the league and the NFLPA (NFL Players Association) to reform the current pension plan the NFL has in place.
F.A.I.R. has a Facebook page you can view at https://www.facebook.com/pensionparity. To launch this story, let me remind you that it was reported that the National Football League brought in a revenue in 2018 of nearly $17 billion (https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/2019/07/15/nfl-revenue-owners-players-billions). What Lisa Marie Riggins found out initially was that some former NFL players were receiving pensions of less than $20,000 per year. That’s roughly a little over $1,500 a month.
Before you go saying well these guys made millions and maybe they didn’t invest properly, the fact is most of them did NOTmake the money players are earning today. At one time a meeting with Riggins was with former Republican National Committee chairman from the 1980’s Frank Fahrenkopf who had this reaction to the situation:
“It was incredible. With all the money flowing into the NFL and the millions the players are making today, my first thought was well, hell, if you are a retired player, you must be in pretty good shape. I had no idea.”
But good shape many NFL veterans are not. Take for example standout tight end John Mackey who played almost his entire career with the Baltimore Colts. Tragically he perished at the age of 69 in 2011 after suffering from a what was determined to be dementia or Alzheimer's disease. As the injuries and impact of playing football was determined most likely to result in his illnesses, towards the end of his life Mackey was seen walking around with little memory, lethargic in his actions and showing severe signs of dementia.
Mackey’s monthly pension? $2,450. Because of that his wife had to find employment to make ends meet. There are endless stories of other players from yesteryear that are suffering. Too many to list in this article. If you think Mackey was active on the football field not long ago think again. He retired with the San Diego Chargers in 1972. That is nearly 50 years ago.
For the record, the National Football League began a pension program in 1959, the year I was born, meaning it was 60 years ago. It was to cover any player that was deemed eligible and played from the year 1920 on. To qualify, a player had to be on a roster for three years if they were in the league after 1992 and four seasons in a career that began before 1992. But here’s the catch…pensions do not begin until a player has reached the age of 55.
If you need more examples of player’s in dire situations then read on.
Dobler who earned his fame mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals was also cast as the “NFL’s dirtiest player” at one point. That was in a time when nearly anything goes on the gridiron without being penalized. Now 68, Dobler retired 38 years ago. Since then he has undergone nine knee replacement surgeries and according to Wikipedia, he is technically disabled and unable to get any disability payments from the National Football League.
To make matters worse for the Dobler family, 12 years ago it was reported that his wife Joy had fallen out of a hammock causing paralysis and making her a paraplegic. The medical bills piled up to the point that Dobler’s two children a daughter and a son who are very well educated, were unable to have their post high school education funded any further. Professional golfer Phil Mickelson came to the rescue and was said to be paying for the collegiate tuition. One line from Dobler gives evidence to how bad things became for him as a result of football playing injuries:
“I have six kids, I don’t even know their names. It kind of pisses me off because I prided myself on having such a wonderful memory.”
The remaining stories here come from this web site: https://pensionparity.com/player-stories.
Rickey Dixon (age 52)
Dixon played his pro ball with the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders from 1988 to 1993. Six years ago he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease which is almost always fatal. His doctors told him he would probably die in three to five years so he has surpassed that unfortunate prognosis. Still, word is that his football injuries are to blame. Said his wife Lorraine:
“I look at Rickey laying in the hospital bed, trac in his throat, tube in his stomach, has lost 57% of his body weight, can’t talk and can barely move and I think about the NFL and I ask Jesus to help me forgive them.”
Gale Sayers (76)
One of the greatest running backs ever who had his career cut short because of a knee injury now suffers much like Conrad Dobler. Sayers deals with dementia and his wife Ardythe said in the past:
“Like the doctor at the Mayo Clinic said, Yes, a part of this has to be on football. It wasn’t so much getting hit in the head … It’s just the shaking of the brain when they took him down with the force they play the game in.”
Reportedly, his bout with dementia even makes it difficult to sign his own name. Sayers also now requires a home nurse to watch over him.
Reggie Williams (64)
Another Bengals veteran, Williams has had to have 24 surgeries on his knees including four replacements. In his own words, the indicates that these injuries and the hospital care that goes with him were funded by himself and that it reaches the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Williams was a standout linebacker who first went under the knife in 1979. Because of the injuries he sustained a bone infection termed osteomyelitis. He nearly had to have his right leg amputated because of it.
Nick Buoniconti (died on July 30 age 78)
Nick Buoniconti, enshrined in the hall at Canton, Ohio knows the dangers of football all too well. His son Marc was on the field for The Citadel in 1985 making a tackle that resulted in his permanent paralysis that caused him to be a quadriplegic. At the end of his life, father Nick was suffering from neurological issues. It was so bad that Buoniconti said of himself:
“I feel lost. I feel like a child.”
Dementia was the primary factor according to doctor’s reports and in the end the former Miami great linebacker even had trouble getting himself to the restroom.
Jim Kiick (73 years old)
One of Buoniconti’s teammates on that undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins Super Bowl winning team was running back Jim Kiick who alongside Larry Csonka made up one of the most dangerous and lethal running combinations in any backfield throughout the history of the NFL. But all the onfield damage also caught up to Kiick. He is battling CTE and Alzheimer’s to the point he could no longer hold a job. His son dropped out of college just to assist with his healthcare. These days, he is living in an assisted care facility.
His daughter is Allie Kiick, professional tennis player. She gave an analysis of her father’s condition:
“I just remember seeing the biggest change in him. He just acts like a kid, in every way now – not taking care of himself. We tell him what to do and he listens, but he was pooping his pants, all that stuff. So I – literally – mean that he had turned into a kid.”
