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Bengals ride big first half to shocking win over Steelers – Sportsnet.ca

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CINCINNATI — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ December swoon is looking more like a collapse.

The Steelers lost their third straight — getting thumped 27-17 by the last-place Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night — after ripping off 11 straight wins to start the season. They couldn’t generate any offence early, and the opportunistic Bengals took advantage of their mistakes.

Assured of a playoff berth, the Steelers (11-3) could have wrapped up the AFC North with a win but instead turned the ball over three times and allowed Cincinnati to build a 17-0 halftime lead.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We’re not a good football team right now.”

Three weeks ago, the Steelers were on track for the top overall seed in the AFC, but now they could end up a wild card. Pittsburgh has tough matchups remaining against Indianapolis (10-4) and division rival Cleveland (10-4).

Pittsburgh averaged 29.8 points during its first 10 games and Ben Roethlisberger, back from an elbow injury that cost him most of 2019, looked like an MVP candidate. But the Steelers struggled to an uninspired 19-14 win over a COVID-19-decimated Baltimore Ravens team on Dec. 2 and haven’t topped 20 points in a game since.

“High frustration,” said Roethlisberger, who had 19 passing yards in the first half and was picked off by Mackensie Alexander, setting up a touchdown. He finished 20 for 38 for 170 yards.

Cincinnati (3-10-1) snapped a streak of 11 straight losses to Pittsburgh in most unlikely fashion, with Ryan Finley at quarterback. The second-year player, starting in place of injured No. 1 overall draft pick Joe Burrow, completed seven passes for 89 yards, but his touchdown run early in the fourth quarter all but sealed it for the Bengals.

The injury-plagued Bengals had lost five straight, averaging 10 points per game and rarely looking competitive, since Burrow led them to a 31-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 1.

“We gave everybody a game ball today,” said coach Zac Taylor, now 5-24-1 in his two seasons. “Everyone deserves to cherish this night. We needed a big divisional win against a team we’ve struggled against. It was fun to see the players celebrate and have fun.”

UPSET WEEKEND

Pittsburgh was a 14-point favourite, and the Los Angeles Rams were favoured by 17 before losing to the previously winless New York Jets on Sunday. It was the first time since the 1970s that two teams favoured by 14 points or more lost on the same weekend.

PACED BY BERNARD

Veteran running back Giovani Bernard, who’s been starting in place of the injured Joe Mixon, had 25 carries for 83 yards as the Bengals stuck to a ground-heavy approach. He ran for a touchdown and caught a pass from Finley for another score. Both TDs came after the Bengals forced turnovers.

“Obviously it feels good to win, but it amplifies everything because of what’s happened this season,” Bernard said. “To be able to beat a team like that. We know they’re a good team, they know they’re a good team, but when you play those divisional games, the records don’t matter. It’s about who wants it more.”

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

The Steelers rallied within 17-10 in the second half before Finley ran untouched around the left side for a 23-yard touchdown with 11:21 left in the game to push the lead back to 14.

Pittsburgh scored again on a plunge by Benny Snell after getting a pass-interference call in the end zone on fourth-and-4 from the Cincinnati 12.

The Steelers got the ball back with 2:17 left at their own 24 but four incomplete passes by Roethlisberger all but finished it. Austin Seibert kicked a 33-yard field goal with 12 seconds left for the final margin.

MAKING THE TRIP

There were more Terrible Towels than Bengals jerseys in Paul Brown Stadium, where the limited crowd was announced at 10,249.

QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE

Finley was the third starting QB for the Bengals this season. Burrow suffered his season-ending knee injury on Nov. 22 and Brandon Allen started the next three games, all losses. Allen suffered a knee injury in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 13.

WATT’S UP

With a first-quarter sack, Steelers LB T.J. Watt joined Hall of Famers Reggie White and Derrick Thomas as the only players to record at least 13 sacks in three of their first four seasons.

INJURIES

Steelers: FB Derek Watt went to the locker room with a possible concussion in the first quarter and was ruled out. TE Eric Ebron suffered a back injury in the second quarter and did not return.

Bengals: Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati’s top receiver, suffered a concussion in the first quarter.

UP NEXT

Steelers: Host Indianapolis on Sunday.

Bengals: Visit the Houston Texans on Sunday.

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Penguins still in ‘win-now mode’ as search for new GM begins – Sportsnet.ca

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It’s not every day a general manager steps down from his position in the NHL, and certainly not just seven games into a season with a 4-2-1 record.

