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Steelers defense focused on getting back to team’s ‘standard’ after disappointing season

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for having exceptional defenses. Players like Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Joe Greene and more have been shaking up offenses throughout the franchise’s history.

With each new generation of Steelers players, they strive to reach the level of those before them. Now it is guys like T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds and Cameron Heyward who hope to be feared by offenses around the league.

Last season, the Steelers were 20th in points allowed and surrendered the most rushing yards in the league. For the first time since 2017, the Steelers were not in the top six for yards allowed, finding themselves in the 24th spot.

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It was not exactly the year the defense wanted to have, and this year the unit is focused on getting back to being a classic Steelers defense.

Defending Defensive Player of the Year Watt spoke about the expectations in Pittsburgh. 

“As a Pittsburgh Steeler defender, it’s just that much more important for us to take pride in everyone that came before us and uphold the fact that the standard is the standard. At the end of the day, when the back is against the wall, when it’s a two-minute drill, when the game is on the line, we want to be on the field,” Watt said (via NFL.com). “That’s the mentality we have to have to be a hard-nosed defense, and that’s why we’re here to build that type of tradition, that type of standard for the season.”

The defense last year was not where they wanted it to be, with Watt commenting on the “unacceptable” number of 100-yard rushers they allowed in 2021.

With such legends coming before them, there could be pressure on the players that could backfire. Heyward says he does not look at it as pressure, but what the team standard is.

“When you come to the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’re known for your defense. That wasn’t the case last year, so going forward it’s put up or shut up. If we’re going to win these games, it’s got to come down to us,” he said. “But that comes with the standard we are charged with upholding. It’s not pressure. It’s what’s expected.”

The Steelers are “based on defense,” new senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores said. 

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“Its roots and foundation is defense,” Flores said. “It’s stopping the run and rushing the passer and keeping the score down. Any outsider can look at that and, if you peel back the layers, that’s who the Steelers are and that’s who we want to be and what we want to be. But there’s a process to doing that.”

Teryl Austin, who was promoted coordinator after three seasons serving as senior defensive assistant/secondary coach, said he appreciates Flores giving an outsiders view as someone just getting to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers’ season was cut short after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round.



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The NFLPA Is Launching A Full Tua Tagovailoa Investigation

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(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

 

Tua Tagovailoa‘s status has everyone invested in the NFL concerned.

His condition did not look like a simple injury as he laid on the turf.

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In the first place, he shouldn’t have been playing in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

That’s why the NFL Players Association wants to get to the bottom of Tagovailoa’s situation.

The NFLPA tweeted, “Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission. Our concern tonight is for Tua, and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. Our investigation into the potential protocol violation is ongoing.”

This investigation will have major repercussions, especially in treating concussion protocols.

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Tagovailoa was carried off the field in a stretcher after receiving a sack from the Bengals’ Joseph Ossai.

But, surprisingly, he was active for that game after the injury he suffered a week earlier against the Buffalo Bills.

He fell to the ground again after a Bills player made contact, and he had to leave the game to be assessed.

It doesn’t take a medical expert to know something wasn’t right about him, especially because he was already dealing with a back injury before the game.

However, the Dolphins cleared him to return against Buffalo and Cincinnati, and they are staring at dire consequences.

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What Happens Next After Tagovailoa’s Injury?

The Dolphins hope he will get a clean bill of health after the gruesome incident.

But jobs may be lost, particularly from the Dolphins’ medical staff.

The NFLPA will try to establish proof of negligence among those who gave Tagovailoa the green light to play.

If the details go the NFLPA’s way, certain individuals might lose their jobs.

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Likewise, the Players Association will call for more stringent measures on concussion protocol to avoid that incident from happening again.

The post The NFLPA Is Launching A Full Tua Tagovailoa Investigation appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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How Max Verstappen could clinch the F1 championship at the Singapore GP

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Max Verstappen has the opportunity to wrap up his Formula One title defence as early as Sunday at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Unlike last season where it came down to the dramatic last lap of the final race, Verstappen has his second consecutive drivers’ world championship practically locked up thanks to an impressive run of 11 victories in 2022, including a five-race winning streak entering this weekend.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ George Russell are the only other drivers remaining in the title hunt — mathematically at least. Verstappen (335 points) holds a seemingly insurmountable 116-point lead over Leclerc (219), while Perez (210) is an additional nine points back and Russell (203) lags behind by seven more.

