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The Pittsburgh Penguins will play 9 more regular season games in the next 2 weeks. Lately, the team has been on a roll, their 6 game winning streak abruptly ending last night, at home against the New Jersey Devils. Despite the loss, it does not spell trouble for the team's playoff hopes. Currently, the Penguins sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of fourth place New York Islanders, who play the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening. Given this closeness, Pittsburgh must continue to play consistently in order to qualify for the 2016 NHL playoffs. The Penguins are 7-2 over their last 9 games. Sidney Crosby had a 12 game point streak. Kris Letang has been registering points like a crazed maniac. The defense is holding it down, along with the goaltending play. IF Pittsburgh can continue to score, play timely defense, and earn points, the team will be in prime position to extend its playoff run to 10 consecutive seasons. However, the power play must improve. 6 for its previous 63 attempts is not good enough. Opportunities in the playoffs come at a premium. The Penguins cannot afford to waste chances with the man advantage to put goals on the board.
The road ahead is not easy with games at Detroit and the NY Rangers on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. As the Pens are battling both clubs in the standings. Also keep in mind the Pens play the Flyers twice in the final 9, which includes dates with the Nashville Predators (home), NY Islanders (away), and the NHL's best, Washington Capitals (away). Certainly, if the Penguins can somehow navigate these games, a slot in the NHL's postseason will be deserved.
Power to our Penguins and let's continue to watch the excitement unfold.
This is the continuation of my ATP (All Time Pirates) series but I have opted to change the name to make it a little more obvious what is covered in the topic. As a quick recap this is a running series of mine that digs into the Pirates past and takes a look at it from various different angles. This particular exercise is looking at it from the player's place of birth. Each US state, the District of Columbia and each foreign country will be investigated in the attempt to build a team. For more specifics check out the introductory post here.
Part XII is the last section of the exercise before we get to the overall team power rankings which will close this series out. In this part I take a look at pitchers from class A locations. Class A locations are simply the states of Pennsylvania and California because they have produced a ton of Pittsburgh Pirates over the years. Together they account for 166 pitchers and that's more than the combined total from the 31 states who have produced the least pitchers for the Pirates. Since there are so many these states will have an other section briefly mentioning notable pitchers who failed to make the 13 man staff.
Rotation and Relief Ace
#1: Ray Kremer
#2: Dock Ellis
#3: Larry French
#4: Gerrit Cole
RA: Rod Scurry
SP: Bob Walk
SP: James McDonald
SP: Nelson Briles
SP: Jim Tobin
SP: Tiny Bonham
SP: Jeff Karstens
SP/RP: Larry Demery
RP: John Grabow
SP/RP: Bill Werle
SP: Bob Chesnes
SP/RP: George Witt
SP/RP: Erv Kantlehner
SP: Vance Worley
SP/RP: Vic Lombardi
SP: Mark Redman
RP: Jim Gott
RP: Justin Wilson
RP: Jeff Robinson
Notes: Kremer pitched 10 years for the Pirates from 1924-1933. During the beginning of his tenure he was an excellent pitcher even finishing as high as third in the MVP voting but he didnít get his chance with the Pirates until age 31 so it was a relatively quick drop off and the second half... [Read More]
Yes, the Steelers have glaring needs on defense that they need to address, especially in the secondary. There is no doubt that the first pick in the draft should be someone who can help erase the painful memories of the need to use second and third string cornerbacks as starters. They could also use a defensive tackle who can occupy multiple blockers, apply pressure, and clog up the middle. What if though, in the third round, there is a player available who has all the tools needed to be a franchise quarterback? should the Steelers snatched him up? On draft day, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be just 21 years old, and while his last couple of seasons could be considered disappointing, after making quite a bit of noise as a freshman, he has the kind of talent that has made Ben Roethlisberger a future hall of famer. He has the kind of talent that could help keep that trademark smile on Antonio Brownís face for years to come.
With a comparable skill set to Ben Roethlisberger, Christian Hackenberg could be the ideal candidate to be groomed for the next few years, to take over when Ben retires. Hackenberg committed to Penn State prior to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and despite the sanctions levied against the Nittany Lions, he chose to honor that commitment. Hackenberg went on to have a freshman season that saw him set multiple records for a freshman, including most yards in a game, 311, most 300 yard passing games, 4, and most games with at least 200 yards passing, with 9. It was also a season in which he led Penn State to an upset of #18 Michigan. Many compared his freshman year to that of the one Andrew Luck had at Stanford. He accomplished it all while still learning head coach Bill OíBrienís complex schemes. One of the things OíBrien really respected about Hackenberg, was his calm demeanor, not just in handling the pressure from earning the starting job, at Penn State, as a freshman, but the overall situation in the aftermath of the NCAA sanctions. In other words, Christian Hackenberg has already handled the pressure, during the most dire of situations, leading Penn State out of the darkest period in their history.
