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September 11, 2014
by Rob Rossi

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Rossi: What NFL shield now represents

AP photo

AP photo


PHILADELPHIA – We all live in the moment, and this moment seems to have everybody’s attention. That’s not a bad thing to come from something very, very bad.

Our attention is needed. Especially on a sickening subject a lot of us – myself included – have ignored for far too long.

However, this moment has provided some distractions to the moment that should have bothered all of us more deeply than it appeared to have done before we watched a video.

Ray Rice knocked out his fiancé in an elevator in an Atlantic City.

A lot has happened since that incident. Some of it is stupefying. Some of it is puzzling. Some of it is disturbing. Some of it is unfathomable.

None of it should be thought of as having made what happened in that elevator worse.

It was awful from the beginning, and it’s part of a problem that has been ignored by more than just the NFL.

Still, the NFL has another huge problem on its hands.

Its shield isn’t broken. Its shield is ruined.

Its shield has become a universal symbol of domestic violence.

Protecting the shield was what Roger Goodell said he would do, and that’s why the job of NFL commissioner must now belong to somebody else. That should happen before the NFL offers a game to a national TV audience on Thursday night.

>> I’m in Philadelphia with Travis Sawchick for another night of the Pirates’ “Wild Card Watch.” He has news on Pedro Alvarez, and my Wednesday column looked at the successful change to Mark Melancon as the closer.

>> Marc-Andre Fleury seems a bit disappointed not to have a new contract from the Penguins. Josh Yohe has the details. Also, Jason Mackey has some training-camp details.

Be EXCELLENT to each other,



September 9, 2014
by Rob Rossi

14 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: Football’s Dr. Frankenstein is us

AP photo

AP photo


I see this sport I loved and know I should not blame it. Football has done nothing wrong.

The blame is on us.

We the people keep buying tickets to football games at Penn State. We the people will watch on TV when the Steelers play the Ravens.

Monday was the day when I asked myself how we the people let football become so damn important.

It’s not.

It’s a sport, only a sport.

It’s a sport I played in high school, as did my father, grandfather, uncle and godson.

I don’t have a son. If I did, I would not want him to play football. I don’t have a daughter. If I did, I would not want her around football.

The NCAA has returned bowl eligibility and scholarships to Penn State’s football program. A few days ago, I would have backed that decision.

I would have been wrong, among other things.

A few days ago, I hadn’t seen video of Ray Rice punching his then fiancée in an elevator.

Now I have.

I think the importance we’ve given to football allowed for Rice to initially get a second chance from the NFL. I think if not for that video Rice would be playing football next week.

Scratch that. I know if not for that video Rice would be playing football next week.

That should never have been an option, and I don’t come to that conclusion as a moralist.

I come to it as a son to my mother.

I also think the importance we’ve given to football helped Jerry Sandusky rape children and maybe prevented people at Penn State from stopping him. I think not enough time has passed for us to be all right with football going back to the way it was at Penn State.

Scratch that. I know not enough time has passed for us to be all right with football going back to the way it was at Penn State, and I don’t come to that conclusion as a moralist.

I come to it as a brother to my sister, whose girlfriend has a young son.

I know football is only a sport and cannot be blamed for the evil people who are a minority in it. I know football has done nothing wrong.

I know, too, that I’m part of the problem here.

I will be in Baltimore on Thursday night writing about a football game, and the next morning my checking account will be boosted by money from my employer, which pays me in part to write about football.

Like I said, the blame is on us. The worst part about Monday for me was coming to that realization.

Football has become monstrous. I see that clearly.

I look in the mirror and see even more clearly the reflection of Dr. Frankenstein.

>> Chris Adamaski has the latest involving Penn State.

>> Alan Robinson caught up with Steelers reacting to the developments regarding Rice.


Be EXCELLENT to each other,



September 8, 2014
by Rob Rossi

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Rossi: Watching Roethlisberger

Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review

Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review

Sometimes the up-close view makes it tough to appreciate what you’re watching. That may be the case for Pittsburghers when it comes to Ben Roethlisberger.

