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Insider Only TIOPS Inside Buzz: Ron Hextall/Penguin Ownership In-Sync, Latest on T.J. Watt & More Buzz

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  • Penguin ownership sought Steelers model of never being in rebuild mode with GM Change
    Latest on T.J. Watt
    WK 1: More Immediate Concerns for Steelers D than O?

1. The Pittsburgh Penguins will enter training camp this month with a roster that’s not better than the roster they ended the 2021 season with. Some can argue Ron Hextall has had a bad off-season.

However, Hextall’s first off-season that saw a zero risk approach taken, played out to a ‘T’ in the model of why he was hired.

As months have passed since Jim Rutherford’s resignation last January, more has become clear of why Penguin ownership was going to go in another direction in the ensuing summer once Rutherford’s contract was set to expire if he didn’t abruptly resign. The group determined sometime late last fall that they wanted to start laying the groundwork now instead of later of this being a franchise post Sidney Crosby era that never has to go into a full rebuild mode and will be a mainstay each season as a competitive team due to the salary cap allowing the possibility if they do things right the next couple years. That’s what the group wants their lasting legacy to be, whether the ownership group is here 5-6 years from now or not, multiple team sources say.

A meeting in Mid-December 2020 between Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" really began the process of Rutherford’s eventual departure a month later. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" Sources say Rutherford sought ownerships approval to open the pocket book in dishing out signing bonuses to become bigger players in free agency for the summer of 2022 when Pittsburgh was going to be in position to have cap space available or for trade candidates as Rutherford is said to have been spurned on pursuing some trade avenues in the past due to ownership’s reluctance to take on big signing bonuses. Ownership believed Rutherford’s path was going to be to continue the trend of putting all of their marbles on the table for the present, regardless of what it means 5-6 years down the road. Ideally, the group would have loved that Rutherford would have willingly transitioned to a top advisor role due to what he meant to the franchise, but that was never going to happen with how prideful of a person Rutherford is, who sought NHL opportunities this summer to no avail.

While many have their doubts, Ownership believes the team can still toe the line of competing for a Stanley Cup now, while putting themselves in position to be competitive post-Sidney Crosby on a yearly basis, which is why there’s a much different style of General Manager in the No. 1 decision making seat.


2. Penguin management is intrigued Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"


3. In this decade with how NFL teams construct contracts, the Steelers way of doing signing bonuses was eventually going to catch up to them with how they don’t fully guarantee contracts past the first year like most of the NFL does. There was going to be a superstar player that gave some pushback in how they structure contracts and it figures to continue. That’s led to a slower process in getting to the finish line with All-Pro T.J. Watt whose mini-holdout has been the most quieted holdout imagined for a top 10 to Top 15 player in all of the NFL. The Steelers thought they were getting close 7-10 days ago but here we are in week 1 with Watt still on the sidelines doing individual drills as he seeks to become the NFL’s highest paid defensive player.

For the Steelers, Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick who next season will be seeking to become the NFL’s highest paid safety, is the Steelers ticket to staying competitive right away post Big Ben. Sometimes you gotta bend for the greats and evolve.


4. Who would have thought going into Week 1 there would be more concerns for the state of the defense than the offense. That’s saying a lot with this offensive line.

You have the Stephon Tuitt injury that will see a major drop off in talent at defensive end, no one knows what Devin Bush is going to give the Steelers this season, especially early on after a shaky camp. Then there’s the status of the best linebacker in football and whether T.J. Watt will play Week 1 and if he does, how productive will he be early on. The Melvin Ingram late off-season signing was a big one for the front seven with how things have played out on the Tuitt, Bush and Watt fronts thus far.


5. Rookie Dan Moore Jr will start at left tackle vs the Bills Week 1 and Moore has been the surprise of camp, earning praise from Mike Tomlin today who said Moore has developed a lot since draft and “his floor was higher than anticipated” when he came in.

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About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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