Al Villanueva, Jake Guentzel, O.J. Simpson, And Michael Phelps All In This Week's 'Nobody Asked Me'

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – For the majority reading this, what you’ve heard me discuss 99.9 percent of the time over the last 5 months has been baseball. Occasionally a solid, off-the-rails rant about John Tortorella and/or Peter Laviolette and the odd mention of Le’Veon Bell has snuck in, but for the most part it’s been baseball.

It’s the first sport I fell in love with and I love covering it every day.

But I think about other things.

That’s what this space will be for. Starting today, I’ll be bringing you a once weekly compilation of thoughts – some short, some long, most sports, the odd occasional random– in what I’ll simply call Nobody Asked Me.

Now, if you’d like to ask me something, that’s all well and good: My e-mail address is, and I welcome your questions, comments, and God-knows-what else I may receive now that it’s out there. Simply doing a ‘Mailbag’ column though, is reliant upon really good questions. And no offense to you, the reader/listener/consumer, but sometimes you just don’t have any good ones.That’s not a knock on you. Rather, I look at it this way: In all likelihood you’re coming here for a distraction form whatever mundane details of your existence are boring you into a stupor or otherwise ruining your mood.

Why would I then pile on and ask you to do my job for me, as well?

So if there are enough questions, maybe we can get a Mailbag column going at some point.

Until then, Nobody Asked Me, but…

  • I’d be more concerned about Alejandro Villanueva possibly not getting into Steelers Training Camp on time than Le’Veon Bell. That’s not because Villanueva is suddenly going to start averaging 150 scrimmage yards per game and performing as the most talented all-around offensive player in the NFL, as Bell will. It’s because Bell has shown an ability to get back to game speed fairly quickly in the past, and missing a week or two, or even three, of Training Camp won’t cause any great issue for him. For Villanueva, and more importantly his teammates on the offensive line, any time missed is invaluable. The chemistry and harmony built by an offensive line grows exponentially with the number of reps they get in together. We saw it last year when the line grew into one of the best in the game, starting together as a 5-man unit in 14 of the Steelers’ 19 games. Bell will be fine if he gets a late start. Villanueva, and the rest of the O-line, I’m not totally sure about.
  • All that said, if there’s a place where early work is key, it’s on a defense trusting 4 ½ positions to players with fewer than 15 career starts under their belt. Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargave all impressed last year, and while we’re excited at the flashes Bud Dupree has shown and at what T.J. Watt could bring to the table, in a system that Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler has admitted needs to get drastically better in man coverage, there will be schematic differences that even the most experienced players could have to adjust to.
  • If Matt Cullen ultimately decides his heart is more in being a dad than playing hockey – and who the heck could blame him? – and the Penguins don’t find an outside option that satisfies Jim Rutherford for their 3rd line center role, here’s an idea: Jake Guentzel. A natural centerman, Guentzel is a part of the future of the franchise, and as much fun as it is to watch him with Sidney Crosby and Connor Sheary, forward line combos of Sheary-Crosby-Patric Hornqvist, Scott Wilson-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel (NO, he’s not going anywhere, for God’s sake!), Carl Hagelin-Guentzel-Bryan Rust, and Ryan Reaves-Carter Rowney-Tom Kuhnhackl/Josh Archibald would not be a bad way to start a Stanley Cup defense. Mix in contributions from Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese at some point, and you’ve got an imposing mix of speed and skill. And that’s before you even get to the blueline with an almost perfect mix of offensive courage (Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, dare we include Derrick Pouliot?) and defensive prudence (Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole, & Matt Hunwick). Plug in Olli Maatta and Chad Ruhwedel and you’ve  got a full roster in place before Aug. 1.
  • If you’re legitimately upset that Michael Phelps wasn’t really dropped in the water next to a shark for a race on the Discovery Channel show “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White,” then it’s time you had a reality TV intervention.
  • Our country’s sports culture has a terrible history of turning a blind eye to domestic abuse. Unless there’s videographic evidence, as in the Ray Rice case, we demonize and vilify sports figures for taking a political stand before we consider their propensity for hitting women. It’s part of the reason Colin Kaepernick can’t even find a job selling footballs at a local sporting goods store, let alone throwing them, while James Harrison is celebrated like a conquering hero every time he chains 100 pounds to his weight belt to do dips. The continued celebration of Floyd Mayweather and his upcoming fight against UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor is a textbook example, but never has this hideous propensity for aggrandizing sports figures been on better display than anything involving O.J. Simpson over the past quarter century. Never mind beating his wife, he murdered her. Yet there were cable news stations and some sports talk radio stations breaking into live programming to show his parole hearing last week. And yet some will still try to advocate for him. And we all continue to pay attention.