These refreshing sports notes are locked in a battle to see who starts! (Not really. But it’s a deception you like to buy into.)
• Kenny Pickett looks great in pre-season games. But he faced 100% vanilla defenses. Many media pundits want Pickett to start Week 1. Citizens do too. But think about Week 2: Pickett vs. New England and Bill Belichick’s defense. Better to wait. Mitch Trubisky didn’t lose his job, anyway. Pickett will experience culture shock every time he plays in the regular season for the first time. But Belichick could crush Pickett’s soul. Like legendary Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has done with so many rookie quarterbacks.
• Quarterback “competition” was never a competition. The media that presented it as such took the lazy way of content.
• Mason Rudolph deserves recognition for his professionalism. He probably got lied to that he had a chance to start. Rudolph probably believed that lie. Rudolph has had a very good pre-season so far. He never complained. He is always in competition and gives 100%. Rudolph is a capable backup and a credit to the Steelers.
• Week 3 in Cleveland will determine the direction of the Steelers’ season. If the Steelers can’t beat the Browns with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, the Steelers aren’t a playoff team. You can’t just be better than bad teams. (But then you can turn to Pickett.)
• When the Steelers sift through other teams’ cutlists for depth at the forefront, remember this: They should have started Melvin Ingram ahead of Alex Highsmith last season. Ingram wouldn’t have asked out. Ingram may still be there. Highsmith was pretty mediocre. This situation has deteriorated.
• If the Steelers are to be in the playoffs all season, guard James Daniels must provide some glue on the offensive line; cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon needs to play like he did at the end of last season; Highsmith must be better than average; Larry Ogunjobi must make the defensive line dominant; wide receiver Chase Claypool and tight end Pat Freiermuth need to use their size to make plays in the middle of the field and in the red zone; an inside linebacker besides Myles Jack must not stink.
• Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams ripped off the helmets of two Cincinnati Bengals and threw them with malicious intent during a joint practice on Thursday. If Cleveland’s Myles Garrett was suspended six games for throwing a helmet in 2019, Donald should get at least the same. This has happened in practice, but this does not lessen the danger. But, according to the NFL, teams are responsible for disciplining their practices.
• The idea of joint practices is stupid. Why? Because things can get out of control like they did with Donald. This is much less likely in normal practice. If something untoward happens, it’s easier to keep it in-house. What do we gain in joint practices? If teams need an additional pre-season game, add the one that was removed.
More Mark Madden
• Mark Madden: The offensive line is a monument to Steelers mismanagement
• Mark Madden’s Hot Take: Steelers must manage Kenny Pickett’s future wisely
• Mark Madden: Devin Bush’s disappointing play and attitude impact entire Steelers defense
• Phil Kessel has signed a one-year deal with Vegas for $1.5m. He could lose more than that at the Vegas poker tables. His offer should include free meals. Kessel likes to bet. He’ll be happy in Vegas if he’s potentially bankrupt. Too bad the Golden Knights stink now. They peaked in their expansion year and have been mismanaged ever since.
• If Kessel plays the first eight games of the season, he becomes the NHL’s all-time leader for consecutive games played at 990. Which totally delegitimizes the record. Kessel plays like it’s an unchecked men’s league. He never throws a punch and rarely absorbs one. Kessel is the furthest thing from an “iron man”. Respect the player, but not this record.
• Oneil Cruz hit a single that traveled 122.4 mph on Wednesday. It’s a Statcast record, whatever that means. The Pirates lost that game, 14-2. Cruz hits .199. The Pirates are 30 games under .500. But that 122.4mph single made headlines. Owner Bob Nutting will never feel pressured to win if the positive is always emphasized.
• What’s better, a single that rolls at 200 km/h or a double that rolls at a less spectacular speed?
• A local publication ran a column asking Nutting if he is proud of what the Pirates are and telling him that Roberto Clemente would be ashamed. Nutting is proud. He runs the Pirates exactly as he intended when he bought them: to maximize profits and increase franchise value. Nutting may not be 100% sure who Clemente is. Sacrificing even a fraction of profit to win is not on Nutting’s agenda.
• Clemente is a Pirates icon. He’s the biggest player on the team. He spent his entire career in Pittsburgh. But if Clemente was playing for the Pirates now, his exit speed would be measured by how fast he escaped Pittsburgh after hitting free agency.
• The PGA has improved its tour at the pace of its golfers making many more millions. Rory McIlroy and his do-gooders should send a thank-you note to LIV Golf. LIV was the catalyst for the PGA to pay what it should have paid a long time ago. A rival league has never been bad for any sport.