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Kingerski: Penguins’ Constant Self-Destruction Demands Changes

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Pittsburgh Penguins Kyle Dubas

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The fizz in the drink created no bubbles for the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday in Minnesota. They stumbled and slumbered through a tediously melodramatic 40 minutes before finally playing with a modicum of energy in a 3-2 loss. They followed their Eeyore-like performance by trying to prove they could outscore the Winnipeg Jets.

The firewagon had bad directions. Mistakes and a bevy of scoring chances swallowed by Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck led to a 2-1 loss.

Two days before, the Penguins controlled their destiny.

Two days later, two losses bred internal disgust and the team no longer controls its fate, even with a quad of games in hand on the third-place Philadelphia Flyers.

It’s time for Penguins trades, shakeups involving players, assistant coaches, something, anything (though I remain opposed to removing coach Mike Sullivan).

They trail the Flyers by nine points with four games in hand. Even if they win all of them, they will be short. They trail the Red Wings by seven points with only two games in hand.

That’s what happens when you cannot bring your best with any regularity.

The words and sentiments that appeared between the lines of Sullivan’s postgame presser would not be fit for a family publication. At the risk of misreading the vibe emanating from the coach, there would have been a healthy amount of condemnation followed by changes with malice.

It felt like Sullivan was fed up with a team that hadn’t been able to get its act together for any length of time. Players are fed up with their situation and results.

Fans are fed up with everything. The situation is crying out for change.

I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part. — Animal House.

In years past, we’d all wake up to the news that the GM had worked the phones all night, and Penguins trades followed. Some worked, some did not, but languishing teams would not stand. A little chaos was injected.

But that was the swashbuckling Jim Rutherford, who sometimes traded players like baseball cards at the lunch table. And not all of those moves worked out. See also: Tanner Pearson for Carl Hagelin.

Former Penguins GM Craig Patrick was the same way: nice until it was time not to be nice.

However, the vibe was that on Saturday that Penguins president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas must do something. There must be a sacrificial lamb or three.

Or kiss the season goodbye.

Enough of the treading water, trending sideways, one step forward, one step back. They will continue to say the right things. They will continue to try.

But as a group, they don’t have it.

This team has proven it has talent, and it has many pieces necessary to do some winning. It has also proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it has internal flaws and lacks anything resembling consistent desire.

Dubas has less than one month until the March 8 NHL trade deadline. He’s got perhaps the prized asset with pending free agent Jake Guentzel, who could fetch at least the first-round pick the Penguins sacrificed in the Erik Karlsson deal, and a solid prospect.

But the deal makes sense only if the Penguins are not going to compete in the playoffs AND do not believe they can re-sign him.

There are moments and feelings you cannot get from TV. The emotions in the room and in the hallway with Sullivan last night were palpable. You could feel the intense anger from several, even as they stopped short of expressing fire and brimstone or pointing fingers. Saturday, there was no consolation from the scoring chances. There was no pride in largely outplaying the Jets for 40 minutes.

There was nothing positive. The depth and tone of Lars Eller’s voice, when he disagreed there were good things in the loss, were deep. The loathing in Sullivan’s voice, when he figuratively unfurled a scroll of failures from the preceding 60 minutes was dripping in stern frustration even as he disabused that word.

Sullivan could have borrowed a rant from former Penguins coach Michel Therrien and begun his remarks with, “They say they care…”

Last season, we watched former Penguins GM Ron Hextall sit idly by while Rome burned, finally jumping forward with players ill-suited to Sullivan’s philosophy and available roles.

You can point fingers. That’s what X is for. Dubas’s biggest acquisitions haven’t exactly panned out yet. Erik Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Ryan Graves remain in various states of struggle.

The Penguins are getting a Hart Trophy-level season from Sidney Crosby, and the core three with Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang doesn’t have more than a couple of chances left. Yet here they are. They are in the playoff race but no longer in control and provably incapable of consistency, if not their highest levels of play.

If Dubas waits much longer to make some real changes, there will be nothing to save. The desolation of a rebuild will be all that awaits.

