Free-agent visitors leave Steelers high and dry

Dont'a Hightower 2

Dont’a Hightower spent six hours at the UPMC Rooney Complex but couldn’t come to terms with the Steelers

Dont’a Hightower spent the day at the Steelers headquarters but left without a contract, writes Joe Rutter.

Of course, it could have been worse, given what happened on an odd day on the South Side…

And in Pittsburgh West, aka the Arizona Cardinals:


Sidney Crosby faceoff

Getting the better of faceoffs not necessarily a deciding factor in team’s success, writes Jonathan Bombulie.

In the Penguins notebook, JB writes that the team signed top college free agent Zach Aston-Reese from Northeastern.

Zach Aston-Reese

Zach Aston-Reese is a 6-foot, 204-pond left-handed shooter who earns his offense through diligent two-way play

On the Chipped Ice blog, JB has a Q&A with Aston-Reese.


Adam Frazier talks to grandafther Warren Adams

Adam Frazier landed in Nashville when Zach Mettenberger played for the Titans

Zach Mettenberger

Mettenberger, right, signed with the Steelers when Frazier was playing for the Pirates

From Georgia to Pittsburgh, the Pirates’ Adam Frazier and Steelers’ Zach Mettenberger share a bond, writes Chris Adamski.

In his From the Cheap Seats blog, Adamski asks, Why are Tyler Glasnow’s statistics so bad?


Corey Manigault

Corey Manigault appeared in only 18 games for Pitt as a freshman this season

Corey Manigault, the final member of Jamie Dixon’s last recruiting class at Pitt, is transferring, writes Jerry DiPaola.

And a candidate connected with Duquesne is headed elsewhere…

Duquesne fires Jim Ferry, starts national search for coaching successor

Jim Ferry 2

Jim Ferry’s Dukes started four underclassmen and lost 12 games by seven points or fewer this season

Duquesne fired men’s basketball coach Jim Ferry after he went 60-97 in five seasons, including 10-22 this season.

The administration didn’t take my advice, that Ferry needs time to build a program. Maybe it was the empty seats at Palumbo Center, a basketball arena that was obsolete as soon as it was built. Maybe it was the dissatisfied donors, who are now going to have to pony up not only for renovations but now to buy out the final two years of Ferry’s contract.

Either way, Duquesne is now looking for its ninth coach since the Dukes last earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament under John Cinicola in 1977. Cinicola (52-56 from 1974-78) was followed by Mike Rice (62-49, ’78-82), Jim Satalin (85-120, ’82-89), John Carroll (73-98, ’89-95), Scott Edgar (29-55, ’95-98), Darelle Porter (23-64, ’98-2001), Danny Nee (42-102, 2001-06), Ron Everhart (99-89, ’06-12) and Ferry.

Under Ferry, the Dukes lost 14 of their final 15 games, blowing an 18-point lead in a 72-71 loss to Saint Louis in the first round of the Atlantic-10 tournament at PPG Paints Arena. That was the final blow for Ferry, even though he started four underclassmen, including two A-10 All-Rookie team picks in guard Mike Lewis II and forward Isiah Mike. Both Lewis and Mike could elect to transfer, and Ferry’s recruits could ask for a release from their letters of intent.

If so, the next coach has a serious rebuilding job at a university that finished last in the A-10. Given that Duquesne has been a coaching graveyard, you would have to wonder whether athletic director Dave Harper can find a coach on the rise or a retread. Pitt thought it would attract an upstart but instead ended up with a veteran in Kevin Stallings, and the Panthers have a better conference, better facilities and better tradition than the Dukes can claim over the past 40 years.

There already has been talk about Duquesne hiring a rising star like Rutgers assistant Brandin Knight, who deserved serious consideration at Pitt. Or a reclamation project like Mike Rice Jr., who still has Pittsburgh ties. A name connected to Harper will be former Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory, who previously coached at Dayton.

But, make no mistake, Duquesne is starting over again.

And that’s a mistake the Dukes keep making over and over.


Two former Penn State administrators pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the Sandusky sexual assault scandal, writes Deb Erdley.


