the Trib's Jerry DiPaola tells us why...

In Conner, Steelers Nation can trust

Pitt's James Conner is a Pittsburgh Steeler. So we asked a Pittsburgher who knows a lot about the football programs that occupy the Rooney Sports Complex for his thoughts on the feel-great story of the 2017 NFL Draft.

James and the Steelers as only the Tribune-Review's Jerry DiPaola can tell it.

Injured and ill, James Conner joins Pitt teammates on the field prior to a bowl game in 2015. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

I'm sorry. I can't think of James Conner without seeing the sun set over Lake Erie.

People who live in or near Erie — and James proudly numbers himself among them — will tell you it's the most beautiful sight on earth.

Yeah, there's a story.

Before he came to Pitt and turned into an All-American running back as a sophomore and, Friday night, a Steeler, James was just another football player at Erie McDowell High School. Making friends, trying to make an impact, looking out for others.

His best friend and quarterback since sixth grade, Sean Gallagher, has a sister, Meghan, who five years ago was in a hospital room at UPMC Hamot, getting treatment for a kidney ailment. The room had no view of the lake.

James thought that was just plain wrong.

So, he picked Meghan out of her bed, cradled her in his massive arms, carried her out of the room and set her down in front of a window.

"The sunset relaxed her mind," James told me.

That's part of what the Steelers are getting, and he couldn't have come around at a better time for a franchise recently beset by too much bad news, up to and including the death of Dan Rooney.

That's a part of this story, too.

The late Dan Rooney after the AFC Championship game in 2009. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

James was in Dan's company many times at the South Side practice facility Pitt shares with the Steelers. But never as boss and employee. And were Dan alive, he and James still wouldn't have had the boss-employee relationship many people know in their companies.

Indeed, James and Dan would have shared a great, long-term relationship. Both men would have made sure of it.

Which brings me, finally, to the reason I'm writing these words the morning after James was drafted by the team that Dan helped build into the Super Bowl era's flagship football franchise.

These words are about James. They are also about the Steelers. I want everybody reading these words to realize what drafting James means for the Steelers.

James did beat cancer. He was an inspiration while battling the disease, and that fight reflected who he is and how he lives. But that fight was only a chapter of James' story.

Just. One. Chapter.

Through his wonderfully crafted Players Tribune essay, James spoke of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a goal. He told me years ago, "The NFL is on my mind every day."

Nice to hear from a college star, but James should know that much more relevant stuff needs to happen for him to run into the most famous building in Canton, Ohio.

The easy (if fortuitous) part was getting drafted by the Steelers on Friday night. It happened three picks from the end of the third round. The Steelers selected him with a pick provided by the NFL for former players who had left Pittsburgh as free agents.

If not for that bit of largesse by the league seeking to level the playing field, James would have been on a plane to somewhere else Saturday morning, not sitting across from coach Mike Tomlin, general manager Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II. (James actually did have a 10 a.m. appointment at Steelers headquarters.)

With that appointment, James was in a spot similar to one by another college star upon whom the Steelers used a compensation pick at the end of a third-round. You might remember that guy.

He is Hines Ward. And without their drafting of Hines in 1998, the Steelers may not have written the great chapter that was their first decade of this century.

You might think James would sign in blood for a career similar to Hines' Hall-of-Fame caliber tenure.

Nope.

James will gladly work to make his own mark, thank you.

On the field, James will provide the Steelers a nice complement to Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell, a way to extend that possible Hall-of-Fame career by having someone else share all those carries, absorb some of those hits. James won't make many long runs in the NFL, but he'll break the spirit of some defensive backs.

Duke's 180-pound cornerback Breon Borders found that out the hard way one day at Heinz Field. With one of the same arms that carried Meghan Gallagher toward that Lake Erie sunset, James viciously stiff-armed Breon out of bounds while trying to rally Pitt to a victory.

Through the years covering Pitt's football program, I enjoyed the one-on-one, sit-down interviews with James and grew to appreciate and understand why he addressed his elders as "Sir" and "Mister." Not all of college athletes take that approach.

It's something called respect.

With James, as it was with Dan Rooney, respect is earned because it is first given.

James affords the game of football that respect, too. He prepares to play on so many levels, from practices on the field, video work with coaches, lifting weights, bonding with teammates, even walking around the offices clutching a jug of water so he'll be properly hydrated.

