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

Keep reading ... Show less
Gonna be a while

Well, your morning commute could be worse

You thought the Route 28 backup was awful. Imagine encountering something like this on your way in ...

Q13 Fox out of Seattle reports a large tree fell on two cars Wednesday in Fife, Wash.

The Washington State Patrol said one driver was taken to the hospital with serious head injuries. She's was listed in serious condition.

Her red Toyota Prius was totaled.

The driver of the second car hit was uninjured, police said.

Three lanes of traffic were blocked for about an hour, leading to a 10-mile backup.

Keep reading ... Show less
open mouths, open hearts

New nosh spots boost downtown ’Burgh's vibe

The surge in new restaurants Downtown has been a good recipe for drawing more people to the Golden Triangle, according to a report released Thursday.

"Food drives foot traffic," the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership wrote in its annual State of Downtown report, which looks at a number of key economic factors related to life and business in Western Pennsylvania's most bustling central business district.

The Downtown Partnership said 30 restaurants opened in the Greater Downtown area in 2016 — and 10 more in just the first four months of this year. The organization defines Greater Downtown as the Golden Triangle, North Shore, South Shore, Uptown, the Bluff, the Lower Hill District and the Strip District to 31st Street.

The three biggest spots for new eateries: the North Shore (with nine), Mellon Square (with six) and Market Square (with five).

Revel + Roost is among the new downtown Pittsburgh spots. (Revel + Roost via Instagram)

And even more new restaurants and bars are on the horizon. Made in Pgh reports upcoming spots include Or, the Whale in the new Distrikt Hotel on Boulevard of the Allies; Millie's ice cream is expanding with another spot downtown next to Revel + Roost; Yuzu Kitchen's ramen plates and tapas-style apps are headed for Wood Street; and Burn by Rocky Patel, a Naples, Fla., cigar bar is opening on the North Shore.

Burn by Rocky Patel is headed to the North Shore (Burn)

In a pedestrian traffic study conducted last year, the Downtown Partnership found that foot traffic was up 108 percent in the 900 block of Penn Avenue compared with 2012 and up 30 percent in Market Square in the same span. In the four-year period, eight new restaurants opened in the Penn Avenue corridor and 12 did in or near Market Square.

The increased number of people living Downtown also contributed to the extra foot traffic. The report said that 14,764 people called Greater Downtown home in 2016, up 2.6 percent from the year before and 22 percent from 2010.

— Tribune-Review

Keep reading ... Show less
Napercise, MF'ers

Sleep workout is what we've been looking for

Finally, a class that if you sleep through it, you'll pass.

A fitness outfit in England, David Lloyd Clubs, is launching Napercise, a 45-minute workout that consists of nothing but climbing into a bed and going to sleep.

And just like that, we're gym members.

The 40 Winks Workout is "designed to help reinvigorate the mind, body, and even burn the odd calorie."

Instead of spin bikes, guests will walk into a room full of single beds (yeah, we know ... but we're here to sleep, remember?).

(David Lloyd Clubs)

The uptempo beats are swapped out with atmospheric sounds. They're also dropping the room temp to a level that "promotes calorie burning during sleep" (whatever the hell that would be).

The program is being tested for the first time this weekend. If all goes well, the club will roll it out to its other clubs around the UK.

It was developed with sleep expert Kathryn Pinkham.

"Sleep is a lot more important than people realize," she says. "We tend to focus on the short-term effects such as being tired or lacking concentration, but it is also essential for our long-term physical and mental well-being, too."

(David Lloyd Clubs)

David Lloyd Clubs polled its members and found that, among parents, 86% admitted to suffering from fatigue, with 26% regularly getting less than five hours of sleep a night.

"When we are sleep-deprived, we lack the energy to exercise regularly," Pinkham says, "and also the mental clarity to make good decisions about the food we eat, which could negatively impact our physical health in the long-run."

Wanna fly across the pond and try it out? Then www.davidlloyd.co.uk/napercise.

Check it:

Keep reading ... Show less
godspeed

Tips for first-time Pittsburgh Marathoners

Running is hard, no matter if you're doing the relay, half-marathon or a crazy bastard doing the whole 26.2 miles at the Pittsburgh Marathon on Sunday.

Doing it for the first time? We've compiled a list of tips to help you ace the race.