Crisshawn Clark

Sophomore guard Crisshawn Clark tore the MCL and meniscus in his left knee for the second straight year

Pitt guard Crisshawn Clark , who missed the season with a knee injury, announces that he’s transferring, writes Jerry DiPaola.

Now, the only area teams to make the postseason are…

The Duquesne women’s basketball team will play Drexel in the WNIT, writes Jerry DiPaola.

The Robert Morris women had reason to celebrate twice after drawing Notre Dame — not UConn — in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, writes Jerry DiPaola.


Marc-Andre Fleury v Flames

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped six of seven shots in the second period of a 4-3 shootout loss to Calgary

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin scored but Mark Streit was injured in a shootout loss at Calgary, writes Jeff MacKinnon.

On the Chipped Ice blog, Jonathan Bombulie writes about Connor Sheary joining the 20-goal club.


Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower is a candidate to replace Lawrence Timmons at inside linebacker for the Steelers

The Steelers are hosting free agents, with Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower among the visitors, writes Joe Rutter.

Le'Veon Bell v Ravens

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell underwent surgery to repair the core muscle injury that caused him to leave the AFC Championship game loss in New England, writes Joe Rutter.


Phil Gosselin 2

Phil Gosselin has played five positions and is batting .400 for the Pirates this spring

Pirates newcomer Phil Gosselin is becoming a valuable fill-in, writes Chris Adamski.

Adamski’s breakdown: Braves 7, Pirates 6

It’s ‘now or never’ for Pitt transfer QB Browne

Max Browne

Max Browne 2

Max Browne was the nation’s top-ranked pro-style passer in the Class of 2013 but started only three games at Southern Cal

It’s ‘now or never’ for Pitt transfer Max Browne to become a starting quarterback, writes Jerry DiPaola. Once the nation’s top-ranked, pro-style passer, Browne spent most of his career at USC on the sidelines.

Jerry DiPaola also gives a position-by-position breakdown at Pitt, which starts spring drills on Thursday.


Northwestern celebrates

Northwestern coach Chris Collins and his Wildcats celebrate their NCAA bid

Defending national champion Villanova earned the No. 1 overall seed, but Northwestern’s first bid is the story of the NCAA tourney.

Bob Huggins

WVU coach Bob Huggins on the NCAA tourney loss to Stephen F. Austin last year: ‘We had no enthusiasm. We were just kind of out there’

West Virginia hopes its routine doesn’t repeat itself in the NCAA Tournament, writes David Statman.

Anna Niki Stamolamprou

Anna Niki Stamolamprou holds the NEC championship trophy after Robert Morris beat Bryant for the title

The Robert Morris women’s basketball team clinched an NCAA Tournament berth by winning the NEC championship, writes Jerry DiPaola.


Kevin Newman

Shortstop Kevin Newman was batting .389 in the Grapefruit League but was behind Jordy Mercer

Nick Kingham

Pitcher Nick Kingham, the Pirates’ No. 9 prospect, is healthy after Tommy John surgery

The Pirates sent prospects Kevin Newman and Nick Kingham to minor-league camp, writes Chris Adamski.

Casey Sadler allowed a single and had a strikeout in the Pirates’ 4-3 win over the Twins, 630 days after he last pitched in a competitive game

Casey Sadler savors his return from Tommy John surgery, writes Chris Adamski.

Adamski’s breakdown: Pirates 4, Twins 3

On his From the Cheap Seats blog, Adamski writes about Clint Hurdle’s ode to John Jaso.


Justin Schultz w Fleury

Dismissed as a bust by Edmonton, Justin Schultz made a long-awaited trip to Western Canada: ‘I remember near the end just being pretty down. When you don’t have confidence, you don’t want the puck at all. You’re afraid of making a mistake every time you have the puck. That’s what it was like near the end. … I needed a change of scenery, a new environment’

Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz took the long road to redemption, writes Bill West.

On the Chipped Ice blog, West writes about the key to unlocking Schultz’s confidence.