It’s now or never.

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Mark
Mark
12 days ago

Didn’t Dubas say recently when questioned if the team would be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline that the team’s play would tell him?

Mark
Mark
12 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Making the playoffs is not the goal. Even if this team made the playoffs can they be considered a SC contender unless something radically changes?

Mark
Mark
11 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

Well, as much as I would hate it I think the team is telling their president/GM to sell. On the other hand attendance is/has been down and I don’t know how any degree of rebuild might further negatively impact attendance. I’d guess that factors into the “sell” decision

BrianX
BrianX
11 days ago
Reply to  Dan Kingerski

The Pirates are still in town.

W Thome
W Thome
12 days ago
Reply to  Mark

Good point Mark. If we can take KD at his word….”sellers” it is. The team’s play has spoken loud and clear.

wesman33
wesman33
12 days ago
Reply to  Mark

NEW COACH it’s not Karlsson not Malkin not Carter not the trainer not any individual player it’s the GD coach. For the love of god they need a new coach Dan. I’ve been a loyal PHN reader since 22’ and you’re wrong on this one.

Charles Koenig
Charles Koenig
11 days ago
Reply to  wesman33

When the players you have do what they want on the ice and get in there little world . There is no coach in the world going to pull them back to the Now.

Clyde
Clyde
11 days ago
Reply to  Mark

Why is Dubai here if the players are the gm.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller
12 days ago

Good luck with any moves now, need to swallow pride and remake this team. Many under performing players.

Jon Stowitzky
Jon Stowitzky
12 days ago

Who can he actually trade? Half the frickin roster have no movement clauses. The rest will bring little to no value since they’re role players. Everyone loved this roster in September. I guess solid veteran players forget how to play hockey when they get here? Seems there’s one common denominator to this mess, it’s standing behind the bench. This team hasn’t responded to Sully for a few seasons now.

Pete
Pete
12 days ago
Reply to  Jon Stowitzky

Absolutely. 7 years of losing is enough. Get a new coach!

BrianX
BrianX
12 days ago
Reply to  Jon Stowitzky

Players with NMCs may be willing to go to a contender.

Dean
Dean
12 days ago

It is hard to say, but I think the end is now. There is a blindness to what they need to do or a stubbornness not to do it. Malkin’s days as a top 6 center, ended at least a year or two back. His role should have a changed to a Phil Kessel type role. The Pens needed a young top 6 center to compliment Crosby. They kept passing on them and wasting picks on what we’re clearly now and a lot of times then ridiculous pieces. Letang’s play up until this year was careless and undisciplined. We now… Read more »

Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
12 days ago
Reply to  Dean

So are you going to be the person that tells Sid, Geno and Letang that you want to quit or are you going to be the person that runs there mouth looking to blow up the team rather standing and fighting with the team?

Go ahead and tell me I’m wrong.

Last edited 12 days ago by Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Mark
Mark
12 days ago

I would tell Malkin that the best he will get is to be a healthy scratch after every game that he doesn’t play well. Let him decide what he will do.

MICHAEL
MICHAEL
11 days ago

Your wrong. GET USED TO seeing bad hockey, you are going to see a lot of it. Bring in Sid for a heart to heart…everyone including himself should be up for grabs. Turn out the light, the party is over. The window isn’t just closed, it’s now been bricked over.

Charles Koenig
Charles Koenig
11 days ago

I think you have to unload players who just don’t fit in here. Let them move on .

Matt Smydo
Matt Smydo
12 days ago

Ooof. So many things here. The team is the oldest in the league – I understand them not giving 100% every game. I’d be tired too. But it’s not acceptable. So torn between loyalty to Geno and him just not being competitive any more. No loyalty to the newbies – Karlsson, Graves. I don’t understand why they aren’t clicking yet. Thank for the opportunity to vent.

Mark
Mark
12 days ago
Reply to  Matt Smydo

Schedule is picking up steam. No more breaks. No time for older players to recover. More potential for an injury.

