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First Call: Chiefs encouraged to rest stars vs. Steelers; Ben Roethlisberger rated worst QB in playoffs

Apparently, the postseason means open season on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Because everybody is taking pot shots.

Meanwhile, ex-Steeler Melvin Ingram III is getting praise from his new Kansas City Chiefs teammates. And the Robert Morris women’s hockey team can add a third Olympian to its list of alumni.

All that in Friday’s “First Call.”


Hoping Wright is wrong

It appears that Kansas City talk show callers aren’t the only people claiming that the Chiefs should rest some starters in Sunday’s playoff game against the Steelers.

FS1’s Nick Wright made that same suggestion on “First Thing’s First” Thursday, stating that coach Andy Reid should rest All-Pros Tyreek Hill (WR) and Travis Kelce (TE).

“If I were Andy Reid, I would consider resting Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill this week,” he said. “Make sure they’re primed and ready to go for when the playoffs actually begin.”

Ouch.

But Wright’s suggestion isn’t without logic. The Chiefs’ 36-10 victory over the Steelers in December happened with Kelce on the covid/reserve list and Hill making just two catches as he barely returned from the list shortly before the game.

On Wednesday, Wright said the matchup was “better than a bye” for K.C. because the Chiefs would essentially be able to treat the game as a glorified workout or preseason game.

“Get some cardio in and knock off some rust,” Wright said.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Reid won’t be taking Wright’s advice.

Well, to start the game, anyway. If K.C. is up 23-0 at halftime, as they were the day after Christmas (which I don’t rule out), then Hill, Kelce and a few other starters may find their way to the bench quickly in the second half.


Related:

What if the Steelers have to deal with a fully loaded Chiefs team?
Could JuJu Smith-Schuster be back in action for the Wild Card game?



It doesn’t stop there

It’s not just FS1 that’s painting a bleak outlook for the Steelers. ESPN.com is as well.

Bill Barnwell ranked all 14 quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs. He has Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers dead last.

Yes, behind the likes of Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and New England’s Mac Jones. Those two are both making their NFL postseason starting debuts.

Barnwell’s assessment of Roethlisberger was less than forgiving.

“At this point, Roethlisberger is a shell of his former self, with his team reaching the postseason in spite of — rather than because of — him,” Barnwell said. “He ranked 25th in both QBR and average net yards per attempt and 28th in CPOE (completion percentage over expected). He is clearly the worst starting QB in this postseason.”

Barnwell said that Roethlisberger’s most negative attribute has been the deep ball.

“It should be no surprise given his current style of play, but his QBR on passes 20-plus yards downfield was the worst among qualified quarterbacks,” Barnwell said.

I’ll disagree with the “made it in spite of — rather than because of — him” line. That may be the inference if data like that was applied to an average offense. But the Steelers are a vastly inferior offense with a first-year offensive coordinator and a rudderless system that doesn’t seem to be working.

The team also has an injured and disappointing receiving corps, plus a dreadful offensive line. Despite all that, in many of the Steelers’ fourth-quarter comebacks, Roethlisberger has been the most important player on the offense.

I’m no fan of how Roethlisberger has played for much of this season. But he’s played some of his better football late in close games during the second half of the season. Considering the inexperience of Jones and Hurts and how Roethlisberger modestly outperformed Ryan Tannehill head-to-head in Pittsburgh earlier this year, I wouldn’t put Roethlisberger in the bottom three of this list.


Is this the same guy?

After a hot start to his Steelers career, linebacker Melvin Ingram III quickly became brooding and pouty and then sulked his way into a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since Ingram has been there, though, the Chiefs, including Kelce have done nothing but gush about him.

“I’m glad he’s on our team, I’ll tell you that much. He just has the entire package.” Kelce said via ChiefsWire. “I said it when he came here, any time you add a ‘Juice Man’ or just an ultimate competitor like him, it doesn’t matter what spot you put that guy in, he’s got a great feel of being a competitor and just playing with teammates. That’s why he fit the mold so perfectly when he got here. Both his energy on the field and who he is on the field as a playmaker. It was just the perfect match.”

That “juice” hasn’t translated to much on that stat sheet, however. Ingram has just 15 tackles and one sack. But he did have a big play against the Denver Broncos last week, stripping Melvin Gordon on a hit in the backfield. Linebacker Nick Bolton picked up the loose ball and went 86 yards for a defensive touchdown.

Ingram played 29 snaps against the Steelers in the first meeting between the teams but didn’t register any stats.


Another Olympian

The Robert Morris women’s hockey team can now boast a third Olympian.

Goalie Brianne McLaughlin was on the American roster in 2010 and 2014. Fellow goaltender Meeri Räisänen was on Finland’s team in 2014 and 2018.

Now Aneta Lédlová, who played two years as a Colonial in 2016-18, has been named to the Czech Republic’s squad for the Beijing games Feb. 4-20. She’s already participated at the 2016, 2017 and 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championships for the Czech team.

Anna Fairman (RMU 2020-21) is a candidate for the Chinese team. She has been centralized in Russia with the Chinese National Team and is playing for the KRS Vanke Rays — a Chinese club in Russia’s Zhenskaya Hockey League.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.



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