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Pittsburgh fans ... get ready!


January 2, 2013
By John Mehno ( , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - We make a big deal out of New Year's, but what changes besides the calendar?

Hello, 2013.

The Steelers are still out of the playoffs, there's no hockey season and I swear there's a basketball game somewhere on TV every hour of every day.

There's still snow on the ground, it's still uncomfortably cold and the Steelers are still looking for someone else to pick up the tab on the extra seats they want to install at Heinz Field.

So as the obscure bowl games play out, let's make some fearless predictions for the coming 12 months:

n Hockey will be back.

They'll start just past the middle of this month. Tear up the schedule, because there will be a new one with teams playing only within their conference. It's going to be intense, with a lot of games crammed into a limited number of days. Player safety doesn't matter as much any more.

n The Steelers will make big changes.

Get ready for the further exodus of familiar names. Case in point? Casey Hampton. He had a good year, and can still play. But he represents too big a salary cap hit with Steve McLendon ready to step in. Mike Wallace will be gone, too. They could make him the franchise player, but it's not worth the $10.2 million it would cost.

Troy Polamalu and James Harrison stay, although with adjustments to their contracts. Max Starks leaves in search of a starting job with another team.

n The Pirates are not done reshaping their roster.

Garrett Jones still remains the most likely player to move. He's getting too expensive for a platoon role, especially when the Pirates have other candidates for first base and right field. Jerry Sands, acquired in the Joel Hanrahan trade from Boston, will share right field with Travis Snider. The Pirates would still like to add another starting pitcher.

n Clint Hurdle is on the hot seat.

After two seasons where the team fell apart at the end, Hurdle needs to have a more consistent year with the Pirates. The late-season collapses may not be Hurdle's fault, but it's tough to bring back a manager whose teams have failed after succeeding for a good portion of the season.

n Pitt's football team will go to a bowl game but - get ready - it won't be the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama.

n The first week of Pirates' home games won't pass without Steve Blass saying: "That's why they call it the big leagues" or "That's a pretty good program there" or quoting lyrics from a 1960s song.

Mehno can be reached at

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