While his college numbers seem rather pedestrian and uninspiring on the surface, 685 completions in 1,221 attempts for 8,318 yards, along with 48 touchdowns and 30 interceptions, he is coming from a system that never was never tailored to his strengths. An accurate pocket passer with the... [Read More]
The Steelers secondary did pretty darn good this past season, considering the limited amount of talent they had available to them. Despite having only one starting caliber cornerback on the active roster, the Steelers were a fumble away from appearing in the AFC Championship game, for an NFL record 16th time. With last yearís second round draft pick, CB Senquez Golson, healthy and ready to return after missing his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury, and an upcoming draft deep with secondary talent, the Steelers have a golden opportunity to remake and upgrade their secondary with athletes who can make a difference. Coverage and pass rush go hand in hand, in that an improvement in one of those areas can help the other out. With the Steelers, they need to lead off and address the secondary first. The weak link along the defensive front is Steve McLendon, and he really isnít that bad of a nose tackle. The weak link in the secondary last season was everyone other than Willie Gay and Mike Mitchell. Brandon Boykin didnít play much and wonít return, while Ross Cockrell showed potential. Antwon Blake, who was forced to be a starter, was injured and overmatched by the taller receivers he faced, and Shamarko Thomas just hasnít developed above filling more than special teams role.
While the secondary isnít completely devoid of talent, they need to develop it and add to it. Currently, the Steelers have two legitimate starters returning to the secondary, Safety Mike Mitchell and Cornerback Willie Gay, who is better suited to play inside. If there has ever been a draft where the Steelers need to select a defensive back first, and often, this upcoming NFL Draft is the one. This draft is deep with talented defensive backs, topped only by defensive line talent. The first two cornerbacks to come off the board are more than likely going to be Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey, but when it comes time for the Steelers to make their selection with the 25th pick, they will have plenty of options to choose from, with Eli Apple possibly being one of them. Kendall Fuller, the most talented of the four Fuller brothers to come out of Virginia Tech, would look good in a Steelers uniform, as would Xavien Howard from Baylor, but the most intriguing prospect could be William Jackson III out of Houston.
The performance that William Jackson III put on at the combine makes him a legitimate candidate to be picked anywhere between the bottom of the... [Read More]
On the surface, Martavis Bryant looks like just another young athlete with marijuana issues. He started this past season with a four game suspension, and is being suspended again for the entire 2016 season, and although itís for marijuana related issues, the problem runs much deeper than that. Bryant isnít the party loving athlete who loves his weed, he is a young man who is battling depression, recently checking in to a depression clinic, and uses it to cope. There is a big difference between the two that some people just donít understand, and to judge Bryant as someone who is choosing marijuana over an NFL career is completely unfair. It has been reported that the suspension he is serving, for the 2016 NFL calendar year, is for missing mandatory drug tests, not failing them (the leagueís view is that a missed test is the same as failing one). Whether that is indeed factual or not, the underlying, and more important issue, is his battle with depression.
Since the announcement of Martavis Bryantís second suspension, some fans have labeled him as selfish, stupid, and immature, among other things, while some have called for the Steelers to cut him loose. Sure itís frustrating to see this happen, knowing the affects it could have on the Steelers offense next season, but at this point, the well being of Martavis Bryant the person is much more important than Martavis Bryant the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver. Iím sure Bryant is regretful of the fact that he let his teammates, fans, his family and the Rooneyís down by getting suspended, but Iím even more sure that he would choose to not have to suffer from depression, like so many people do. Up until now, marijuana was how he coped with depression, but what he needs, more than anything, is support, not judgement, and the counseling he is going to start receiving. The only difference between Bryant and the rest of us, is that he is a pro athlete who has given us many exciting moments. For him to be able to return to the field, he has to fix and take care of himself, Martavis Bryant the person, first.
By all accounts, Martavis Bryant is a good kid and teammate. His desire to get better is genuine, and his reaction to the challenge that Ben Roethlisberger publicly issued to him, prior to the wild card game, showed that he is more mature than people give him credit for. Bryant has owned his mistakes without excuses, and is taking the steps necessary to get himself better, and... [Read More]