The Week That Was In Pittsburgh Sports

Violations, suspensions, proposals & a perfect TV appearance

Matt Koll
February 21, 2020 - 11:50 am
Mike Tomlin

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Here's the big stories in Pittsburgh sports this week, wrapped up in a box, with some opinion on top.

5. NFL Changes Coming? 

Ok, not directly Pittsburgh here but a proposal was made this week by NFL owners to make some changes to the NFL season as we know it, as soon as 2020. Part of that includes an expanded playoff field, with one team added per conference as well as a 17-game regular season. 

I love what the new construct would be for the postseason. I like the added separation between the 1 and 2 seeds per conference with only the top seed earning that first round bye. I don't think the added team would water down the playoffs, either. History has shown there have been a lot more 10 and 9 win teams that have just missed the playoffs than the 8 or 7 win teams people are concerned about getting in, shown here: 

What I don't like so much is the 17-game schedule idea. It's just odd. Literally. It would be an uneven amount of home and away games and I fear there would be a tremendous amount of neutral site games to make up for it that would get old quickly. 

Some top players in the league like JJ Watt and Richard Sherman have already been outspoken against this. There are some money issues to be worked through clearly, but I think we will eventually land on 18 games in the regular season and 2 preseason, with the expanded playoffs. That's the end goal for the league to make even more money. They just knew the players wouldn't get on-board right away with 18 games. We may just have to deal with the wonky-ness in between to get there. 

4. Pablo Reyes Suspended  

Pirates utilityman Pablo Reyes was suspended 80 games for PED's this week. Hey, there are a lot of different things going on with the Bucs. It's a new regime, Josh Bell has a new throwing motion, they're trying to figure out how to sell and market this team. 

Related: Pitcher Derek Holland Making A Good Impression On Pirates

But almost comically this story came to light. Reyes was caught using Boldenone. What is that, you ask? Well, it's an androgen and anabolic steroid medication used in veterinary medicine, mainly in horses. 

Huh.

And in case you were wondering, Reyes hit .203 in 143 at-bat's in 2019, with 2 HR and 19 RBI. Which brings 2 things to mind for me: 

    A. What would his stats have been without the PED's?

    ​B. This is yet another example that steroids don't give you talent. You've got to have the goods first. 

3. Pitt's Violations 

This was another almost comedic story. It was announced on Thursday that both the men's basketball and football programs were in NCAA violation for exceeding the "permissible about of countable coaches." Bascially, they had too many assistants telling players things and being involved in practices. At least that's how I understand it. 

This seems like just one of these silly rules that the NCAA has that no one outside those directly involved with these programs knows or cares about. The big things are that this didn't happen under Jeff Capel, Pitt will not have any scholarships taken away or postseason bans and it is a 3-year probation, which essentially means nothing. 

Kevin Stallings is made to suffer most really, as he will have to be suspended for 30% of his first year back into coaching if another school somehow wants to hire him. 

They even discovered that Stallings and his staff developed a warning system for when school administrators got too close to the gym. They would send a text and sound a buzzer to get the extra coaches out of there so administration wouldn't see it. 

This all culminated, of course, into a laughable 24-41 record overall with a 4-32 conference record in two years under Stallings. A hole that Jeff Capel and the Panthers are still trying to work their way out of. 

2. Penguins Among Eastern Conference Elite 

I look at Thursday's 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs as a bit of a throw away game. If Toronto had rolled over yet again against the Pens after they beat them down 5-2 earlier in the week...at home...with that talented of a roster and Leafs fans ready to pounce all over them...then they would have had absolutely no backbone and I would have been shocked. 

What the Penguins have done, for me, is establish themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders and they proven over the past few weeks that they can hang with the big boys in the Eastern Conference. 

As of Friday, they stand tied with the Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan division despite working through an onslaught of injuries that they still haven't seen the light at the end of the tunnel with. We'll see how they play against Washington on Sunday, but Jason Zucker has come in and fit perfectly on the first line with Sid and Simon. The blue line is deep, even without John Marino and before Brian Dumoulin's return. They've got two goalies rolling. Jim Rutherford will likely make another trade before Monday's deadline for a depth, veteran forward and/or defenseman. 

I don't think it's incredibly yinzer or hyperbole to say that they have the best coach in the league, the best general manager in the league and at times, and he showed it again on Tuesday, at times still the best player in the league. 

When those things are true, you've got a shot. 

1. Mike Tomlin's ESPN Blast 

Coach T had heard enough. 

It was truly one of his greatest moments as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, showing up on ESPN's hot take fest "First Take" and blasting the network for its coverage of the Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph incident. Tomlin was staunch in his defense of Rudolph, saying that he talked to people within the Browns organization about it and was never alerted to a racial slur being uttered on the field. 

Rarely does Tomlin take center stage in the media, but when he does, it's all business. His appearance has virtually shut down any follow-up speculation or pursuit of Garrett's claim to this point and it shows the power of his voice. It might be easy to lose sight of how much his words mean here in Pittsburgh on a broader scale, but this was the perfect punch, or maybe helmet swing, to the claims of racism that Rudolph needed publicly. 

This is clearly many reasons why, for all his faults in the playoffs of late, in in-game decisions, in losing challenges, Mike Tomlin is still firmly the Steelers chosen leader. 

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