Timmons leaves Steelers for Miami Dolphins

Lawrence Timmons 2

Lawrence Timmons, the first draft pick under Mike Tomlin, led the Steelers in tackles last season and his 120 consecutive regular-season starts were the most of any NFL linebacker

Lawrence Timmons expressed his hope that this past season wouldn’t be his final ride with the Steelers, but the inside linebacker left sign with the Miami Dolphins, writes Joe Rutter.

Anthony Yates

Steelers team internist Anthony Yates testified that as late as last season, Steelers players “lined up” for Toradol injections before a game — a practice that had been occurring for “the past 15 years”

Steelers doctor Anthony Yates cited in NFL prescription drug lawsuit, writes Joe Rutter.


Marc-Andre Fleury v Oilers

Zack Kassian jumps in front of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 40 shots

Marc-Andre Fleury made 40 saves, stealing the Sidney Crosby-Connor McDavid Show as the Penguins beat the Oilers in a shootout, writes Jason Hills.

On the Chipped Ice blog, Jonathan Bombulie writes that there has been precious little distance between Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray since Christmas.


Jung Ho Kang 4

By being placed on restricted list, Jung Ho Kang does not count on 25-man or 40-man roster

The Pirates place Jung Ho Kang on the restricted list, writes Chris Adamski.

Meantime, Andrew McCutchen made a vow to USA Today: ‘I’m going to have a monster year’ … whether it’s in Pittsburgh or somewhere else.

Dovydas Neverauskas

Dovydas Neverauskas has played for minor-league teams representing seven different cities in 7½ years

Lithuanian pitcher Dovydas Neverauskas finds comfort zone with Pirates, writes Chris Adamski.

Drew Hutchison 2

Drew Hutchison has allowed just nine baserunners (six hits, three walks) with nine strikeouts in nine innings in spring training

In the Pirates notebook, Adamski writes that Drew Hutchison is making a strong case to become the No. 5 starter.

Adamski’s breakdown: Pirates 4, Rays 1

On his From the Cheap Seats blog, Adamski writes that the Bucs’ bullpen is basically set.


Charlie Buscaglia

RMU women’s basketball coach Charlie Buscaglia and leading scorer Anna Niki Stamolamprau could clinch an NCAA tourney berth with a victory in the NEC final

Proving that there’s not a college team in town he can’t cover, Jerry DiPaola writes that the Robert Morris women’s basketball team is taking a swing at an NCAA Tournament bid.

Steelers make no splash in NFL free-agent market

Landry Jones

Landry Jones has made four starts in four seasons, completing 24 of 37 passes for 277 yards, three touchdowns and one interception against the Browns in the 2016 season finale

David Johnson

David Johnson, an eight-year veteran, had seven receptions for 80 yards in 2016

On the opening day of free agency, the Steelers didn’t quite make a splash play.

It was more like skipping across a puddle.

They simply signed two backups: quarterback Landry Jones and blocking tight end David Johnson, reports Joe Rutter.

This is the Steelers way.

They sign their own first. They already made a major splash by signing All-Pro Antonio Brown to a five-year contract worth $72 million, making him the NFL’s highest-paid receiver. They placed the franchise tag on team MVP Le’Veon Bell, making him the NFL’s highest-paid running back. They re-signed 38-year-old outside linebacker James Harrison, their sacks leader both all-time and last season. They also made minor moves, like re-signing long snapper Greg Warren and backup linebacker Steven Johnson.

They also allowed one player to leave via free agency:

And another could be on his way out:

Lawrence Timmons was the first player drafted by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, a 10-year veteran who led the team in tackles at inside linebacker. The Steelers signed Vince Williams last year, signaling that Timmons’ time with the team could be nearing an end. That would be the biggest blow to a defense that ranked 21st in the NFL in yards allowed (342.6) and 23rd in points per game (20.4).

So, did the Steelers get better?

Unless they make a surprise move, it appears that’s a question they will have to answer with the draft.


Jose Osuna

At 24, Jose Osuna isn’t a marquee prospect but his stock is rising because of his power

Pirates prospect Jose Osuna, who has four homers in 20 spring training at-bats, is on the rise, writes Chris Adamski.

