TIOPS DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1.James Harrison was the Steelers best pass rusher last season and Kevin Colbert has called the starting right outside linebacker position “open competition”. The Steelers didn’t want to play Harrison 60 snaps a game last season but they were forced to because he was their best option and it’s not a stretch to think that scenario plays out again. If that does happen, it means Jarvis Jones can’t beat out Harrison again or the Steelers are forced to move one of them over to the left side.
Both are strong possibilities.
The Steelers need Jones to take a giant step in year 3 but the worst thing the Steelers can do is hand the job to Jones and at least publicly make it seem to Jones that the position is not up for grabs. Smart on Colbert yesterday to call it an open competition.
Jones who lacks ideal strength and speed, two key elements to become a premier outside linebacker or let alone a capable one, the best thing for him this off-season is to see how Harrison goes about his business in the gym and that’s among the reasons signing Harrison now made so much sense compared to waiting until August. Jones can learn a lot from Harrison and a good start for Jones is training with Harrison in Arizona which he did this past week.
Some older players in sports who are hanging on don’t take grab of a leadership role in mentoring young players but Harrison has been the opposite and has embraced that role.
“The values that he provides right now for those young guys we think trumps waiting,” Kevin Colbert said of Harrison, via Steelers.com
“He’s valuable in the building right now. He’s been in the building voluntarily since really the end of the season. It’s been amazing to watch. And those young guys see it and they’re like, ‘OK, I think I’m supposed to do that, too.’ They’re all kind of following his lead.
That brings me to Troy Polamalu in regards to a mentor role.
The Steelers realized in the past week they didn’t have any better options than Harrison and it still remains to be seen if they’re actually better off without Polamalu who remains effective in around the box and graded out by Profootballfocus as the 9th best safety in football. The Steelers don’t need to clear cap space and whose to say Polamalu can’t play a mentor role also like the Steelers envision Harrison doing.
2. At the end of the first period in Saturday’s game vs Arizona, defenseman Ben Lovejoy expressed great frustration with the Penguins play during a first period intermission interview and made that clear in his comments to Root Sports Dan Potash. “That was awful,” Lovejoy said of the Penguins first period performance. “We need to be so much better all over the ice. Coyotes played well but we were terrible.”
Good on Lovejoy and Lovejoy is also not shy about speaking up in the room, those close to the situation say, but the core group didn’t respect Rob Scuderi enough last season when Scuderi came in and tried to establish a presence in the locker room as Scuderi was pretty much laughed at behind his back and it’s unlikely Lovejoy will get much of a response either. Someone underneath the Crosby’s, Malkin’s has great trouble in trying to establishing a voice in that room and that’s been an issue for years now.
3. Are Penguins Coaches and management on same page? Under the Ray Shero/Dan Bylsma regime, coach and the front office were often on the same page because of how heavily involved Bylsma was in personnel decisions and Bylsma often got his way. Mike Johnston doesn’t have that type of relationship with Jim Rutherford as Johnston is not consulted like a coach normally is and his comments about being happy about Beau Bennett differ from the leaks management is sending out about the team being dissatisfied with Bennett and Craig Adams who were highlighted in an article by the Tribune-Review over the weekend that the Penguins are considering options to replace one or both in the post-season lineup.
“He’s [Beau Bennett] shown some of the things that we wanted to see,” Johnston said prior to Saturday’s game. “He’s gotten more physical. He’s competing harder on pucks.”Johnston also supported Craig Adams. “I think Craig is a guy who brings the same game every night,” Johnston said. “He’s a reliable defensive player.”
One thing about coaches is at this point in the year they don’t like changes and Johnston likely prefers to just roll with what he got and there’s no point in calling either player out, though, what are you really going to say about Craig Adams when expectations were so low for him anyways this season, compared to Bennett who has been a complete flop in his third NHL season from an expectation standpoint.
4. Matthew Murray has 10 shutouts in 32 starts and that is truly an unbelievable number for a player in his first professional season. Since December 28th, he’s 16-2-1 with a 1.36 GAA, .962 save percentage and eight shutouts.
5. West Virginia — Fast and Furious — The Mountaineers are not going to win a national championship but the way they defend is so much fun to watch. They never let up pressuring the ball handler and for a team that’s not very talented, it’s a great way to win in a one and done tournament, play suffocating defense in an aggressive way. It now has WVU in the Sweet 16 against No. 1 Kentucky. West Virgina forced 23 turnovers vs Maryland, marking the 16th time this season WVU forced at least 20 turnovers in a game, first in Division-1.
The best coaches in any sport are ones that adjust to their personnel and put their egos aside to adapt. CBS commentator Doug Gottlieb made a great point during the game in how Bob Huggins in his first season at WVU had Jon Belien players and in year one let the players run Belien’s system even though he didn’t know the system because he knew they were built to play that type of system than a Bob Huggins system.
After missing the tournament in back-to-back years, Huggins also showed the ability to adapt again this year.
Via Pete Thamel of SI:
“In the off-season, Huggins switched to a full-court, pressing and trapping team, an even more aggressive team than he played with during his glory days at Cincinnati. When asked why he endured a philosophical shift to what’s known as “Press Virginia” so late in his career, Huggins gave a typical answer: “I like to win. That was the only way we could win.”
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