Kovacevic: 49 degrees and cloudy? Hey, we've got that
Brief and to the Point, a few final local thoughts before flying off to Sochi …
The Olympics are the world's greatest sporting event, and the Super Bowl is America's. Maybe, just maybe, someday it will be Pittsburgh's. There's certainly more validity to the concept this morning than ever.
Let the record show that, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, as the kickoff took to the 49-degree, cloudy but rain-free New Jersey air for Super Bowl XLVIII, the weather at Heinz Field was 32 degrees and cloudy with a wisp of wind. Or, going by strict meteorological parlance, it was “football weather.”
And yeah, I stood at the open end at exactly that time to check. I'm weird like that.
There's no rational reason Pittsburgh couldn't — or shouldn't — play the role of Super host. None whatsoever. Heinz Field could use a modest expansion, but that's already planned. I've been assured by Visit Pittsburgh we have enough hotel rooms, although it would mean branching out a bit. No big deal there, either, as the recent Super Bowl in Indianapolis had us media types sprawled all over the state. (I was an hour-plus away in Muncie.)
The only obstacles are named Rooney. The Steelers need to submit the bid, not the city or any local agency. And after all the public investment into Heinz Field, one would think the franchise owes it to the region — and our unparalleled football history — to do so.
• Ben Roethlisberger, who has contributed more than $1 million toward police and fire dogs across the country, has reached out to Pittsburgh Police officer Phil Lerza, whose canine partner Rocco was killed in the line of duty last week. “I'm moved by what Rocco meant to Officer Lerza and his family,” Ben told me Sunday. “That's exactly why I feel passionately about the work of my foundation. These dogs play a critical role in keeping our communities safe, and the bond with their partner is unique because they live with them and are part of their family. Rocco was special.”
• The only thing more boring than Super Bowl XLZZZZZZZZ were the ads. Or the halftime act. Or the Fox commentary. Or all the pointless analysis to follow, this little item being no exception. If we keep this up, soccer really will rule our lives someday.
• OK, I've got the short straw: Worse in crunch time, Peyton Manning or Barry Bonds?
• Next time you're told that only high-tech aerial offenses win in the NFL, or that the quarterback is all that matters, or that defense and hard hitting and toughness is a relic of championships past, respond with one word: Seahawks.
• Jamie Dixon called two timeouts in the final two minutes of Pitt's 48-45 loss to Virginia on Sunday, each to set the offense. The first resulted in a chaotic shot-clock violation, the next a desperation 3-point miss by James Robinson. The most basic of set plays, including defending inbounds plays, have been a problem all season. That reflects poorly on the coach.
• The Penguins need a first-line, championship-caliber right winger. Ray Shero doesn't want a rental. Shero could get a first-line, championship-caliber right winger by trading Kris Letang. Shero isn't shopping Letang. Shero is willing to move Simon Despres, but neither Despres nor any other defenseman — barring Olli Maatta, who's off-limits — could get any first-line, championship-caliber right winger, much less a non-rental. Anyone else see the incongruity here?
• If Shero relents and takes the rental route again, he could do a lot worse than the Sabres' eminently available Matt Moulson. What a perfect fit he'd be for Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, with his toughness and tips in front, plus a soft passing touch.
• Don't be fooled by the Penguins' 11-4-1 record against the West. There are three teams in that conference — Blackhawks, Ducks, Blues — better equipped to compete for the Cup. Maybe the Sharks, too. There's work to do.
• Look for Marcus Gilbert to hold down the Steelers' right tackle spot next season, leaving Mike Adams out of the mix. The thinking on that inside the team, I'm told, is that Gilbert will be richly motivated in a contract year and that Mike Munchak will help him find that long-sought stability. Adams has a long way to go.
• If A.J. Burnett leaves, he doesn't deserve to be kicked on the way out. No individual contributed more toward changing the Pirates' losing attitude — not even Clint Hurdle — and I can find two dozen ballplayers to back me on that. Burnett didn't command respect upon first showing up in Bradenton. He commanded awe.
• Since James Franklin declared Penn State football would “dominate the state” in recruiting — after which he didn't exactly reject my assertion that he was throwing down the gauntlet at Pitt — he has hired former Gateway coach Terry Smith to focus on the Pittsburgh area, and according to another assistant coach contacted Sunday, Franklin has visited Western Pennsylvania on three occasions in 21 days on the job. That's some gauntlet.
• If nothing else, this Super Bowl cemented for me that the hotly debated title of greatest-QB-ever is richly deserved by … Johnny Unitas. The man essentially created the position we see today, and he did so facing old rules and attitudes that would have destroyed anyone of weaker will. There isn't a close second.
• Heading to Russia early this week to cover my fourth Olympics with columns throughout the Games. Forgive me, please, if the coverage focuses far more on athletics than hysteria over potential terrorism. How soon we forget that Salt Lake City went off seamlessly mere months after an attack on our soil like no other.