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Gronk’s gone. We can only hope it’s not forever.

The immediate ramifications are obvious. The New England Patriots are one thing with Rob Gronkowski at tight end and another, lesser thing without him at tight end. But you don’t need me, Ben Volin, Bill Belichick, Ron Jaworski, or the ghost of George Halas to tell you this.

Regardless, do count me among those who believe the absence of Gronkowski will not be the reason you won’t be seeing the Patriots win that coveted fifth Super Bowl championship. We are all waiting to see the get-’em-off-the-field defense a Super Bowl champion usually needs. (I say “usually” because we didn’t see that type of defense in Super Bowl XLIX, either. But thanks to Pete Carroll’s ill-fated goal-line decision, and Malcolm Butler’s play for the ages, the Patriots escaped, anyway.)

Of course, I want to be wrong. But that’s the way I see it.

Let’s talk about Gronk’s legacy.

I am of the belief that when you talk about all-time greats in any sport it is necessary to differentiate between career achievement and short-term greatness. Sometimes we overlook athletic comets flashing across the sky. There are players of undeniable greatness in all sports who are unable to sustain their performance for the long, long haul because of injury. I’ll wager, for example, that legions of current NBA fans have no idea there was once a frightening force of nature by the name of Andrew Toney. He’s not in the Hall of Fame, and never will be. His career lasted from 1980-88. He played in 468 NBA games, but in his final three seasons he was only able to participate in 87 of a potential 246 games because of stress fractures in both feet, fractures that for a very long period went improperly diagnosed.

But, oh, those first five years. The man was unguardable. A 6-foot-3-inch guard with a great pro body, he could go right or left, shoot threes, take it to the hoop, and please don’t foul him. He played with what I can only describe as a contempt for defenders. As far as his battles with the Celtics were concerned, not for nothing was he nicknamed the “Boston Strangler.”

Larry Bird on Toney: “He was a killer . . . the absolute best I’ve ever seen at shooting the ball at crucial times. We had nobody who could come close to stopping him. Nobody.”

And Toney is forgotten by the general public today. It happens.

Will that happen to Gronk if his career is through (and I’m not saying it is)? Gronk has an outsized personality to accompany his athletic greatness. And there are those of us who believe that while he will not match the complete career accomplishments of, say, Tony Gonzalez, at his playing best he may very well be the best tight end who has ever played the game. Of course, that’s an opinion, and it will be debated.

Now, what if I told you there was a Gronk before Gronk? What if I told you there was a Gronk before Gronk who is not ever going into the Hall of Fame, a Gronk before Gronk who played only nine NFL seasons and was nowhere near his real self in four of those final five seasons because of a debilitating knee injury, a Gronk before Gronk whose official nickname was “Rambo,” a Gronk before Gronk who — and this is where we enter into the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up category — was even coached by the same guy who has borne witness to every second of Rob Gronkowski’s professional career?

Does the name Mark Bavaro ring a bell?

As recently as the fall of 2015, Bill Belichick thought it was necessary to pump the brakes on the public adulation of Gronkowski. That’s because during his run as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants back in the ’90s, Belichick had seen what he felt was some pretty amazing stuff from the team’s resident tight end, one Mark Bavaro, the pride of Danvers and Notre Dame.

Bavaro was a fourth-round draft pick in 1985. The Giants already had a pretty good tight end in Zeke Mowatt, but this kid immediately inserted himself into the picture.

He was a starter on the 1986 and 1990 Giants Super Bowl champs, and in that capacity he earned a reputation as the best combination pass receiver/blocker at his position. At least that’s the way the current HC of the NEP saw it in a pair of interviews from the fall of 2015. In fact, Belichick said you’d have to compare Gronkowski to Bavaro, not the other way around.

For example: “It would be hard for me to put anyone past Bavaro just because of the times he blocked Reggie White with no help. There was no double team; he just blocked him. Now that was a good battle. Reggie got him a few times, too.”

In another interview a short time later, Belichick said, “Mark’s in a really special category. His toughness, his overall complete play as a tight end and blocker, just as a total competitor, was just outstanding. I don’t think that any of us who coached him or played with him feel he has gotten the recognition we know he deserves.”

The coach also acknowledged the difference in numbers between Gronk and Bavaro (e.g. 68 receiving TDs for Gronk vs. 39 for Bavaro) to “different era, different game.”

