Bob Smizik: Pirates have spot for A.J., but ...

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Nobody asked me, but . . .

• The Pirates have stated they are keeping a place open for the possible return of A.J. Burnett. Of course, they are. The question is: Are they ready with the proper inducement -- a salary in the eight-figure range?

• Vancouver’s Kellan Lain said before his NHL debut Saturday with the Vancouver Canucks: “My parents are here today. My brother flew in last night. My sister wasn’t able to come, but most of the family is here. ... This is something that you dream. It’s not only yours, but it’s also a family accomplishment.” Not only that, Lain was on the ice to start the game. At which point he was one of eight players ejected after two seconds in another one of those incredibly stupid and senseless brawls that badly cheapens an otherwise fine sport.

• It’s about time the NFL got with the times and presented more than the conventional postseason awards. For example, why not this MVP -- Most Versatile Preening!

• Wise move by Penn State coach James Franklin to hire Terry Smith as an assistant. Smith was one of the top recruiters in the WPIAL at Gateway High School before leaving to join the Temple coaching staff.

• And speaking of Coach Poach, as he’s known in Nashville: Many will say there was nothing wrong with Franklin raiding the recruiting class of Vanderbilt, his former school. It’s business, they say. By these actions Penn State fans are getting a very clear snapshot of the loyalty they can expect from Franklin when a better job comes calling. That’s business, too.

• Much has been written about the "stretch four" power forwards on the Pitt team -- freshmen Mike Young and Jamel Artis. "Stretch four" means they are power forwards who can step back and shoot 3-pointers -- thus stretching the defense. In 18 games, 641 minutes between them, the two have combined to take 18 3s. Not a whole lot of stretching going on.

• At last, a good idea from Roger Goodell -- the elimination of the extra point. Why should a skill that high school kids can do with something like 90 percent proficiency be included in an NFL game? An interesting proposal to replace the extra point has a TD counting for seven. If a team wants to go for one extra point by running or passing, it can. But if it fails, its seven points become six.

• Yet another lesson in why they play the game: The well-rested Penguins, in first place in the Eastern Conference, winners of 13 straight at home and boasting the NHL’s No. 4 offense, took on the Florida Panthers, 15th in the East, playing their third game in five days and with the No. 28 offense. The result last night at the Consol Energy Center: Panthers 5, Penguins 1. Go figure!

• Not to be negative, but New Hampshire, which beat Duquesne at the Palumbo Center in November, is 3-14.

• Former Pirate Joe Beimel, who hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2011, signed a minor-league deal, including a spring training invite, with Seattle. Beimel, who will be 37 in April, has one thing going for him: He’s left-handed.

• Richard Sherman has a degree in communications from Stanford and is said to be a smart guy. But you wouldn’t know it from his primitive rant to Fox’s Erin Andrews after Seattle’s win over San Francisco in the NFC title game. His low-class actions, the personification of thuggishness, will undoubtedly make him the star attraction for the media hordes at the Super Bowl.

• Premium tickets, those with lavish extras, for the college championship game in 2015 are due to go on sale next week. But you might not want to get in line. The best ticket, a suite seat between the 20s, which includes "hospitality, food, bar, gift bag and postgame field access" will cost $4,000. The cheapest premium seat will cost $1,899.

• Heinz Field isn’t the only place where Steelers fans have become no-shows. The Pittsburgh market was ranked sixth best in the NFL in following the hometown team. The Steelers have an average television rating of 38.5 and trailed New Orleans 50, Denver 43.5, Milwaukee (Green Bay) and Kansas City both at 42.9, and Seattle 38.6. Of note, the Steelers' numbers have declined from 46.5 and 44.1 in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Consecutive non-winning seasons will do that.

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