Ed White (age 72)
A more recent veteran is White who last played in 1985 but is now fighting Alzheimer’s Disease as well. A few years back he said in regards to a reunion of players from the Super Bowl of his Minnesota Vikings team:
“Four years ago I went to Minnesota and 10 of us who played in Super Bowls got together. Everybody had something going on, so it’s pretty wide spread.”
Jim Otto (81 years old)
While one of the greatest centers in the history of pro football is not suffering from the mental anguish the aforementioned are, injuries to the former Oakland Raider have certainly taken their toll. Jim Otto has had an incredible 74 surgeries, 28 on his knee alone. He has had joint replacement surgeries. At one time in his life he had to battle infections that nearly caused his death and those stemmed from the artificial joints place in his body. On August 1, 2007, his right leg had to be amputated.
The stories could go on and on and another tragic story is that of another great center, Mike Webster. Webster may be the poster boy from what football can do to a man as before his death he suffered from amnesia, dementia, depression, and acute bone and muscle ailments. Despite offers for assistance from past teammates, Webster at one point lived out of his truck and sometimes slept in train stations.
Reportedly, at one point in his life he resorted to electroshock weaponry to put himself to sleep. Webster’s wife divorced him in 2002 apparently not able to deal with his issues. This was just six months before a heart attack finally took the life of “Ironman” Mike Webster. He was just 50 years of age. His son Garrett was his final caretaker despite being a teenager at the time.
With all these stories and the billions of dollars the National Football League makes, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason Roger Goodell and his office can not assist former players and ensure they have a good and healthy post-football life.
There will be those who say these men should have invested their money no matter what they were earning or you might here why didn’t they get another job once they left the NFL? Well, as in the case with Jim Kiick, some did and still because of what took place on the field, they were rendered unable to work. Realize this…football is a game but it is also the chosen career of those men who play it.
In today’s NFL, players have completely lost the respect for the game and it is no longer a game, a job, and a business. Now it’s simply a BUSINESS. It’s all about money and I’d place money down that nearly every man on every roster knows little about the history of the game they play or the men who paved the way. There are far too many prima donnas on the field, they’ve cheapened the game with too many rules, and the camaraderie between players is a little too much.
Back in the day, there was a real dislike between players of teams just ask those who played for the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m not saying there should be a hatred between players of opposing teams in 2019, but this exchanging of jerseys at the end of a game, chit chatting between opponents between plays, showing off on every solid play a man makes, these are things you would have never seen 45 years ago or more.
The bottom line of this story is that today’s NFL players are making so much money and the average salary is now $2.1 million per season. These guys can play one or two seasons and if they play their cards right will never have to struggle financially another day in their life. The veterans from yesteryear can’t say that. It’s simply not fair. They paid their dues with blood and sweat and created team legacies that still exist today. They deserve to be taken care of for the remainder of their lives and done so by the NFL.
Finally for today, if you are an MMA fan, then I’m plugging a new podcast I discovered that is the best I’ve heard yet. It’s hosted by Peter Carroll and Niall McGrath and they call it “Eurobash” as a part of MMA Fighting. These two gentlemen know the sport inside out and their analysis is spot on. I catch the show on Spotify, but here are two more links you can find these guys on:
Be sure to check out their show as I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
August 20, 2019
Perhaps outside of former Pittsburgh Steelers great cornerback and Hall of Famer Mel Blount, Rod Woodson is probably the next greatest cornerback in the history of the team.
So when Woodson talks Steelers, people are going to listen. Appearing on CBS radio last weekend, Woodson was asked about his opinion of Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin. His responses:
“Great leaders normally take the responsibility when things go wrong, even if it’s not their fault. Once you do that, everybody else falls in line. I’d like to see him do that more often.”
“The only thing I would like to see him do more is have a little more thumbs-down on his players. It’s like having 53 teenagers. If you’ve got 53 teenagers, you’re not going to let your teenagers just run the roost in your house. If they do something wrong, you have to discipline them in some type of manner to catch their attention. I think the same thing has to happen in the locker room. If he does that, he’s going to be fine.”
My reaction to both? On Big Ben I believe Woodson is a little off base in that opinion. Too many times Roethlisberger has in fact shouldered blame for losses and mistakes. But on that same thought he is also guilty of pointing fingers but it’s not that often he pulls that stunt. In fact, he publicly apologized this year for calling out Antonio Brown last year.
With Mike Tomlin there is much truth spoken there. Tomlin is a poor disciplinarian and he lacks the fire Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll had before him. With that said, two of the biggest clowns that suit up are gone…Le’Veon Bell and Brown. On the sidelines another idiot in Joey Porter is also no longer with the team. What that means is there will be less drama for Tomlin to deal with.
With two preseason games down and two victories to show for it, the Steelers were called out for their performance last Saturday in an article featured on a sports website.
Winners and losers from Week 2 of NFL preseason
The NFL is back, and we're here to examine the good and the bad from the second week of preseason action.
The Pittsburgh Steelers need their entire offense to step up to counter the loss of Antonio Brown. The star receiver's production simply can't be replaced by just one man, and while Pittsburgh has a ready-made No. 1 receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, it needs a consistent second target to ensure defenses can't hone in on the leading pass-catcher.
Veteran Donte Moncrief has been the leading candidate for the No. 2 wideout role throughout camp, but Washington has been staking his claim during the preseason. The young receiver stood out again versus the Kansas City Chiefs, catching four of his five targets for 78 yards a week after grabbing a touchdown and racking up 84 yards. If Washington has fixed his consistency issues and poor catch rate from his rookie year, his big-play ability could add a whole new dimension to the Steelers' offense.
Back to the moron named Antonio Brown. Are you Steelers fans happy that he’s in Oakland? You should be. We haven’t even reached opening day and already the former Steelers wideout has caused more headaches than perhaps he did for the entire 2018 campaign.