One play in particular defines Bavaro, and I urge you to check it out. On Dec. 1, 1986, Bavaro caught a short pass from Phil Simms, and what happened after that was rather astonishing. He somehow tacked on 20-plus yards while dragging upward of seven — swear to God — 49ers with him, one being Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. It does give you some idea of Bavaro’s greatness.

Mark Bavaro was the polar opposite of Rob Gronkowski in personality. I discovered that myself when he was an undergraduate at Notre Dame and I went to interview him as part of my then-job with Channel 5. He was a young man of very few words. Very few. Later on, he was a slightly older man of very few words. Very, very few. That never changed. He was neither a showman nor a pitchman. He was just a total football player and great teammate. His knee betrayed him and kept him from having the kind of career that winds up with someone giving a speech (in his case, a short one, I’m sure) in Canton, Ohio, on some hot July date.

But if Bill Belichick says Rob Gronkowski should be happy to be compared with Mark Bavaro, who needs the Hall of Fame?

Mark Bavaro. Remember the name.

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The Philadelphia Eagles came into the 2017 offseason with one goal: Surround Carson Wentz with talent. With a young quarterback at the helm, the best thing a team can do is provide him with reliable, consistent playmakers on offense.

The Eagles didn’t have those type of players last season, and it’s a big reason they limped to a 7-9 record. Wentz obviously went through his share of struggles – no one is saying he was great as a rookie – but he didn’t get much help from his receivers or the running game.

The Eagles were aware of this development and admitted that they needed to provide their young quarterback with better playmakers.

“It’s our job to make sure he understands that we take it very seriously building this team around him,” Howie Roseman said back in January. “This isn’t a hobby for us. We’re going to surround him and do the right thing for that kid so when he looks back on his career he knows he had every chance to bring a championship to the city of Philadelphia.”

We’re now four months removed from both the end of Wentz’s first season and Roseman’s acknowledgement, but how have the Eagles done when it comes to addressing their needs? On the surface, it looks like they’ve given Wentz the necessary players to have long-term success. When you dig deeper, though, the view is much different.

The Eagles are building a roster around their franchise quarterback by signing short-term solutions.

Yes, they signed receivers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery in free agency – two moves that are sure to help Wentz in 2017. They also just signed LeGarrette Blount, who’s a much-needed enforcer at running back for a team that has struggled in that department for years.

But let’s take a closer look at each of those signings. Smith is 28 years old and is coming off of a stint with the 49ers in which he caught 53 passes for 930 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons. San Francisco’s quarterback situation had plenty to do with that, but Smith has only one 1,000-yard season in his career and is mostly just a deep threat.

His three-year contract indicates that the Eagles are absolutely not committed to him long-term. Heck, if they wanted to cut ties with him this offseason, they could. He received $500,000 guaranteed, meaning they’re not tied to him for even this year. Don’t be surprised to see him out of Philly by 2018.

The Eagles are slightly more committed to Jeffery. However, how sold on him can they really be when he’s only under contract for 2017? He can walk away next offseason as long as the Eagles don’t slap him with the franchise tag, opting for a big contract in free agency. That’s the sort of player Philadelphia is surrounding a young franchise quarterback with?

The same goes for Blount, who will be more of a role player than a bell cow for the Eagles. He’ll primarily handle first and second down, while getting most of the goal-line opportunities. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and has had one good season with a team not named the Patriots. He’s also on a one-year deal with very little financial commitment from the Eagles.

If things go poorly and all three players perform at a level below their expectations, we could see the Eagles even thinner on offense a year from now. Jeffery can walk, Blount isn’t a long-term option and Smith has no guaranteed money beyond 2017. Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will all be free agents next offseason.

In what way have the Eagles surrounded Wentz with long-term stability? By drafting Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round? They haven’t taken a single offensive skill-position player in the first three rounds the past two years. Obviously, some of that has to do with the compensation Philadelphia surrendered to get him, but there isn’t a player on the roster who he can develop alongside for years to come.

Dak Prescott has Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott. Jared Goff has Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin. Deshaun Watson has DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller. Marcus Mariota has Corey Davis, Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray.

Granted, some of those players were in place before the quarterback was drafted, but they all have young, high-ceiling playmakers to grow with – to build a rapport with. Wentz doesn’t have that, and it’s all because the Eagles haven’t committed to a single Pro Bowl-caliber skill-position player for the long-term besides tight end Zach Ertz.

