Matt Murray out indefinitely following the passing of his father

Some sad news as the Penguins announced today that Matt Murray’s father James passed away Tuesday in Ontario.

Murray who had rejoined the team this week, is returning home from the west coast and will miss an indefinite period of time to be with his family, the team says.

— Our thoughts and prayers are with Matt and his family —

 

Todd Haley is OUT as Offensive Coordinator

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Todd Haley is officially out as the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator.

As the writing has been on the wall for weeks that the Steelers were moving on from Haley, the team informed Haley this morning he won’t be offered a new contract.

Haley has often had strong backing from Steelers owner Art Rooney II who made Tomlin fire Bruce Arians after the 2011 season and pushed Tomlin to hire Haley in 2012. Steelers ownership then gave Haley a three year extension in August of 2014 with the Steelers coming off back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs and ranking 20th and 21st in offense during that span.

The backing of Steelers ownership, though, wasn’t enough for Haley to keep his job this time around as Mike Tomlin was given authority weeks ago to make a change after the season.

The Steelers under Haley went 3-4 in seven postseason games with the offense averaging 22.6 points per game. Pittsburgh was 5-3 in the playoffs with Bruce Arians as offensive coordinator, averaging 27.1 points per game.

A rocky relationship between Haley and Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t the only factor that did Haley in.

An inability to get along with other offensive coaches was believed to be one of the primary reasons for Haley’s ouster.

Randy Fichtner a favorite of Ben Roethlisberger and leading candidate to replace Haley as offensive coordinator, planned to explore leaving Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

 

Mike Tomlin declines multiple times to endorse Todd Haley

A testy Mike Tomlin declined multiple times to say whether Todd Haley would be back next season and most telling from Tomlin was when he was asked if he felt Haley and the offense did a good job this season…..

Tomlin had every opportunity to say ‘yes’ and he even had no comment to that.

The expectation for weeks in team circles Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

 

Analysis: Pirates failed to foreshadow where the Andrew McCutchen trade market was headed

SFG Receive: Andrew McCutchen, $2.5 million in cash considerations
PIT Receive: RHP Kyle Crick, minor league OF Bryan Reynolds, $500,000 International Bonus Pool


The Pittsburgh Pirates either had to go all-in this off-season and stretch the payroll, which was never going happen with Bob Nutting as the owner, or start the process of a re-tool.

With the way Bob Nutting operates, an Andrew McCutchen trade was always going to happen at some point, but with an iconic player like McCutchen it still doesn’t make it any easier for the fan base to accept.

“The reality is, he had one year left in Pittsburgh under the best of circumstances,” GM Neal Huntington said of McCutchen. “As a result, with where we are in the win curve, the Gerrit Cole trade did not dramatically impact our potential to win the World Series this year. This trade does not dramatically impact our potential to win the World Series this year. We talked a lot about giving this team a chance. And then we realized, we were one year out, we were two years away from being where we need to be, and that’s a postseason-caliber team. “2017 going into 2018, it would have been a challenge for us to sit here and say, we’re going to be better than we were the last two years,” Huntington said. “The last two years wasn’t good enough, so we made these hard decisions to not punt many years down the road but to put ourselves in a position to get back there as quickly as possible.”


Huntington is not calling this rebuild and you can argue that is accurate.

“In our minds, a rebuild implies you’re looking five years down the road,” Huntington said. “This team is going to show up ready to go in spring training, ready to compete, ready to defy odds, just like that 2013 Pirates team did. This is a young, talented team here that is going to be fun to watch, and they’re going to go out and fight, every single night, to honor these fans and to respect and appreciate the anger that they feel right now and turn that anger into sold-out, loud, playoff PNC Park.”

The Pirates returns for McCutchen, Cole are not disasters, they’ve added multiple pieces with years of control who can fill complementary roles, but teams that operate the way the Pirates do are often banking down the road of turning a first overall pick (Gerrit Cole) and a former MVP (Andrew McCutchen) into significant returns and that didn’t play out here.

That’s where the most frustrating part has to be in how this franchise has so many misses over the last couple years.

