Saints, Steelers win ugly doubleheader, plus the Padres’ big problem

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 18:  T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at Acrisure Stadium on September 18, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
By Chris Branch
Sep. 19, 2023

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Monday Night Misery: We got an ugly doubleheader

I just want us to look at the box score from the Steelers’ 26-22 win over the Browns last night. Some choice stats: 

And yet: Still a win. The defense scored two touchdowns, more than the offensive unit. Fans were calling for offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s job online and in the stands. It’s hard to imagine worse vibes for a team after a win. 

The 叠谤辞飞苍蝉’ curse is unmatched, though. Star running back Nick Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury in the second quarter. ESPN didn’t even show the replay. It was a Willis McGahee moment.


Deshaun Watson was supremely mediocre once again. After everything the Browns gave up (both transactionally and otherwise) to get the controversial Watson, will the player ever live up to his previous reputation? It’s getting late

Both of these teams are 1-1 and feel light years behind the Ravens and Bengals, even if the latter is 0-2. 

And what do we make of the Saints? It’s hard to imagine a less impressive 2-0 team. The defense is outstanding. The offense is … lacking thus far. 

Their 20-17 win over the Panthers in last night’s “Monday Night Football” opener was downright unwatchable at times. A division that looked super winnable for New Orleans before the season looks a lot tougher after these showings, plus surprising early season runs from both Atlanta and Tampa Bay. 

We have fresh new NFL Power Rankings here, which feature a nearly all-new top five. We love parity.

Things You Need to See: Ball go far

There is such a simple, effective joy in watching a baseball travel completely out of a Major League ballpark. Kyle Schwarber unlocked the achievement last night in Atlanta:

Don’t miss former Phillies slugger Ryan Howard gawking at the end, either.

News to Know

MSU to fire Tucker
Michigan State gave head football coach Mel Tucker a written notice of intent to terminate his contract for cause, the school announced yesterday. Per school policy, Tucker has seven days to present reasons why he shouldn’t be fired, or he’ll officially be terminated Sept. 26. The investigation into the sexual harassment allegation against him will continue, though

Bruce Feldman has an early list of who could replace Tucker. Some intriguing candidates in there.


Rays get new stadium deal
The Tampa Bay Rays will be staying in St. Petersburg after all. The team is finalizing a deal to build a new domed stadium, a source confirmed to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, and will be near the current digs. Read the full timeline here.

More news

  • The Chiefs restructured Patrick Mahomes’ contract to put his guaranteed dollars closer to the recent record-breaking deals signed by Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts and Justin Herbert. Seems only fair. See all the details here.
  • Colorado star Travis Hunter will miss three games after that nasty late hit Saturday. It’s unfortunate timing for the upstart Buffaloes.
  • A cool moment in St. Louis last night: In the waning days of his career, Adam Wainwright got win No. 200. It was his best outing of a tough season, which will be his last.

Deep Dives: The Padres’ big problem

For years, we have correctly lauded Padres general manager A.J. Preller for his talents. He is a fantastic evaluator and skilled at landing stars. Good traits for a GM! And yet, after one of the more miserable failures in major-league history, Preller’s outlook looks a little funny in the light. 

Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin published an extensive story today detailing Preller’s tenure. Over dozens of interviews, current and former players and employees described a man hellbent on winning and outworking the competition, often to the detriment of those below him. 

There is talk of “institutional” failure, never more evident than this year, when an NLCS team entered the season with stars galore and a $249 million payroll, but hasn’t been above .500 since May. Consider: 

  • Since 2015, Preller’s first as general manager, 29 coaches and managers have left the organization.
  • In that span, the team has had just one winning record in a full season and another in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.

Preller does not appear to be in danger of losing his job, however, and some people in the organization believe this season was clouded by simple bad luck. The pitching staff was excellent; the offense produced horrendous clutch hitting numbers. “I really do think the same group could come back next year and be the complete opposite, win 100 games,” one player said.

What a bizarre time. Make sure to read the full story for more insights from inside sources and see who could be leaving this offseason, too.

Pulse Picks

Ted Nguyen returns with one of my new favorite weekly stories: The best and worst coaching decisions from NFL Week 2. Good job 49ers, bad job Bears. 

Don’t miss Mike Sando’s Pick Six this week, which sorts through 11 teams we should be worried about. 

Jayson Stark has a great look at the Braves’ offense, which might be the best this sport has ever seen. The stats in there are wild. 

The MLB playoffs inch closer. Take a look at the projected postseason matchups if the season had ended yesterday. 

Yes, it felt strange to see Colombian pop superstar J Balvin walking around a NASCAR race. Jeff Gluck got some one-on-one time with Balvin, who sounds like he had a blast. 

Harman Dayal has the 狈贬尝’蝉 10 best breakout candidates for this year. Click. 

Chris Vannini ranked all 133 FBS teams after Week 2, including an incisive glance at (gasp) No. 18 Alabama.

(Photo: Josh Sargent/ Getty Images)

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Chris Branch

Chris Branch is a staff writer for The Athletic's daily newsletter. Before joining The Athletic, he covered the Phillies for The News-Journal and worked as a content strategist for various industries. He graduated from LSU, where he worked for The Daily Reveille. Follow Chris on Twitter @cbranch89