Take 5 | NFL playoffs on the horizon


AP Photo/Matt Freed

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada watches during NFL football practice on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex in Pittsburgh.

By The Pitt News Staff

With the playoffs on the horizon, the Pitt News Sports Desk takes a look at the NFL and Pitt football. Here are the takes.

Maybe the Steelers shouldn’t fire Matt Canada // David Scott, Staff Writer 

This is a wildly unpopular opinion, but it’s one worth exploring. Changing scenery isn’t always best for a young and developing football team, and maybe offensive coordinator Matt Canada needs to develop as much as Kenny Pickett does.

Let’s take the Buffalo Bills, quarterback Josh Allen and former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, for example. Daboll is currently the head coach for the New York Giants, but he was the Bills’ offensive coordinator for four years beforehand. In his first full year with Allen, the Bills went 10-6 and Allen had a decent, but not quite great, year. The next two years they had 13 and 11 wins, respectively, and Daboll earned a head coaching job.

In Canada’s first two years, the Steelers went 9-7-1 and 9-8, but he hasn’t managed to settle in with one quarterback yet. With a full year of just Pickett at the helm, perhaps Canada will show that he can produce a high-powered offense. The Steelers went 7-2 to end the season when Pickett was in most of the time.

I’d give Canada one more year to prove his worth.

The Giants’ Cinderella story shouldn’t end against the Vikings // Jack Markowski, Staff Writer 

The New York Giants were widely projected as one of the worst teams in the NFL heading into 2022. However, the Brian Daboll-led squad exceeded expectations and clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2016. But, their Cinderella story shouldn’t end this weekend. 

Primed for a meeting with the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Giants are in excellent position to take advantage of a few mismatches on their way to an upset. With right tackle Brian O’Neill out and center Garrett Bradbury’s availability unknown, the Vikings are facing a potential deficit on their offensive line. That bodes well for a Giants team that has the highest blitz rate in the league and also boasts an impressive set of pass rushers in Dexter Lawrence, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari

Minnesota’s defense has also struggled all season, ranking in the bottom five in yards against and points against per game. The Week 16 matchup between the two teams, in which the Giants totaled 445 yards, serves as evidence that generating offense should come a little easier for New York than it has all season. 

The Giants’ season is already a success, and they have a great chance to knock off the Vikings and keep things rolling into the Divisional Round.

The Bear Should Trade Their No. 1 Pick // Sara Meyer, Staff Writer 

The Chicago Bears had a tough season to say the least, finishing 3-14. Despite the Bears’ dry season, they did manage to earn the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft, thanks to Houston Texans’ Jordan Akins’ two-point conversion during the last 50 seconds of the game. The Texans’ last win bumped them to the No. 2 spot in the draft. Though no one can deny that the Bears need to make a few changes to the roster, a new quarterback is not the answer. Without needing a new quarterback, the Bears should trade their top draft pick for multiple lower ones. This would give the Bears a better chance at rebuilding their team and having a fresh start.

Even though the quarterback often takes the blame for wins and losses, Bears quarterback Justin Fields should not be criticized for the team’s terrible season. In fact, Justin Fields rushed 178 yards on Nov. 6 in a game against the Miami Dolphins, which set the record for the most yards rushed by a quarterback during the regular season. The Bears have a solid foundation with Fields on the roster, but with more picks later in the draft, they can add depth to other positions.

Pitt Football is Here To Stay // Mason Carter, Staff Writer

After a blowout loss at North Carolina 42-24, many fans gave up on head coach Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers season, considering their abysmal 4-4 record. It seemed as though the magic from their ACC championship run the previous year had dried out. Fast forward to the Sun Bowl, where the Panthers knocked off then-ranked No. 18 UCLA in the final seconds from a Ben Sauls kick. With this win, Pitt capped an impressive turn around, winning their last five games.

With the season over, Pitt finished No. 22 in the AP poll with a record of 9-4. This was the first time in almost 40 years that Pitt football made it to the final rankings for back-to-back seasons. Even though Pitt didn’t complete its goal of capturing back-to-back ACC championships, this season still showed legitimate progress. Looking where the team stood three years ago, winning 20 games in two seasons is utterly shocking.

Even though Pitt is losing some solid production next season, it should still maintain some of this success with the transfer portal and the return of key starters. With FSU at No. 11 and Clemson at No. 13, Pitt was the only other ACC team to finish ranked in the final top 25. The ACC championship is an achievable goal for the Panthers next season, as long as they follow this continuous upwards trend led by Pat Narduzzi.

Player safety is more important than playoff implications // Ben Pisano, Staff Writer

When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field during a Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, it was a sobering reminder of the toll this sport takes on its players’ health and safety.

With millions of dollars in advertising revenue and NFL futures bets at stake, the NFL postponed and eventually outright canceled the game, a rare act of benevolence from a league that puts money ahead of its players’ well-being time and time again.

Even though the NFL did the right thing for once, sports commentator Skip Bayless couldn’t help pointing out the massive playoff implications of canceling the Bills-Bengals game. If they beat the Bengals, the Bills could have claimed the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff bracket, giving them a first-round bye and home-field advantage if they met the Kansas City Chiefs in the postseason. 

Sure, there are some logistical hurdles to overcome because of this unprecedented event, but nothing is more important than Hamlin’s life. Sometimes, people get so caught up in the spectacle and drama of professional sports that they forget that it’s just a game. The playoff implications are secondary to the life of a 24-year-old with so much left to give to the world

Players put their bodies and long-term health on the line every week for our entertainment.

In return for their dedication, we should prioritize their lives before our own desires for entertainment.