Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Mike Tomlin stays put, but Nick Sirianni’s future remains in doubt; Pacers pursue Pascal Siakam

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🏈 Good morning to everyone but especially …

MIKE TOMLIN AND THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS

One day after leaving his press conference mid-question when asked about his future, Mike Tomlin told Steelers players he will return as head coach, per reports.

  • Tomlin, 51, will enter his 18th year in Pittsburgh. He is 173-100-2 and has never had a losing season. This season, Pittsburgh went 10-7 and made the playoffs despite having to use three different starting quarterbacks in Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph.
  • It’s what happens after the regular season, though, that’s troubling. Pittsburgh has lost five straight playoff games — the longest streak in franchise history — and last won a playoff game in the 2016 season.
  • Tomlin is entering the final year of his contract, and Pittsburgh reportedly wants to extend him. There were also whispers, though, that he’d take a year off. Tomlin told his team those whispers were “unfounded.”

On one hand, Tomlin deserves huge credit for grinding out solid-at-worst seasons, especially with some of the rosters he’s had over the past few seasons. On the other hand, he’s responsible for those middling rosters and his underwhelming coaching staffs. The Steelers played three quarterbacks because Tomlin failed to recognize Rudolph was a better option than Trubisky after Pickett went down. Former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, fired midseason, has cost Pickett, and, in turn, the team dearly.

This is a huge offseason. In two seasons since Ben Roethlisberger‘s retirement, Pittsburgh ranks 27th in offensive points per game, 26th in passer rating and 20th in point margin. They’ve won a ton of close games — only the Vikings have more one-possession wins — which is a testament to Tomlin, but the underlying numbers say this is a stagnant team with quarterback issues, a solid defense and a penchant for finding a way.

That needs to change if Pittsburgh wants to truly compete at the highest level. At quarterback, is there a free agent (Kirk Cousins?) or a trade (Justin Fields?) in the offing, or does Pickett, a 2021 first-round pick, just need a better coach and a better system? Can the defense be infused with talent surrounding superstar TJ Watt?

The Steelers have been known for stability in the coaching ranks and across the roster, but to get back to contending for titles instead of playoff berths, that may need to change, and that starts with Tomlin making adjustments. I think he’s the right guy to do it, but the next few months will determine if so.

👍 Honorable mentions

👎 Not so honorable mentions

  • Ivica Zubac (calf strain) is out at least four weeks.
  • Jack Eichel (lower body) is week-to-week.
  • Fifteen fans who attended the Dolphins-Chiefs game were hospitalized and “dozens” were treated for hypothermia.
  • Mike Brown was fined $50,000 for one of the wildest ejection plus post-game interview combinations you’ll ever see.
  • The Saints fired offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and several other assistants.

🏀 Pacers, Raptors in Pascal Siakam trade talks

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The Pacers have a star in Tyrese Haliburton. Now, they’re trying to give him a co-star. The Pacers and Raptors are in trade talks centered around Pascal Siakam, whose name has been in trade rumors for what seems like forever.

  • The trade would involve Bruce Brown and three first-round picks, per reports. Brown’s $22-million salary would help make the finances work.
  • Siakam, 29, is an impending free agent, so potential suitors would want assurances he’d sign an extension. That gives Siakam a lot of leverage. The Warriors, Mavericks and Kings have all been interested in the lanky forward, too.
  • This season, Siakam is averaging 22.2 points while shooting 52.2%, on pace for his best number since 2018-19. A strong defender and two-time All-NBA selection, Siakam would be a valued addition for the high-powered Pacers, who rarely chase stars.

🦅 Do the Eagles need a rebuild?

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The Eagles‘ collapse is still as stunning as it was when Monday night’s 32-9 loss concluded. How did it all fall apart so fast, and in such ugly fashion? I had a few reasons in yesterday’s newsletter, but explaining one of the worst collapses in NFL history is no easy task.

Now, the question is what’s next? Let’s start with the guy running the show, Nick Sirianni. He’s one of the most confident and, frankly, braggadocious coaches in the NFL. You’ve probably seen the GIF of him nodding and smirking into the camera. One of my best friends, an Eagles fan, texts it every time Philadelphia wins. And that’s the thing: When you win, it’s awesome and everyone loves you. There’s no lonelier feeling, though, than losses piling up and answers nowhere to be found. I didn’t receive that GIF text much over the past two months.

Jeff Kerr has covered the Eagles all season. He says Sirianni, who left the field covered in popcorn courtesy of an angry fan, has coached his final game with Philadelphia.

  • Kerr: “There was dysfunction in the locker room amidst mounting frustration with how things were operating across the board. Sirianni couldn’t get the Eagles out of their skid, an indictment of his coaching and his ability to lead. The message was getting stale over the last few weeks. Don’t be surprised if there is a change.”

Jalen Hurts was mum on the topic of Sirianni’s future.

The Eagles won 11 games and have legitimate top-level talent on both sides. They also have an aging roster with several significant flaws. Is a major shakeup coming? Cody Benjamin says …

  • Benjamin: “When a team falls off this drastically, everyone has a hand in the flop. It was the same in 2020, the same in 2015, the same in 2012. The life cycle of NFL leadership. But the fact it equates to those times means change is, in fact, necessary, even if it registers as hasty or overreactive or uncomfortable to those in or outside the building.”

I also enjoyed Chris Trapasso’s look at whether the Eagles are Cowboys are in a better spot. Not a great postseason for the NFC East!

🏀 NBA Power Rankings: Bucks bounce back, Knicks stumble

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Just over a week ago, the Bucks were as bad as we’ve seen them in recent memory — so bad that Giannis Antetokounmpo said he’d boo himself along with the home fans.

What a difference a week makes. Milwaukee has bounced back with three wins since, first pulverizing the Celtics by 33, then topping the Warriors by 11 and then setting their watches to Dame Time with Damian Lillard drilling the game-winning 3-pointer to beat the Kings. As such, the Bucks topped Colin Ward-Henninger’s weekly Power Rankings after being 14th the week before.

  • Ward-Henninger: “The offense went to another level, averaging a ridiculous 132 points per 100 possessions in their 3-0 week with Lillard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis all averaging over 20 points per game.”

Remember, these are weekly rankings, not season-long. Milwaukee’s defense is still an issue, and that Celtics blowout — as impressive as it was — was a byproduct of a brutal scheduling stretch for Boston. Still, it’s good to see some signs of progress in Milwaukee. The Bucks’ 13-spot leap was the largest of the week, but don’t sleep on the Jazz. Utah hopped up 12 spots from 17th to fifth and has won nine of 10, including six straight.

On the other end of the scale, the Knicks fell 10 spots from third to 13th.

Here’s the top five:

  1. Bucks (previous: 14)
  2. Celtics (1)
  3. Timberwolves (6)
  4. Thunder (4)
  5. Jazz (17)

📺 What we’re watching Wednesday

🏀 No. 18 Creighton at No. 1 UConn (M), 7 p.m. on FS1
🏀 Mississippi State at No. 8 Kentucky (M), 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Bucks at Cavaliers, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Mavericks at Lakers, 8:30 p.m. on ABC
🏀 No. 25 Texas Tech at No. 5 Houston (M), 9 p.m. on ESPNU

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