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Three moves the Steelers can still make to be Super Bowl contenders, including signing one former MVP



The Pittsburgh Steelers somehow managed to go 8-8 last season despite not having their franchise quarterback under center for most of the year. That’s a testament to Pittsburgh’s talented roster as well as the emergence of a defense that become one of the league’s best after the team acquired safety Minkah Fitzpatrick via a trade two weeks into the season. 

With Ben Roethlisberger back in the fold, and with the addition of a seventh playoff team in each conference (the Steelers were the seventh-ranked AFC team in each of the past two seasons), Pittsburgh is expected to once again be in the thick of things as it relates to the AFC playoff picture. That being said, the standard in Pittsburgh is not making the playoffs; it’s getting to and winning the Super Bowl. While the Steelers’ current roster may be capable of making a Super Bowl run, the odds are currently stacked against them. The Steelers, according to William Hill Sports Book, are tied for the fifth-best odds to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LV behind the Chiefs, Ravens, Patriots and Bills.

While the initial waves of free agency have come and gone, the Steelers can still make some moves to strengthen their odds at winning a seventh Lombardi Trophy. Here’s three specific things Pittsburgh can do before training camp begins. 

1. Add veteran players to the running back, receiver positions 

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert typically does a good job constructing a positional depth chart that includes a young player, a veteran player still in his prime, and an older veteran whose leadership skills may be as impactful as his on-field production. An example of this is Pittsburgh’s current situation at tight end, as the Steelers currently have soon-to-be 30-year-old veteran Vance McDonald, 27-year-old Eric Ebron (the team’s biggest free agent signee), and 2019 draft pick Zach Gentry

Pittsburgh could use this type of symmetry at running back and receiver. Not only would this provide a veteran presence at both positions, it would also give Roethlisberger another reliable veteran to count on in pivotal situations. The fact that JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner — the team’s top receiver and running back — are entering their final season under contract is yet another reason to acquire veteran players at those positions. 

The top two running backs currently available are Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy. While Freeman’s production dipped during his final season with the Falcons (he averaged a career-low 3.6 yards per carry), the two-time Pro Bowler should still be able to provide quality snaps in a more limited role. McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowler and former University of Pittsburgh standout, scored five touchdowns last season while averaging 4.6 yards per carry in a limited role with the Chiefs. It’s easy to envision McCoy having a similar role with the Steelers, who have not been shy about their desire to run the ball more and more efficiently in 2020 after finishing 31st and 30th in the league in that department over the past two years. 

Pittsburgh has several interesting options at receiver if they choose to go after one on the open market. Among those options are veterans Demaryius Thomas, Chris Hogan and Josh Gordon. Thomas, an imposing figure at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, recently said that that he is healthy again after dealing with Achilles and hamstring injuries over the past two years. Hogan, a former Patriot who had a big game against the Steelers in the 2016 AFC Championship Game, missed most of last season after suffering a knee injury. And while off-field issues have prevented him from staying on the field, Gordon, when he is on the field, has proven to be a productive NFL receiver. 

2. Bring in more depth at inside linebacker 

The Steelers have done a good job this offseason filling vacant spots in their starting lineup. Veteran left guard (and two-time Super Bowl champion) Stefen Wisniewski was signed to help replace longtime starter Ramon Foster, who retired in March. Pittsburgh traded with the Ravens to acquire defensive tackle Chris Wormley after Javon Hargrave signed a multi-year deal with the Eagles. The team also signed fullback Derek Watt to a two-year deal after releasing Roosevelt Nix, a 2018 Pro Bowler and 2019 team captain.

Inside linebacker, however, is one area that could still use some work. Yes, the Steelers still have starters Devin Bush and Vince Williams, but Pittsburgh’s depth at that position is sorely lacking after releasing Mark Barron and allowing Tyler Matakevich to test the open market (the latter inked a two-year deal with the Bills). Pittsburgh’s current backups behind Bush and Williams include Christian Kuntz, Ulysees Gilbert, and Robert Spillane. Combined, the trio has made 16 tackles in 17 regular season games. And while each player has upside and possible untapped potential, it wouldn’t hurt to have a proven veteran backing up Pittsburgh’s starting inside linebackers. 

