This year is the only clear title shot for this Steelers core.

And really, this should be a special season. Antonio Brown is still Antonio Brown. Bell will remain a star if healthy, and Roethlisberger should still be one of the handful of best quarterbacks anywhere. Home run-hitting receiver Martavis Bryant is conditionally un-suspended after missing last year, and a top-three offensive line is fully intact.
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The defense got better last season and played well in the playoffs until it came up against Tom Brady. It’s a good enough unit to win a Super Bowl but probably only if it’s attached to a devastating offense. That’s what the Steelers have in this moment.
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Bell is a singularly dominant running back and Roethlisberger a Hall of Fame quarterback. The Steelers will fall off considerably without either of them, and this is the last year both are guaranteed to play together. If it’s their swan song in the same backfield, the Steelers can only hope they’ll make beautiful music.

Teez Tabor displayed first-round talent at Florida, but poor performances in the lead-up to the draft led him to the Lions in the second round. He and 2017 signee D.J. Hayden are high-ceiling players who will have several questions to answer with their new team. Hayden, the 12th overall pick of the 2013 draft, failed to live up to expectations with the Raiders but could be aided by a change of scenery.

The team also still has defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who interviewed for the Chargers head coach job last spring — his ninth interview in the last three years. Austin wasn’t able to mold last year’s unit into even an above-average squad, but his spectacular 2014 continues to give the team hope.

Bill Belichick has some very good advice about training camp

Training camps are underway around the NFL, and it’s everybody’s first true football fix since the Super Bowl in February. While it feels like a monumental milestone, Bill Belichick wants to remind you that what you’re seeing now doesn’t mean as much as you might think it does.

On Friday, Belichick — who is usually short-winded with his answers (except when it involves actual football) — delivered a long speech on why the early parts of camp don’t really matter.

Kaepernick has said that he won’t continue his national anthem protest this year. And he’s working with a trainer to make sure he’s in game shape. He has more experience and has achieved more in this league than quarterbacks like Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, and Nick Foles, who are all on rosters right now.

The fear of fan backlash is a flimsy excuse. Kaepernick’s officially licensed merchandise sales demonstrate that he has plenty of fan support.

The most common working theory for Kaepernick’s continued unemployment is that he’s being blackballed by owners who fear a negative fan response to his national anthem protests. Giants owner John Mara, who was slow to cut kicker Josh Brown despite a known history of domestic violence, claimed there was an outpouring of fan anger about last year’s national anthem protests like he had never seen.

“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said, via the MMQB. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot.”

Charges dropped against ‘redneck’ Stanley Cup catfish thrower

Jake Waddell and his catfish are off the hook.

Youth Roosevelt Nix Jersey The charges pending against the Predators fan for throwing a catfish onto the ice at PPG Paints Arena during Monday’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final have been dismissed, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office announced Wednesday.

The two teams are meeting in the postseason for the third time, including the past two seasons — series won by the Predators due in large part to the standout play from goalie Pekka Rinne. The three-time Vezina Trophy finalist was stellar again Friday, stopping 27 shots.

Youth Andy Dalton Jersey Anaheim was playing in their third overtime game over the past five games and their power play woes continued Friday, going scoreless on those advantages. The Ducks are now 0-for-21 on power plays since late in Game 2 against Edmonton on April 28.

1. Predators’ James Neal — The winger finished Game 1 with a plus-1 rating and six shots on goal in just under 20 minutes of ice time. He now has four goals and one assist in 11 games this postseason.

2. Predators’ Mattias Ekholm — The defenseman was key in holding the Ducks to just 29 shots but was also effective on offense, recording two assists. This postseason, the Predators have enjoyed 30 points from its defensemen.

3. Ducks goalie John Gibson — Despite suffering the loss, Gibson had a playoff-career high 43 saves and was masterful while the Ducks survived 1:28 with a 5-on-3 disadvantage in the third period shortly after Hampus Lindholm’s first playoff goal in two years tied it for the Ducks.

Nashville TV station thinks Predators are heading ‘to the Stanley Cup Finals’

You’ll have to excuse the folks in Nashville. They’re not used to this.

After the Predators closed out their second-round Stanley Cup playoffs series with a 3-1 victory over the Blues, Nashville television station WSMV showed footage of happy yellow-clad fans leaving Bridgestone Arena.

One of the things we love doing is taking ordinary life situations and making them a wild and crazy experience. The Predators were a natural group to collaborate with since the whole city is rallying around them, including us,. Austin Bever (the Austin in Austin and Colin) told The Tennessean on Monday.

It was going to be a low-key (read: low-budget) effort, until the Predators got involved, at the CEO’s behest. Soon it involved Bridgestone Arena, dancing with mascot the Gnash and the Predators Ice Girls, as well as with fans at a watch party last Thursday.
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The video was uploaded Sunday afternoon to the duo’s Facebook page and by Monday afternoon had been viewed more than 640,000 times.

