CAL U: STILL A CESSPOOL

The Trib did a front-page story praising Cal U president Geraldine Jones for doing a great job since the school’s football scandal, a program-wide crime wave covering several years punctuated by six players beating a man into a coma, then chanting “football strong.”

The headline: “Cal U president lauded for unflappability amid scandal.” The article used phrases like “rapid response” and “refusal to sugarcoat.”

Nice PR piece.

But Jones didn’t DO ANYTHING.

The athletic director is still there. The coach is still there. The program didn’t get suspended.

All Jones did was say, “We cannot tolerate this.” And then proceeded to TOLERATE IT. That nonsense made the front page of a major metropolitan newspaper.

Jones is utterly useless, and Cal U is still a cesspool.

CUT CRAIG ADAMS

One week ago at practice, Penguins’ fourth-liner Craig Adams got into a fight with superstar Evgeni Malkin. At yesterday’s practice, Adams thumped Malkin and rookie defenseman Derrick Pouliot with robust bodychecks. Adams hit Malkin from behind and put Pouliot’s surgically-repaired shoulder at risk.

The Penguins need to waive Adams. Now.

Once can be an accident. This was twice. It seems like Adams has a feud going with Malkin. There aren’t two sides to this story. Superstar > fourth-liner. Every time.

Adams is OK on the PK. That’s his only legit attribute. Adams was a Dan Bylsma crony. Bylsma isn’t the coach anymore. Malkin is having an incredible season. That should not be disrupted.

If it’s not a problem, it could yet be. Why take a chance? This isn’t Sidney Crosby clashing with Malkin. It’s not even, say, Brandon Sutter and Malkin butting heads. It’s CRAIG ADAMS, a 37-yer-old jabroni who can be easily replaced.

This isn’t even worth further discussion, let alone debate. Cut Adams.

RAIN, RAIN GO AWAY

As I look out the window and see rain pelt Pittsburgh, I can’t help but fear that inclement weather might affect the outcome of tonight’s Steelers-Baltimore playoff game at Heinz Field.

In dry weather, it would boil down to Ben Roethlisberger vs. Joe Flacco. Sounds good.

In rain and mud, it could come down to Josh Harris vs. Justin Forsett. Uh-oh.

I’m surprised every game isn’t indoors. Shocked that every NFL team doesn’t have a domed stadium. Yeah, I know…THAT AIN’T FOOTBALL. Let’s see what you think if the Steelers lose 3-0 in OT. If conditions cause the Steelers’ high-octane offense to stall.

If Le’Veon Bell was playing, I’d expect the Steelers to win by 10, maybe more.

Now, weather permitting, the result comes down to Antonio Brown. What can the Ravens do with him?

Brown isn’t IN the zone. Brown OWNS the zone. Look at his 54-yard touchdown catch against the Ravens in the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ 43-23 home win Nov. 2. He ran an out, caught the ball, cut back in, stiff-armed a would-be tackler, broke another tackle and JUST KEPT GOING.

How do you stop that?

Brown’s predecessor as the Steelers’ stud receiver was Hines Ward. Ward was great, but you knew what to do with him. He wasn’t EXPLOSIVE. Ward made you suffer death by a thousand cuts. Brown just whips out a machete and lops your head off. Game over.

That can happen again today. Weather permitting.

PITT: THE REAL DEBATE

You’ve heard all the names.

Schiano. Narduzzi. Bradley. Tomsula. Rudolph. Holliday. The list goes on.

But when it comes to the Pitt coaching hire, the real debate isn’t WHO you want. It’s WHAT you want.

Do you want a coach who’s going to leave again after three years?

Or do you want a coach who’s going to stay long-term?

I want the latter. When a coach gets hired under the assumption that he’s a short-term hire, there is no guarantee what that short term will produce. Instability kills recruiting, too.

Look at Paul Chryst. He went 19-19, 10-13 in conference play. Mediocre.

Chryst didn’t use Pitt as a stepping stone. Wisconsin merely stashed Chryst at Pitt until Wisconsin needed him. Pitt was Chryst’s head-coaching internship.

Chryst didn’t help Pitt make progress. He helped himself.

I don’t care if it’s a local guy. But I do want him to coach Pitt for more than three years. If local roots make that more of a possibility, that should be considered.

THEN, AND NOW

Steelers G David DeCastro had a great game yesterday. DeCastro and the tight ends were pulling, moving and hitting. They were so good, you didn’t need game film to know for sure. It was obvious.

Then, of course, came the tweets: YOU WERE WRONG, FATASS! DECASTRO IS GREAT! YOU’RE FAT!

Or, words to that effect.

I wasn’t wrong. Up until yesterday, DeCastro was having a putrid season, and I said so. Yesterday, he was terrific. I was right THEN. I’m also right NOW.

It’s the same with Evgeni Malkin fans. Right now, Malkin is playing awesome hockey. Seven goals in eight games. I just wish Malkin was inspired more often.

Judging an athlete isn’t permanent. Performance level changes.

The offensive line had its best game. The Steelers averaged 6.2 yards per rush. QB Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked and didn’t have to deal with a lot of pressure. DeCastro was perhaps the biggest part of that.

THE MYTH OF MUNCHAK

I did a monologue last week about the state of the Steelers’ offensive line. Lots of football people told me I was right on the money, including Joe Butler of Metro Index Scouting.

To recap:

*LT Kelvin Beachum: Average. Overachieving for his pedigree.

*LG Ramon Foster: Average. Perhaps a bit better.

*C Maurkice Pouncey: Good, but wildly overrated.