Among the Steelers’ free agent options here include Barron, Alec Ogletree, Wesley Woodyard, and Darron Lee. A former first-round pick who has started in each of his 93 career regular season games, Ogletree recorded 80 tackles and six passes defensed in 13 games for the Giants last season. While Woodyard’s age (he’ll be 34 before the start of next season) might be one of the reasons why he’s still available, the 12-year veteran — who has 180 regular games and 110 career starts under his belt — is an extremely experienced player who helped the Titans reach the AFC Championship Game while playing in a reserve role in 2019. 

Lee, the 20th pick in the 2016 draft, started to show glimpses of his potential in 2018, when he returned one of his three interception returns for a touchdown. After three seasons with the Jets, Lee won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs as a backup in 2019, making just two starts in 16 games. Lee could benefit by getting the chance to work with Ryan Shazier, a fellow former Ohio State Buckeye who went from a possible draft bust to a two-time Pro Bowl player. 

3. Sign Cam Newton 

Colbert recently refuted reports that the Steelers had reached out to a veteran quarterback. Colbert also exuded confidence in Mason Rudolph, who went 5-3 in relief of Roethlisberger during the 2019 season. 

There are several reasons why Colbert and the Steelers want to stick with Rudolph. While Big Ben has alluded towards possibly playing beyond his current contract, there’s certainly a chance that he may decide to hang up his cleats for good at the end of the 2021 season. If Roethlisberger decides to retire at that point, Rudolph may be given the opportunity to replace him, assuming that he makes the necessary strides in the interim. 

Rudolph is also still under a rookie contract, which makes him a very affordable backup. He has also been brought up under the Steelers’ system, working closely with Roethlisberger, head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. Furthermore, the Steelers likely want Rudolph focusing on his progression this summer and not on a position battle. 

All this being said, it still makes sense to at least look into signing Cam Newton, a former league MVP who is still just 31 years old. While Rudolph should show marked improvement this season, he did not, at least in this writer’s opinion, do enough in 2019 to enter the 2020 season as the unrivaled No. 2 quarterback. At the least, the Steelers could sign Newton with the caveat that he is entering a position battle with Rudolph to be the team’s primary backup. It’s safe to say that Newton would bring out the best in Rudolph, whose current competition, Devlin Hodges, does not even have a guaranteed spot on Pittsburgh’s 53-man roster at this point in time. 

While a foot injury kept him out for most of the 2019 season, Newton is just two years removed from a 2018 season that saw him complete nearly 68% of his passes with 24 touchdowns. He also ran for four scores while adding to his record for the most career touchdown runs by a quarterback. And while there are outside questions about his durability following last season’s injury, Newton’s recent posts on his Instagram account appear to suggest that he is healthy and ready to contribute on an NFL team. That team could very well be the Steelers, who would benefit from having a quarterback of Newton’s caliber on their roster. 

The Steelers pride themselves on having competition at every position. For the most part, Pittsburgh has exactly that. One place they don’t have that is at starting quarterback, which is something that’s not by accident; Roethlisberger is the team’s unquestioned starter, and it will remain that way until he either retires or suffers a dramatic decline in play. That being said, there should competition at it relates to who is his backup, which would best come in the form of Newton vs. Rudolph. 

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9NEWS Sunday morning Prep Rally August 9 2020




Catch up on the latest high school sports news with the Sunday morning Prep Rally!

DENVER — It was a big week for high school sports news in Colorado as CHSAA finally released the 2020-21 athletics and activities calendar.

The biggest news was that many fall sports, including football, have been moved to the spring.

Arielle Orsuto chatted with several coaches of fall sports who have had their seasons affected, including Kent Denver field hockey coach Kathy James, Mullen football coach Jeremy Bennett and Broomfield soccer coach Jim Davidson. 

Also, former Wiggins High School star and current Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner spoke to local media about his disappointment with football being moved to the fall. 

Finally, we have sports, as boys golf began play this week and Arielle chatted with one Golden High School golfer who says those that are allowed to play right now have to stay smart. 

