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Steelers must break from Ben Roethlisberger after AFC playoffs bust vs. Browns

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Steelers must break from Ben Roethlisberger after AFC playoffs bust vs. Browns

Ben Roethlisberger failed to erase lingering concerns about his quarterback play in the host Steelers’ shocking 48-37 AFC wild-card playoff loss to the rival Browns on Sunday night. Let’s hope that’s enough for the Steelers to seek out his immediate successor in the 2021 offseason, regardless of whether he chooses to retire.

Before Christmas, before he led a successful second-half comeback in Week 16 against Colts to help the Steelers win the AFC North, Sporting News detailed Roethlisberger’s physical limitations tied to his arm strength — plus wear and tear — at age 38. With no solid running game on which to lean and struggles to push the ball downfield all season resulting in poor air yardage, Pittsburgh tried to win as many games as it could by being short-to-intermediate pass-happy.

MORE: Roethlisberger leaves possible finale in tears  

But that put Roethlisberger in a position of needing to avoid big mistakes in big games, knowing the big plays were harder to get. That didn’t happen vs. Cleveland, as Big Ben’s four interceptions among five team turnovers ultimately cost Pittsburgh in a high-scoring affair.

The bad snap on the Steelers’ first possession that turned into a gift Browns touchdown wasn’t Roethlsiberger’s fault. His interception on the game’s penultimate possession was out of desperation. But Pittsburgh was pretty much doomed when Roethlisbeger threw three picks within the opening 20 minutes of game time.

The Steelers could look at their big second-half rally from 28 down to make it a 11-point game and big overall numbers (501 yards, four TDs, 110.0 passer rating) and overlook his awful first half. But that should make them only more frustrated with Roethlisberger, because he was forced to chuck at a high volume (47 completions on 68 attempts with no sacks) as a result of his own early mistakes that helped dig a big hole.

Roethlisberger did at one time express in 2020 he would like to come back for his Age 39 season. In some respects, he came back strong from a 2019 season lost to a right elbow injury and played well enough to rebuild his confidence, taking advantage of his top-flight young wide receivers and veteran tight end. He gave what he could, but in the end, it wasn’t good enough.

MORE: Browns troll trash-talking Smith-Schuster

If the cap-strapped Steelers don’t restructure Roethlisberger’s contract, then they will be looking at a $41.25 million cap hit for 2021. Releasing or trading Roethlisberger would cost the Steelers $22.25 million in dead money, but it would also produce $19 million in cap relief. A once-tough decision should now be a no-brainer: Move on from Big Ben and roll with a QB on a rookie deal.

The Steelers’ first-round playoff exit locked them into the 24th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Their failure to make a deep playoff run puts them in a better position to secure a potential franchise quarterback from the second wave of prospects in a strong QB class.

Roethlisberger will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has had a great career with the Steelers marked by two Super Bowl victories. His overall body of work makes him the best QB in franchise history, edging Terry Bradshaw. He has lasted 17 seasons — three more than Bradshaw — toughing it out and winning plenty for the Black and Gold.

But Roethlisberger is more like Drew Brees than Tom Brady in the sense there are tangible signs of decline in his game because of Father Time. In an AFC full of emerging young guns — including his counterpart Sunday night, Baker Mayfield — the Steelers need to flip the switch to a youthfuul passer with a higher ceiling. 

Consider Mayfield, all of 25, will be the elder statesman in the AFC divisional playoffs, where Patrick Mahomes (25), Josh Allen (24) and Lamar Jackson (24) will also be playing. Mayfield and Jackson give the Browns and Ravens a leg up on the rest of the AFC North for the near future, and the Bengals with Joe Burrow are just around the corner.

BENDER: Browns grow up in stunning win over Steelers

The Steelers have enjoyed a big quarterback advantage in the division for a long time, with Roethlisberger keeping both Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton’s at arm’s length and consistently lapping whomever the Browns tried before Mayfield. The Steelers don’t want to suddenly be in the back of the line, which is where they are headed with more Big Ben.

