John Steigerwald Column

Penguins’ coaching staff still doesn’t have answer for Flyers

Penguins’ coaching staff still doesn’t have answer for Flyers

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Who has the answer?


Remember last year when the Penguins weren’t able to answer what the Philadelphia Flyers were doing on the way to knocking them out of the playoffs in six games? The 2013 playoffs are still two months away but, based on what happened Wednesday at the Consol Energy Center, the Penguins’ coaching staff still hasn’t come up with an answer to whatever it is that the Flyers are doing.


Adjusting to opponents is one of the most important things a good coach has to do. Especially when those adjustments have to be made on the fly. So, of course, it’s time to panic and assume that there is no way the Penguins can hope to get past the Flyers if they face them in the playoffs.


Unless, of course, you take into account that the Penguins have won three of the last five games against the Flyers, including a solid, dominating win in the season opener. That’s not to say that the Penguins shouldn’t take a lesson from their meltdown Wednesday night. When you get the Flyers down by two or more goals, don’t change the way you played to get that lead and don’t get goaded into penalties that allow the Flyers to get back in the game.


Here’s hoping they don’t avoid each other in the playoffs. How could that game Wednesday night not leave a good hockey fan wanting more?


• The Steelers’ locker room is/was fractured if you listen to Antonio Brown. He said on ESPN that it was divided between players who care more about team goals and players who were more interested in their own statistics. Ryan Clark also admitted that there might have been some dissension.


General manager Kevin Colbert said that he and coach Mike Tomlin had talked to players since the end of the season and they disagree.


Guess what? There is/was a problem in the Steelers’ locker room. When players say there was a problem, there was a problem. Because, if there are players saying there’s a problem when there isn’t a problem, then you have a problem.


The Steelers are 8-9 in their last 17 games, going back to the loss to the Broncos in the 2011 playoffs. They have lost a lot of solid citizens in the last few years – Jerome Bettis, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Hines Ward – and they’ve been replaced by too many immature players.


Three of those four solid citizens – Bettis, Smith and Ward – go all the way back to the Tom Donahoe/Bill Cowher regime. Mike Tomlin needs to start bringing in and/or developing some solid citizens of his own. Colbert needs to draft and/or sign more Troy Polamalus and Brett Keisels and fewer Santonio Holmeses, Mike Wallaces and Rashard Mendenhalls. The jury is still out on Brown.


It’s about more than just talent.


• Tavon Austin of West Virginia was telling people at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine that he is the best all-around player in the draft. I’m not sure I disagree with him.


I don’t know what kind of citizen he is, and I don’t care what his combine numbers are. I do know that I haven’t seen a more dangerous college football player in the last two years. He’s a small, quick, explosive, elusive wide receiver and kick returner. He might not have the straight-ahead speed of Mike Wallace, but he is every bit as fast as Wallace with a football in his hands. Austin’s also quicker and more elusive.


Assuming that there aren’t any red flags that would keep teams from drafting him, the Steelers would be insane to pass on Austin if he’s still on the board when it comes time for them to pick in the 17th spot. Putting him and Brown on the field together would create serious problems for opposing defensive coordinators, and he’s the kind of player who is always a threat to turn a dink or a dunk into a big play. Just like Brown.


• It’s scary to think of the New England Patriots’ offense with Austin in the slot.


• One of these days, when I get the time, I’m going to do some research to determine whether smaller NFL players are any more likely to be injured than regular-sized and larger players. I have a feeling that it is a myth.


• The Pirates accomplished the two worst second-half collapses in the history of Major League Baseball in 2011 and 2012, then gave their manager a contract extension. What else do you need to know? That’s not to say that the collapses were Clint Hurdle’s fault, but it does either raise serious questions about the value of a manager or the Pirates’ ridiculously low expectations. Probably both.


When a team that’s serious about winning “accomplishes” what the Pirates “accomplished” the last two seasons, somebody has to be fired.



John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.


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