Wideout Nelson Agholor is inconsistent and is trending toward being a bust, and Matthews has been plagued by drops. Smith and Jeffery will replace both players on the depth chart this season, but neither is locked up contractually.

So while the Eagles did a decent job adding necessary pieces on offense, they didn’t make the necessary moves to ensure their franchise quarterback has a stable cast of playmakers as he develops for the next few years. And ultimately, that’s likely to come back and bite Philadelphia down the road.

There’s a balance between being financially smart – which the Eagles were – and ensuring stability for the future. Philadelphia failed to find that happy medium, and the turnover each year will hinder Wentz’s development.

Next season will be telling in how the Eagles truly view their offensive playmakers and whether any of them will stick around in 2018.

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The Vikings filled another need when they selected Rodney Adams out of South Florida. The wide receiver will fill the immediate role of kick returner for the Vikings, after Cordarrelle Patterson left for the Oakland Raiders in free agency.

Adams joins a wider receiver corps that has plenty of talent in Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell and Adam Thielen, so Adams is not likely to see much time on the field on offense, but will make an immediate impact in special teams. In 2015, he averaged 29.1 yards per return and in 2016 he averaged 24.3 yards per return, according to Sports Reference.

Adam is a dynamic athlete, as he scored touchdowns in multiple ways, according to Mike Wobschall.

The Vikings continue to fill their needs in the draft, something that General Manager Rick Spielman has done well throughout his time here.

Adams has nice size, speed and big-play ability, which is something the Vikings lacked last season. Adams also only dropped three passes his senior season, so you know his hands are good.

The wide out will be a work-in-progress for the Vikings, but they selected another high potential player that can make an immediate impact as a kick returner next season.

Former Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson is trying to endear himself to a new fan base in Oakland. And the lightning-quick return man appears to be off to a good start.

The former first-round pick, who joined the Oakland Raiders this offseason after four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, recently served as the emcee for the Raiders 2017 UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Prom. And from the looks of it, a good time was had by all.

The Raiders posted a highlight video of the event, which featured Patterson mingling with the attendees, escorting them in on the red carpet and overall just having a great time. Check it out:

Patterson, who widely is considered one of the most dangerous return men in the league, is hoping this fresh start in Oakland will produce better results as a wide receiver after a mostly disappointing tenure with the Vikings in that regard.

He earned two Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro honors in 2013 and 2016 for Minnesota, but has 1,316 yards receiving through his four-year career.

Patterson earned All-SEC honors for the Vols in 2012. He signed a two-year, $8.5 million free-agent deal with the Raiders in March after leading the league in kickoff-return average (31.7 yards) in 2016.

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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made a few jokes during his commencement speech at Robert Morris University on Friday, taking aim at the New England Patriots and wide receiver Antonio Brown, among other topics.

“I’ll proceed with a couple of assumptions,” he said at one point, per Jeremy Fowler of “And I realize that assumptions are very dangerous. There’s a cliché about assuming, isn’t it? It can make Patriots out of you and me.”

“I’ll proceed with the assumption that, in some form or fashion, one or more of you out there are somehow live-streaming this on the internet,” he continued. “And I’ll behave accordingly.”

That was in reference to Brown’s decision to live-stream one of Tomlin’s postgame speeches on Facebook Live during this year’s postseason.

He also honored former Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who died on April 13. He praised Rooney’s thoughtfulness in the following excerpt (per Fowler):

…A lot can be written and said about Ambassador Dan Rooney, his greatness, all of which I’m sure is true. In the recent days, I think the memory that I reflect upon the most is just how thoughtful he was. I fight every day to emulate it. I challenge you to do the same. Very powerful and influential man, Dan Rooney. A lot on his plate, a lot of things that he wanted to do not only for his company but for his community, his city, his nation.

In the midst of pursuit of all those things, he was always shockingly thoughtful. I can’t give you enough examples to display his level of thoughtfulness…

You can see the full commencement address below:

Rooney hired Tomlin in 2007, and he’s promptly gone 103-57 in his tenure, leading the Steelers to a Super Bowl title in the 2008 season, two Super Bowl appearances and seven playoff berths. Tomlin has also continued the tradition of Steelers head coaches remaining with the team for long tenures.

Since 1969 the Steelers have had just three head coaches: Chuck Noll (1969-1991), Bill Cowher (1992-2006) and Tomlin (2007-present). And given that the team was just a game away from the Super Bowl last year—losing to the same Patriots team he threw some shade toward on Friday—it’s hard to imagine Tomlin losing his job anytime soon.