With the way Roethlisberger is playing now, the edge is fading fast. The thought of sliding back a little with a rookie passer might be tough for Mike Tomlin to accept, especially with a defense that’s ready to win now and great potential in the rest of the passing game. But the Steelers should be confident they will hit on someone, just as the Browns, Bills, Chiefs and Ravens did at various stages in the draft.

Heck, at No. 11 overall in 2004, Roethlisberger was the third QB taken (behind Eli Manning and Philip Rivers), and that worked out very well for Pittsburgh, from going 13-0 with him starting as a rookie to eventually being a consistent AFC contender and having two big rings to show for it.

Such a big change is difficult, but big breakups happen in this league. The Steelers can’t let what happened to the Patriots after they parted ways with Brady scare them off. They need to think they can do what the Chargers did after saying a hard goodbye to Philip Rivers.

Roethlisberger’s costly playoff performance against the Browns wasn’t an anomaly. It was confirmation of the evidence that was working against his better play this season. 

The Steelers need to see that and start raising their eyes toward a big-time replacement for Big Ben.

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Patrick Mahomes’ mom was not pleased with hit that injured QB: ‘Trash football’

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Patrick Mahomes' mom was not pleased with hit that injured QB: 'Trash football'

There’s nothing like a mother’s love — or a mother’s scorn.

Randi Mahomes, mother of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, was like all viewers watching the QB struggling to get to his feet on Sunday afternoon: concerned, worried and a little angry by Mahomes’ departure from the field.

But momma Mahomes took it a step further and took to Twitter to question the hit that sidelined her son — and berate the player who made it in the same 240 characters:

“#51 Wilson that’s some trash football leading with helmet, pulling his head and pushing helmet.. why are you not thrown out!?? Come on NFL,” the tweet reads.

MORE: Could superstar QB Deshaun Watson be on the move? What you need to know

Mahomes took a hit from linebacker Mack Wilson that left him woozy and wobbly as he tried to get to his feet, eventually needing help from KC medical staff to get off the field. Mahomes would enter concussion protocol and his status for this Sunday’s matchup vs. the Bills is uncertain.

There was no flag on the play, as it was unclear what rule, if any, Wilson violated on the hit. Slow motion replays revealed that Wilson’s helmet made contact with Mahomes’ shoulder pads. Most viewers chalked up the incident to just playing football.

Mahomes didn’t harbor any ill will toward Wilson, who reached out to apologize after the game:

The Chiefs would go on to win on Sunday with heroics from backup QB Chad Henne, who helped punch Kansas City’s ticket to the AFC Championship game.

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Deshaun Watson trade tracker: Timeline of rumors, dysfunction detail Texans’ rift with franchise QB

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Deshaun Watson trade tracker: Timeline of rumors, dysfunction detail Texans' rift with franchise QB

Not so elementary, my dear Watson.

The yearslong odyssey for the Texans to find a true franchise passer culminated in Houston selecting the Deshaun Watson out of Clemson in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but it looks like the pairing will soon come to an end, with tumult surrounding the quarterback and the franchise leading to lots of smoke and trade rumors.

With organizational chaos dooming the Texans the past two seasons, and ownership reportedly over-relying on the voice and opinions of Jack Easterby and reportedly completely ignoring the voice of Watson, it’s hard to fault Watson for wanting out. He’s a top-five quarterback coming off his best season, still young and with a contract that will prove to be a bargain in a few years.

Total organizational instability — from the top down — has led Watson to, reportedly, being incredibly pissed off and ready to move on from the team that drafted him in 2017. Here’s a timeline of reports and other rumors that detail the interworkings of the Texans organization and Watson’s displeasure with the situation.

