Saturday, September 28, 2019

Steve Blass Hangs Up The Microphone This Weekend

September 27, 2019

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - An era truly comes to an end this weekend at PNC Park. Steve Blass, a man who has been with the Pittsburgh Pirates for 60 years is retiring, well for the most part.

The longtime color analyst announced at the beginning of the season that 2019 would be his last behind the microphone.

From winning the World Series in 1971 to dropping treats down from the press box on Sundays, Blass has been at the forefront of what is fun about baseball.

For years Blass has joined Larry and John on KDKA Radio every Friday during the season to recap the week and look at the week ahead, but this visit was different, this was the last one.
Blass says old friends from his home state of Connecticut have been calling and texting (even though he doesn’t understand the technology), and everyone he has run into has given him something, mainly cigars.

“Even the guys that work security up the press box area gave me some cigars and they sent home a dozen roses for Karen,” said Blass. “I mean it’s just coming from everywhere and it’s been fabulous, I mean, my goodness!”

“A couple from Ellwood City made this huge, huge quilt all kinds of renderings and pictures of playing days and Pirate logos and everything, I mean just a work of love,” said Blass. “And I said what are you going to do with it, and they said, ‘well it’s yours’ and that kind of things has just been an ongoing things for the last 10 days, two weeks.”

Blass’ career will be honored on Saturday night and he know it will be an emotional evening.
The Pirates have also set up a voice mail box for those that want to say thank you for Blass.

That number is 412-325-4660.

When asked what he is going to do with all of his free time, Blass responded “whatever I want to!” But honestly Blass says he is going to spend time catching up with his wife and family and plans to spend the entire month of October golfing.

While Steve Blass night is Saturday he will still be there on Sunday for the entire game of the season.

“I’m not even going to keep a score card, I’m just going to be thanking people and trying to let people in Pittsburgh know how much all this has meant to me and our family, the way we were welcomed here in this city, a lot of years ago when we didn’t know much about it and I’ve never lost track of that.”

One of the things Blass is going to be missed for are his thousands of baseball stories and Greg Brown, the voice of the Pirates, told Larry and John Thursday he’s heard them all.
“I tell Greg Brown and I tell everybody when I speak when they ask me why I’m retiring, I (say) because if I hear another ‘clear the deck, cannonball coming, I’m going to kill myself,” Blass said jokingly.

Blass says Brown is his best friend and a lot of Pittsburgh feels like they’re losing a good friend but Blass has said that he is still going to be around the organization, you just won’t hear him on the microphone anymore.

On a personal note, we’ll miss talking to Steve every week and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.

Pirates legend Steve Blass reflects on his career, the end and what’s ahead

By Jason Mackey
September 19, 2019

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History is littered with famous cigar smokers, from Mark Twain to Winston Churchill to George Burns. It was actually Burns, the ageless and quick-witted comedian, who delivered the money line, “If I had taken my doctor's advice and quit smoking when he advised me to, I wouldn't have lived to go to his funeral.” Burns died at the age of 100 and was buried with three of his favorite cigars.
Neither cigar smoking nor longevity is lost on Pirates legend Steve Blass, whose own charmed life has been littered with stogie stories. Like the time Blass, shortly after helping the Pirates win the 1971 World Series, wound up touring the General Cigar Company's New York City offices. Or 15 years ago, when Blass thought he was ready to retire, told one of his best friends, Greg Brown, over a cigar, then changed his mind weeks later.
That’s why, as Blass' (official) career in baseball burns closer and closer to the band, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sought out the 77-year-old Blass to talk about all he's experienced and what's ahead. That conversation, naturally, occurred over a cigar. A Rocky Patel, Steve’s choice.
Wearing a suit sans sport coat because he would appear on AT&T SportsNet later that night, Blass leaned over the railing and pointed across the Ohio River toward his apartment on Mount Washington. There was a "no smoking” sign to his left, but let’s be honest here: Who’s going to tell Steve Blass he can’t smoke at PNC Park?
Since the ballpark’s inaugural season in 2001, and for a couple years prior at Three Rivers Stadium, this has become their pregame tradition: A few hours before first pitch, on a cement landing a level down from the press box, Blass and Brown each light a cigar.
They sit on plastic chairs they stash near the fire escape. Occasionally, other members of the broadcast team show up, too, though Blass and Brown are the two constants.
It’s here, before pretty much every Pirates home game, that Blass will most often reflect — about baseball, life, whatever. “Freestyle conversations,” he called them, flicking an ash. On this day, the topic was a fairly obvious one: It’s September, only a couple weeks before he signs off. Was Blass thinking about that?
Yeah, absolutely, he admitted. How could he not? He’s somewhat nervous, too. But Blass is hoping some of his previous experience will help him figure it out.

