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Sports Drive: Kobe Bryant, Super Bowl, Pitt Basketball

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It’s time for the January edition of the Beaver County Auto “Sports Drive” with PJ and Doug. A lot to talk about this month but unfortunately the tragic death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant is dominating the headlines and will be our lead topic. After that, Beaver County Auto’s P.J. Latsko and Coach Doug Biega talk about the improvement of Pitt basketball under Jeff Capel, if the Pirates should trade Starling Marte and give their Super Bowl predictions. We appreciate you checking this out and thank PJ and Beaver County Auto for their support of Pittsburgh Sports Now.

This show was originally posted on Pittsburgh Sports Now and uploaded to Pittsburgh Sports Live. 

Mike Asti is an experienced media personality and journalist with a vast résumé and skillset, most notably with TribLIVE Radio, WPXI and 93.7 The Fan. Asti manages both Steelers Now and Pittsburgh Sports Live, as well as, contributing to WVSportsNow and West Virginia's Metro News.

NFL

Report: Rift Between NFL, Teams on April Draft

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While the NFL plans to go ahead with the 2020 Draft as scheduled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, general managers around the league reportedly want to see it pushed back, according to ESPN’s Dianna Russini and Adam Schefter.

The NFL’s General Manager sub committee suggested to commissioner Roger Goodell that the draft be postponed, a recommendation that the league apparently ignored.

Teams are concerned that others will have an unfair advantage in preparing for the draft, with some teams still having access to their facilities while others do not. They are also concerned about not being able to do their normal due diligence scouting prospects, such as attending pro days, administering physicals and psychological testing and conducting interviews.

Commissioner Goodell put those concerns of unfairness to rest in a memo to teams Tuesday night, closing all league facilities moving forward.

While Goodell’s decision should help alleviate some of the worry amongst the general managers, teams now must focus their attention to the challenge of setting up their draft rooms remotely.

With the draft exactly one month away, there is still plenty of time for the league to change its mind. Still, no one with actual decision-making power around the league seems eager to reschedule.

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NFL

Mic Drop: Tom Brady Leaves Patriots

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Mike Asti cautions Steelers fans about piling on Patriots fans too much because of Tom Brady’s departure.

 

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Analysis

Steelers Adeniyi, Skipper Will Get Chances to Step Up at OLB

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To the surprise of almost no one, the Steelers released tenured veteran outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo on Monday.

Chickillo was a late-round pick that the Steelers had kept around as a special teams ace and rotational pass rusher over the past few seasons that certainly was not going to live up to his scheduled $6 million-plus salary cap hit. While Chickillo’s departure will be benefit for the salary cap situation, his departure will result in a lack of depth behind starters Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt and be one of several holes opening up on special teams with Tyler Matakevich also leaving and Roosevelt Nix looking like a likely departure.

Now, it is certainly possible the Steelers go out and draft a replacement. They might very well take one early in the draft and general manager Kevin Colbert has said it’s a deep draft class amongst edge rushers.

However even if the Steelers don’t look outside the organization, they should be able to turn to Ola Adeniyi and Tuzar Skipper to compensate for lost depth. However, given who they have on the roster right now, just how much of a drop off is there between Chickillo and those two youngsters?

An immediate breakdown of Adeniyi would be what has he actually done? Understandably, he has been great in two consecutive preseasons and training camps. He has dismantled all the guys he has faced in the preseason. In his rookie year, he led the NFL in sacks during that preseason. When he tore his meniscus last year, he was tied for the lead in sacks during that preseason too. He has been productive in the reps against the backups, but nothing has shown up yet in meaningful games.

His biggest moment on that stage so far was the botched roughing the passer call for his hit on Lamar Jackson. He is, as of now, a massive question mark pending on his development.

He has been more productive than Chickillo due to his bull rush and heavy hands, but in terms of actual in-game production, there has not been much. The drop off on special teams might be the thing to notice. Adeniyi’s weakness is moving in space, and even though he was not horrible on special teams, Chickillo was clearly better. It is not a massive drop off at all, but we have not seen that productivity yet. In terms of holding the edge against the run, I do trust Adeniyi to do that.

Now, moving onto Tuzar Skipper. He was a training camp and preseason darling that got the ax after the preseason and then circled back to the Steelers by mid-season. But after that, we never really saw him at all. So, in other words, in real, meaningful reps, we just do not know what Skipper’s prognosis is in the NFL. Everything we saw at training camp and in the preseason was fantastic. At the very least, he showed he could be a quality special teamer, which is key. Other than that, Skipper is still a mystery.

So, is there a great big drop off from Chickillo to Adeniyi and Skipper? In terms of pass rush ability, no way. Chickillo was nonexistent, but Adeniyi and Skipper both have given significant flashes of pass rush ability. In terms of run defense, Skipper is more of a question mark, but Adeniyi certainly holds his own here. Adeniyi has proven to be a sure tackle and Chickillo missed his fair share on the edge and lost outside contain far too often.

The real battle will be replacing his special teams contributions. Chickillo was a quality special teamer. Skipper showed off some really impressive special teams ability in the preseason. Adeniyi got in on a few tackles as well throughout the season. The drop off is not stark, at the very least.

Truth be told, the Steelers need to draft another edge rusher. That is the best way to take care of these depth problems. But make no mistake about it, the Steelers are not losing a ton by releasing Chickillo.

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