PITTSBURGH-Let's start with a few impressions from watching a great weekend of NFL playoff games:
n You see these teams and realize that the Pittsburgh Steelers would have had no business in the tournament. Based on the way they finished the season, they would have been quickly done if they'd managed to sneak in as a wild card. The Steelers have a lot of work to do.
n Last weekend's scores were 38-35, 41-28, 45-31 and 30-28. So much for defense being paramount, right? If you're going anywhere in today's NFL, you'd better be able to light up the scoreboard.
n Denver's Peyton Manning is taking a lot of heat for another playoff loss. He wasn't at his best against Baltimore, and he was outplayed by Joe Flacco. But if the Broncos' defense had been able to prevent a 70-yard touchdown pass in the last minute of play, Denver would have won and everyone would be talking about this week's Hall of Fame matchup of Manning vs. Tom Brady.
n The over/under on sideline camera shots of Ray Lewis will be 30 for this Sunday's AFC Championship game.
There was never any doubt fans would be more grateful than resentful when the NHL lockout ended.
The Penguins have been having open practices that are well-attended by fans who have been denied their favorite game for three and a half months.
Give the Penguins credit for a very generous policy toward their ticket buyers. Every fan who attends the first four home games will be given a voucher good for three concession items.
They're not just giving away hot dogs and popcorn, either. The vouchers can be redeemed for hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, which aren't cheap at arena prices.
They're also knocking 50 percent off all prices at the merchandise stores inside the Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins were going to sell out those four games without the perks, so it's nice that they added them.
Welcome back 2.0
Jeff Karstens is back with the Pirates after the team declined to offer him arbitration.
Karstens found nothing on the free agent market and will probably sign for about $1 million less than he made last year.
Well played, Pirates. Karstens will help pitching depth by offering another alternative for a rotation that has plenty of opportunity.
But let's remember that Karstens apparently didn't interest anyone in a business where everyone is always looking for more pitching. His stuff is average, but he finds a way to compete when he's healthy.
Good of Lance Armstrong to admit not only that he cheated, but that he also lied about it for years.
Thanks for the candor. Too bad it came on the Pete Rose schedule.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org