MORE: Here are Deshaun Watson’s best trade fits, from Jets to Dolphins

(Getty Images)

Deshaun Watson trade rumors

Jan. 18: Watson likes Instagram post linking him to Jets

Source: Instagram detectives

We’ve officially reached the “NBA drama” stage of Watson trade rumors, with Instagram users discovering that Watson liked a post of a New York Post back page with a story suggesting the Jets should trade for him. No trade requests have been made yet.

Jan. 18: Texans have no interest in dealing Watson, Panthers interested

Source: Ian Rapoport, NFL Network

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the Texans have no interest in trading Watson, instead wanting to keep him. Multiple teams, including the Panthers, have called Houston to gauge interest in the passer.

Jan. 18: Watson not answering calls from Texans organization

Source: Sarah Barshop, ESPN

According to Texans beat writer Sarah Barshop, Watson can’t be bothered to answer calls from Texans brass. Adam Schefter also reiterates what we already knew: Watson holds leverage here because of his no-trade clause.

Jan. 18: ‘Great lather’ to get Watson out, but leverage in his favor

Source: Josina Anderson, ESPN

Anderson reminds everyone a key point: Watson has a no-trade clause, and it’s not entirely in the Texans’ best interest to trade away a superstar of Watson’s caliber. In any case, it’s a weak argument, especially if the team is going to continue to do poorly by its star player.

Jan. 18: Watson has yet to ask for a trade

Source: Ian Rapoport, NFL Network

Despite all the smoke surrounding Watson and the Texans at the moment, the superstar QB has yet to ask for a trade, per Rapoport. That hasn’t stopped teams from calling to check on Watson’s availability, though, 

Jan. 17: Watson has ‘played his last snap for Houston’

Source: Adam Schefter/Chris Mortensen, ESPN

If the weeks of turmoil and confusion have left any doubt about Watson’s future in Houston, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that some people surrounding the Texans organization feel Watson won’t play another down for the team. A source close to Chris Mortensen added that the only remedy for the situation between Watson and the Texans would be for owner Cal McNair to fire … Cal McNair.

Schefter also added that “Watson’s feelings cannot and should not be underestimated.” Whatever that means.

(Getty Images)

Jan. 16: Watson ‘just wants out’ of Houston

Source: Greg Bishop, Jenny Vrentas, Sports Illustrated

Despite the Texans making moves to try and appease their disgruntled quarterback, Watson just wants out of H-Town, per SI. A culmination of the coaching and GM search and general organizational dysfunction has led to Watson taking a hard stance on his status with the team: Just get me out of here.

Jan. 15: A single tweet sets NFL world on fire

Source: Deshaun Watson’s Twitter

Coming from a Schefter report that Watson’s anger was “at a 2, but now a 10,” the Texans QB sends out a single tweet that seems to confirm this. A later tweet would actually indicate that these were actually song lyrics. (Sure, Deshaun.)

MORE: Deshaun Watson’s latest tweet sends Twitter back into trade frenzy

Jan. 15: Watson photographed in Falcons gear

Source: Instagram

A curious wardrobe decision by Watson, with a photo on an Instagram story showing Watson in a Falcons jacket, coincidentally, outside of a building in New York City. Watson is a Georgia native and likely grew up a Falcons fan.

It’s just a jacket, but let your imagination run wild.

Jan. 12: Texans request interview for Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy

Source: Ian Rapoport, NFL Network

The Chiefs OC is a hot commodity on the coaching scene, and was even recommended to Watson by some guy named Patrick Mahomes. While the Chiefs hadn’t initially put in an interview with Bieniemy — missing the window in which coordinators can interview during the playoffs — new GM Nick Caserio is interested in speaking with him. Because of tampering policies, the Texans won’t be allowed to speak with Bieniemy until after the Chiefs are eliminated.