Starling Marte ankle

Starling Marte hit second base awkwardly, injuring his ankle

In the Pirates notebook, Starling Marte was scratched from the Dominican Republic lineup because of an ankle injury, writes Adamski.

In his From the Cheap Seats blog, Adamski writes that time when Jeromy Burnitz starred for Clint Hurdle in Williamsport.

Adamski’s breakdown: Pirates 10, Ray 8


Jake Guentzel v Islanders

Jake Guentzel ranks first among the Penguins’ prospects under the age of 23

Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford ‘feels good’ about the team’s young prospects, writes Jonathan Bombulie.

In the Penguins notebook, enforcer Tom Sestito drew a four-game suspension for boarding.


Down goes Duquesne, Pitt

Mike Lewis II comforts Emile Blackman

Duquesne freshman Mike Lewis II consols senior Emile Blackman, who missed two free throws with nine seconds left in the Dukes’ 72-71 loss to Saint Louis in the Atlantic-10 tournament

Duquesne let a lead slip away in the final seconds, losing to Saint Louis in the A-10 tourney, writes Jerry DiPaola.

Jamel Artis and Mike Young

Pitt’s Jamel Artis and Mike Young ended their careers on a losing note, as the Panthers finished 16-17

Pitt falls to Virginia in ACC second round, by Denis P. Gorman.

Perhaps it was fitting that Duquesne and Pitt ended their seasons on the same night.

Both endured eight-game losing streaks, had a habit of blowing big leads and endured humiliating conference losses — Duquesne by 37 at Dayton and Pitt by 55 to Louisville at Petersen Events Center.

Duquesne defeated Pitt in the City Game for the first time in a long time, and it might have been the loss that made the difference between the Panthers finishing below .500 for the first time since 2000.

Duquesne followed that with the most Duquesne thing possible, losing four nights later to Robert Morris.

Difference is, Pitt started four seniors while Duquesne started four underclassmen. Panthers first-year coach Kevin Stallings has a rebuilding job, with a major roster overhaul expected. Dukes fifth-year coach Jim Ferry, if he can survive the late-season collapse with 14 losses in the final 15 games, has a nice nucleus returning.

The Dukes (10-22) endured a heartbreaking finish, allowing an 18-point lead to slip away in the final seconds of a 72-71 loss to Saint Louis. They lost their final four games by a combined total of eight points, and missed free throws played a big part, and ended in disappointment with the Atlantic-10 tournament at PPG Paints Arena.

The Panthers (16-17) were within three points of Virginia, 46-43, when its center picked up his fourth personal foul on a blocking call that clearly wasn’t. It shouldn’t have been a big break for Pitt. Instead, the Cavaliers pulled away with perimeter shooting. That was the story of the season for Pitt, which had impressive victories over Maryland, Virginia, Syracuse and Florida State, but buckled against Duquesne, Notre Dame, N.C. State and Clemson, which was riding a six-game losing streak.

It became a season of indifference in Pittsburgh, two apathetic basketball programs sandwiched between the successful runs by the Steelers and Penguins. Maybe it’s for the better that it’s over, a final, merciless ending to a season full of them.


Tom Sestito fight

Tom Sestito dropped the gloves early in challenging Winnipeg winger Chris Thorburn to a fight

The Penguins’ offense explodes to bail out goalie Matt Murray in a win at Winnipeg, writes Darrin Bauming.

On the Chipped Ice blog, Jonathan Bombulie writes about hat tricks Evgeni Malkin’s Gordie Howe and a natural one by Nick Bonino.


Polanco DR

Marte and Freese

Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte will play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic

Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte are a big hit for a loaded Dominican Republic team, writes Chris Adamski.

In the Pirates notebook, Rob Biertempfel writes that Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena has an emotional return to Pirate City.

Adamski’s breakdown: Dominican Republic 10, Pirates 6


Game-worn Steelers jersey will be put up for auction by Lelands, writes Joe Rutter.

