Streaking Knicks cite early faith for winning ways

1:59 AM ET

DALLAS — Tom Thibodeau, the notoriously gruff first-year New York Knicks head coach, cracked a hint of a grin when asked about his demeanor following a 117-109 win Friday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

It was New York’s fifth consecutive victory, marking the franchise’s longest winning streak in seven years. The Knicks, who had a losing record and failed to make the playoffs in the previous seven seasons, are sixth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 30-27 record.

“Am I happy? You know I’m never happy,” Thibodeau said. “We try not to get wrapped up in all of that stuff. I think you don’t want to get lost, and that’s the most important thing to understand what goes into winning. I think if we’re taking care of all the little things, the big things take care of themselves.

“I think we have a belief that we can win, and that’s

Is Tyson Campbell a mid-round pick with tremendous upside the Steelers should target?


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Arkansas State at Georgia
Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For teams who are looking for a cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft, Tyson Campbell might be a prospect to keep an eye on.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a cornerback in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their defensive back depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

Not really conducive to getting a top tier prospect, but after players like Patrick Surtain, there are a lot of talented defensive backs who could be available to the Steelers at pick No. 24, or after.

There is the chance the Steelers choose to take a cornerback to bolster their depth at the position in 2021, and if Georgie cornerback Tyson Campbell is available when the Steelers pick in the middle rounds, is he an option for the team? Or would Campbell be just another mid-round cornerback selection we’ve all seen so many times?

I did some digging on Campbell, and put together a brief synopsis of the kind of player he is, and will be when becoming a professional. Below you’ll see draft profile breakdowns, film room breakdowns and game film for you to enjoy.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Campbell. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Campbell in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.


Draft Profiles

NFL.com

Overview

Outside cornerback with undeniable physical traits and athletic tools. Smooth hips and agile feet guide him around the field, but he doesn’t always trust his footwork and overall technique, which leads to occasional bouts with imbalance in coverage. Length and quick-twitch agility could lead to robust improvement and success in man coverage. Poise and confidence in matching routes and playing deep throws are the first order of business and those areas might take a couple of seasons to fine-tune. Campbell’s traits outweigh the lack of polish and could lead to a solid NFL career.

Strengths

  • Enticing combination of height, length and speed.
  • Athletic gifts for natural man cover potential.
  • Impressive short-area twitch and agility shadowing route.
  • Improved press posture/balance in the last two seasons.
  • Easy hips for easy flips.
  • Speed and footwork for optimal route phasing.
  • Flexibility provides sudden sink and stop, mirroring comebacks.
  • Rangy to challenge high-low concepts from space.
  • Swivels for smooth directional change in coverage.
  • Ability to recover, close and make plays on the ball.
  • High school sprint champ in Florida.

Weaknesses

  • Must continue to get comfortable trusting feet.
  • Occasional battles with imbalance through lateral transitions.
  • Leaning from trail position diminishes stickiness to route.
  • Can improve downfield positioning to play the ball.
  • Inconsistent whipping head around to locate throws.
  • Coasts when he doesn’t feel threatened.
  • Needs to adjust zone coverage rather than guard grass.
  • Contain duties in run support are erratic.
  • Slow getting off receiver blocks.

Pro Football Network

  • Position: Cornerback
  • School: Georgia
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 185 pounds

Positives: Nice-sized, athletic cornerback who showed terrific development the past two seasons. Engages receivers at the line of scrimmage, quickly flips his hips in transition, and mixes it up with opponents throughout the route. Stays with assignments, sticks with receivers downfield, and stays on their hip out of breaks.

Battles throughout the play, displays a sense of timing on pass defenses, and has a burst to the ball out of his plant. Jars receivers at the point of attack, shaking the ball free. Fires up the field, works getting off blocks, and willingly defends the run.

Negatives: Slow getting his head back around and does a bit of face guarding. May struggle in bump-and-run coverage early in his career. Had a combined 1 interception and 11 pass breakups the past three seasons.

Analysis: Campbell possesses the size and underlying ball skills to start at the next level, but needs to continue to develop his game. He’s athletic and physical with the ability to line up in zone or man-off coverage. Campbell’s potential is enticing, and if properly coached, he could easily develop into a No. 2 corner on Sundays.

