Steelers trade Kenny Pickett to the Eagles

FILE – Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) scrambles out of the pocket with Arizona Cardinals cornerback Kei’Trel Clark (13) defending during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023. The Pittsburgh Steelers are trading Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press on Friday, March 15, 2024. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The brief and tumultuous Kenny Pickett era in Pittsburgh is over. The Steelers are trading the quarterback to the Philadelphia Eagles, multiple sources told The Associated Press. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not official. Pittsburgh will receive a third-round pick in this year’s NFL draft and two seventh-round choices in the 2025 draft in exchange for Pickett and Pittsburgh’s fourth-round pick this year. The move comes just hours after the Steelers signed nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson to a one-year deal.

Patriots parting with Bill Belichick, who led team to 6 Super Bowl championships, AP source says

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Six-time NFL champion Bill Belichick agreed to part ways as the coach of the New England Patriots on Thursday, bringing an end to his 24-year tenure as the architect of the most decorated dynasty of the league’s Super Bowl era, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because it has not yet been announced.

ESPN first reported the decision. A news conference is planned for later in the day in which team owner Robert Kraft and Belichick will address the decision.

Belichick, 71, became just the third coach in NFL history to reach 300 career regular-season wins earlier this season, joining Hall of Famers Don Shula and George Halas. With 333 wins including the playoffs, Belichick trails only Shula (347 wins) for the record for victories by a coach.

But the Patriots ended this season 4-13, Belichick’s worst record in 29 seasons as an NFL head coach. It supplanted the 5-11 mark he managed in his last year in Cleveland in 1995 and again in his first year in New England in 2000. Including the playoffs, he ends his Patriots tenure with a 333-178 overall record.

With his cutoff hoodies and ever-present scowl, Belichick teamed with quarterback Tom Brady to lead the Patriots to six Super Bowl victories, nine AFC titles and 17 division championships in 19 years. During a less successful — but also tumultuous — stint with the original Cleveland Browns, Belichick earned 37 of his career victories.

It’s not immediately clear who Kraft will tap to replace the future Hall of Famer.

Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo won a Super Bowl ring playing under Belichick and has interviewed for multiple head coaching vacancies since becoming a New England assistant in 2019. Mayo turned down a few interviews last offseason before signing a contract extension to remain with the Patriots.

Mike Vrabel, who was fired earlier this week by the Tennessee Titans and won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, is also expected to be a candidate for the head coaching job.

Belichick had been grooming offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to replace him before McDaniels left following the 2021 season to become the coach of the Raiders. He has since been fired by Las Vegas. Belichick’s two sons, Steve and Brian, are also on the coaching staff.

Belichick’s exit from the Patriots comes just a day after another legendary coach and his longtime friend Nick Saban announced he’d retire after winning seven national championships at the collegiate level. Saban worked for Belichick’s father, Steve, in the 1980s as a coach at Navy. Bill Belichick went on to hire Saban as his defensive coordinator when he became Cleveland’s head coach in 1991.

The six Super Bowl wins tie Belichick with pre-merger mentors Halas and Curly Lambeau for the most NFL championships. Belichick also won two rings as Bill Parcells’ defensive coordinator with the New York Giants.

But the Patriots have stumbled to a 29-38 record since Brady departed following the 2019 season and missed the playoffs in three of those four seasons. Beginning in 2001 when Brady became the starting quarterback, the Patriots missed the playoffs only once (2008) when Brady was injured. This marked New England’s fifth consecutive season without a playoff victory.

Belichick’s subsequent solutions at quarterback haven’t panned out.

Brady’s initial replacement, Cam Newton, didn’t resemble the player who won the 2015 MVP award and was cut after a 7-9 finish in 2020. Meanwhile Brady won his seventh Super Bowl ring with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that same season.