The big issue now is with his helmet that he has been denied the opportunity to use. Struck down last week in an effort to retain his coveted Schutt AiR Advantage helmet A.B. is going to try again by having filed a second grievance against the league the difference now being that his filing includes a claim that he was not provided a one-year grace period that he claims other players were granted on outdated helmets. Brown says his model helmet was banned just this year.
Most are saying this is a fight he won’t win…AGAIN. Now for my stupid comment of the day and it comes from the mouth of Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield who as a rookie last season did rather well. But he went public today to criticize a highly drafted quarterback from this year’s selection process, Daniel Jones taken by the New York Giants. Said Mayfield:
“I cannot believe the Giants took Daniel Jones. Blows my mind.”
My message to Mayfield:
Dude, you had a decent rookie campaign but until you complete a full impressive season and ensure your team has a winning season, you have no room to criticize anyone else. What would be ironic is if Jones replaces Eli Manning and then goes out and out performs Mayfield and the Giants win more games. This is the guy whose video went viral of him biting into a beer can and chugging. Real mature Baker…real mature .
Let’s glance at the Pittsburgh Pirates. Or maybe we as Buccos fans should not. Last night their season reached the highest embarrassment to date as they were shut out by the Washington Nationals 13-0. In the process of losing before just 11,282 fans at PNC Park, the Bucs managed only four hits, lost their 73rd game in 124 contests in 2019, and are 15 ½ games behind as well as 24 games behind the final wild card spot.
On the other side, the Nats banged out those 13 runs on 15 hits. The onslaught was surrendered by Trevor Williams who started the game, lasted just two innings, and gave up six hits and eight runs, six of them earned. In came Montana DeRapau who also threw two frames and surrendered four hits and three runs. Francisco Liriano pitched the eighth inning and got smacked around for another three hits and the final two runs.
Oh well, the Pirates can be thankful they are not the Baltimore Orioles who have lost 86 games and are 43 ½ games behind the first place Yankees as well as 33 ½ games behind a wild card opportunity.
A little taste of the Pittsburgh Penguins for you today:
Ranking the NHL's top 5 defensive pairings
Sean O'Leary, theScore.com
After analyzing the NHL's best forward lines, our focus now shifts to the league's top defensive pairings. These pairings are weighed against each other through a series of advanced statistical categories that quantify their on-ice impact at even strength. Of course, individual stats can't paint the entire picture, and players can have their numbers dragged down or enhanced by plenty of factors, including goaltending and quality of opposition. With so many candidates to choose from, we whittled our list down to five pairings that play top-line minutes.
All stats are at five-on-five for the 2018-19 regular season, minimum 500 minutes played.
3. Kris Letang-Brian Dumoulin
Letang has never really been classified as a prototypical shutdown defenseman, but constantly having the puck is a pretty solid method to keeping opponents at bay. With him and Dumoulin deployed, the ice significantly tilts in the Penguins' favor, which is a gigantic advantage for Pittsburgh, considering the quality of offensive weapons on its roster. Letang and Dumoulin do give up a fair amount of shots against, but the reward highly outweighs the risk. Among all D-pairings that played over 500 minutes last season, Letang and Dumoulin owned the highest Relative Corsi For percentage at 7.55. For a team as thin on the blue line as the Pens, this dynamic duo is absolutely imperative to success.
I’ll close today with a little UFC stuff this one a combination of the WWE and the UFC. Pro wrestler Kurt Angle who comes out of Pittsburgh is apparently good friends with former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesner. Lesner was supposed to return to the Octagon to challenge Daniel Cormier but he opted not to.
Now Angle is indicating the Lesner is interested in a fight with Jon “Bones” Jones if the light heavyweight champion were to move up a division to heavyweight. When told of the challenge, Jones responded with:
“Brock is way too slow, I’ll embarrass him.”
I agree. Jones would tear him up and turn him into a bloody mess. As much as people dislike Jon Jones, you have to feel for him for future fights. The only bout that makes sense is a rematch with Thiago Santos. That fight was close and perhaps may have even gone in favor of Santos for some but one wonders what a healthy and uninjured Santos might be able to do in a second fight.
So outside of Santos, looking at the light heavyweight rankings, there really are no serious challenges for Jon Jones. He’s beaten #4 Anthony Smith, the number three is Ryan Bader but he is in Bellator and I don’t think he would beat Jones either. Dominick Reyes? Not in Jones’s class. Corey Anderson? Same. Blachowicz? Not enough of a skill set. Johnny Walker? In time with more experience that would be an intriguing fight. Walker is not ready yet.
Glover Teixeira? Been there done that. Oezdemir? Nope. So a move to heavyweight might be a smart move for Jon Jones. But given his thinner frame, you have to wonder if it would work for him. A final word on Daniel Cormier. This is a guy who was walking around calling himself the greatest ever. Ahhh…he’s now lost three fights two by stoppage. He said his victory over Stipe Miocic would be a loss that would affect Miocic the rest of his life. It looks now like it’s much the other way around. Cormier’s legacy?
Daniel Cormier will be remembered for two losses to Jon Jones, one of which left him crying in the Octagon and losing his heavyweight belt after just one defense. Stipe Miocic defended the title three times and has now won it back. Who’s the better fighter? Also Cormier only won the light heavyweight title because Jon Jones was forced to vacate it. Both Cormier and Jones know that on any given day, Jones defeats Cormier. Bones has his number and both know it.
I’ve always said “if you talk the talk you must walk the walk.” Many have said that and it’s so very true. Anthony Pettis talked but lost. Cormier talked and lost. Ronda Rousey believed the hype about her and all the accolades and when she met up with someone who actually fought back, she lost and lost miserably. Then she got wiped out again and disappeared. Conor McGregor the same. I am on the belief he'll never be back in the Octagaon. Believe you me, Henry Cejudo is next. His time is coming and it won’t be long.