RELATED: Saturday morning Prep Rally (8/8/20)

RELATED: Multiple fall high school sports moved to spring in Colorado

RELATED: Top Colorado high school football players react to season moving to spring

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F1 70th Anniversary GP: Max Verstappen shocks Mercedes for victory





Max Verstappen overtakes Valtteri Bottas for the race lead during the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix

Max Verstappen overtakes Valtteri Bottas for the race lead during the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen shocked Mercedes to end the world champions’ winning run in an intense and thrilling race at F1’s 70th Anniversary GP, as Lewis Hamilton snatched second from Valtteri Bottas in the closing laps.

On a day when Mercedes’ previous Achilles’ heel – tyre performance in hot weather – resurfaced at a sweltering Silverstone, Red Bull’s decision from qualifying to start on Pirelli’s hardest compound tyre paid handsome dividends for them and a brilliant Verstappen.

The Dutchman ran longer than either Mercedes in the first stint to set up the victory, and although he dropped back behind early race leader Bottas after his first pit stop, he swiftly and decisively overtook the Finn for the lead.

“I didn’t see it coming,” admitted Verstappen of his first victory of the year and ninth in F1.

Bottas then suffered further disappointment when team-mate and title rival Hamilton overtook him with two laps to go after the Briton had stretched out his second stint, despite suffering severe rear blistering.

Lewis Hamilton goes around the outside of Brooklands, an easy overtake in the end as he moved to second ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas!

Lewis Hamilton goes around the outside of Brooklands, an easy overtake in the end as he moved to second ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas!

To compound matters for a frustrated Finn – who failed to score at Silverstone last week after a late puncture – Verstappen now moves ahead of him in the Drivers’ Championship as Hamilton’s nearest challenger after five rounds.

Hamilton still leads by 30 points, while his 155th F1 podium ties the all-time record of Michael Schumacher.

“It was a massive challenge,” said Hamilton. “Firstly, congratulations to the Red Bull team and to Max. They definitely didn’t have the qualms we had today. Definitely unexpected to have the blistering as hardcore as we experienced. But I’m really grateful to progress and manage my way through until the end.”

In another storming performance in a struggling Ferrari, Charles Leclerc finished a stunning fourth after completing what had been considered an unlikely one-stop strategy.

Alex Albon returned to the top five in the second Red Bull, with Racing Point pair Lance Stroll and stand-in Nico Hulkenberg losing ground late on and ending up sixth and seventh respectively.

But it was another dismal day for Sebastian Vettel, the ailing four-time champion.

Replays show Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz almost collided in Lap 1 during the 70th Anniversary GP

Replays show Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz almost collided in Lap 1 during the 70th Anniversary GP

The German spun on lap one after clouting a kerb and dropped to the back of the field, before rebuking his Ferrari team for a strategy call over the radio en-route to a point-less 12th place.

70th Anniversary GP: Top 10 result
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull
2. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
5. Alexander Albon, Red Bull
6. Lance Stroll, Racing Point
7. Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point
8. Esteban Ocon, Renault
9. Lando Norris, McLaren
10. Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri

Verstappen: ‘I’m not sitting behind like a grandma!’

Mercedes had absolutely dominated the first five weekends of the delayed 2020 season, claiming every pole and race victory up to Sunday.

That sequence looked unlikely to change after Bottas and Hamilton locked out the front row again, particularly when Verstappen – their only likely challenger so far this year – qualified behind the impressive Hulkenberg in fourth.

But Red Bull still had what turned into the ultimate ace up their sleeve – the hard-compound tyres that Verstappen had used in Q2 to make the top 10, which he then had to start the race on.

The Mercedes’ and the rest of the top 10 were starting on the less durable, albeit theoretically faster, mediums.

But once Verstappen had overtaken Hulkenberg at the start of the race, and stayed within striking distance of the leading Mercs through the opening laps, it became clear that the world champions had a battle on their hands.

And Verstappen knew it.

Asked by his race engineer to cool his tyres and engine when running within DRS of Hamilton’s second place, Verstappen pithily replied: “Mate – this is the only chance of being close to the Mercedes’, I’m not just sitting behind like a grandma!”

Max Verstappen wins as Red Bull shock Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton second, Valtteri Bottas third

Max Verstappen wins as Red Bull shock Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton second, Valtteri Bottas third

Struggling with blistering, Bottas stopped first, with Hamilton soon following, allowing to Verstappen to take the lead and set about making what was now clearly a strategy advantage count.