Potential long-term replacement Mac Jones, a 2021 first-round draft choice, was a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie and led New England to the playoffs. But he regressed in Year 2 when Belichick put longtime defensive assistant Matt Patricia in charge of the offense. Jones didn’t fare much better this season when Bill O’Brien returned as offensive coordinator. He was benched four times before being replaced as starter by backup Bailey Zappe for the final six games.

That left the Patriots looking at a lengthy rebuild, with no candidate on the roster to bring stability to the sport’s most important position.

Belichick, who also served as the de facto general manager with final say on personnel decisions, was celebrated for his ingenuity managing the salary cap during the run of Super Bowl success. It included getting stars like Brady and others to accept cap-friendly contracts or adjust their deals to accommodate the signing of other players.

But that acclaim has waned in the years since Brady left, as a run of draft picks and high-priced free agents didn’t live up to expectations. In addition, Belichick has seen several members of his personnel and scouting departments leave for other jobs. The list includes his former player personnel director, Nick Caserio, who was hired as Houston’s general manager in 2021.

Now it won’t be Belichick making the decisions for the Patriots on or off the field.

The only child of a World War II veteran who spent three decades as a Navy assistant coach, Belichick is a football historian with an encyclopedic knowledge of strategy from the sport’s early days to current NFL trends. His players said his attention to detail never left them unprepared.

Belichick has been a master of the NFL rule book, unearthing loopholes in clock operations and offensive line formations that — though entirely legal — cemented his reputation as a mad genius.

But his legacy in New England also includes two major cheating investigations — and other, minor ones — that cost him and the team draft picks and more than $1 million in fines. Opponents accused the Patriots of everything from hacking their headsets to cutting corners on injury reports.

His friendship with former President Donald Trump, which Belichick insisted was not political, landed the coach on the list to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom in the waning days of the administration. After the outcry against the U.S. Capitol siege, Belichick announced “the decision has been made not to move forward.”

Linebacker Alex Highsmith signs contract to stay with the Steelers through 2027

FILE – Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in Baltimore. Coming off a breakout season, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith has signed a new contract that will keep him with the Steelers for the next five seasons. The two sides announced the deal on Wednesday, July 19, a week before the Steelers reported to training camp.(AP Photo/Terrance Williams, File)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Coming off a breakout season, outside linebacker Alex Highsmith has signed a new contract that will keep him with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the next five seasons.
The two sides announced the deal on Wednesday, a week before the Steelers reported to training camp. The 25-year-old Highsmith was in the final year of his rookie contract, and this will extend it through 2027.
“This means everything,” Highsmith said in a statement provided by the team after the signing. “I know I am a Pittsburgh Steeler through and through, and just to be a part of this amazing organization for four more years means the world to me, to my wife, to my whole family. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to play ball.”
A third-round pick in the 2020 draft, Highsmith has played in 49 career games, starting 38. He has 179 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 22 1/2 sacks, 41 quarterback hits, six forced fumbles, two passes defensed and one interception.
Highsmith ranks first in the NFL for the most strip sacks (five) and forced fumbles (six) and is tied for second most in sacks (17.5) in his last 20 games, dating to Week 16 of the 2021 season. He also has recorded seven multiple sack games in his career.
Highsmith led the team with a career-high 14.5 sacks last season. The total was tied for sixth-most in the league, and fifth-most in Steelers history for a single season.
“It was a good year, but I’m far from satisfied,” said Highsmith in the offseason. “I never get complacent or comfortable, but I am grateful for a better year and being injury free for a year. I never want to get complacent, but I always want to be grateful.”
In addition, Highsmith’s team-high five forced fumbles were also tied for most in the NFL last year. He finished the season with 63 tackles, 20 quarterback hits, 12 tackles for loss and one pass defensed.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “In 2021, I didn’t have a good start to my year dealing with injuries. I ended up finishing the year strong. This past year, I just wanted to start fast and continue it throughout the year. I felt like I was playing with more consistency and more confidence because I know the type of player that I can be. I just want to continue to get better every year.”
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Clark Haggans, Longtime NFL Linebacker Who Won a Super Bowl With the Steelers, Dies at 46

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Clark Haggans, an outside linebacker who won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers during a 13-year career that included stops in Arizona and San Francisco, has died. He was 46.

