Sunday, April 30, 2017

Steelers 2017 draft capsules for rounds 4-7

By Chris Harlan
April 29, 2017
Image result for joshua dobbs
Joshua Dobbs
Round: Fourth
Overall pick: 135th
Position: Quarterback
College: Tennessee
Height: 6-3
Weight: 216
Pros: Should be a quick learner considering he has a degree in aerospace engineering. … Had a 47.7 percent completion percentage and 14 touchdowns on passes of 21-plus yards, an indication of his ability to throw the deep ball. … Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said Dobbs has strong enough arm to play in NFL.
Cons: Threw 12 interceptions in his senior year and fumbled 30 times in his college career. … Despite being a dual threat at Tennessee, Dobbs must show he can play in a pro offense. … May need to add weight to his slender frame.
Good fit for Steelers?: Dobbs won't be asked to play right away, so he can spend at least a year learning under Ben Roethlisberger and backup Landry Jones. Whether this was a smart pick might be known until 2018 or '19.
College highlights: Won 23 games at Tennessee, tying for fifth most in program history. … Set school record for rushing yards (2,160) and rushing touchdowns (32) by a quarterback. … One of three quarterbacks in SEC history to have 15 passing and 10 rushing touchdowns in multiple seasons.

Image result for brian allen utah
Round: Fifth
Overall pick: 173rd
Position: cornerback
College: Utah
Height: 6-3
Weight: 215
Pros: Allen's height and length (34-inch arms) drew the team to the defensive back. No cornerback invited to the NFL Combine was taller.
Cons: A converted wide receiver, Allen didn't play defense until 2014 and didn't become a starter until his fifth-year senior season.
Good fit for Steelers?: The Steelers drafted Tennessee cornerback Cameron Sutton on Friday but can use the added depth. Carnell Lake insisted Allen would have been a higher-round pick with more experience.
College highlights: Allen started only nine games at Utah, but had four interceptions. He finished with 62 career tackles, 14 passes defenses and five interceptions.

Image result for colin holba louisville
Round: Sixth
Overall pick: 213th
Position: long snapper
College: Louisville
Height: 6-4
Weight: 248
Pros: Draft analysts noted Holba's velocity and placement on extra-point and field-goal kicks. As one of two long snappers invited to the NFL Combine, Holba ran the 40-yard dash in 5.19 seconds, had a 28-inch vertical and a 115-inch broad jump. He comes from a football family. His uncle, John Holba, played quarterback at Ohio and Western Michigan from 1994-96. A cousin, Andrew Holba, was an offensive lineman at Air Force in 2013.
Cons: The Steelers used a pick on a position rarely drafted.
Good fit for Steelers?: The choice was a bit surprising because the Steelers have 13-year veteran Greg Warren on the roster.
College highlights: Was the full-time long snapper at Louisville for two seasons. Also saw action in one game as a sophomore.

Image result for keion adams
Round: Seventh
Overall pick: 248th
Position: Outside linebacker
College: Western Michigan
Height: 6-2
Weight: 245
Pros: Draft analysts noted Adams' closing burst when chasing a ball carrier. He had 14 12 career sacks. He was a three-sport athlete in high school who won a North Carolina state title in 2010.
Cons: He's undersized for edge rusher or defensive end, which could have kept other teams away. Analysts question his ability to fight off blockers; he doesn't win battles with his strength but often his speed.
Good fit for Steelers?: An analysis compared him with a linebacker the Steelers know well: Arthur Moats.
College highlights: In 50 games at Western Michigan, Adams had 124 career tackles, 32 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Capitals running out of answers, time vs. Penguins