AW1818
AW1818
12 days ago

Why exactly is every Yinzer journalist so opposed to changing the ONE constant over the last half decade of failures? Even Dejan is out here running “here’s why it’s everyone’s fault but Sullivan’s.” He’s on his 3rd GM, 2nd batch of assistant coaches, and a rehauled bottom 6 consisting of players that he wanted? What exactly does this guy have to do to receive an inkling of blame? He’s the richest victim in the world. It’s never his fault. Nobody has his level of job security

Wasnt
12 days ago
Reply to  AW1818

Dead on AW1818….have no idea why PHN is so insistent on keeping Sully…..he gives off an angry frustrated vibe that TV just doesn’t pick up……gotta be joking??

Wasnt
12 days ago
Reply to  Wasnt

Sullys vibe is more like a “I have no idea what to do” LoL

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
12 days ago
Reply to  AW1818

*cough* Tomlin *cough*

Steve
Steve
12 days ago
Reply to  AW1818

The coach can only do so much. Over in NY, the players were sick of Torts, then AV isn’t good enough. Then Quinn comes in and the fans hate him. LOVE the Gallant signing, but sour on him quickly. Now Laviolwtte looks great when the team is winning consistently. Now, not so much. It’s the players. Always is. And it’s been the players since 2018 here. We missed the chance to trade guys when they had real value. Why anyone would think it would be better 6 years later is beyond me. With all the playoff winning, these guys have… Read more »

Wasnt
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Coaching change seemed to work in Pittsburgh both times, in Vegas and most recent for the Islanders

Wasnt
11 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Coaching change worked here in Pittsburgh twice, in Vegas last year and currently for the Islanders

Mark Miller
Mark Miller
12 days ago

21 games against eastern conf teams the rest of the season, probably have to win17 of them to help. Don’t really see that going to happen. Sad

Eric
Eric
12 days ago

We are in desperate need for change. We need a new voice and or new leader ship. When your second line center only gets one shot on goal in two games and appears an interested and unmotivated things have to change! When Riley Smith and Racks are not scoring goals there has be be a reason. As great as Crosby is and was our top six cannot get it done anymore with consistency. Regular season let alone playoffs.

AW1818
AW1818
12 days ago
Reply to  Eric

They’ll blame every single proven player before blaming the guy steering the ship. Somehow Puustinen only deserved 5 minutes a night but Jansen Harkins gets to continue his Make a Wish quest to score an NHL goal. Then you’ll wake up the day after another crucial loss to 17 articles of “here’s why it’s still not Mike Sullivan’s fault”

Pete
Pete
12 days ago
Reply to  AW1818

You are correct sir. Ridiculous!

Mark
Mark
12 days ago
Reply to  AW1818

you are correct, but I would also add that there are players involved in steering the ship and they are also at fault. The big three are catered to by Sullivan (don’t know about Dubas yet).and that has been a large part of the problem for several years.

AW1818
AW1818
12 days ago
Reply to  Mark

Then give me an impartial coach that isn’t scared to piss off the stars. This guy obviously isn’t it. The country club mentality isn’t a winning one and we have a half decade of proof

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
12 days ago

Dan they have to start making changes starting with Guentzel. They can get something good for him. This team won’t make the playoffs.I think we can get something for Rust and Rakell. The future is not sunny and bright but it must start now. Smith and Karrlson aren’t working out very well. In the end Dan, Sullivan must take the blame.

Richard Schock
Richard Schock
12 days ago

There are very few teams the Pens can outskate; there are no teams they can outmuscle. They can’t outscore anyone. They are capable of making any goalie seem a Vezina candidate. Every win is a “Miracle on Ice” – Crosby’s line has to dominate, the other lines have to be mistake-free contributors, D has to battle and the goalie has to be lights out. They’re getting that effort from Crosby, Letang and both goalies, but it’s not enough. They can best any team once, but 4 out of 7? Change the coach if you want, but it won’t matter. These… Read more »

Sam
Sam
12 days ago

Last year, we had the top 6 playing well, but the bottom 6 was a disaster.

Enter Dubas, working with Teflon Mike, and the bottom 6 gets re-tooled. Everyone is excited.