The Larimer County coroner’s office said in a release that it responded to a residence in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Monday to investigate the death of a male who was identified as Haggans. An autopsy was completed Wednesday with the cause and manner of death pending further investigation, the coroner’s office said. No foul play was evident.

The Steelers took a chance on Haggans in the fifth round of the 2000 draft. He responded by becoming a special teams ace before graduating into a starting role opposite Joey Porter on a defense that regularly ranked among the best in the NFL.

Haggans’ finest season came in 2005. He racked up a career-best nine sacks and was a disruptive force in the playoffs as Pittsburgh won three straight road games to reach the Super Bowl. Haggans had one of three Steelers sacks in the title game against the Seahawks as the franchise earned its fifth championship.

Haggans headed west to Arizona in 2008 but went down with a foot injury in mid-December, forcing him to sit out a postseason run that ended with the Cardinals falling to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

Haggans played for Arizona from 2008-11 and spent his final season in the league with the 49ers in 2012, finishing with 46 1/2 sacks in 172 games.

Haggans grew up near Torrance, California, before starring at Colorado State in the late 1990s. He helped the Rams to a pair of Western Athletic Conference titles and his 33 sacks remain a program record.

Steelers Beat Browns 28-14 But Miss Out On Playoffs

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) celebrates with teammate Dan Moore Jr. after scoring during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Najee Harris ran for 84 yards and a touchdown and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cleveland Browns 28-14 on Sunday but were eliminated from the playoffs when Miami edged the New York Jets.
The Steelers (9-8) will have to settle for a 16th straight non-losing season under coach Mike Tomlin, fueled by a 7-2 finish. Pittsburgh’s ugly 2-6 start included an injury to star linebacker T.J. Watt and rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett’s ascension to the starting job at halftime of a Week 4 loss to the Jets.
Pickett completed 13 of 29 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown and avoided an interception for the sixth time in his last seven appearances.
Pittsburgh’s defense sacked Deshaun Watson seven times to assure the Steelers of finishing ahead of the Browns (7-10) in the standings for the 34th consecutive time.
Cleveland has had 17 seasons of 10 losses or more since the franchise rebooted in 1999.
Watson, who was suspended for the first 11 games of the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, connected on 19 of 29 passes for 230 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, both of which the Steelers turned into points. Nick Chubb ran for 77 yards and caught a touchdown pass to join Jim Brown as the only players in Browns history to exceed 1,500 yards rushing in a season.
Pittsburgh ran off 20 straight points — 10 of them directly after turnovers — after spotting Cleveland an early touchdown. The Browns drew within 20-14 on a 2-yard flip from Watson to Chubb with 10:20 to go.
The Steelers responded with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard plunge by fullback Derek Watt with 4:39 to play.
While the Steelers entered the finale still in the mix, Cleveland was looking toward 2023 following an uneven season in which the turmoil surrounding Watson’s status overshadowed the on-field product for long stretches.
The Browns will miss out on the playoffs for a second straight year, although coach Kevin Stefanski’s job appears safe. The same cannot be said of members of Stefanski’s staff. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ status could be in jeopardy as the unit was wildly inconsistent and awful against the run, even with Myles Garrett — whose 16 sacks tied his own club record — having another spectacular season.
Browns: LB Reggie Ragland left in the first half with a shoulder injury. … CB Denzel Ward did not play in the second half due to a shoulder injury. Ward was questionable during the week. … T Jedrick Wills went to the sideline in the final minute with a leg injury.
Steelers: WR Gunnar Olszewski injured his left leg on a jet sweep in the third quarter. … C Mason Cole was evaluated for a left ankle injury in the third quarter but did not miss a series. … TE Pat Freiermuth left with a left leg injury in the fourth quarter.
Former Browns quarterback and Ohio native Bernie Kosar said he was fired from the team’s radio broadcast team on Sunday. Kosar admitted earlier this week to placing a bet on the Browns to win the game. Ohio made sports betting legal on Jan. 1.
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Franco Harris Dies Just Two Days Short of 50th Anniversary of “Immaculate Reception”

