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Tim Benz: Kenny Pickett's strengths became his biggest weakness by the end in Pittsburgh

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Tim Benz: Kenny Pickett's strengths became his biggest weakness by the end in Pittsburgh


During his first media availability with the Philadelphia Eagles, former Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett acknowledged that he wanted to leave Pittsburgh in advance of Friday’s trade that sent him across the state.

He also did little to tamp down a narrative that he pouted his way through much of the last four months, including a refusal to dress for the Week 17 game in Seattle when it became clear he wouldn’t start.

When asked about that storyline surrounding the Seahawks game by the Philadelphia media Monday, Pickett said, “That goes back to a lot of the communication behind closed doors that didn’t go the way that I feel like they went in how it’s getting released. There was a plan there for that game. It went down exactly the way it was planned to go down that entire week.”

That was quite a non-answer answer. In that situation, any answer besides, “It’s not true, I never refused to dress,” is going to leave people continuing to assume you refused to dress.

In terms of the reported trade request, once the Steelers signed Russell Wilson, Pickett said, “It just felt like it was time from the things that transpired and (I) wanted to get a chance to go somewhere else to continue to grow my career.

“It was behind closed doors. I’m confident in the way that I handled it. I handled it the way I should’ve handled it. I’m excited to be here. It worked out so well that Philly was the place I ended up landing in, so I think everything happens for a reason and I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

When Pickett says, “It was time,” how much time did he really give it? He was given the starter’s job four weeks into his first regular season. The team benched twice and eventually cut the starter (Mitch Trubisky), who had the job before him. Then they let the guy who took it from Pickett (Mason Rudolph) walk out the door to Tennessee even though he was excellent in winning the last three games of the regular season to guide the team to the playoffs.

Pickett didn’t even take one snap under new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, and he wasn’t willing to endure one training camp battle from Wilson for his starting job.

Did anyone along the way tell Pickett the history of quarterbacks being challenged for their starting job in Pittsburgh? Kordell Stewart was challenged by the likes of Kent Graham and Mike Tomczak and got it back, eventually leading the team to the 2001 AFC Championship game. At least Wilson has a Hall of Fame track record and (hopefully) something left in the tank.

Four years into his career, future Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw started what would become a Super Bowl season on the bench behind Joe Gilliam.

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Terry Hanratty yielded the starter’s job to Bradshaw in 1971 and stayed with the team all the way through 1976 and won two Super Bowl rings as a result.


• First Call: A new contract for a new Steeler; Kenny Pickett ripped on ESPN; another stop for Josh Dobbs
• Duquesne’s Keith Dambrot praises Pitt’s Jeff Capel, rebukes Panthers’ NCAA snub
• Madden Monday: Steelers ‘did themselves a favor’ by trading Kenny Pickett to Philadelphia


Sometimes, the road gets tough. Now, through this trade, it may have gotten tougher. Sure, Pickett got his wish to leave Pittsburgh. He’s even going to the Eagles, the team he grew up rooting for as a child.

But in terms of playing time, there is much less of a chance of Pickett wedging his way past Jalen Hurts than there would’ve been here replacing Wilson.

To borrow a favorite cliche of Mike Tomlin’s, that’s a far cry from “smiling in the face of adversity.” That’s just sending a frowny face emoji in a text.

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When Pickett was drafted by the Steelers in 2022, even proponents of the pick understood that he may have had some limitations.

He didn’t have a cannon, but his arm was strong enough. He wasn’t a dynamic scrambler, but he certainly moved well enough. He wasn’t as tall as Big Ben, but he was big enough. His hands weren’t large, but, gosh darn it, those thumb stretching exercises were getting the job done well enough.

Basically, physically, Pickett was enough… enough. Theoretically, what was supposed to make him worthy of a first-round pick was everything else.

His smarts. His maturity. His poise. His leadership. His toughness. His command and knowledge of the game. All the things he exhibitted on a daily basis at the University of Pittsburgh and through his first year and half with the Steelers.

