NFL

Steelers star Watt says 'door open' to face Bengals after groin injury

By Sports Desk September 24, 2021

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt said the door is open for him to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 of the NFL season.

Watt is listed as questionable for Sunday's clash after injuring his groin in last week's 26-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

But the three-time Pro Bowler is hopeful of suiting up at home to the Bengals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

"Doesn't matter how many reps I get throughout the week," Steelers star Watt said on Friday. "I was able to still run around here and do a lot of things that I need to do to keep the door open for Sunday.

"I'm excited to get the rest of today and tomorrow to continue to improve my body and see where I'm at on Sunday.

"... This isn't going around and playing Pee Wee football. This is playing against guys doing this for a living, so trying to be smart.

"At the same time, knowing your body more than anything. I felt like I did a good amount this week to leave the door open for Sunday."

Cincinnati ended a 10-game losing streak to Pittsburgh when the Bengals (1-1) beat the Steelers (1-1) 27-17 in Week 15 of last season.

In the all-time series, the Steelers have 65 wins in their 101 games against the Bengals, which is the most wins by any team against Cincinnati.

The Steelers, meanwhile, were held to 39 yards rushing in their loss to the Raiders, bringing the team's season rushing total to a league-worst 114 rushing yards.

Since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, Pittsburgh have been held to under 40 yards rushing in 20 different games with only the Arizona Cardinals having more such games in that span (22).

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    Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid hit out at Ben Simmons, insisting he is "not here to babysit" after his wantaway team-mate was banned by the NBA championship-chasing franchise.

    The 76ers suspended disgruntled All-Star Simmons – who has demanded a trade out of Philadelphia – for their season-opening clash with the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.

    It came after 76ers head coach Doc Rivers tossed Simmons from Tuesday's practice session.

    Simmons sought a trade amid criticism following last season's shock playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks and was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

    Speculation over Simmons' future is now set to intensify amid reported interest from the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers.

    Embiid, however, is not interested in Simmons – who signed a five-year, $177.2million contract extension in 2019 – as the 2020-21 MVP runner-up took aim at the former number one draft pick.

    "I don't care about that man honestly," Embiid told reporters. "He does whatever he wants. That's not my job. That's those guys' jobs. I'm only focused on trying to make the team better. Win some games. Play hard every night.

    "I try to lead all the guys that we have here and I'm sure that I feel the same way because our chemistry has been excellent. Despite everything that's been happening in the last few months. So like I said, I don't I don't really care.

    "But at the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody. We're here and we get paid to produce on the court. Go out, play hard, and win some games. That's all we get paid for. We don't get paid to come out here and try to babysit somebody. That's not our job and I'm sure my team-mates feel that way.

    "Like I said, I'm not here to babysit. I'd be willing to babysit if someone wants to listen, but that's not my job. That's out of my control. I'll focus on what's here and try to win some games."

    Simmons – an elite defender – and his shooting problems were laid bare during the 2021 postseason with the top-seeded 76ers, who were eliminated in the semi-finals.

    The 25-year-old had no fourth-quarter field-goal attempts in his last four games of the playoffs against the Hawks last season. He is the only NBA player in the last 20 seasons to have four consecutive postseason games with no field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter during a season in which he was an All-Star, according to Stats Perform.

    Simmons averaged just 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It was the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career-worst 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

    Then there is Simmons and free throws. He was exposed by rival teams as they regularly sent him to the line, with the Melbourne-born guard making just 25 of 73 shots in the 2020-21 playoffs. His 34.2 free-throw percentage is the lowest ever in a single postseason.

    "I just thought he was a distraction today," Rivers said. "I didn't think he wanted to do what everybody else was doing and it was early, it wasn't a big deal. Just told him you should leave man and we went on with practice.

    "I'm going to give like every day, every single moment, I'm going to give Ben a chance to join the team and be part of the team. He's under contract to be part of the team and so that's not going to change.

    "Sometimes it happens quick and guys join back in, sometimes it doesn't. I've been in both situations and I'm fine with that. But at the end of the day, as a coach, I have to protect the team. The team first and then we get to the other part and so today, I just thought it was more important to focus on the team."

