“New Year, New me.”
It’s the phrase everyone utters. But, nobody ever actually commits to it.
Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions and sets goals. In 2020, there are a lot of things that need to change in Pittsburgh sports for the betterment of the teams. Let’s make a list of goals/resolutions for some of our favorite Pittsburgh teams.
- Make the offensive line great again. The bread and butter for the Steelers in the past few seasons had been their offensive line. They were considered a top three offensive line in all of football. Due to injuries and declining performance, the Steelers didn’t boast that same quality. David Decastro had another great season and probably is the Steelers’ offensive MVP. However, Alejandro Villanueva and Ramon Foster had subpar seasons. Maurkice Pouncey did enough to stay relevant. Those guys can’t be great forever. B.J. Finney has been more than respectable in his appearances. Guys like Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor are looking for their chances as well. Beginning to reshape in the NFL Draft might not be far fetched.
- Do what you can to retain Bud Dupree and Javon Hargrave. Prior to this season, Dupree’s status on the team seemed murky. Now, it’s likely they’ll want to retain him. However, making that happen is going to be tough. Dupree had his best season of his career in 2019 and will look to get his fair share of value on the open market. The interest likely will be there from the Steelers. It’s going to be more about whether they can swing it financially. Hargrave is another guy the Steelers drafted and groomed to become an important cog of the front seven. He will also command a solid salary and the Steelers may not have the room to pay both. Having this version of Dupree opposite T.J. Watt is a luxury the Steelers may want to consider keeping for a long time to come.
- Stay entertaining until football season rolls around. I mean, this seriously is the best possible outlook for this team. They haven’t done much to improve or ruin this roster. One figures at least one or two prominent players will be traded before the season starts to get some prospects in return. If the Pirates can enter August with some semblance of a near .500 record in a division that doesn’t jump out as strong as it has in the past, then that is the best case scenario. Without Jameson Taillon missing all of the 2020 season because of Tommy John surgery and no real improvements over the 69-win team from this past season, can they ask for more?
- Sign some potential one year, bounce back candidates to trade at the deadline. If the Pirates truly want to do the right thing this offseason outside of trading pieces like Starling Marte and Josh Bell, maybe they could sign some veterans to one-year “prove it” deals that they can flip for prospects at the deadline. Joe Musgrove, Mitch Keller, Trevor Williams and Chris Archer make up 80 percent of the Pirates’ starting rotation. Outside of that, Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl and Clay Holmes figure to be depth pieces that can start if need be. Why not sign someone like Homer Bailey to eat innings and potentially do well enough to be traded for something at the deadline? The bullpen also needs monumental help after being one of the sore spots on the team. There are always arms available on the market for rather cheap, something the Pirates surely are okay with.
- Get healthy. Short, sweet and to the point. Seriously, name a player on the Penguins roster that hasn’t missed a handful of games due to injury. Let’s knock on wood for Jake Guentzel and John Marino. But seriously, the Penguins have been one of the league’s hottest teams and saw Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang all miss a large chunk of games. They’ve even seen their projected number one goalie’s play fall off significantly. Yet, they sit at 50 points and in second place in the rather tight Metropolitan Division. With a full compliment of teams and the continued sensational play of Tristan Jarry, the Penguins could just make some real noise in the playoffs.
- Somehow, they’ve got to get Matt Murray’s head steered on straight. Matt Murray had been on top of the hockey world winning Stanley Cups in his first two seasons in the NHL. He didn’t know what losing was like in the world’s greatest league of hockey. Unfortunately, his play has been very spotty for the last two and a half years. At times, he looks like the goalie that forced the Penguins’ hand about ridding of long time goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Other times, he looks like your average run-of-the-mill goalie that can’t make the routine and timely saves to keep his team in the game. It doesn’t help his case that Jarry leads the league in many statistical categories currently. With the Penguins hurting and Jarry playing so well, the Penguins don’t have the luxury to trot Murray and get his play back to where it need to be. However, remember what happened the last time the Penguins had two elite goalies on their roster? Imagine of Murray can find his game.
Pitt Panthers Football
- Make that leap into a Top 25 team. The Pittsburgh Panthers will never be a college football powerhouse. They don’t have the resources to do that. Pat Narduzzi is not going to out-recruit the Nick Saban’s and Dabo Swinney’s of the world. However, consistency is something the Panthers can have. Heather Lyke gave Narduzzi security and the program some stability when she gave him a seven-year deal. He hasn’t quite delivered back the results you’d expect from the Panthers. Year in and year out, the Panthers lose a game or two they just shouldn’t. They likely were a home victory over Miami away from being very close to a Top 25 ranking. However, they lost the game in ugly fashion. Things like that kill a season and a team. With a plethora of defensive talent returning and a quarterback entering his third full season, the Panthers should improve. Maybe the consistency follows and Pitt can finally get ranked for more than 30 seconds.
- Find a way to make Kenny Pickett sweat. Pickett delivered one of the best performances in recent Pitt history when he beat Miami just a few years ago. Everyone was left excited for what his potential future could bring following that performance. He hasn’t quite been that star Pitt needed. He either has a huge game or a largely disappointing one usually not leaving much in between. Maybe year three will be Pickett’s year. Truthfully, though, the Panthers need a fall back plan or at least someone to push Pickett so he isn’t just guaranteed the starting job in 2020. Narduzzi is a big fan of Pickett. However, that can’t be the only reason Pickett keeps the job next season. Just like the rest of the team, more consistency is needed. A good team is only as a good as their quarterback.
Pitt Panthers Basketball
- Hopefully Xavier Johnson finds himself… but not enough to bolt for the NBA. Because of a very ugly start to the season, Johnson likely will need to stay at least one more season at Pitt. Before the season, some outlets had Johnson as a preseason pick to leave for the NBA after a strong sophomore season. However, this season has been anything but strong. If the Panthers want to improve upon their three win total in ACC play last season, they’ll need the best from Johnson. With the incoming class of freshmen for next season, the Panthers are positioned to really make a leap towards being a legitimate force in the ACC. They need Johnson to be better and in their program next season. It’s the best option for both parties and that likely will be agreed upon come March.
- Five to seven conference victories should be the goal. Obviously, winning more than that would be even nicer. However, gradual steps are needed for this once proud program to get back to where it wants to be. Playing teams like North Carolina and Louisville, among others, isn’t easy. However, the Panthers are no longer as outmatched when playing the mid-to-bottom tier teams in the ACC. That should result in things being more competitive for the conference stretch of games. They already beat a Florida State team that is now a Top 25 team. Things aren’t all bleak for the Panthers.
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