First Call: Kevin Colbert shares background on drafting Kenny Pickett; interesting contract twist for Melvin Ingram

Wednesday’s “First Call” features some background on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ selection of Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett. Former Steeler Melvin Ingram is part of a little-used contract ploy.

Ex-Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon has been a big part of the New York Yankees’ torrid start. We check out the Eastern Conference playoff results.

And a big name in college basketball coaching could be back on the sidelines in Pittsburgh.

A little background

Appearing on WDVE Tuesday morning, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert shared an interesting anecdote about the lead up to drafting Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett. And it had to do with Pickett’s decision to sit out the 2022 Peach Bowl against Michigan State.

“Throughout the whole process, we thought Kenny was the best (of the quarterbacks in the draft),” Colbert told the ‘DVE Morning Show. “I remember talking to (Pitt) coach (Pat) Narduzzi in the spring, (after) Kenny decided not to play in the bowl game. And he said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Coach, he is the best one. There is no doubt in our minds.’ Good for him. He did what he needed to do there. He progressed through the Senior Bowl and the whole scouting process and never short-changed it. Never did we think Kenny would be available.”

The belief around the Steelers has always seemed to be that they shouldn’t hold a decision to avoid playing in a bowl game against a player, but they do look fondly upon those who play for their teams even when there is injury risk involved.

Obviously, the Steelers didn’t flinch at Pickett’s decision. Also notable in that regard, Panthers QB Nick Patti did get hurt in that game.

Star Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III also sat out that night. He ended up being the second running back chosen, going to the Seattle Seahawks with the ninth pick in Round 2.

Getting creative

The Kansas City Chiefs are thinking outside the box in their attempt to retain pass rusher Melvin Ingram.

Kansas City put the rarely used unrestricted free-agent tender on the former Steeler late Monday. The Baltimore Ravens also decided to use the UFA tag in 2022 on another edge rusher, Justin Houston.

The UFA tender means the Chiefs are offering Ingram a one-year contract worth $4.4 million. However, if Ingram remains unsigned past July 22, he can only sign with the Chiefs for the upcoming NFL season.

According to KMBC.com, the UFA tender is worth 110% of a player’s pay in the previous season. Ingram can sign that contract anytime he decides he’d like to stay with the team.

In the meantime, Ingram may sign with any team in free agency, so long as it’s before the training camp deadline on July 22.

What this means for the Chiefs and Ravens is that if Ingram and Houston do sign with another team, those clubs may potentially receive a compensatory draft pick in 2023. That compensatory pick would not have been possible without the UFA tender, due to a deadline before the 2022 NFL Draft.

Ingram did take a visit with the Miami Dolphins ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. He was signed by the Steelers before 2021, then maneuvered his way out of Pittsburgh via trade to Kansas City.

Thinking upset

Besides the Penguins beating the New York Rangers, the other NHL Eastern Conference playoff series that started Tuesday night was the top-seeded Florida Panthers against the second wild card Washington Capitals.

And the Caps pulled off the upset in Game 1, winning in Miami 4-2. T.J. Oshie had the game-winner for the Capitals.

Alex Ovechkin returned from an upper-body injury that sidelined him for the last three games of the regular season. He recorded one assist in 17 minutes 36 seconds of ice time.

Washington entered the third period down 2-1. The second game of the series is Thursday in Florida.

J.Mo’ keeps it going

The New York Yankees’ win streak is up to 11 games. And former Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon is a big reason why.

He authored a nice start Tuesday in Toronto as the Yanks won 9-1. Taillon allowed just one run on five hits in six innings against the Blue Jays. He didn’t walk anyone and totaled four strikeouts. The 30-year-old right-hander is now 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA. He has a 21:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

He got some support from this moon shot off Aaron Judge’s bat.

That was Judge’s ninth homer of the season. He’s tied with teammate Anthony Rizzo for the American League lead.

Taillon has started three of the 11 victories for the Yankees during their streak. New York’s 18-6 record is the best in Major League Baseball. They have a 3½ game lead on the Blue Jays.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets have the second-best record in MLB. They are 18-8 after sweeping a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.

Another former Pirate, Charlie Morton, absorbed the 5-4 loss for the Braves in Game 1. He’s now 1-3 with an ERA of 6.85. The Mets won 3-0 in Game 2.

Pitino in Pittsburgh

May college basketball fans in Pittsburgh soon see Rick Pitino back on a visiting bench? It might happen at Duquesne’s UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse.

John Rothstein of College Hoops Today reports that the Atlantic 10 is looking to add a 16th team. And he suggests that Pitino’s Iona Gaels may be a candidate.

Pitino took over Iona (located in New Rochelle, N.Y.) in the covid-shortened 2020 season, going 12-6 after the team was 12-17 the year before. They were 25-8 in 2021-22 and won the MAAC regular-season crown with a 17-3 record.

Rothstein says that Pitino may be eyeing a move to a conference that can get at least two bids in the NCAA tournament per year. Last season the A-10 got two schools (Richmond, Davidson) into the bracket.

Temple has also been rumored as a school that might be interested. But Rothstein squashed that by saying they want to stay in the American Athletic Conference in order to bolster their football program.

Pitino coached against Pitt in the Big East and ACC as an assistant at Syracuse and the head coach of Providence and Louisville.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

Pitt | Sports | Steelers/NFL | Breakfast With Benz | Tim Benz Columns

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