Unlike in college, Conner won't find many defensive backs reluctant to tackle him. I can tell him from having seen it with my own eyes, his own new teammates didn't shy from trying to tackle Jerome Bettis during his first training camp with the Steelers in 1996.

But when the collisions come for James this July, they won't be pretty. I hope James' new Steelers teammates heed my warning.

If they didn't see him doing it for Pitt at Heinz Field on Saturdays, the people of Steelers Nation will love seeing James Conner run over opposing defenders on Sundays. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

One final story.

During a spring practice session in 2014, former Pitt safety Terrish Webb, 80 pounds lighter than James, rushed up to try to tackling him. The noise of the crash drowned out any words that could be overheard, but I have always presumed Terrish said more than "Ouch."

Later, Pitt's running backs coach at the time, John Settle, told James, "Kids shouldn't play in traffic."

"It was an accident," James said, sheepishly.

Not it wasn't, James.

Nothing you do is accidental.

Jerry DiPaola has covered every level of Western PA football for the Tribune-Review

Follow tribLIVE for more coverage of Pitt football and the 2017 NFL Draft

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Round 2 Round Table

Pens-Caps: What's the word?

Everybody is talking about another Stanley Cup playoffs showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. But not everybody can elevate the conversation.

We've assembled a group of hockey experts who can.

Joining us for a rink-side chat are: The Pens Blog's Jesse Marshall, Bill West of the Tribune-Review, Inside Hockey's Angie Carducci, Mike Asti of tribLIVE Radio and Pensburgh's Mike Darnay. Our sports editor Rob Rossi is moderating this mess of hockey hot takes, so let's get it on...


(Getty Images)

Where does everybody stand on the Penguins' defensive performance in Round 1, and is it really that much of an issue going forward?

CARDUCCI: When it comes to the Penguins, the best defense is a good offense, right?

ROSSI: Sure, why not?

CARDUCCI: That doesn't just mean scoring more goals than their opponent, which the numbers suggest they're going to do. They led the regular season in goals-for, and they're leading the playoffs so far. Their goals-against, though, is very middle of the pack, which is again consistent with the regular season.ASTI: No Kris Letang seemed like a big deal. While it's hard to be critical on easily unloading Columbus in five games, there is reason for concern. The Penguins were sloppy throughout the series. Columbus couldn't get out of its own way and then the Penguins' depth took over. Beyond Round 1, the Penguins won't be able to be as careless if they want to repeat, especially against the Capitals. Many of the shots Marc-Andre Fleury dealt with were as a result of the poor defense in front of him. There's still a lack of depth defensively and one-on-one battles against more skilled teams (and teams that can better utilize skill) could be a problem for Pittsburgh moving forward. With all that said, it was the offense that guided the Penguins towards a Stanley Cup last season.

ROSSI: It's THE Stanley Cup. There is only one. Moving on.

DARNAY: I'm gonna agree with Mike A. here. Especially in Games 3, 4, and 5, we didn't really see the net-front presence from the defensemen, who were very good at clearing pucks and making life easy for Fleury in Games 1 and 2.

WEST: I'm in agreement with the Mikes that there's limited upside to the Penguins' defensemen situation. Without Letang, it's simply not a dynamic blueline corps. Sound positioning on the back end becomes the name of the game. That might suffice if the Penguins continue to get consistent goaltending and the best goal production in the league. But it leaves a small margin for error.

ROSSI: And by "small," you mean "none."

WEST: I do think there's a fine line between being a source of uncertainty and one of concern, and the defensemen walked that line for most of the first round. None of the three pairings set itself apart as particularly poor or strong. Cole-Schultz, Dumoulin-Hainsey and Maatta-Daley each had games with encouraging performance metrics. Each also had games where almost nothing went well. And (coach) Mike Sullivan didn't change much strategically to suggest he grew more confident in one duo than another. Match-ups shifted a bit from night to night, and which forward lines the defensive pairs skated behind also remained fluid.

It's worth noting that the forwards probably can do more to help the blueline in the next round. When Sullivan harps on puck management and his other "Right Way to Play" points, I think he's mostly reminding his centers and wingers that the Penguins win through territory control rather than outstanding own-zone efforts. Sidney Crosby's line proved particularly inconsistent on the possession front in the first round. That's unusual, and it would seem unlikely to continue. But if it does, that's maybe a more troubling sign for the Penguins than anything that involves the blueline.

