Sports Columnist

John Steigerwald has been a fixture of TV, radio, and newspaper sports in Pittsburgh, and has a Sunday column in the Observer-Reporter.

Who’s the Steelers MVP?

Actually, if you’re going to have the players vote on it, which the Steelers still do every year, the question should actually be, “Who’s the Steelers’ MVP except, of course, for Ben Rothelisberger?”

Anybody who knows anything about football, and who’s paid attention since September, knows that Roethlisberger is the Steelers’ MVP if, for no other reason than, in the NFL in 2018, the quarterback is the most valuable player on any successful team.

The Steelers voted for Juju Smith-Shuster, who was their second-most valuable wide receiver. He had a great year and is probably on his way to becoming a huge star, but Antonio Brown is their best receiver and the second-most valuable player on the team. Brown gets most of the double teams because opponents know Smith-Shuster is the Steelers’ second-best wide receiver.

Maybe the players just look at it as a popularity contest and they really like Smith-Shuster. Maybe they don’t like Roethlisberger. They got the vote wrong.

The franchise will probably survive.

  • I like the Cleveland Browns today. No reason other than I like Baker Mayfield. And maybe a gut feeling.
  • Did you happen to catch the score of the Belk Bowl? OK, you didn’t. Any chance you can help me with what a Belk is?
  • Will Grier and a few other starters sat out West Virginia’s game against Syracuse in the Five O’Clock Friday After Christmas Bowl because they didn’t want to risk an injury before the NFL draft in April. That may be perfectly understandable for them, but what about the promoters of the Friday After Christmas Bowl and ESPN, who televised it?

The bowl promoters invited West Virginia because it had an exciting offense led by a future NFL first-round pick quarterback. ESPN paid a lot of money for the rights and the sponsors paid a lot for their ads. Should bowl promoters and the networks start asking coaches who will play and who will sit before inviting teams? Seems like they should.

  • Chris Boswell, put on the injured reserve list by the Steelers on Friday, made 63 percent of his field goal attempts this season. Jan Stenerud, the first and one of only two kickers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, made 66 percent of his kicks for his career.
  • By beating West Virginia Friday night, Syracuse finished with a 10-win season. Before their fans or coaches get to bragging about that, they need to remember that two of those wins were over Wagner and Central Connecticut State. That’s an eight-win season for the coaching staff and the players and a 10-win season for the athletic director who booked those ridiculous, intelligence-insulting games.
  • Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the top two MLB free agents available, haven’t signed with anybody. Consensus seems to be that Machado will end up with the New York Yankees and Harper with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Wouldn’t ‘t that be shocking? The Pirates haven’t been mentioned as landing spots for either of them and that probably has some fans and, surprisingly enough, some in the media blaming the Nuttings for being cheap. As you’ve read here many times, the Nuttings aren’t cheap. They’re smart.

The Yankees could afford both of them at $35 million a year and still make a nice profit. The Pirates, according to Forbes Magazine, made $35 million last year. If either Machado or Harper were dumb enough to play in Pittsburgh, what would that do to the Nuttings’ bottom line? According to Brent Borzelli of Pinstripe Alley, the Yankees only spent 30 percent of their revenue on salaries last year, which was less than the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2004, they invested 85 percent.

The Yankees’ income last year was $620 million, up from $264 million in 2004. After winning 100 games last year, their general manager, Brian Cashman, who has said that small-market teams should stop whining, referred to his team, at the winter meetings earlier this month as a “fully active death star.”

If you owned the Pirates would you go to battle with a death star or would you take your chances on a nice third-place finish in the NL Central Division and deposit another $35 million in the bank? You can start complaining about the Pirates’ ownership being cheap when players report to spring training in February and keep it up all summer, but you’ll be aiming at the wrong target.

The problem is Major League Baseball. That will become abundantly clear again when Machado and Harper finally decide where they want to sign for more than $300 million in guaranteed money. Don’t be surprised if they end up in Los Angeles or New York. I’m rooting for both to end up with the Yankees. In a sane world, that would get the national media and many in the Western Pa. media to focus on what a joke Major League Baseball is.

Don’t bet on it.

  • This will be my last column for the Observer-Reporter. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.


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