If you’re in that group that thought there was no way that Josh Harrison could continue what he started early in the season, then take a spot in the line of naysayers. Harrison started the day behind only former Pirate Justin Morneau in the race for the National League batting title. Harrison had 2 more hits today to raise his average to .310. You know who you are if you thought Josh Harrison was a flash-in-the-pan. He’s not. Since 1900, the Pirates have had 25 batting champions. Could Harrison be the 26th? Keep doubting him, and it just might happen.
I’m continuing to experiment with my GoPro camera. I snapped this photo during the Thursday segment with Whip. It’s nice to give you a peek behind-the-scenes in “The X” studio.
Duquesne University is getting fired up for its sports seasons with a new slogan, and this one has an “Alby” feel to it. On Twitter during the last basketball season, I started using the hashtag #PutEmUp when tweeting about the Dukes. Well, it caught on with Duquesne’s marketing staff. Now it’s their slogan moving forward for all of Duquesne sports. So with that, PUT UP YOUR DUKES! PUT ‘EM UP!
The Steelers finish out preseason Thursday night at Heinz Field against the Carolina Panthers. But at his Tuesday news conference, Mike Tomlin was talking about Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Both Bell and Blount are expected to play on Thursday night, but there’s still a possibility they could be suspended by the Steelers. The coach says when any punishment is handed down, they plan on keeping it to themselves, “I wont talk in great detail in what we laid down in regards to the situation, but it’s rest assured that we deal with unfortunate situations in an appropriate manner when they rise up…hopefully those two guys will show what’s capable in terms of moving past it.”
It’s way to early to judge the Steelers, and trying to predict what will happen this season is a waste of time anyway. You might think you know, but you don’t. Having said that, let’s try. We saw the great potential of Dri Archer on a 46-yard catch-and-run from Ben Roethlisberger. We also saw linebacker Howard Jones recover two fumbles, including a heads- up play that resulted in a defensive touchdown. But there were also some disturbing trends. The defense gave up way too many big plays last year, and last night, the starting defense gave up another one on a 73-yard touchdown run by Rashad Jennings. The Steelers offense also failed to score a touchdown. What does it all mean? Maybe nothing (and remember, Ben played only one series). Preseason is about filling out the roster and giving the players—especially the younger ones, a chance to get up to speed. And more important than anything is getting through preseason healthy.
The Steelers will have an unusual amount of younger players, and even some rookies, making contributions. That’s why, more this season than any in recent memory, veteran leadership will be needed. Today at his first “game week” news conference of the season, Head Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about leadership, and his quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger in particular, “Much like myself, Ben is going to be what this team needs him to be. I think we both embrace that responsibility and it means different things for different teams. I think that he is being what this team needs him to be.”
The Pirates are heading into their final eight weeks of the regular season, but suddenly, injuries are a concern. Neil Walker is experiencing tightness in his back. Perhaps more significant, Andrew McCutchen left the Sunday game with discomfort in his back (after getting hit in the middle of the back on Saturday night). Gerrit Cole’s second Triple-A rehab start was scratched on Saturday night. Cole did bullpen work instead. Starling Marte is still out with a concussion. Injuries are never a good thing, but in the final 51 games, it could doom the Bucs. It’s getting close to crunch time. The Pirates are still only a game-and-a-half out of first, and only a half game out of the second wild card spot. If they’re healthy, they have a chance. If they aren’t…Well you know.
The Steelers 49th training camp at Saint Vincent is underway! Maurkice Pouncey was one of the first arrivals, but said nothing about that lawsuit that was filed in Florida. The day started with player arrivals, and concluded with the annual run test. Bute before the players even hit the field, veteran Ike Taylor stole the show. Taylor came prepared. His arrival was greeted by a throng of media, and then the show began. Ike had a GoPro camera strapped to his chest and was wearing Google Glasses. Ike is one of one of only a handful of players left over from the Steelers two most recent Super Bowl-winning teams, and he believes this team can win now. “Ain’t no pressure. 8 and 8, you learn what you get yourself into. One thing about this business, it’s black and white. Either you get the job done or you don’t. If you don’t, you pay the consequences.” But training camp starts with many questions. That’s to be expected after two consecutive 8 and 8 non-playoff seasons. New Steelers receiver Lance Moore put it this way, “I wouldn’t say extra pressure, but I would say a sense of urgency. 8 and 8 is not what this organization is about. This organization is about winning games, and competing for championships.” It’s a brand new season, and Cam Heyward says the work to turn this team around starts immediately, “You’re out to prove something every year you don’t win a Super Bowl. This team is hungry..sour taste after the past two years.”
Within two two months of my college graduation, I entered a contest on KDKA Radio called Broadcaster for a Night. It was a gimmick to find a one-day replacement for Pirates announcer Jim Rooker, who was forced to miss a July broadcast to attend his daughter’s wedding. With the help of a high school classmate, I produced an audition tape that was submitted for consideration. On the tape, I called play-by-play of a fake game, complete with edited crowd noise. I was selected as one of three winners for the contest, which earned me a spot in the Pirates broadcast booth with Lanny Frattare. So on July 23rd of 1982 (32 years ago tonight), I took a seat in the KDKA booth and called one inning of play-by-play and two innings of color commentary for the Pirates-Braves game on the world’s first radio station.