The Draft Network

Tyson Campbell aligns at cornerback for the Bulldogs defense. He plays the position with very good athleticism overall, as evidenced by his agility and short-area quickness. He has the NFL body type and frame teams covet for the position. When combined with his movement skills and length, it is easy to see why this player would be intriguing to NFL scouts. He has very good man coverage ability, but struggles with situational awareness. He remained healthy in 2020, which worked to answer durability concerns. However, when on the field, he has struggled to consistently make plays in the passing game.

Ideal Role: Starting outside (only) corner in sub-packages.

Scheme Fit: A team that implores press coverage and sprinkles in some zone. Would probably make more plays playing off and in a predominantly zone scheme.

Walter Football

Strengths:

  • Excellent height
  • Superb length
  • Good weight, strength
  • Strength to jam and reroute
  • Straight-line speed
  • Size to match up against big receivers
  • Quality instincts
  • Plays the ball well in air
  • Good feel in coverage
  • Skilled to slap passes away
  • Willing tackler
  • Physical
  • Does a good job of preventing separation
  • Good fit as a bump-and-run corner
  • Maintains correct positioning downfield
  • Contributed on special teams
  • Athletic upside

Weaknesses:

  • Not a serious interception threat
  • Outside corner only
  • Lacks twitch
  • Could have some change-of-directions problems
  • Not a good fit for off-man coverage

Player Comparison: Xavier Rhodes. Campbell reminds me of a thinner Rhodes. Rhodes (6-1, 218) is a big corner who can play press man and defend big receivers. Campbell could do that as well in the NFL. In the 2013 NFL Draft, Rhodes was a late first-round pick, and Campbell could be a late first-rounder in the 2021 NFL Draft.I think Campbell could be a pro corner similar to Rhodes after he gains some weight in a pro strength and conditioning program.


Breakdowns / Highlights


Game Film


Other Breakdowns

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RB

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Butler calls sluggish Heat 'soft,' urges 'bully ball'

11:50 AM ET

ESPN News Services

MIAMI — Jimmy Butler labeled the reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat as “soft” after Friday night’s 119-111 loss at Minnesota, Miami’s third straight defeat and one that dropped the Heat to 28-28 with 16 games left in the regular season.

It was Miami’s 10th loss in its past 16 games.

“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said. “It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad, because that’s what this game does for you. Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good, this is what happens.

“I’m glad it happened to us,” he added. “And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”

Minnesota entered Friday

Podcast: The brilliance of bringing back Vince Williams



There is plenty to discuss on the latest episode of the popular podcast Steelers Six Pack w/ Tony.

Vince Williams is returning to the Steelers one month after being cut for salary cap purposes. James Conner is in Arizona looking for a fresh start. Also, plenty of draft talk and your questions and comments on this episode of Steelers Friday Night Six Pack! Join Tony Defeo on those those subjects, engaging in draft talk and much, much more.

Check out the rundown of the show below, and be sure to comment what you think in the comment section.

  • Steelers News and Notes
  • Steelers Q&A
  • and MUCH MORE!

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out the YouTube clip here, and be sure to subscribe to our channel by clicking HERE:

If you missed the live show, be sure to check out all episodes on the following platforms:

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If you’re old-school and just want the audio, you can listen to it in the player below.

Part 1:


Part 2:

Celtics sign former No. 2 overall pick Parker

10:20 PM ET

Tim BontempsESPN

The Boston Celtics have signed former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker, the team announced Friday.

At just 26 years old, Parker has played only a combined 41 games over the past two seasons — including only three this season for the Sacramento Kings before getting waived last month. He has also played for four teams — the Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls — over the past three seasons.

The Duke University product has averaged 14.8 points and shot almost 50% from the field for his career, but he has struggled to live up to his potential after suffering a pair of ACL tears in his right knee early in his career, including one just a couple of months into his rookie season in 2014.

Whenever Parker is able to officially clear the NBA’s health and safety protocols and join the team, he is likely to

Black n’ Gold Best: The Steelers Top 10 Round 5 Draft Picks since 1969


Steelers Mike Webster
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft on the horizon, BTSC takes a look at the best of the Steelers’ No. 5 picks since 1969.

The NFL Draft is coming up and the Steelers will, once again, rely building heavily through the draft instead of free agency. There are some rounds that the Steelers excel in. Of course, the first round the Steelers have brought in a plethora of Hall of Famers like Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Rod Woodson, Alan Faneca and Troy Polamalu. Teams are expected to find their best talent at the top of the draft. But the other rounds are where it becomes tougher. BTSC will go back to 1969 (when the Chuck Noll era began) and rank the best Round 5 picks in team lore. Rankings were aided somewhat by the Career Average Value stat from Pro Football Reference. The fifth-round is infamous due to the fact that the Steelers drafted two prominent future 49ers, Brent Jones and Dwaine Board, and did not allow themselves to reap the benefits of those selections.


