Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

The Penguins snuck a contract extension for Mike Sullivan into the dead news period, the Friday after July 4, making it seem like they wanted the move to be made quietly.

Sure, Sullivan’s team underachieved last season, getting swept from the first round of the playoffs.

But Sullivan is 174-92-34 as the Penguins’ head coach and ranks third in franchise history in games coached (300) and wins (174). His .637 winning percentage ranks second in team history.

He’s won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Penguins in his four seasons.

That he should have been receiving a contract extension should never have been in question.

Yet there are those who think he shouldn’t have been extended. Such is the job of being a coach of the Penguins or Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Unless you’re winning the championship every year, there are those who feel you aren’t doing a good job.

Those people fail to realize how difficult it actually is to win a championship in any sport. Injuries and pure dumb luck are always involved.

Sure, Sullivan’s team got swept last season. But that doesn’t negate the job he did in his first two seasons with the team.

  • How good of a season is Pirates’ first baseman Josh Bell having?

Consider this: Going into Friday night’s game against the Brewers, Bell had 59 extra base hits. In his 2013 National League MVP season, Andrew McCutchen had 64 extra base hits in 157 games.

Bell has played in 85 games so far.

  • The Steelers remain just $985,000 under the 2019 salary cap.

In previous years, they would have restructured a contract or two by now to clear up some cap space.

After going that route in 2018 with Antonio Brown, thinking he would be a long-term member of the team, it came back to bite them when Brown turned on them.

That move raised Brown’s 2019 salary to $21.2 million, which would be fine if he was on the roster. As it is, it’s a lot of money to be allocated to a player not on the roster – even if it isn’t necessarily money out of pocket.

Because of that, however, the Steelers seem a little more reluctant than in previous years to renegotiate deals to create cap space.

  • Cubs manager Joe Maddon might be the biggest jerk in baseball. That is probably the easiest argument to make in the world.

But Maddon took things to another level this week.

After Thursday’s 11-3 win over the Pirates – the only one by the Cubs in the four-game series – Maddon had this to say about the Bucs.

“I love their players. It’s a good team,” Maddon said after being ejected for losing his mind on the field and going after Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

“It’s a real good team. And they’re good guys. I like the guys on this team but if they keep pitching like that, a lot of these guys are not going to like their pitching staff.”

Mind you, this came after Pirates pitchers hit all of two batters in a game. Did they also pitch up and in a couple of times? Sure.

But that’s the cost of doing business in baseball.

If you’re going to crowd the plate, don’t be surprised when your hitters wear a baseball or two. It’s part of the game.

Maddon understands that as well as anyone. At the very least, he has now put Major League Baseball on alert. When the Cubs and Pirates meet again – and they do in Chicago July 12 through 14 – expect warnings or ejections the first time a pitch gets anywhere near a batter.

Here’s hoping it’s one of the Cubs starters who gets tossed. Maddon would deserve no less for making threats.

  • My money would have been on Hurdle to take Maddon, by the way, if umpire Joe West had let him get to the Pirates dugout.
  • It’s hard to believe but we’re now less than three weeks away from the Steelers reporting to Saint Vincent College for the start of training camp.

Where did the summer go?

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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