FILE – Pittsburgh Steelers’ Franco Harris (32) eludes a tackle by Oakland Raiders’ Jimmy Warren as he runs 42-yards for a touchdown after catching a deflected pass during an AFC Divisional NFL football playoff game in Pittsburgh, Dec. 23, 1972. Harris’ scoop of a deflected pass and subsequent run for the winning touchdown — forever known as the “Immaculate Reception” — has been voted the greatest play in NFL history. On the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception” — Friday, Dec. 23, 2022 — Pittsburghers recall how it boosted morale during the collapse of the steel industry and has served as a cultural rallying point ever since. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck, File)
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris has died. He was 72. Harris’ heads-up thinking authored “The Immaculate Reception.” It is considered the most iconic play in NFL history. Harris ran for 12,120 yards and won four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. The team’s dynasty began in earnest when Harris decided to keep running during a last-second heave by Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw in a playoff game against Oakland in 1972. His catch and run off a deflected pass gave the Steelers their first-ever playoff win and is forever immortalized as the “Immaculate Reception.”

AP source: Bears acquire WR Claypool from Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) warms up before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Wide receiver Chase Claypool is heading to the Chicago Bears. A person with knowledge of the deal tells The Associated Press the Pittsburgh Steelers have traded Claypool to Chicago for a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal was not official. The trade gives Chicago quarterback Justin Fields a downfield threat in an effort to boost a passing attack that ranks last in the NFL, averaging just 126.9 yards per game.

Tua, Dolphins Survive Scoreless 2nd Half to Beat Steelers

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) aims a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee )

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Tua Tagovailoa got the Dolphins off to a fast start in his return from a concussion, and Miami held on throughout a scoreless second half to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-10. The Dolphins snapped a three-game skid that began on Sept. 29, when Tagovailoa was concussed in a loss at Cincinnati. Miami coach Mike McDaniel opted not to have Jason Sanders kick his fourth field goal of the game midway through the third quarter for a two-score lead. Chase Edmonds was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-3. The decision loomed large as Miami punted on its next five possessions. But the Dolphins intercepted rookie Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett twice in the closing minutes to seal it.

