The Pittsburgh Sports Power Rankings are back for a second week here at The Incline. Soon, this column will have lasted longer on the Pittsburgh sports scene than such local legends as Raul Mondesi, Kent Graham and Jarome Iginla. What an honor. So without additional adieu, let’s take a look at this week’s worst to first.
10. Power Rankings
The NHL released its rankings of the Top 100 players in league history over All-Star weekend and Evgeni Malkin was somehow not on the list. The Penguins center is one of only three players in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup, the Hart Trophy, Calder Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. He also won a Conn Smythe Trophy and is among just a handful of humans who have ever lived that are capable of doing this:
Those on the NHL 100 included the likes of Joe Nieuwendyk and Jonathan Toews and many other players who are not anywhere near Evgeni Malkin. It was an absurd oversight that caused much consternation over who was ranked where, both in Pittsburgh and throughout the hockey world. But that’s the point of rankings lists. The idea isn’t to honor anyone. It is to get people talking and debating and to get those sweet clickz — and we all walked right into their trap. Crap.
BUT MALKIN STILL SHOULD HAVE BEEN IN THERE, DAMMIT!
(Point of order: All rankings lists but this one are clickbait. This is The Only Good and True Power Ranking on the Internet. Or at least in Pittsburgh. Never forget.)
9. Pat Toomey
In the days since Donald Trump’s immigration executive order, Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey has been mostly silent. In fact, he’s tweeted just six times since, only once mentioning the refugee ban, and one of those tweets was a picture of him giving Penn Pilsner to Elizabeth Warren because the Steelers lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship.
The next time the Steelers lose to the Patriots in the AFC title game, let’s give away Pat Toomey instead.
8. Joey Porter
January was a tough month for Porter. He got arrested on the South Side, saw the Steeler defense he helps coach get shredded in New England, and then was accused of being a bad football parent in a column in the Indiana Gazette.
Porter was a lot more fun when it was only his dogs that caused problems for local mini horses.
The boil water advisory that hit parts of the city this week was due to a feared outbreak of giardia. According to the CDC, giardia is a “microscopic parasite that causes [diarrhea] and is found in … water that has been contaminated with feces (poop).” First of all, why does the CDC use the term “poop”? Second: what does this have to do with sports?
I only have an answer to the second question, and it is this: On Wednesday night, the Duquesne men had a home basketball game and fans were allowed to bring one unopened bottle of water to the A.J. Palumbo Center. The Dukes’ opponent in the game was St. Bonaventure, a school named for the patron saint of — and I’m not making this up — bowel disorders. So feel free to drink the water, Pittsburgh. Everything will be fine now because St. Bonaventure was in town.
6. Moral victories
Duquesne lost to St. Bonaventure, giving the Dukes six in a row. The Pitt men have done one better, losing seven straight. (What a rivalry!) And while not so long ago Pitt was close to unbeatable at home and a consistent Top 25 team, the program has quickly slipped into moral victory territory. Tuesday night’s two-point loss at No. 12 North Carolina actually felt pretty encouraging for a team that had lost by 55 a week earlier at home to Louisville. Maybe the Panthers have bottomed out and are on the way back. And even if not, spring will be here soon, right?
5. Trevor Williams
Pitchers and catchers report to Pirates training camp in just 11 days, and one pitcher with a shot to crack the still-very-uncomplete rotation is Trevor Williams. The 24-year old righty won his first major league game for the Pirates last season after going 9-6 with a 2.53 ERA in 20 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. But even if Williams doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, you should still consider following him on Twitter.
If Williams turns out to be half as good at pitching as he is at Twitter, pencil him in as the Pirates’ starter for the wildcard game.
4. Le’Veon Bell
The Steelers running back recorded a dis track about Skip Bayless this week that got so much pick up the FS1 personality was forced to respond on his poorly-rated show “Undefeated.” And while it was funny to hear Bell mock the desperate provocateur, it felt a little bit like getting upset over Malkin’s NHL 100 snub. The purpose of trolls like Bayless is to get a reaction. It’s probably best to just ignore them and let them yell into silence. Unless Bell has a really good follow up track, in which case I’d definitely like to hear it.
3. Pitt football recruiting
Pat Narduzzi and company pulled in good class of players on National Letter of Intent Day, highlighted by Steel Valley safety Paris Ford and several over four-star prospects. ESPN ranked the class 31st overall and pundits across the country lauded the depth of the 25-man crop. But since it’s Pitt football, the real gems might come from the lesser-known names that signed. James Conner, for example, was a three-star recruit in high school that got offered by schools like Bowling Green and Youngstown State. Aaron Donald was also a three-star with interest from Rutgers, Akron and Toledo.
No pressure, though, Pitt recruits. All of you only have the expectation to become superstars.
2. Sidney Crosby
In what is a rare All-Star weekend appearance for the best hockey player in the world, Crosby dominated in Los Angeles, winning the shooting accuracy challenge in the skills competition and then taking the 3-on-3 tournament Sunday with his Metropolitan Division teammates.
The only thing that keeps him out of the top spot this week is the sin of fraternizing with the enemy.
1. Central Catholic
The average high school is proud if it sends one football player off to the Division I level every few years. Then there is Central Catholic. Here is what National Signing day looks like there.
That looks like the Last Supper for some young men who likely eat seconds and thirds of supper every night. Congrats on all the signings (and scholarships).