HAS SPRING TRAINING STARTED YET?

They tell me that our Buccos are in Bradenton getting ready to put on another imitation of a Major League Baseball team. It must be true because I’ve seen pictures in the papers. I haven’t read any of the stories because I go out of my way to avoid them.

One story that was too important to ignore surfaced a few weeks ago when there were reports that Mario Lemiuex and the guy who provides most of the money for the Penguins franchise, Ron Buerkle were interested in buying the Pirates. The ever dwindling number of people who actually can legitimately call themselves Pirates fans were beside themselves.

They had visions of Lemieux riding to the rescue the way he did with the Penguins. They were so happy that most of them forgot how bad the Penguins were under Lemieux when they were playing in a league that was worse than Major League baseball.

The Penguins also took some well deserved criticism for leaking the story on Pirates Fest weekend. Bob Nutting made it clear that he had no intention of selling the team and that really whipped the fans into a frenzy. That gets me around to a suggestion that I made in a column at the time.

If you are a real Pirates fan who still insists on going to PNC Park and you would like to let your feelings about the Nuttings known, get yourself a Mario Lemieux jersey and wear it to every game. Encourage everybody to do the same. If you don’t want to spend money on a jersey, get a t-shirt and paint 66 on it.

As the season goes along, encourage more people to do the same.

Organize large groups to go to games dressed in 66 shirts and sit in the same section.

Be creative. There are lots of ways to get the message out.

Try to schedule an unofficial “66 Night” and get the word out for everybody who’s going to the game on that night and wants to send a message to the Nuttings to wear a 66 shirt.

If you get enough people to do it, you’re almost guaranteed national exposure.

Of course, if you don’t want to do that, you can always just keep giving the smartest professional team owners in North America your money and enjoying the food while you complain about the baseball.

Good Position For Pitt

If I were Jamie Dixon, I’d be pretty happy with my situation going into the NCAA tournament as a number three seed. Based on history, being a number three seed is a good thing to be, no matter your opponent.

The 14 seeds are 15-85 against the threes since the tournament expanded to 64 teams. So, historically, being a two seed, isn’t that much more a of a sure thing than being a three. The fifteens are 4-96.

Most importantly for Dixon is that his team has beaten three teams that are higher seeds and goes in with very little pressure. For the past few years, anything short of the Elite 8 was considered a failure. Pitt can beat anybody in the tournament. When you can say that about a team without too many people laughing, I think that makes you a legitimate candidate to make quite a bit of noise.

THE LAST WORD ON BEN (MAYBE)

Ok. I’ve been called everything from a hack to a scumbag and I’ve been accused of accusing Ben Roethliesberger of being high on drugs the night he was accused of sexual assault. Anyone with a brain knows that’s not true and it’s not going to get any truer no matter how many times it’s posted here.

I merely pointed out to those who were pointing out that he didn’t appear to be drinking a lot that there are other ways of getting high. Only a moron would call that an accusation. There are actually people out there who think that I could be sued for making that observation.

If you saw a guy leave a party, get in his car and start doing donuts on your neighbors’ lawns, your first inclination would be that the guy was drunk. If someone said to you, “Oh no. He wasn’t drinking at all.” Would you be crazy or insensitive or libel if you said,. “OK. But could he be high?”

So, unless you have something new to add on that, don’t bother. It’s an insult to my intelligence

If and when there are new developments in the Roethlisberger situation, we’ll update it and discuss it.

I didn’t accuse him of blowing off a Make-A-Wish kid. I told you a story –in the context of the original story about the ridiculous number of people who have related their stories to me and asked me why Roethlisberger is such an __________. It was an example. You don’t have to believe it if you don’t want to. The story I told you about the woman contacting me and the subsequent emails that I got from a woman claiming to be the kids mother, is true.

So, let’s move on.

HOW ABOUT RANDLE EL?

Ben Roethlisberger’s crazy night in Georgia could create an opening at quarterback for the Steelers. If he is charged with sexual assault, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no choice but to suspend him.

Mike Vick was suspended for being CHARGED with animal abuse.

So, who plays quarterback if Ben can’t?