ROSSI: Uh, is Jesse still here?

(Getty Images)

DARNAY: To Bill's point, if the Penguins are spending a lot of time in their own zone, they're probably not winning. The more offensive-zone time they create, the harder they are to beat.Sullivan said he'd compensate for the loss of Letang by committee, and he wasn't kidding. The ice time has been very balanced among the six defensemen, with just a little more for the top guy. Justin Schultz averaged slightly over 21 minutes, but Ron Hainsey and Brian Dumoulin were each at 19:44.

That could serve them well down the road with no one carrying too much of the load, but I wouldn't mind seeing Schultz carry a little more. He's the most talented offensive defenseman they have right now, and he showed he was up to an increased workload earlier in the season when Letang was out. Even carried a Letang-like 30 minutes a time or two, though I wouldn't want to see that.

ROSSI: I tend to think Schultz might go in Round 2 as Jesse has for this question.

DARNAY: In the end, though, it has to be a whole-team effort. Play fast, play smart with and without the puck, don't make the high-risk play. If the Penguins give up the number and quality of chances to, say, Washington that they gave Columbus in those last couple games, it's not going to go well.

CARDUCCI: So, like Mike D. said, I'm looking for their offense to make the defensive lapses matter less. But the Penguins would like to have the defense jump-start the offense, getting pucks behind other teams so their skilled forwards can go to work. Letang is a key part of that, and he's irreplaceable. Because of the way the Penguins want to play, I genuinely think he's their most important player, and that's a big loss. But it's nothing they're not used to; he missed an even half of the regular-season games this year, and look where they finished.

ASTI: All this agreeing with me is going to freak Rob out. Haha.

ROSSI: Jesse, is that you?


OK, let's have a little bit of a break from the heavy stuff. What is your favorite Penguins playoff memory?

DARNAY: Paying off my debt of a bet made July 1, 2015, and taking Steve Dangle to Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, thanks to Phil Kessel.

MARSHALL: 2001 Eastern Conference semifinal, Game 6, and Mario Lemieux scored with 1:18 left and an empty net to tie the game keep the Penguins alive against the Sabres.

ROSSI: Realizing, just now, that Jesse is still part of this group. I'll never get over it.

WEST: The details are a little hazy because I was 5 or 6 at the time, but in 1991, I either fell asleep or had to go to bed before the Penguins won the Cup clincher. Either way, I was unhappy I was missing the game's end. So my dad grabbed some tin foil and this oddly shaped plastic trap thing from a bug collection kit and built a mini Stanley Cup in the middle of the night. That's what I woke up to see the next morning and hence how I learned they won.

ROSSI: Second-favorite memory was that time West used "hence."

ASTI: Experiencing the celebration of the Penguins' Stanley Cup win on East Carson Street in 2009. I was too young to fully enjoy the atmosphere of the early 1990s Cups...

ROSSI: One Cup. Just one. Get it right!

ASTI: ...and when Jordan Staal showed off Lord Stanley's Cup out of a window at top Mario's, it sent shockwaves of joy, that was even extra crazy for the South Side.

ROSSI: You're all disgustingly young. And I hate you all for it!

CARDUCCI: For me, it all comes back to family. Sharing the game experience — at any level of hockey — with your loved ones, and especially watching a little one fall in love with the game you love, takes it all to another level. As far as my opportunities to cover the sport, the 2008 Winter Classic and 2009 Stanley Cup in Detroit stand out as especially magical experiences for me.

ROSSI: Malkin hugged me last year on the ice in San Jose. My slacks had ripped and were taped together from the inside. It was... something.


(Getty Images)

What will we be talking about at the end of Round 2?

MARSHALL: Before I get to the answer, can we all acknowledge how inherently stupid it is for the NHL to put the top two teams from the conference together in the second round? I hate to beat a dead horse here, but there's absolutely no reason we should be seeing this series in Round 2 year after year.

ROSSI: Man, I miss when Jesse didn't respond.

CARDUCCI: The NHL's insistence on pushing divisional rivalries punishes its best division come playoff time. This year that's the Metro, which has three of the eight teams remaining, including this matchup. I'd love to see a return to straight one through eight conference seeding.