April 30, 2017
Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, right, watches from the bench next to defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) during the third period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Washington. Holtby was pulled from the game after the second period. Photo: Nick Wass, AP / FR67404 AP
Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, right, watches from the bench next to defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) during the third period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Washington. Holtby was pulled from the game after the second period. (Nick Wass/AP)
Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen was asked what the mood was inside the locker room after their soul-crushing Game 2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.
“None of your business,” was the terse reply.
Niskanen was asked what the veteran leaders, led by Nicklas Backstrom, said in a closed-door, players-only meeting following the loss. “None of your business,” he said.
Oh, to have had an ear to the door on that meeting.
What’s left to say?
What can you say about the start? The Capitals played one of the most dominating periods any team has played in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They outshot the Penguins, 16-5. They had 35 shot attempts to just eight for Pittsburgh. The Capitals talked about getting a lead, not chasing the game, after their Game 1 loss. They unloaded on the Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury turned back 16 shots and the first period ended in a scoreless tie.
Then Kevin Shattenkirk got outhustled by a 40 year old for a shorthanded goal, and the Penguins had another lead.
(Shattenkirk was a special kind of terrible last night, getting beaten on that Matt Cullen goal and then later taking a delay of game penalty that resulted in a Phil Kessel power-play goal. He’s got three points and has skated to a minus-7 overall in the playoffs, but Game 2 might have been the deadline prize’s postseason nadir. Squint and you can see the dollars disappearing on his free-agent offers.)
The Capitals can’t play much better than they did for 20 minutes here. But as Omar memorably said on “The Wire”: Come at the king, you best not miss.
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What else can you say about the Penguins?
The Capitals have controlled play for long stretches in these two games, but they haven’t even created a furrowed brow on a Pittsburgh player.
There’s no fear on the other side. They know Sidney Crosby will do what he’s done in these first two games, which was put two pucks in the net in Game 1 and then create two more goals in Game 2, one of them off a blocked shot in his own defensive zone.
And now, on top of that, they’re confident that Fleury can be the best goalie in the series.
What else can you say about Braden Holtby?
When I was down in D.C. before Game 2, the talk around the team was about how Holtby hadn’t, to this point, exerted his will and flat-out won a game for the Capitals in the playoffs. You can argue he was the difference in Game 6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which was a critical win. But in Game 2 against the Penguins, he was pulled for the first time in the postseason after whiffing on Jake Guentzel’s shot that made it 3-1.
“The playoffs are made of big moments,” Holtby said. “On that third goal, it’s a big moment. That’s where your goalie has to come up and make a big save, and I didn’t do that.”
And so he was yanked.
“I would regret if I didn’t do it. If you don’t try, then you don’t know,” said coach Barry Trotz, who was non-committal on Holtby for Game 3. “On some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he could have been. He’s a game-changer for us. And when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit.”
What else can you say about the “mojo” of this team?
I totally bought what Trotz was selling after Game 1: That the Capitals weren’t in “here we go again mode.” That they played well, could identify their errors and build on it. That the panic they felt after things fell apart in Game 3 last postseason hadn’t manifested.
I can’t believe it’s not there now. These are two missed opportunities on home ice against a bunch of assassins on the other side. This is a series where the Penguins are significantly shorthanded, and perhaps even more so with Patric Hornqvist out. This is a series where Crosby can seemingly turn the tide when he feels like it. This is a series where Fleury has stopped 67 of 71 shots, while Holtby has stopped only 29 of 35. This is a series that’s slowly going from a matter of “if” to “when,” and one in which the established norms in this lopsided rivalry aren’t even close to being subverted.
“They have a great pedigree. They’ve won a Cup. They’ve gone to places in their room that you go when you win a championship. We’re going to have to go to places that we haven’t gone before to beat this team,” said Trotz.
This isn’t something we heard in the first round against the Leafs. The Capitals were demonstrably a better team. They played with confidence and spoke with confidence, a top-seed that felt the inevitability of victory even when they were staring at a deficit.
It’s none of our business, apparently, what was said in the Capitals’ room. But do you think anyone actually said “we’re the better team” and meant it?
And so the Capitals are in an 0-2 hole to their arch rivals, bullies and tormentors. Their best shots haven’t been good enough. Their advantages in the series haven’t been taken. If this is still “the year” for the Capitals, they’ll have it’s almost unfathomable what dynamic needs to change here to overcome the Penguins.
Although, we suppose, it begins with winning Game 3.
“We’re going to go there and win two games there. I think that’s an outstanding challenge for us,” said Trotz.
We’d ask how they intend to meet that challenge. But it’s probably none of our business.
Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.comor find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

Marc-Andre Fleury’s stingy goaltending sparks Pittsburgh Penguins' Game 2 win

, USA TODAY Sports
April 29, 2017

Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save against the Washington Capitals in the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The Pittsburgh Penguins’ decision to prepare for the worst-case scenario has put them in the best possible position for a run at a second consecutive Stanley Cup title.

General manager Jim Rutherford was reluctant to trade Fleury this season because he wanted a viable Plan B if last year’s goaltending hero Matt Murray was injured.

