Crosby’s drought, Bucs’ spring success, Stallings’ impact and…Pens tanking: Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings

No, the Steelers aren’t signing Darrelle Revis or Brandon Marshall. Maybe they’ll draft Nathan Peterman.

USA Today Sports/The Incline Illustration

This is the seventh editon of the Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings and since the start of the column, The Incline family has grown by 50 percent. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the term “causal fallacy,” but if not, know that this column surely fueled the impressive growth. Amazing! On to the rankings.

10. Local NFL stars

Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall

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Darrelle Revis, Terrelle Pryor and Brandon Marshall all are from the Pittsburgh area, all are (or were) available this offseason, and Steelers fans have whispered about bringing all three home. But it’s not going to happen. Marshall has already signed with the Giants, and the Steelers reportedly have no interest in Revis or Pryor. Maybe one day the NFL will require that rosters be filled with players who grew up within a 50-mile radius of each team’s stadium, and the Steelers will dominate and Tyler Palko will quarterback multiple Super Bowl champions. But that day is not coming soon, unfortunately.

9. March Madness

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Wake Forest
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

More like March sadness. Pitt lost its second game in the ACC tournament to close its season 16-17. Duquesne got bounced in the 1st Round of the Atlantic 10 tournament to finish 10-22. And even Robert Morris, a program proven to be better than Kentucky, was bounced in the NEC semis to wrap up the year at 14-19. That’s a combined record on the season of 40-58. Pittsburgh desperately needs a fish to save the city’s basketball again.

8. Matt Murray

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Even the biggest Marc-Andre Fleury critics didn’t want to see the guy’s heart broken on his way out of Pittsburgh … whenever that happens. But making Fleury feel needed and appreciated again by Murray playing poorly (3.57 GAA in his last seven games) is probably not the best solution. Let’s try to find a middle ground where both goalies play and play well. Hey, that’s a good idea!

Maybe I should be a hockey coach.

7. Sidney Crosby

NHL: Boston Bruins at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sidney Crosby is in a bit of a scoring slump, with no goals and only three points in his last five games. Sad! But he’s still Sidney Crosby and, in fairness, could be No. 1 in this column most every week. So while there are no amazing Crosby goal highlights to share this week, let’s take a moment to consider that the world’s best hockey player is also better at baseball than famous Mets farmhand Tim Tebow.

6. Sean Miller

The former Blackhawk High School and Pitt star won Pac-12 Coach of the Year again.

The Wildcat That Saved Pittsburgh would be a fine name for a reboot.

5. Tanking

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Minnesota Wild
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Tanking is primarily a basketball thing, and Pittsburgh is decidedly not a basketball town. (See no. 9.) But a semi-tanking approach could benefit the Penguins.

Hear me out: the Metropolitan division is loaded and any team would prefer to not have to open its postseason against one of the best teams in hockey. However, if the Penguins drop to fourth in the division, they get the first wildcard, thereby pushing them into the much easier Atlantic bracket with the likes of the Canadiens, Senators and Bruins.

It’s complicated. But maybe playing [whichever Penguins goalie is currently TERRIBLE] right now isn’t the worst idea.

4. Extremely early draft projections

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Northwestern vs Pittsburgh

Nathan Peterman

William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman has been impressing scouts for the last two months. But the 2017 NFL Draft is old news. The new newness is the 2018 NFL Draft and Pitt quarterback Max Browne is currently projected as the fourth-best QB in the draft. Very impressive stuff for a guy who hasn’t played a single game for Pitt and has thrown all of 112 passes in college.

3. Young guys

Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel now has 17 points in 28 games, a rate that would work out to 50 points over a full season. Down in the QMJHL, 19-year old Daniel Sprong has 50 points in 26 games, including a 7-point game Wednesday, a rate that works out to … the Penguins are going to be pretty good for a while.

2. Deep thoughts

Kevin Stallings

Kevin Stallings

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings was very philosophical entering the ACC Tournament with his very bad and dysfunctional basketball team:

“I would like to think that what I’m doing is more than just coaching basketball. I hope the impact I’m having on these kids’ lives is bigger and better than just coaching the game and helping them achieve wins or losses.”

Let’s hope Pitt is a lot better at basketball next year, and we never again have to hear this kind of talk about making kids’ lives better. Terrible!

1. Pirates parade

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates infielder John Jaso warms up before a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

A team’s record in spring training means nothing. March baseball is day after day of exhibition games played solely to prepare teams for when the games actually count.

Those are things losers say. Your Pittsburgh Pirates are not losers, ladies and gentlemen. They are 9-3 so far in spring training, the second-best record in all of not-real-baseball. They can’t be defeated even when they’re barely trying to win. This momentum will surely carry into a championship season, unless it doesn’t, in which case spring training games mean nothing. Stay tuned.