Other Notable No. Fives: John Staggers (1970), Cliff Stoudt (1977), Dwaine Board (1979), Greg Garrity (1983), Brent Jones (1986), Darin Jordan (1988), Myron Bell (1994), Jerame Tuman (1999), Tee Martin (2000- a round ahead of Tom Brady), Chukky Okobi (2001), Verron Haynes (2002), Brian St. Pierre (2003), Dennis Dixon (2008), Jesse James (2015), Marcus Allen (2018), Jaylen Samuels (2018)


10. Lee Flowers – Georgia Tech (1995 – 151st overall)

Lee Flowers

A Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket, Lethon Flowers was a big-league hitter and an all-league talker for the Steelers from 1995 to 2002. Lee never met a microphone he didn’t like. His ‘Paper Champion” label of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in response to Warren Sapp and Co. disrupting their warmups in 2001 was his most memorable mic drop. A special teams demon early on in his eight-year career, Flowers moved full-time to strong safety in 1998 and had four picks, 432 tackles and 12 sacks. Lee appeared in three AFC title bouts and Super Bowl XXX for the Men of Steel.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Flowers in 1995: 1) Mark Bruener – Washington, 2) Kordell Stewart – Colorado, 3) Brendan Stai – Nebraska, 4) Oliver Gibson – Notre Dame, 4) Donta Jones – Nebraska

Player drafted one spot ahead of Flowers in 1995: Cedric Davis – Arizona Cardinals (Tennessee State)

Player drafted one spot behind Flowers in 1995: Rich Owens – Washington Redskins (Lehigh)


9. Steve Courson – University of South Carolina (1977 – 125th overall)

Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Steve Courson came to the Steelers in Round 5 of the 1977 NFL Draft out of South Carolina. He played in Super Bowl XIII and XIV and was a starter in 1981 and 1982. After six seasons in Pittsburgh, the Gettysburg HS star played two more years in Tampa after a trade. As a Gamecock, Courson started using steroids and his weight went from 225 to 260 in 45 days. In the pros, Steve could bench press 605 pounds and became ashamed that he wasn’t achieving on his own. The drugs also caused him to need heart surgery and other problems. The offensive lineman became one of the first players to speak out about the drug in Sports Illustrated in 1985. Conducting 100 speeches a year to high school students, Courson allegedly fell out of favor with the league because of his outspokenness of the problem. The former Steeler died at age 50 when a tree he was cutting changed directions from the wind and struck Courson as he was attempting to save his labrador.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Courson in 1977: 1) Robin Cole – New Mexico, 2) Sidney Thornton – Northwestern State (LA), 3) Tom Beasley – Virginia Tech, 3) Jim Smith – Michigan, 4) Ted Petersen – Eastern Illinois, 4) Laverne Smith – Kansas, 4) Dan Audick – Hawaii, 5) Cliff Stoudt – Youngstown State

Player drafted one spot ahead of Courson in 1977: Clarence Williams – San Diego Chargers (South Carolina)

Player drafted one spot behind Courson in 1977: Lester Hayes – Oakland Raiders (Texas A&M)


8. Steve Furness – University of Rhode Island (1972 – 113th overall)

Steelers Steve Furness
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The replacement for Ernie Homes on the Steel Curtain defense, Furness was a very effective pass rusher for the Steelers. Accumulating 32 sacks in his time in Pittsburgh and a career high 8 12 in 1977, Furness ranks 13th all-time on the Steelers’ sack list. The alum of the Rhode Island Rams ended his career as a Detroit Lion for one season in 1981. Furness returned to the Steelers in 1992/1993 as a defensive line coach. Sadly, the four-time Super Bowl Champ passed of a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 49.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Furness in 1972: 1) Franco Harris – Penn State, 2) Gordon Gravelle – BYU, 3) John McMakin – Clemson, 4) Lorenzo Brinkley – Missouri, 4) Ed Bradley – Wake Forest

Player drafted one spot ahead of Furness in 1972: Carl Johnson – New Orleans Saints (Nebraska)

Player drafted one spot behind Furness in 1972: Dick Harris – New York Jets (South Carolina)


7. William Gay – University of Louisville (2007- 170th overall)

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

“Big Play” Willie Gay knew how to justify his nickname with the Steelers. The fifth round pick out of Louisville in 1997, Mike Tomlin’s first draft, spent 10 of his 11 seasons as a Steeler. Of his 11 career interceptions in black-and-gold, five were of the pick-six variety. That is a team record Gay shares with Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.

Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Gay in 2007: 1) Lawrence Timmons – Florida State, 2) LaMarr Woodley – Michigan 3) Matt Spaeth – Minnesota, 4) Daniel Sepulveda – Baylor. 4) Ryan McBean – Oklahoma, 5) Cameron Stephenson – Rutgers

Player drafted one spot ahead of Gay in 2007: Roy Hall – Indianapolis Colts (Ohio STate)

Player drafted one spot behind Gay in 2007: Clint Oldenburg – New Orleans Saints (Colorado State)


6. Clark Haggans – Colorado State University (2000 – 128th overall)

Super Bowl XL
Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images

Clark Haggans is most certainly an underrated player in Steelers history. But a team can’t win without pieces of the puzzle and the all-time sack leader in Colorado State history was a major one in the 2000s. After drafting Joey Porter in the third round of the 1999 draft, the Steelers went back to the Ram well in the fifth round of the 2000 draft and selected his college teammate. Porter helped acclimate Haggans to life in Pittsburgh and welcomed him to a tight-knit linebacking corps. Ultimately spending 13 years in the professional ranks, Clark had his most success in his eight Steelers seasons ranking 12th on the all-time team list with 32.5 sacks. An unrestricted free agent after 2007, Haggans joined the Arizona Cardinals, but he went on IR in December and was not on the field for the Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh. However, he was on the field three years earlier and earned a ring in the Super Bowl XL win over Seattle.

Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Haggans in 2000: 1) Plaxico Burress Michigan State, 2) Marvel Smith – Arizona State, 3) Kendrick Clancy – Mississippi, 3) Hank Poteat – Pittsburgh, 4) Danny Farmer – UCLA

Player drafted one spot ahead of Haggans in 2000: Mao Tosi – Arizona Cardinals (Idaho)

Player drafted one spot behind Haggans in 2000: Matt Johnson – Indianapolis Colts (BYU)


5. Barry Foster – Arkansas (1990 – 128th overall)

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

The talented ball-carrier from Arkansas served five enigmatic seasons for the Steelers after being drafted in 1990. Foster enjoyed the finest single-season ever in club history in 1992, rushing for a team mark of 1,690 yards and earning the team’s MVP honor. Barry ran and received for nearly 5,000 yards and scored 28 times in Pittsburgh and ranks as the eighth all-time leading rusher in team history on the ground with 3,943. The emergence of Bam Morris plus some nagging injuries hastened his departure in 1995. Foster joined Carolina and Cincinnati in 1995, but he never played a game for either club.

Steelers Players Drafted ahead of Foster in 1990: 1) Eric Green – Liberty, 2) Kenny Davidson – LSU, 3) Neil O’Donnell – Maryland, 3) Craig Veasey – Houston, 4) Chris Calloway – Michigan

Player drafted one spot ahead of Foster in 1990: Ken Hackemack – Kansas City Chiefs (Texas)

Player drafted one spot behind Foster in 1990: Rob Burnett – Cleveland Browns (Syracuse)


4. Craig Wolfley – Syracuse University (1980 – 138th overall)

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Craig Wolfley is a well-known familiar face and voice for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but ”Wolf” played ten years in Pittsburgh mostly at left guard. Arriving after the Super Bowl years of the 1970s as a fifth-rounder out of Syracuse, Craig was a key factor on a team that went to the playoffs four times during the 1980s. In 1981, Wolfley placed fifth in the World’s Strongest Man competition for the United States. He has also competed in sumo wrestling, martial arts, boxing, and weightlifting as well. A member of Syracuse University’s All-Century Team, Wolf is currently a sideline reporter for Steelers broadcasts.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Wolfley in 1980: 1) Mark Malone – Arizona State, 2) Bob Kohrs – Arizona State, 2) John Goodman – Oklahoma, 3) Ray Sydnor – Wisconsin, 4) Bill Hurley – Syracuse

Player drafted one spot ahead of Wolfley in 1980: Kenny Johnson – Atlanta Falcons (Mississippi State)

Player drafted one spot behind Wolfley in 1980: Herb Williams – San Francisco 49ers (Southern)