The heir apparent is Dennis Dixon, who has started one game at quarterback since November of 2007.

He’s an intriguing guy who had a lot of success in college and was, at one time, considered a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy, but, as of right now, with Charlie Batch a free agent, he’s the third best QB on the roster.

Antwaan Randle El is number two.

That’s right. All five foot nine of him. He was a much better college quarterback than Dixon and he’s only started one less game in the NFL.

During his first go around with the Steelers, I had a lot of conversations with Randle El about his desire to prove that he could be a successful NFL quarterback. He wasn’t shy about telling me that he could do everything that Michael Vick could do only better.

Vick was just beginning to emerge as a star.

Right up until the time he left, Randle El belived that he would eventually get a chance at quarterback.

Obviously, Randle El’s height works against him. Not necessarily on the field but definitely in the minds of the coaches.

Doug Flutie almost singlehandedly beat a lot of NFL coaches who said he was too short to play in the NFL.

The level of confidence in Dixon expressed by talk show callers and blog posters is pretty amazing when you consider that he played one game and that game ended with an overtime field goal by the Ravens that was set up by an interception.

Dixon may end up being a good NFL quarterback and Randle El may be too short, but it says here that right now, Randle El, if given the chance, would give the Steelers a better chance to win.

Maybe it’s because I’m 5’6″‘, but I’ll never understand the height issue. Flutie had to go to Canada because every time he threw an incomplete pass it was blamed on his height..

When he finally came back to the NFL, all he did was lead NFL quarterbacks in winning percentage for a couple of years.

Randle El played at Indiana. That’s the Big Ten. There are a lot of really tall linemen in the Big Ten and lots of them go to the NFL.

He left Indiana, according to the 2002 Steelers media guide, as the “most statistically productive dual threat quarterback in NCAA history.”

He passed for more than 6,000 yards.

How did he get the ball over all of those big lineman?

Tom Bradley, Penn State’s widely acclaimed defensive coordinator said he gave up trying to figure out ways to stop him.

But, for some reason, there’s not an NFL offensive coordinator who can figure out how to make that translate to NFL success.

It may be crazy to suggest that the Steelers even consider trying to make Randle El a quarterback, but it’s no crazier than suggesting that Dixon would do any better.

If Ben is gone from the roster tomorrow, Randle El instantly becomes the best quarterback on the team.

What all of this means, of course, is that, if the Steelers aren’t looking around for an experienced quarterback right now, they sure should be.

One Last Time On Ben

After spending most of the past two days responding to the response to my original post about Ben Roethlisberger, it’s time to clear up some things.

1. I did not accuse Roethlisberger of being high on drugs. I pointed out that there were many references made to the fact that he did not appear to have been drinking a lot on the night in question.

The implication, or at least my inference, was that those accounts were being used to bolster the contention that he didn’t misbehave. I simply pointed out that there are other ways to get high, meaning that his alcohol consumption or lack of same, was irrelevant to his innocence or guilt.

I also asked if you would be surprised to find out that he was high on something else. Would you?

That’s not an accusation. It’s a question. Why would anybody NOT consider the possibility of drug use when trying to explain the kind of behavior that Roethlisberger is ACCUSED of?

2. I did not accuse Ben of blowing off a Make-A-Wish kid. I began my post by making the observation that I had never seen a local athlete generate so many “What’s wrong with this guy” questions. I ended the post by giving an example of one of the many, many negative stories I had been told about the guy.

I said that a woman emailed me with a story about Roethlisberger blowing off a Make-A-Wish kid. I said that I was later put in touch with a woman claiming to be the kid’s mother and she said the story was true.

I also pointed out that KDKA’s news director quashed the story and made it clear that he didn’t want it to be investigated further. I did not accuse Ben of blowing off the kid. I just told you about someone who claimed that he did.

This is a blog. I’ll be posting stories from people about lots of things. I’ll post them. You take them for what they’re worth. If over time, you notice a lack of credibility, stop visiting. It’s not complicated.

This ain’t the New York Times.

Oh, wait. That’s probably a good thing, considering their recent track record.