Jim Rutherford’s decision to resign as GM of the Penguins on Wednesday shocked the hockey world. In his seventh season with the team, and after two Stanley Cup wins, the news was sudden and, given the times, concerning.

CEO David Morehouse made it clear on his media availability, though, that the decision was not health-related and happened fast.

“The discussion was last night,” Morehouse said about how long this was in the works. “I had a discussion with Jim, just Jim and I. Jim had his mind made up.

“There was nothing with this team currently or the coaching staff currently configured that is any different than any of the other teams we’ve had…There was nothing different in the form of dialogue. And I don’t think there was any one thing that led to Jim resigning.”

After the 2013-14 season, Rutherford stepped down from his position as Carolina Hurricanes GM and into a retirement that lasted no more than two months before he joined the Penguins.

He arrived at an interesting time, too. Dan Bylsma was relieved as head coach and the Penguins, still led by a similar core to what you see today, were seemingly at a crossroads. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang — all of their stars were still in their prime, but rather than become a New York Islanders-esque dynasty that won Cup after Cup or was at least right there every season, they had won four playoff rounds in the previous five seasons. The furthest they advanced in that time was to the Eastern Conference Final, where the Boston Bruins rolled over them in four games.

Malkin became no stranger to the off-season trade rumour talk. Whether or not the Penguins should take a step back to retool around Crosby was a debated point.

Rutherford, though, doubled down on his star core and began adding. Patric Hornqvist was his first trade acquisition and mid-way through his first season David Perron was picked up from the Edmonton Oilers for a first-round pick. Rutherford made four more trades around deadline season with an eye on playoff depth, the most notable pickup being Ian Cole.

Rutherford’s first playoff run with the Penguins ended with a single win, but they were about to be fully back.

Phil Kessel was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2015 off-season, and in Pittsburgh, he thrived as a supporting scorer instead of the go-to star. Nick Bonino was next, and mid-way through his second season, Rutherford acquired Carl Hagelin. Suddenly the HBK line (Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel) was in the house. The three finished first, fourth and fifth in team scoring during that 2016 playoff run, and were a key part in the Penguins reclaiming the Stanley Cup.

Then they repeated the next season.

Nuts to the idea of rebuilding a star-heavy team.

As Rutherford departs six-and-a-half years later, the Penguins are interestingly in a similar spot to when he first arrived, though a few years older. They haven’t gotten out of the second round since claiming the 2017 Cup and actually haven’t technically won a game in a playoff round in either of the past two years. They were swept by the Islanders in 2019 and lost in the qualifying round, 3-1, to the Montreal Canadiens in the summer bubble.

Crosby and Letang are 33. Malkin is 34. There isn’t a seemingly endless amount of time left for these players anymore. After next season, Malkin will need a new contract, if he doesn’t test free agency. And if the Penguins are fading from contention again, at this stage, will a move to a new GM spur some sort of re-tool, an adjustment that may result in a step back if it means giving Crosby and Co. a better stretch run?

Don’t count on it.

“We’re not in rebuilding mode,” Morehouse said. “We’re in a win-now mode and we’re going to continue to be in that mode until we’re in a rebuilding mode. We’re looking for someone who can come in and have us continue to work toward winning another Cup.

“The criteria (for a new GM) is the same criteria we’ve had here for the last almost 15 years, is to win the Stanley Cup. We’re looking for someone that’s going to be able to come in, take a very talented team with a very good coaching staff, and take it as far as they can take it.”

Patrik Allvin, who has worked his way up from European scout, to director of European scouting, and to assistant GM with Pittsburgh this season, will carry the interim label and, according to Morehouse, will be one of the candidates considered for the full-time job.

Morehouse did not put a timeline on when the next GM would be hired, but noted he had already taken calls.

With the 2021 Penguins off to a decent start, there are still potential cracks in the foundation. Tristan Jarry has struggled without Matt Murray to share the crease, Malkin is not feeling it yet (three points in seven games) and the offence ranks 22nd in 5-on-5 shots per 60 minutes.

There are the recent playoff shortfalls, the fact the team has made one first-round pick in the past six years. And they already don’t have their own first pick in the 2021 draft.

But there’s also the optimism that comes with having players like Crosby and Malkin on your team, and how Jake Guentzel has developed into a significant producer, or how Bryan Rust has carved out a nice role for himself in the top six.

“We think the team Jim put on the ice is a team that can compete and win,” Morehouse said. “We think our coaching staff is a coaching staff that can get them there.”