So, take the time to take a closer look.

I was guilty of taking Roethlisberger for granted on Sunday in the Steelers’ wild win over Cleveland at Heinz Field. In the moments after that game, it was easier to focus on the woeful defense and the breakthrough brilliance of running back Le’Veon Bell.

All Roethlisberger did was be the best player on the field.

Forget the numbers, though they were impressive. He made one lousy throw, and it was intercepted, and that happens.

What about his 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown, though?  That was wow-gosh stuff – one of those passes  few quarterbacks can conceive of let alone actually complete. It was a daring and unable to be defended.

It was worth the price of admission and reason enough to watch.

It was Roethlisberger’s greatness in one play, and it wasn’t what anybody seemed to be talking about in the press box even after it happened.

Probably because he’s made so many of those type of throws before.

Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review

Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review

The Trib’s Mark Kaboly had a sublime story on Roethlisberger as part of Sunday’s coverage that previewed Steelers-Browns. It’s the kind of story that can help everybody better understand what makes Roethlisberger tick.

Roethlisberger leads the Steelers into Baltimore on Thursday night. He says he isn’t old, and at 32 he’s right; but there are a lot of football miles on his body, and it seems now is a good time to start appreciating Roethlisberger (as a player).

However many “Ravens Weeks” he has left, there surely aren’t enough.



>> In his GAME STORY, Alan Robinson wonders if a win has ever felt so costly.

>> GAME CHANGERS and STEELERS NOTES, also from beat leader A-Rob.

>> Kaboly zeroes on that no-huddle nightmare in his STEELERS SIDE.

>> Don’t worry, Markus Wheaton. Chris Harlan was all over your BIG CATCH.

>> Ralph N. Paulk, who wrote Sunday about Cleveland’s future quarterback, reports that BRIAN HOYER was just fine against the Steelers. Also, some BROWNS NOTES.

>> Finally, my first STEELERS GAME COLUMN expresses the doubt I have about this team’s playoff chances, even if Bell may have emerged as a difference maker.

(Also, stick taps to photographers Chaz Palla and Christopher Horner, who captured Steelers-Browns in pictures atop all those stories.)



>> Hey there, Pirates. So, you’re now holding a wild-card spot? Rob Biertempfel reports from Chicago, where a sweep was secured. Check out our full PIRATES COVERAGE. (Oh, by the way; I’ll be in Philadelphia with Travis Sawchik for some Pirates coverage this week.)

>> PITT FOOTBALL was dealt an early blow, reporters Jerry DiPaola. Also, take a look at our PENN STATE and WVU coverage.

>> Kevin Gorman has the iPreps BLOG up and running, and it’s the best place to be for high-school madness. A daily must-read, I must say.

>> Justin LaBar is looking at challengers for Brock Lesnar in his REALITY CHECK, which is always a fun read for ring geeks like myself.

>> Also, follow Jason Mackey and Josh Yohe on Twitter. The PENGUINS are back. Sort of.

>> Speaking of the Penguins, one of their main men has written a book on Flight 93. It’s a must buy, and the Trib reviewed it on Sunday.

>> Last thing: Tom Fontaine did some stellar reporting on Flight 427, which hit our region hard.


Be EXCELLENT to each other,



September 5, 2014
by Rob Rossi

8 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: Talking about predictions


A reporter who prefers predictions is a rare find. I’ve found most of us – myself included – would much prefer not attaching our names to projections.

Take my call for the Steelers’ season. I don’t feel great about that 9-7 record call, mostly because the NFL season is so short that one bad week can send a team in any number of directions.

