Top Five Up
5. Marc-Andre Fleury, Goalie, Penguins. The Pens lost six of Fleury's first seven games this season as the 26-year old struggled out of the gate. Since then, though, Fleury has become a rock of consistency in net for Pittsburgh, winning 13 of his last 14 games. He's posted a 1.71 GAA average in the span and has helped spark the Penguins on their 11-game win streak.
4. Talor Battle, guard, Penn State. There might be better basketball players locally, but none are carrying their team like Battle is carrying Penn State right now. The senior is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 19.4 points per game, but that's just the tipping point. Battle's 31 points against Duquesne last Saturday carried the Nittany Lions to an important win and his game-winning three pointer against Mount St. Mary's on Tuesday night saved the team from an embarrassing home blemish.
3. Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Steelers. Big Ben's gritty performance against Baltimore, in which he broke his nose while leading the Steelers to a key win over the Ravens to give his team control of the AFC Noth division, has many calling him some far more flattering names than they were in the offseason when he was dealing with off-field issues. While the Steelers have a ways to go before they're ready for playoff football in a few weeks, it looks like Roethlisberger's toughness could lead Pittsburgh to a Super Bowl right now. He's repairing his image with victories and lots of them.
2. Sidney Crosby, center, Penguins. Pittsburgh hasn't seen an athlete dominate the way Crosby is on the ice right now in a long time. The 23-year old is averaging more than a goal per game in his last 17 contests and leads the league in scoring by 10 points. He's also doing his best work at home, tallying nine times in his last four home games, including hat tricks against Calgary and Atlanta, keying his team's big streak.
1. Steve Pederson, athletic director, Pitt. By firing/reassigning Dave Wannstedt as Pitt football coach earlier this week, Pederson left not only Pitt fans, but Penn State fans wondering about what he might do next. With Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and Temple coach Al Golden, both rumored to be strong candidates to replace Joe Paterno at Penn State when he retires, popping up everywhere on possible replacement lists for the Pitt job, Pederson almost seems to be in control of both schools' football destinies right now.
Top Five Down
5. Clear Channel. The radio network fired "Extra Innings" host Rocco DeMaro this week after four seasons hosting the Pirates' radio post-game show on FM Newstalk 104.7. DeMaro was popular among hardcore baseball fans in the city, often rating higher than the game broadcasts themselves. It's hard to imagine this move will be good for ratings.
4. Ryan Doumit, catcher/outfielder, Pirates. The maligned catcher may have hit rock bottom this week when the Pirates failed to trade him at the MLB Winter Meetings in Orlando despite what was likely their best efforts to do so. With a lack of talent to play any position in the field very well and an average-at-best bat to go along with it, Doumit is a toxic asset for the Pirates, a long fall from a time when many considered him the catcher of the future just a few years ago.
3. Neal Huntington, General Manager, Pirates. When Huntington left for Orlando, Pirates fans were hoping for a moderately exciting signing or trade to talk about when he returned. Instead, he brought back Scott Olsen, Kevin Correia and Matt Diaz. There's still a long way to go before spring training, but those guys are small game compared to rumored targets like J.J. Hardy and Brandon Webb.
2. Jonathan Baldwin, wide receiver, Pitt. The Panthers' wideout got himself in hot water this week when he apparently declared for the NFL draft while ripping his team before later distancing himself from his comments. In a league that frets about the way potential draftees blow their noses, you can forget about Baldwin being welcomed to the combine with the "good teammate" tag, whether that's fair or not.
1. Dave Wannstedt, former coach, Pitt. No one in Pittsburgh sports his week had a tougher week than Wannstedt. He was let go on Tuesday despite leading Pitt to three consecutive bowl games and one of its best seasons in recent memory, a 10-3 campaign in 2009 that fell just short of a BCS bowl. Now, instead of retooling for a run at a Big East title in 2011, Wannstedt will continue to work for the man who removed him as coach, Steve Pederson, as Pederson's assistant athletic director.