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

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

And Jaromir Jagr wants NHL teams to know he has game left.


Heyward about Heinz

Former offensive captain Ben Roethlisberger reacted emotionally after the Steelers sold Heinz Field’s naming rights to Acrisure this week.

In his new ESPN podcast, Not Just Football, defensive captain Cameron Heyward reacted more pragmatically to the news.

“I don’t really care that much,” Heyward said. “Because as much as I loved calling it ‘Heinz Field,’ Heinz Field wasn’t a name. It was made for the memories. It was done because you had to see Ben (Roethlisberger) to AB (Antonio Brown). The flawless extension. It was made to see such magnificent pieces. … The memoirs and plays were done by Heinz Field. Not the actual Heinz Field.”

Heyward said that over time, fans will no longer bother with the name on the outside of the stadium.

“I’m sure they’ll give Acrisure Stadium a nickname something like ‘Safe Stadium’ or something. Or there’s a catchy way of putting it,” Heyward continued. “It’s not like we’re playing somewhere else. It’s still the place where you always go to watch a game. We’ll still knock. You will still hear “Renegade”. You’ll get out of your seats and excited in December, in January. These things don’t change. It’s a name folks.”

Heyward put the burden on fans not to give up just because they don’t like the corporate sponsorship.

“I get, ‘Oh, it would be really cool to call it Heinz Field (yet) and we’re going to miss the big ketchup bottles tipping over on a touchdown.’ But Acrisure comes better with that fire because we’re going to make sure we’re doing our job,” Heyward said.

I agree, Cam. The Steelers’ first regular-season test at The ‘Sure will be on September 18 against the New England Patriots.


Un-Kuhl

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

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

Kuhl’s ERA has increased to 4.11. At the beginning of May it was 1.86. Even in early June it was only 3.17. But Kuhl has thrown in the sixth inning only twice in his last eight starts.

Instead, the Rockies will start the series by fielding German Marquez (5-6, 5.66 ERA) on Friday. Jose Urena (0:1, 2.66) is awarded the contract on Saturday. The Pirates countered with Jose Quintana (2-4, 3.59) and Mitch Keller (3-6, 4.88).

No team has yet listed a starter for Sunday’s game, according to MLB.com.


Ready to rock

The bracket for Monday night’s MLB Home Run Derby in Los Angeles is set. New York Mets batter Pete Alonso (23 homers) is No. 2 as he seeks a third straight crown. The back-to-back Derby champion meets 7th-seeded Ronald Acuna Jr. (eight homers). This will be a repeat of their showdown in the second round of the 2019 Home Run Derby. Alonso hit a buzzer-hitting homer to eliminate Acuna en route to his first derby win.

National League leader Kyle Schwarber (28 homers) is the No. 1 in the event and will be up against future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. He is the No. 8 seed. Pujols has only six homers this season. But it’s likely his final year in MLB, and for the longtime St. Louis Cardinals star, it’s more of a career recognition than anything else.

Texas Rangers shortstop Corey Seager (21 home runs) and Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez (15 home runs) face off in a 3-6 duel. The 4-5 showdown is between Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto (19 homers) and Cleveland Guardians all-star Jose Ramirez (17 homers).


Sign! You’re the one

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

The former Penn State Nittany Lion is reported to be making $10.9 million in the day’s terms. Last season he posted career highs in receptions (73) and yards (780).

Things aren’t looking good for a revamped expansion, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The same fate is awaited for Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz, who will also play on the franchise tag. Meanwhile, Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku signed a four-year, $56.75 million deal in May not to play on the tag.


Jagr has jokes!

I saw this tweet earlier this week from former penguin Jaromir Jagr and thought it would be a good way to wrap up our last “First Call” before an extended vacation.

It seems the 50-year-old goalscoring phenom is poised to throw his hat into the NHL’s free agency ring.

Jagr still plays for HC Kladno. This is the Czech Extraliga franchise he also owns. And if he’s looking for a defender, the Penguins currently have nine on their list. Maybe he and Ron Hextall can negotiate a deal.

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

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