The Penguins confirmed today that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will be out for at least one more game with the mumps.  The confirmation came on Saturday night, and the Penguins announced the diagnosis on Sunday. The Pens say they tested Crosby several times before Friday, when he appeared after practice with a very swollen cheek. General Manager Jim Rutherford is acknowledging the concern that Crosby was in the locker room while contagious on Friday, “it’s obvious we’re concerned about it….it’s a disease that’s going throughout the league and you just don’t know how far it can spread…like Dr. Vjas said, ‘we were watching those on a regular basis.'”

The Cleveland Browns are no longer the Steelers biggest rival, and there’s only reason. Year in and year out, the Browns are among the worst teams in the NFL. In the 10 seasons leading up to 2014, the Browns have been 4-12 five times and 5-11 three times. Their only winning season in that span was 2007, when they were 10-6 (and didn’t make the playoffs)! Today Johnny Manziel became the 21st Browns starting quarterback since 1999. Over that time they’ve had eight head coaches. Aren’t you glad you root for the Steelers?

Cleveland Browns over the last decade:

2013: 4-12
2012: 5-11
2011: 4-12
2010: 5-11
2009: 5-11
2008: 4-12
2007: 10-6
2006: 4-12
2005: 6-10
2004: 4-12

The Penguins are still working to get several players back from injury. Sidney Crosby missed practice today because of illness, but he’s expected to be in the lineup for tomorrow night’s game against Calgary. But two players that have a chance to return to the lineup against Calgary are defenseman Kris Letang and forward Patrick Hornquist.

Pitt running back James Conner continues to rack up the postseason honors. Today Conner was named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation of America second team. Conner was previously named the ACC’s Player-of-the-Year and Offensive Player-of-the-Year.

The changes are meant to be tough. The NFL outlining a new policy on how it will handle crimes of violence. The Ray Rice domestic violence case is what triggered this change. The NFL will now have a minimum six-game suspension for cases of domestic or family violence or sexual assault. It will also put any employee, not just players, on paid leave when there is a criminal charge in a crime of violence, but when I asked Ike Taylor about the domestic violence policy, I got an answer I didn’t expect, “A guy touching a woman, that’s a no go point blank period. You know I got two sisters and if somebody put their hands on my two sisters then you know it’d be a totally different story. Just by nature we’re stronger, more dominant than the females. So I just feel like females are precious animals regardless on how thick they get under our skin or how pissed off they make us it’s just good to walk away, go outside take a deep breath or you can go work out.”

Today was arguably the biggest win for the Steelers since 2011—their last playoff season. That said, it comes with a false sense of security for many in the Steelers Nation. Lots of people agreed that the Steelers needed to run the table in their final four. So today was the first thing that had to happen in that scenario. The Steelers showed guts and played very well, especially in the 25-point 4th quarter, when they flexed their muscles on offense. It was similar to what they did in consecutive wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens. But remember what happened after that? Yep, a loss to the New York Jets on the road. Next week the Steelers play another sub-.500 team on the road. If anybody thinks the game at Atlanta will be easy, think again.

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor is ready for a return to action. Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that they anticipate Ike being back “in some form or fashion.”  Taylor already told us as much, and he was very entertaining in doing so, “The Doc gave me the green light.  So it’s all good.  I’ve been waiting on the green light. They’ve been revving me up at the yellow. The yellow was cool for a minute, so I got the green so no speed limit, no speed limit, so we’re on the racetrack.”

The Steelers are 7-4 and among a pack of AFC teams trying to make the playoffs. It’s certainly there for the taking, but the final stretch won’t be easy by any stretch. Their final five regular season games include Sunday’s home game with the New Orleans Saints, followed by road games at Cincinnati and Atlanta, and two more at Heinz Field against the Chiefs and Bengals.  The Steelers say they’re focusing on each game as it comes, but they also understand the urgency.  Mike Mitchell says this stretch will have a postseason feel, “I’m treating them all like playoff games. I’m thinking about…we got five of them, and we just have to go 1-0 every week. That’s the mentality.”  Le’Veon Bell says they can’t be scoreboard-watching, “we just gotta do our part as a team. I mean, the only thing we can control is ourselves, and we can’t control what Cleveland or the Ravens are doing.  We gotta do what we do.”

The talk of the Steelers locker room was the “Bennie Wiggle,” but this time, it wasn’t Antonio Brown doing the dance.  Former Steelers RB LeGarrette Blount show off his former teammate’s moves after scoring a touchdown (one of two) for the New England Patriots on Sunday.  It was Blount’s “tribute” to his good friend, and the Steelers took it all in stride.  RB Le’Veon Bell said, “yeah that’s once of the celebrations he loved the most. He’d do it all the time in practice when he was here, so you know he went out there and did it.” Safety Mike Mitchell added, “I thought it was funny…talking to him, he made a mistake and he misses it and everything like that, so it’s like a little tribute.”

In television sports, if you happen to give a wrong score, or a wrong team, or mispronounce a name, it’s out there for everybody to see, and you never know who’s going to see it. I found out how true that is in the spring of 1993. I was with Mario Lemieux on an early Monday morning, approximately 12 hours after I had stumbled over his name while voicing the highlights in a Sunday night sportscast. Mario had some fun at my expense. He told me he had seen me doing the late sports the night before, and that I seemed a bit tongue-tied. I asked if he had ever experienced one of those nights when nothing seemed to go right. Without any hesitation, Lemieux answered, “NOPE” and followed it up with a smile. And that’s what happens when you interface with greatness.


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