Redskins

Short-handed Steelers getting healthier

Short-handed Steelers getting healthier

PITTSBURGH (AP) Maurkice Pouncey is expected to return to the Steelers' lineup on Sunday, and Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman might do the same.

Pouncey, an All-Pro center, will practice Wednesday after missing the game in Cincinnati Sunday due to a right knee sprain. Mendenhall (Achilles) and Redman (ankle), who top the running back depth chart, ``have a chance'' of playing as well, Sunday, coach Mike Tomlin said.

The news is not all good though, as Pittsburgh (3-3) prepares to host the Washington Redskins (3-4). All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu and starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert have already been ruled out.

The Steelers moved into second place in the AFC North with a 24-17 win over the Bengals on Sunday.

The players most impacted by these returnees might be on special teams. Beleaguered and penalty-ridden, these units have become a chief concern for Tomlin. The coach even threatened benchings in the return game, where five flags were thrown in the Steelers' 10 return opportunities vs. Cincinnati.

``The multiple offenders, the egregious offenders, are going to be watching instead of playing as soon as we get some options,'' Tomlin said. ``Right now, with the injuries, we have minimal options.''

Safety Will Allen will be limited early this week after leaving the Bengals game due to a sprained ankle. Allen has started in place of Polamalu the past two weeks, and Tomlin said he anticipates him being able to play against Washington.

If some or all of the injured group - Pouncey, Mendenhall, Redman and reserve linebacker Chris Carter - return, it'll create a domino effect in which Tomlin has the freedom to pick and choose players to sit. Carter missed the Cincinnati game with a hamstring injury.

``We believe we have some dynamic return men, and penalties negate that effort,'' Tomlin said. ``What's going on in the return game from a penalty standpoint is disturbing. The first chance we get, we'll send a strong message in regards that we won't accept that type of performance.

``We feel like we can be explosive in that area provided we don't shoot ourselves in the foot, and I thought we did that in the football game (Sunday).''

Tomlin did not mention names when talking about possible benchings. DeMarcus Van Dyke, a cornerback claimed off waivers from the Oakland Raiders late in training camp, has been one of the players flagged multiple times.

Without Mendenhall and Redman, the Steelers still had their best running performance of the season Sunday. That could create another tough decision for Tomlin down the road. Jonathan Dwyer had 122 rushing yards against Cincinnati after being deactivated for each of the two previous games. Also, rookie Chris Rainey had the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

If all of Pittsburgh's running backs are healthy, who suits up against the Redskins? And how will the carries be split up?

``We're going to base those judgments on what it looks like as these guys prepare and get closer to game action during the week,'' Tomlin said. ``We're not going to hypothesize as to what that might be. We'll simply react to it and come up with the best formula that suits us for being successful this week.''

The Steelers improved their league rank in rushing yards from 31st to 26th with the 5.9 yards-per-carry performance in Cincinnati. This despite the fact that Pouncey and Gilbert were replaced by Doug Legursky at center and rookie Mike Adams at tackle, respectively.

``It was a strong run-game performance,'' Tomlin said. ``I thought we did a nice job up front getting hats on hats. I thought all the running backs did a nice job, of course highlighted by Jonathan Dwyer's efforts, but also Chris Rainey and Baron Batch and others I thought did a nice job.''

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These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

These hidden factors could make Brandon Scherff less interested in an extension with the Redskins

In Brandon Scherff, the Redskins have a 27-year-old guard who has delivered on his first-round status, a lineman who has become one of the best in the league at his position and should have many more years of production and defender-mauling left.

Therefore, it's in the Redskins' best interest to extend Scherff this offseason, and the veteran confirmed on Monday there have been talks about getting that done

But during a discussion on the Redskins Talk podcast, J.I. Halsell, a salary cap expert and former agent, laid out something that could force those negotiations to stall.

"There are some things you have to take into consideration because 2020 is the final year of the collective bargaining agreement, so there are some things you have to work around when structuring the deal," Halsell said.

Not only is that deadline approaching, but another one is, too. In 2021 and 2022, the NFL's TV deals with Monday Night Football, FOX, CBS and NBC expire as well.