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It’s inevitable Verstappen will capture the title, it’s just a matter of when and where. Here’s how it could happen in Singapore.

What are the scenarios?

First off, Verstappen must win the Singapore GP. The Dutch driver needs to outscore Leclerc by 22 points, Perez by 13 and Russell by six. Even finishing second and earning the fastest lap bonus would only net Verstappen a total of 19 points and keep Leclerc hanging on by a thread for at least another week.

Also, we can ignore Russell in any of Verstappen’s championship scenarios for Sunday. If Verstappen wins, with or without claiming the fastest lap bonus, he’s guaranteed to finish at least six points clear of Russell due to the scoring system (sorry, George).

Here are the scenarios that could play out and lead to a Verstappen championship victory.

Scenario No. 1: Max-imum points for Verstappen
• Verstappen wins the race and scores the fastest lap bonus point (26 points).
• Leclerc must finish no higher than eighth (four points or less).
• Perez must finish no higher than fourth (12 points or less).

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Scenario No. 2: Leclerc gets the fastest lap
• Verstappen must win the race (25 points).
• Leclerc must finish no higher than ninth with the bonus (three points or less).
• Perez must finish no higher than fourth (12 points or less).

Scenario No. 3: Perez gets the fastest lap
• Verstappen must win the race (25 points).
• Leclerc must finish no higher than ninth (two points or less).
• Perez must finish no higher than fifth with the bonus (11 points or less).

Scenario 4: Neither Verstappen, Leclerc nor Perez gets the fastest lap
• Verstappen must win the race (25 points).
• Leclerc must finish no higher than ninth (two points or less).
• Perez must finish no higher than fourth (12 points or less).

How realistic are any of those scenarios?

In baseball terms, Verstappen’s situation is like saying the Toronto Blue Jays’ magic number is two: it requires him to win the race and have two other drivers face misfortune. Fate isn’t entirely within his own hands, at least not yet.

Considering Verstappen has won 11 of 16 races this season, another victory seems probable. Verstappen is the odds-on favourite to win the Singapore GP at -143 as of Thursday afternoon according to Coolbet.

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From a historical perspective, Verstappen has yet to take the checkered flag in Singapore but to be fair, F1 hasn’t raced at the Marina Bay Street Circuit since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Verstappen has finished on the podium twice previously. He came in third place three years ago behind the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Leclerc, and he was second in 2018 behind Lewis Hamilton.

What about the fastest lap?

That pesky fastest lap bonus point could complicate things a little — or a lot.

If Verstappen is in the lead and holding a significant advantage during the late stages of the Singapore GP, don’t be surprised to see him dive into the pits for a fresher set of soft tires in order to take a run at the fastest lap.

Verstappen has claimed the fastest lap bonus five times this season including twice in the past three races.

Leclerc has snagged it three times — albeit all during the first three races of the season — and Perez holds a trio of bonus points, too, including one from the most recent race in Monza.

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Misfortune for Ferrari, question?

I mean, hasn’t that been the story of their season? Yes, Ferrari has made quite a number of blunders this season. Leclerc has retired from three races — coincidentally while starting on pole position all three times — and some questionable strategy calls have surely let more points slip away.

Still, Leclerc has ended up no worse than sixth in races where he’s reached the finish line, and the Monegasque driver is coming off back-to-back podium results in the Netherlands and Italy.

Perez also hasn’t finished lower than sixth in a Grand Prix this year when he’s made it all the way to the end. The Mexican driver has retired twice and had late technical problems once but none of those incidents overlapped with Leclerc’s DNFs.

So, while the odds of Verstappen winning are favourable, the odds of both Leclerc and Perez running into problems doesn’t seem as likely.

What if Verstappen doesn’t clinch Sunday?

Then we just wait another week for the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct. 9.

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Regardless, a good result in Singapore means there’s a great chance Verstappen still ends up with the title before the series wraps up its two-event swing through Asia.