Time goal? Fuck that

Look, we get that you're a goddamn go-getter, but the goal of your first marathon should be actually finishing. You will have plenty of chances at future marathons to crush those time goals. Enjoy the experience!


Nerves are normal

Sweating like a whore in church and thinking you might need to go vomit behind a Dumpster? Recall your training and how much you accomplished during those tough workouts, you badass!


Positive vibes only

No bad juju. (No, not the band!) Trust in those hours (and days and months, holy shit) that you spent training to get to the finish line. The more you visualize and expect success, the more likely it is to happen. We'll stop before we make ourselves sick.


Avoid 'flying and dying'

Look, you're not Usain Bolt or being shot at (hopefully). So pace yourself. We know you're going to start out with a shit ton of energy (because adrenaline), but stick to your own pace.


Wet your whistle and grab some grub

We wouldn't run if we were on fire, and we're pretty sure carb loading doesn't mean beer. Anyway, visit all the awesome volunteers along the route to hydrate at every chance and grab a snack. And, by all means, get shitfaced after the race. You deserve it.


Leave those new shoes in the box

Blisters will ruin your fucking day. Fast. The folks at Women's Running suggest you slip on a new pair two weeks before the race and put about 20-30 miles on them before the big day.


Make it social

You probably have friends. Have them send you good vibes (or cat pics or nudes) during the race to keep you going.

Also, signing up with a buddy can make it a lot more motivating and fun. Jeff Galloway, an author and Olympic athlete, tells his clients to choose someone whose pace is similar to theirs. "If you have a fast friend, ask if they can run at your pace. If it's too slow for them, you want that kind of honesty because you want to run at your own pace so you don't get injured."


Get an awesome playlist

Women's Running calls this one "The Best Marathon Playlist Ever," and we can't argue with that, because it goes from Pat Benatar to Iron Maiden to Nicki Minaj. It'll keep you on your toes and your feet to the pavement.


... and a weather app

The weather is supposed to be shitty on Saturday. The people over at The Weather Channel are calling for a high of 74 with a 60% chance of storms.

(If you want to back out now and just drink all day in the Strip, this is a no-judgment zone.)


It's OK if things don't go according to plan

Shit happens. Hopefully not literally, because nothing will slow you down quite like explosive diarrhea. There's shin splints. And the dreaded chafing. Maybe your earphones blow out. Chill. Gather your thoughts, and get back on track if you can.

Keep reading ... Show less
Should be condemed

WTF is the dangerous new sex trend 'stealthing'?

From Elite Daily: Have you ever been "stealthed"?

Don't know because you've never heard that word before? Well, let me break it down for you here.

According to a new paper published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, "stealthing" is an awful trend where men purposely take their condoms off secretly mid-sex, without the consent of the other person.

In the paper, author Alexandra Brodsky explains that this isn't an uncommon form of sexual assault.

She actually found multiple websites devoted to letting victims share their information and stories about stealthing, and she even discovered a Reddit thread full of over 70 comments regarding users' experiences with the topic.

It may seem like NBD to a lot of the dudes who do it, but to any victim of stealthing, this is an extremely violating experience.

Read what some victims have to say about it at Elite Daily.

Keep reading ... Show less
NASCAR losing its biggest wheel

These are Dale Jr.'s last rides

Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver, announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the season, the AP reported.

A two-time Daytona 500 winner and third-generation NASCAR driver, Earnhardt has been plagued by concussions the last several years. He missed half of last season recovering from the latest head injury. It's caused him to delay contract talks on an extension to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet, and now he appears ready to call it quits.

Earnhardt turns 43 in October, was married during the offseason and has stated he wants a family. He's become a vocal advocate for research of sports-related brain injuries.

Earnhardt has won NASCAR's most popular driver award a record 14 times. He has 26 career Cup victories, but no series championships. His late father won the championship seven times.

For more details on this big NASCAR story, check out the AP's auto racing coverage

Keep reading ... Show less
Look at her

Blind cheerleader headed to World Championships

History is headed for the land of thrill rides.

Para-athletes will be part of the ICU World Cheerleading Championships for the first time when the event opens Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. Teams will be scored on how well disabled athletes are integrated into the routines.

England's representative will feature a blind cheerleader, and her story gained national attention over the weekend.

For a video feature on Steph, England's blind cheerleader, check out the BBC's web site

Keep reading ... Show less