Baseball Hall of Famer, knuckleballer Phil Niekro dies at 81
By PAUL NEWBERRY AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro has died at the age of 81 after a long fight with cancer. Niekro pitched well into his 40s with a knuckleball that baffled big league hitters for more than two decades, mostly with the Atlanta Braves. The Braves announced his death, saying he died Saturday night in his sleep. Niekro won 318 games over his 24-year career, which ended in 1987 at age 48 after he made one final start with the Braves. Niekro also pitched for the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays late in his career.
Pirates’ Polanco breaks wrist in winter ball, OK for spring
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco broke a bone in his right wrist playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic. The Pirates said Polanco has a small nondisplaced fracture of the triquetrum bone and that the wrist will be immobilized for a short time. The 29-year-old Polanco is expected to be 100% by the start of spring training. Polanco batted just .153 with seven homers and 22 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He tested positive for the coronavirus during the team’s summer camp.
Colts, Steelers meet while heading in opposite directions
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts are surging. The Pittsburgh Steelers are reeling. Still, both teams will have plenty at stake when they meet at Heinz Field. The Colts have won five of six games to move into the lead in the AFC South. The Steelers have lost three in a row since their 11-0 start. Indianapolis can clinch a playoff berth with a win and losses by either Baltimore or Miami. Pittsburgh can lock up the AFC North with a victory but will need its offense to get going. The Steelers are averaging just 16 points a game during their current skid.
Struggling Steelers in midst of historic collapse
By JOSH DUBOW AP Pro Football Writer
The Pittsburgh Steelers have gone from dreams of matching the perfect 1972 Miami Dolphins to searching for another win. After winning their first 11 games for the first time in franchise history, the Steelers were upset at home two weeks ago against Washington. That was followed by a loss at fellow AFC contender Buffalo before a humbling 27-17 defeat to last-place Cincinnati. The last team to start 11-0 and then lose three straight was the 1969 Rams in a 14-game season. The skid carried over to the playoffs with a loss to Minnesota, a fate the Steelers would like to avoid.
HOF linebacker, pass rush great Kevin Greene dies at 58
By STEVE REED AP Sports Writer
Hall of Fame linebacker Kevin Greene, considered one of the fiercest pass rushers in NFL history, has died. He was 58. Greene died Monday, according to the family and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Greene finished his career with 160 sacks, which ranks third in league history behind only Bruce Smith and Reggie White. He also had 23 forced fumbles, 26 fumble recoveries and five interceptions.
Steelers motivated for Monday night matchup with Bengals
By MITCH STACY AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers are on a two-game skid but see Monday night’s matchup with the struggling Cincinnati Bengals as a win they need to secure. Pittsburgh already has clinched its first playoff berth since 2017. A win over the Bengals would assure the Steelers of the AFC North title and at least one home playoff game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won their first 11 in a row but are suddenly struggling with an offensive line hit by multiple injuries and an ineffective running game. The Bengals have lost five straight.
Horton, Toney help Pitt beat short-handed Miami 70-55
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Au’Diese Toney and Ithiel Horton combined to score 29 of their 33 points in the second half as Pittsburgh pulled away for a 70-55 win over short-handed Miami. Horton, a sophomore transfer who averaged 13.2 points and shot 41% from 3-point range at Delaware, had a season-high 18 points — all in the second half — and Toney finished with 15 points. Justin Champagnie had 10 points and nine rebounds for Pitt (5-1, 1-0 ACC). Horton hit a 3-pointer to spark a 19-2 run that gave the Panthers a 16-point lead midway through the second half. Isaiah Wong scored 21 points for the Hurricanes (3-2, 0-1). Miami went into the game with only seven healthy scholarship players and Matt Cross left the game with about 12 minutes left and did not return.
MLB reclassifies Negro Leagues as major league
NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball has reclassified the Negro Leagues as a major league and will count the statistics and records of its 3,400 players as part of its history. The league said it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” by elevating the Negro Leagues on the centennial of its founding. The Negro Leagues consisted of seven leagues that existed from 1920-48. Those leagues were excluded in 1969 when the Special Committee on Baseball Records identified six official “major leagues” dating to 1876. The change means Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige could add nearly 150 victories to his total.
Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett says he’ll return in 2021
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh’s season is over. Quarterback Kenny Pickett’s college career is not. The senior announced he will return in 2021. Pickett had participated in Pitt’s Senior Day festivities against Virginia Tech last month, an indication he was going to enter the NFL draft. Apparently not. Pickett, the fifth-leading passer in school history, tweeted “one more year.” Pickett threw for 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. He missed two games with an ankle injury as the Panthers finished 6-5.
Steelers, Chiefs, Packers, Saints close to division titles
By The Associated Press undefined
The Pittsburgh Steelers still haven’t clinched a spot in the postseason yet despite an 11-1 record. They will wrap up the AFC North with a win Sunday night at Buffalo and if Cleveland loses to Baltimore on Monday night. In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers can clinch the NFC North with a win over the Detroit Lions or a loss by Minnesota to Tampa Bay. The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs clinched a playoff spot last week and can wrap up the AFC West with a win or tie against Miami or a loss or tie by the Las Vegas Raiders.