Jalen Ramsey of the Jacksonville Jaguars is trashing Ben Roethlisberger, and a lot of other high profile quarterbacks in an interview with GQ. Ramsey intercepted Roethlisberger once in Jacksonville’s regular-season win over the Steelers, and his team eliminated the Steelers from the playoffs, although Ben had a great day throwing the ball in that one. Ramsey told GQ, “Big Ben (Roethlisberger), I think he’s decent at best. It’s not big Ben, it’s (Antonio Brown). Big Ben slings the ball a lot of the time. He just slings it, and his receivers go get it. He has a strong arm, but he ain’t all that. I played him twice last year, and he really disappointed me.” Stay tuned. The Steelers play the Jaguars on November 18th in Jacksonville.

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There was heavy rain early in the afternoon at St. Vincent, but the skies cleared and it actually turned out to be a great weather day. Mike Tomlin told us he was very happy with the Monday practice, “another really good day for we had to deal with some weather issues…you know guys had to be light on their feet and adjust but it was really no big deal in the big scheme of things…it is good for us to have to adjust this process always presents things that we have to be light on our feet and deal with….and the guys have to and it’s a good rep for them in that way.”

The first day of free agency was a busy one for the Penguins, and it wasn’t without drama. The Pens announced they had signed free agent defenseman Jack Johnson from Columbus. Johnson, who was a healthy scratch in the playoffs for the blue jackets, had asked for a trade back in January. His introductory news conference seemed simple enough, “I’ve been really wanting to be a part of a winning culture. In a place where the expectation to win is as high as it can be, and a chance to win. I don’t think I could ask for a better opportunity here.” Well, those comments lit a fire under Columbus coach John Tortorella.

 

NNL free agency hasn’t even started yet, and the Penguins are already creating a buzz, and shaking up their roster.  It’s being reported that the Penguins have “agreed to the framework of a deal” with Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson. The deal can’t be formally announced until free agency begins at noon on Sunday. Johnson is a long-time friend of Sidney Crosby. The Penguins created some cap room because of a deal made earlier on Wednesday. The Pens sent Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick to the Sabres, shedding more than $5 million. In return, the Pens get a conditional 4th-round pick, which can become a third-rounder depending on Sheary’s performance. Sheary was a part of two Stanley Cup winners, and he received some praise from general manager Jim Rutherford, “he’s a good player, this is just part of the system now with the cap system it makes it hard to keep all the players, and if you’re gonna free up cap space these are the kinds of things you have to do, but we thank him for what he’s done.”

Rain, rain, and more rain all over Pittsburgh, including PNC Park. Enough rain to postpone Wednesday night’s game with Milwaukee. It will be made up at a later date. This afternoon we also learned that it might be a little bit longer before we see the return of Jung Ho Kang. He reported “discomfort” in his left wrist at AAA Indianapolis this afternoon. Kang is day-to-day.  And the Pirates are without Corey Dickerson for the time being. The team placed Dickerson on the Family Medical Emergency Leave list. The Pirates have called up Adam Frazier from Indy to take his place.

 

Antonio Brown says he can’t seem to get away from the pressure from the media. On the first day of the Steelers minicamp, I was there as Brown vented to reporters, and took the opportunity to “clear the air” about the things he says he has to deal with. One recent report that said Brown missed most of the Steelers organized team activities because he only wanted to be there when Ben Roethlisberger was also in attendance.
Brown says that’s not true, and says he missed most of those OTAs so he could spend time with his family, “I’m just stating a reality, you guys make up pressure, and put pressure on guys like myself, and it’s not fair, you’re asking my teammates when I’m out trying to get my mind right so I can come here and do my job right. You guys asking my teammates why I’m not here and making up stories and asking these guys stuff that I shouldn’t even be dealing with, you know that’s the pressure of being a professional athlete…scrutiny and everyday pressure…you know it’s hard to be free.”

Injured Steelers LB Ryan Shazier says his dream is to come back and play football again. Shazier walked into a news conference on Wednesday with the help of a cane. It was 6 months and 2 days ago, December 4th, that Shazier was severely injured in the Steelers game at Cincinnati. Shazier talked about his recovery, intense rehab, and what he hopes his future holds, and he expressed a deep appreciation for the overwhelming support from the Steelers nation, and beyond, “Pittsburgh had my back the moment I got drafted, you know, they might get mad every time I drop a pick now and then, every day they have my back the moment I got drafted, so just know going back out there and just to see how, how ever body out there seemed how loud the stadium got, how it just seemed that that many people supported me, really made me feel like every one has my back.”

OTAs are underway for the Steelers, and Ryan Shazier was in attendance at the Tuesday workout. Shazier was in a golf cart, and at one point, talking to head coach Mike Tomlin.
His teammate, cornerback Joe Haden, says the team can learn a lot from Shazier, “just having him in spirit just raises you up, because he’s always up. You never see him down, no matter what the situation is, or the circumstances, so he makes you look at yourself in the mirror, so understand how much you can’t take this stuff for granted, or how it can be gone from you so fast. Just having him and seeing how, how his spirit is, makes what you’re doing a little bit more.”

Congratulations to former Pirates pitcher Don Schwall. I talked to him by phone on Saturday while he was on his way from Texas to Norman, Oklahoma to enjoy a day that was 57 years in the making. Schwall is 82. He was a star at Oklahoma in the 1950s, but when the Red Sox came calling, he left for pro baseball. He won the American League Rookie of the Year. He was traded to the Pirates in a deal for Dick Stuart and played in Pittsburgh from 1963-1966. Schwall worked in the off-season and earned enough credits to graduate, but he never received his diploma, which brings us to this weekend.
Nearly 60 years after he should’ve received it, Schwall donned a cap and gown and officially graduated from the University of Oklahoma. He still lives in the Pittsburgh area. Great story and congrats to Don Schwall.

The pain lingers for the Penguins. That’s the best way to describe what we found in the Pens locker room today as they cleared out and went their separate ways. Some are coming to terms with the loss to Washington quicker than others, but all of them feel they should still be playing. Here’s a sample:

Justin Schultz: “It’s weird not playing when there’s teams still there.”

Olli Maatta: “You’re gonna go all the way again that’s what you’re planning for. You haven’t really planned for anything else.”

Brian Dumoulin: “It’s tough and it’s difficult but I know that we can be there again next year.”

Matt Murray: “It’s not easy but after a few days the main feeling I have is just pride.”

Sidney Crosby: “We haven’t felt for a while so doesn’t make it any easier I can tell you that.”

Mike Sullivan: “When you fall short of your ultimate goal, it stings.”

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