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Steve Blass thanks Pirates, city of Pittsburgh for ’77-year party’

By Bob Bauder
September 27, 2019
Steve Blass considers himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
After a 60-year career with the Pirates as a pitcher and broadcaster, Blass, 77, is retiring this weekend.
On Friday, Mayor Bill Peduto presented Blass with a proclamation declaring Saturday “Steve Blass Day” in the city.
Peduto said Blass exemplifies the best characteristics of Pittsburgh.
“Today we recognize something that’s been very much a part of the people who call Pittsburgh home today,” Peduto said. “That is the importance that you’ve played in our lives. Sixty years you’ve given of yourself through the Pittsburgh Pirates. You did it on the field. You did it off the field. You did it on the air.”
Blass, of Mt. Washington, vowed that he and wife, Karen, would remain city residents.
“People here have been so kind,” he said. “I’m going to spend the rest of the time on this Earth, if I’m able, when I run into people in the city of Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas (thanking) them for caring about the Pittsburgh Pirates, caring about me on the mound and caring about our family. It doesn’t get any better than living in Pittsburgh for me.”
Blass pitched for the Pirates in the minor and major leagues from 1960 through 1974. He retired in 1975 with a pitching record of 103-76.
He is best known for pitching two complete games in the 1971 World Series, including the clinching seventh game over the Baltimore Orioles. He’s been a color commentator for the team since 1983.
He’s also known for an inexplicable loss of control which ended his career and became known as “Steve Blass Disease.”
“I almost consider my life to be a 77-year party,” Blass said. “My baseball record is 103 and 76, but I consider myself at age 77 to be 75 and two. I had 75 great years. I had two really rotten years. I think you learn as much or more about yourself when you’re struggling than when you’re sailing along.”
Blass appeared in Peduto’s City-County Building offices, Downtown, to receive the proclamation along with his son, Chris, fellow broadcaster Greg Brown and several Pirate representatives. He said he planned to spend time with his family and grandchildren, going to baseball games and enjoying “a ‘dog and a beer.”
He also plans to devote more time to his wife, whom he christened Saint Karen.
“I’m so proud to represent this city,” he said
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, or via Twitter .

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Friday, September 27, 2019

A Renaissance Runs Through It

By John Tierney
Summer 2019

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(Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)

If you want to see how to revive a city—and how not to—go to Pittsburgh. No other modern American city has worked so hard for so long in so many ways to reinvent itself. It transformed itself from the Smoky City to the Renaissance City in the 1940s, and that was just the beginning. Pittsburghers today refer to that era as Renaissance I because they’re now up to Renaissance III—or maybe IV, depending on how you count.

The past rebirths enthralled urban planners and put Pittsburgh high in the rankings of “most livable” cities, but a problem recurred: fewer and fewer people actually wanted to live there. As the master builders obliterated streets and erected towers, young people left town. I was one of them, having experienced, a few blocks from my parents’ home, a would-be renaissance hailed in the 1960s as the largest urban-renewal project in America.

It was an attempt to revitalize a part of the city called East Liberty, once the third-busiest retail district in Pennsylvania, surpassed only by the downtowns of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. As a teenager working there in a drug store, I initially admired the planners’ bold makeover, assuming that these experts knew far more than the rest of us. The drugstore owners, who regularly cursed the project’s new pedestrian malls and boulevards and high-rises, struck me as sadly retrograde—until I saw the eventual results. Hundreds of businesses shut down and thousands of residents fled, turning the neighborhood into a crime-ridden wasteland. When I worked at the Pittsburgh Press in 1974, the only story I covered in East Liberty was the shooting of a police officer.

