Friday, June 25

First Call: Steelers assign rookie jersey numbers; more spice for Tom Bradys return game in New England – TribLIVE

Friday’s “First Call” tells you what number to order for your favorite Steelers rookie jersey. JuJu Smith-Schuster reveals his list of circled games for 2021. Jameson Taillon gets touched up by an ex-Pirates teammate. And even more spice has been added to Tom Brady’s return to Foxborough.

Got the digits?

With rookie minicamp this weekend, the Steelers officially announced the jersey numbers for their rookie class.

I know some of these numbers can change. But let’s have some fun while we can.

A few observations:

First of all, I see that punter Pressley Harvin took No. 6. Does that mean the Steelers aren’t going to keep that number unofficially retired on behalf of Devlin “Duck” Hodges like Mel Blount’s No. 47 or Franco Harris’ No. 32?

I like Najee Harris sticking with his No. 22 from Alabama. Consistency. Appreciation for tradition. Thumbs up.

Pat Freiermuth taking No. 88? Well, I’m not expecting he’ll be Lynn Swann. But I hope he brings a bit more than Nick Vannett did.

If, at No. 92, Isaiahh Loudermilk becomes 1/10th the player James Harrison was, I’ll be thrilled. Same for Buddy Johnson wearing James Farrior’s No. 51.

Kind of bold to give Quincy Roche Bud Dupree’s No. 48 right away since they played the same position, right? Not to mention Kendrick Green getting Maurkice Pouncey’s No. 53. Although that was his number at Illinois.

I’m not quite as intrigued by Tre Norwood sporting Sean Davis’ No. 21 or Dan Moore Jr. inheriting Jerald Hawkins’ No. 65.

Although in honor of “Hawk,” I will still give a quiet golf clap every time No. 65 is announced as being eligible.

Pack your bags, JuJu

The folks at Steelers Wire asked JuJu Smith-Schuster what three games he circled when the NFL schedule was released Wednesday night.

I know what you are thinking. The rematch home game against the Cleveland Browns. The home finale against the Baltimore Ravens. At Arrowhead or Lambeau Field to visit Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs or Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Right. Yeah. Me, too.

Wait, what? No? Then who?

Smith-Schuster said the three games he can’t wait to play are in Los Angeles to face the Chargers, the game at Heinz Field against the Las Vegas Raiders and at Minnesota for “Thursday Night Football” to battle the Vikings.

“My whole family is out there,” Smith-Schuster said of the game versus the Chargers. “So that’ll be really super exciting to go out there.”

Understood. He gave a similar response about a large group of family coming in for the game against the Raiders. So that makes sense.

But why Minnesota?

According to Smith-Schuster, the Steelers get most excited to play teams in new stadiums. The franchise has never played in U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in 2016.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Yup. More new places for pregame TikTok logo dances.

That’s the important stuff.

Must See TV

Sure, Steelers-Ravens in Week 18 will be tense. Kansas City versus Green Bay on Nov. 7 will be interesting viewing. And all the offseason hatred between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants bubbles over on Nov. 28.

But who are we kidding? The game with the most built-in hype will be Oct. 3, when legendary New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady returns to Foxborough with his defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As if the storylines weren’t charged enough, consider this. The NFL Network’s Mike Giardi pointed out that Brady is 1,154 passing yards behind retired New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees for the NFL’s all-time career record.

So if Brady averages 289.6 yards per game (his average in 2020), he would break the league record that night at Gillette Stadium.

Go figure. The NFL schedule makers couldn’t have possibly figured that out on their own before the season … could they have? (Can someone insert a winking emoji here, please?)

Brady has a spot-on analogy for the looming matchup.

And it sure sounds like Brady’s dad is fired up to watch it all transpire.

“I started salivating when I saw that we play the Patriots in the fourth game of the season,” Tom Brady Sr. said when he called into Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub on Thursday. “The Patriots are our second-favorite team. It’s a game where we get to root against nobody. We get to root for the Patriots, but our most favorite team, of course, is the Buccaneers, and we expect to beat the Patriots rather handily, frankly.”

Well, it’s not “the Browns is the Browns.” But that’s pretty good.

Taillon touched up

New York Yankees pitcher Jameson Taillon had a bumpy outing against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The former Pirate racked up nine strikeouts in 4⅔ innings. But he also allowed four earned runs on four hits and two walks. Another former Bucco, Austin Meadows, did some of the damage with a two-run home run in the third inning.

That was Meadows’ eighth homer of the season. He had three hits and four RBIs to get his average back above .200 for the season (.208). The Rays went on to win 9-1.

Taillon is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his first season with the Yankees.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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