This year, only the top line is working, but the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th lines are now a disaster.

The GM changed. The roster changed. The only constant is Teflon Mike, who in typical glib, articulate fashion presents himself as being in high dudgeon.

As for Dubas, wtf is he waiting for? The team needs a HUGE wakeup call. Get on with it!

JoJo
JoJo
12 days ago

We can blow up the team, trade everybody, but until this team change the way they play, it will be all futile.
The first change to do is fire Sullivan and go from there.

Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart
12 days ago

We need secondary scoring, without it were done. It’s tough to win when 21% of our salary cap (at a minimum is useless). Smith, Rakell, Carter, and Graves are worth 21% of our cap. Graves is a liability and hasn’t played worthy of top 4 d minutes. Smith and Rakell (our main secondary scoring options, who scored over 50 goals combined last year) have only 14 goals combined and go months without being even noticed on the ice. Carter plays fine if he made league minimum but off course he’s worth over 3 million. We also have 2 of the… Read more »

ric Jefferies
ric Jefferies
12 days ago

Just 1 change please, replace Sully. he’s had a good run but its over. Clearly he’s as frustrated as everyone is BUT ( big but ) he holds the job that fixes what needs fixing on the ice, capisce! I was not (am not) confident that Dubas was right for the task put upon him but here we are. The Pens are a wobbly franchise held together by a loyal fan base (a tribute to the city itself) and they, the fans, have EARNED more than they are getting with said loyalty from the ownership of this organization.

William Maloni
William Maloni
12 days ago

Yay you, DK. You are writing what many of us believe, so fans should encourage Dudas to do what he, reportedly, does best.

BrianX
BrianX
12 days ago

Anything now is likely too little, too late.

Frank
Frank
12 days ago

Not much to add that has not been said by others. This nonsensical concern over how painful a rebuild will look (and should have started 3 years ago) will now usher in a much more stressful process. As though watching $82,000,000 in salary cap float around is an entertainment festival. Their are salvageable parts to this vintage model of a team, but excluding 87 they ALL have to be part of any discussion with another team. Missing the playoffs is not exactly a threat. This team huffs and puffs to string 3 periods together much less post four wins in… Read more »

Dan N
Dan N
12 days ago

What good is a late round first round pick ? If they do trade assets they need to get young prospects that can step right in..As I see it the only 2 players that will bring that back is Guentzel and Jarry.. That’s where they need to start

Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
12 days ago
Reply to  Dan N

No because you have no winger for Sid. Your not going to find a winger as good as Jake in the draft or in FA cause the winger that Sid likes are very hard to find. There isn’t even a trade where you get back a Top 6 Winger for Sid and now your also asking him at age 36 to break in a new winger! Hey I got a question for all those folks who want Guentzel gone, which one of ya has the balls to tell Sid to his face that his best Winger got traded? Who among… Read more »

qdawg8266
qdawg8266
12 days ago

Why can’t you trade Jake and then make him an offer in free agency. He already reportedly wasn’t impressed with the contract floated out there recently. Who is to say he is gonna resign with us now or even this summer. Get assets for him and try to sign him in off season. Anyone ever think maybe he doesn’t want to resign here too? If he gets a 7 or 8 year deal, he gotta know crosby won’t be playing for more than half of that with him. Realistically, it is probably in his best interest to find a new,… Read more »

Mark
Mark
12 days ago

It has nothing to do with getting a winger better than Guentzel and everything to do with getting things that will help the Pens rebuild.

Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
12 days ago
Reply to  Mark

So that’s it huh? Just quit and start all over again. What a great idea. How could I not think of this before, oh wait I know why cause it’s a fools way of thinking. Stand and Fight or Duck Tail and Run Away. I know what my choice is and sadly I now know what the choice is for Penguin Fans.

Jon
Jon
12 days ago

Are you kidding me on Sullivan? Look at what Tort is getting out of his inferior squad. The only thing worth doing at this point is a coaching change. Sure Sullivan will end of somewhere and maybe win a Cup. But it’s not happening here.