When the window was still there, they let a 98 win team crumble by failing to properly build on it and for a club that is so cautious about spending money, the last couple years have been met with dishing out bad contracts to the likes of Francisco Cervelli, Gregory Polanco, amongst others.

Huntington admitted yesterday when a player is one year away from free agency, the “return is less”.

There was never an intention to sign Andrew McCutchen long-term and since the start of the 2016 season the Pirates have always been bracing to trade McCutchen.

When the organization’s philosophy is to always put themselves in position to win in the future, there was a failure in not pulling the trigger on a McCutchen trade last winter when even coming off a bad season, McCutchen still had the trade value of having two years of control where significant Major League players like SP Gio Gonzalez were offered for McCutchen at one point.

Hence, a year later you end up with a brutal trade market for outfielders the Pirates were met with and the return the Pirates got didn’t surprise anyone inside the game.

For a front office that is always looking ahead, Huntington and his staff failed miserably in properly looking ahead of what the McCutchen trade market was going to be.

As frustrating as it might be that Bob Nutting won’t spend and has let an iconic player like McCutchen be traded for a reliever and an average prospect, reality is that this is how the Pirates are ran, and the major disappointment in the long-term for an organization that operates on their own doing as a small market team (when they really aren’t) is that you had this superstar player in Andrew McCutchen and at the end of the day this is all they could flip him for.

If you weren’t going to spend in 2017 to try to close the gap on the Cubs, McCutchen needed to be traded last winter to give themselves a chance of getting a stronger return than one year out.

As unpopular as trading McCutchen has been and disappointing that the McCutchen era is over, where the Pirates failed here was not starting this process last winter.

In evaluating everything the Pirates do, you have to put the lens on in how they operate, not how we think they should in the obvious that Bob Nutting should be adjusting to the times and increasing the payroll to $120 million range and not thinking twice about it.

However, the way they operate and run this organization, the team waited too long to move McCutchen.


“We felt this was the best return,” Neal Huntington said of the McCutchen trade.

So what are the Pirates getting back for McCutchen?

In Kyle Crick the Pirates are getting a hard throwing reliever who struggles with command.

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Crick, 25, had a 3.06 ERA, 28 strikeouts in 32⅓ innings and a .191 opponents’ batting average.

The Pirates, internally though, believe Crick could evolve in a dominant eighth inning reliever.

“Kyle Crick is a physical, Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

 

JAX 45 – PIT 42: Mental Lapses, losing The critical moments end Steelers ‘Super Bowl or Bust’ Season

Jaguars 45 – Steelers 42

The Jacksonville Jaguars went into Heinz Field, made the Steelers chase the game from minutes into the first quarter and punched their ticket to the AFC Title Game with a 45-42 upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Many felt there was no way a Blake Bortles led team could come into Pittsburgh and knock off the heavy favorite Steelers.

When you have a defense as talented as the Jaguars have and you are more prepared and better coached as the Jaguars were, an upset is always in play.

How big of a hole did the Steelers put themselves in?

The Jaguars jumped out to a 21-0 lead, 26:31 into the game and pushed their lead to 28-7 on a Telvin Smith 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

When you have Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown who can make special plays, you’re never out of a game and that came to fruition as the Steelers got back within seven on three occasions, 28-21, 35-28, and 42-35, but despite Roethlisberger torching the Jaguars for 5 touchdowns and 469 yards and throwing TD passes to Antonio Brown and Le’Veon that were as good as you’ll see, Jacksonville came up with game changing plays on D that tilted this game in what was the perfect storm in the first half.

Mistakes from Roethlisberger were costly in the first half.


Among the critical moments:

A Ben Roethlisberger interception in the first quarter that setup a Leonard Fournette 18 yard TD run for the Jags to go up 14-0. Then a strip sack on Roethlisberger that was returned 50 yards for a TD put the Jags up 28-7 in the second quarter.

And twice the Steelers turned the ball over on downs off 4th and 1’s where the playcalling saw the Steelers try to outsmart themselves.

Trailing 14-0 with a 4th and 1 at the Jax 21, the Steelers called a deep toss right to Le’Veon Bell who was stopped for a 4 yard loss. The Jaguars then went 11 plays, 75 yards for a score to make it 21-0.