Whoever the next GM is will be tasked with the same expectations faced by a Hall of Famer nearly seven years ago, with a younger roster that had more runway. The Penguins rebuild will eventually arrive, but it seems when it does, it won’t be because they chose it.

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Penguins still in 'win-now mode' as search for new GM begins – Sportsnet.ca

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It’s not every day a general manager steps down from his position in the NHL, and certainly not just seven games into a season with a 4-2-1 record.

Jim Rutherford’s decision to resign as GM of the Penguins on Wednesday shocked the hockey world. In his seventh season with the team, and after two Stanley Cup wins, the news was sudden and, given the times, concerning.

CEO David Morehouse made it clear on his media availability, though, that the decision was not health-related and happened fast.

“The discussion was last night,” Morehouse said about how long this was in the works. “I had a discussion with Jim, just Jim and I. Jim had his mind made up.

“There was nothing with this team currently or the coaching staff currently configured that is any different than any of the other teams we’ve had…There was nothing different in the form of dialogue. And I don’t think there was any one thing that led to Jim resigning.”

After the 2013-14 season, Rutherford stepped down from his position as Carolina Hurricanes GM and into a retirement that lasted no more than two months before he joined the Penguins.

He arrived at an interesting time, too. Dan Bylsma was relieved as head coach and the Penguins, still led by a similar core to what you see today, were seemingly at a crossroads. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang — all of their stars were still in their prime, but rather than become a New York Islanders-esque dynasty that won Cup after Cup or was at least right there every season, they had won four playoff rounds in the previous five seasons. The furthest they advanced in that time was to the Eastern Conference Final, where the Boston Bruins rolled over them in four games.

Malkin became no stranger to the off-season trade rumour talk. Whether or not the Penguins should take a step back to retool around Crosby was a debated point.

Rutherford, though, doubled down on his star core and began adding. Patric Hornqvist was his first trade acquisition and mid-way through his first season David Perron was picked up from the Edmonton Oilers for a first-round pick. Rutherford made four more trades around deadline season with an eye on playoff depth, the most notable pickup being Ian Cole.

Rutherford’s first playoff run with the Penguins ended with a single win, but they were about to be fully back.

Phil Kessel was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2015 off-season, and in Pittsburgh, he thrived as a supporting scorer instead of the go-to star. Nick Bonino was next, and mid-way through his second season, Rutherford acquired Carl Hagelin. Suddenly the HBK line (Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel) was in the house. The three finished first, fourth and fifth in team scoring during that 2016 playoff run, and were a key part in the Penguins reclaiming the Stanley Cup.

Then they repeated the next season.

Nuts to the idea of rebuilding a star-heavy team.

As Rutherford departs six-and-a-half years later, the Penguins are interestingly in a similar spot to when he first arrived, though a few years older. They haven’t gotten out of the second round since claiming the 2017 Cup and actually haven’t technically won a game in a playoff round in either of the past two years. They were swept by the Islanders in 2019 and lost in the qualifying round, 3-1, to the Montreal Canadiens in the summer bubble.

Crosby and Letang are 33. Malkin is 34. There isn’t a seemingly endless amount of time left for these players anymore. After next season, Malkin will need a new contract, if he doesn’t test free agency. And if the Penguins are fading from contention again, at this stage, will a move to a new GM spur some sort of re-tool, an adjustment that may result in a step back if it means giving Crosby and Co. a better stretch run?

Don’t count on it.

“We’re not in rebuilding mode,” Morehouse said. “We’re in a win-now mode and we’re going to continue to be in that mode until we’re in a rebuilding mode. We’re looking for someone who can come in and have us continue to work toward winning another Cup.

“The criteria (for a new GM) is the same criteria we’ve had here for the last almost 15 years, is to win the Stanley Cup. We’re looking for someone that’s going to be able to come in, take a very talented team with a very good coaching staff, and take it as far as they can take it.”

Patrik Allvin, who has worked his way up from European scout, to director of European scouting, and to assistant GM with Pittsburgh this season, will carry the interim label and, according to Morehouse, will be one of the candidates considered for the full-time job.

Morehouse did not put a timeline on when the next GM would be hired, but noted he had already taken calls.

With the 2021 Penguins off to a decent start, there are still potential cracks in the foundation. Tristan Jarry has struggled without Matt Murray to share the crease, Malkin is not feeling it yet (three points in seven games) and the offence ranks 22nd in 5-on-5 shots per 60 minutes.

There are the recent playoff shortfalls, the fact the team has made one first-round pick in the past six years. And they already don’t have their own first pick in the 2021 draft.

