5 Things That Happened In Pittsburgh Sports This Week… Week of 5/18

Ben Roethlisberger
Photo credit Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
By , 93.7 The Fan

Here are five things that happened in Pittsburgh sports this week, with some of my own spin on them as well.

5. Pitt's Recruiting Class Stacks Up Well 

STORY: Jeff Capel wrapped up his best recruiting class yet as head coach of the Pitt Panthers heading into this week. According to Rivals.com, Pitt finished with the third-best class in the ACC and 17th overall in the country. John Hugley was 77th overall, William Jeffress 79, Femi Odukale was 145th while Noah Collier & Max Adamasun were just outside the top 150.

SPIN: It's now time to put some expectations on this Pitt team. They've earned it. Jeff Capel has earned it. His staff has earned it. I think it's time the conversation shifts from "Wow, look at this dumpster fire Capel took over, he's doing all he can" to actually expecting a win total on the floor in 2020. For me, another season without a berth into the NIT or NCAA Tournament would be a failure. 

Pitt has a third-year starter in Xavier Johnson returning, a second-year starter Justin Champagnie, who is capable of averaging 15 points per game, coming back. Au'Diese Toney is a quality depth piece who received starter minutes in 2019. Ithiel Horton, a transfer from Delaware is coming in. Jeff Capel has been effusive in his praise of him at practice and thinks he'll be a difference maker. And then to top it off, this recruiting class lead by Hugley and Jeffress.

It's a credit to Capel and his staff to have created expectations and I think now is the time we can have them. Let's see the collection of talent turn into wins. The rubber needs to meet the road. 

4. NHL To Vote On 24-Team Playoff System 

STORY: In an attempt at a continuation of the 2019 season, the NHL is considering a model that would include games at two hub cities with 12 teams making the playoffs from each conference.The top four teams in each conference would receive a first-round bye but play a three-game round-robin to determine the final standings. The next eight teams, including the Penguins in the Eastern Conference, would be pitted in a best-of-five series to play in a subsequent 16-team playoff bracket.​ The hub cities have not yet been announced, although Las Vegas seems to be a leading candidate along with Dallas, Columbus, Tampa and Pittsburgh. 

SPIN: In this proposal and format, the Penguins would be the 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and play the 12 seed Montreal Canadiens in that play-in series before the real postseason starts. While that is the Pens getting the obvious short end of the stick, missing the bye by one spot, I find it hard to complain. In this world of proposals, ideas, hub cities, new formats, fluid timelines, etc...I just want to see live games back. In this case, I just don't want to see an opportunity be taken away from the core group of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to win another Stanley Cup. That's what is most important from a sports angle, outside of course the concern of general human health and safety. The details are still a little hazy and we should get clarity over the weekend. For now, I'm excited about the progress this has made and the idea of playoff hockey coming back which is always one of the best times of the year. 

3. NFL Considers Multiple League Changes 

STORY: The NFL wants to adjust the Rooney Rule in order to produce better results. As you most likely know, the rule was spearheaded by the late Dan Rooney to improve diversity in head coach and front office hiring, requiring each team with a vacancy to interview a minority candidate. NFL Network reported last week that the owners were considering a proposal that would have improved teams' third-round draft picks by six for a hired minority head coach and 10 spots for a hired minority candidate at GM. It even included draft compensation for the hiring of minority candidates for such positions as quarterbacks coach. After owner's met together Tuesday, they decided to table that idea. 

On Thursday, NFL Network reported the idea of an untimed 4th & 15 from the 25-yardline as an alternative to the onside kick proposal set forth by the Philadelphia Eagles is gaining steam among teams and owners. The play would be an elective endeavor, would have the same officiating rules as any normal play and would result in a turnover on downs from the spot of the ball at the end of the play for a failed attempt. A successful attempt would allow a team to keep possession of the ball. Teams can only do it after scoring plays and twice per game. 

SPIN: The idea of attaching draft picks to the Rooney Rule completely baffles me. I wouldn't think there are many minority candidates who would be comfortable knowing that their hiring may have come as a backhanded way to better their team's draft position and not necessarily as an affirmation of their skills at their profession. Also, teams that did not hire a minority candidate or didn't have a vacancy in the offseason to hire one, would be getting punished for that by being bypassed in the draft. I'm glad it's been tabled and I hope it falls off that table soon. The Rooney Rule is a tricky thing, I believe in it in principle and do believe the numbers behind the lack of minority hires in the game is an issue, I just don't think there is an easy fix. The NFL is full of retreads and "coaching trees" that can often times be dangerous and lead to candidates being hired that probably don't deserve it. But, at the same time, I do believe teams honestly hire the person whom they think will lead them to victories. There's too much at stake not to. Maybe increasing the number of minority candidates to be hired and sending this mandate down the coaching ladder is the best way to approach this. 

As far as the 4th and 15 idea...I love it. Give me more of the best players on the field in crunch time. If you are a good defense, you stop it. The numbers in conversion are about the same as the onside kick conversion numbers before they weren't allowed to get a running start anymore. It's also enough of a risk because you are essentially giving away at least 3 points if you try and fail. My only hesitation is potential pass interference calls ruining this play. Other than that...let's do it. 

2.Big Ben Gets The People Goin'...(to be cont'd) 
STORY: He's baaaaaaaack. That's what Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster said into the camera of a :38 video posted to Twitter from Ben's account detailing Roethlisberger cutting his hair, shaving his beard (more on that coming) and throwing legitimate passes to JuJu, James Conner and Ryan Switzer. 

Feels good to be back out there with my guys! @TeamJuJu @JamesConner_ @Switz pic.twitter.com/hAlOwr7Ias

— BigBen7.com (@_BigBen7) May 18, 2020

SPIN: Man, this is just what we all wanted to see, right? Ben looking rather slim despite reports that his offseason training regiment consists of beer, yoga and golf. The rugged look good as he made good on his promise to clean up when he was able to throw the ball to his teammates again. It was a rare showcase of social media presence for Ben as well. But it was perfect. Maybe he's turning over a new leaf in presenting himself to the masses? Well, maybe he was. Then the fallout hit...

1. (cont'd)...Except For Governor Tom Wolf 

STORY: Not long after the video was posted, Governor Tom Wolf was asked about Ben receiving a haircut and beard trim. Wolf expressed what he called "general concern" for him saying in part, "I don't care who you are, the chances of that virus wreaking havoc on your life increases." Then rumors swirled about whether or not Cuttin' Edge Barbershop in Sewickley opened its door illegally. 

SPIN: Was this whole thing overblown? Extremely. But, you know what, barbershop owner Carlos Norman ended up on CNN to defend himself and got that national exposure and I'm glad he did.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got a haircut, defying lockdown orders — and Pennsylvania’s governor wasn’t happy about it.“I did it as a favor for a friend,” says his barber Carlos Norman, adding that he has not opened his shop. https://t.co/jaOE3rJjWh pic.twitter.com/tp4GQGEq2L

— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) May 20, 2020

I hope this turns out to be better for his business in the end. The fact that people cared enough to take issue with Ben's haircut and then for the barbershop and Norman to somehow come under fire for it was absurd. I echo many of the sentiments The Fan Morning Show shared on this matter. No wonder Ben doesn't like to use social media...

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