First Call: Steelers get an ‘A’ offseason grade;

Pittsburgh Steelers management is still downplaying any prearranged knowledge of how pick No. 14 would work out upon completion of their draft-night trade with the New England Patriots.

The Steelers are getting high marks for that deal as well as the rest of their offseason. The Pittsburgh Passion honors Franco Harris before their home opener.

The Milwaukee Brewers finally make up ground on the stumbling Pirates. And a pair of former Penguins chip in during Sunday’s NHL playoff action.

All that and more in Monday’s “First Call.”

Nothing to see here

For the third time since the NFL Draft, Steelers management is denying that there was any direct inside information as to who the New York Jets would draft at pick No. 15 before they decided to trade up to pick 14.

There has been much speculation that the Steelers engineered that deal with the New England Patriots because Steelers general manager Omar Khan and company knew the Jets wanted Georgia tackle Broderick Jones, just as they did. And, as a result, Khan wanted to trade up from No. 17 in order to block that from happening.

“No, no inside information,” Khan said via ProFootballTalk on Sunday. “And it wasn’t just the Jets. There were teams behind us that we had the same concern that they might come up and had a need for an offensive tackle that might come up and trade up to get Broderick. Again, when the opportunity was there, we just didn’t want to take the chance of waiting to see if he was there or not. But we had no inside info that’s who the Jets were gonna take. It’s just a hunch.”

That said, Khan did credit director of pro personnel Sheldon White for good information about needs of other teams around them on the board.

Then there’s the theory that the Patriots were willing to take below-market value (just a fourth-round pick) to trade back, thus allowing the Steelers to take Jones when the Patriots may have also assumed that their division rivals wanted Jones as well.

“Those conversations did not happen with us,” Khan insisted. “I think when these trades happen, we make an offer and say, ‘This is our best offer,’ and if it works, great, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That’s what we were comfortable giving up was a fourth-round pick. Fortunately for us, it worked out for us and the Patriots.”

On draft night, coach Mike Tomlin advanced a similar explanation, as did Khan last week on WDVE.

Are they just being politically expeditious by tamping down the Jets-Pats angle to the pick? Or their level of inside intel? Maybe.

But however things went down on draft night, it appears the Steelers still got the best possible player on the board.

More sports

• ‘Madden Monday’: On Steelers’ offseason, ‘people act like they have solved all of their problems — they haven’t’
• Mark Madden’s Hot Take: If the Steelers want a new stadium, they’ll get it
• Tim Benz: Pirates doing a lot to prove skeptics right; they better stop the trend this week

Grade A

On Friday, CBS Sports handed out grades for how every team in the NFL handled its offseason. The Steelers were one of eight teams that got an A. This was the assessment of writer Cody Benjamin.

“They probably could’ve matched what the Lions gave Cameron Sutton to keep an ascending starter at corner. But Patrick Peterson is a plug-and-play consolation prize after a Vikings renaissance; he should thrive alongside Minkah Fitzpatrick. Ex-Eagles OG Isaac Seumalo is maybe their smartest bet, bringing a quietly sterling piece of Philly’s vaunted line to Kenny Pickett’s defense. They also netted some good values in the draft in OT Broderick Jones, CB Joey Porter Jr. and TE Darnell Washington, who should pair with ex-Rams WR Allen Robinson to give them quite a red-zone team.”

While I was a big fan of the Steelers draft, overall for the offseason I’d probably give the club a B or maybe a B+.

I’ll give high marks for the draft and for how the front office bolstered the offensive and defensive lines. I agree with Benjamin’s assessment of improving red-zone options on offense. I also like how Khan adequately covered free agent departures in the secondary (Sutton, Terrell Edmunds) with additions and retentions of players who may prove to be just as good or better (Peterson, Demontae Kazee, Keanu Neal, Joey Porter Jr.)

But merely adding Nick Herbig and Quincy Roche to the outside linebacker room still makes me nervous about depth at that position. And while Khan signed Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb at inside linebacker, I still maintain that better players at affordable prices were available at that position this offseason.

Farewell Franco

Before their home opener Saturday night, the Pittsburgh Passion honored the memory of former co-owner, Steelers legend Franco Harris.

Harris bought into the women’s football franchise in 2011. The Pro Football Hall of Famer died Dec. 21, 2022, just two days before the Steelers had planned to retire his No. 32 on the 50th anniversary of his fabled Immaculate Reception. On Saturday, Passion players each took the field at the 32-yard line. The Women’s Football Alliance franchise will wear special patches this season to honor Harris.

The Passion went on to win the game 21-6 over the Tampa Bay Inferno. The club also won its first game over the D.C. Divas, 41-15. They next play May 13 in Boston against the Renegades.

Finally catching up

For every loss the National League Central-leading Pirates had during their six-game losing streak, the second-place Milwaukee Brewers matched it. So the Pirates never lost any ground in the standings.

Until Sunday. That’s when Pirates dropped a seventh in a row, 10-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays. Meanwhile, the Brewers finally snapped their skid by beating the San Francisco Giants, 7-3. Shortstop Willy Adames hit a two-run homer and had four runs batted in.

So now Milwaukee is just half a game back of the Pirates for first place. The Pirates begin a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies on Monday. They have the worst record in the National League West but have won six of seven. Milwaukee hosts the N.L. West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers for three games starting Monday.

As for the third-place Chicago Cubs, they dropped a 14-inning affair to the Florida Marlins by a final score of 5-4. They remain 2½ games back of the Pirates as a result.

All for naught

A pair of former Penguins scored goals during Sunday’s NHL playoff action. But neither player’s club walked away with a victory.

First off, Carolina Hurricanes winger Jordan Staal got on the score sheet with a shorthanded goal against the New Jersey Devils.

That was Staal’s second goal in as many games and his second goal of the playoffs, but it merely trimmed New Jersey’s lead to 7-3. The Devils went on to win 8-4 and narrowed the deficit in the series to 2-1 in favor of Carolina.

Meanwhile in Miami, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Sam Lafferty got his first Stanley Cup playoff goal to open the scoring of Game 3 against the Florida Panthers.

Yet Florida went on to win 3-2 in overtime. The Panthers are now up 3-0 in the best of seven.

As for the Seattle Kraken, they now hold a 2-1 lead on the Dallas Stars after a 7-2 win Sunday. Former Pens defenseman Justin Schultz scored a goal for Seattle. He now has three goals and five assists in the playoffs.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

Pirates/MLB | Sports | Steelers/NFL | Breakfast With Benz | Tim Benz Columns

Source link

Tags: No tags

Comments are closed.