Ben Roethlisberger threw for 266 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Steelers improved to 11-0 with a disjointed 19-14 win over the undermanned Baltimore Ravens. The game was postponed three times while the Ravens dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak that forced Baltimore to take the field minus star quarterback Lamar Jackson among others.
The extended layoff led to some ugly football in a game filled with turnovers and inconsistent play. Still, the Steelers survived behind just enough offense and a defense that forced a pair of turnovers and had three sacks.
Despite the outbreak, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league remains committed to finishing the regular season as scheduled. Goodell also said on a conference call that the NFL is considering a bubble format for the playoffs, although it wouldn't necessarily resemble what the NHL and NBA used successfully in completing their seasons. The league's chief football administrative officer, stressed that the NFL plans to finish the schedule within the original 17-week format.
In other NFL news:
The Buffalo Bills are in position to get healthier for their stretch run with linebackers Matt Milano and Tyrel Dodson designated to return to practice after spending time on injured reserve. Buffalo also signed receiver Jake Kumerow off its practice squad, adding depth at the position with starter John Brown placed on IR due to an ankle injury last weekend.
Quarterbacks Drew Lock and Brett Rypien returned to the Denver Broncos' practice Wednesday after coming off the COVID-19 reserve list while the Broncos isolated practice squad veteran Blake Bortles. All three quarterbacks were banned from last weekend's game against the New Orleans Saints after failing to wear their masks around quarterback Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thanksgiving. The Broncos returned rookie receiver Kendall Hinton to their practice squad. Hinton filled in for Lock on Sunday when he completed just one of nine passes and was intercepted twice. Lock praised Hinton for his emergency QB work Sunday.
The Green Bay Packers have activated rookie linebacker Krys Barnes from the COVID-19 reserve list. Barnes has missed three straight games since getting placed on that list Nov. 6.
The Cleveland Browns are dealing with another COVID-19 case after an unidentified staff member tested positive. The team closed its facility Wednesday to conduct contact tracing and were expected to practice indoors after heavy snow in the Cleveland area.
Quarterback Mike Glennon is getting another start for the Jacksonville Jaguars even though Gardner Minshew is healthy. Minshew has been cleared to practice in full after recovering from a sprained thumb on his throwing hand, but the Jags are sticking with Glennon at Minnesota on Sunday. Glennon was solid in his first start since Week 4 of the 2017 season.
The Detroit Lions put cornerback Desmond Trufant and defensive tackle Danny Shelton on injured reserve. The Lions also activated tight end Hunter Bryant from IR and signed defensive tackle Kevin Strong to the active roster from the practice squad and signed cornerback Alex Myres to the practice squad. Defensive end Julian Okwara and cornerback Darryl Roberts returned to practice from IR today. Detroit plays at Chicago this weekend in its first game since coach Matt Patricia was fired.
Anthony Lynn and the Los Angeles Chargers has publicly acknowledged it would take a miracle for his team to make the playoffs even if the Chargers win their final five games to finish 8-8. The Chargers go into Sunday's game against New England four games behind Miami and Indianapolis for the final AFC spots.
A 12th former NFL player has pleaded guilty in Kentucky in a multimillion-dollar health-fraud scheme. Former Washington Football Team and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers pleaded guilty Monday to one charge of conspiring to defraud a program set up to reimburse former players for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
In men’s college basketball, Hartford downed Fairfield 66-61. In women’s college basketball, Syracuse ripped Division II Lincoln University 90-39. The game was moved from the newly refurbished Carrier Dome to the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center because of water on one area of the court. The Dome is in the final stages of a $118 million upgrade, and the school says the construction project includes spot sealing the roof. The Orange men have a game Thursday night and the issue is expected to be resolved by then.
In top-25 basketball:
Matt Coleman III hit a stepback jumper with 0.1 seconds left to help No. 17 Texas beat No. 14 North Carolina 69-67 for the championship of the relocated Maui Invitational. Coleman finished with 22 points and was the tournament's most valuable player for the Longhorns. Texas won despite blowing a 16-point first-half lead and falling behind in the final 2 1/2 minutes. Garrison Brooks had 18 points to lead the Tar Heels despite playing through an ankle injury that had him spend time in the locker room at least twice.