MARSHALL: Anyway, on to the question at hand. I'm going in a different direction. I think the stories that'll come out of this series after its over are the Capitals' inability to get over the second-round hump and Malkin's emergence as the clear-cut favorite for a second Conn Smythe Trophy. With 11 points coming into this series, the well-rested Geno is going to continue his reign of dominance in the second round. I think another performance like the one he put up against the Jackets will quell the heat of the Crosby vs. Ovechkin "rivalry."

CARDUCCI: Couldn't agree with you more about Malkin, Jesse. He's leading the playoff scoring so quietly that I've actually heard broadcasters and a few fans comment that he needs to step it up. Another Conn Smythe would be a pretty fun way to assert his standing in the NHL's Top 101.

(Getty Images)

ASTI: Honestly, what Angie and Jesse touched on is likely what the series should focus on. Malkin should be the discussion entering this series, and if he continues on this pace, he should be the talk after it. That doesn't mean he will be, though. Playing next to Crosby and being from the same nation as Ovechkin has made him often overlooked (beyond smart hockey minds) in his career. I fear it will likely happen again.

ROSSI: There will be no living with me if he wins another Smyth. For starters, I'll stop wearing pants.

DARNAY: Easy!

Regardless of which way the series go, it'll either be Crosby or Ovechkin as the lightning rod, yet again. Can Ovechkin push his team over the hump past the second round? Will Crosby pass the baton to Ovechkin? It feels like it could be the ultimate coin-flip of a series, but the two big guys wearing the "C" will be the talking point no matter which way this one goes.

WEST: My guess: Crosby, Ovechkin, something, something, what a series by Conor Sheary.

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park and ride

Here's the new stuff at Kennywood this season

Ready to ride?

Kennywood is gearing up for its 119th season with some new features. Founded in 1898 as a trolley park in West Mifflin, the historic amusement park is mixing in some new foods and deals with its nostalgic rides and modern attractions.

Check out what's new.

SEASON-PASS PERKS

(Kennywood)

For the first time, Kennywood will open the park a week early for season-pass holders. The park will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on one weekend, April 29 and 30, exclusively for season-pass holders, in what is called Season Pass Appreciation Weekend.

"Season passes have become very popular and are a good value for guests. If you come two or three times, you've paid off the season pass," park spokesman Nick Paradise said.

Not all rides will be operating during Season Pass Appreciation Weekend. Furthermore, guests will need to RSVP online to reserve their spots and vouchers to visit the park that weekend.


VIRTUAL REALITY

(Wikimedia Commons)

Kennywood's newest coaster (built in 2010), the Sky Rocket, is getting an upgrade of sorts. While the track and cars are the same, it's the rider experience that's getting a boost — from virtual reality.

Riders will now be fitted with (you can opt out, of course) black goggles holding a Samsung smartphone that will allow you to ride the coaster in a virtual coaster through a blue-gridded downtown Pittsburgh.

(KDKA screenshot)

KDKA's Dave Crawley went for a spin:


THE DINING PASS

(Kennywood)



A new dining pass is available to season-pass holders. The $79.99 All Season Dining Pass is a credit that is added to the existing season pass, which is separately priced. Users can swipe the card for up to two combo meals a day at various food stands in the park for the entire summer season.

The card can be used only once in a four-hour period to buy park food, such as Philadelphia cheesesteaks, hot sausages, potato patch fries and chicken tenders, Paradise said. Guests can get free cotton candy or popcorn each day with the dining pass.

The park is making changes to its food offerings, too. In addition to opening a new Auntie Anne's pretzel stand, Kennywood is overhauling the menu at Pedro's Mexican food stand to be more "Chipotle style" with a build-your-own concept with fresh fare. The Kiddieland food stand will feature a more health-conscious menu, too.


CHANGING COSTS

(Kennywood)

It pays to plan ahead.

One-day tickets purchased at the Kennywood gate on Saturdays and Sundays are now $47.99 each, which is $3 more than those bought on weekdays at the gate.

Since last year, the price of a one-day ticket has increased by $1, making the cost $44.99 at the park and on its website and $32.99 at Giant Eagle stores.

A Super Senior FunDay ticket was introduced this year for park-goers at least 70 years of age. The ticket is $9.99 online and weekdays at the gate, $12.99 at the gate on weekends.