But there’s also the optimism that comes with having players like Crosby and Malkin on your team, and how Jake Guentzel has developed into a significant producer, or how Bryan Rust has carved out a nice role for himself in the top six.

“We think the team Jim put on the ice is a team that can compete and win,” Morehouse said. “We think our coaching staff is a coaching staff that can get them there.”

Whoever the next GM is will be tasked with the same expectations faced by a Hall of Famer nearly seven years ago, with a younger roster that had more runway. The Penguins rebuild will eventually arrive, but it seems when it does, it won’t be because they chose it.

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Penguins GM Jim Rutherford abruptly resigns for personal reasons – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The Canadian Press

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli signs extension with Hamilton Tiger-Cats

HAMILTON — There was never a doubt in Jeremiah Masoli’s mind whether he’d be returning to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season.The veteran quarterback was slated to become a free agent next month but re-signed with Hamilton on Tuesday.”No doubt about it, that (return to Hamilton) was always how I felt,” Masoli said during a telephone interview. “I never felt like there was any pressure or a rush on anything.”Masoli, 32, started Hamilton’s first six games in 2019 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Backup Dane Evans then guided the Ticats to the Grey Cup game, which the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won 33-12.The CFL didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league is eyeing a return this year with the ’21 Grey Cup slated to be held in Hamilton.”I know myself and my colleagues are definitely feeling that itch to get going and the pain of not being able to be together in the locker room and all the things that go with it,” Masoli said. “Our fans have stuck with us this whole time . . . and to host (Grey Cup) is obviously something special.”Masoli will return for his eighth season in Hamilton. The San Francisco native was the East Division’s outstanding player in 2018 when he threw for 5,209 yards, 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions but will report to camp eager for the chance to battle for the No. 1 job.”I think I can speak for most of us. we just want to play,” he said. “I just want to get on the field and have an opportunity to play, an opportunity to compete.”The University of Mississippi product has suited up in 102 career CFL games with 42 starts over seven seasons, all with the Tiger-Cats (2013-19), and sits fourth in franchise history in career completions (1,015), fifth in passing yards (13,110), sixth in pass attempts (1,538), and is tied for sixth in passing touchdowns (70).“It’s exciting to have Jeremiah back for the 2021 season. He is an established natural leader that has a strong work ethic, as demonstrated by the recovery from his knee injury,” Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer said in a statement.STAMPS OL BERGMAN ANNOUNCES RETIREMENTCALGARY — Offensive lineman Shane Bergman announced his retirement Wednesday after a seven-season CFL career with the Calgary Stampeders.Bergman appeared in 93 career regular-season games and 10 playoff games and helped the Stampeders win two Grey Cups.Calgary selected the six-foot-seven native of Teeterville, Ont., in the sixth round of the 2013 CFL draft.After appearing in a single game during his rookie season in 2013, he made 102 starts at left guard over the final six seasons of his career.Bergman earned West Division and CFL all-star honours in 2019, his final season.”The time has come to close this exciting chapter of my life,” Bergman said in a release. “I have been lucky enough make a career playing a sport I love for the last seven years, but all good things must come to an end.”While I did plan to return for the 2020 season, COVID had other plans. However, I have been able to spend the last year at home with my family, watch my son take his first steps, say his first words and so many other milestones.”The Stampeders also announced the signing of defensive lineman Tavaris Barnes.Barnes has 12 games of NFL experience with the New Orleans Saints, and in 2020 he was a teammate of Stampeders linebacker Jameer Thurman with the XFL’s D.C. Defenders.ARGOS, BOMBERS SWING DEALThe Toronto Argonauts have acquired Canadian offensive lineman Cody Speller in a trade with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.The McMaster University product, who can become a free agent next month, and the Bombers’ sixth-round pick (52nd) overall in 2021 go to Toronto for the Argos’ sixth-round pick (48th overall) this year.Speller, 26, played 13 regular-season games for the Bombers in 2019, starting eight at left guard and all three playoff games at centre. LIONS SIGN THREEThe B.C. Lions have re-signed international receiver Benjamin Plu and added Canadian receivers Jacob Scarfone and Cordell Hastings.Plu, a native of France, played four games for B.C. in 2019 after being selected seventh overall in the inaugural European draft.Scarfone, a University of Guelph product, joins the Lions after playing in 11 games over the past two seasons with Ottawa.Hastings was selected in the fourth round (43rd overall) of last year’s CFL draft out of Acadia University. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press

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