“After the first stint it seemed like we were really good on tyres,” said Verstappen afterwards. “Of course there was a question mark how Mercedes were gonna go on the hard tyre. We had a lot of pace in the car and I didn’t really have a lot of tyre issues at all. We just kept pushing.

“An incredible result of course to win here, everything worked out well. I’m incredibly happy.”

Hamilton increases Bottas frustration

Despite an initial advantage of fresher tyres after their respective stops, Bottas and Hamilton again soon struggled with blistering on the hard compound and slipped further adrift of Verstappen.

Hamilton, who pondered on the radio at points whether Red Bull were running lower tyre pressures or whether something was wrong with Mercedes’ car, did inherit the lead when Verstappen and Bottas stopped simultaneously for the second time.

The left-rear tyre on the Englishman’s W11 appeared shot but Hamilton kept a decent pace and stretched his stint as long as possible, before Mercedes had to also pit the world champion.

Very frustrating day for Valtteri Bottas as he started from pole and finishing third is not ideal

Very frustrating day for Valtteri Bottas as he started from pole and finishing third is not ideal

He returned behind Leclerc in fourth place and, after dispatching the Ferrari, he set about catching Bottas on his fresher tyres. He overtook with two laps to go out of Luffield.

“Very frustrating. Obviously starting from pole and finishing third is not ideal,” rued a despondent Bottas afterwards.

“As a team we were sleeping at some point when Max managed to get ahead of us and my strategy was far, far from ideal. Lots to learn from today, I think.”

70th Anniversary GP Race Result

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:19.41.993
2) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +11.326
3) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +19.231
4) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +29.289
5) Alexander Albon Red Bull +39.146
6) Lance Stroll Racing Point +42.538
7) Nico Hulkenberg Racing Point +55.951
8) Esteban Ocon Renault +64.773
9) Lando Norris McLaren +65.544
10) Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri +69.669
11) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +70.642
12) Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +73.370
13) Carlos Sainz McLaren +74.070
14) Daniel Ricciardo Renault +1 lap
15) Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo +1 lap
16) Romain Grosjean Haas +1 lap
17) Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +1 lap
18) George Russell Williams +1 lap
19) Nicholas Latifi Williams +1 lap
Kevin Magnussen Haas Did Not Finish

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F1 70th Anniversary GP: Nico Hulkenberg’s big chance behind Mercedes?




Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton can achieve contrasting – but significant – F1 podium landmarks in the sport’s 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone on Sunday in a race that offers bags of promise.

On the day Hamilton can match Michael Schumacher by claiming a record-equalling 155th appearance on an F1 rostrum, Hulkenberg has a chance from a remarkable third on the grid to finally join the list of Grand Prix podium finishers – at the 178th attempt.

The German, subbing for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive weekend, is the holder of one of F1’s unwanted records, the most starts without a top-three finish.

“I knew this was going to come up now,” replied a seasoned Hulkenberg in the post-qualifying press conference when asked the prospect of finally ending his wait on Sunday.

“To be honest, it’s very challenging and difficult circumstances but I know I have a fast car beneath me. So it’s just trying to make sure to do everything right.”

Silverstone top-10 starting grid & tyres

1) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes Medium
2) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes Medium
3) Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point Medium
4) Max Verstappen, Red Bull Hard
5) Daniel Ricciardo, Renault Medium
6) Lance Stroll, Racing Point Medium
7) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri Medium
8) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari Medium
9) Alexander Albon, Red Bull Medium
10) Lando Norris, McLaren Medium

Hulkenberg certainly did everything right in the final part of qualifying in a run to the head of the second row that saw him outqualify Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll, who starts sixth.

But although this is the German’s second weekend in a RP20 he had never driven before last Friday, he has yet to race it after technical problems meant he was unable to take the start of last week’s British GP.

The 32-year-old is aware the 52 lap-race represents a fresh challenge for him.