In eight seasons on the Penguins beat for the Trib, I only believed a prediction that went public on three occasions. The rest of the time I just said the Penguins would win – either the Stanley Cup or a playoff series – so as to keep the audience happy. Those three times:

  • Before the 2007 postseason I picked Ottawa to oust the Penguins in five games. That happened.
  • During the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, after the Penguins trailed 0-2 in the series, I predicted they would win the next four games. They won four of the next five.
  • Before the 2012 postseason I picked the Flyers to beat the Penguins in five games. They needed six.

Detailing those predictions is not meant to call attention to when I was right. Rather, think of all the times I was wrong. Most recently that happened when I picked the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup before last season and its playoffs.


Basically, what I’m saying is that predictions are for fools, and readers should always keep that in mind. That said…

>> Browns 23, Steelers 17


Photo credit: Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review

Photo credit: Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review


Speaking of all things upsetting, the Friday column is on the Steeler Way.



(It’s Trib blogs time! It’s Trib blogs time! It’s daddy’s favorite show…)

>> Kevin Gorman’s iPreps, which is especially awesome during fall Friday nights.

>> Jason Mackey has updated Chipped Ice, the Penguins/NHL blog that holds a special place in my heart.

>> “Jammin’ Jerry” DiPaola gets us ready for Pitt-BC in the Pitt Locker Room blog.

>> The Steel Mill covers the Steelers, and Mark Kaboly looks at some TV time for a couple of players.

>> Bucco Blog… hmm, I wonder what that’s about? Actually, it’s about awesomeness, as Travis Sawchik brings it daily.

>> James Knox is rolling on the I Cycle blog, which is a really informative reach for a pretty particular audience.

>> It’s Penn State Sports with Chris Adamski. He wears great hats, and covers the Happy Valley.



Best of luck to Andrew Erickson, who leaves his summer internship for one last run at UCLA. We’ll be watching you from afar, “LemonZest.”

Be EXCELLENT to each other,



September 4, 2014
by Rob Rossi

2 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: Crosby’s new world

Photo credit: Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review

Photo credit: Chaz Palla/Tribune-Review


Sidney Crosby isn’t a “Kid” anymore. If that wasn’t clear from the last few months, it should have been Wednesday morning when an erroneous report of his alleged arrest reversed the spin of the hockey world.

That world must look so different to Crosby right now, like something he never would have imagined a year ago.

His Penguins are, at best, at their most precarious point during his tenure as club captain as the end nears on an offseason that was tumultuous. He no longer reigns supreme as the world’s best player because his poor playoff performance – one goal in 13 games – dimmed the glow of a second MVP and scoring title. His new coach is unproven yet speaks of lessening the load (whatever that means). His best friend on the Penguins has one year left on his contract, and he knows how that situation played out for one of his other good buddies.

Oh, and if he wanted to spend the summer clearing his mind… well, that wasn’t possible given the unnecessary stress from a couple of things that didn’t happen: wrist surgery and an arrest.

Crosby will be back in Pittsburgh soon. He’ll open his 10th NHL season in about a month.

Nobody can say with confidence how that will go, but it probably can’t be worse that what’s gone on lately for Crosby.

That second Olympic moment of his seems so long ago, right?

It was this past February, and I thought then it signaled the opening faceoff to the second half of his career, that it was the first chapter of a story that would be about Crosby’s transition from generational to all-time great.

At 27, he remains uniquely positioned to make that transition.

However, Crosby also seems to be in the unique position of being the player of his generation who also has to prove a lot to many.

The Penguins wants to see more leadership from him. Their fans want to see more Stanley Cup parades from him. Canadians want to see more of everything from him. Critics want to see more goals when it matters from him. Supporters want to see that from him, too.

What does Crosby want? He probably wouldn’t share that answer if he knew it.

Maybe just to play hockey.

Being Sidney Crosby hasn’t been about that for a long time, and the hockey world has been a worse place for it.



>> Fellow columnist Joe Starkey, with a wonderful story about an Army vet, is worth a read.

>> Chris Adamski reports that Army is coming to Happy Valley. Check out our Pitt and WVU coverage.