Have you ever seen a guy more full of himself? His head is bigger than the Goodyear Blimp. Now he wants to fight females. That declaration makes him the biggest jerk and idiot the UFC has ever seen.
My phone just keeps blowing up that somebody by the name of Valentina ‘The Bullet’ Shevchenko is the most dominant champion in the world. And guess what? I get a little jelly, because you know what she has gold and I want that gold! Valentina Shevchenko, I have a message for you. I am looking to become the first intergender world champion that this world has ever seen. I’m calling you out. You can be the next to bend the knee to ‘Triple C.”
Will some male fighter please take a fight with his moron and give him a serious beat down?
August 19, 2019
UFC 241 Fills the Bill
Last Saturday night, UFC 241 had three fights at the top of the card all carrying high expectations and in the end, all three bouts carried their weight.
Beginning with Paulo Costa and Yoel Romero battling it out in the middleweight division, this was a fight that could have gone either way and it went in favor of the undefeated Coast who won by a single point on all three cards.
The fight was a war and a battle of attrition but Costa did the most damage and showed plenty of heart in narrowly defeating the dangerous Romero. This I can tell you, this dude Costa is an absolute beast. If you marvel at the muscularity of Romero, then you are amazed at the size of Costa. The man is simply a very large middleweight.
I can easily see Costa being the champion of the division one day soon. A fight between he and the current champion Robert Whitaker would be amazing. First Whittaker must defeat Israel Adesanya which I expect him to do. Costa was asked in the post fight press conference about fighting Adesanya and he said he would “kill him.” Costa added he’s just a skinny dude that he would break in half.
Next was Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis and this fight as well as the main event became a case of two fighters that underestimated their opponents and also came in way too cocky. For Pettis, he said he was going to expose Nate Diaz to the world. He said Diaz was not as talented as some were led to believe and he learned a hard lesson.
Nate Diaz is in fact one of the most talented fighters the UFC has and just because he hadn’t fought in three years does not diminish his skills In fact, after the fight he indicated he had never left the gym but he was simply waiting for the right fight to come along.
In this fight with Pettis, he simply schooled the former champion. He was more effective with strikes, dirty boxing, and the ground game. He was also too big for Pettis and with a broken foot following the fight, Pettis would be wrong to blame that for his loss. He is NOT the better fighter not on any day.
Finally there was the main event and again, in this one, the reigning champion Daniel Cormier believed that while the man he took the title from Stipe Miocic was a good fighter, he said he was not good enough to beat him. Stipe kept insisting the first fight that he lost on a TKO that he was the better fighter in that bout too but just got caught with a good strike.
On Saturday, Stipe started slowly and was being out punched by Cormier and for some reason the champion strayed from his bread-and-butter game of ground control and insisted on getting into a striking game. I had said that if this went toe-to-toe that Cormier would lose.
It seemed the fight was going in the champion’s favor until the fourth round when Miocic went to the body. It seemed to be a great body shot but then he went back to it again…and again…and again…and again. Seeing Cormier wince, Stipe knew it was working. It was a fantastic strategic move that weakened Cormier until Miocic was able to catch him with some head shots that put the champion to the canvas where the now new and repeat champion Miocic finished him.
One other fight worth mentioning for anyone from Pittsburgh, former training partners Khama Worthy and Devonte Smith went at it and Worthy who fights out of my home city of Pittsburgh scored an impressive TKO to win a bonus $50,000 for the night. Also, as I had predicted, experience was the factor in Derek Brunson’s victory over Ian Heinisch.
10 Year Repeat
10 years ago in December, former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry was involved in a domestic dispute with his fiancée and as she drove away in a truck, he climbed on in the bed of the truck to try to stop her only to fall out hitting his head on the pavement and losing his life.
This past weekend another tragedy struck the Bengals family when former running back Cedric Benson was onboard his motorcycle apparently driving too fast, losing control and slamming into a mini-van causing a fiery crash that took his life and his unnamed female passenger.
Benson was just 36 and ironically before heading out for the night posted in his Instagram a photo of his motorcycle and the words “my Saturday night.”
The Typical Bell
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase has given Le’Veon Bell the freedom to not play in the pre-season so we will have to wait until opening day to see the debut of the former Steelers running back make his debut in green and white colors, the first different jersey for the veteran back since being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After complaining in Pittsburgh about being given too many carries and overworked, Bell has changed his tune and says he is willing to have 500 attempts in order for the Jets to reach the Super Bowl. Yea…OK Le’Veon…whatever.
Nothing changed over the weekend for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Another weekend series and another two out of three losses. Two straight in fact and seven of the last 10. They are now 21 games under .500 and 14 ½ games behind first place. Just pathetic.
August 16, 2019
While Pittsburgh Steelers backup quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger Joshua Dobbs has had some positive plays since joining the team a few years back, he now may be facing a roster elimination over the course of the next three preseason games.
That’s because Mason Rudolph who was drafted last year is thought by many to be the eventual successor to “Big Ben.” That and the emergence of an undrafted kid this year that has the nickname “Duck.” Devlin Hodges has opened eyes thus far at training camp in Latrobe, and in his first NFL appearance last week at Heinz Field, Duck partially led the Pittsburgh offense to a win over Tampa 30-28.
Dobbs vs. Rudolph vs. Hodges Who becomes #2 & #3?
In the process, Hodges completed eight of 14 pass attempts good for 79 yards including a touchdown. Mason Rudolph starts tomorrow night in Pittsburgh when the mighty Kansas City Chiefs come to town but Hodges will get playing time again so says Mike Tomlin. If you are wondering where the nickname Duck comes from, it has nothing to do with football. The explanation from Hodges:
“It’s definitely not because I throw ducks. I won a national duck-calling contest years ago. Lots of times as a QB, if your nickname’s Duck, that’s usually not a good thing.”