Adam Flagler scored 18 points and was one of four players in double figures for No. 2 Baylor, which pulled away late Wednesday night to beat No. 5 Illinois 82-69 in the second game of the Jimmy V Classic. Baylor won for the first time this season with coach Scott Drew on the sideline. He missed the previous two games after a positive COVID-19 test, but watched his team swing the game with its trademark defense in the second half. Ayo Dosunmu had 18 points and Giorgi Beshanishvili added 15 for Illinois.
Joel Ayayi matched his career high with 21 points and Andrew Nembhard and Corey Kispert each had, and No. 1 Gonzaga rallied to beat No. 11 West Virginia 87-82 on Wednesday night in the Jimmy V Classic. The Bulldogs struggled to get in sync early and again after freshman Jalen Suggs injured an ankle in the first half. But Gonzaga used a late 13-4 run to take control and scored six straight points late to seal it. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for West Virginia and dropped the Mountaineers to 0-5 in the series.
E.J. Liddell scored 16 points to help No. 23 Ohio State rout Morehead State. Justice Sueing, C.J. Walker and Duane Washington Jr. had 11 points apiece for Ohio State. DeVon Cooper scored 13 points for Morehead State. The Eagles shot 25% from the floor.
M.J. Walker scored 17 points and Balsa Koprivica added 13 as No. 22 Florida State opened its season with an 86-58 rout of North Florida. Scottie Barnes, the ACC's preseason freshman of the year, had eight points, six rebounds and six assists.
Xavier Pinson scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half and Missouri overcame a mid-game lull and late Oregon flurry to beat the No. 21 Ducks 83-75 on Wednesday night. Mark Smith scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half as Missouri built a 17-point lead, but Chris Duarte scored eight straight points to get the Ducks within five in the final minute. Eugene Omoruyi set career highs with 31 points and 11 rebounds in his first game for the Ducks since transferring from Rutgers.
The Houston Rockets have traded Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a future lottery-protected, first-round pick. Both teams announced the trade Wednesday night. The move ends Westbrook's tenure in Houston after just one disappointing season. Westbrook was traded from Oklahoma City or Chris Paul and draft picks in July 2019.
In other NBA news:
Kevin Durant is scheduled to make his Brooklyn debut against his former Golden State teammates before the Lakers begin their title defense in an all-Los Angeles matchup with the Clippers in the NBA's Dec. 22 opening-night doubleheader. The Lakers will be back in action against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 25 as one of five games on the Christmas lineup. The NBA announced the national TV schedule for the first three nights of the season on Wednesday. The complete schedule for the first half of the season, shortened to 72 games because of the coronavirus, will be announced Friday.
LeBron James has agreed to a contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers. James' previous deal ran only through the upcoming season with a player option for 2021-22, allowing him to leave the NBA champions as a free agent next summer if he chose. Instead, the four-time NBA champion committed to play through his 20th NBA season with the Lakers, his third club after title-winning runs in Cleveland and Miami.
Zion Williamson expects to unleash a version of himself that is healthier, more demonstrative and less restrained in his second NBA season with the New Orleans Pelicans. Williamson says he was not able to showcase a lot of his game last season because he was more focused on fitting in with the team and "trying not to be the rookie to mess up." Williamson says he now feels great physically and understands much more about playing in the NBA.
A person with knowledge of the agreement says the Detroit Pistons have agreed to a non-guaranteed deal with LiAngelo Ball. Ball is the brother of New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and Charlotte Hornets lottery pick LaMelo Ball. LiAngelo Ball spent some time working out for the G League's Oklahoma City Blue earlier this year.
Relief pitcher Chasen Shreve became a free agent when the New York Mets declined to offer him a 2021 contract. New York agreed to a $5.1 million, one-year deal with left-hander Steven Matz and finalized its $15.5 million, two-year contract with free-agent reliever Trevor May. Shreve, a 30-year-old left-hander.
Also, right-hander Luis Cessa and the New York Yankees avoided salary arbitration when they agreed to a $1 million, one-year contract before the deadline to offer 2021 contracts to unsigned players on 40-man rosters.