>> Ugh, Pirates! Rob Biertempfel reports from St. Louis. Other Pirates coverage.

>> The Browns will bring it on the ground, writes Ralph Paulk from Cleveland. Also, more Steelers coverage.

>> Well, this will be fun. Chris Harlan on the Atlantic 10 tourney coming to Consol Energy Center.

>> Finally, the iPreps blog by Kevin Gorman.


Be EXCELLENT to each other,






August 31, 2014
by Rob Rossi

4 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: A Harrison by any other name

Photo credit: Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review

Photo credit: Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review


He was not heralded, and so he was not handed his spot. He worked for it. He kept working for it after getting it because that was the only way he believed he would keep it. So, what worked against him became what worked for him. He had picked himself up long before he assumed the heavy lifting.

Something about him just seemed to fit.

He was perfectly Pittsburgh, at least the Pittsburgh that Pittsburghers liked to hold dear. He harkened of that work ethic, inner strength and will of steel – the stuff of generations that came before to these three rivers.

Others had come to play in front of us. Some said they played for us.

He had come to play like we thought we would were we blessed with his physical gifts. He would want it like he did. We would go at it as if every play might be our last.

James Harrison retired on Saturday.

Josh Harrison worked the hot corner on Sunday.

They’re not just professional athletes with the same last name. They’re Ohio boys who won over Pittsburgh partly because their stories were ones to which Pittsburghers could relate.

Harrison won me over on one of the final days in 2005. It was Christmas Eve, a day unlike any other in the calendar year for my family. It is also a day without TV.

That’s is one of my mother’s rules for the annual Christmas Eve party that brings together both sides of the family at my parents’ house. The television stays off.  That was true when I was a child and now when the children are few.

There is only one exception to this rule.

The Steelers.

They are, after all, the exception to most moms’ rules in Pittsburgh.

If the Steelers are playing on Christmas Eve the TV is on. Even if the last thing a mom’s sports-reporting son wants to do is to watch sports on Christmas Eve, even if the preparation that goes into the Christmas Eve party is still happening well into its first hour.

If they’re playing, the Steelers will be on TV at my parents’ house. All the time. Even on Christmas Eve.

I thought of this on Saturday upon hearing of James Harrison’s retirement. It was Labor Day weekend and I was watching a soccer match on a Saturday afternoon, but I kept thinking of Christmas Eve, mom’s rules and the importance of the Steelers in my life.

Had the Steelers not played on Christmas Eve in 2005 the TV would not have been on at my parents’ house. It was, though. So everybody at the house caught replays of James Harrison body slamming a Browns fan to the turf at Cleveland Browns stadium.

Everybody included Grandma Jean, who laughed and laughed and laughed before finally saying to me, “See what you get for being from Cleveland.” Then she yelled something unseemly at the TV before going back into the kitchen to get into dad’s way as he prepared the codfish cakes.

My grandmother, God rest her soul.


Family photo: Jean May Flynn Oliverio at Christmas Eve

Family photo: Jean May Flynn Oliverio at Christmas Eve


Alzheimer’s disease caught up with her many years later, but even when it did I liked knowing she was with it enough to really enjoy the Steelers’ fifth Super Bowl win a couple of months after Harrison’s slam of that Browns fans. That Christmas Eve in 2005 was one of the last that I can remember us getting the Grandma Jean that we loved, the one who knew certain truths to be indisputable.

Browns fans were always wrong.

Notre Dame was always right.

The Pirates would always deserve better.

People either were or wanted to be Pittsburghers.

Those were her rules, at least some of the ones that I remember.

She would have loved Josh Harrison.

In fact, I wish I had to chance to explain to her that the Pirates’ Harrison isn’t the same Steelers player who slammed that Browns fan on Christmas Eve.



>> It’s Browns Week, by the way. Check back here for all of the Trib’s stories leading up to the Steelers’ opener.

>> Columnist Joe Starkey was at Heinz Field on Sunday to witness Pitt taking care of its football business.