3. Hardy Nickerson – University of California (1987 – 122nd overall)

Hardy Nickerson

Hardy Nickerson spent six productive years in Pittsburgh before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During his Steeltown days, Nickerson recorded 9.5 quarterback sacks, more than he did as a Buc. After leaving the Steelers, Nickerson was a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro in Tampa. He is also a member of the NFL’s All-90s team. Drafted in the great 1987 draft alongside Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, Merrill Hoge, Thomas Everett, Delton Hall and Tim Johnson… Nickerson didn’t stay too long in Pittsburgh, but made his mark before leaving via free agency in 1993.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Nickerson in 1987: 1) Rod Woodson – Purdue, 2) Delton Hall – Clemson, 3) Charles Lockett – Long Beach State, 4) Thomas Everett – Baylor University

Player drafted one spot ahead of Nickerson in 1987: David Alexander – Philadelphia Eagles (Tulsa)

Player drafted one spot behind Nickerson in 1987: Milton Mack – New Orleans Saints (Alcorn State)


2. Larry Brown – University of Kansas (1971 – 106th overall)

Steelers Larry Brown
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

After being drafted out of Kansas in 1971 as a part of a loaded Pittsburgh class two picks after Dwight White, Larry Brown started his career with the Steelers wearing No. 87 as a versatile tight end. He caught a touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw in Super Bowl IX. In 1977, Brown was approached by Chuck Noll to switch positions to tackle and his number to No. 79. The position change was only to be temporary due to a knee injury Brown suffered that year limiting his cutting ability. But for eight more seasons, Brown remained there and was a more than solid presence on the line, earning a Pro Bowl nod late in his career in 1982. Brown is one of 22 players to play in all four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He spent 14 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steelers Players drafted ahead of Brown in 1971: 1) Frank Lewis – Grambling, 2) Jack Ham – Penn State, 3) Steve Davis – Delaware State, 4) Gerry Mullins – USC, 4) Dwight White – East Texas State

Player drafted one spot ahead of Brown in 1971: Tim Kelly – Boston Patriots (Notre Dame)

Player drafted one spot behind Brown in 1971: Donnie Green – Buffalo Bills (Purdue)


1. Mike Webster – University of Wisconsin (1974 – 125th overall)

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Webster was the iron man of the Steelers for so many years. Playing for 15 years in the black-and-gold, Mike was the longest-tenured Steeler for ages until Ben Roethlisberger recently surpassed his record. A member of the legendary, 1974 class, Webster anchored the line that protected Steelers passers and ball-carriers through four Super Bowl titles. “Iron Mike” was named All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl nine times. He achieved the rare feat of being named to The NFL All-Decade team for both the 70s and the 80s. Along with being enshrined in Canton, both the league and the franchise named him to their 75th Anniversary All-Time teams. Webby had a cameo appearance in Terry Bradshaw’s HOF speech when No. 12 bellowed out, “What I wouldn’t do to put my hands under Mike Webster’s butt just one more time.” Unfortunately, Webster was also the first NFL player diagnosed with CTE, and Steelers Nation mourned his passing in 2002 at age 50.

Steelers Player Drafted ahead of Webster in 1974: 1) Lynn Swann – USC, 2) Jack Lambert – Kent State, 4) John Stallworth – Alabama A&M, 4) Jimmy Allen – UCLA

Player drafted one spot ahead of Webster in 1974: Charles Battle – New England Patriots (Grambling)

Player drafted one spot behind Webster in 1974: John Kelsey – Dallas Cowboys (Missouri)


Sources: MRI clean, but Mitchell to miss games

9:55 AM ET

An MRI on the right ankle sprain of Donovan Mitchell revealed no structural damage, but the Utah Jazz guard is expected to miss several games before he is cleared to return, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Mitchell suffered the injury during the third quarter of Friday’s 119-111 win over the Pacers when he jumped to try to deflect a long outlet pass and came down awkwardly with his foot underneath Indiana guard Edmond Sumner. Mitchell immediately grabbed his lower leg in pain and needed help getting to the locker room, with teammate Royce O’Neale and a trainer supporting him.

Sources told Wojnarowski on Friday that Mitchell has a low ankle sprain and that X-rays were negative.

“Obviously we hope that it’s nothing serious,” coach Quin Snyder said after Friday’s game, “but they’re in the process of doing everything they can do to assess that.”

Mitchell has been on an offensive tear in

Alex Highsmith’s 2020 season impacted the discussion of the Steelers 2021 first-round draft pick


NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Some not in tune with the Steelers instantly look at replacing Bud Dupree as a top draft need in 2021.