In other MLB news:
Left-hander Mike Minor and the Kansas City Royals have finalized an $18 million, two-year deal, reuniting the 32-year-old starter with the club that helped him revive his career. The contract includes a club option for 2023 for $13 million with a $1 million buyout. The 32-year-old Minor split 2020 between the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics, going 1-6 with a 5.56 ERA and diminished velocity after posting the best numbers of his career a year earlier.
Slugging first baseman Matt Olson reached agreement on a $5 million guaranteed contract for the 2021 season, avoiding salary arbitration. The deal includes award bonuses. Olson, 26, batted .195 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs playing all 60 games for the AL West champion A's in 2020.
First baseman Jesus Aguilar has agreed to terms on a $4.35 million, one-year deal to remain with the Miami Marlins. He's expected to compete for playing time next year with prospect Lewin Diaz, and his signing makes it less likely Garrett Cooper will return next season.
Outfielder Alex Dickerson agreed to a $2.1 million, one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants for the 2021 season to avoid salary arbitration. The 30-year-old Dickerson endured a false-positive coronavirus test in mid-September that postponed games in San Diego and then Seattle.
The Minnesota Twins have agreed to a $2.2 million, one-year contract with reliever Tyler Duffey, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. Duffey was one of seven Twins players eligible for salary arbitration for the 2021 season, joining left fielder Eddie Rosario, starting pitcher José Berríos, center fielder Byron Buxton, closer Taylor Rogers, catcher Mitch Garver and relief pitcher Matt Wisler.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and leftie reliever Scott Alexander agreed to a $1 million, one-year deal to avoid arbitration. Alexander wasn't on any of the Dodgers' rosters throughout the postseason, which culminated in the team winning its first World Series championship since 1988.
The Chicago White Sox have declined to offer 2021 contracts to right fielder Nomar Mazara and pitcher Carlos Rodón, sending the pair into free agency. Meanwhile, Jace Fry gets a one-year deal worth $862,500.
The most recent first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays 18-year-old pitcher Nick Bitsko has undergone surgery on his right shoulder to repair a labrum issue. The Rays have not ruled out Bitsko being able to pitch at some point during the 2021 season.
A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press the Brewers have agreed to terms on a major league deal with Luke Maile. Maile was with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season but missed the entire abbreviated season due to a fractured right index finger.
Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. became free agents when the Chicago Cubs declined to offer contracts to two key players from their historic 2016 World Series championship. While Schwarber, Almora, slugger José Martínez and pitcher Ryan Tepera were non-tendered, the Cubs offered 2021 contracts to infielders Kris Bryant and Javier Báez, catchers Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini, and outfielder Ian Happ. They agreed to one-year deals with relievers Kyle Ryan, Colin Rea and Dan Winkler, avoiding arbitration with all three. Chicago also announced it had claimed reliever Robert Stock off waivers from the Boston Red Sox.
The Houston Astros have offered contracts to arbitration-eligible shortstop Carlos Correa, infielder Aledmys Díaz and right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. The Astros, who made the playoffs despite a 29-31 record in the pandemic-shortened season, also reached a one-year deal with righty Austin Pruitt.
The Kansas City Royals agreed to one-year deals with outfielders Jorge Soler and Franchy Cordero, first baseman Hunter Dozier and right-handers Jesse Hahn and Jakob Junis. The Royals also non-tendered third baseman Maikel Franco, who would have been due a substantial increase in his contract after hitting .278 with eight homers and 38 RBIs while playing on a $2.95 million deal last season.
The Los Angeles Angels have acquired veteran shortstop José Iglesias from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade for minor league right-handers Garrett Stallings and Jean Pinto. Baltimore picked up its $3.5 million option on Iglesias for 2021 last month.
The World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers have acquired reliever Corey Knebel from the Milwaukee Brewers for a player to be named or cash. Knebel was an All-Star in 2017 and a key part of the Brewers' bullpen during their run to the 2018 NL Championship Series.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says players are likely going to have to pay one way or another to make up for lost league revenue whenever the 2020-21 season gets underway. Bettman says the pandemic will affect revenue and that is expected to affect the 50-50 revenue-sharing split between owners and players. Players will have to bear the brunt of any shortfall to owners. Bettman says the question is whether players should defer a higher percentage of their salaries now or face the potential of having the salary cap stay flat for several years.
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