Bob Smizik: Don’t expect Steelers lineup changes


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Nobody asked me, but . . .

• Despite having no hopes of making the postseason, don’t expect the Steelers to give significantly more playing time to young backups in the final three games. Coaches, and that includes Mike Tomlin, aren’t wired that way. Playing reserves might be a better way to prepare for the future, but it doesn’t send the desired message -- win -- to the existing starters. Besides, the Steelers are not thick with young and deserving players who already are not getting a lot of playing time.

• Along those lines, Mike Adams, who graded out very well yesterday against Miami, should get the remaining starts at left tackle regardless of the health of Kelvin Beachum, who had been the starter. Adams’ upside is considerably higher than Beachum’s.

• The Pirates have been mentioned in connection with left-handed hitting first baseman Logan Morrison, who is young, 26; cheap, expected to get $1.7 million in arbitration; and under control for three more years. But after a very good 2011, this is his combined batting line for 2012-13: .231/.321/.387 -- .708. And that’s with about 75 percent of his at bats coming against right-handed pitching.

• The Steelers calling of a timeout with a fourth and 10 from their own 20 with 2:33 left in the game Sunday was an example of shocking ineptitude. Shame on Mike Tomlin or Todd Haley or both! How could they not be thinking ahead for such a situation and have a play ready instead of using a crucial timeout? Tomlin’s excuse was beyond flimsy.

• Monday was not a good day for Pitt. a): It was installed as a 5 1/2-6 point underdog to Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl (the grand step-nephew of them all); b): defensive back Dravon Henry of Aliquippa, ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the state, announced he would attend West Virginia.

• On the Steelers second possession, which ended in a touchdown, Le’Veon Bell carried eight times for 36 yards, a nice 4.5 average. He carried just twice more the rest of the first half and only five times in the second half.

• A question as to why Bell was not used more frequently resulted in this response from Ben Roethlisberger, which only served to turn up the heat on his relationship with his offensive coordinator: "No idea. Coach Haley’s over there. You can ask him.”

• What can you say about the latest incident of hockey thuggery? Otherwise good guys turning into mindless goons. James Neal got what he deserved -- five games for a knee to the head of Boston’s Brad Marchand. The Bruins Shawn Thornton should be put in jail for his unprovoked attack on Brooks Orpik. The hockey ‘code,’ and the embracing of fighting by the NHL plays into all of this, which means it won’t end soon.

• Not that it means all that much, but Andrew Lambo is batting .176 (9-for-51) with no homers in the Venezuelan Winter League.

• I have no problem with Joe Torre’s selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame, just the timing of it. His credentials -- a losing manager over more than 12 seasons until he oversaw the best roster money could buy with the Yankees -- indicate he should have gone in after Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox and not with them.

• The no-shows at Heinz Field are as much related to the home/bar experience being as good or better than the on-site experience for NFL games as they are to the weather or the record of the Steelers.

• If you are among the millions who think NFL officials get it wrong too often, you’ll enjoy Peter King’s dissection of some really bad officiating calls in Sunday’s games.

• This is King’s take on the Steelers losing a draft choice for the Tomlin/Jacoby Jones incident: ''The league will either take a late-round pick from the Steelers (which, if the team gets a sixth- or seventh-round compensatory pick, would mean in essence that the team won’t get compensated for losing a mid-range free agent next spring) or diminish the value of a pick or picks by lowering one or more of them.’’

• For the longest time, the Pitt-Duquesne basketball game was No. 1 on my Pittsburgh regular-season sports calendar -- ahead of anything the Steelers, Pirates or Penguins could offer. I cherish the memories of that bitter rivalry. But the game has lost almost everything -- except, most notably, a media buzz it doesn’t deserve. They can dress it up with a title -- The City Game, which was stolen from the New York City hoops culture -- but it’s almost always bad, boring, one-sided basketball. This year’s game had a spark of competitiveness but to suggest there is anything special about this contest -- or that there is anything special about this rivalry -- is pretty much a lie.

SaberBucs.com asks this legitimate question: What’s the rush with everyone wanting to see Gregory Polanco with the Pirates as early as June or July. It points out that the 881 at bats Andrew McCutchen had in Class AAA helped smooth his transition to MLB. Other Pirates, most notably Travis Snider, with fewer Class AAA at bats have fared worse. As for Polanco, he has only nine Class AAA at bats -- and only 243 in Class AA.


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