All those intangibles were going to heighten the average tangibles he had to the point that he was a championship-contending NFL quarterback.

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Unfortunately by the end of his brief Steelers career, Pickett’s good physical gifts weren’t close to being good enough. And all those seemingly wonderful off-the-field traits ended up being detractors instead of multipliers.

Someone with so much alleged poise wouldn’t have reacted so negatively, so quickly to Rudolph staying under center late last year, and Wilson getting signed this offseason.

Maybe those positive qualities will manifest once more in Philadelphia if called upon should Hurts falter or get injured. If not, though, if Pickett thought he had had it tough in Pittsburgh, I wonder how he’ll handle criticism in a town that basks in its own reputation for dishing it out.

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





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Pittsburg, PA

Operator of Pittsburgh-area casino fined $10,000 for letting in gambler on self-exclusion list

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Operator of Pittsburgh-area casino fined $10,000 for letting in gambler on self-exclusion list


Pennsylvania lawmaker to introduce legislation to tackle dark side of online gambling

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Pennsylvania lawmaker to introduce legislation to tackle dark side of online gambling

03:12

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WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) — The operator of Hollywood Casino at The Meadows in Washington County has been fined $10,000 for letting someone gamble who was on a self-exclusion list, officials announced. 

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved a consent agreement on Wednesday to fine Washington Trotting Association, LLC, which operates the casino.

The board said a person on the self-exclusion list was allowed inside to gamble at slot machines and cash checks at the casino. When someone puts themselves on the list, a casino operator has to deny gaming and cash-checking privileges, the board says.

If a person on the self-exclusion list is caught in a gaming facility, they can be charged with defiant trespass, which the board says happened in this case. 

In October, the Live! Casino in Westmoreland County was fined $30,000 for letting in someone who was underage and two people who were self-excluded from gambling. 

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The board says it offers self-exclusion programs to help people distance themselves from the temptation of gambling. It allows people to voluntarily ban themselves from casinos, internet-based gambling, video gaming terminals and fantasy sports wagering. 

Last year, Pennsylvania brought in a record $5.7 billion in revenue from gambling, and in March, the state’s monthly gaming revenue passed $500 million for the first time since legalized gambling began in 2006.



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Pittsburgh Regional Transit hears bus riders' needs, expects route changes early next year – Pittsburgh Union Progress

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Pittsburgh Regional Transit hears bus riders' needs, expects route changes early next year – Pittsburgh Union Progress


Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s bus line redesign process is finding what the agency suspected: Riding patterns have changed since the pandemic and the agency’s ability to grow will depend on meeting those needs.

The agency’s route planning division began a review of more than 90 bus routes last October and discussed the first round of its public outreach with its Planning & Stakeholder Relations Committee last week. The initial guidance indicates riders want more service to Pittsburgh International Airport and Oakland, better connections between local neighborhoods, service spread throughout the day rather than bunching it during rush hours, and improved frequency and reliability.

“What we’re hearing is people are going different places, not just to work,” Amy Silbermann, PRT’s chief development officer, said in an interview after the committee meeting. “There will be a different balance” of service when the agency begins to implement the plans early next year.

Derek Dauphin, director of planning and service development, said the agency’s challenge is meeting those needs initially without increasing the annual budget. Limited bus operators and lack of additional space at maintenance garages make a huge expansion with a lot of new vehicles difficult at this time.

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But by adjusting service in areas with less ridership — perhaps reducing hours during nonpeak travel times or on weekends — there are hours available to shift to other service to better meet riders’ needs, Dauphin said.

“What we’re finding is there are some hours we can acquire,” Dauphin said in an interview. “We think there are hours we can reallocate.”

One element that seems almost inevitable is that many changes will require riders to transfer to get to new locations, Dauphin said. Although the agency has eliminated transfer fees for noncash customers, he acknowledged that persuading riders to change vehicles could be a hard sell.

“We’re certain that it will be,” he said. “We assume a big part of the process will be marketing the changes and showing the people the value [of the adjusted service].”

If the early changes are successful at increasing ridership and the agency can build a fifth maintenance garage, it will be able to implement additional changes using the blueprint it is developing now.

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Although additional airport service is high on the list for riders, Dauphin said it is too soon to say whether that can be one of the early changes. The agency expects to refine what it heard from riders in the next few months and return to the public in September with recommended changes.



Ed Blazina

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Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he’s currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.

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Visiting the site of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

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Visiting the site of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting


This article was first published in the State of Faith newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Monday night.

I noticed the colorful drawings first.

They were printed onto pieces of canvas that hung on a long fence. They carried messages like “Rebuild together” and “Be happy,” alongside drawings of rainbows, flowers and trees.

These were the images that welcomed me and others at Religion News Association’s annual conference to the site of the deadliest act of antisemitism in U.S. history.

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On Oct. 27, 2018, a man entered a building used by three different Jewish communities and opened fire, killing 11 people and injuring others.

In this photo from Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, visitors walk through the screens displaying artwork from school students surrounding the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. | Keith Srakocic

The juxtaposition between cheerful drawings and horrific memories is intentional. Those who oversee the site of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting told us the images serve as reminders of the good and kind acts that came in response to the shooter’s acts of death and destruction. They were sent in by schoolchildren who wanted to do what they could to help.

Throughout the morning we spent with people affected by the shooting, the same message came up again and again: You must remember the good, as well as the bad.

You must celebrate the kindness and compassion in the world, even as you call out the evil.

You can’t forget how those 11 men and women died, but you also can’t forget how they lived.

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Today, the site of the 2018 shooting is being transformed into a unique kind of community center. It will host worship services, as well as lectures on antisemitism and the beauty of Jewish life.

It will serve as a reminder of what’s possible when we pull together instead of pulling apart.

And until construction is complete, those drawings will hang from the fence outside, calling us to remember not just what happened on Oct. 27, 2018, but also what happened next.


Fresh off the press

USC canceled its valedictorian’s remarks. Does that promote public safety — or hurt free speech?


Term of the week: Matzo

Matzo is thin, unleavened bread that plays a special role in Jews’ Passover festivities. Made of just flour and water, it’s baked before it rises, which means it looks more like a cracker than a loaf.

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“To be kosher for the Passover holiday, which begins Monday evening, the dough has to be prepared and cooked all within 18 minutes,” according to The Associated Press.

By eating matzo, the modern Jewish community commemorates the experience of Jews who fled Egypt during the Exodus story. Those men, women and children were in such a rush that they couldn’t bake normal bread.

The Jewish speaker on a panel about religion and food at last weekend’s conference described how special matzo is to him despite being essentially tasteless. It symbolizes God’s care for the community, he said.


What I’m reading…

Becoming a parent means reckoning with everything you won’t be able to protect your children from. But in the midst of the unexpected heartbreaks and anxiety, you can choose to create moments of immense joy. “Parents cannot shield their children from the world’s cruelty or our failures, but we can try to counter those things. We can provide moments that may become positive recollections to sit alongside harsher ones,” writes Esau McCaulley for The New York Times.

This fall, Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit is going to get serious about limiting screen time. First-year students, who are on the path to becoming priests, will be asked to be more intentional about their relationship with technology and to spend more time socializing with others and in prayer than buried in their phones, according to Catholic News Agency.

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My colleague Jennifer Graham wrote a beautiful profile of writer Nancy French earlier this month. The story explores French’s new memoir, her battle with cancer and her place in the unfolding story of evangelical Christianity.


Odds and ends

I was honored to bring home a second-place award from the RNA conference that recognized my efforts to analyze and explain faith-related Supreme Court cases and policy moves. Here are the three stories that were part of my winning entry:



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