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The Oakland Raiders begin their offseason program on Monday, and wide receiver Amari Cooper seems eager to get started cheap authetnic nfl jerseys.

On Tuesday, the former Alabama All-American posted on Instagram highlights from his first two NFL seasons with the message: “Because OTA’s are right around the corner. Year three will be my best year yet, a legendary one.”

The highlights start with Cooper’s 64-yard touchdown on a short reception in the Raiders’ 34-31 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 9.

Cooper has been a Pro Bowl selection in each of his two NFL seasons.

In 2016, Cooper became the only player in NFL history with at least 500 receiving yards in the first six games of each of his first two years in the league. In 2015, Cooper had become the first NFL rookie since Chicago Bears tight end Mike Dikta in 1961 to record three 100-yard receiving performances in his team’s first six games.

In 2016, Cooper became the first Oakland player with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons since Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 2001 and 2002. He set a team single-season record with 15 receptions of at least 25 yards.

After catching 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns in 2015, Cooper had 83 receptions for 1,153 yards and five touchdowns in 2016, making him the third wide receiver in NFL history with at least 70 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons.

The Raiders posted a 12-4 regular-season record in 2016 for Oakland’s first winning season since 2002. The Raiders had a 7-9 mark in Cooper’s rookie season after going 3-13 in 2014.

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On the Tuesday before the 2016 NFL Draft, I stood at a podium inside ESPN’s newest building and pronounced to the world that the Dallas Cowboys would take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey with the fourth overall pick.

Bill Polian immediately mocked my mock selection of Ramsey and said I should have selected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Polian turned out to be correct, although in fairness the “pick” was made before our appearance and I had subsequently had to fall on the sword and stick with Ramsey.

Elliott was a terrific pick for the Cowboys, leading the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards. He became the heartbeat of the Cowboys’ offense the way DeMarco Murray was the heartbeat in 2014 when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards.

But as the Cowboys get ready for this year’s draft, the question of what they did and did not do in the first round of last year’s draft needs to be asked again: Elliott or Ramsey?

A strong case can be made, again, for Ramsey, the Florida State cornerback who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the fifth overall pick.

Part of my reasoning last year for taking Ramsey in the NFL Nation mock draft was not just what was best for 2016 but what was best for 2017, 2018 and beyond.

The Cowboys went into last year knowing Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were going into the final years of their contracts. They knew there was a very real possibility they would not re-sign any of them before, during or after the 2016 season, leaving them with a hole on their roster in 2017.

Ramsey was the best defensive back in the draft. Some saw him as a future safety because of his range. Others saw him as a lock-down cornerback.

He was consistently tested by other teams and answered the questions more often than not. He started every game and had 65 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble. He played 445 snaps at left cornerback and 359 snaps at right cornerback. He played some in the slot.

He has the look of a future Pro Bowl cornerback for years to come.

The Cowboys saw Carr sign with the Baltimore Ravens. They saw Claiborne sign with the New York Jets. They saw Church sign with the Jaguars. They saw Wilcox sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

They enter this week’s draft needing defensive back help, even with the signing of veteran cornerback Nolan Carroll II. At safety they believe Jeff Heath is ready to step into a starting role next to Byron Jones.

The Cowboys had 12 cornerbacks and four safeties among their non-local visitors to The Star leading up to this year’s draft. Marlon Humphrey, Gareon Conley, Kevin King, Adoree’ Jackson and Tre’Davious White are cornerbacks that could be worth picking at No. 28 who visited the Cowboys. The four safeties — Obi Melifonwu, Tedric Thompson, Marcus Williams and Xavier Woods — are considered second-, third-, or fourth-round selections.

Will any of those cornerbacks or safeties be as good as Ramsey?

Perhaps, but the odds say the fourth pick in the draft will be better than the 28th pick. It’s not a fool-proof notion, obviously, but you would go with the high-first rounder over the low-first rounder more often than not.

Part of the reason why the Cowboys chose Elliott was the effect he would have on their defense. The better he was, the better the Cowboys would hold on to the ball and the less the defense would be on the field. In 2016, it was a strategy that worked very well.

Elliott has the look of a transcendent player. He changed the Cowboys’ modus operandi last season. He made the big plays. He picked up the dirty yards. He helped make everyone’s job, from Dak Prescott, to the line and, yes, to the defense, easier.

