Suspension doesn’t raise eyebrows

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers’ Marcus Gilbert was suspended for a quarter of the season last week, and it seemed like nobody noticed.

There was more buzz about JuJu Smith-Schuster’s bicycle being stolen a few weeks earlier.

Is failing a steroid test just an occupational hazard that the players accept as part of a difficult job? Gilbert issued a vague statement that suggested it wasn’t his fault, and life went on.

If you’ve seen the physiques of some NFL players, you might suspect a few of them are getting pharmaceutical help. Yes, they work out like maniacs, but it’s tough to maintain that conditioning schedule during the season. Do some players seek outside help and hope they can beat the testing procedure?

Every set of tests comes with loopholes, and people who know how to exploit them. Sometimes a player misses, just like a player jumps offside or drops a pass. Things happen.

The Steelers have preached the “next man up” philosophy for years, and that’s probably part of it. Chris Hubbard takes Gilbert’s spot for the next four games, and he has experience filling in on the line.

Of course, making him the starter robs the Steelers of some valuable depth. The team has been fortunate to this point that it hasn’t had the kind of devastating injury loss that tonight’s opponent, Green Bay, suffered when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked out by a broken collarbone.

Gilbert, one of the anchors of the offensive line that protects Ben Roethlisberger, is out for four games. That includes the Dec. 17 showdown against New England.

It just seems odd that nobody seemed to be especially alarmed by the news.

Pitt’s last stand

Pitt had the right idea — make your last game of the season the best game.

Fans floated out of Heinz Field with “Sweet Caroline” ringing in their ears, musical accompaniment to the warm feeling they had about the Panthers’ upset of No. 2 and previously undefeated Miami.

The infamous “U” became “U just got ambushed by a team that didn’t do a whole lot right all season,” and that’s what should be remembered.

Pitt’s defense was a season-long disaster. The offense sputtered a lot with three different starting quarterbacks. Freshman Kenny Pickett did a fine job against Miami, but this is a situation for which the phrase “small sample size” was invented.

Pitt doesn’t have a bowl game this year, so Pat Narduzzi and his staff can get to work on next season as soon as today.

The head start should help. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Under construction

Good thing Mike Sullivan has those two Stanley Cup championships on his resume with the Penguins.

Otherwise, fans would be calling for a coaching change as the team has stumbled through the first quarter of the season, hovering around the .500 mark

Sidney Crosby hasn’t been scoring. If the Penguins have to worry about that, there will be big problems. Crosby has too much talent and commitment for the slump to continue.

Kris Letang has been a pale imitation of himself. Is that a temporary condition, or are age and his significant medical history becoming a factor?

One thing is certain: The team you see now won’t be the team that opens the playoffs in April. General manager Jim Rutherford will make some significant moves if the Penguins can’t shake themselves from this malaise.

Opening day

Best of luck to the hunters on the first day of buck season.

Everybody else? Stay low and serpentine.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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