The Week That Was In Pittsburgh Sports: Week of 3/30

Five storylines in Week 3 without sports...

Matt Koll
April 03, 2020 - 11:17 am
Derek Shelton and coaching staff

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

I hope you're hanging in there in another week without live sports events. Here's a wrap of the week with some things you may have missed in your quarantine time.

5. Jake N' Bake

In video conference call (we haven't seen any of those lately) this week, Mike Sullivan was surprisingly happy to meet with media members and just talk some hockey with his framed Sidney Crosby jersey in the background. Sully is still hopeful that we will see hockey again before this season ends. He talked about how players are trying to stay in shape and how they may even be a 2-week period to ramp things back up before actual play can begin again.

But what was interesting to me was the confirmation Sullivan gave that Jake Guentzel...you know that guy that scored 40 goals last season and was on his way to another similar season before he got hurt earlier in the year? Yeah, he would likely be back and ready to go for any kind of playoff run the Penguins go on. What was originally a hopeful maybe turned into an almost definite with the timeline being pushed back. Forget the trade deadline, how 'bout a little coronavirus add to a Cup contender? 

Problem is, of course, we just may not even see the rest of this season. Here's to holding out hope that the NHL can postpone things until later in the summer, play into August and September to find a Stanley Cup champion, and then figure out a shortened version of the next season that makes some sense. At least that's what I'm rooting for. 

4. NFL Expanded Playoffs

It was ratified and approved by the players in the new CBA they agreed to a couple weeks ago, but this week the owners put their stamp of approval of the expansion of the playoffs. Each conference will now have a 7th seed and only the top seed will earn a first-round bye. From what I've heard and seen, not everyone approves of this move. 

I see it as...more meaningful games. A tripleheader on Wild Card weekend. I'm not going to complain about that. Even if one game isn't great, you still have a boatload after that figure to be pretty good. Last year, we saw division winners go down. In fact, almost every year we see an upset in the Wild Card round. So why not in a potential 7-2 seed matchup? 

Also, with the heightened importance on gaining that top overall seed, we may not see as much benching of the starters late in the season as we have in the past. If you've got a shot, even an outside chance, of avoiding a round of the playoffs entirely on your way to the Super Bowl, why not go for it with all you have? I'm all for this setup and excited for it.  

3. 99 Problems But Draft Prep Ain't One 

That's basically what Kevin Colbert said via conference call earlier this week. He detailed the changes to draft preparation in that you can't go to Pro Days or have any in-person visits, but he said that he and his scouts have already gotten 3-4 looks at every prospect they are interested in and has "no complaints" about the meeting and interviews he has had in this new virtual world. 

He even went so far as to say that this is a good year not to have a first round pick with all the uncertainty around not meeting with players, citing the importance of bringing in Minkah Fitzpatrick. 

Related: https://937thefan.radio.com/articles/feature-article/steelers-te-eric-ebron-says-he-s-ready-to-win

I think this has been one of the more overblown stories in the past few weeks. Every team is in the same boat. No one team is gaining an advantage here. While you can't go to each prospects school and sit down to dinner with him and his parents and his coaches and his training staff and his high school coach and on and on and on...this is 2020. There have never been more ways to communicate with people than today. Video calls, conference calls, abundant game film, it's all there. The draft is still being held on April 23 through the 25th, and I think the Steelers, and other teams, will be fine. 

2. Golf Course Controversy 

Despite neighboring states having their courses open to the public, Pennsylvania has shut it down. This has caused much debate across the sports landscape here locally. Does it make sense to have them closed or can people be socially responsible enough to have them opened for enjoyment? 

I think this is a matter of perspective. Could some, maybe even most (although that might be stretch) people handle being on a golf course while maintaining social distancing? Yes. But is golf really a necessity at this point? Is it worth putting more people at risk, not only the golfers but the people working the course and cleaning up after the people using the course? My inclination is to say no. 

I deeply feel for the owners of these courses, it's devastating to have to close business temporarily. Especially as the timeline to return to normalcy remains so fluid and the weather gets nicer. I just think at this current time, it's best to keep it the way it is. 

1. No Home Opener 

It was supposed to be Derek Shelton's debut as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was supposed to be the first time he would jog out of the clubhouse as the head honcho of a Major League team with the home crowd cheering for him. It was a sunny Thursday. One that would have been perfect for PNC Park to shine in all its glory.  But instead we got rather depressing overhead shots of an empty stadium, another stark reminder of the times. 

When will we see baseball again? Again, like everything, who knows. It looks more and more like June is out of the picture and some time in July makes sense. How many games will they get in? How do they cut down the schedule and decide what games to play? Will fans be allowed in the stadium? All still part of the mess to be cleaned up. ​But one thing was clear this week, we missed out on a great American tradition by not being able to celebrate Opening Day together. 

Hopefully we can, though, sooner rather later. And it will make it that much sweeter when we finally do. 

 

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