The Cowboys did the right thing in selecting Elliott last year, but had they picked Ramsey a year ago it wouldn’t have been the wrong thing.

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Von Miller swears missing the Denver Broncos’ offseason program last year didn’t adversely affect his play. Still, after coming up short in his bid to win Defensive Player of the Year and defend his Super Bowl title, he’s thrilled to be working out with his teammates this spring.

Miller called these initial workouts under new coach Vance Joseph “extremely important” in his quest to lead the Broncos back to the playoffs and fulfill his pledge to have his best season in 2017.

“Last year, I was like, ‘Man, you don’t really need OTAs. You can train on your own.’ But you really need these,” Miller said Tuesday. “The National Football League is so competitive, so the more time that you can get to perfect your craft with your teammates” the better.

Miller’s 2016 offseason was a whirlwind of global flights and TV appearances including Dancing with the Stars.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know my helmet was missing,” Miller said.


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Investigators who located Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jerseys in Mexico also found Miller’s Super Bowl 50 helmet, which he said is back in Denver.

Miller signed a seven-year, $114.5 million contract at the deadline last summer after skipping the Broncos’ entire offseason program. Then, he collected 13 1-2 sacks and a career-best 78 tackles in 2016. But he went without a sack over the final month of the season as the Broncos missed the playoffs by one game and Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack edged him by a single vote for Defensive Player of the Year.

“I pretty much didn’t have an offseason last year with so much stuff (going on),” Miller said. “And I wasn’t going to use that as an excuse. I lost by one vote. … I got close this year. If we were able to make the playoffs or I was able to make a few more plays, who knows where we would have been?”

Miller said he’s moved past the disappointment.

“I’m not going to stay stuck in the past. I’m moving forward,” Miller said. “This Von coming up is going to be the best Von that I put forward. It’s going to be my best year. That’s what I’m going for. I have a full offseason, full OTAs, I’m going to be here training every single day. It’s not all that noise on the outside from the contract and this and that and doing all this stuff. Not that that was a big deal for me, but now it’s just all football. I’m here, I’m settled in and it’s time to go play.”

Asked if he felt better physically than he did a year ago, Miller said: “I was on Dancing with the Stars at this time. I was probably 230 pounds. You know, I’m definitely feeling a whole lot better, getting rest and being able to sleep.”

Miller got his vacations out of the way after the season ended, taking in Drake concerts in Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, DeMarcus Ware retired .

“That’s tough. It’s just like when Peyton (Manning) left. You can’t really just fill that void. You’ve got to just modify the team and move on,” Miller said. “Other leaders will step up.”

He’s also thrilled by the additions of run-stuffers Domata Peko and Zach Kerr.

“Have you seen those guys? Those guys are huge,” Miller said. “Peko, he’s athletic. We were working out today and I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be great for us.’ So, just by looking at those guys you can already tell that they’re going to fill and correct some of those weaknesses that we had last year.”

Also gone is defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who joined the Rams and was replaced by former secondary coach Joe Woods.

“Coach Phillips will go down as one of the best defensive coordinators to ever coach the game. But Joe is a good coach as well,” Miller said. “It’s not like we’re just going to totally abandon what we did last year.”

As for Joseph, who replaced Gary Kubiak in January, Miller said: “I love him already,” and said Joseph “connects well” with all the big personalities in the Broncos locker room.

Miller said he hung out with fellow Texas A&M alum Myles Garrett , an edge rusher that many, including Miller, expect to be the top pick in the draft.

“He’s A-1,” Miller said. “I haven’t come across somebody that young with that type of mentality. He studied architecture and paleontology and all of these dope studies. … Right now he’s going to the AFC North and I don’t see anybody up there that’s really going to be able to handle him.”

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Joe Greene called his new autobiography his soap box. In it he talks about how the player long feared in the NFL as Mean Joe was bullied in junior high, and how it felt the day Chuck Noll told him he would have to spend time on the bench after his talents deteriorated.

Not in the book, but while talking about it, he also shows his disdain for Antonio Brown’s various antics on and off the field with the Steelers and how he feels “showboating” held the team back last season. He tells us what he thinks they need in the coming draft, his love for the franchise and his belief that Ben Roethlisberger has been the best quarterback in the NFL through the years. He also reasons why Roethlisberger talked about retirement two days after the season ended in disappointment.

With apologies to Jimmy Buffet and “A Pirate Looks at 40,” this is Joe Greene’s “A Steeler Looks at 70.”