Doug Ukish
Doug Ukish
11 days ago
Reply to  Jon

How many of these stars would listen to Torts?? He whines about Sid and the Pens all the time.
He’s the next thing to a dinosaur, after Sutter

Last edited 11 days ago by Doug Ukish
Matthew Caddy
Matthew Caddy
12 days ago

Dubas better fix this before attendance plummets and FSG decides not to spend to the cap anymore. Then we are right back to 2003 with the Rico Fata’s and Dick Tarnstrom’s of the world.

Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart
12 days ago

Any chance Arizona would trade smith for zucker straight up? At least with Zucker if he isn’t scoring he’s still noticeable. And he drags the others guys into the fight. With Smith if he doesn’t score he’s invisible. Zucker helps malkin line and then get rid of Graves and bring in Jacob Chychrun. Put Petterson back with EK then we at least have 2 top 4 D pairings and hopefully a 2nd line of Zucker-geno-rust can play north south enough to help the 2nd line. Maybe that forces Rakell to paly with Sid (the only line he ever produces on).

Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart
12 days ago
Reply to  Zane Gearhart

Only problem is who the heck would want Graves with his contract. And do we have enough assets to make it work. Plus if Zucker doesn’t help it opens up more cap space next year for free agency.

Last edited 12 days ago by Zane Gearhart
T.J. Bunner
T.J. Bunner
12 days ago

Malkin absolutely has to be moved to the Wing. His giveaways and sulking were cute when he was a 20-something game changer who could carry the team on his back. Now, he looks like a shell of himself.

Mark
Mark
12 days ago
Reply to  T.J. Bunner

Solutions for Malkin – healthy scratch. Let someone interested in playing do so.

Crazyhorse87
Crazyhorse87
12 days ago

I think it would be tough for any coach to do anything with this team. It’s pretty hard to try with them being the oldest team in the league. If anything, Crosby’s line needs a Guerin type forward, Malkin needs to move to the wing or the 3rd line. Maybe Karlsson needs to work with the 3rd or 4th to do what he does best without a Crosby or Malkin. The other tough thing is the 4th line lost 2/3rd of their players, that sure doesn’t help. Maybe the team just needs a couple more of the youthful energy, the… Read more »

Michael Tompkins
Michael Tompkins
12 days ago

If we trade Jake and situate ourselves in the bottom 10 teams we get a top 10 1st round pick this year, condition of the Karlson trade. We r in the bottom 12 currently. A first for Jake and one for Jarry. Rebuild is 30% there. Also Mike S. would be a great coach for a rebuild. Sully Not working for the cup run idea.

Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
12 days ago

Yeah and what are you telling Sid? “Hey can you make a 19-20 year old into the next Jake Guentzel in 1 year”. Finding a Top 6 Winger for Sid that is just as good as Jake is very hard to do unless by some stroke of a miracle you can get a Playoff Teams Top Winger. So your choices are: Keep Sid Happy or Piss him off, what would do?

qdawg8266
qdawg8266
12 days ago

Maybe Jake doesn’t want to be here long term. You can’t make him sign a deal if he doesn’t want to. Sure he loves playing with Sid. Probably would love playing with mcdavid or matthews or bedard too

Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
12 days ago
Reply to  qdawg8266

So now McDavid and Bedard are better. McDavid hasn’t even reached a Cup Final or even a Conference Final. Bedard is stuck on a Franchise that is all kinds of screwed up. Your not going to find another winger that fits how Sid plays why does everyone believe otherwise?

Sasquatch
Sasquatch
12 days ago

Didn’t say they were better. I am saying why would Jake want to play on a team gonna go thru a rebuild and he won’t have Sid in a few years. Maybe he would rather play with younger centers whose team isn’t going to go thru a rebuild is all i am saying.

Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
12 days ago
Reply to  Sasquatch

Okay then what are you telling Sid? Nobody has been able to tell me what you tell Sid if Jake is traded and who Sid plays with it should it happen. Like do Penguin Fans think before they start clamoring for dumb trades or do they just say the first thing that comes to mind?