Alarming number: only half of ex-NFL players register for settlement

Mike Webster

The late Mike Webster is among the former Steelers whose death is linked to CTE

About 10,000 former NFL players have registered to be part of the $1 billion settlement with the league from a class-action concussion lawsuit, reports Ben Schmitt.

Lawrence Timmons

Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons led the Steelers in tackles this past season

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons is among the nine Steelers free agents to hit the open market, writes Joe Rutter.


Jamel Artis v Georgia Tech

Jamel Artis scored 11 points for the Panthers against Georgia Tech

Pitt edges Georgia Tech, stays alive another day in ACC Tournament, writes Denis P. Gorman.

Mike Lewis II 2

Duquesne freshman guard Mike Lewis II was named to the Atlantic-10 All-Rookie team, along with freshman forward Isiah Mike

Freshman guard Mike Lewis II provides hope for Duquesne basketball, writes Jerry DiPaola.


Trevor Daley jumps over Dustin Byfuglien

Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley jumps over Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien

With Winnipeg matchup looming, Penguins stick to ‘just play’ philosophy, writes Jonathan Bombulie.

Tom Sestito

The 6-foot-5, 228-pound Tom Sestito has 121 penalty minutes in 33 AHL games this season

The Penguins added some muscle, writes JB, as Tom Sestito was called up for the Jets game.

Matt Cullen 2

Matt Cullen: ‘I think there might be some merit to the three-point game (for a regulation win). Personally, I always preferred the two points for a win and none for a loss. But I understand the value of the shootout, and I like the idea of coming away with a win, so I don’t know that a three-point game would be a terrible idea’

In the Penguins notebook, Bill West writes that veteran Matt Cullen is open to radical rules changes.


Steven Brault

One scout compared lefty Steven Brault to Jeff Locke, but with better control and a chance to be better

Improved Pirates pitcher Steven Brault ‘right on course,’ writes Rob Biertempfel.

In the Pirates notebook, Biertempfel writes that backup catcher Chris Stewart tested well in his spring debut.

Biertempfel’s breakdown: Pirates 6, Braves 3.


Spencer Lee 1

spencer lee 2

Franklin Regional’s Spencer Lee is 141-0 and four wins away from becoming the state’s fifth undefeated and untied four-time state champion

Franklin Regional’s Spencer Lee is on the cusp of joining an elite group of wrestlers, writes Paul Schofield.

My column on lessons learned by Lee and why he’s arguably the best WPIAL wrestler ever.

Duquesne, coach Ferry in Atlantic-10 spotlight

Mike Lewis II

Duquesne freshman guard Mike Lewis II is a leading candidate for A-10 Rookie of the Year

Duquesne coach Jim Ferry hopes hosting the Atlantic-10 tournament is a boost to his program, writes Jerry DiPaola.

Jim Ferry

Duquesne coach Jim Ferry is 60-96 in five seasons with the Dukes

My column on how Ferry deserves time to build a program at Duquesne.

Kevin Stallings 3

Pitt coach Kevin Stallings: ‘I’m not satisfied with the record. I’m not satisfied with some of the dysfunction, maybe, that we’ve had. But I’m satisfied with how I’ve tried to coach and educate and lead these guys’

Pitt coach Kevin Stallings hopes his players look past this trying season toward a better life, writes Jerry DiPaola.

In the Pitt Locker Room blog, Jerry writes that Cameron Johnson and Ryan Luther may play important roles for the Panthers next season.


Josh Bell 2

Josh bell 3

Josh Bell got three at-bats and played five innings at first base against the Yankees Monday

Pirates first baseman Josh Bell finds positives in spring training debut, writes Rob Biertempfel.

Ivan Nova 2

Ivan Nova pitched against the Yankees for the first time since being traded to the Pirates

In the Pirates notebook, Biertempfel writes that Williamsport is likely to host the Aug. 20 game against the Cardinals.

Biertempfel’s breakdown: Pirates 13, Yankees 1

On the Bucco Blog, Biertempfel asks, where to bat Josh Bell?


