JuJu Smith-Schuster tops our pre-holiday power rankings

People around the country might not have liked the hit on Vontaze Burfict. But here? ‘Tis the season.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The holiday season is the ultimate time for power rankings. What better way to figure out who to buy gifts for and how much to spend than doing a power rankings of the people in your life? Last in the rankings is your co-worker Bill, who gets a re-gifted $10 Starbucks gift card you found in your junk drawer. And at No. 1 in the power rankings, getting the most expensive gift, is the person who means the most to you (AKA not your co-worker Bill). So let’s honor this tried and true holiday tradition by again power ranking the world of Pittsburgh sports.

10. Ben McAdoo

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What does the deposed Giants coach have to do with Pittsburgh? Well, he was a Pitt football grad assistant under Walt Harris in 2003. And he also has Western Pa. roots, having grown up in Homer City before attending college at IUP. But the fired coach’s biggest claim to fame? He looks like approximately 40 percent of the Pittsburgh dads you have ever met. Four years on the coaching staff of the big city New York Giants didn’t change that.

9. Petersen Events Center

It wasn’t long ago that it was hard to find a seat for a basketball game at the Petersen Events Center. Now it’s hard to find a fan at the Petersen Events Center.

This Saturday night, Pitt plays the 18th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers at home, and there will be a lot more than 2,300 fans there. Well, maybe not more than 2,300 Pitt fans there. But there will probably be 10,000 West Virginians in attendance. Yes, do consider avoiding Oakland this Saturday.

8. College football

This was Jimbo Fisher’s arrival to College Station, Texas, on Sunday after accepting a 10-year, $75 million contract from Texas A&M after going 6-6 at Florida State this season.

Pitt would never run its program with such banana republic optics, but the Panthers did give Pat Narduzzi a 7-year contract extension Wednesday through the year 2024. Reminder: Pitt went 5-7 this year and did not make one of the college football’s 400 (read: 41) bowls. Yet this is how college football works. If a coach doesn’t do poorly enough to get fired, he’ll probably get a raise or contract extension. I propose this format be adopted by the sports media industry.

7. Scheduling

Kevin Stallings

Kevin Stallings

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Want to know who has a better winning percentage this season than Pat “Locked Up Through 2024” Narduzzi? Mr. Kevin Stallings. His Pitt Panthers basketball team is now above .500 at 5-4 thanks to four wins in a row. Is Pitt good now? No. Are they improving? Sure. Are they better than many expected they’d be? Possibly.

But the reason the Pitt men have a winning record is because their schedule is a joke. Here are some teams they have played this year:

  • Montana
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • Bivouac State
  • Lehigh
  • High Point
  • Mt. St. Mary’s

Did I make up one of those teams? I sure did. Good luck figuring out which one. But after losing to West Virginia on Saturday, Pitt will have a decent shot to get back above .500 before ACC play opens with upcoming games against McNeese, Delaware State and Towson. Pitt could be 8-5 or 7-6 when conference play opens. Stallings might want to ask for his seven-year contract extension then – and definitely before Pitt plays No. 1 Duke twice in 10 days in mid-January. Thoughts and prayers.

6. Baltimore Ravens

I hate to say this, but the Baltimore Ravens might not be all bad.

5. Pitt women’s volleyball

The Pitt women made it to the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament last weekend before falling to volleyball powerhouse Penn State in four sets. A tough loss for sure, but the program is continuing on the upwards trajectory started when head coach Dan Fisher was hired five years ago. We really could be nearing an era when Pitt volleyball outdraws Pitt basketball, and I’m down with it.

4. Tristan Jarry

Through seven appearances so far this season, Tristan Jarry has a 2.30 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Matt Murray’s career average is 2.48 and .920. Goalie controversy! Goalie controversy! We’ve got a goalie controversy!

3. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Name a better duo. I’ll wait.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?

Okay. Fine. But name a city with better duos. You can’t.

2. Mike Mitchell

Mike Mitchell, like everyone in the Steelers secondary, has some flaws on the field. But this week he probably clinched a career for himself on television when he’s off the field after his playing career is over.

1. JuJu Smith-Schuster

Maybe JuJu Smith-Schuster’s reputation was tarnished nationally for his block on Vontaze Burfict on Monday night. Maybe. But if it wasn’t already, his hero status is now forever clinched in Pittsburgh among the fans of SMASHMOUTH football.

Smith-Schuster can’t play this week because of the hit after earning himself a one-game suspension. So maybe he will instead spend his free time posing for the statue that will one day be constructed of him outside Heinz Field.