Sky F1’s Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg analyse his stunning lap in qualifying, which saw him seal third position ahead of the 70th Anniversary GP

Sky F1’s Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg analyse his stunning lap in qualifying, which saw him seal third position ahead of the 70th Anniversary GP

Asked in a SkyPad appearance with Sky F1’s Paul Di Resta what he expected in the race, Hulkenberg replied: “A very difficult Sunday personally for myself. I have huge respect for the race.

“Obviously one lap is one lap – we all know that’s more manageable and easier. But then in the race, there are so many little things about feeling, about knowing the car with the tyres and everything. So I’ll try to do my homework and then be out there on the battlefield.”

Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point’s team principal, agreed the longer distance would be more testing for Hulkenberg, who last raced in any category last December at 2019’s F1 finale.

“To go from being called back and not being able to start one race, then a podium – that would be a fairytale for him,” acknowledged Szafnauer to Sky F1.

“But we have very competitive people around him. The competition is immense where we are and he’s going to have to beat Lance too, which is not going to be easy for Nico. Lance is fit, he’s fast, he’s raced her last weekend, he’s got all that experience under his belt, so it’ll be a big fight.”

Lewis Hamilton admits he wasn’t at his best in qualifying, but says his team-mate Valtteri Bottas deserved to take pole

Lewis Hamilton admits he wasn’t at his best in qualifying, but says his team-mate Valtteri Bottas deserved to take pole

Bottas vs Hamilton: Can Valtteri convert from pole?

Although Hulkenberg will start with only two cars in front of him, the prospect of challenging either of them is unlikely with Mercedes remaining the dominant class of the field in F1 2020.

For the first time since the season-opener in Austria, it is Valtteri Bottas who starts at the head of the field after the Finn pipped Hamilton to pole position at the Briton’s home track.

Bottas lost crucial ground in what is proving an exclusive title fight last Sunday, when he dropped out of second with two laps to go via a puncture, and trails Hamilton by 30 points heading into the race.

“I had a good start last weekend so I see no reason why I couldn’t have a good start,” said Bottas.

“My pace was all good through the race last weekend but now we have different [tyre] compounds so of course there is some more management required in certain places of the track for those and strategy is going to different than last weekend.

“So I just need to keep focused and keep focussing on the important things.”

Sitting next to his team-mate after qualifying in the post-session news conference, Hamilton kept his answers short but made clear: “Still got a long race tomorrow and I will bring everything I can to try and beat this guy.”

The field is expected to complete two pit stops during the 52-lap race this week with Pirelli having brought softer compounds to the second leg of the unprecedented Silverstone double-header, with most expected to shun use of the brittle soft compound completely.

Max Verstappen says he hopes that Hulkenberg’s chances of getting a permanent seat will be boosted by his third place finish in qualifying

Max Verstappen says he hopes that Hulkenberg’s chances of getting a permanent seat will be boosted by his third place finish in qualifying

Can Verstappen make ground on the hard tyre?

In a race that could throw up strategic variation, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen could be the driver to watch on this front after the Dutchman locked himself into a race start on the hardest Pirelli compound available – the only driver to do so in the top 10.

“I think it could be good,” said Hamilton of his rival’s choice. “Gives a bit of a difference, it will make it more interesting.”

Verstappen, who starts fourth and will be at least eyeing the final podium spot from Hulkenberg, is optimistic it will widen his race options.

“The hard tyre was last weekend’s mediums, so I don’t think it’s going to be that bad compared to what they’re starting on,” explained Verstappen to Sky F1.

“Of course, you might lose an initial bit in the initial launch but I think it’s going to be better for the first stint. It’ll depend on whether there are Safety Cars or not so we’re going to have to wait and see. But at least it’s different to what other people are doing around me and we’ll see if we can do a better job.”

He added: “I don’t expect too many issues with the cars behind me.”

The cars behind include former team-mates Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly, who impressed for Renault and AlphaTauri to take fifth and seventh on the grid respectively, and both Ferraris on another sobering Saturday for the Scuderia.

Charles Leclerc was their only representative in the top 10 in eighth with Sebastian Vettel out in Q2 and starting 11th amid a continuation of his Silverstone woes from last week.

“I expect us to struggle,” admitted Leclerc. “Seeing as our weakness is to manage the tyres, and seeing the degradation we’ve had with this softer compound, I think it’s going to be difficult.”

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