>> Jerry DiPaola with other Pitt details.

>> Chris Adamski was in Ireland with Penn State, which recorded what felt like a big win in Week 1.

>> Bob Cohn spent time in Atlanta with WVU, and the Mountaineers showed something in a loss.

>> Our area high-school students are back playing, and Kevin Gorman’s iPreps blog is a must follow for all things WPIAL.


A brief vacation is over and I’m back Monday with a Pirates column. Until then, some goodies on the baseball club can be found, including this gem on Gregory Polanco from Travis Sawchik.

Be EXCELLENT to each other,




August 22, 2014
by Rob Rossi

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Rossi: Ready for some Football Fridays


Hopefully you read us every day. If so, we appreciate it. Really.

However, no matter how often you pick up the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review or click, know that there is one day when you must treat yourself to our product.

That day is Friday.

“Gameplan” is our high-school football version of Fantasia. It is a must purchase, must read and must keep – and it is best described by high school sports editor Bill Hartlep:

 The annual Trib Total Media high school football preview editions will publish Friday, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s 152-page mega tab previewing every team in the WPIAL, City League and Heritage Conference.

The two-section issue also includes two cover features, commentary from Kevin Gorman, breakdowns of all four WPIAL classifications, rankings, players to watch, don’t miss games and stats and standings from the 2013 season.

Trib Total Media writers and photographers from the Pittsburgh Trib, Greensburg Trib, Valley News Dispatch, Leader Times, Daily Courier, McKeesport Daily News, Valley Independent, Blairsville Dispatch and the Gateway Newspapers have been hard at work for the past two months planning, preparing and compiling all the information for these editions.

As always, we hope the readers enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed putting them together.

To view the stories online, visit For stories on individual schools, click on Sports, High Schools and then select an individual school from the drop down menu.

So, yinz have some reading to do. Enjoy.

Photo cluster: Mike Palm, Tribune-Review

Photo cluster: Mike Palm, Tribune-Review

(Oh, by the way: Kevin Gorman’s iPreps blog is all kinds of goodness, so make a habit of checking that every day. I do.)

>> My latest – and hopefully not last – lunch with the coach I spent many years covering is the subject of Friday’s column.

>> Alan Robinson was in Philadelphia for whatever the Steelers want to call that third exhibition game. He has that story, and our Steelers page has the latest on, well, this.

>> Andrew “Lemon Zest” Erickson has owned his Trib summer internship like none before him. Soon he will belong to UCLA, but his latest contribution looks at the newest Pirates reliever.

>> Karen Price is no stranger to hockey barns. She’s at Consol Energy Center covering the P&G Gymnastic Championships.

>> Reality check time. Justin LaBar’s latest wrestling column looks at what Brock Lesnar would do to Hulkamania.

>> Pitt has a starting QB, as Jerry DiPaola reports. Penn State is ready for Ireland, writes Chris Adamski. Bob Cohn isn’t too cool for Twitter. He’s also owning the WVU beat.

So, this column-writing thing interrupted what was a summer break. Not complaining. However, I am taking next week off. The next column will appear September 1.

That said, I’m back anchoring sports on WPXI Friday and Saturday, so that’s your next chance to make fun of my hair.

Be EXCELLENT to each other,



August 20, 2014
by Rob Rossi

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Rossi: Leaning on sports in troubled times

Photo credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune-Review

Photo credit: Christopher Horner, Tribune-Review


Distractions are always welcome. This is especially true when trying to make sense of the senseless.

Sports has become so big, so serious to so many people, that it often is not taken for what it can be – a distraction, something to take the mind away from thoughts in the moments we most need to step away.

So, this stuff happened in the Pittsburgh sports landscape on Tuesday:

>> The Pirates’ slide from contention continued.

>> The Steelers kept a player they believe is part of their future and brought back one who played a big role in their Super past.

>> High-school football players continued to prepare for the most magical of seasons.