Out on TribLive, they have posted a poll asking the question, “If the Steelers were to trade one of these quarterbacks, who would you like to see shipped out?” When I checked the poll this morning, with 411 responses in, the results were this:
Josh Dobbs-82%, Mason Rudolph-10%, Devlin Hodges-9%
Uh oh. Not that these results would have any impact on Mike Tomlin’s decision on who the two backups to Roethlisberger will be but Hodges is doing all he can to unseat one of the two before him. His college credentials are solid. Despite coming out of a small school like Samford University, Hodges graduated as the NCAA FCS all-time king in passing yards with 14,584. That broke the record held by the late Steve McNair that the former Tennessee Titans quarterback set in 1994.
Hodges was also the winner of the Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year three of his four years at Samford. In 2018 he won the Walter Payton Award given to who is deemed the most outstanding offensive player in Division I’s subdivisions. As an indication of his success with Pittsburgh this summer, the “Duck” has taken more reps in practice than any other fourth quarterback on the roster in the last several years.
For the record, last year Hodges completed 388 out of 550 pass attempts for an impressive 70.5% completion rate. In his four years at Samford, Hodges finished with a 69.1% mark. He also went over 4,000 yards passing twice at Samford. His high mark for touchdown passes was 36 in 2016 and he finished with a career total of 111. That’s an average of nearly 28 touchdowns a season.
The downside to Devlin Hodges’ college career is that his interceptions were a bit high. 16 last season and 11 the year before. 41 in four years which is a little over 10 for an average of this four years at Samford. He was also sacked 70 times or 17 ½ per season. But another positive is that he can fill in as a punter. From 2016-2018, Hodges punted 23 times for a 36.0 average.
As for his team, the Samford University Bulldogs led by head coach Chris Hatcher went 6-5, 7-5, 8-4, and 6-5 in Devlin Hodges four years there from 2015-2018 respectively. They made the I-AA/FCS playoff twice in those four years in 2016 and 2017 where they lost in the first round to Youngstown state three years ago 38-24 and then to Kennesaw State in 2017 28-17. In the Youngstown State game, Hodges completed 33 passes and threw for 372 yards including three scores.
In the loss to Kennesaw state, Hodges threw the ball an incredible 66 times, completing 39 while nearly throwing for 400 yards passing (396). He was picked off once and could only find the end zone once. The bottom line is that Devlin “Duck” Hodges is a very serious threat to make this roster and if I were Mike Tomlin, I would send the more than often less impressive Joshua Dobbs packing and take my chance with the two younger men who have shown much more promise.
Tomorrow night UFC 241 goes down in Anaheim, California and for a fight card that has 12 bouts on it, the lineup is very top heavy as far as good matchups go. The main event is the heavyweight championship rematch between the current title holder Daniel Cormier and the man he knocked out to win the belt, Stipe Miocic. Then there is a highly anticipated fight as the co-main seeing Nate Diaz making his return to fight Anthony Pettis.
Before I make my predictions on the major fights of the card, a few comments from some fighters who have reacted to the video TMZ Sports has released showing former champion Conor McGregor punching a patron of a bar in the face after words were exchanged. Three fighters speak their words below, one in support two very critical.
“It's crazy. All media stayed quiet; nobody posted about this. I can't imagine if I punched this guy how many media are gonna post it and talk about me. This is like really, really bad thing. Like, even if this old guy on video punch your face 10 times, you can't punch this guy's face. You can't. This is like impossible. We have to respect all people. I don't understand. I think these people have to go jail, brother. They have to go jail. This happened in Ireland? What happened about Ireland government? ... We guys from Russia have problem with visa, but why this bullshit guy don't have problem with visa in U.S.A? How U.S.A. can give him visa or something like this, respect or job? These people, they have to go jail. This guy McGregor has no class, no respect. This is very bad for sport. Some things he's doing are good for sport, but right now, he without his mind. He lose his mind. It's crazy and government has to smash him.”
“It was crazy, but who knows what that dude said? I’m sure something was said for him to do that. He’s not going to punch somebody in the face for no reason.”
“Somebody get me in contact with the old man. He deserves a real shot of whiskey instead of that trash the little guy was trying to force him to drink.”
No matter what your opinion might be, McGregor is nothing more than a punk. This is a man with two kids and a girlfriend he has yet to marry despite her giving him two children. He may even have a third if the accusations from one Terri Murray are true in which she says she had a one night stand with McGregor in 2017 and nine months later she gave birth to a baby girl. You tell me, does this child below resembles the MMA fighter? Khabib is right…Conor McGregor has ZERO class and has been consistently getting himself into legal trouble most of it in a violent way.
Now I pull out my MMA crystal ball and this is what I think about the big fights of UFC 241 working from the bottom up.
Raphael Assunção vs. Cory Sandhagen (Bantamweight)
Sandhagen is coming off the biggest win of his career when he defeated John Lineker in a decision last April. He has lost just once in his 12 fights that to Jamall Emmers in a unanimous decision while fighting in the Legacy Fighting Alliance in 2017. Assunção on the other hand has been in 33 fights winning 27 but he has fought some of the best fighters of his division. That includes Marlon Moraes, Alijamain Sterling, and T.J. Dillashaw. Assunção also lost to Urijah Faber with no surprise that it was a rear naked choke. I think experience wins the day here and Assunção gets the decision nod.
