Monday’s “First Call” has some high expectations for two young Pittsburgh Steelers. We have an update on Marc-Andre Fleury’s decision regarding the Chicago Blackhawks. And a player the Steelers considered signing is going to the Baltimore Ravens instead.
We even have a heartwarming Olympic moment, hurling and Gaelic football.
Not a bad way to start up the month.
Flower moving forward
Despite questions surrounding his willingness to report to the Chicago Blackhawks, former Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has decided to give the Windy City a try.
After a Vezina Trophy-winning season, Fleury was stunned by news of a July 27 trade that sent him from the Vegas Golden Knights to Chicago. Many thought Fleury would refuse to report or attempt to force a trade to another team.
But via Twitter, Fleury announced Sunday that he’s ready to play this season in a Blackhawks uniform.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) August 1, 2021
Fleury has one year remaining on a $7 million contract. He had been part of Vegas’ team for each of the franchise’s first four seasons in the NHL.
Up and coming
ESPN pumped out its annual list of Top 25 NFL prospects. A sort of off-the-radar batch of players to watch in 2021. Here are the criteria for the list. Players must:
• Have been drafted in the third round or later or signed as an undrafted free agent
• Have entered the NFL between 2018 and 2020
• Have fewer than 500 career offensive or defensive snaps (except running backs, who are allowed just 300 offensive snaps)
• Have not signed a contract extension (players who have bounced around the league looking for the right spot, however, still qualify for the list)
• Be 26 years old or younger as of Sept. 1
Two Steelers ranked in the top 10. Outside linebacker Alex Highsmith was fifth and guard Kevin Dotson was sixth.
Of Highsmith, writer Rivers McCown said Football Outsiders gave him “a top-10 ‘explosion index’— its ranking of a player’s athleticism — in the 2020 class.” In regard to Dotson’s 2020 campaign, McCown said, “It was one season — and an abbreviated one at that — but in four starts, Dotson allowed zero sacks and blew zero pass blocks.”
Plenty of other AFC North players were represented. The Baltimore Ravens also had two on the list — defensive lineman Justin Madubuike (3rd) and wide receiver Devin Duvernay (21st). The Cleveland Browns had two nominees as well, defensive tackle Jordan Elliott (7th) and wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones (19th).
The Cincinnati Bengals were also represented by linebacker Logan Wilson (4th).
Houston, we have a … signing?
Before the Steelers signed veteran free agent pass rusher Melvin Ingram, it was reported that the team also had an interest in former Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowler Justin Houston.
Houston, who had 19 sacks over the past two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, instead signed with the Baltimore Ravens over the weekend. ESPN says the contract is worth up to $4 million. Ingram signed for the same amount in Pittsburgh. So it’ll be interesting to see who gets the better value.
As with the Steelers’ loss of Bud Dupree, Baltimore also saw a pass rusher depart in free agency. Matthew Judon went to the New England Patriots for $56 million. They also saw Yannick Ngakoue go to the Las Vegas Raiders for $26 million.
Gold medal support
You had to love the video from the Detroit Lions facility kicking around the internet this weekend.
It featured quarterback David Blough and a group of his teammates in the film room watching his wife, Melissa Gonzales, as she qualified for the 400m hurdle semis at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Best video you’ll see today: Lions QB David Blough watched his wife Melissa Gonzalez at the Olympics
He EXPLODED as she qualified for the 400m hurdle semis
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) July 31, 2021
Gonzalez races for Colombia. She has dual citizenship there and in the United States. She and Blough both attended Carrollton Creekview High School in Texas.
Three for Three
On Friday, we told you that the Pittsburgh hurling team was competing for the Midwest Regional Championship over the weekend in Cheswick. Well, the Pucas won it by beating Cleveland 12-19 (55) to 0-5 (5) in the semifinal. Then they topped Akron 4-24 (36) to 2-9 (15) in the finals.
The Pittsburgh Pucas are Midwest Hurling Champions defeating Akron 4-24 (36) to 2-9 (15). Pittsburgh advances to the USGAA Finals in Boston August 19th-22nd! pic.twitter.com/aS6KGT0uii
— Pittsburgh Hurling (@pghhurling) August 1, 2021
Now the team is moving on to the National Championships in Massachusetts Aug. 19-22.
The Pittsburgh men’s and women’s Gaelic football teams also won their tournaments at Founders Field over the weekend. The men’s club — the Celtics — outlasted Detroit 2-6 (12) in the final match. The women’s squad—the Banshees—took their crown by outscoring Cleveland 1-12 (15) to 1-8 (11).
They will both join the hurling team for nationals outside of Boston as well.