— Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was voted the TribLIVE Radio Jagoff of the Week today. In particular, voters’ beef came with Hurdle’s lineup card in the Tuesday nightcap of the day-night doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs, which included .091-hitting Pedro Florimon at shortstop. As one emailer eloquently put it, ‘love the man, hated the lineup’. Hurdle’s brief reasoning for using his backup players as starters was that it was ‘a rest thing’. But why, then, was Andrew McCutchen in the lineup for both games?
— Pirates third base coach Rick Sofield joined our show today and offered his take on the day, saying they were ‘trying to get some guys some rest instead of wearing some guys down. We have a long way still to go and are really in a good position. These guys are human. You can’t use [Francisco] Cervelli all the time, you can’t use [Gregory] Polanco all the time, you have to give them their spot and hopefully these [other] guys are in the big leagues, they play well. And don’t forget that second lineup, [Jon] Lester threw as well as I’ve seen him in person, ever.”
Sofield cotinued, in particular about McCutchen playing, “Clint had his reasons for that. Andrew in there is an important aspect. It’s always up to Andrew, I know Clint and Andrew talk all the time about his state of affairs. I think Andrew came to Clint and wanted to play both [games]. When he comes in there and says, ‘I want it, I feel good about things, I don’t need the second game off,’ you’ve got to throw one of the best players in there.”
— Hurdle narrowly edged out New England Patriots’ fans/media/ex-players who have spent the week ripping Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for perceived whining about headset problems. I will agree Tomlin whined about the problems that are ‘always the case’ when they go to Gillette Stadium. But, at the same time, many New Englanders did avoid mentioning the first few minutes of Tomlin’s press conference where he gave the Pats full credit for the win and his own team full blame for losing the game between the lines. It was selective listening from a sensitive fan base in the wake of DeflateGate and Spygate. But, again, I’ll agree it was also whining from Tomlin as he could have given a ‘no comment’ if he truly wanted to avoid a reaction.
— Which leads me to believe Tomlin wanted a reaction. He is truly tired of having mechanical problems in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Unfortunately for him, Art Rooney II doesn’t seem to be interested in picking up another crusade against fellow-owner Robert Kraft’s team. And why would he? Rooney knows when the money is good and enough controversy is enough. This cartel of ownership, in the end, is all one (sometimes dysfunctional) Family.
— On to San Francisco and the Steelers home opener. Jim Tomsula’s Niners are 1-0, and looked much better than I thought they would after they saw Jim Harbaugh, Chris Borland, Patrick Willis, Mike Iupati, and Aldon Smith, among others, depart in the offseason.
Based on what I watched from their win over Minnesota on Monday, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is healthy and back to being elite. Their defensive coordinator Eric Mangini is using some young secondary guys in effective ways (timely blitzes), with 2015 second-round pick Jaquiski Tartt and 2014 first-rounder Jimmie Ward boosting a unit that has three-time Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea.
On offense, Colin Kapaernick is now 26-14 as a starter and the left side of their offensive line is excellent, with Joe Staley anchoring left tackle and behemoth left guard Alex Boone mauling guys in the run game. They used quite a few multiple tight end sets, with Vernon Davis never leaving the field and Garrett Celek and Vance McDonald helping pave the way for running back Carlos Hyde. And former Baltimore Ravens’ Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith rarely left the field at wide receiver.
It’s a solid football team. Sunday at Heinz Field will be no cakewalk.
— And new coach San Francisco Jim Tomsula will have Homestead and Munhall behind him. How can you not root for a coach who just gave a shoutout on a conference call to Munhall’s Pizza King restaurant? My father, a Homestead native (and my Laird ancestors, I might add, were prominent Homesteaders going back to the borough’s inception in the late 1800s), grew up with Tomsula’s parents in the 1950s and 1960s, so I can vouch that Jim’s roots in the city truly run deep. I’m sure it will be a special homecoming game for him, and one which he’ll have his guys ready for.
— All that said, I do think the Steelers will grind out a win. Ben Roethlisberger and this Pittsburgh offense are light years beyond the Vikings right now, and taking advantage of San Fran’s short week and long travel will pay off in the fourth quarter. However, if I’m wrong, the Steelers dropping to 0-2 and staring at a good St. Louis team on the road is a recipe for a lost season before it even begins.