So, there's a very real possibility the league's salary cap could look much, much different in a few seasons. And that, according to Halsell, may make Scherff much less willing to accept an extension now.

"If you're Brandon Scherff, in 2021, with a new collective bargaining agreement, the salary cap might be $250 million or something crazy like that, with all the new revenue coming into the league," he explained. "And so why would I take a deal today and preclude myself of taking advantage of a very lucrative and larger revenue pie?"

Essentially, it comes down to whether Scherff wants to take a present risk that could pay off down the line (kind of like how Kirk Cousins did a few years back with the Burgundy and Gold). He could probably lock something in over the next few months — Halsell's projection was an agreement for five years, including $45 million guaranteed and a $14.5 million average per year — or step away from talks now and try to cash in later.

Haslell told Redskins Talk he'd probably advise the lineman to take the second route.

"You would say, 'Look, you're a former first-round pick. You've made a decent amount of money in your career thus far,'" he said. "You have the financial wherewithal to not take the bird in hand today that may not be as lucrative as what is out there in 2021. So, bet on yourself and play out the last year of your rookie deal, force them to tag you in 2020 and then see what this new NFL salary cap world looks like in 2021."

Now, who knows truly how much these factors will play into Scherff's back-and-forth with the 'Skins. Nevertheless, you can see why the Pro Bowler's next contract may not be as much of a no-brainer as previously thought.

"If the kid is willing to bet on himself," Haslell said, "then it could be very lucrative on the back end."

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nickeil Walker-Alexander

School: Virginia Tech
Position: Guard
Age: 20 (turns 21 in September)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 204
Wingspan: 6-10
Max vertical: N/A

2018/19 stats: 16.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.4 FG% (5.6/11.8), 37.4 3PT% (1.7/4.6), 77.8 FT%

Player comparison: Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Tomas Satoransky

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 19th, NBADraft.net 14th, Bleacher Report 18th, Sports Illustrated 20th, Ringer 16th

5 things to know:

*Walker-Alexander is a big guard known for his offensive skillset. He can handle the ball, pass and score in a variety of ways. He can play both point guard and shooting guard and affect games with his passing at either spot. 

*He was an excellent three-point shooter in college. As a freshman, he shot 39.2 percent from long range on 4.5 attempts per game. His percentage dipped as a sophomore to 37.4 percent, but that was still impressive given he attempted 4.6 shots per game. 

*Walker-Alexander has a plus wingspan, which he uses to his advantage on defense. He averaged 1.9 steals per game this past season in Blacksburg and his highlight reels are flooded with open court dunks off turnovers. He appears to have strong instincts as a perimeter defender, but could struggle initially at the NBA level against quicker and stronger guards.

*Though he has great size and length for a guard, Walker-Alexander is not considered a premier athlete for the position. He does not have elite quickness or the ability to play consistently above the rim. Because of that, some wonder how high his ceiling will be in the NBA. He may, however, have a high floor given his well-rounded game and basketball IQ.

*Walker-Alexander is from Canada. He has played for the national team as a junior and is part of a new wave of players from the country in the NBA. Walker-Alexander was a high school teammate of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who just enjoyed a strong rookie season with the L.A. Clippers.

Fit with Wizards: The Wizards need help at just about every position, so even a guard can't be ruled out. Walker-Alexander would give them more backcourt depth and that is needed long-term, even after John Wall returns from injury.

If Walker-Alexander can develop into an above average perimeter defender, he could be very useful for the Wizards. They need to improve at stopping dribble penetration and three-point shooters. They could use more players with Walker-Alexander's length and ability to force turnovers. Also, he would help spread the floor with his shooting.

All that said, the Wizards could probably find a player with more upside than Walker-Alexander with the ninth overall pick. He would be more in line with their decision to take Troy Brown Jr. last June.

Like Brown, he is smart and a safe bet to carve out a long NBA career. But could Walker-Alexander become an elite player at his position? He seems like a better option if they trade down into the teens and acquire more picks.

Best highlight video:

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