Most Kennywood guests, who use season passes or come with group events, will not see price changes, Paradise said. Guests should check with their employers, school districts and credit unions, as well as AAA, to find the best deals on ticket prices, he said.


THE LEGO MOVIE 4-D

Theater-goers at Kennywood's new "LEGO Movie 4-D Experience" will feel real-life wind gusts, water squirts, trembling seats and leg ticklers.

"The idea is that you're being fully immersed in what you're seeing on the screen," according to Paradise, who also said that different smells will be piped into the theater to correspond with the movie scenes.

Kennywood, which opened the 88-seat theater in 2015, will show the approximately 12-minute Lego movie about every 15 minutes daily, from the park's open to close.

The film features computer-animated images and is a spinoff of the full-length Warner Bros. film "The Lego Movie," released in 2014.

Aside for the Legoland properties in the U.S., Asia and other places Kennywood is the first park showing the movie.

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Warehouse of visions

After 20 years, everyone's still an artist at Art All Night

Two decades ago, Lawrenceville was a different place.

The overnight arts showcase that is Art All Night was there during the neighborhood's more-challenging times, when property vacancy, crime and unemployment rates were high.

It was there before Lawrenceville became the "revitalized" neighborhood it is now, with rising rents, trendy clothing shops and craft beer-loving hipsters who spill out of Butler Street bars and restaurants into the darkness.

This weekend, Art All Night turns 20.

Since 1997, it's been welcoming artists at all levels and demographics to showcase their work — one piece per artist — for free.

This weekend's show will pack at least 1,200 pieces of art into a warehouse along 36th Street.

Imagine 1,200 pieces of art in a warehouse. (Tribune-Review)

"If you think it's art, we think it's art," says Chris Hollingshead, the only co-founder of Art All Night who remains involved in the showcase.

No money is made off the sale of artwork. Instead, attendees interested in purchasing artwork can write their interest on a form, which Art All Night volunteers give to the artists Sunday. The artists contact the prospective buyers directly.

"We really went out of our way not to become involved in any of the money changing hands or the sale," says Kate Bechak, a volunteer organizer.

(Art All Night)

And there should be plenty of potential buyers: At least 15,000 spectators are expected.

The show, which costs about $7,000 to $10,000 a year to produce, has been able to sustain itself for two decades through donations of time, money and space, Hollingshead says. That, and sponsors.

With "no jury, no fee and no censorship," Art All Night remains a unique endeavor.

Everyone is allowed to submit works for Art All Night. (Tribune-Review)

"The whole idea was that the family — a grandma, a mother and a son — all could put work in an exhibition," says Ron Donoughe, 58, a contemporary realist who has been exhibiting his paintings in Art All Night since its start.

"The playing field is very even in Art All Night. Everyone is an artist," he says.

(Art All Night)

That would include Emilie Whitewolf, 13, who will make an interactive LED quilt at Art All Night as her Girl Scouts project to earn a Silver Award. The McCandless resident will provide square fabric patches and LED lights that attendees can sew onto her quilt this weekend.

"We've been going to Art All Night for two years," she says. "I really like the atmosphere and the projects there."

Her quilt project came about after she decided to combine two of her interests — electronics and sewing. Furthermore, participating in Art All Night fulfills the goals of the Girl Scout project.

"It requires us to make an impact," she says.

In addition to the art works, there will be live performances on several stages, which are also open to artists of all levels and demographics.

Art All Night runs from 4 p.m. Saturday through 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Any artist who wants his work displayed at the show can drop off one piece from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday (You have to bring identification.) The show will be at the Wilson McGinley building at 85 36th St., Lawrenceville.

Want to see what to expect? WTAE's 4 The 412 stopped by last year's Art All Night:

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a rob rossi column

Four letters that suck for hockey

The phone rings. The voice booms.

"Rob-ERT! How are things, my friend?"

Things suck.

They sucked for former ESPN employees on Wednesday like they have sucked for former employees elsewhere on days past, like they will suck for future former employees somewhere on days to come. They suck in ways equally insulting and indecent. They suck for everybody involved, and that group includes an audience whose connection to a journalist was suddenly severed. But they mostly suck for the journalist that the audience rarely knows.

