Mesko clearly below the standard with Steelers

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Nobody asked me, but ...

• If the Steelers release punter Zoltan Mesko, and that is a distinct possibility if he doesn't perform better Sunday against Oakland, they won't have far to look for a replacement. Drew Butler, their punter from last season, is available. Mesko is 31st in the NFL, out of 32, in punting average and 29th in net. Butler was not in contention to make the Pro Bowl last season, but he was better than that.

• Never too early, for some, for NFL mock drafts: Rob Rang of has the Steelers picking eighth in 2014 and taking UCLA redshirt sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley. "... he possesses undeniable talent and would have the luxury of sitting and learning for a year or two with Big Ben in place as the starter."

• When Marc-Andre Fleury faltered in the 2012 postseason, overwork in the regular season was frequently cited as the problem. That was remedied last season, but he still faltered in the playoffs. While it might be unknown as to what effect overwork plays in his poor postseason play, what sense does it make to have him starting almost every night -- eight of nine games -- when regular-season games are relatively unimportant?

• Here is's ranking of the top 47 free agents and the salaries those players might expect to receive. A.J. Burnett is 21st, Marlon Byrd 33rd and Paul Maholm 36th.

• The worst two words in the college football lexicon: bowl eligibility. Too many people, including some in the media, use it as a sign of success. It's not. In many cases, it's nothing more than a sign of mediocrity.

• A lot of people don't like the way Mike Tomlin speaks and claim his unique phrasings are cliches. Almost always, they are not. He came up with a dandy Tuesday when he referred to a punt by Mesko as being "junior varsity." How can you not like that, unless you're Mesko? Talk about sending a message.

• Great scoop by Colin Dunlap of The Fan to get A.J. Burnett on the air Monday night. Burnett said that if he plays in 2014, it will be for the Pirates. But he also said of that pronouncement, "As of right now, that's where my mind is, as of right now."

• Gerry Dulac's excellent piece on the high salaries of NFL quarterbacks pointed out that teams agreeing to such contracts often are so cap-strapped they can't afford to put championship-caliber players around those QBs. That being the case, the NFL should copy the NHL and put a limit on the percentage of cap space one player can take. The amount for all players remains the same. Who could argue with that?

• Playing on a team that has a .525 winning percentage over the past two seasons, Tim Lincecum was 20-29 -- a .408 winning percentage -- with an ERA of 4.76. His reward for that kind of pitching: A two-year contract worth $35 million. Of the 43 pitchers who threw 162 or more innings this season, Lincecum was 38th in ERA. In 2012, of the 46 who threw 162, he was 46th.

• That was an encouraging performance Sunday by Le'Veon Bell, and as a result his bandwagon in near full. He has a fine resume and that performance, 93 yards on 19 carries, might be the start of something big. But let's not forget that just last year Isaac Redman, cut this week, ran for 147 yards on 26 carries against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. And that Jonathan Dwyer, a rarely used third-stringer, had games of 122 and 107 yards, both on only 17 carries, against Washington and Cincinnati.

• The belief by some that the Pirates were a candidate to sign Cuban superstar Jose Abreu shows that too much has been made of the signings of Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin. Those were smart, aggressive deals. But the Pirates are not a prime destination for free agents, nor are they going to get in bidding wars for them.

• Headline: "Coonelly says team wants Burnett back." No kidding! Why wouldn't the Pirates want back their most effective pitcher of the past two seasons, a pitcher who posted a 3.41 ERA in 393 innings? But at what price? Wanting him is easy. Paying him is hard.

• The Steelers are one game back in the loss column for the second wild-card spot in the AFC. Not to say they're going to make the playoffs, but to count them out this early is a bit silly.

• Tim Dierkes of, who knows his stuff on salary projections, wrote the other day that Nate McLouth is in line for a two-year $10 million contract this offseason. To anyone who watched him with the Pirates in 2012 -- .140/.210/.175 -- .385 in 34 games -- that's hard to believe.

• Dave Cameron of on the 2014 Pirates: ''I don't think the Pirates are going away. With a good off-season and some solid acquisitions, they look like they could very easily be a contender again in 2014. 94 wins might be a stretch unless they really go for it and make a big splash, but the pieces for a contending team are in place."

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