Some Pens players have tough grind

PITTSBURGH – So the Pittsburgh Penguins have seven players, two coaches and their general manager in Sochi for the Olympics.

The better news is that the rest of the team is on vacation, and most of them were headed for sunny places.

The exception was forward Brandon Sutter, who was inexplicably using his break to go ice fishing.

But most of the players were looking for warm weather, and that will help them in the long run.

With the return to the 82-game schedule, this break is a bonus for the players who aren’t in the Olympics. They get a chance to heal all those nagging injuries and to take a mental break from hockey.

Unfortunately, the seven stars who are in Sochi don’t get any kind of break. Not only do they keep working, they keep playing in high-stakes situations. It’s the same for head coach Dan Bylsma and assistant Tony Granato.

When it’s all done, they will have logged 11,000 travel miles, dealt with two body-jolting nine-hour time changes and had their engines running at top speed.

There are still nearly two months of the regular season remaining, followed by the possibility of two months of playoffs.

That’s an awfully long grind for the Olympians.

Welcome back, Porter

Joey Porter is back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, signing on as a defensive assistant coach.

Porter launched his coaching career last year at Colorado State, and now gets a chance to break into the NFL with his favorite team.

Good for Porter, but the impact of this move will probably be minimal on the 2014 Steelers.

The Steelers need a lot of help on defense, and that doesn’t mean coaching. It starts with talent, and the Steelers don’t have enough.

They could use several players who are as good as Porter was more than a decade ago.

A nose tackle, linebacker, cornerback and safety are all on the wish list as the Steelers prepare for the draft and NFL free agency.

Anyone clinging to the hope that Porter can bring some sort of motivational value needs to hope the Steelers have sufficient talent to benefit from his presence.

Porter may develop into a fine coach but right now the Steelers’ great need is for better players – several of them, in fact.

Mehno can be reached at