Scott Burnside is my friend. And it sucks knowing he'll probably begin our next conversation the way he has started all of them for well over a decade.

"Rob-ERT! How are things, my friend?"

In a past life, Scott often pulled me from an abyss I couldn't help but seek. His arrivals in Pittsburgh as a national columnist for ESPN's web site usually seemed perfectly timed to coincide with a professional drama that was damaging me personally.

Covering the Penguins as the Tribune-Review's beat reporter was my dream job. But I never liked dreaming, so I made a bad habit of trying to turn the dream into a nightmare.

How would I have covered Sidney Crosby had I known about my ADHD? Differently, I think. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

I can look back on those days without regrets because I know the guy making mistakes wasn't a jerk. Rather, he was an undiagnosed case of adult ADHD and all the good and bad that comes with the condition. He couldn't let go because of his hyper-focus, or his anxiety, or his obsessive-compulsive leanings, or his depression. He couldn't let go because his body couldn't produce the proper chemicals that "other" people who were "normal" might have in abundance.

He still exists. But I keep him at arms-length through counseling and medication, and the only reason that I'm writing about him is because of the friend that Scott was to me a couple of years ago.

The dream gig had gone away, and with it went the comfort of control that had existed.

As a columnist, I was miserable. The variety of subject matter that accompanied my promotion had driven me to a dull despair. Without the Penguins' world to bury myself in, I began to see mine for what it had become.

It had become whatever I could make of it. And the fear of that responsibility sent me home most nights to reruns of sitcoms I had long ago memorized, re-readings of stories I had long ago finished, and re-enactments of scenes I had long ago vowed to forget.

Ron Swanson would not have approved of how often I watched his personal government shutdown. (Getty Images)

It about a year ago this past January when Scott rang after I hadn't returned a few emails. Whether or not he remembers the conversation, I have no idea.

You can surely guess what was first said.

"Rob-ERT! How are things, my friend?"

My answer was full of lies. After the talk, I couldn't let go of my disgust with having lied to a friend who had phoned only to check on me.

Why? All Scott had ever done was be there for me.

He had introduced me to agents when I was an inexperienced, unknown reporter. He had helped me flesh out ideas when I was transitioning towards chasing national stories. He had counseled me when I was covering my first labor stoppage. He had given me responsibilities within the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. He had paid for rounds at Smokin' Joe's Saloon. He had offered his vacation spot as a getaway.

He had been a friend and a mentor and a guidepost and a leader and... well, he had been more than I deserved. And I lied to him when he sensed I needed to come clean with how things really were.

A terrible rest of that day bled into a lustful, lousy night. The next morning, my iPad screen was full with links to profiles of local therapists.

If he would be so kind as to ask again, Scott would be given an answer.

OK, so things are fun, too? (upgruv)

Things are better. Not always great. But better. A lot better.

Things are better for me because of Scott.

I was at a Penguins practice on Wednesday when word came down that Scott, Pierre LeBrun and so many others had been done dirty by the supposed "worldwide leader." A lot of the hockey folks at the Lemieux Complex came up to me and asked if I had "talked to Scotty."

Not yet. Soon

The great thing about a great friend is that you know that person well enough to know when to say what needs said.

Things sucked for a lot of sports journalists on Wednesday. Included in that group is a damn fine hockey writer named Scott Burnside.

But he's a lot more to a lot of people. Hope he knows that more than a few of us in his beloved Pittsburgh are thinking of our friend on another day that sucked.

Rob Rossi is our sports editor


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We're Talkin' Here

upgruv podcast: 'Whore Baths and Phil Kessel Dreams'

Damn, we have some weird AF dreams.

Jill's obviously been thinking about Phil Kessel. Not that we can blame her — he's pretty damn cool. Then again, maybe it's her brown water from Aspinwall.

Any way you look at it, it's pretty messed up. And that's just the start of what we're talkin' about this week:

Whore baths in Apsinwall — 1:35

Jill: "I had a little water situation at my house ... The water was a poop brown. So, I definitely wasn't getting in the shower."