The new autobiography is “Mean Joe Greene, Built by Football” with Jon Finkel. It is one of a planned series of such books by The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. It is Joe Greene talking about his life, long before he was selected as the Steelers’ greatest player and beyond.

“A lot of this, I guess what I’m saying, has been kind of my soap box,” Greene said a few days before he was scheduled to appear at Mel Blount’s annual roast — this one of Joey Porter — in Pittsburgh over this weekend. “I’m one of those old guys.

“I’m a complete Steeler. I’m a Steeler but I’m old enough to not feel I’m P.C. when I’m talking about a team I love.

“You don’t have to agree with me.”

Many won’t, but as he did during his days leading the Steelers to one of the great dynasties in sports, Greene speaks his mind, so let’s start with his take on the current Steelers, which is not in his book.

“We got guys who like to showboat. It’s definitely the one [Brown], but it’s more than one. And they owe themselves better than that. You only have so long to play this game, it’s not always going to be there, you know. You have to max out.

“This year was a year lost. I can only imagine what would have happened to this team had our receiver who was suspended for a year [Martavis Bryant] been playing on the field. I can only imagine what would have happened had all of our weapons been there.”

He blamed some of it on selfishness, of “building your brand” rather than putting the team first. He said the Steelers need more Rocky Bleier-types.

“I’m saying right now we need someone in there who epitomizes what the Steelers are about and doesn’t mind picking up that gauntlet to be a Steeler and not to be out there creating – what do they call it? — their brand. You have to be a Pittsburgh Steeler first. You can’t create that act.”

He loves Roethlisberger, how he plays and how he came through his early immaturity to grown into the quarterback and the person he is today.

“I always thought he was the best quarterback in the league,” said Greene, who joined the Steelers scouting department the same year Roethlisberger was drafted. “I always did. I just thought he needed to get rid of the ball quicker. He makes plays.

“The most important thing for him is winning. Anybody who is watching it can see it, see the difference in how he has emerged. It’s about age. It can happen.”

Greene knows, because it happened to him. He was at times out of control as a young Steeler, frustrated with the losing that started with his 1-13 rookie season in 1969. He once heaved a football into the stands, and tossed his helmet after a loss that crashed into the goalpost.

He believes a different kind of frustration drove Roethlisberger to suggest he might retire two days after the Steelers lost the AFC championship game to the Patriots. It came one week after Brown’s infamous Facebook Live video from the locker room, an act Greene detested, and it came after receivers dropped a handful of passes in the AFC title game loss in New England.

Roethlisberger’s reaction “had to be something with his disappointment with those activities,’’ Greene said. “Those actions were not conducive to the winning framework, the winning attitude.”

Greene is not down on his team; he just believes a few of them need an attitude adjustment. As for what the Steelers need in the draft, which he helped evaluate for nine years until his retirement in 2013, Greene stayed true to form: Defense, although he believes in the old Steelers philosophy of selecting their most highly rated player.

“While I was there watching the draft unfold, to my knowledge I felt we always picked the best guy on the board. You can’t go chasing and the Steelers philosophy is you don’t chase the guy.”

However …

“We would be fortunate if one of those guys happen to be an outstanding pass rusher or the term they use today, a “shutdown cover guy”, or a guy who plays in the middle who reminds everyone of Troy Polamalu.”

Or someone who could approach the kind of player who became the cornerstone of a franchise renaissance, Mean Joe Greene.

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The high-speed Bay Area dynamo needed 42 points from Stephen Curry to hold off the pesky Phoenix Suns 120-111 on Thursday night, a victory that ensured Golden State would have the best record in the NBA for the third straight season.

‘Yeah, it’s impressive,’ Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ‘We have had a great run.’

The Warriors won their season-best 13th straight game, all of them without the injured Kevin Durant.

Getting the top playoff seed was ‘a goal that we set going into the season,’ Curry said, ‘to make sure the regular season mattered for us, to clinch that, and we did.’

With Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala resting and Durant one game away from returning from injury, the Warriors prevailed in front of a noisy crowd.

‘I think our guys enjoy the position we are in. They know it is a special era that is not going to last forever,’ Kerr said. ‘We have a special group of talented players at the same time, so we are trying to enjoy every moment.’

Curry scored 23 in the first quarter when the Warriors blew open a 41-18 lead, but the Suns rallied with a 34-17 second quarter and made a game of it from there.