That thinking seemed clairvoyant after Murray was injured during the warm-up before the first game of the playoffs. Fleury stepped in to become the most important figure in the team’s quest to be the first NHL team since 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to win back-to-back championships.

“He’s been our best player,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

Fleury is the primary reason why the Penguins will enter Monday’s Game 3 in Pittsburgh with a 2-0 lead over the Washington Capitals in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal

“He’s a great competitor,” Sullivan said. “He’s a great teammate and he’s risen to the challenge.”

On Saturday, he made 34 saves in a 6-2 win to give him 67 saves in the first two games of the series. He owns a .944 save percentage against the Capitals and a .937 save percentage in the Penguins’ first seven playoff games.

This is a guy who lost his starter’s job to Matt Murray last season after serving as the franchise’s No. 1 goalie for more than a decade. He helped the Penguins win a Stanley Cup in 2009, but he was watching from the bench when Murray took the Penguins to a championship last season.

The expectation is that next season Fleury, 33, will be in Las Vegas, or Dallas, or Calgary or Vancouver, or somewhere else. Just not in Pittsburgh. Murray is younger and less expensive.

But Fleury is not fueled by anger. He’s fueled by personal pride and a desire to help his guys. He has long been a favorite in the Penguins’ dressing room.

“It’s fun,” Fleury said. “It’s good to win. I’m really enjoying this time right now. I don’t try to overthink stuff.”

It doesn't require heavy thinking to conclude that the Penguins are winning the series because Fleury is doing the heavy lifting. The Capitals dominated the Penguins in the first period of Game 2 and Fleury was flawless, stopping all 16 shots he faced. The Penguins were being outshot 19-5 when they scored their first goal.

“That’s what they do,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “They are a quick strike team.”

What makes Fleury’s exploits more valuable is that Washington’s No 1 goalie Braden Holtby isn’t at his best. He was pulled after two periods in Game 2. He has given up six goals on 35 shots in the series.

“We just had to change the mojo,” Trotz said. “He will tell you that he can be better.”

Holtby has play sharper or the Capitals’ chances of coming back in this series are minimal. Even though the Penguins have scored nine goals in the first two games, it still has the feel of a goaltender series because Fleury’s ability to outduel Holtby has been the critical component of their success.

Trotz was asked whether he believed the Penguins had discovered Holtby’s vulnerabilities. He dismissed that theory, noting that his team has studied films of Fleury as well. “There are no secrets,” he said.

Philipp Grubauer played the third period in goal for the Caps in Game 2. Trotz said he hasn’t given any thought to which goalie he will use Game 3.

It is likely to be Holtby. He’s a Vezina Trophy candidate. He’s one of their stars.

“He wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us,” Trotz said “He’s a game-changer for us. When he didn’t change the game, I looked to change the Mojo a little bit  Braden’s our guy. He has been all year. We have to find some goals for him to. We just can’t put it on Braden Holtby.”

Follow Kevin Allen on Twitter @ByKevinAllen.