The cost of Wendy Bell's thanks — 6:15

Drinking on the job with City Brew Tours — 8:20

Gilligan's Island: Ginger or Mary Ann — 10:30

Jill says "Jan was a bitch" on "Brady Bunch" — 13:45

Fire all the Pirates — 17:50

Having fun killing people on the Oregon Trail — 19:35

wtf happened to our old-school NES? — 22:17

Jill's freaky dream about Phil Kessel — 24:45

Rob and his body ink — 27:10

That Monroeville strip mall nude model — 34:50

Strippers are very intelligent — 38:00

Things we'd like to see Rick Sebak do — 42:50

Click here to download the podcast, or you can listen below (if you'd rather).

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a justin labar wrestling column

Jinder Mahal's push a smart buy for WWE

Questions I have about the what's going on in the world of professional wrestling...

More on this Big Red Machine in a bit. (WWE.com)

Why Jinder?

Part-timers taking the big spots on the big shows. Proven performers again carrying the championship. These are just two topics driving criticism voiced by WWE fans on various social-media platforms.

Maybe the points are fair? If so, it's time for the critics to back a bold move by wrestling's top promotion.

The elevation of Jinder Mahal to No. 1 contender status was a shocking decision by WWE. His victory on Smackdown Live! was his first on television since 2012, but it was met with complaints by many of the same social-media "experts" who bemoan Randy Orton as WWE champion.

Pick a side, people. If Orton's 13th title reign is boring you, don't dog the unexpected push of Mahal (the epitome of a fresh face in the main-event picture).

WWE is playing it smart by moving Mahal up on the card. The booking of him on Tuesday night was great, too. He won with the help of two other wrestlers. They were the Bollywood Boyz, though they'll be the Singh Brothers moving forward, and they're the missing piece of the puzzle people are trying to put together.

Would have been a stretch to buy into Mahal winning clean in a match involving five other opponents. Giving him assistance made the victory at least seem plausible.

Giving him a push seems like it should be profitable, as WWE can target India's 1.3 billion citizens as a new market. Mahal's sudden shift into the spotlight should move WWE toward selling merchandise and Network subscriptions to that huge audience.

Is Paige finished?

We haven't seen Paige in a WWE ring since she was injured last June. Doesn't mean she's out of sight/out of mind, however.

We've read her name in headlines to reports about suspension, along with boyfriend Alberto Del Rio. We've heard her name involved in road-rage incidents against civilians, along with boyfriend Alberto Del Rio. We've seen her associated with alcohol-fueled, profanity-laced online rants directed at WWE, along with boyfriend Alberto Del Rio.

Remember when Paige seemed like fresh air to the former Divas division?

Her past year feels like a downward spiral that will culminate in her dismissal from WWE, where she should be among the growing group of female superstars. There is a movie about her wrestling family that is in development, and The Rock is one of its producers.

For a performer who debuted after the night after WrestleMania 30, winning the title on the year's most-watched Monday Night RAW, Paige needs this biography to begin the rally of a career that sadly needs help to reach a happy (if not safe) ending.

Is this part of John Cena's house rules?

Nikki Bella's YouTube channel has hit 500,000 subscribers. As a reward, her and boyfriend John Cena stripped naked on camera.

No idea what that plan is for 1,000,000 subsribers... but let's get her there as soon as possible, right?

Is Kane the hero wrestling needs?

A character that debuted two decades ago as the lost brother of The Undertaker, Kane has been through a lot.

Burned alive. Thought to be dead. Dug up The Undertaker's deceased parents caskets. Set men on fire.

Now the man who kept audiences captivated in spite of some of those angles is a long way from using a voice box to get across his character's message. Glenn Jacobs is running to be mayor of Knox County, Tenn., intent on making his beloved area more attractive for businesses.

Jacobs might not need all that much good luck. Many people with ties to wrestling have gone after public office.

Jesse "the Body" Ventura served as Minnesota's governor. Arnold Schwarzenegger (a WWE Hall of Famer) held the same post for California. Linda McMahon tried a couple of senatorial runs, and currently serves a certain President of the United States who's WrestleMania resume includes serving as host to Nos. 4 and 5, and shaving the head of McMahon's husband at No. 23.

Anything you can do, Vince, I can do better. (WWE.com)

Is this all a 'Fast' work?

For months, we heard about The Rock and Vin Diesel having beef with each other filming The Fate of the Furious. Seemed like publicity stunt to get box office numbers up.

Well, the movie smashed records upon its release.

Mission accomplished. But was it mission completed?