‘I think we got mesmerized as a team,’ Kerr said. ‘We were so enamored with what Steph was doing that we kind of stopped playing to start the second quarter.’

Golden State became the first team have the NBA’s best record for three consecutive seasons since the Boston Celtics did it in 1983-84, `84-’85 and `85-’86. The Warriors, Boston – multiple times – and Philadelphia are the only franchises in NBA history to achieve that feat.

The Warriors also are the first team to win at least 65 games in three straight seasons.

Klay Thompson scored 22 for the Warriors, including a critical late 3-pointer.

With the Spurs’ loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Warriors are 65-14, 4 1/2 games ahead of San Antonio. Golden State has three games to play, San Antonio four.

The Warriors raced to that 23-point lead after one quarter, but Phoenix outscored Golden State 34-17 in the second quarter to cut it to 58-52 at the break.

Golden State led by 13 entering the fourth quarter.

But the Suns, with the worst record in the West and second-worst in the NBA, didn’t fold.

A 10-0 Phoenix run sliced Golden State’s advantage to 104-101 on Ulis’ 20-footer with 5:01 to play. Curry responded with his eighth and final 3-pointer, but the Suns twice cut it to four again – the last at 109-105 after Ulis made a pair of free throws 2:29 from the finish.

Thompson’s 3, only his second in nine tries, made it 112-107 and Phoenix never got closer than five again.

Durant is targeting a Saturday night at home against the New Orleans Pelicans for his return from a sprained MCL and bruised thigh.

Nike Steelers #26 Le’Veon Bell Black Men’s Stitched NFL Limited Rush Jersey

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Kevin Colbert said that Le’Veon Bell is on schedule with his recovery after undergoing core muscle surgery earlier this offseason, according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Colbert also addressed Bell’s current contract situation, saying that, while the team has more “urgent business” to take care of in the present, they will plan on having a new deal with it’s running back later this spring or this summer.

This is the second consecutive year that Bell is recovering from surgery. Bell tore his MCL midway through the 2015 season before amassing 1,884 all-purpose yards in 2016, two years after he amassed 2,215 total yards during his second season with the Steelers.

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Bell, 25, is fresh off a season that saw him lead the NFL by averaging 157 total yards per game. After missing the season’s first three games, Bell rushed for 1,268 yards seven touchdowns during the regular season. He gained a franchise record 236 yards in Pittsburgh’s Week 14 victory over the Giants, and in consecutive playoff games set the team’s franchise record for rushing yards in a postseason game, rushing for 167 yards against the Dolphins and 170 yards against the Chiefs to help the Steelers advance to the AFC title game.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, Bell suffered the core muscle injury against the Dolphins, but played through the injury against the Chiefs before the injury became too much to bear against the Patriots, gaining just 21 yards on six carries before bowing out in the second quarter of the Steelers’ loss in the AFC Championship Game.

The team’s 2016 MVP, Bell was given the Steelers’ franchise tag in February that would pay him $12.1 million for the 2017 season. The Steelers have until July 15 to sign Bell to a new deal before the start of the 2017 season.

Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers poses backstage at the 6th annual NFL Honors at the Wortham Center on Feb. 4, 2017 in Houston.

While NFL teams are using their offseason to secure draft choices and free agents, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has been busy in the studio. On Friday, Bell — also known as “Juice” — released the 16-track album Post Interview.

One of the most talked-about tracks from Bell’s latest offering is “Shrimp Bayless,” a diss track aimed at former ESPN First Take host Skip Bayless. Bayless — who currently works at Fox Sports 1’s show Undisputed — has taunted Bell over the years with his harsh criticism. In response, Bell headed to the studio to fire back at Bayless: “Shrimp Bayless, I’ve been hearing you lately/ You love Jerry way too much, you acting like y’all related/ I got the Hall of Fame waiting, I’m the best that you’ve hated/ I don’t know why you hating, I don’t know why you hating.”

Last May, Bell also slammed Bayless on Twitter. “I need to get on 1st take cuz I’m tired of @RealSkipBayless tlkin this & that when it comes to me! say what u need to say to me to my face,” Bell tweeted.

For the Post Interview set, Bell puts his lyrical prowess on display atop beats from producers like Charm, J.I. Retro and Ricco Music, among others.

Last November, Bell told Billboard’s Ballin’ Out podcast about his rap beginnings: “I recorded my first song when I was 13, 14 years old, and I’ve been running with it ever since.”