Crosby has upper hand in marquee matchup with Ovechkin

By Jonathan Bombulie
April 30, 2017
Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skate after the puck in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – In the matchup between hockey's marquee players, 87 is greater than 8 through two games of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Penguins and Washington Capitals.
That's not a slight to 8, Alex Ovechkin, who is hardly to blame for the 0-2 hole his Capitals find themselves in.
It's more a compliment to 87, Sidney Crosby, who has been a driving force for the Penguins.
Crosby made two key plays in the second period to lead the Penguins to a 6-2 victory in Game 2 Saturday night after they were dominated in the first period.
First, he took a pass from Jake Guentzel that was a couple of feet behind him and played it between his skates without slowing down to start a two-on-one that ended with a Phil Kessel goal.
Next, he dropped to his knees to block a Justin Williams shot in the defensive zone, springing Guentzel for a two-on-one that led to the goal that gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead.
"It was nice to get a lead," Crosby said. "We had a tough start. They were coming pretty hard. To get through the first tied was a big plus for us. … We just wanted to try to get momentum in the second. We couldn't really get it in the first. It was nice to get a go-ahead goal from Phil there."
Crosby was also instrumental in a 3-2 victory for the Penguins in Game 1. He scored two goals in a 52-second span to jump-start the Penguins offense early in the second period.
Add it up, and it's two goals, two assists and a plus-4 rating in the series.
"He's the best 200-foot player in the game in my estimation," coach Mike Sullivan said. "He plays at both ends of the rink. He defends as well as he plays with the puck and creates offense.
"He's a committed guy right now. I think he sees an opportunity for this team to have success and he leads by example. When he does that, he's inspiring to his teammates and certainly his coaching staff. I can't say enough about Sid's leadership. I think his play speaks for itself, but his leadership, both through his example on a daily basis and the influence that he has on our young players and the rest of our group, I can't say enough for it."
Saturday's two-assist effort improved Crosby's already lofty standing in the team's record books.
He moved past Jaromir Jagr for sole possession of second place on the team's all-time playoff scoring list with 148 points in 131 games. Mario Lemieux leads with 172.
It was also the 52nd multi-point playoff game of Crosby's career, breaking Lemieux's franchise record in that category.
"It's nice," Crosby said. "Played in a lot of playoff games over the years. Been a part of some good teams."
Crosby's next challenge, of course, is to help the Penguins keep their foot on the gas pedal when the series shifts to Pittsburgh for Game 3 Monday night.
"There's things we have to improve on," Crosby said. "I thought in the second and third, we got to our game a little more. We knew they were going to come out pretty hard. I still feel like there's some areas where we can get better."
Ovechkin, meanwhile, will be trying to ignite his team's comeback efforts.
The Capitals captain has hit the scoresheet in both games in the series, recording a goal in the opener and assists on both Washington goals Saturday night.
He has taken six shots on goal and attempted six others. He's a minus-2 for the series.
"They win two games in our building, so we just have to go up there and try to win the third one," Ovechkin said. "The series goes to four games. When you lose four, it's over. Of course it's tough, but we're looking forward to it."
THE SERIES: Penguins lead, 2-0.
LAST GAME: Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel scored two goals apiece as the Penguins survived a rocky first period and beat the Capitals 6-2 in Game 2 Saturday night.
NEXT GAME: The Penguins will return to PPG Paints Arena, where they are 33-6-4 this season, for Game 3 Monday night.
A NOTE: The Penguins have won the first two games of a playoff series 18 times in franchise history. They've won 16 of those series, losing to the Islanders in 1975 and Flyers in 2000.
A QUOTE: "I think we were happy we got away with 0-0 after the first. Started playing better there in the second half of the second period, and then we had a good third. We've got to build off of that." – winger Carl Hagelin
A NUMBER: 5 – Penguins players who blocked at least three shots in Game 2 Saturday night. Olli Maatta led the way with six blocks.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.
Editor's note: Visit for the Chipped Ice A.M. report every morning the Penguins play or practice throughout their series with the Capitals.

Capitals don’t have answer for Penguins’ ‘compete level’

April 30, 2017
Matt Cullen #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins scores a goal against Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals in the second period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)
You want to see puck management? I’ll show you puck management.
Washington Capitals – 71 shots on goal in the first two games of this Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals series before their home crowd at the Verizon Center.
Pittsburgh Penguins? How about 45 shots on goal in the first two games on the road?
Yet the Penguins have scored nine goals, compared to four for the Capitals.
And yes, the Penguins lead this best-of-seven series 2-0, heading to Pittsburgh now for Game 3 after their 6-2 win Saturday night.
There’s your puck management, baby.
When the Penguins disposed of the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games in the first round, their coach, Mike Sullivan, spoke of his team’s “compete level.”
That’s a level the Washington Capitals, in the era of Alex Ovechkin, have never had in postseason hockey. The Alex Ovechkin Capitals have a fundamental flaw.
There is too much failure, too many disappointments.
There’s no answer for Washington at this point – not even pulling their star goalie, Braden Holtby, at the start of the third period, down 3-1. His replacement, Philipp Grubauer, was no answer, as he gave up two more, with the final one coming with an empty net with less than a minute left in the game.
“We had to change sort of the mojo in that situation,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said when asked about pulling Holtby.
Washington seems incapable of changing the mojo.
“They’ve gone to places you have to go to win championships,” Trotz said of his opponent. “We need to go to those places.”
But Trotz said after their Game 1 loss to the Penguins, his team needed to get off to a better start the next game. They did just that, relentlessly attacking Pittsburgh 16 shots on goal, compared to just 5 for the Penguins. And Washington had two power play opportunities in the period, compared to none for Pittsburgh.
It was as powerful an offensive display as we have seen from a Capitals team in one period in the playoffs.
Yet, at the end of the period, the score was 0-0.
And that was all Washington had.
Just 1:15 into the second period – on yet another Capitals power play – Penguins center Matt Cullen scored a short-handed goal on a turnover by Kevin Shattenkirk to put his team on top 1-0.
Washington came back to tie it a 1-1 a little more than a minute later on a power play goal by Matt Niskanen. But at 13:04 in the period, Sidney Crosby showed his “compete level” with a remarkable pass while he had three Capitals defending him to Phil Kessel for the goal and a 2-1 lead for Pittsburgh, a lead they never gave up.
Jake Guentzel made it 3-1 Pittsburgh at 16:14 of the second period, off a blocked shot by, of course, Crosby.
It was 4-1 when Nicklas Backstrom added a goal in the third period, but Pittsburgh responded quickly with a goal by Evgeni Malkin two minutes later for 5-2 lead, sending Capitals fans to the exits in plenty of time to take Metro before it shut down for the night – perhaps for the last time this season.
Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