Malkin Heinz Field

Evgeni Malkin on playing with Phil Kessel: ‘I score like 28 goals and probably 20 Phil passed to me’

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan leaves his options open to spreading out the stars, writes Jonathan Bombulie.

Fleury saves the day for Penguins against Sabres

Marc-Andre Fleury v Sabres

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 28 shots he faced after replacing Matt Murray with the Pens trailing, 3-0

Marc-Andre Fleury saved the day as the Penguins rallied past the Sabres, writes Jonathan Bombulie.

Conor Sheary celebrates with Crosby

After missing all of February, Conor Sheary scored the game-winner against the Buffalo Sabres

In the Penguins notebook, JB writes that the injury absence didn’t slow Conor Sheary’s production.

On the Chipped Ice blog, JB asks who is most responsible for the Penguins comeback.


Austin Meadows with Cutch

Austin Meadows could be the heir apparent to Andrew McCutchen in the Pirates’ outfield

Top prospect Austin Meadows will get a long look as the Pirates outfielders play in the World Baseball Classic, writes Rob Biertempfel.

Tom Prince

Pirates bench coach Tom Prince is acting manager while Clint Hurdle attends a funeral

In the Pirates notebook, Biertempfel writes that Tom Prince is maintaining his routine while filling in as acting manager for Clint Hurdle for two games.

Biertempfel’s breakdown of Yankees 3, Pirates 2


T.J. Watt

Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt, a converted tight end, is the brother of Texans star J.J. Watt

Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt is potentially a good fit for Steelers defense, writes Joe Rutter.


Troy Simons 3

Troy Simons 2

Troy Simons, who attended four high schools in five years, led the NJCAA in scoring (26.3) at Polk State

My column on how new Pitt basketball recruit Troy Simons is a story we shouldn’t just appreciate but celebrate.

On the Pitt Locker Room blog, Jerry DiPaola writes that Panthers coach Kevin Stallings isn’t the only one to blame after three players let Pitt down.

Dan  Burt

Duquesne women’s coach Dan Burt led the seventh-seeded Dukes to wins over the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds

Duquesne women’s basketball falls short in Atlantic-10 title game

Penguins concerned about injuries on defense

Let’s start with an announcement:

Kris Letang 4

Out with an upper-body injury, Kris Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 21

The injuries to Penguins defensemen raises debate about opponents’ intent, writes Jonathan Bombulie.

Ian Cole 2

Ian Cole left the ice briefly in the third period against Tampa Bay but practiced Saturday

In the Penguins notebook, Bombulie writes about some rare good news on injuries to defensemen.

Jim Rutherford 2Jim Rutherford’s 27 moves at the trade deadline rank second among NHL general managers

In Three Periods, JB and Bill West write that the Penguins’ latest moves fit into general manager Jim Rutherford’s career pattern.


Robert Morris women’s hockey wins CHA title, qualifies for NCAA tournament


Potential Steelers pass-rush targets are full of swagger, writes Joe Rutter.

John Ross

John Ross broke Chris Johnson’s NFL Combine record in the 40-yard dash, running it in 4.22 seconds

In the NFL Combine notebook, Rutter writes that there will be no island for Washington’s Ross despite 40-yard dash record.


francisco Cervelli

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli: ‘This game has been my life. I cannot explain how I feel when I hear, ‘Play ball!’ That’s why I try to enjoy every day, because I don’t know when it’s going to be gone’

Francisco Cervelli overcomes a bumpy road to become the Pirates’ everyday catcher, writes Rob Biertempfel.

Josh Harrison 2

Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison, on being named to Team USA roster: ‘It’s an extreme honor. I’m definitely excited to put on the colors and play with the rest of the guys’

In the Pirates notebook, Biertempfel writes that Josh Harrison will play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.


Mike Young at Virginia

Jamel Artis at UVA

Pitt’s top scorers, Mike Young and Jamel Artis, did not start against Virginia after arriving 10 minutes late to a pre-game meeting

Pitt can’t hang with No. 23 Virginia and drops its regular-season finale, writes Cameron Ross.

Some good news, however, for the Panthers: