Tuesday’s “First Call” sees some possible movement soon at the safety position for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and movement in front of them on the draft board may influence the quarterbacks available. We check in on the health of the Penguins and Avalanche in advance of Tuesday night’s game.
And there was plenty of activity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture Monday night.
Safety first … and maybe second and third
NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala dropped multiple nuggets about the Steelers safety position during her weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan.
• She said a contract extension for Minkah Fitzpatrick is “very, very close to getting done.” When asked by host Andrew Fillipponi if the contract would make him the highest-paid safety in the league, Kinkhabwala said, “I expect that.”
• On the prospect of signing ex-Kansas City safety Tyrann Mathieu, she said, “I have been told that ‘Honey Badger’ may not need quite as much money as I was told he needed a week ago.” Kinkhabwala went on to say that Mathieu believes “the idea of playing for Mike Tomlin is very enticing” and that “perhaps the monetary hopes and demands aren’t quite what they once were.”
• Regarding current Steelers free agent safety Terrell Edmunds, Kinkhabwala says there is “still an offer on the table” for him. But she said he still has multiple offers from other teams that he is considering and may not be all that interested in the Steelers proposal financially.
The Steelers still have more than $13 million in salary cap space remaining, according to OverTheCap.com. That’s 18th in the league.
Fitzpatrick extending his contract to me is a given in whatever equation the Steelers front office is formulating for its secondary. No signing of the available safeties would be in place of — or a hindrance to — extending Fitzpatrick. Although, how much money they give Fitzpatrick and how it can be spread out may influence their ability to sweeten an offer to get Mathieu or retain Edmunds.
With depth concerns at wide receiver, running back and defensive line already staring them in the face, I would expect the Steelers to sign a veteran safety of some starting repute regardless of how much Fitzpatrick’s wallet is stuffed before the draft weekend rolls around at the end of the month.
And what about the quarterbacks?
We can’t wrap up any Steelers conversation without mentioning the quarterback situation, right?
Kinkhabwala also tweeted the Steelers’ schedule for visits with some draft-eligible quarterbacks.
#Steelers QB draft visit train starts Thurs w/ Desmond Ridder. Sam Howell follows Fri, Carson Strong and Matt Corrall in next week and Malik Willis is slated to come to town the week after, per source w/in org. (Kenny Pickett, considered local, already met w/ OC Matt Canada.)
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) April 4, 2022
If the Steelers are as interested in drafting a quarterback as they appear to be, an NFL trade yesterday may influence who is available. The New Orleans Saints—another team believed to be interested in some of the names listed above—just acquired an extra first-round pick.
New Orleans will now make selections at Nos. 16 and 19 (and also picked up a sixth-round pick at No. 194 overall).
As compensation, the Saints shipped out their initial 2022 first-rounder at No. 18, as well as a compensatory third-round selection (No. 101) and their seventh-rounder (No. 237). The Saints also traded their 2023 first-round pick and their 2024 second-rounder. It’s a massive shakeup for not just this year’s draft, but the next two cycles.
So that means the Saints now have at least two picks in front of the Steelers at No. 20, or they could package something to move higher up the board if they feel like one of the quarterbacks is on the verge of being taken.
Three likely Eastern Conference playoff teams were in action Monday as postseason spots continue to shuffle in the Atlantic Division.
Two of the teams were playing each other as the Toronto Maple Leafs were in Tampa Bay to play the Lightning. Both clubs entered the game with 93 points, tied for second place behind the Florida Panthers. Toronto won 6-2 behind a hat trick from Auston Matthews.
???? HISTORIC HATTY FOR MATTY ???? pic.twitter.com/Stp5CgqxC8
—Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) April 5, 2022
Matthews has 54 goals on the season. That leads the NHL. He has also tied the Leafs’ franchise record for goals in the season set by Rick Vaive in 1981-82.
So that means that the Panthers (102 points) now have a seven-point edge on the Leafs. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins pulled into a third place tie with the Tampa Bay Lightning at 93 points apiece (and the Bruins actually have one more win with 44). That’s because they edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in overtime on a Jake DeBrusk goal.
—Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 5, 2022
That was DeBrusk’s 24th of the season.
Two way street
It’s not just the Penguins who are worried about health and injuries heading into Tuesday night’s rematch with the Colorado Avalanche.
Avs defenseman Bo Byram was recalled by the Avs and was photographed joining the team flight to Pittsburgh. The 20-year-old former first-round pick suffered a concussion on Nov. 11 and hasn’t played in the NHL since Jan. 10. He has been with the AHL Colorado Eagles on a conditioning assignment.
The Avalanche still are without injured defenseman Samuel Girard. According to Colorado Hockey Now, he has been on the ice in a red no-contact jersey. Also via The Athletic’s Peter Baugh, “Nazem Kadri is out, but coach Jared Bednar expects he’ll be back for the playoffs. The coach also hopes captain Gabriel Landeskog will be back before playoffs begin, and defenseman Ryan Murray could also be ready around then.”
The Avalanche have the NHL’s best point total with 104. They beat the Penguins 3-2 on Saturday in Denver. The Penguins are still missing Jason Zucker due to injury. Hey skated in a tracksuit after practice Monday. Anthony Angello, Danton Heinen and Kasperi Kapanen missed the Penguins’ practice because of an undisclosed illness.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.