BrianX
BrianX
11 days ago

Are you saying Sid is only good if he plays with Jake? Sid makes Jake, not the other way around.

Vittorio
Vittorio
11 days ago
Reply to  BrianX

No, what I’m saying is do not ask Sid at age 36 going into age 37 that your trading away his best wingers for what essentially will be a bag of crap and if that is what fans want well then I know where the “fans” stand. Oh btw the reason for the quotation mark is simple, Penguin Fans have quit and want to run away which shows they are not real fans. Sure you all will say that you haven’t and your just saying it’s the end, what a joke. Penguin Fans these days always want to quit instead… Read more »

BrianX
BrianX
11 days ago
Reply to  Vittorio

I think Sid has enough self confidence that he would be fine with a different LW. DOC? Some of Sid’s best wingers were undrafted, Conor Sheary, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz for example.

Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
11 days ago
Reply to  BrianX

Ha Kunitz and Dupuis were traded to the Pens. Sheary is 3rd line Winger at best. Jake has been the only winger the team has drafted that has had the kind of connection with Sid that no other winger has been able to do and you want to trade him for what: Some lousy 1st Rd pick that means nothing? A prospect who would have to turn in a superstar effort to even make the main roster and 1 lousy player who would get dealt after the season. Hey while were at it lets trade Karlsson for 5 7th Rd… Read more »

BrianX
BrianX
11 days ago

You love our team, but you don’t think they have any trade value.

Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
Vittorio Di Stazio Jr
11 days ago
Reply to  BrianX

Then you haven’t been paying attention to my comments. Folks around here want to trade Jake and never say who there replacing him with. I hear people advocating for the trade of guys like Graves, Smith and others but you never hear these same fans actually think about what they want and if they do it’s picks and prospects. Unless these prospects can actually be legit NHL Players and not just guys who belong in the minors then what’s the point of trading these guys?

Don
Don
12 days ago

Outside of Lars their bottom isn’t very good. The 4th line is traditionally your hard checking pick the team up guys. We have had a decent 4th in ages. White/Carter/Harkins is laughable.

A few guys on the top 2 lines shouldn’t be there also. Specifically Drew O’Conner, Reilly Smith & Puljujarvi

Joe
Joe
11 days ago

Not sure what’s going on behind the scenes. There is obvious frustration and disappointment in post-game player interviews which possibly reflects a fractured locker room. How can any player at this level forget how to play the game? The talent is there but the chemistry is not. Are they not motivated? Seems like coaching is the primary problem. This is a largely veteran team. Coaches should know weaknesses and strengths of their players and be able to formulate a system that works to the team advantage. Hard to see that in action. Constantly changing linemates does not add a spark,… Read more »

Uros
Uros
11 days ago

Well, I’ve actually read all the comments. The conclusion is that nobody here watches hockey, but some other sport. Name me one player that has played better than the core 3 + Jake. You can, but you won’t be supported by facts. I mean, there are a lot of people who will believe anything with fierce conviction, disregarding the facts entirely. That goes for Sully too. You know when we stopped winning, right? When Rutherford moved heaven and earth to get rid of Fleury. Again, the numbers and facts are there, feel free to disregard them. After that it was… Read more »

BrianX
BrianX
11 days ago
Reply to  Uros

Glory days, well they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days”

-B. Springsteen

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
11 days ago

The elephant in the room is the second line, and its leader who also just happens to be killing the power play. Sid’s line for the most part is carrying the team offensively, and lines 3and 4 have played well defensively. For the most part the defense is fine and the goaltending above average. My diagnosis is if the Pens could fix the PP, and reduce giveaways and odd man breaks then all would be well. But,the clock IS ticking and time is of the essence. And Sully is not the problem.

Peter
Peter
11 days ago

Sullivan needed to go seasons ago. Graves needs to go and Smith but Sullivan isn’t a good coach. He was gifted teams that figured it out. He hasn’t done anything for this team in years and aside trading at least two players it comes down to him. They make the same mistakes. That’s coaching by another fraud in Pittsburgh