Steelers hold off Browns in season opener

Published: Sunday, September 10, 2017 @ 4:10 PM
Updated: Sunday, September 10, 2017 @ 4:46 PM


            CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Quarterback DeShone Kizer #7 of the Cleveland Browns passes during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Quarterback DeShone Kizer #7 of the Cleveland Browns passes during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to tight end Jesse James as the Pittsburgh Steelers, with minimal help from Le’Veon Bell, opened the season by holding off the Cleveland Browns 21-18 on Sunday.

Roethlisberger improved to 21-2 in his career against the Browns, who gave their rivals all they could handle — a positive sign for coach Hue Jackson and Cleveland fans after a horrid 1-15 season.

But the Browns couldn’t stop Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown, who made a leaping catch in traffic for 38 yards with 2:26 left to seal Pittsburgh’s win. Brown finished with 11 receptions for 182 yards.

Browns rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer had pulled the Browns within three on a 3-yard TD pass to Corey Coleman followed by a 2-point conversion.

With Pittsburgh needing a big play, Brown delivered one — as usual.

Roethlisberger lobbed his deep pass near Pittsburgh’s sideline toward Brown, who went up over Browns defensive back Jason McCourty and hauled in the game’s biggest catch. Jackson challenged the call, but it held up after a video review and the Steelers improved to 32-6 against the Browns since 1999.

Roethlisberger passed for 263 yards.

The Browns have lost 13 straight openers. Cleveland’s defense played well despite not having top overall pick Myles Garrett, who injured his ankle earlier this week.

Bell, who skipped training camp in a contract dispute, ran tentatively and gained just 32 yards on 10 carries. He rejoined his teammates last week and signed his $12.1 million franchise tag, far less than he feels he deserves.

The Steelers scored their first TD on a blocked punt and sacked Kizer seven times. Two of the sacks were by rookie T.J. Watt, the younger brother of Houston star J.J. Watt, who also had an interception in a memorable debut.

Kizer had some nice moments, and a few where his inexperience showed. He finished 20 of 30 for 222 yards, but was guilty of holding onto the ball too long and put himself at risk with a few runs.

His biggest mistake, though, came in the third quarter when he misread coverage and threw to an area where Watt was waiting.

The Steelers had taken a 21-10 lead on Roethlisberger’s second TD strike to James in the third quarter.

Kizer, the 27th different quarterback to start for Cleveland since 1999, scored his first career TD on a 1-yard sneak with 22 seconds left in the first quarter to tie it 7-all.

Pittsburgh caught a lucky break on the way to taking a 14-7 lead late in the first half.

On second down at his 11, Roethlisberger fired a pass over the middle that was tipped by linebacker Joe Schoebert and deflected directly to Brown, who caught it and zig-zagged his way for 50 yards. A few plays later, Roethlisberger threaded his TD pass to James.

The half ended with Joe Haden, recently cut by the Browns after seven seasons before signing with the Steelers, sacking Kizer.

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Jesse Winker: Reds ‘are going to ride the wave’

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 4:01 PM

Reds closer Raisel Iglesias celebrates a victory over the Cubs on Sunday, June 24, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Reds closer Raisel Iglesias celebrates a victory over the Cubs on Sunday, June 24, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Jesse Winker bounced as he rounded third base, hopping high into the air before slapping hands with third-base coach Billy Hatcher.

“I was pretty happy,” Winker said.

Winker did come back down to earth after his pinch-hit, three-run home run in the seventh inning. The Cincinnati Reds, however, continue to soar. Their 8-6 victory against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday at Great American Ball Park gave them a season-high seven victories in a row and 10 wins in their last 12 games.

» RELATED: Injured Senzel sees Reds play in person for first time

Winker’s home run came in a seven-run seventh inning as the Reds rallied from a 6-1 deficit to sweep four games from the Cubs in Cincinnati for the first time since April 1983. None of the current Reds were born when that sweep occurred. Joey Votto was born five months later.

“We were focused on today’s game,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “It wasn’t about a sweep. It’s about trying to just get better and better and win some ballgames. We just really have put a nice string of games together. These other games we were up and really played flawless. Today we were down and kept pushing and came back and got it.”

» PHOTOS: Reds beat Cubs 8-6

While the Reds (32-45) still sit in last place in the National League Central Division, four games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates, they are making up ground fast. They trailed Pittsburgh by 9½ games on June 9. The Reds trailed first-place Milwaukee by 17½ games on June 9 and are now 13½ games back.

“We know what we can do as a team,” Winker said. “We can all play this game. It’s fun to win. But I don’t think anybody’s surprised by what we’re doing. If you look around, we’re all kind of acting pretty normal right now. It’s what we expect to do. It’s cool coming to the field expecting to win. It’s a very good feeling. Right now, we’re on a good wave, and we’re going to ride the wave.”

» RELATED: Reds set sights on escaping basement

The Reds completed their first perfect homestand of at least six games since May 2008. In the last seven games, Reds batters are hitting .322 with 14 home runs.