Derek Brunson vs. Ian Heinisch (Middleweight)
Like Sandhagen, Heinisch is taking a big step up to fight a much more experienced guy in Derek Brunson. Also like Sandhagen, there is only one loss on Ian Heinisch’s record. That loss was to Markus Perez who put an arm triangle on Heinisch to finish him in just one round. Since then, the American born Heinisch has won his last five fights in a row three by KO and two by decision. Brunson once thought to be a contender for a title has had an up and down career. In 26 fights he has lost seven. Two of those seven came in his last three fights where he lost to Israel Adesanya and Ronaldo Souza, two very good fighters.
In fact, Derek Brunson has lost four of his last seven. He is coming off a victory over Elias Theodorou but before beating Lyoto Machida and Dan Kelly, he lost to Anderson Silva and Robert Whitaker. Like Raphael Assunção, he’s fought some of the best MMA guys out there. That will give him the edge and Brunson wins by decision.
Now the top heavy card of UFC 241…
Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa (Middleweight)
This one should be a doozy. Between the two there have been 28 fights and just three losses and they all belong to Romero. Romero lost two of his last three outings to Robert Whitaker in what was supposed to be a title fight but become Romero missed weight it became a non-title bout and then the other loss was a first meeting between the two fighters. Both results were decisions.
For the undefeated Costa, since turning pro in 2012 he has won all of his 12 bouts 11 by knockout and one submission. That means NO ONE has gone the distance yet with the rising star. In his last two fights, Costa knocked out Uriah Hall and received Performance of the Night honors and previous to that was a TKO victory over Johny Hendricks.
This is a fight that could go either way but my gut is telling me Costa remains undefeated winning by decision.
Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz (Welterweight)
This fight is so razor close it can easily go either way. This is the most difficult pick of the night for sure. What I can say is that Nate Diaz is absolutely one of the most dangerous fighters in all of MMA. He is well schooled in all aspects of mixed martial arts and can beat you in a number of ways be it by striking, on the ground, or with kicks. He likes to talk about how he is one of the originals and that he wants to beat the “Wheaties box dude” that is Anthony Pettis who once appeared on the cereal box.
Diaz began his pro career in 2004 and along his fighting path has lost 11 of 19 fights while knocking out just four opponents but submitting another 12. He has had just one shot at a UFC title and in that he lost to Benson Henderson by decision. Nate Diaz was however, the WEC light champion a belt he won by submitting Hermes Franca in 2006 which led to his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter 5 which he won.
Nate Diaz has fought the some of the best fighters of his era losing to men like Clay Guida, Gray Maynard, Rory McDonald, Henderson, Josh Thomson, Rafael dos Anjos, and Conor McGregor. He has beaten the likes of McGregor, Michael Johnson, Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone, Takanori Gomi, Melvin Guillard, and Manny Gamburyan.
As for Pettis, he’s been around for a long time too getting his start in 2007. He has won a UFC title, the lightweight belt when he submitted Benson Henderson on August 31, 2013. Many will remember that fight for the crazy head kick Pettis landed when he used the Octagon cage as a springboard to throw the kick. But his competition has been much stiffer that that of Diaz’s.
Pettis also lost to Clay Guida, and fought Eddie Alvarez (loss), Rafael dos Anjos (L), Gilbert Melendez (win), Donald Cerrone (W), Joe Lauzon (W), Jeremy Stephens (W), Henderson (two wins), Edson Barboza (L), Max Holloway (L), Charles Oliveira (W), Jim Miller (W), Dustin Poirier (L), Michael Chiesa (W), Tony Ferguson (L), and in his last fight a spectacular knockout of Stephen Thompson that saw “The Wonder Boy” go to sleep.
When the first round of this fight begins, don’t go looking for a beer. This is going to be a war from the get-go. Both men have said there will be no ground game it’s toe-to-toe. If that becomes the case, watch for Diaz to get bloody. He’s a bleeder but has a granite chin. He’s only been knocked out once that to Josh Thomson who stopped Diaz with a barrage of head kicks and punches.
Anthony Pettis has been knocked out twice. Tony Ferguson scored a TKO when Pettis’s corner put an end to that affair. Max Holloway finished Pettis with a TKO using a body kick and following it up with strikes. If this fight does go the ground, I believe Diaz has a MAJOR advantage. Nate Diaz can stop you in an array of moves on the ground.
Leading up to this fight, Anthony Pettis has done most of the yapping while in his usual self, Nate Diaz is just the cool, laid back dude who doesn’t talk a lot of smack and says F-YOU to everyone. He throws caution to the wind and could not care any less about what anyone thinks evident of his lighting up of what he said was CBD during his open workout and not a blunt or joint as some may have expected.
Again, this is an EXTREMELY difficult fight to pick. My gut says Pettis wins in some fashion, but my brain is saying that Nate Diaz is such a warrior and he never panics so I’m going to use my head and say that Diaz wins by submission in the third round.
Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic (Heavyweight)
Now for the big one…literally. Stipe Miocic is a big dude. He’s 6’4” and is about 242 pounds. Daniel Cormier is only 5’11” so he gives away five inches in height. At the face offs the other day, Miocic made the champion look small. While he was champion, Miocic defended his title three times which is the most in UFC history for his division. He has 18 wins and just three losses on his record, last year’s loss to Cormier and a loss to Junior dos Santos and Stefan Struve where “The Skyscraper” scored a TKO and the also former champion dos Santos getting the unanimous decision.
In between losing to dos Santos and then Cormier, Stipe Miocic won the belt from Fabricio Werdum but along the way to that title bout he had won six straight fights some before winning the title and then those three defenses as he defeated Alistair Overeem, dos Santos by TKO, and then silencing the monster known as Francis Ngannou.
Daniel Cormier will stand across of Miocic again, shocking him last year with an unexpected knockout and the former Olympian loves to boast about how he is the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). But he has not earned that label because there is a man out there who convincingly defeated Cormier…twice. Jon Jones was the victor and the light heavyweight champion has not lost yet. Jones may be the G.O.A.T. and not Cormier.
