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Mark Madden: At Steelers camp, there are issues more interesting than daily dissection of QB battle

The large mob of Steelers fans attending training camp at Latrobe is exemplary of our predilection for the meaningless. So enjoy refreshing sports notes, the most disposable of words!

• Mason Rudolph is going to earn the Steelers’ starting quarterback job. But he won’t get it. So much for legitimate “competition.”

• The reporting of training-camp quarterback stats compiled before pads get put on is the result of too much hype breeding with constant demand for content. So is the precise dissection of “seven shots,” the daily battle at the 3-yard line between offense and defense, maybe because results are tangible. Somebody wins, somebody loses.

• The quarterback battle is public and sexy. The power struggle at defensive coordinator is interesting if quiet. Mike Tomlin, Teryl Austin and Brian Flores: Who plans what? Who calls what? Who has the most input? Who have you finished saying?

• During the current offseason, 11 wide receivers have signed contract extensions with an average annual value of $20 million or more. As it regards the Steelers’ Diontae Johnson, it’s reminiscent of your mother asking, “If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” Johnson isn’t Deebo Samuel or DK Metcalf.

• Tomlin must soon put his foot down and insist that Johnson participate fully in training camp. The response to that will be interesting. (If Tomlin does n’t, he’s derelict in his duty. He might not.)

• Kicker Chris Boswell is going into his contract’s last year, just like Johnson. But Boswell is practicing. Boswell is at the same risk as Johnson within the context of his position’s demands and the money available. (But Boswell knows he’s just a kicker.)

• Wideout George Pickens might be a phenom. Fellow rookie Calvin Austin III might be able to play a role. That doesn’t bode well for Johnson’s cause.

• Second-year running back Najee Harris talks and acts like a leader.


More Mark Madden:

• Steelers didn’t draft Kenny Pickett to be quick fix
• Steelers’ quarterback situation seems to be pointed in right direction
• Steelers’ QB competition smokescreen overshadows plenty of roster concerns
• Comparing Kenny Pickett to Ben Roethlisberger is unfair but will constantly happen


• Robert Spillane is getting some of Devin Bush’s first-team reps at inside ‘backer. Bush has far more talent, but Spillane plays hard. Is promoting Spillane ahead of Bush a real consideration, or are the Steelers just trying to light a fire under Bush? The former seems too big of a leap. The latter is unlikely to work. Bush might be a bust.

• Ben Roethlisberger got accused of sexual impropriety twice. He was suspended for six games in 2010, later cut to four. Deshaun Watson was charged 24 times. He also got suspended for six games. It would be interesting to hear Roethlisberger’s reaction, but that would be stupid on his part. Many factors contributed to this disparity, not least that the Steelers wanted Roethlisberger to be suspended because they felt he was out of control. Cleveland just wants Watson to play. The NFL doesn’t want to be sued. Watson sitting out last year (with pay) while under the cloud of accusation shouldn’t figure, but likely did.

• Watson didn’t get fined. His salary this year is only $1 million. Watson loses just $345k in game checks. He got a $44.9 million signing bonus. Watson keeps all of that. The impact on Watson personally is minimal. Whatever Watson did, he got away with. For him, it’s a happy ending. (But Watson should haven’t been suspended at all. No proof. Same as with Roethlisberger. But punishment appeases the mob.)

• Watson getting a shorter-than-expected suspension is bad news for the Steelers. The Steelers absolutely must win Week 3 at Cleveland when the Browns have Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. To legit stay in the playoff chase, that’s non-negotiable.

• Heath Miller, Sam Davis, Ray Mathews and announcer Myron Cope are this year’s inductees to the Steelers’ Hall of Honor. Miller had better make a long speech. He’s the only one of the four still living. Notable for his continued exclusion from him is James Harrison, a popular player and two-time champ who might have the most significant play in team history, namely his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII. Harrison left the Steelers on difficult terms. Is there still bad feeling? (Harrison is a hard man to honor. He’s not honorable.)

• Danton Heinen at one year, $1 million is value for money. Kasperi Kapanen for two years at an average of $3.2 million is pricey, but understandable given his age (26) and first-round pedigree. But Nashville got Nino Niederreiter for two years at an AAV of $4 million. Niederreiter helps more at wing (and earns less) than Heinen and Kapanen combined. Penguins GM Ron Hextall has had a solid offseason. But why wasn’t he in on Niederreiter?

• Bill Russell died. He was 88. He won 11 NBA championships, two NCAA crowns and Olympic gold. He was a serial winner, but also much more. He was the NBA’s first Black coach, winning titles in his second and third years at Boston’s helm. I have supported Black power. I have backed Muhammad Ali. He led a Celtics boycott of an exhibition game in Lexington, Ky., after Black players were denied service in a restaurant. He was racially abused by his home fans in Boston. I have survived and thrived. Russell was important.

• Oneil Cruz is reminiscent of prior Pirates bum Gregory Polanco: Lots of tools, but no toolbox. Cruz got picked off second base in the 10th inning Saturday. On Friday, he didn’t retouch second base on his way back to first after a teammate flew out, resulting in a double play. Big mph numbers for his arm, legs and bat don’t matter if he hits .206, rarely walks and makes dumb mistakes. Cruz’s errors are basic. Stuff that Little Leaguers know.

• The Pirates sit last in MLB’s worst division after losing four straight games at home to Philadelphia. Remember all the excitement when the Pirates swept a three-game series vs. the Dodgers in Los Angeles on May 30-June 1? Me, neither.

• It seems the entire golf media is anti-LIV, pro-PGA. Journalists aren’t supposed to pick sides, are they? (Most do.) Particularly laughable is the attempt to sabotage the legacy of LIV signee Phil Mickelson. Mickelson has won 45 events, including six majors. Noting can change that. BTW, no sport ever suffered for having large amounts of cash injected.

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