Jan. 12: Andre Johnson speaks, offers Watson advice

Source: Andre Johnson via Twitter

In the words of Deandre Hopkins, when ‘Dre speaks, we listen. The former Texans wide receiver took to Twitter to offer Watson some sage advice: Stand your ground. He also roasted the Texans and their devotion to Jack Easterby, who many question 

MORE: Andre Johnson thinks Deshaun Watson is right to turn on ‘pathetic’ Texans

Jan. 10: Watson’s anger reaching boiling point

Source: Adam Schefter, ESPN

Heads exploded when then head coach/GM Bill O’Brien opted to trade star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals, with Watson himself taking the trade in stride. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Watson’s anger vaulted from a “2 to a 10” with the organization opting not to hire ESPN analyst and former front-office exec Louis Riddick to its GM role.

Jan. 10: More details emerge about rift; Dolphins could be a trade destination

Source: Chris Mortensen, ESPN

If Watson were to be moved, then the Dolphins could be a viable destination for a trade, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Miami, who holds Houston’s first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, would reportedly be open to trading quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and trade assets in exchange for Watson, per Mortensen.

(Getty Images)

Jan. 7: The Texans name Nick Caserio new GM

Source: “Literally us, the  Houston Texans.”

A major part of the reported rift between Watson and the Texans surrounded Houston naming a general manager without Watson’s input, a promise that had been supposedly made to Watson during the season. Instead, owner Cal McNair Jr. and Jack Easterby.

MORE: Ranking the NFL’s head-coaching vacancies

Jan. 5: J.J. Watt offers an ominous apology 

Source: JJ Watt’s mouth

After the Texans fell in Week 17 to the Titans in Week 17, NFL cams caught JJ Watt and Deshaun Watson in a candid moment as the two were walking off the field. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Watt said. “We wasted one of your years.” The Texans would finish 4-12.

Oct. 5: Texans fire Bill O’Brien

Source: “Literally us, the  Houston Texans.”

Well, about a year, many losses and one too many trades too late, the Texans decided to fire head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien after a sluggish start to their 2020 season. The team would name Romeo Crennel the interim head coach.

O’Brien’s tenure as HC would be mired in personnel controversies and several lopsided trades that leave the Texans without a first-round pick in 2021. 

April 2019: Jack Easterby hired by Houston

Source: The Texans

“I think the best way to tell the story is by starting at the end, briefly, then going back to the beginning, and then periodically returning to the end, maybe giving different characters’ perspectives throughout.” — “The Other Guys,” 2010

Arguably the genesis of the chaos in Houston was the hiring of Patriots team chaplain — later “character coach,” whatever that is — as its executive vice president of football operations.

Easterby’s meteoric rise to a such a high office in an NFL franchise is met with skepticism from all avenues, and would come back to haunt the team later.

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Mets fire Jared Porter after report that GM sent lewd texts to reporter in 2016

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Mets fire Jared Porter after report that GM sent lewd texts to reporter in 2016

The Mets have fired general manager Jared Porter after an ESPN report released Monday detailed lewd, harrassing and inappropriate text messages sent to a foreign reporter in 2016.

New Mets owner Steve Cohen took to Twitter to announce the news, referencing the “importance of integrity” from his introductory press conference with the team.

“We have terminated Jared Porter this morning,” Cohen’s tweet reads. “In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”

On Jan. 19, ESPN’s Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan reported that Porter sent 60 text messages to a foreign correspondent covering the Cubs when Porter was a member of Chicago’s front office in 2016. The messages included an image of a bare penis. Porter declined to comment on the report.

The reporter, who has now left the journalism field according to ESPN, did not come forward out of fear of her career being harmed and repercussions in her home country.

“My No. 1 motivation is I want to prevent this from happening to someone else,” she told ESPN. “Obviously, he’s in a much greater position of power. I want to prevent that from happening again. The other thing is, I never really got the notion that he was truly sorry.”

Porter had apologized to the reporter for the messages in 2016 after realizing they were “extremely inappropriate, very offensive, and getting out of line.”

Porter told ESPN on Monday that he had texted with the woman but said that “the more explicit ones are not of me. Those are like, kinda like joke-stock images.”

Porter, 41, was hired by the Mets in December. He had been with the Diamondbacks prior to taking the Mets job.

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