Take 5: NFL, Le’Veon Bell, Hue’s farewell


Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

Senior running back Qadree Ollison (30) carries the ball at Pitt’s 54-45 victory over Duke on Saturday.

By The Pitt News Staff

This week’s Take 5 column features two Pittsburgh-centric football storylines, including the Panthers’ quest for an ACC Coastal title and the Steelers’ success without Le’Veon Bell. In other news, a dark-horse Cy Young candidate has emerged for the 2019 MLB season and the Browns are still the Browns.

Pitt is legit

The Pitt football team is just five days removed from one of its best wins this season. A 54-45 shootout victory against the Duke Blue Devils brought its record on the season to 4-4 overall and 3-1 in the ACC. If it weren’t for a pair of missed kicks and a game riddled with mental errors, this Panther squad could actually be a ranked team, making noise among the critics of college football.

Pitt currently sits at third in the ACC Coastal division, and if the Panthers didn’t lose a crucial conference game to North Carolina — the Tar Heels’ only win this season — they would be leading the division. Pitt also lost 19-14 against No. 3 Notre Dame. In that game, sophomore kicker Alex Kessman missed two field goals that he would normally make, which ended up being the difference between a 19-14 loss and a 20-19 upset victory. If the Panthers could have held on for these wins, they’d have a record of 6-2 and 4-0 in the ACC.

Although it might sound crazy, Pitt has a legitimate shot to win the ACC Coastal. Three of its four losses have been to ranked opponents — Penn State, UCF and Notre Dame. Pitt also has respectable wins over teams like Duke and Syracuse, which is currently ranked 22nd in the country, and should’ve had an upset victory over Notre Dame. Pitt’s remaining four games are against Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Miami. The Panthers control their own destiny and if they can run the table and win these final games, they will be in the ACC Championship this December.

— Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

Bell tolls for Le’Veon

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell’s holdout has been well documented as it enters Week 9 of the NFL season. Bell has been adamant that he wants to be paid what he believes he deserves, which is to set a new gold standard in the market for running backs. The Steelers have offered him multiple contracts that would make him the highest-paid player at his position, but Bell has declined them, instead opting to sit out and prove his worth by hoping the Steelers struggled in his absence.

Unfortunately for Bell, his plan to hold out and demonstrate his value has backfired dramatically. In his absence, second-year running back James Conner has taken the NFL by storm, propelling the Steelers to a 4-2-1 record. Bell had nine rushing touchdowns all of last season, while Conner already has nine touchdowns on the ground in just seven games. Conner has also accumulated 922 yards from scrimmage in 2018, 24 more yards than Bell had through seven games in 2017.

As Conner continues to shine, Bell’s production over that last five seasons seems to grow less impressive. Each week, it increasingly appears that innovative offensive schemes and elite offensive line play were more influential to Bell’s success than just his raw talent. If the Steelers and other teams wholeheartedly believe this, then the payday Bell expects this offseason is in jeopardy. Bell needs to come back now if he wants to prove to everyone why he’s one of the best players in the league.

— Cale Berger, Staff Writer

Division leaders make moves at NFL trade deadline

The rich got richer Tuesday as the NFL season reached the trade deadline, with the biggest acquisitions coming from teams already perched atop their divisions — namely the Los Angeles Rams, Washington Redskins and Houston Texans.

The battle for the NFC East, which largely seems to be between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, heated up just a few hours before the deadline. The Eagles acquired wide receiver Golden Tate, adding him to a receiving corps that already boasts Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. Almost as if in response, the Redskins acquired safety “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix from the Packers. Clinton-Dix is a hard-hitter on the back end who will improve a Washington defense that already ranks fourth in the NFL, allowing 322.4 yards per game.

The only remaining undefeated team in the NFL, the LA Rams, got even better at the deadline. The Rams landed edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. from the Jacksonville Jaguars, looking to add some outside linebacker help to their 3-4 base defense.

The biggest move in the AFC involved the Houston Texans — first in the AFC South division — acquiring Demaryius Thomas from the Denver Broncos, looking to make up for the fact that they recently lost Will Fuller V for the season to a torn ACL. This move quickly gives the Texans one of the most menacing wide receiver duos in the league with Thomas and DeAndre Hopkins.

— Andrew Kelly, Staff Writer

Another year, another Browns mistake

After two dismal seasons in which Hue Jackson led the Cleveland Browns to a historically bad 1-31 record, the Browns decided to keep Jackson to see what he could do with a revamped roster. The front office and coaching staff received a face-lift this year, bringing in general manager John Dorsey as well as coordinators Todd Haley and Gregg Williams. In addition to these changes, the team added highly touted quarterback prospect Baker Mayfield and other complimentary pieces.

Despite posting the highest number of wins in his Cleveland tenure halfway through the season, the front office decided to let Jackson go. It’s the right move, but the timing is puzzling — why fire Jackson now after letting him stick around so long already? In his first year, the Browns were 1-15 and looked dreadful for most of the year. Furthermore, Jackson did the unthinkable — he took a one-win team and somehow made it worse in the following campaign by losing every single game.

A 0-16 record is possibly the best reason to fire a head coach, as they failed at their job every game. For some reason, Cleveland decided to stick with a losing head coach without regard for the development of their its team and future franchise quarterback.

It shouldn’t have taken five losses midway through this season to fire Jackson. He deserved to be fired last year after another embarrassing showing. The Browns need to step up and make sound decisions in the future, as they risk their players’ development and fans’ hopes.

— Sami Abu-Obaid, Staff Writer

Cy-ya later, Eovaldi-gator

To this point in free agent Nathan Eovaldi’s career, the 28-year-old starting pitcher has been limited by a barrage of ailments, including two Tommy John surgeries, elbow inflammation and torn tendons, forcing him to miss close to three full seasons of baseball.

Eovaldi’s biggest weapon is also his greatest weakness. His ability to consistently hit triple digits on the radar gun makes him a strikeout machine, but having to do so over the course of six innings has caused his injuries.

Following his breakout 2018 postseason in which he pitched 22.1 innings, good for a 1.61 ERA, the impending free agent has shown that he is not only one of the most talented arms in the majors, but also one of the clutchest. In Game 3 of the World Series, Eovaldi entered in the 12th inning and went on the pitch the next six, even though he was tabbed as the starter for the next day.

His ability to handle not only the physical stress of rehabbing from injury but also the immense mental stress of tense situations just goes to show how special the right-hander is. He will use October as a springboard to becoming the best pitcher — and legitimate Cy Young candidate if he can stay healthy — in whatever league he ends up in next year.

— Griffin Floyd, Staff Writer