It’s time to revisit some things that I’ve discussed in the past and apply them to situations going on in the present when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

First, I have often said to beware of some of the national media who aren’t really in tune with what’s going on with the Steelers. While it’s improved as the 2021 NFL draft approaches, there were a good number of mock drafts selecting an edge rusher to the Steelers in the first round. While this is not out of the question, their explanation is what was truly troubling. Not to quote any particular mock draft exactly, the basic gist was the Steelers needed a replacement for the loss of Bud Dupree. What they fail to realize is the Steelers already had a plan which was implemented a year ago.

The other point I want to revisit is how I felt the Steelers had made an excellent choice in selecting Alex Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft. While I was unsure of Highsmith before the draft due to him coming out of a smaller program, the fact that Steelers loved him made me love him even more.

But what made the selection such a great idea was the uncertainty of the future of Bud Dupree in Pittsburgh. With Dupree going into a season of playing on the franchise tag, and even though the Steelers had said numerous times that hoped to keep Dupree long term, it was wise to prepare for what ended up being a departure for the 2021 season.

By drafting Alex Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft, the Steelers had a player to come in as the rotational outside linebacker, a role filled the previous year by Anthony Chickillo. By having that opportunity, the Steelers were able to get a great gauge on what they had in Highsmith. If the pick worked out great, they did not have to address edge rusher as high in the 2021 draft. If it did not, then the Steelers knew the position would be a high priority the following season.

Not only did Highsmith perform well in the reserve role, he ended up having to start the final five games of the season for an injured Bud Dupree. While this was not the situation the Steelers were hoping for, it did give them an opportunity to assess Highsmith in his rookie season even better.

With Alex Highsmith performing more than adequately in the Steelers defense, despite his rookie status, it has changed the narrative of drafting an edge rusher for 2021. There is no reason to believe that Highsmith won’t perform as well in 2021 as players usually, but not always, see an increase in production in their second season.

As for the draft ahead, it’s not like edge rusher has completely fallen out of consideration for the Steelers. What the Steelers ultimately need at the position for this season is a 2020 Alex Highsmith. If Highsmith is moved into the Dupree role, then the Steelers need someone to fill that role Highsmith held last season.

Had the Steelers not been sure Alex Highsmith was ready to be the starter out outside linebacker, the need to draft an edge rusher would have dominated the Steelers first-round draft pick discussion. If Highsmith was merely nothing more than the rotational reserve player, the Steelers would need to find someone who could be ready to be a starter as soon as possible. In order for that to work out, it likely would have needed to be a first-round draft pick.

With the outlook being Highsmith as the starter, the Steelers can now draft the outside linebacker position at any point in the 2021 NFL draft. If the right player is there in the first round and it’s too much value to pass up, the Steelers could pull the trigger. There is a big difference between “could” and “have to.” Also, if there’s an under-the-radar player they feel they can get later on, it would set up perfectly.

But had Highsmith not performed well in 2020, the Steelers could have been put in a situation to be reaching for whatever edge rusher could be available at the 24th pick. Thanks to Alex Highsmith, the Steelers have a much better situation of being able to draft the best player available with their first draft selection.

Our NBA experts predict how the crowded East standings will shake out

Apr 13, 2021

NBA Insiders

The Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks have all separated themselves from the pack in the Eastern Conference. The rest of the standings? Well, that picture is much less clear.

With six teams — the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers — separated by just three games, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the bottom half of the East will shake out with a little more than a month remaining in the regular season.

For teams like the Heat and Celtics, who met in last season’s conference finals and entered 2020-21 with championship aspirations, avoiding the play-in round is a top priority.

Which team should be considered the favorite to break from the logjam to capture the No. 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs? Which potential play-in matchup would create the most drama? Should

Harden 'progressing well,' but return still TBD

8:14 PM ET

NEW YORK — Ten days after James Harden was diagnosed with a right hamstring strain, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks said that the All-Star guard is “progressing well.”

Marks added that Harden will need “at least one or two” practice days when he plays 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 before returning to the court.

“Hopefully if things go smoothly, he’ll be out and joining the guys in a game,” Marks said. “He’s met his markers up to this point, and we’ll just continue to progress him along, and hopefully it’s not too much longer.”

Marks added that he wasn’t sure exactly which date Harden would return. Nets coach Steve Nash said that while the team had the day off on Thursday, Harden went into the practice facility to workout.

“I know speaking to James and speaking to people who were on the court with him that he is improving,” Nash said. “So, he’s