*RG David DeCastro: Just rotten. Absolutely terrible.

*RT Marcus Gilbert: Awful at season’s start. Much better since.

The Pouncey myth is firmly in place. It’s a phenomenon in sports. It’s not how well you play, it’s what people say. People say Pouncey is the best center in football. He’s not. But you believe it.

DeCastro stinks. GARBAGE. That might be the Steelers’ best-kept secret.

The prevailing opinion is that offensive line coach Mike Munchak has done a great job. If that’s true, why has QB Ben Roethlisberger been sacked 30 times? Ben is on pace to be sacked more than last year.

But Munchak is a genius. That’s the narrative. Deposed O-line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. was the villain last season, so Munchak has to be the hero now.

But the offensive line is no better than last year, except marginally on run blocking.

NO BRIGHT SIDE, NO UPSIDE

Replacing Bruce Arians with Todd Haley as offensive coordinator in 2012 is one of the worst moves in Steelers history, right there with cutting Johnny Unitas in 1955.

Prevailing wisdom holds that Haley was hired to prolong Ben Roethlisberger’s career.

How? By making sure Roethlisberger never plays in another playoff game? The post-season CAN be dangerous.

Everyone wants Roethlisberger to be hit less. I get it. But Roethlisberger has been sacked 25 times this season. That’s fifth-most in the NFL.

So, Ben is still getting hit. Haley hasn’t helped in that regard.

Why wasn’t Arians asked to figure out a way to keep Ben clean and vertical? Arians is no dummy. As witnessed by his work after he “retired” here in Pittsburgh.

In 2012, Arians birthed QB Andrew Luck’s greatness in Indianapolis. He won AP Coach of the Year honors as interim boss, going 9-3 while Chuck Pagano battled cancer. He’s 8-1 this year as Arizona’s head coach, 18-7 since taking over last season.

Roethlisberger has posted great numbers under Haley.

But I don’t care about his stats. Roethlisberger doesn’t care about his stats.

Regardless of Roethlisberger’s “career years,” the notion of three straight non-playoff years is unacceptable. Nothing good can be gained via three straight non-playoff years.

The Steelers were 55-25 with Arians as offensive coordinator. One Super Bowl win, another Super Bowl appearance. They’re 22-20 with Haley. No playoff games.

Go ahead: Find a bright side. Or an upside. You can’t.

TAKEAWAYS > NASTY

I’m not sure I buy the narrative about the Steelers defense being better because it’s mean and nasty again. That’s getting put out there to make LB James Harrison seem more important than just one good game, which he definitely had vs. Baltimore.

Mean and nasty is overrated in football’s current era. The Steelers defense is putting pressure on the QB and getting takeaways.

No need to romanticize about something that doesn’t matter. The facts are good enough.

When LB Jarvis Jones returns from injury, the Steelers will be hard-pressed to not keep playing Harrison. But I’d still put Jones back in. This is Harrison’s last gasp, not a new beginning.

As for Sunday’s opponent, the biggest problem with the New York Jets is trying to make them seem like a credible foe. They’re coached by a circus clown and quarterbacked by a convicted felon. Their secondary has allowed 24 touchdown passes while collecting just one interception. Could Big Ben go for 6-6-6?

The Steelers are favored by 5. I can’t imagine the Steelers not covering.

522 THE ORGANIC WAY

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger needed just 33 more yards yesterday to break Norm Van Brocklin’s NFL single-game record for passing yards. That mark got set, incredibly, in 1951. No face mask for Van Brocklin.

But Roethlisberger isn’t an attention junkie. Let Van Brocklin have his 554. Ben is fine with 522.

Roethlisberger’s numbers yesterday were organic. They were NEEDED. No matter how many points the Steelers scored, it always felt like it might not be enough.

When the Steelers led 42-34 in the fourth quarter and RB LeGarrette Blount fumbled at the Indianapolis 5, were you petrified? You should have been. It was lucky that Colts QB Andrew Luck tripped and gave the Steelers a safety.

Roethlisberger is the first NFL quarterback to have two 500-yard passing games. Yesterday’s win was his 100th, in 150 starts. Ben got victory No. 100 quicker than any QB except Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. Fast company, but Roethlisberger belongs.

My lone complaint: Why did Ben play the Steelers’ last offensive series, thus taking a big hit from Colts LB Jonathan Newsome? It should be Bruce Gradkowski’s job to take that shot.

Let Ben be big. That’s the Steelers’ best hope moving forward.

NEAL FOR HORNQVIST = GOOD TRADE

So far, anyway.

I’m a James Neal guy. He’s a great talent. A pure goal-scorer. An excellent RW for C Evgeni Malkin.

But trading Neal to Nashville for RW Patric Hornqvist and LW/C Nick Spaling has changed the Penguins’ dynamic in drastic fashion, especially on the power play.

Last season, the Pens had one guy legitimately work down low and invade the blue paint on the man-advantage: Chris Kunitz. This year, it’s Kunitz and Hornqvist. The result is evident.

When a team works the perimeter on the power play, it can be defended. No matter how much talent is there, a decent PK can figure it out.

But when a PP has talent, moves the puck AND keeps going to the net, the PK is always scrambling. Responsibilities change in the wink of an eye, and they keep changing.

The Penguins’ PP is a red-hot 6/13. Credit assistant coach Rick Tocchet. He’s in charge.

Last year, the power play looked for the perfect shot. This year, the power play is looking for the second shot – the rebound, the loose puck – and those are often better shots because the opposition PK is caught out of position.

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