Pittsburghers resolved on yet another renaissance. “Never-Say-Die East Liberty Fights Back,” the Press proclaimed in 1983, but things just got worse as the shutdown of steel mills devastated the city’s economy. My visits back to East Liberty became nostalgic tours of the ruins. There was the deserted Nabisco plant, whose Ritz-cracker aromas had once wafted over our baseball field. There was my dentist’s former office, the Highland Building, erected by Henry Clay Frick and designed by Daniel Burnham (the architect of the Flatiron Building), its stately terra-cotta façade now crumbling and its doors boarded up. There was the YMCA, where we’d played basketball, now abandoned except for the men from the nearby homeless shelter passed out on the sidewalk. There was the corner where my old drugstore stood until a fire of mysterious origin (well, maybe not so mysterious) destroyed it.

The renaissancers kept trying—“Hope in East Liberty,” ran a 1996 headline—but the people kept leaving. By 2010, Pittsburgh’s population was barely 300,000, less than half its size in 1950. Pittsburgh had all the comparative disadvantages of other Rust Belt cities: high taxes, powerful unions, burgeoning pension obligations, inferior public schools, and a decaying infrastructure. East Liberty and the rest of the city seemed a lost cause.

But then, over the past decade, I was stunned to see the ruins come to life. Google’s flag flies over the old Nabisco plant, now an office employing more than 600 of its techies. The renovated Highland Building rents two-bedroom apartments for more than $3,000 a month—a staggering sum to anyone familiar with Pittsburgh real estate, though not quite as shocking to me as what’s happened to the YMCA. The old gym, its peeling paint lovingly preserved, has become the ballroom of a cooler-than-thou Ace Hotel, the homeless men on the sidewalk replaced by a valet-parking attendant.

How did this happen? Outside economic forces were partly to thank: the new money flowing into Pittsburgh from fracking, robotics, health care, and other industries. But some credit goes to the same kind of coalition that led the earlier renaissances: business leaders, philanthropists, nonprofit groups, politicians, and developers. They learned from their predecessors’ mistakes, and the lessons are valuable for any city.

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Bengals look to avoid making history against the Steelers

By Ben Baby
September 27, 2019
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(Getty Images)
CINCINNATI -- Those around Cincinnati have let first-year Bengals coach Zac Taylor know the importance of the annual games against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“They’re pretty frank about it,” Taylor said this week.
If folks around town are pretty fed up, there’s a good reason. The Bengals are carrying an eight-game losing streak against the Steelers into Monday night’s game at Pittsburgh (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App). Should Cincinnati lose the contest between two of the NFL’s remaining winless teams and stretch the streak to nine, it will be the longest of its kind in franchise history.
And if there’s ever been a time to break the streak, Monday’s nationally televised game will be as good as any.
“Sometimes it takes one,” Taylor said of a potential victory against the Steelers, who like the Bengals are 0-3. “It just takes that first one to get it rolling. We’re hungry for that one and we desperately want it right now. The important thing is we don’t deviate, and we stay the course, and we know where we’re headed.”
Despite the optimism, the trajectory for the Bengals’ season should be much clearer after Week 4. Over the past 10 seasons, every team that started 0-4 has missed the playoffs. After Cincinnati dropped the first three games of the season, the odds overwhelmingly favor a top-five draft pick in 2020 instead of a potential postseason run.
But if there’s any solace for the Bengals during their slow start, it’s that their rivals have been equally bad. While the sample size is still relatively small, the Steelers are one of two teams that have scored fewer points (49) and allowed more (85) than Cincinnati (54 points scored, 83 points allowed). The other is the Dolphins, who are losing by an average of 39 points per game.
The state of both franchises hasn’t dissipated the distaste for the rivals.
“It’s been a long time since we beat those guys and I want this game so bad,” Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “I think a lot of guys in this locker room want this game so bad. We’re not focusing on the records.”
The 100th game between the Bengals and the Steelers is unique because of the new cast of players on both sides.
Pittsburgh no longer has running back Le'Veon Bell or wide receiver Antonio Brown on the roster. Second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph will be starting in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who is recovering from elbow surgery.
And in Cincinnati, polarizing linebacker Vontaze Burfict is no longer in the Bengals’ locker room. Burfict had the vicious hit on Brown in a 2015 AFC wild-card game that led to the Steelers’ winning field goal and extended Cincinnati’s postseason victory drought that stretches back to the 1990 season.
Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who was drafted out of Pitt a few months after that 2015 playoff game, understands why it is such a rivalry.
“Guys trying to go out there and destroy each other,” said Boyd, who played his college games at the Steelers’ Heinz Field. “It was crazy for me to watch it.”
But over the past few seasons, the results have been one-sided. Boyd is among the many starters in Cincinnati who have never beaten Pittsburgh. A victory Monday could be particularly significant for a Bengals team still learning how to win.
“We’ve gotta find that killer instinct inside of us,” Taylor said.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Steelers coaches live in their fears with game plan