But Cormier does have a nice resume. He competed in the 2004 Olympic games but finished in fourth place. He was the Strikeforce heavyweight champion winning the belt from Josh Barnett. He also won a title in the King of the Cage organization and in the XMMA league. As well known he was the light heavyweight champion but won that belt when it was vacated by Jones who had to forfeit his title because of his PED usage.
Then Cormier became a two-division champion simultaneously by scoring the win over Miocic last year. 22 fights total and just one loss OFFICIALLY. When Jon Jones beat him the second time around, that decision was turned into a no contest because of the PED violation. Jones knocked him out with a head kick that left Cormier crying in the Octagon afterwards.
You talk about someone that has another fighter’s number and that would be Jon Jones simply owning Daniel Cormier. If they fought 10 more times, Jones would win them all. For that reason, he can’t be the G.O.A.T. But he talks like it anyway. Cormier has won seven straight fights split by the no contest and in his 22 wins has scored 10 knockouts and five submissions.
Again, this fight is difficult to pick. I think the first meeting was a fluke and this time if they start exchanging strikes it will be Miocic who gets the better of it. Cormier may be looking to go with his bread-and-butter of getting his opponent in a clinch and then riding him to the canvas where he uses his body weight to gain the advantage in domination of controlling the clock. Is Miocic strong enough to escape that? I’m not sure.
I believe the end result will be Miocic becoming the first man to stop Daniel Cormier and it will come by way of strikes and score a TKO when the referee calls that bout to a halt.
August 15, 2019
As the Pittsburgh Steelers opened their 2019 preseason with a rather impressive victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-28 on Friday night, the weekend ended on a sad note when their wide receivers coach Darryl Drake suddenly passed away early Sunday morning at the young age of 62.
The official cause of his death has not been released yet but it affected the team deeply. The official announcement from President Art Rooney II was as follows:
“We are at a loss for words following Darryl Drake's passing this morning. Darryl had such an impact on the players he coached and everyone he worked with throughout his entire career. He was a passionate coach and had a tremendous spirit toward life, his family, his faith, and the game of football. Our prayers and thoughts are with his wife, Sheila, his three daughters, his grandchildren, and his entire family during this difficult time.”
Mike Tomlin also spoke to the media regarding the loss of his coach:
“Darryl was a close friend and had a tremendous impact on my coaching career. He was an amazing husband, father, and grandfather, and it is difficult to put into words the grief our entire team is going through right now. Darryl loved the game of football and every player he ever coached. We will use our faith to guide us and help his family throughout this difficult time. My heart and our prayers are with his wife, Sheila, and Darryl's entire family.”
This was just the second season on the sidelines with Pittsburgh for Drake where he had previously held the same position with the Arizona Cardinals from 2013-2017 and with the Chicago Bears from 2004-2012. Drake also played football, first for Western Kentucky University as a wide receiver finishing his career there in 1978. He did make it to the pro level joining the Washington Redskins in 1979 then heading north where he played in the Canadian Football League with the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1981 then returned to the NFL for a short stint with the Cincinnati Bengals in 1983.
Before coming to the NFL, Drake held a number of positions for these college teams:
A New Level of Ridiculousness
The Antonio Brown saga has reached a new level of stupidity. Not only has the former Steelers standout sidelined himself with an injury to his feet from going unprotected into a Cryotherapy chamber in France, now comes word that he is refusing to report to the Oakland Raiders because the NFL will not allow him to wear the helmet he has placed on his head for the last 10 years.
Because his helmet of choice exceeded the 10-year age limit, the league has ruled he can not use it. Therefore, Brown is threatening retiring over the issue and at worst if he is forced to wear it, he has indicated that he will hold the National Football League liable if he suffers a head injury while wearing the helmet they are forcing him to wear.
Even more idiotic is that his new head coach Jon Gruden stands behind him on the issue. However, what else would Gruden say anyway? His front office gave A.B. millions of dollars in a trade with Pittsburgh to play in Silver and Black and not Black and Gold so this is what “Chuckie” said:
“There's been a lot of reports out there. I can't say I agree with all of them. But I support this guy. I think that's what needs to be said. This foot injury wasn't his fault. This was a total accident. It really wasn't his fault and it's a serious injury. I know some people are smarting at it, but it's really not a laughing matter. The guy was hurt, he's innocent, and he didn't do anything wrong. And the helmet thing is a personal matter to him. He has a strong feeling about what he's worn on his head and we're supporting him. Whatever his decision is, we'll stand by it, but we're confident that he's going to be a huge factor for the Raiders for years to come.”
Good luck with that Gruden. The Raiders are in for a very long and trying season if Brown does in fact end up showing up. But the longer he is out, the more drama there will be for the league’s absolute #1 drama queen.
Riding the Tank
In the NBA often you will hear the term “tanking.” That usually refers to a team that stops trying to win games in an effort to finish with a worse record so that they can obtain a better draft pick. It appears that the Pittsburgh Pirates are “tanking” in Major League Baseball. The first half of the season prior to the All-Star Break, the Bucs were competitive and even within reach of a wild card or better a division title shot.
On Sunday, July 7 the weekend before the break, Pittsburgh was 44-45 and 2 ½ games behind first place. Since that time, the team has gone 3-24. That’s right you did not read wrong. They have lost 24 of their last 27 including their eighth straight loss yesterday to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates have lost nine of their last 10 and their season was over a long time ago. They are now 15 ½ games back in last place and they WILL NOT be catching fourth place Cincinnati who holds an 8 ½ game lead over the hapless Buccos.
