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First Call: Cameron Heyward’s practical view on Acrisure Stadium name change; Pirates head to Colorado

Friday’s “First Call” has a hot take from Steelers captain Cameron Heyward on the new name for Heinz Field. A former Penn State star is running out of time to avoid the franchise tag. The Pirates will miss facing a former teammate at Coors Field.

And Jaromir Jagr wants NHL teams to know he’s still got game.


Heyward on Heinz

Former offensive captain Ben Roethlisberger posted an emotional reaction after the Steelers sold the naming rights of Heinz Field to Acrisure this week.

On his new ESPN podcast “Not Just Football,” defensive captain Cameron Heyward had a more pragmatic response to the news.

“I don’t really put too much stock into that,” Heyward said. “Because as much as I’ve loved calling it ‘Heinz Field,’ Heinz Field wasn’t made by a name. It was made because of the memories. It was made because you got to watch Ben (Roethlisberger) to AB (Antonio Brown). The Immaculate Extension. It was made watching great plays like that. … The memories and plays are what made Heinz Field. Not the actual Heinz Field.”

Heyward said that, in time, fans won’t be preoccupied by the name on the outside of the stadium.

“I’m sure there’s going to be some type of nickname they’re going to give to Acrisure Stadium where it’s like, ‘Sure Stadium,’ or something. Or there’s going to be some catchy way to say it,” Heyward continued. “It’s not like we’re playing somewhere different. It’s still where you guys always go to watch a game. We’re going to still be thumping. You’re still going to hear ‘Renegade.’ You’re still going to get out of your seats and get excited in December, in January. Those things aren’t changing. It’s a name, guys.”

Heyward put the onus on the fans to avoid letting up just because they don’t like the corporate sponsorship.

“I understand, ‘Oh, it’d be really cool to (still) call it Heinz Field, and we’re going to miss the big ketchup bottles dumping down on a touchdown.’ But Acrisure better come with that fire, because we’re going to make sure we do our job as well,” Heyward said.

I couldn’t agree more, Cam. The Steelers’ first regular-season test at “The ‘Sure” will be Sept. 18 against the New England Patriots.


Un-Kuhl

As of now, the Pirates aren’t scheduled to face former teammate Chad Kuhl during their upcoming three-game trip to Denver.

The Colorado Rockies right-hander pitched into the fifth inning during Wednesday’s 10-6 win over the San Diego Padres. He allowed seven hits, three earned runs and four walks while striking out just two batters.

Kuhl’s ERA has climbed to 4.11. At the start of May, he was at 1.86. Even at the start of June, it was still only 3.17. But Kuhl has only pitched into the sixth inning twice in his last eight starts.

Instead, the Rockies will start the series by pitching German Marquez (5-6, 5.66 ERA) on Friday. Jose Urena (0-1, 2.66) gets the call on Saturday. The Pirates will counter with Jose Quintana (2-4, 3.59) and Mitch Keller (3-6, 4.88), respectively.

According to MLB.com, neither team has a starter listed for Sunday’s game yet.


Ready to rock

The bracket for Monday night’s MLB Home Run Derby in Los Angeles is set. New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso (23 home runs) is the No. 2 seed as he seeks a third straight crown. The back-to-back Derby champion will face No. 7 seed Ronald Acuna Jr. (eight home runs). That will be a rematch of their showdown in the second round of the 2019 Home Run Derby. Alonso hit a buzzer-beating homer to eliminate Acuna en route to the first of his Derby wins.

National League home run leader Kyle Schwarber (28 homers) is the No. 1 seed at the event and will face off against future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. He’s the No. 8 seed. Pujols has just six home runs this season. But it’s likely his last year in MLB, and this is more of a career acknowledgment move than anything for the long-time St. Louis Cardinals star.

Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager (21 homers) and Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez (15 homers) square off in the 3-6 matchup. The 4-5 showdown is between Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto (19 homers) and Cleveland Guardians All-Star Jose Ramirez (17 homers).


Tag! You’re it

The deadline for players with NFL franchise tags to sign long-term deals with their current teams is July 15. It doesn’t appear that an agreement between the Dolphins and tight end Mike Gesicki is going to happen.

The former Penn State Nittany Lion is set to make $10.9 million under the terms of the tag. He set career-highs in receptions (73) and yards (780) last season.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, things don’t look good for a reworked extension.

The same fate is expected for Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz, who is also set to play on the franchise tag. Meanwhile, Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku signed a four-year deal worth $56.75 million in May to avoid playing on the tag.


Jagr’s got jokes!

I saw this tweet earlier in the week from former Penguin Jaromir Jagr and figured it was a good way to wrap up our final “First Call” before an extended vacation.

It appears the 50-year-old goal-scoring phenom wants to throw his hat in the NHL free agency ring.

Jagr is still playing for HC Kladno. That’s the Czech Extraliga franchise that he also owns. And if he’s looking for a defenseman, the Penguins currently have nine on their roster. Maybe he and Ron Hextall can work out a deal.

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


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