By Mark Madden
September 23, 2019

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It’s difficult to blood a second-year quarterback into starting duties, especially when it wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
Mason Rudolph isn’t proceeding on the expected timetable. Rudolph is deputizing for future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger because of the latter’s season-ending injury.
Rudolph is a third-round pick. It was hoped he wouldn’t have to assume the Steelers’ QB job until Roethlisberger’s contract expires after the 2021 season.
It always was going to be hard when Rudolph assumed the helm. He’s done nothing in his six quarters of NFL football to make anyone believe he can’t grow into the job. The Steelers’ gameplan, understandably, is designed to protect him.
But there’s a fine line between protecting Rudolph and living in your fears. We saw that Sunday at San Francisco, and it helped cost the Steelers the game.
The Steelers got two first-quarter turnovers in 49ers territory. Conventional wisdom says you take a shot at the end zone while the other team is reeling.
The Steelers didn’t.
After T.J. Watt’s interception gave the Steelers the ball on San Francisco’s 33 after just 73 seconds, Rudolph threw three short passes that netted 5 yards. The Steelers played it safe to make sure of getting a field goal.
They did. But winning in today’s NFL isn’t about scoring three points at a time.
Then, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s interception put the Steelers on the 49ers’ 24 after 10 minutes, 16 seconds was played. Same thing: three short passes, a run, a scramble and a field goal.
If Roethlisberger is playing, the Steelers lead 14-0 or 10-0 after that sequence.
It’s the first quarter. You’ve got to take shots. Have faith in Rudolph, because right now you’ve got no choice. Rudolph didn’t look scared. He seemed anything but.
But the coaches were scared on his behalf, and that did damage.
The Steelers led 6-0 after one quarter. They got two more turnovers in the second quarter but led just 6-3 at halftime. They finished with five takeaways but lost 24-20. The 49ers got two takeaways, converting theirs into 14 points.
How the heck do you get five takeaways and throw touchdown passes of 76 and 39 yards but still lose the game? (Even stranger, Rudolph’s only two completions beyond the line of scrimmage were those TD throws.)
The Steelers’ defense mostly got shredded, allowing 436 total yards. Fitzpatrick showed a nose for the ball, but the prior problems remain.
Too many good players aren’t playing well enough: Joe Haden and Cam Heyward are disappointing. The inexperience of Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds is understandable but frustrating. Mark Barron was eviscerated on San Francisco’s winning drive. Bud Dupree’s contribution was minimal despite lining up against a rookie left tackle making his first NFL start. (Has Dupree forgotten he’s playing for a contract?)
Same goes on offense, where the heralded offensive line continues to struggle. Both tackles spin like revolving doors. JuJu Smith-Schuster was on the receiving end of a 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown but was mostly invisible, grabbing just two other balls for 5 yards. James Conner got just 43 yards on 13 carries and had a soul-crushing fourth-quarter fumble that led to San Francisco’s winning touchdown.
Conner’s rushing totals are partly excused by the Steelers too often lining up in the shotgun and giving him sidecar handoffs which see him get the ball flat-footed and rob him of his power. But there’s no absolving Conner for his crucial cough-up.
Stupid idiots like me crowed about “addition by subtraction” when Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown hit the bricks, and it’s still good they’re gone (as witnessed by Bell’s mini-meltdown and Brown’s major insanity on Twitter yesterday).
But Conner and Smith-Schuster have to step up to make those departures palatable. Conner did last year but not so far this season. Smith-Schuster has made two big plays in three games but otherwise has disappeared. (He did yell, “Get me the (bleeping) ball” after his TD reception. He’ll be a No. 1 receiver in no time.)
That said, Bell and Brown don’t win that game at San Francisco without Roethlisberger. He made them. That’s apparent now and only will become more so.
This season is going down the drain at a rate that could make that deal for Fitzpatrick a disaster unless Fitzpatrick puts a bunch of All-Pro campaigns together. Miami bet on the Steelers imploding when they picked their trade partner for Fitzpatrick. What if that swap nets the Dolphins a top-five pick?
Categories: Sports | Steelers | Mark Madden Columns

Monday, September 23, 2019

Mixed results for Rudolph, Minkah in Steelers loss

By Brooke Pryor
September 22, 2019

(Associated Press)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Mason Rudolph sought out defensive tackle Cameron Heyward after the Pittsburgh Steelers' 24-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
"The game is on us," the quarterback told him. "We had so many opportunities with turnovers in the first half and the momentum swing with the defense. We've got to put more points on the board for you guys."

