keeping a close eye on F
The theatrics came from all the usual suspects.
So did the silence.
Antonio Brown Authentic Sam Hubbard Jersey , just weeks after wondering aloud why he receives so much attention, arrived in a helicopter with his family in tow not far from a Nike-sponsored bus emblazed with his latest hashtag "Destroy Doubt" splashed above the front.
Vince Williams stalked out of his black pickup truck wearing a studded leather vest and hauling a championship wrestling belt while his stereo blasted WWE Hall of Famer "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's theme music.
Yet the loudest statement by a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the defending AFC North champions arrived for their annual three-week stay at Saint Vincent College came from someone who didn't say anything at all.
While his teammates carried their gear into dorms then headed to the practice field for light conditioning work, All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell stayed away.
The optimism that Bell and the Steelers preached during the offseason about the prospects of signing a long-term deal has faded, replaced by the reality that he will likely wait until the end of camp to sign his one-year franchise tender to start what could be his final year in Pittsburgh.
"It's a business," Brown said. "Everyone (has) got to do what's right for their business. When he comes we'll welcome him."
Even if the men Bell lines up with would like to see him a little earlier than they did in 2017. Bell waited until Labor Day to sign his franchise tender and although he arrived in shape, it took several weeks for him to get rolling. Bell averaged 103 total yards during Pittsburgh's sluggish 3-2 start then put up 143 total yards per game during a 10-1 sprint to the finish.
Given a choice, the Steelers would prefer not to have to wait for one of the NFL's most versatile players to start playing like one.
"I'm going to send him a text like, 'Yo, come in four days earlier, try to get a couple practices in," center Maurkice Pouncey said with a laugh.
Coach Mike Tomlin called his communication with Bell "fluid" and "normal" but declined to get into specifics.
"I'll leave the details of it between him and I," Tomlin said. "I want to stay focused on the guys that are here."
Good luck with that.
While second-year back James Conner, rookie Jaylen Samuels and veteran Stevan Ridley will get plenty of chances to show Tomlin and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner 鈥?promoted in January when Todd Haley's contract was not renewed 鈥?what they can do R.A. Dickey Jersey , the starting job goes to Bell the second he walks through the door.
The 25-year-old remains a vital part of Pittsburgh's best chance at unseating New England atop the AFC. He shouldn't lack for motivation after the Los Angeles Rams signed Todd Gurley to a contract extension on Thursday that made him the highest-paid running back in the league. At least, that is, until Bell potentially hits the open market next spring.
"No matter what he's going to get paid eventually," said Pouncey of Bell, who is guaranteed to make $14.5 million this season.
Bell tweeted out "lol and ppl thought I was tripping?" after the terms of Gurley's deal were released and later added "I'm actually extremely happy" when someone on Twitter suggested he was "mad" at the Steelers.
Still, the inability for Bell and the team that took him in the second round of the 2013 draft to find common financial ground over the course of two straight offseasons virtually assures that Bell will be playing elsewhere in 2019. His looming departure adds a level of urgency to a core group that has reached the playoffs four straight years, but has been unable to get to a Super Bowl despite its considerable star power.
"Time is running out for everybody," Pouncey said. "I know it's all fun and games for everybody at the beginning, but man it's time to win. It's been too long."
The past six months may have been the most painful after Pittsburgh rolled through a 13-3 regular season only to get stunned at home by Jacksonville in the divisional round.
"Honestly we didn't think they could score 45 points in my opinion but hell, they showed me wrong," Pouncey said.
And now the Steelers must press forward. They've totally revamped the secondary. The linebackers must find a way to cope without the injured Ryan Shazier. The strength remains on the offense, one that will spend the next six weeks getting adjusted to Fichtner's playbook while wondering when Bell's familiar No. 26 will jog on the field.
"Every year there's always pressure to win the trophy," Brown said. "And this year will be a lot more added pressure."
NOTES: The Steelers agreed to terms with free agent wide receiver Eli Rogers Cheap Jerome Baker Jersey , who will remain on the Physically Unable to Perform list while he recovers from knee surgery. ... Rookie S Terrell Edmunds reported for camp on time. The first-round pick didn't sign his contract until Tuesday, but says he was never concerned about missing time.
The Overwatch League has planted its flag atop the esports mountain. But just like its twitchy-thumbed superstars, the premier circuit can’t afford to sit still.