No Quick Fixes for Steelers, Tomlin During Nightmarish Start

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin meets with reporters after an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022. The Bills won 38-3. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — For nearly two decades the Pittsburgh Steelers seemed immune to the realities of the NFL.
Seasons came, seasons went. And the Steelers stayed relevant. In the mix. A factor even as the fortunes of their AFC North rivals — Baltimore chief among them — and the vast majority of the rest of the league rose and fell and rose again, just the way it’s supposed to work under the salary cap.
During coach Mike Tomlin’s first 15 years on the job, Pittsburgh played exactly one game in which it was eliminated from playoff contention.
One. One out of 241. One.
It’s a figure that seems all but certain to climb by several multiples in 2022 after the Steelers fell to 1-4 during an embarrassing 38-3 loss to Buffalo on Sunday.
“We just got smashed today,” Tomlin said shortly after the franchise’s worst setback in 33 years, a dismantling that exposed a staggering gap in talented depth between the two teams.
The Bills hardly missed a beat despite missing tight end Dawson Knox and safety Jordan Poyer, among others. Buffalo rookies were making plays all over the field. Wide receiver Khalil Shakir caught the first five passes of his career. Running back James Cook ran by a group that included linebackers Jamir Jones and Ryan Anderson — both of whom were on the practice squad at the start of the season — to the end zone for his first score.
The Steelers have made signing their best players (linebacker T.J. Watt, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, WR Diontae Johnson) to lucrative extensions a priority, moves that require them to find good players on the cheap.
It hasn’t happened.
The same team that found gems in players that became roster fixtures such as Antonio Brown (sixth round), linebacker Vince Williams (sixth round) and Ramon Foster (undrafted) and Alejandro Villanueva (free-agent signing) has swung and missed far more often than not in recent years. The decision to use high picks on offensive skill position players such as running back Najee Harris and wide receiver Chase Claypool rather than fortify the trenches in an effort to prop open the championship window under Ben Roethlisberger appears ill-advised.
Roethlisberger isn’t around anymore to cover up the warts on offense. Watt is out indefinitely with a left pectoral injury. Fitzpatrick is banged up. And the defense is a mess in their absence.
The Steelers have been 1-4 before on Tomlin’s watch, pulling themselves out of a massive hole to nearly reach the postseason in 2013.
They’ve gotten blown out before on Tomlin’s watch. Last year alone they followed 31 and 26- point losses with victories the following week.
Yet the resiliency that’s been the trademark of Tomlin-coached teams seems far away at the moment.
Not with the offense 30th in the league in scoring. Not with practice squad players filling in for an injury-ravaged defense. Not with the very small margin for error the Steelers needed to work within as they began the post-Roethlisberger era — don’t turn the ball over and hope the defense reverts to its 2020 version — obliterated well before Halloween.
Tomlin promised “to turn over whatever stone to change the outcomes of games like what transpired today.”
The stones they’ve turned over on the roster have yet to make a significant positive impact. Their short-term options are basically limited to raiding other team’s practice squads or signing guys off the street.
The chance at real solutions likely won’t come until free agency and the 2023 draft.
There are 12 more games remaining in 2022, a dozen more up-close looks at the harsh realities of a business model the Steelers are discovering they are no longer immune to.
The decision to turn to rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett looks like the right move. Pickett appeared to be two things against the Bills: fearless and decisive, qualities Mitch Trubisky failed to show with any sort of consistency during his 3 1/2 games at the helm.
Everything else pretty much. Tomlin wasn’t lying when he said it’s all interconnected. Yet the best way to take some of the pressure off a beat-up and underperforming defense is by scoring more.
The Steelers have six offensive touchdowns through five games. Cleveland running back Nick Chubb has seven.
Cam Heyward. The defensive end’s No. 97 was in relentless pursuit of the ball on Sunday regardless of the circumstances or who was around him, a testament to his professionalism and the example he is trying to set.
Harris. Maybe it’s the foot injury he suffered during training camp. Maybe it’s the lack of push by the offensive line in front of him. Maybe it’s the scheme. Whatever it is, the second-year running back has been unable to get it going. He is averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per carry through five games and has looked like the lesser of the two options next to backup Jaylen Warren.
0 — the number of touchdown receptions by Pittsburgh wide receivers in mid-October.
Tight end Pat Freiermuth sustained a concussion in the third quarter that appeared to leave him briefly unconscious on the field. It’s his third concussion in less than two seasons, a troubling trend for a promising young player. … DT Larry Ogunjobi left with a back injury and did not return and the secondary remains a shambles, with Levi Wallace (concussion) and Cam Sutton (hamstring) joining the injury list.
Find some semblance of pride while trying to do something that’s been particularly problematic over the years: beat Tom Brady. The Tampa Bay QB is 9-3 against Pittsburgh in his career, with 29 touchdowns against five interceptions.
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Trubisky Makes Case for QB job as Steelers top Lions 19-9

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) passes against the Detroit Lions during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mitch Trubisky staked his claim to be the Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback, throwing for 160 yards and a touchdown in a 19-9 win over Detroit in the NFL’s preseason finale. Trubisky was at his best late in the first half, leading the Steelers on a 92-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Steven Sims. Rookie Kenny Pickett played well in the second half for Ptitsburgh but it appears Trubisky has the inside track to be the starter when the Steelers begin the regular season in Cincinnati on Sept. 11.