The Week That Was In Pittsburgh Sports: Week of March 23

Five things that happened in Week 2 without live sports

Matt Koll
March 27, 2020 - 11:31 am
Jameis Winston

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Another week without live games, but the sports world never stops turning. Here's a list of five things in Pittsburgh sports from this week, with my take on them sprinkled in. 

5. Cueeeeeto Cueeeeeeto 

Yes, I know it happened back in 2013. But it was awesome to re-live wasn't it? There were actually two opportunities to do so this week, the first from AT&T SportsNet on Tuesday night, replaying the entire TBS broadcast. Then again on Thursday, when did the same streaming it on social media. 

It's one of those events that will never get old. The blackout crowd. The famous chant that many people are convinced led to Reds starter Johnny Cueto dropping the ball out of his glove and then promptly giving up home run to Russell Martin on the very next pitch. Having been there that night, it was great reminisce on much brighter days for the Pirates in what ended up being the best ticket I've ever paid for. And it's not even close. 

Who knows when the Pirates will get back to that point. Right now it's hard to even imagine a baseball game being played with the state of the nation. But when it happens again, it will be hard to duplicate that night and that atmosphere. The culmination of 20 years of losing and the release of all the pent up frustration into jubilation was something every Pirate fan will never forget. It really can't be celebrated enough. 

4. NHL Season Implications 

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford spoke with reporters this week and seemed optimistic about hockey being played at some point. Everyone, including Rutherford, is in a holding pattern on that. What is it going to look like when it does return? How late will the season go? Pens captain Sidney Crosby expressed his opinion in a conference call with other Metro division players that he would like to jump right into the postseason. That's rather convenient for a player whose team would be in said playoffs. 

All options seem to be on the table, from playing into August and possibly even awarding a Stanley Cup in September to cancelling the rest of the season altogether. Rutherford also brought up a hidden angle to this whole thing this week, that if and when we get going again, the Penguins would greatly benefit from having Jake Guentzel likely back and ready to go. Forget a trade deadline, how 'bout a little coronavirus pause edition of a 40 goal scorer? 

As I said on The Early Morning Show this week, I personally would be OK with a season continuing into August/September to award a Stanley Cup. Then, start the next season on January 1st. Have a Winter Classic game or two if you'd like. Celebrate the new year with a new NHL season. Play 50ish regular season games. Award another Stanley Cup on regular league time. I don't want any opportunities for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to win more championships be wasted. Who knows how much time is left for them in their careers or at least playing at a high level. A shortened season would add more excitement and I personally don't think it would cheapen whichever team would win the subsequent title. But who knows what will end up happening here. 

3. Let's Talk Jameis 

Well, if you've listened to 93.7 The Fan at all this past week...and particularly from 2-6 pm with The PM Team, you've likely caught some Jameis Winston talk. The idea of the Steelers acquiring him to back up Ben Roethlisberger has really taken off. Football experts and former players from around the league have weighed in on the speculation and many endorse it making sense. 

The PM Team is all about it. The Fan Morning Show is a little more apprehensive. Colin Dunlap says that while Winston would be better than Mason Rudolph, it doesn't make sense money-wise. Chris Mack doesn't like the money or the player. He doesn't want a guy who threw 30 INT's last season backing up a starter. He wants more reliability. 

I have my doubts about the money as well. It seems like Jameis would drive too hard a bargain. But the longer this thing goes on (he hasn't been signed as of Friday morning) the more his price may go down and the more it makes sense for the Steelers to make a run at him. The other angle I wonder about is how well Winston would take to being a backup at just 26 years old and, more importantly, how Ben Roethlisberger would take to having another threat at the QB position behind him. In a perfect world, Jameis to the Steelers makes sense. A lot of sense. Did you see the combo of Mason and Duck last season? But I don't think it will happen. Also in a perfect world, I would have loved to see a guy like Case Keenum be brought in to back up Ben. As it stands now, I think all talks of this might be rendered moot.  

2. Eric Ebron Concerns? 

Arguably the Steelers biggest free agent acquisition this offseason, Eric Ebron was brought in on a 2-year contract worth $12 million late last week. Ebron brings with him a season in which he caught 13 touchdowns in his past...but also some questions about his personality. 

Colts writer Bob Kravitz of The Athletic, a man whose knowledge and information about the team may be unmatched, laid out how things ended in Indianapolis on The Fan Morning Show saying, "I'm sure the Steelers did their due diligence, but the reason the Colts let him go is because they felt he quit on them this season. He had, I think it was an ankle, that the team wasn't even aware was an issue and then all of the sudden he said, 'That's it, I'm shutting it down.' I remember asking Chris Ballard the GM, 'What are you going to do with Eric Ebron?' and he looked me straight in the eye and said, 'Yeah, we're done with him. We're moving on.' So, if you get him in the right frame of mind, he's a very productive guy. But he's a little bit mercurial I guess is the word I would use." 

Related: 'It's Just A Matter Of Whether Eric Is Ready To Grow Up'

Uh oh. 

Then he responded to an Andrew Fillipponi tweet about what an NFL scout about him with this. 

Is this something to be concerned about? It is certainly something that can't be ignored. The hope is that a veteran laden locker room, a stable franchise and a high level QB will help to keep his somewhat controversial personality in-check. But we have, of course, seen how that kind of thing can get out of hand...

1. Kevin Colbert Speaks 

The Steelers GM, as a lot of us have, jumped on video conference call with this week. He addressed a few offseason topics, including the franchise tag placed on Bud Dupree and the still ongoing contract negotiation with him. Colbert maintained what has been his sentiment all along: they want to lock him up on a long term deal. Keep him a Steeler. Even, for the rest of his career, possibly. 

I don't know about you, but that makes me a little nervous. I think Colbert may be jumping the gun on this. Let's not forget that a year ago today, much of the thought and talk about Dupree was that he was on his way to becoming a 1st round bust. He had a tremendous 2019 season, there's no denying that. 

But it was one season. 

Wouldn't you like to see him repeat, or at least come close to repeating that kind of performance again before you start talking about "Steeler for life?" I'm still wondering if that was the perfect storm of contract motivation and having a monster on the other side of him in TJ Watt that we saw last year. Also, Colbert can say this but it doesn't mean it makes this a for sure thing. If the money figures aren't right or close on either side, all "want" goes out the window. It's about brass tax. The Le'Veon Bell situation showed us just how far the Steelers are willing to go in that kind of situation.

Colbert also said that the Steelers are putting a bit of a pause on free agency and said that his scouting department will be put to the test but can still pass with flying colors at this year's NFL Draft despite not having as many personal visits with prospects, having medical information be more limited and having travel restrictions. 

At this point, I don't see a really pressing need that can't be addressed via draft. Go out and get an offensive playmaker in the 2nd and maybe even 3rd rounds. Another depth signing at linebacker, along the offensive line and at safety would be nice, though. 

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