James Conner Official Highlights

Cameron Sutton Highlights - Welcome to Pittsburgh

JuJu Smith-Schuster Highlights - Welcome to Pittsburgh

Steelers draft profiles: Southern Cal's Smith-Schuster, Tennessee's Sutton, Pitt's Conner

By Chris Harlan
April 29, 2017

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Player: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Position: wide receiver
College: Southern Cal
Height: 6-1
Weight: 215
Pros: Smith-Schuster is valued as a physical receiver with strong hands, and should be expected to make catches in traffic. He's drawn comparisons to NFL veteran Anquan Boldin, a wideout Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley coached in Arizona.
Cons: Smith-Schuster doesn't have elite speed; he ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Good fit for Steelers?: Ben Roethlisberger prefers to throw to tall receivers, and at 6-foot-1, Smith-Schuster should fit expectation. However, his arrival adds another player to what already is a crowded position. He could battle for playing time with Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates, Justin Hunter, Eli Rogers, Cobi Hamilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
College highlights: A three-year starter who made 39 starts, Smith-Schuster had 213 catches for 3,092 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was named first-team All-Pac 12 as a sophomore and led the conference with 1,454 receiving yards that season. He led the Trojans with 89 receptions and 10 touchdown catches that season.
Image result for cameron sutton
Player: Cameron Sutton
Position: cornerback
College: Tennessee
Height: 5-11
Weight: 188
Pros: Sutton was a four-year starter at Tennessee with notable man-coverage skills. He made 45 starts and set a school record with 37 pass defenses. His career stats also include seven interceptions and 127 tackles. He also was a standout punt returner for the Volunteers; he returned 45 punts for 657 yards and three touchdowns.
Cons: Analysts labeled Sutton as “passive” in press coverage, and said he wasn't considered a physical tackler who'll contribute to run stopping. As a senior, Sutton sustained a fractured ankle and missed almost half of the season.
Good fit for Steelers?: Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake said the Steelers valued Sutton's man-coverage skills, a technique the team may feature more.
College highlights: Sutton joined Tennessee's starting lineup as a true freshman, led the team with nine pass breakups and returned an interception for a touchdown. He led the nation in punt return average (18.7) as a junior, when he returned 25 punts for a school-record 467 yards and two touchdowns. He had an 84-yard punt-return touchdown that season and a 76-yard punt return score as a sophomore.
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Player: James Conner
Position: running back
College: Pitt
Height: 6-1
Weight: 233
Pros: Conner's battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma cast a national spotlight on the Erie native. Draft analysts praised his resilience, mental toughness and leadership skills. However, before his cancer diagnosis, Conner earned ACC Player of the Year honors when he had 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore. Conner returned as a senior and rushed for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns on 216 carries, earning first-team All-ACC honors. He's a physical runner who's tough to arm tackle.
Cons: Conner isn't a cut-back runner who'll make tacklers miss. At the NFL combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds. His health concerns (season-ending torn MCL in 2015 included) likely hurt his draft stock with some NFL teams.
Good fit for Steelers?: Conner's aggressive running style could pair well with Le'Veon Bell's patience and finesse. DeAngelo Williams is a free agent, so the Steelers were in the market for another running back. The other roster options are Knile Davis and Fitzgerald Toussaint.
College highlights: Conner finished second to Tony Dorsett on Pitt's all-time lists for rushing yards (3,733), total touchdowns (56) and rushing touchdowns (52).