On an afternoon where the defense forced five turnovers, the offense's failure to capitalize on the takeaways resulted in the Steelers' third consecutive loss. Meanwhile, the 49ers forced two turnovers and scored a touchdown off each.
"We turned the ball over twice," coach Mike Tomlin said. "They scored two touchdowns in the second half, and really that's the difference in the game. In the first half, we were getting turnovers and we were settling for field goals. That's the storyline of the game."
The loss also marked the first start for two important members of the franchise going forward this season: Rudolph and defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Their afternoons were mixed bags, but each finished the Steelers' 24-20 loss with a handful of positive signs.
Rudolph struggled in the first half, completing eight of 15 attempts for only 40 yards, and he opened the third quarter with an interception. Early on, he looked out of sync with his young receivers, including rookie Diontae Johnson, who made his first start. But Rudolph finished strong, going 14-for-27 for 174 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
While conservative play calling kept Rudolph from getting much of anything going in his first half as the Steelers' starter, Fitzpatrick immediately showed why the Steelers (0-3) traded away their first-round pick for the first time since 1967.
Primarily playing free safety, Fitzpatrick contributed to the Steelers' victory in the turnover margin -- a strong predictor of the final score most of the time -- with a first-half interception and forced fumble.
"My coaches prepared me well, and my teammates helped me out a whole lot," he said. "We went out there, and they allowed me to just play my game of football. They kept it simple, and we just went out and played."
Late in the first quarter, the former Miami Dolphin ran in to help cornerback Joe Haden, who was covering running back Matt Breida. Haden tipped Jimmy Garappolo's pass, forcing it to go off Breida's hands, and Fitzpatrick was there to collect the interception. He ran it back 14 yards, giving the new Steelers' quarterback prime field position to start the drive. But instead of adding six to the board, the Steelers only managed a field goal.
Fitzpatrick ended the 49ers' next drive, too, this time, tackling running back Raheem Mostert low to jar the ball loose. Rookie linebacker Devin Bush recovered it, diving to snap it up for the third takeaway of the game. That time, the offense couldn't add any points to the board.
"We just didn't complement the defense very well all day," offensive lineman David DeCastro said. "Even when we started to get better as the game wore on, toward the second half, we just didn't finish."
With Fitzpatrick's help, the Steelers, for the second time in two seasons, racked up four takeaways in a half. Last year, they hit that mark against the Buccaneers, but prior to that, they hadn't forced four turnovers in a half since 2010.
But after a first-half performance that gave the Steelers a 6-3 lead at the break, Fitzpatrick and the defense couldn't keep pace in the second half as they stayed on the field for 73 plays. They allowed an eight-play, 38-yard scoring drive off Rudolph's third-quarter interception and a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive to close out the quarter.
"Good defenses get the hell off the field," Heyward said. "We didn't in the second half."
The Steelers offense, dormant for so much of the game, came alive in the second half thanks to a couple of deep passes by Rudolph and a brief burst in the run game.
Rudolph hit wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown to cap a three-play, 82-yard drive late in the third quarter.
The Steelers then opened the fourth quarter with a 10-yard run by James Conner, followed by a deep pass attempt to James Washington that drew a defensive pass interference flag and set up for Rudolph's 39-yard touchdown to Johnson -- the rookie's first of his NFL career.
"It was a matter of finding the right time to take the top off the defense," Rudolph said. "Maybe I have to be more aggressive. We'll watch the tape and figure that out."
But even with Fitzpatrick's immediate contributions and Rudolph's second-half touchdown passes, the Steelers winless streak continued as a result of Conner's fumble and the 49ers' subsequent fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
The Steelers now look to a Monday night matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals to avoid their first 0-4 start since the 2013 season, a year where they would up at 8-8 and missed the postseason.

Steelers vs. 49ers Week 3 Highlights | NFL 2019

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Focus on Pittsburgh: Without Roethlisberger, are Steelers a threat to 49ers?

