Pirates pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training, and so the fourth edition of the Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings has arrived, as well. Feel free to read this week’s list as you stretch lazily in the sun.
10. Artie Burns
A survey conducted by We Are Fanatics had football fans rate the attractiveness of NFL players on a scale of 1 to 10 and Steelers rookie cornerback Artie Burns came in tied for fifth overall.
The findings read: “The rookie cornerback was among the highest graded rookies for 2016 among all first-round picks. With his natural ability and stellar good looks, the future certainly looks bright for this young man.”
So why is Burns only tenth in these rankings? Because the survey found Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to be the most attractive NFL player – really – and any time a Steelers defensive back gets beaten by Joe Flacco it’s very bad.
Temperatures are supposed to be in the sixties on Saturday and Sunday, and the Pirates are in the news. That all would sound great if was Memorial Day weekend, but it’s mid-February and the NHL is currently trying to install ice at Heinz Field for the Stadium Series game on Feb. 25.
Good luck to all those who attend the public skating sessions scheduled for the Heinz ice on Monday. There’s no better way to teach children about global warming than trudging through two inches of water during a day off from school.
8. Home ice history
Eight months ago the Penguins had the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup on home (indoor) ice and lost 4-2 to the San Jose Sharks. The Penguins ended up winning the Cup on the road – same as the team did in 2009, 1992 and 1991.
On Tuesday night, Sidney Crosby had chance to score his 1,000th career point at PPG Paints Arena, but got stuck at 999. If history eludes the home crowd again Thursday against Winnipeg, the biggest event to ever happen on home ice in the city of Pittsburgh will remain Jean-Claude Van Damme defeating a band of terrorists at the Civic Arena in 1995. Sad!
7. Unhealthy food
Kris Letang now has his own candy bar.
“People that know me really well, know that I’m addicted to chocolate,” Letang told the Post-Gazette. “I don’t go a day without eating it.”
To paraphrase the UPMC ad from Penguins games: “You can’t skate like they do. You can’t hit like they do. … But you can pound a ton of chocolate like at least one of the Penguins apparently does.”
Pitt basketball hasn’t exactly won a ton of new fans this year, but there is a clear fan favorite on the struggling team: 6-foot-11, 310-pound center Rozelle Nix, who not long ago was an even bigger 401-pound mountain of a young man. “I looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘If I want to play this sport at a higher level, I have to change my body,'” Nix told the Post-Gazette. “I dedicated myself to changing my ways. I haven’t eaten a cheeseburger with a bun in like two years.”
Someone tell Kris Letang to release a low-carb chocolate bar.
5. T.J. McConnell
Breaking news! Pittsburgh doesn’t have an NBA team.
But the area does have an NBA player in former Chartiers Valley and Duquesne product T.J. McConnell, who has taken to hitting game-winnings shots of late for the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers. Now, is McConnell the next Michael Jordan? Well, of course n- … I mean, yes. Yes, he is.
4. Dwayne Woodruff
The former defensive back, who began practicing law in the late ’80s while still playing for the Steelers, is running for Pa. Supreme Court. Woodruff told The Incline he will focus on the issues of gerrymandering, incarceration rates and education.
He did not say if he favors jail time for bad refs. Sorry, Steelers fans.
Former Steeler Brett Keisel raised money for charity this week with his now-annual Shear Da Beard event, just as Penguins center Nick Bonino did with his facial brush-clearing last June.
By my count there are nearly 100 professional athletes in Pittsburgh between the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates, meaning there is great potential for increased beard growth-related charity. (Sidney Crosby already does enough for the community, so his scruff can be exempt.)
2. Pirates winning the World Series
In case you weren’t already rooting for the Pirates to win their first World Series since 1979:
LeVeon Bell at the line of scrimmage was the standard bearer for patience in Pittsburgh … until this Evgeni Malkin assist on Valentine’s Day night made the entire hockey world swoon.
And yet, with baseball season upon us again, let’s remember that no one in sports has more patience than Pirates fans.
DJ Gallo is the founder, editor and writer of the sports humor site SportsPickle.com. He has also written for, contributed to or appeared on ESPN.com, Saturday Night Live, The Onion, Comedy Central, Funny Or Die, SportsCenter, The Guardian, CBS Local, USA Today, AOL, ESPN The Magazine and The Cauldron. He was almost the ‘Harambe kid’ of the ’90s when his Bobby Bonilla hat fell into the polar bear pen at the Pittsburgh Zoo.