The Steelers aren’t even in the NFL playoffs, yet still dominated the news the past week. When owner Art Rooney II said the team will explore a trade for problem-child wide receiver Antonio Brown that pretty much convinced me that AB will never again wear a Steelers uniform. As much as I hate to lose a player of his stature, I think it’s the right and only move the Steelers can make. If the Raiders can get a number one for Amani Toomer, the Steelers should at least get a first rounder for future Hall of Famer Brown. He’s worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh, both among the organization and diehard fans of the Black and Gold. He was great for a long time, but that time is now over.
• The Steelers better hope that offensive line coach Mike Munchak decides to return. It seemed a given that he would when he came in second for the Denver Broncos’ head coaching job. Reports are the Broncos would still like to hire him as their O-Line coach. Munchak has a daughter in Denver, so I could see him leaving. I just hope the Steelers can make him an offer he can’t refuse. He’s that valuable to the Steelers.
• I hate to say it, but the best team in the NFL playoffs this past weekend was the New England Patriots. They’re now headed to their eighth straight AFC championship game, which is something we will probably never see again. The Pats looked like world beaters at home in running the LA Chargers out of the building. Now, can they win on the road at Kansas City? The Pats haven’t been a good road team this year. If the Pats play like they did this weekend they’ll win it all, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m going with the Chiefs, partly because I can’t stand the thought of seeing the Patriots back in the Super Bowl. It’s now Patrick Mahomes’ time. Here’s to hoping the kid can unset the GOAT, Tom Brady.
• I thought the Saints were the best team by far going into the playoffs. They got all they could handle from Philadelphia in the Superdome. I expect the Saints to play a whole lot better next week against the Los Angeles Rams. If the Rams can run the ball the way they did against the Dallas Cowboys, plus keep Drew Brees off the field by controlling the clock, they can beat the Saints. That said, my head and my heart are going with the Saints. I covered New Orleans from 1980-1993, so I have a soft spot in my heart for that team and its fanbase. They never won a playoff game in all the years I covered them. I’m hoping they can soon bring home their second Lombardi Trophy.
• Clemson is now the undisputed king of college football. I wrote last week that I thought Clemson could win against Alabama, but that I picked The Tide to win the national championship. Boy was I wrong. Clemson dominated Bama, and their play in both the offensive and defensive lines was impressive. They beat up Alabama, and when is the last time you’ve seen that? Clemson has now won two of the last four championships. Dabo Swinney has built an incredible program. And they’re not done yet competing for championships.
• Hats off to the IUP women’s basketball team, who are now ranked number one in the nation. The Hawks are 13-0 after destroying Slippery Rock on the road. This team has the look of a champion. Good for them. Can’t wait to see what they do in March.
• The IUP men finally lost, losing at The Rock, but are still 14-1. Sometimes a loss can actually help a team. I sure hope that’s the case for Joe Lombardi’s squad. They too will be fun to watch when March Madness begins.
• The Pens are in the midst of a five game road trip. They looked great while coming from three goals down to put up seven in their victory against Anaheim. The game against the Kings in LA wasn’t much to write home about. Once again the Pens gave up another shorthanded goal that nearly sent coach Mike Sullivan into a meltdown. The Pens are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. If they can keep playing like this, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Now, if they could just figure out how to quit giving up all those shorthanded goals!
• It’s going to be interesting to see what GM Jim Rutherford does soon. Everyone knows he will make a move, either before or right at the trade deadline. With Casey DeSmith now locked up with a new contract as the backup goaltender, it makes sense that the Pens move Tristan Jarry. He could bring a nice return. A package involving Jarry and the underachieving Derrick Brassard, who has never fit in with the Pens, could really net the Pens a nice package. Stay tuned.
• After watching Pitt the last week I’m encouraged by the progress the team has made under first year coach Jeff Capel. The Panthers won their first ACC game in two years by beating Louisville at home. Those same Cardinals manhandled North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Pitt went toe to toe with NC State in Raleigh before running out of gas late. The Panthers are miles away from contending in the ACC, but they are on the right track. The Jeff Capel hire is looking better every single day.