Another critical turning point in the third quarter with the Steelers trailing 28-21. 4th and 1 at the Jaguars 39 Roethlisberger looked to have checked out of a run and throws incomplete to Juju Smith-Schuster…….Turnover on downs and the Jaguars turn around and go 5 plays, 61 yards with Leonard Fournette scoring his 3rd touchdown of the day from three yards out. 35-21 game with Pittsburgh into another situation of being two scores down.


The Steelers offense was brilliant at times today in mounting a comeback but at the end of the day, Jacksonville scored 14 points off Steelers turnovers, while also scoring 14 points on very next drives when Pittsburgh turned the ball over on downs.

Whether the opposing quarterback is Blake Bortles or Tom Brady, that’s a recipe for disaster in any playoff game when the opponent wins critical moments of a football game.


Mike Tomlin who had a terrible day as the Steelers were out-executed, out-coached and out-prepared, said it best afterwards:

“They [Jacksonville’ won the moments.”

With Ben Roethlisberger already implying he plans to come back, Todd Haley will not be back next season and that was already known before today’s game.

But, this loss has to put defensive coordinator Keith Butler under the microscope with how out-classed the Steelers defense was against this Jaguars offense that scored 10 points against the Bills a week ago and then went on to score 38 points as a unit on the road against the Steelers.


Just about everything went wrong and there were no answers.

Early on the Steelers front-seven was just getting bulldozed by the Jaguars O-line/Leonard Fournette and if Fournette didn’t injure his ankle, Jacksonville might have put 60 on the Steelers.

However, this was more than the Steelers just missing Ryan Shazier.

The mental lapses in this situation and how Pittsburgh’s ‘D’ was getting out-schemed was something that can’t get overlooked. That wasn’t Tom Brady or a great offense on the other side.

For a defense that lives and dies with sacks/splash plays, Pittsburgh couldn’t find a way to get to Bortles. Jacksonville was very effective with mis-direction calls and moving Bortles around on play-action but nothing they did should have surprised Butler.

As the game progressed, Bortles seemed to have more and more time and shredded the Steelers in the middle of the field on a crushing 4th quarter drive to go up 42-28 and pretty much sink the Steelers dream season, though, the questionable on-side kick decision from the Steelers would be the nail in the coffin to give the Jaguars a short field and eventual 10 point lead with 1:45 left.

Falling down 21-0 like the Steelers did in a home playoff game for a team who has players in that room who feel they walk on water and were destined to reach the Super Bowl is nothing more than this group of players being out-prepared and not having the right amount of preparedness doesn’t always fall on the coaching staff’s shoulders.

You always had to wonder with this group if there were too many egos and too many individuals with personal agendas in the room for them to put it together and reach a Super Bowl.

That burning question only gets heightened when a Jacksonville Jaguars team with Blake Bortles as their quarterback come into your stadium and punch you in the mouth from the first snap to end your so called ‘Super Bowl or Bust’ season.

The Tim Tebow loss was embarrassing but that one was at least on the road and Ben Roethlisberger came in with a bad ankle.

This one has to be the worst playoff loss of the Tomlin era because of the magnitude of having a home-playoff game with a much inferior QB on the other side and the heavy expectations Tomlin placed on this team in that he expected to reach the Super Bowl.

You could see it on his face when the Jaguars went up 42-28 late in the 4th quarter.

The shock and disbelief he had that his team was getting thrashed for 40+ points against Blake Bortles and a ‘Super Bowl or Bust’ season was ending without even getting a crack at New England.

 

Will a McCutchen to San Francisco trade eventually get done this month?

Is Andrew McCutchen San Francisco bound?

With Jay Bruce headed to the New York Mets, the on again-off again trade talks between the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates are said to be back on.

In what the Pirates believe was an attempt to sell Giancarlo Stanton on accepting a trade to San Francisco, the Giants went hard after McCutchen in November and nearly secured a deal for the former MVP but after Stanton spurned San Francisco, the Giants pulled back on pursuing McCutchen to evaluate other options.

Now the Giants Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"