Verstappen believes he has a better shot at clinching in Japan anyway and called it a “longshot” to happen in Singapore.

“I think Japan is nicer,” Verstappen said, according to Formula1.com. “Also, I need a lot of luck for it to happen here, so I don’t really count on it.”

He added: “I think [Suzuka will be] my first proper opportunity to win the title. So, I’m looking forward to Singapore right now, but I’m also very excited for next week.”

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Blue Jays vs. Red Sox preview: Toronto trying to hold off Rays, Mariners 

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The Toronto Blue Jays have clinched a playoff spot, but still have much to play for as they open their final home series of the regular season against the Boston Red Sox on Friday night. 

The out-of-contention Red Sox officially punched the Blue Jays’ post-season ticket by beating the Baltimore Orioles 5-3 on Thursday, an off-day for Toronto. 

Now, the Blue Jays are trying to stay ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners for first in the wild-card race, which would allow Toronto to play its best-of-three first-round series at home starting Oct. 7. 

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Here’s a look at the Blue Jays-Red Sox series. 

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Probable pitchers 

Friday, 7:07 p.m. ET / 4:07 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Alek Manoah (15-7, 2.31 ERA) vs. Boston RHP Nick Pivetta (10-11, 4.48 ERA) 

Saturday, 3:07 p.m. ET / 12:07 p.m. PT: Toronto RHP Ross Stripling (9-4, 3.16 ERA) vs. Boston RHP Brayan Bello (2-7, 4.39 ERA) 

Sunday, 1:37 p.m. ET / 10:37 a.m. PT: Toronto RHP Kevin Gausman (12-10, 3.30) vs. Boston TBD 

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All games on Sportsnet. 

Latest on the Blue Jays 

The Blue Jays (87-69) lost two of three to the visiting New York Yankees earlier this week. 

After a dramatic 3-2, 10-inning win in the opener on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s walk-off single and Gausman’s strong start, the Blue Jays didn’t get the same kind of starts from Jose Berrios and Mitch White and dropped the next two. 

Aaron Judge’s AL record-tying 61st home run of the season highlighted a series-ending 8-3 win for the Yankees on Wednesday. 

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The Yankees also clinched the AL East crown with a 5-2 win on Tuesday. 

Latest on the Red Sox 

The out-of-contention Red Sox (74-81) did the Blue Jays, Rays and Mariners a favour by taking three of four from the Orioles. 

J.D. Martinez hit a two-run homer over the Green Monster in the eighth to break a 3-3 tie on Thursday, propelling the Red Sox to a 5-3 win. 

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Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi pitched 4 2/3 innings, making his first appearance since going on the injured list on Aug. 23 with a sore right shoulder. He allowed two runs — one earned — on five hits while striking out three. 

The Red Sox won 10 of 19 against the Orioles this year, taking the season series for the fifth year in a row. 

Playoff watch 

With six games left, the Blue Jays are 1.5 games in front of Seattle and two games ahead of Tampa Bay for top spot in the wild-card race. 

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The top finisher hosts the No. 2 team in the first round, while the No. 3 team goes to Cleveland to face the Guardians. 

Toronto must finish ahead of Tampa and Seattle to get first as it does not own the tiebreaker. 

The Rays are in Houston to face the AL-leading Astros this weekend, while the Mariners host the last-place Oakland A’s. 

Season series 

The Blue Jays are a dominant 13-3 against the Red Sox this year. 

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Toronto is a perfect 6-0 against the Red Sox since the All-Star break with all the wins coming at Fenway Park. 

The highlight was a franchise record for runs in a night when the Blue Jays pounded the Red Sox 28-5 on July 22. 

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Marquee matchup 

Manoah squares off against Victoria’s Pivetta in the opener – the same pitching matchup that took place on June 29 at Rogers Centre. 

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Both starters were good in no-decisions that night (Manoah gave up three runs, two earned, in seven innings and Pivetta allowed two runs in six innings) before the Red Sox won 6-5 in an exciting 10-inning game. The Red Sox scored three in the 10th before the Blue Jays fell just short with two. 

Up next 

The Blue Jays wrap up their season with three games in Baltimore against the Orioles, starting Monday. 

With files from AP

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