First call: Pouncey defends Roethlisberger; a potential Steelers draft pick to watch for |
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Tim Benz

In “First Call” Thursday, someone in the Steelers locker room sticks up for Big Ben. A wide receiver to watch for the Steelers in the draft. The latest on the rumors about Peyton Manning to “Monday Night Football.” And did we just see the game of the year in the NHL?

Pouncey defends Ben

The easiest thing to do in sports these days is to say something negative about Ben Roethlisberger.

Heck, you can even be a long-forgotten running back and accuse him of tanking a play five years ago.

Well, not everybody in the Steelers locker room is killing the quarterback. Center Maurkice Pouncey is defending Big Ben.

Frankly, I think it’s high time for more Steelers to start going this route. I also think it’s time for the organization and Roethlisberger to defend themselves with some sort of media availability of their own.

Being strong and silent isn’t working. “They go low, you go high” didn’t work for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

It ain’t working for Big Ben in 2019 either.

A name to keep in mind

The Steelers must make this year’s draft pay off big time.

They are going to need rookies to contribute at multiple positions.

The team has a long track record of getting wide receivers who impact the club in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft.

Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown all leap to mind. Well, here’s another one to have on your radar as a player to offset the departure of Brown for Oakland earlier this month.

It’s Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin.

As Steelers Wire points out, Boykin is slated anywhere from a late second-day to early third-day pick next month.

What a preview

Many are projecting the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals to play each other in the Eastern Conference finals.

They are leading the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions, respectively.

Penguins fans would hate that scenario because, if we see Wednesday night’s matchup in the conference finals, one of the two clubs probably would have had to eliminate the Penguins along the way.

If that happens, though, we might have an epic best-of-seven series on our hands. There was a forecast of what may come last night.

It was a thrilling 5-4 game, with Tampa winning on the road. The Caps tied the game at 4-4 to force overtime. But Victor Hedman won it.

The teams combined for 91 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy made a franchise-record 54 saves for the Bolts.

No dice?

It appears “Monday Night Football” isn’t giving up on the dream of getting Peyton Manning onto the broadcast.

The New York Post confirmed a Hollywood Reporter story that ESPN executives flew to Denver to meet with Manning about joining the broadcast team.

But, the paper writes, “there is no evidence yet that Manning will say yes to ESPN, as he declined MNF last year and he has said no thanks to CBS and Fox before.”

Frankly, I think the quest to get Manning is overrated. I think he’d be solid at that job. He has a sense of humor, he’s a good communicator, and the film breakdown work he does once a week for ESPN is excellent.

But being Mr. Nice Guy is so much of Manning’s persona, I can’t imagine he ever would be critical of players or coaches in situations where that would be required.

Except, of course, for “idiot kickers” and offensive linemen who fail to pass-block for him.

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