It’s gotten so bad for Pittsburgh that they have now given up 644 runs to opponents this season while scoring 100 less. It will be interesting to see how many fans show up at PNC Park the rest of the way for the final 45 games. The last time the Pirates were home on August 7, only 12,885 showed up to watch the Milwaukee Brewers hammer the Bucs 8-3. First half offensive star Josh Bell has slumped as well in the second half now hitting .284 and only having 29 home runs has relinquished the RBI lead to Freddie Freeman who with 95 runs batted in is now two ahead of Bell. Once among the home run leaders, Bell is not in the pack anymore falling far behind the N.L. leader Christian Yelich who has smacked 39. While the Pirates’ faithful did not expect a division title this season and perhaps not even a wild card, this is not what they thought would be the end result.
A Real ZZZZZ Fest
This past Saturday MMA was back in action with “UFC Fight Night: Shevchenko vs. Carmouche 2.” If you hung around long enough to watch the main even between flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche, did you then make it through all five rounds? In a very uneventful bout, Shevchenko played it safe and carried Carmouche for five rounds, never really putting her in much danger and for Carmouche, she never even got close enough to the champion to sway the judges in her favor.
It was a “safely” fought fight for the champion which came to a surprise after her tremendous knockout by a head kick to Jessica Eye her last time out. All three judges scored the fight 50-45 and it was truthfully that much of a disparity. The highlight of this card had to be in the co-main event where Vicente Luque rearranged the face of Mike Perry over three rounds and winning a split decision in a fight that really could have gone either way. But Perry had his nose broken in what has to be the worst broken nose ever in the MMA.
Coming next weekend is one hell of a card at UFC 241 when the rematch between heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former champ Stipe Miocic goes down. Miocic tries to get his belt back from the man who took it and he says he will become champion again. In the co-main, it should be fight of the night when two men who have have smack talked each other for years and were supposed to fight earlier than this go at it. Anthony Pettis takes on the returing Nate Diaz in what even might end up being the fight of the year.
Yoel Romero fights Paulo Costa in what should also be a great fight and then there are nine other fights on the card. My predicions on the big fights of the main card come later this week. In other UFC news, another great matchup was made this weekend when at UFC 243, Dan Hooker gets into the Octagon with Al Iaquinta on October 5 in Australia. That will on the same card as the middleweight title bout between Israel Adesanya and Robert Whitaker.
Simply the Best
In other sports news, if you like gymnastics then you know that Simone Biles has won the United States title this past weekend and she did it with emphasis. She became the first woman in almost 70 years to win a sixth American title. She also landed what is deemed a very difficult triple double.
Ex-Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and current Oakland Raider Antonio Brown simply can not stay out of the headlines.
Brown who has missed most of Oakland’s training camp thus far, has not participated because of what was originally termed a “foot issue.” Now the real reason has surfaced. A.B. is not taking part with team practices because he put himself into a cryogenic chamber but did so without the necessary footwear.
As a result, he suffered frostbite to his feet and this is the reason he is not taking part in training camp. The facility Brown was at was in France which makes this situation more ridiculous. There are plenty of such chambers here in the U.S. so why go overseas for use of the machine?
Also why not just jump in a tub of ice water like most athletes do? Brown is a prima donna and has such a big ego he probably ignored any advice on properly using a cryogenic chamber and now he’s paying the price. Such injury cause by cold therapy such as this is not uncommon and track star Justin Gatlin experienced the same misfortune.
While a guest of TMZ Sports this week, Gatlin said the following:
“It was a disaster. I had, like, boils and blisters all over my ankles. He's not going to be able to run those routes properly without healing his feet totally. Every day I had to get those blisters popped by hand by a therapist. It just got really, really bad.”
How bad? Take a look…
As the NFL season inches closer, the Cleveland Brown believers appear to still be onboard. Over on theScore.com they are looking ahead to the season.
AFC North betting preview and predictions
C Jackson Cowart, theScore.com
The Cleveland Browns are good, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in transition, and Marvin Lewis is not the coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. What's going on in the AFC North? Arguably no division saw bigger turnover in the offseason than this one, with Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell leaving town and Odell Beckham Jr. joining the mix in Cleveland. The AFC North is one of just two divisions with a plus-money favorite (NFC North), and while bettors are fading the Browns as division winners, they're pounding them as Super Bowl contenders.
Here are the best bets, value plays, and picks to avoid in the AFC North for 2019.
Steelers under 9 wins (Even)
Pittsburgh won nine games last year, then lost the core of what made the team so dangerous the past few seasons. However, bettors are still riding the over on the Steelers' win total and betting them to a tie atop the division at 7-5 odds.
Brown and Bell are gone, and even the biggest fans of JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner can acknowledge the downgrade for a team that's relied on offensive firepower for years. The defense was average across the board last season, with a near-worst special teams unit. Is there any reason to expect improvement in 2019?
Ben Roethlisberger led the league with a career-high 5,129 passing yards last year but owned a virtually identical touchdown and interception rate from his 2017 season, so it's hard to expect growth for the 37-year-old quarterback.
Better chemistry is really the only selling point for improvement, and that's not enough to replace two All-Pro offensive talents and fix a leaky defense.
Bet to avoid
Anything on the Browns
Let's be honest here, we have no idea what's going to happen in Cleveland this year. Improvement feels imminent from last season's 7-8-1 record - especially after acquiring arguably the most talented receiver in football - but it's dangerous placing too much stock in a young team.
Baker Mayfield may be a future star, but he also ranked 22nd in quarterback rating (55.7) in his 14-game debut and showed his youth with high INTs (14) and a low completion percentage (63.8). The defense, littered with young stars, ranked 27th in Pro Football Focus' team grades in 2018, and Cleveland's special teams unit was 30th.
It's also foolish to chase the market, which has already pummeled the Browns' odds into the ground to win the Super Bowl (20-1) and AFC (8-1). If you think Year 2 is the time to bet on Cleveland's storybook season, all the power to you. It's smarter to wait.