None of this may be remembered beyond this week, let alone next month. A year from now something that happened seemingly so far from Pittsburgh may hold historical context beyond belief.

Again, there is probably no way to make sense of the senseless.

Evil loses. That’s a historical fact. It lost again on Tuesday when across this country – in places such as our town – the very people evil tried to scare paid it little attention.

In the real-world big picture sports can feel relatively meaningless. Meaning, though, is subjective.

Sports meant a lot to me on Tuesday. It meant that being terrified wasn’t my only option on the day when evil wanted nothing more than to make me (and everybody) scared.



>> The Wednesday column is posted. If it distracts for just one minute then it will have been a successful piece.

>> Three players at first base for the Pirates? Travis Sawchik has that story. Check out the Trib’s Pirates page.

>> Mark Kaboly writes about the part of the offense the Steelers aren’t prioritizing during the exhibition season. Other Steelers coverage is here.

>> Jerry DiPaola has the Pitt/Penn State side and Bob Cohn tackles the WVU end in stories that look at college football ticket sales.

>> Kevin Gorman’s iPreps blog is… well, it has me waiting for Friday nights.

>> The ice buckets did their job. So did Craig Adams, as Chris Togneri reports.


Prayers to James Foley’s family. (Stay safe over there, Betsy Hiel.)


Be EXCELLENT to each other,




August 19, 2014
by Rob Rossi

4 comments so far - add yours!

Rossi: What Will Joey Porter Do?


Johnny Manziel is already the most interesting player in the NFL, though for none of the right reasons.

So, what happens in a few weeks if he is Cleveland’s quarterback against the Steelers and delivers a similar message to the home sideline at Heinz Field?


Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review

Credit: Chaz Palla, Tribune-Review


Been many years since Cleveland Week matched the hype of Ravens Week or Bengals Week. That won’t be a problem for Week 1.

Might prove promising for the Steelers that Cleveland has this quarterback thing hanging over its football team. Otherwise, with the exception of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers might not have much on these Browns in terms of on-paper talent.


>> Losers of six in a row, the Pirates will welcome back a certain somebody on Tuesday night. Not a day too soon, either. Karen Price and Travis Sawchik were at PNC Park on Monday night.


>> Kevin Gorman’s iPreps blog continues to be must-read for high-school fans. Also, check out the Trib’s HS page for some previews.


>> Tyler Boyd! Tyler Boyd! Tyler Boyd! Pitt football has … Tyler Boyd! Jerry DiPaola has the latest story.


Be EXCELLENT to each other,





August 18, 2014
by Rob Rossi

No comments yet - you should start the discussion!

Rossi: Pittsburgh’s great lady


You will probably never meet somebody that does a better impersonation of Sophie Masloff than Penguins broadcaster Phil Bourque. He has mastered her voice, which was equally pitchy and scratchy. He has the timing down, too.

Lesgo… ScrATCH myback wida HACKsawwww!

Thing is, Bourque has never poked fun at Pittsburgh’s only female mayor. Every so often, while excitedly laughing, he’ll break out an imitation her famous crowd greeting from a Penguins Stanley Cup celebration. When he does, everybody taking it in smiles.

That’s probably because everybody liked something about her.

About how many politicians can we say that?

Rest well, Mayor Masloff.



>> The Monday column was the first to get personal. Won’t happen often. There was no way to write about the EPL without making it personal. It seems ridiculous to write even now, but I’m pretty sure getting into English football restored my faith in sports fandom, and that’s something, right?

>> The Pirates are hurting, and it doesn’t hurt so good. Rob Biertempfel has the details.

>> Ralph Paul looks at the Steelers quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger.

>> Kevin Gorman’s iPreps blog is awesome. It may become legen (wait for it) dary. Legendary! So make it a point to check in daily.

>> Justin LaBar writes that WWE did well by having John Cena take a beating at Summer Slam.


Be EXCELLENT to each other,


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