First Call: New pressure for Le’Veon Bell; Penguins scoring in bunches at Worlds |
Breakfast With Benz

First Call: New pressure for Le’Veon Bell; Penguins scoring in bunches at Worlds

Tim Benz
Chaz Palla
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell carries through the Packers defense during the first quarter Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, at Heinz Field.

In “First Call” Tuesday, something to watch for Le’Veon Bell in New York. Penguins players keep pumping in goals at the World Championships. The Warriors make history. And the next opponent for the Pirates just can’t buy good luck.

Something to watch

Many people are wondering how Le’Veon Bell will do as he moves from the Steelers to the Jets.

Here’s one statistical nugget that forecasts he may face at least one stiffer challenge in New York than he saw in Pittsburgh.

With the Steelers’ diversified offensive talent beyond himself — players such as Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown — defenses rarely knew what to expect from the Black and Gold.

Because of Bell’s running and receiving abilities, with the skills of his offensive teammates, the Steelers could operate out of numerous formations that kept opposing defenses on their heels.

How much exactly? Well, Next Gen Stats figured out that Bell faced a loaded box only 21% of the time since 2016.

That’s the lowest percentage in the NFL among qualified running backs (at least 300 rushes).

Expect that number to rise given the lack of offensive threats aside from Bell for Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.

Oh, and the fact that Darnold isn’t exactly Roethlisberger yet.

Penguins pour it on

We’ve told you about Dominik Simon tapping into that scoring potential we keep hearing about. The young Penguins forward is now up to eight points at the World Championships for the Czech Republic.

Penguins winger Jared McCann got in on the goal-scoring action Monday for Team Canada.

The Canadians beat Denmark, 5-0. Meanwhile, Sweden topped Latvia, 5-4. And Patric Hornqvist potted a goal for the Swedes.

That’s Hornqvist’s sixth goal and ninth point of the tournament. He had nine points over the last 22 games of the season with the Penguins.

Keeping it close

The Pirates host a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies starting Tuesday night.

Colorado has struggled lately. The Rockies have dropped four in a row and five of seven.

But look at the scores of those losses. They were swept by the Phillies 7-5, 2-1 and 5-4. That’s after a 6-5 series finale loss in Boston. And they dropped a 4-3 game in San Diego to start this stretch.

So four of those five defeats have come by one run. The other by two runs.

To further the point of hard luck for Bud Black’s team, they are in fourth place at 20-25. But their run differential is only minus-9. The two teams around them in the NL West standings — San Francisco in last place and San Diego in third place — are at minus-45 and minus-23, respectively.

Going in style

The Golden State Warriors are heading to the NBA Finals for a fifth consecutive year.

They are doing so after a sweep of Portland.

See? Sweeps are not just an NHL thing this year.

The Warriors won Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, 119-117, in overtime. The Trail Blazers saw a 17-point lead evaporate along the way.

Steph Curry was the engine behind the comeback. He finished the contest with a triple-double — 37 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists.

That wasn’t the only triple-double on the night for the Warriors. Draymond Green had one with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.

Golden State will get either Toronto or Milwaukee in the NBA Finals. The Bucks are up 2-1 in that series, with Game 4 Monday night in Toronto.

No NBA team has made five straight Finals appearances since the Boston Celtics went 10 straight times from 1957-66.

Golden State has won three of those four series including the last two over Cleveland.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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