There is new word from Vin, who is saying he could whoop The Rock's ass. Seems like a publicity stunt for another box-office smash.

It doesn't matter what The Rock's (real) name is. (WWE.com)

Well, WWE loves crossing over into the mainstream. That obsession dates to the original WrestleMania, and I suspect that is where WWE would like to stage a match between Vin and The Rock.

Don't suspect convincing either guy agreeing to lose, especially via pinfall, will be easy. When it comes to egos, Hollywood action stars tend to make Hulk Hogan seem like Gandhi.

Justin LaBar is our wrestling columnist

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What's up (after Round 1)?

For Penguins, Pittsburgh is Fortress of Solitude

Good luck finding a Pittsburgher who didn't tear up when Root Sports cameras caught Kris Letang in his post-surgical neck brace during the Game 5 broadcast on Thursday night. But after overcoming that emotional wallop, a Pittsburgher could have been forgiven for thinking, "Would 'Tanger be the Penguins' best defenseman even if he played with the neck brace?"

Yes.

So, when veterans such as Matt Cullen and coach Mike Sullivan called attention to the Penguins' struggles with their breakout during Round 1 of their Stanley Cup defense, those comments validated Letang's value to this team.

As argued before, it remains damn true: the Penguins are good, but they're not the Penguins without Letang. No. 58 is a No. 1 defenseman — and without him, the Penguins lack a piece that most eventual champions have counted upon.

Then again, with the Chicago Blackhawks already out and the Washington Capitals seemingly stuck battling ghosts, perhaps the hockey gods are paying back the Penguins with a more favorable road toward Lord Stanley's silver chalice.

What else is up with the Penguins after their dismissal of the Blue Jackets in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs?


That's one bad breakout, Harry

Get back here. This isn't how it's supposed to work! (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

The Blue Jackets made life miserable at times for Penguins' defensemen. Their aggressive forecheck and penchant for cashing every check at times forced Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to play a lot more in the defensive zone than Sullivan should prefer.

Good news is the Penguins aren't likely to face a foe better at getting in on (and driving into) defensemen as were the Blue Jackets.

Bad news is the Penguins are likely to face a foe that can finish the chances created by the Blue Jackets' disruption of the breakout.

Better decisions by the defensemen would help the Penguins. So would returns for Round 2 of wingers Carl Hagelin and Chris Kunitz.

Each is a straight-line skater who creates space. Instead of creating that space for skilled scorers in the offensive zone, Hagelin and Kunitz will be needed to provide it to puck-moving defensemen who will be under attack like President Trump supporters at a Bruce Springsteen concert.


You get a goal, and you get a goal, and you...

Crosby, Malkin and Kessel scored two goals apiece in Round 1, yet the Penguins won four of five games from a club that had earned the third-most points during the NHL's regular season. If that doesn't scare potential opponents, neither would the sight of Godzilla and King Kong straddling the Liberty Bridge.

As was the case last postseason, when no forward scored more than 10 goals but 10 tallied at least four, the Penguins again appear in possession of a lineup that can produce without requiring its superstars to be superheros. Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnackl and Scott Wilson teamed for 11 goals against Columbus. (The entire Chicago Blackhawks squad produced only three in being swept by the Nashville Predators.)

Know why more clubs won't roll four lines in the playoffs? They don't have the forwards to adequately fill out those lines.

This is not a problem for Sullivan, and it is a huge advantage in his favor going forward no matter the opponent.


Paint it, black!

Winning helps the beards grow, boys! (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

Essentially, this is what the Penguins have done to opponents in Pittsburgh since Sullivan was hired in December 2015. His clubs have won 61 of 81 home games, ringing up a plus-99 goal differential over that span. Those numbers include a 12-4 mark in the playoffs, where the Penguins have outscored opponents by 14 goals.

Impressive, huh?

Actually, we're not even to the impressive part yet.

In the traditionally no-room-to-breath postseason, Sullivan's Penguins have scored at least three goals in 11 of 16 contests at Consol Energy Center/PPG Paints Arena.

They've made Pittsburgh in the spring what Russia used to be in the winter: the wrong place to take a fight. (And if the Capitals fall to the Toronto Maple Leafs, every hockey fight until next season will start at The House Sid Got Built.)

Rob Rossi is our sports editor

For more Penguins coverage, please check out tribLIVE

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