Not as long as Fortnite commands the rest of the gaming universe.
The Fortnite phenomenon has put Overwatch in a strange position. The Overwatch League’s inaugural season has been a barrier-breaking achievement, but Blizzard Entertainment’s 6-on-6 first-person shooter isn’t nearly the world’s most popular video game. That would be Fortnite, a battle royale that has transcended gaming and smashed into the mainstream unlike any title in years. Overwatch executives say they aren’t nearly panicked because of one grand gamble: their deep pockets and impressive infrastructure can keep Fortnite from making a successful charge for the crown.
A top-selling game doesn’t necessarily make an elite esport – the latter requires a professional circuit, loyal fans and a product that’s just as enjoyable to watch as to play.
The Overwatch League has set the standard for esports in its first season. Ten million fans watched its opening weekend, and 100-150 thousand tuned in for every second of the regular season. The league’s two-night championship sold out Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and the opening night aired live on ESPN, the network’s first live broadcast of esports in prime time. The league has a fierce and sizable stable of fans, big-name investors like New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the momentum of a monumental first season.
Yet video gamers are clearly more ravenous for Fortnite. The breakout title from Epic Games has 125 million global players, compared to 40 million for Overwatch. Perhaps more jarring, Google searches for ”Fortnite” outpaced ”Overwatch” 14-to-1 in the week leading up to the Overwatch League Grand Finals.
Fortnite’s crossover appeal is unrivaled, a fact most recently on display when France’s Antoine Griezmann celebrated a goal in the World Cup Final with a dance move popularized by the game .
How could Overwatch not be terrified of a competitor with that kind of organic reach?
Simple: it doesn’t see Fortnite as competition – yet.
”Fortnite right now is 99 percent a game and not an esport Adidas Daniel Sedin Jersey ,” said Ari Segal, president of Immortals Gaming, which runs Overwatch’s Los Angeles Valiant. ”But I think obviously there’s a path for it to become an esport.”
The distinction is key. Structured, competitive Fortnite events are still in their infancy, and Epic has a ways to go to match the professional experience provided to Overwatch League fans. Epic began that effort by promising in May to offer $100 million in Fortnite esports prize pools – an enormous sum for the industry.
Yet early returns have been shaky, like when the Fortnite Summer Skirmish Series was cancelled mid-play due to technical issues. The tournament has also been hindered by conservative game play, with players waiting until the last possible moment to engage. In a statement, Epic said that it ”under delivered” in what was supposed to be its first marquee esports event while laying out plans to improve the viewing experience.
Epic did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
”It takes a lot more than a press release to build an esport,” Overwatch League Commissioner Nate Nanzer said. ”I think I can speak as well as most that there’s a ton of investment and planning and infrastructure that you need to build in order to do professional esports at a high quality bar.”
THE GRAND FINALS
Overwatch’s Grand Finals have been a showcase for that. All it takes is one look at the 165-foot-wide, 36-foot-tall LED screen behind the Barclays Center stage – players and fans alike have been in awe of the massive display this weekend.
But it runs deeper than flashy tech. The league’s broadcasts on Twitch have been nearly flawless technologically all season. Its teams have impressive support staffs including chefs, physical trainers and PR managers. Even the in-event entertainment is first-rate: DJ Khaled will perform at Saturday’s championship finale.
Which isn’t to say Overnight is a finished product. There’s work to be done packaging its events, especially for casual fans. Blizzard plans to experiment with its broadcast structure to better serve diehards and newbies alike. Those adjustments began with more explanatory segments on the ESPN show for uninitiated viewers, and the league will use feedback from that to shape coverage for next season.
”What I saw on Twitter was fun Authentic Jose Ramirez Jersey ,” said Pete Vlastelica, President and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues. ”I liked seeing the healthy debate between the old-school, old-guard sports audience who wondered what they were watching and then a lot of young sports fans who were very excited by what they were seeing.”
Even as it experiments, everything about the league has the look and feel of a top-notch pro sports organization, and that’s been a matter of investment and expertise for Blizzard and its team owners – a group that includes Kraft, New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
Esports organizations, like Segal’s Immortals, are keeping a close eye on Fortnite.
”Do you have the access to capital and the human resource capacity and the organizational bandwidth to be nimble and flexible to evaluate whatever that next thing is?” Segal asked. ”With respect to Fortnite, it’s an ongoing evaluation.”
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