TIOPS INSIDE BUZZ
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
- Will Big Ben Make it Through the Season
- Did Steelers botch the OC hire?
- Short Yardage Smith-Schuster
- Penguins toe cautious line in Malkin Negotiations
- Top-5 Prospects to Watch in Penguins Camp
1. The Steelers being anything more than an 8-9, 9-8 team will be reliant on getting an elite level defensive effort just about every week. The unit was dominant in week 1 and ravished by injuries in week 2, therefore, the Steelers sit at 1-1 after two games.
And most would have predicted a 1-1 record after two weeks, just flip flopped than how it played out.
The Raiders had the superior quarterback on the field and in the 4th quarter that was the difference in the game. Ben Roethlisberger just isn’t making that big time throw Carr made to Ruggs on the 61 yard score at this stage of his career and more impressive was Carr’s late game throw to Darren Waller where he threaded the needle, a type of throw that is rarely in Roethlisberger’s arsenal anymore.
Roethlisberger is at the stage of his where he’s a middle of the pack quarterback. We all knew that coming in. There was enough evidence of that last season.
Roethlisberger will still have his moments for a big time throw and he can beat a defense from time to time with his eyes, but he needs help beyond having the right personnel around him. He’s not good enough anymore to elevate the rest of the group to another level. What Roethlisberger truly needs is an offensive coordinator and game plan to offset the limitations he now has at his age. We all know the offensive line is dreadful that’s a recipe for disaster in improving the run game, but there is just nothing from the offensive coordinator change that is going to play to Roethlisberger’s strength’s. Matt Canada made sense if you were moving on from Roethlisberger. Hiring him just made little to no sense if you were sticking with Roethlisberger like the Steelers did. Canada’s offense was never going to work with Roethlisberger or even be highlighted much. The whole mindset in the OC change should have been on the short-term of who is the best candidate that can bring the best out of Ben because top-5 level Ben is long gone.
And that’s not an overreaction after just two games. Pittsburgh failed in not bringing in an outside OC.
2. The Steelers are getting what they deserve with the offensive line. Trying to rely on the middle rounds of the draft to improve the line was outrageous where your trying to get one more run out of the Big Ben era. There were financial opportunities to drop an Eric Ebron and put that money at the O-line. The frustration part for many through two games is the style of the offense is near identical to the predictable Randy Fichtner offense. Pittsburgh does not attack the middle of the field and observers say more of this how the offense is being ran than the quarterback limitations. There’s enough talent at that wide out group where the coaches should be putting this group in positions to be more dynamic and dangerous. Receivers again are just not getting open.
3. Juju Smith Schuster has gone from 15.8 yards per catch (2017), 12.8 AVG (2018), 13.1 AVG (2019) in his first three seasons to a continue steep decline of 8.6 AVG in 2020 to barely better thus far with 10 catches for 93 yards (9.3 AVG). We were all told he was going to be used differently and the Steelers continue to use him like a short-yardage slot receiver. Smith-Schuster hasn’t had a catch longer than 35 yards since September 22, 2019, a span of 28 games. Just insane for effective he was with long catches in his first couple seasons.
4. Penguins GM Ron Hextall is genuine in that the team wants to resign Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang (and there continues to be optimism in the organization something will eventually get worked out) but let’s not sugar coat it, the Penguins new regime only wants to resign Malkin and Letang on their own terms which is why everything has been respectful but also slow played since both were eligible for extensions in late July. For now ownership has stayed out of the way. Time will tell if that continues.
As of last week, To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”! the number the Penguins brass is comfortable with for Malkin To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!
5. Prospects I’m Most Intrigued about as the Penguins Open Camp:
1. Samuel Poulin, 2019 1st Round Pick | Poulin is going to be an NHL player and likely a highly productive top-9 player down the road. He brings size/length, has a lot of tools of what the Penguins in the present lack. The Penguins internally look at him more as a full-time player for the 2022-2023 than this season. What you want to see out of Poulin this camp is how close he is to being an NHL regular, have some dominating practice sessions. And there’s no reason for Mike Sullivan & Co not to play him with some higher level talent early in camp.
2. Valtteri Puustinen, 2019 7th round pick | Smallish player at 5-9, 180 but can be electric with the puck. 21 goals, 41 points for 51 games for HPK (Liiga). Arguably To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!
3. Filip Hallander, 2018 2nd round pick, Acq from TOR | There’s not a ton of high level upside with Hallander but he’s the one prospect whose two-way game is developed enough where he might not need a lot of development time in the minors. Some in the organization feel he could win over the coaching staff as early this camp, becoming a young player they would trust.
4. Kasper Bjorkvist, 2016 2nd round pick | The clock is ticking [hide] on Bjorkvist who is now 24 years old. The previous regime was extremely high on Bjorkvist early on, viewing him as a Patrick Hornqvist type down the road. There’s not the same feeling about him anymore as he’s more looked at as a fringe NHLer than a third line level forward the organization thought he would eventually evolve in. It’s a big camp for him to start changing the perception.
5. Nathan Legare, 2019 3rd Round Pick | Legare made a great impression at the 2019 camp, but he failed to dominate in juniors like the Penguins expected that has had some evaluators souring on him a bit. Lots of talk about the foot speed and that could be his Achilles heel long-term. He has shed some pounds to try to become quicker. However, this is still just a 20 year old prospect and there’s definitely some NHL-level talent in him. Legare is extremely poised with the puck and very effective at letting plays develop.