The Reds even got home runs by pitchers on consecutive days for the first time since 2006. One day after Anthony DeSclafani hit a grand slam in an 11-2 victory, Michael Lorenzen hit a solo home run with the Reds trailing 5-0 in the fifth.

“You just feel the momentum in here,” Lorenzen said. “A game like today, it just feels like we’re not meant to lose.”

Lorenzen and Winker hit pinch-hit home runs, making Riggleman look good.

“With Lorenzen, it’s a matter of not using a bench player with nobody on base,” Riggleman said. “If we had somebody on base, we would have had somebody else hitting. With Wink, he’s a great option to have off the bench. He’s done great things coming off the bench.”

NOTES: Joey Votto went 3-for-4 and drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh with a double. He raised his average to .305. … Raisel Iglesias recorded his 13th save with a perfect ninth inning. … The Reds and Cubs drew 36,818 fans on Saturday and 30,508 fans on Sunday. It’s the first time this season the Reds have topped 30,000 fans in back-to-back home games.

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NASCAR pit reporter Wendy Venturini hit by car while jogging

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 10:36 AM

NASCAR pit reporter Wendy Venturini, right, is recovering from injuries after she was hit by a car while jogging Saturday in California.
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
NASCAR pit reporter Wendy Venturini, right, is recovering from injuries after she was hit by a car while jogging Saturday in California.(Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR pit reporter Wendy Venturini suffered a skull fracture and concussion Saturday after she was hit by a car while jogging in Novato, California, according to a news release from Venturini Racing.

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Venturini, 39, was in California to cover Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Cup race in Sonoma. She will remain in the hospital for several days, the news release said.

“She’s completely coherent and conversational, and I have talked to her on two occasions today," said Doug Rice, president and general manager of Performance Racing Network. "They told her she would have a really good headache for a couple of days.”

Venturini's father, Bill, is a two-time Auto Racing Club of America champion who founded Venturini Motorsports in 1982, The Sporting News reported.

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Three newest members of Dayton women’s basketball team arrive on campus

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 12:09 PM

Dayton coach Shauna Green watches the team practice before the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. David Jablonski/Staff
Staff Writer
Dayton coach Shauna Green watches the team practice before the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. David Jablonski/Staff(Staff Writer)

The three newest members of the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team — Ella Skeens, Amari Davidson and Kyla Whitehead — arrived on campus this weekend. The University of Dayton’s second summer session begins Monday and ends with exams Aug. 3-4.

“Very excited to finally have these three on campus!!” Dayton coach Shauna Green wrote on Twitter. “Can not wait to see what the future holds for them.”

» STAFF NEWS: Dayton hires new assistant coach

“Excited to have Ella, Amari and Kyla on campus!” assistant coach Calamity McEntire wrote on Twitter. “They have a sign hanging in their apartment that says, ‘Don’t wish for it, work for it.’ I loved it!!”

Here’s a quick glance at the three Dayton freshmen:

• Skeens, 5-foot-11 wing: She finished her career with 2,283 points. She’s the all-time leading scorer in the history of Chillicothe Southeastern High School, Ross Country and the Scioto Valley Conference. Skeens committed to Dayton on June 4, 2017.

• Davidson, 6-2 forward: The Avon High School graduate committed to Dayton on Aug. 17, 2017. She’ll be the third member of her family to play college basketball. Sierra Davison, a 6-0 forward, played in six games last season as a junior at Cleveland State. Shay Davidson, a 5-11 forward, played in 18 games last season as a freshman at Notre Dame College.

•  Whitehead, 6-2 forward: She helped lead Pickerington Central to the Division I state championship in March. She had nine points and five rebounds in a 49-45 victory against Solon in the title game. Whitehead committed to Dayton on Sept. 26, 2017.

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Reds set sights on moving out of NL Central basement

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 1:05 PM

The Reds' Joey Votto and Billy Hamilton celebrate at home plate after a grand slam by Votto in the third inning against the Tigers on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at Great American Ball Park.
David Jablonski - Staff Writer
The Reds' Joey Votto and Billy Hamilton celebrate at home plate after a grand slam by Votto in the third inning against the Tigers on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at Great American Ball Park.(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

About six weeks ago, Cincinnati Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman talked to his club about setting short-term goals.

“Let's go catch that fourth-place club,” Riggleman said. “Then after that, let's go get that third-place club.”

The Reds seemed destined to spend all season in the National League Central Division basement at the time, and that still seemed the case earlier this month. The Reds were 21 games under .500 on June 9.

» BAD NEWS: Top prospect out for season

However, after winning nine of their last 11 games, including six in a row entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Cubs, the Reds (31-45) have moved within five games of fourth-place Pittsburgh.

Riggleman hasn’t given any motivational speeches to get the team going. He gave those speeches more often in the first month on the job. Now he talks to the team after each game and reviews the game while looking ahead to the next one. He’s more selective about when he makes big speeches.

With the Reds playing almost every day, Riggleman can’t approach the job as a football coach would.

“It’s too much,” Riggleman said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Jim, again with the talk?' I leave them alone a little big and get their attention another time. I think a lot of people think you've got pound in every message every day. It's more subtle in baseball.”

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