The Preds can close out the series and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time with a win Monday.
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Nashville appeared to grab a 1-0 lead in Game 6 when Colton Sissons banged home a rebound early in the second period. However, referee Kevin Pollock clearly whistled the play dead before the puck went in because he lost sight of it after Matt Murray made an initial save. What Pollock did not see is that Murray, with his back turned towards the official, never had control of the puck, and it had bounced into the blue paint where Sissons was waiting.

That particular play is not reviewable, an unfortunate bad break for the Predators and another sign in the eyes of conspiracy theorists–and Crosby haters–that the league wanted Crosby and the Penguins to win the Cup.

Joel Embiid attempts monster dunk, gets blocked by rim, fails hard

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Authentic Mens Kirk Mclean Jersey Joel Embiid was blocked in the first half by Kristaps Porzingis. In the second half, he was blocked by the rim.

This third-quarter dunk attempt versus the Knicks is one that Embiid probably wants to wash from his memory.

Thankfully, Embiid bounced right back up, and in his defense, he suffered a sprained ankle in the first half, so maybe his hops aren’t all the way back yet.

In any case, this might not save him from #Shaqtin.

Singh repeatedly described his desire to help open doors back home. His role in this process is not to be the Yao Ming of India, though. He probably isn’t good enough 鈥?Yao was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft and possessed a set of skills that translated to him winning Sporting News Rookie of the Year. (He finished second in a close vote to Amar’e Stoudemire for the NBA’s official Rookie of the Year Award.)

Instead, Singh can hope to be India’s Wang Zhizhi. The 7-foot center was the first Chinese player to reach the NBA, two seasons before Yao. Wang managed a five-season NBA career, playing for the Mavericks (under Cuban and general manager Donnie Nelson), Clippers and Heat. He then returned to China and concluded his lengthy, decorated playing career last season.

Kellyanne Conway the other day said that he wasn’t really making fun of that handicapped person. It’s beyond, it’s incredible. It just really makes you wonder how far would someone go to actually cover for somebody that much. The comment was well you have to look in his heart, you don’t know what’s in his heart. He wouldn’t do that. Well, no, he did it. And all the things that he said during that time, if our children would’ve said it we’d a grounded him for six months. Without a doubt. But we ignore all that because, because why? That says something about all of us and that’s what’s dangerous, or that’s what scares the hell out of me to this day. It makes me uneasy.

Mark Cuban on All-Star voter fraud, old Trump tweets and the Zaza effect

Gee, it’s almost as if Mark Cuban was talking about something else Wednesday when he went off on NBA All-Star voting (via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

Of course, the Mavs owner was — in his own inimitable way.

On the surface, though, Cuban — by seeking answers to three key questions — seems to just want to make the All-Star Game great again.

1. Was there All-Star voter fraud?

Clearly, Cuban can’t stand the idea that votes went to a player some see unfit to play, let alone start, in the leading All-Star Game in the free world.

“There must have been voter fraud, because I would have bet JaVale McGee really got 3 million, and him and [Mavs rookie center] A. J. Hammons probably split that. I know I was registered with five different teams, and I’m not eligible to vote. I’m calling for an executive investigation and I’m going to sit down with [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver and we’re going to get to the heart of this, I truly believe. If we can’t protect the integrity of All-Star voting, this league has serious problems. I think Space Ghost even got a vote in there.’’

2. Is the Electoral College All-Star voting system the best route?

The new system — split among players, the media and fans — saw 324 players vote, 128 of whom didn’t vote for LeBron James and 154 who left Kevin Durant off their ballots, as opposed to the previous system that left the vote to fans. Not cool, Cuban says.

“It’s just unfortunate, but when we went to the Electoral College format and there were segments of the NBA who got votes, I know they won the popular vote. But we went away from just the popular vote to the Electoral College version of NBA voting, and that is what you get.

“I think Donald Trump tweeted about it a couple of years ago, and he was right.’’rangers_566-115x115

Perry would directly report to former GM Steve Mills, who has been named president of the organization.

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Today marks a culture change for our organization where we reestablish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York, Knicks owner James Dolan said in a statement released Friday. I’m confident that Steve is the right person to take on this role, and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA. He’s got an ambitious plan that centers on building a young team focused on player development, communication and teamwork.

His decision to bring Scott on as general manager is a critical first step in transforming this franchise. Scott brings tremendous skill and experience in helping to build winning basketball teams. He’ll immediately get to work adjusting our basketball operations department to make sure we have one of the most effective front office staffs in the NBA, Dolan added. As Steve and Scott move forward, I will continue to not be involved in the operations of the team.

Authentic Devin McCourty Jersey The primary reason for Waiters’ uptick in efficiency has been his shot selection. While he’s still shooting too many long 2-pointers for his own good, he’s spending more time at the basket and on the 3-point line.