By Jon Becker
September 17, 2019

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Mason Rudolph (AP/Don Wright)

As blasphemous as it may sound for a team that hasn’t been close to .500 in five years, over-confidence could be one of the 49ers’ biggest adversaries heading into Sunday’s game against the Steelers.
The 0-2 Steelers make their first visit to Levi’s with six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gone or the season, with top play-maker Juju Smith-Schuster yet to score a touchdown, and with a defensive unit that sometimes looks like the antithesis of the “Steel Curtain” from yesteryear.
Not surprisingly, the oddsmakers like the 49ers’ chances to go 3-0 for the first time in 21 years.
Here’s a closer look at San Francisco’s Week 3 game:
Game essentials: 49ers (2-0) vs. Pittsburgh (0-2) at Levi’s Stadium, Sunday at 1:25 p.m. (PT) on CBS-TV. Odds: 49ers -7.
Big Ben tolls no more
Elbow pain drove Roethlisberger out of Sunday’s 28-26 loss to the Seahawks in the second quarter, and it was announced Monday the 37-year-old will undergo season-ending surgery. So, for the first time since 2004, the Steelers will have a new starting quarterback — second-year man Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State replaces the man who won two Super Bowls for Pittsburgh. Worse yet for Pittsburgh, it will spend more than one quarter of its salary cap this season on two players who won’t suit up — Roethlisberger ($26.2 million cap hit) and ex-Raider, current Patriot Antonio Brown ($21.2 million hit).
Sputtering stars
Running back James Conner was going to duplicate Le’Veon Bell’s production and receiver Juju Smith-Schuster was going to make everyone forget about Brown. Two games in, the Steelers and their fans are still waiting for deliveries on those promises. Conner, who’s been hobbled with a nagging knee injury, has averaged just 2.6 yards per carry and has rushed for just 54 yards. Smith-Schuster, while thankfully not duplicating any of Brown’s quibbles or quirks, so far has pedestrian averages of 5.5 catches and 81 yards in two games after making the Pro Bowl following a 111-catch, 1,426-yard season last year. Not having the threat of Roethlisberger extending plays like only he can, the 49ers should have an easier time trying to contain both Conner and Smith-Schuster again.
Coverage concerns
Steelers’ linebacker Devin Bush, the 10th pick of the draft out of Michigan, may be one of the favorites to win Rookie Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s also having some troubles covering receivers. He’s not the only Pittsburgh linebacker with pass troubles as Mark Barron has also been targeted. In fact, Seattle had 13 catches by backs or tight ends during its win over Pittsburgh.
Stealing a star?
The Steelers pulled off a stunning trade late Monday to acquire star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins for a first-round pick. On the surface, it seems a curious move to unload what appears to be a top 10 pick next season for a defensive back not named Jalen Ramsey, but Fitzpatrick will stabilize Pittsburgh’s secondary. The Steelers allowed 61 points through two games and permitted Tom Brady and Russell Wilson to post an aggregate QB rating of 131.3, so they obviously felt something bold needed to be done. This just made things a bit tougher for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Say it ain’t so, Joe
Without Joe Staley protecting his blind side, Garoppolo’s time in the pocket could be compromised, especially considering the Steelers have a pair of stout defensive linemen in All-Pro Cam Heyward and also Stephon Tuitt, who earned a five-year, $61 million contract. 49ers rookie tackle Justin Skule will be counted on to help keep Garoppolo off the Levi’s turf, which may be a bit challenging.
The heart of a champion
One would assume at some point the Steelers would snap out of their current mess, even if only on a temporary basis. After all, Mike Tomlin knows a thing or two about winning games as he’s gone 125-68-1 with a Super Bowl title in 13 yards as the Steelers head coach. Despite the 0-2 start, there remains a lot of talent on the team and let’s not forget Pittsburgh has yet to have a losing season under Tomlin.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Rudolph certainly has Roethlisberger-like size, but now the former Oklahoma State star will need to produce at least close to what Big Ben delivered if the Steeers are going to threaten teams this year. Rudolph may not have a great arm, but scouts rave about his pocket presence. He replaced Roethlisberger against the Seahawks last week and completed 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards and a pair of TD tosses to ex-49ers tight end Vance McDonald. With Big Ben, the Steelers led the NFL in passing attempts with 675, so it’s likely Rudolph will come out throwing Sunday.