Take 5: Brady, Big Ben and Backyard Brawl

Ben+Roethlisberger+of+the+Pittsburgh+Steelers+attempts+a+pass+during+a+game+against+the+Washington+Football+Team+at+Heinz+Field+in+Pittsburgh+on+December+7%2C+2020.

Image via Joe Glorioso, All-Pro Reels | Wikimedia Commons

Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts a pass during a game against the Washington Football Team at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on December 7, 2020.

By The Pitt News Staff

Big Ben needs to hang up his cleats // Dalton Coppola, For The Pitt News

There comes a time when Pittsburgh fans must decide their loyalty to the Steelers or a particular player. Ben Roethlisberger has provided Steeler Nation with some of the greatest offensive outputs of the franchise’s storied history, on top of earning two Super Bowls over his decorated career.

But last year it became evident that Roethlisberger simply ran out of gas towards the end of the season, dropping five of six games to end the campaign. Roethlisberger had the quickest snap to throw time of any starting quarterback in the NFL, consisting of many short throws and slant patterns.

It seemed the coaching staff wouldn’t let Roethlisberger air it out downfield. Defenses had to prepare for a very limited number of plays due to a lackluster running game and subpar aerial attack downfield. Roethlisberger no longer stood in the pocket shaking off defenders and finding receivers deep — the quarterback Steeler fans have grown accustomed to.

One year remains on Roethlisberger’s contract that will cost the Steelers $41 million — a price that he simply is no longer worth. The Steelers should allocate this money to rebuilding an aging offensive line and bring back defensive free agents Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton.

It may sting to see another quarterback go under center for Steelers fans, but unfortunately, it’s time for a change at the position.

Pitt fans must embrace the Backyard Brawl over Penn State rivalry // Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

The best rivalries have notorious names — “The Red River Showdown,” “The Big Game,” “The Backyard Brawl.” Does that last one look familiar? That’s the name of the rivalry game between Pitt and West Virginia. The two schools have played 104 times in football and 117 times in basketball since 1949. In the years since both schools left the Big East, the football rivalry has simmered, but the teams still meet annually in basketball — save for the 2020-21 COVID-influenced season. And if that’s not enough, the two programs will play each other twice this season in baseball — which is indeed a relevant college sport, in case you forgot.

Pitt and Penn State represents another classic rivalry, but the schools have only played five times in football since the turn of the millennium. The two schools also have a rivalry in basketball, but it’s currently on hiatus as the two haven’t played since 2016. Though if you ask most Pitt students, they’d label Penn State at the scum of the earth. Discussions took place to try and extend the series for both sports, but PSU athletic director Sandy Barbour has put the rivalry on the shelf for now.

Pitt is scheduled to play West Virginia in basketball for at least the next two seasons, and in football in the next couple of years. The allure of an in-state rivalry with the Nittany Lions sounds intoxicating, but the Backyard Brawl has proven more prolific. So while you wait impatiently for a Pitt-PSU football series renewal, how about you watch the Panthers take on the Mountaineers in Pitt’s true rivalry?

Jarry is the future in net for the Penguins // Zach Gibney, For The Pitt News

In one of former Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford’s final moves prior to his resignation, he orchestrated a deal that sent two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Matt Murray to the Senators in exchange for prospect Jonathan Gruden and a second-round pick in the 

most recent NHL Draft. This move displayed the amount of confidence the franchise had in 25-year-old netminder Tristan Jarry, coming off of a career year in which he made the All-Star Team and finished seventh in the Vezina Trophy voting.

Rutherford received his fair share of criticisms in his final few years at the helm for the Pens as a result of several head-scratching transactions. But this move might have been one of his finest.

After Jarry’s early season troubles, fans quickly called out the young Canadian as a one-hit wonder and suggested the Penguins look for outside goaltending help at the trade deadline. While the outcry made some sense after Jarry struggled the first month of the season, it proved to be a knee-jerk reaction to a small sample size.

Since then, Jarry has played a vital role in the Penguins recent success. The team has won five of its last seven games, and Jarry has since returned to his previous form after the early season woes. Even in the Penguins’ two losses, Jarry made 39 saves on 42 shots and 30 saves on 33 shots, respectively — putting them in a position to win both games.

It’s time to embrace Jarry as the Pens’ netminder going forward.

Dead Cap Deals Here to Stay // John Riskis, Staff Writer

After the trades of two former first-round franchise quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams currently face projected hits of $33.8 million and $22.2 million on the 2021 salary cap, respectively. This begs the question. Will large dead cap deals remain a common trend in the future? 

Yes. Look, considering the subpar play by Wentz and Goff during the 2020 season, both of these teams were clearly justified in dumping their once-promising team centerpieces. Absorbing the dead cap will allow the teams to avoid paying the full length of their due contracts to both save cap space for the long term and move forward with better options at quarterback. 

During a season where the salary cap will likely only increase to $180 million, though, this seems counterintuitive. But now there’s precedent. What’s to say teams won’t try to copy these organizational moves if the Rams have playoff success with Matthew Stafford or the Eagles with Jalen Hurts. Moreover, we might even see another large dead cap hit of $39 million to the Seahawks franchise if the Russell Wilson trade rumors come to fruition.

The job of a NFL general manager is building the best team to compete for wins by whatever means necessary. If that requires subtracting a significant piece of the organization and acquiring dead cap, teams will do it, especially with examples already in plain sight. 

Short-term pain will prove worthy of the long-term gains of cap space and new opportunities at the league’s most important position.

All GOATs not created equal // Eddie Lasker, Staff Writer

Tom Brady is much more Bill Russell than he is Michael Jordan, and that’s okay.

Despite the frantic claims of sports personalities, winning seven championships does not put Brady in the same category as his airness. While Brady’s seventh Super Bowl win is legendary for sure, winning championships represent only one variable in the GOAT equation.

Brady hasn’t dominated the game at an individual level the way Jordan did. The quarterback has led the league in passing yards three times, been selected to three first teams and garnered three MVPs — definitely Hall of Fame accolades, but those stats pale in comparison to Jordan’s 10 scoring titles, 10 All-NBA first team selections and five MVPs

Brady’s career trajectory does map much more accurately to fellow Boston NBA legend Bill Russell. Russell and Brady share the most championships for an individual in each of their respective sports, and both received three first-team selections.

Brady just hasn’t proven himself as the dominant force that Jordan was, no one has. Pundits that compare the two simply do Tampa Tom a disservice. Brady’s the greatest leader to touch a football field, which has translated to the production of some of the best teams ever seen in the Super Bowl era. Like his Boston counterpart, Tom’s not always the best player in the league, but he always finds a way to win.

Leave a comment.