Why big men are left out, no one knows for sure. One pervasive theory is that big men can only coach their own kind. The times that Ewing has been his most vocal — a dramatic change for him, as those who have followed him since his arrival as a Georgetown player knows — are when he’s de-bunking that.

That’s one of the things for me, when I became an assistant coach, I never wanted to be called a big man’s coach, Ewing told Sporting News last year. I can coach anybody. Basketball is not brain surgery.

Cavs are fighting porous defense and NBA history in quest for third straight Finals trip

Elite Womens Connor McDavid Jersey Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue insisted he has some ideas, ways to address what has gone from a concern to a crisis in Cleveland. His team’s defense is just not working anymore, but Lue is holding onto hope that he will be able to unveil some wrinkles when the postseason tips off next month.

We gotta hold back, Lue told reporters. We can’t show our hand because these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to adjust to what we do. So, we’ve just got to play our normal defense until we get there and then we’ll see what happens.

Luca Sbisa Youth Jersey It’s a bit of an absurd claim in an NBA in which every team has scouted every X and O their opponents have, down to the way the ball boys squeegee the floor. There are not a whole lot of times that a team pulls something out in the playoffs that makes opposing coaches stare in slack-jawed disbelief.

The Bulls have been maddeningly inconsistent this season, and they’re now on a high, winning four straight including Ws over the Raptors, Celtics and Cavs. The Bulls did not deal Jimmy Butler at the trade deadline, opting for a playoff push over a rebuild, and if the team can sustain its current run, Wade would have to consider sticking around in Chicago as an option. But the team has been frustrating all year for Wade, and if he opts out of the last year of his two-year contract this summer, expect him to investigate other options. One would be those same Nuggets, who nearly convinced Wade to go to Denver last summer and offered him $52 million, more than the $47 million he accepted from the Bulls.

Russell Westbrook goes crazy dancing to Lil Uzi Vert’s ‘Do What I Want’ on bench

Russell Westbrook III is one of the fiercest competitors in the NBA.

Kids Eric Fehr Jersey The six-time All-Star is on the verge of becoming the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson did it way back in the 1961-62 season. As mind-boggling as what the UCLA product does every night is, it’s the ferocity with which he does it, attacking the rim with reckless abandon and literally playing every second of every contest as if it’s the last thing he’ll ever do in life.

Our primary objective and focus remains to protect his long-term health and ability to perform on the basketball court, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said in a release. As our medical team and performance staff continue their diligence in the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of Joel’s injury, we will provide any pertinent updates when available.

Kids Sam Koch Jersey Embiid’s injury news comes just days after the 76ers announced that rookie forward Ben Simmons will miss the entire season while recovering from a broken foot.

Embiid, 22, averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in 31 games played this season. He’ll have wait until next season to Trust the Process once again.

So much of the NBA is help-side defense and just being alert and being active on the help side. Offensive players are great and tough to guard, so any time there’s an action that requires a second defender, you’re going to be in scramble mode. That requires an alert help side. That’s any defense in the NBA. That’s gotta be your concern. I think the other concern for us, and it has been for a couple years, is our transition defense. Our numbers there aren’t great. That would probably be the other concern. I think if we can defend the 3-point line and defend in transition, make people play in the halfcourt, I like our chances.

Amar’e Stoudemire says he’d ‘shower across the street’ if he had a gay teammate

Former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire may receive some backlash for the homophobic comments he made Tuesday.

The 34-year-old, who is playing professional basketball in Israel, was asked by Walla Sport whether he would have a problem with a gay teammate.

“I’m going to shower across the street, make sure my change of clothes are around the corner,” Stoudemire said.

“And I’m going to drive [and] take a different route to the gym.”

When asked by a reporter whether he really meant what he said, Stoudemire replied, “There’s always a truth within a joke.”

Celtics: Given this accepted trade, it’s clear the asset-rich Celtics just decided to not go after Cousins. They could have easily topped this offer. Some fans in Boston will not be pleased by that, but the opportunity cost going after Cousins at the expense of another star is real for them. Also, the fit with Al Horford raises more questions than the one with Davis. Overall, that one makes sense.

Warriors: It wouldn’t surprise to see the Warriors be aggressive on the buyout market for a big man. It was likely something they were going to look into anyway, but a potential first-round date against Cousins and Davis could raise some eyebrows for them matchup-wise, even if it’s still probably not enough to get the job done.

Rodriguez, 31, was the EuroLeague MVP in 2014 and helped Real Madrid win the EuroLeague title in 2015. He also has been a staple on the Spanish national team, which won bronze at the Rio Olympics.

He came back stateside in 2016-17, averaging 7.8 points and 5.1 assists for the 76ers. saints_015-223x223