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined the Champions League's 40-plus club on a miserable night for Milan, as the Swede insisted: "We have to do better."

    A 1-0 defeat in Porto means the Serie A giants have yet to pick up a point through three rounds of Group B games.

    They have never begun a group-stage campaign so poorly, points-wise, and it will now take a remarkable effort to claw themselves back into last-16 contention.

    Luis Diaz's second-half strike gave Porto the points at the Estadio do Dragao, making the November 3 re-match at San Siro in two weeks' time particularly huge for Milan.

    This is the Rossoneri's first season back in the elite UEFA club competition since the 2013-14 campaign, and it has been a tough examination to date.

    Ibrahimovic promised Milan would fight for as long as they remain mathematically capable of making progress, claiming he remained "confident" of a turnaround, albeit realistic about their shortcomings on Tuesday.

    "Today was our worst match in the Champions League," said Ibrahimovic. "Unfortunately we are still on zero points after three games.

    "We must remember that this team is back in the Champions League after so many years and games like this will give experience to the whole group."

    Speaking to Mediaset Canale 5, he added: "Players were missing, but this is part of football. I just got back and I'm happy to play."

    Injuries and COVID-19 cases have left Milan depleted, but Ibrahimovic said: "I don't want to find excuses. In the next match we have to do better. There are three games left and, as long as there is a chance, we will try. I am confident."

    The Swedish striker was used as a substitute, coming on just before the hour mark to become the first outfield player aged 40 or over to appear in the Champions League since Ryan Giggs for Manchester United in April 2014.

    Ibrahimovic also became just the second 40-year-old to appear for Milan in the competition, after former defensive stalwart Alessandro Costacurta.

    Milan head coach Stefano Pioli accepted his side were second best on the night in Portugal, praising Porto's efforts.

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    Pioli said of Porto: "They did better in terms of clarity, technique and how they were on the pitch. We didn't start well, we had to manage the ball better.

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  • Vinicius brimming with confidence as Real Madrid produce 'the perfect match' – Ancelotti Vinicius brimming with confidence as Real Madrid produce 'the perfect match' – Ancelotti

    Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti says Vinicius Junior is brimming with confidence following his wonderful individual goal in their thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk.

    The 13-time European champions romped to a commanding 5-0 victory in Kiev, their biggest away win in the Champions League since beating Viktoria Plzen by the same scoreline in November 2018.

    Vinicius was on target twice, his second goal in the 56th minute the highlight of a dazzling performance.

    Just five minutes after doubling his side’s lead, the winger beat several defenders with a jinking run from the left, before firing past Shakhtar keeper Anatolii Trubin.

    Ancelotti saluted the Brazil international, who now has seven goals in all competitions this season, his highest tally during a single campaign for Los Blancos.

    But the head coach insisted the highest praise should be reserved for the entire team as they bounced back from successive defeats, and warmed up nicely ahead of Sunday's Clasico showdown with Barcelona.

    "My team thrives on incredible ambition, which is why we've produced the perfect match," Ancelotti said to reporters post-match.

    "After our recent results, it was vital to react and we've done it well. We did what we promised to. 

    "Vinicius finished very well indeed, but it was a team effort to produce the goals. 

    "He's a young guy, a great player in the making, learning and right now, he's brimming with confidence. But the special praise I'll give is to the entire team." 

    As well as his two goals, Vinicius teed up international compatriot Rodrygo's goal as the former recorded a goal and an assist for the first time in 24 Champions League appearances.

    The 21-year-old is pleased with the strides he is making, while he also expressed his gratitude for the faith shown in him by Ancelotti.

    "I'm still 21, there's lots of time for me to grow into a great player," Vinicius commented after the full-time whistle.

    "But I'm working hard so that even if sometimes things don't come off for me, other moments will. I've scored seven times this season – better than the last season – and that's important.

    "I love playing in pressure matches, that's natural to me. But the trust and confidence this coach has shown in me is important, too."

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