1. Big enough sampling for Staal?: Jordan Staal is always a hot topic in Penguin circles and among the fan base. He will be an extremely hot topic among fans this summer when Staal is expected to be a top priority for the team along with Sidney Crosby on the extension front when the calendar hits July 1, 2012.
A storyline for Staal this season is whether he’s going to take that next jump offensively. Staal has points in four of the team’s first six games and ranks third on the team in both goals (2) and points (5).
Here’s an intriguing stat. Over Staal’s last 42 games dating back to January 12, 2011, Staal has accumulated 35 points (13G-22A), an average of .83 points per game.
Courtesy of the Penguins communication department, If you project Staal’s totals over the course of 82 games, Staal would establish career highs of 43 assists and 68 points.
For a player who’s not a great playmaker and hasn’t had a multi-goal game in 90 games (including regular season, playoffs), it’s really hard to imagine Staal pushing for 70 points, let alone 60 points.
Staal though is showing signs of maturing offensively and a points per game average of 0.83 in 42 games is a pretty big sampling but not big enough yet to get me onboard that Staal’s going to evolve into a 55 to 65 point player this season.
2. Neal same as last year?  Head coach Dan Bylsma this morning on what he’s seen from James Neal through six games. “A lot of what we saw last year, ” Bylsma said. “There was somewhat of an idea that he didn’t score goals for us {last year}. He had 22 last year and only had one in the regular season with us….But he has speed, he’s on the puck, and he’s a physical guy, goes in around the net and has a great shot. He did that last year for us and he’s doing it again this year. The puck is going in for him right now.”
Neal is looking like the real deal but his excellent play this season has a lot more to do than the puck just going in compared to last year. He is much more of an aggressive player this year on a consistent basis than we saw from Neal at any point in a Penguin uniform last year.
3. 11 Rushing TD’s in 11 Games for Mendenhall: Intriguing stat for Rashard Mendenhall. He has 11 rushing touchdowns in his last 11 games (including playoffs), one of the best marks for an NFL running back over that span.
Some Numbers (Stats Include Regular season, Playoff Games)
Adrian Petersen – 12 Rushing TD’s in last 11 games
Michael Turner – 11 Rushing TD’s in last 11 games
LeSean McCoy – 7 Rushing TD’s in last 11 games
Fred Jackson – 6 Rushing TD’s in last 11 games
Frank Gore – 6 Rushing TD’s in last 11 games
Arian Foster – 5 Rushing TD’s in last 11 games
Ray Rice – 5 Rushing TD’s in last 11 games
Chris Johnson – 3 Rushing TD’s in last 11 games
4. Jury still out on Steelers: The Pittsburgh Steelers are 4-2 at the six game mark and they are a very hard read at this point. They are first in defense, yet they only have two takeaways and have not been the ball hawking defense that made them so dynamic last season. On offense, they can put up big yardage but don’t have that killer instinct.
If the playoffs started today, No. 1 New England (5-1) and No. 2 Baltimore (4-1) would have the byes.
No. 3 San Diego (4-1) is the AFC West Division Leader and No. 4 Tennessee (3-2) is the AFC South Division Leader.
No. 5 Buffalo (4-2) and No. 6 Cincinnati (4-2) are the wildcard leaders due to better conference records over Pittsburgh (4-2) and Oakland (4-2).
With 10 games to go, we’re going to find out about the Steelers in the next three weeks with a week 7 matchup in Arizona (1-4) and back to back home games against New England (5-1) in Week 8 and Baltimore (4-1) in Week 9.
5. C- for Todd Graham: The Pitt Panthers are a disappointing 3-4 through seven games under Todd Graham. To me this has always been a transition year for Graham and he’s not working with a lot of talent, most notably at the quarterback position and on the offensive line.
However, it would be hard pressed to give Graham anything over a C- due to his struggles to utilize Ray Graham, his best player and one of the nations best players at the running back position. Rushel Shell better hope Graham learns how to use a star running back in his offense by next year.