Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks through the crowd during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh to host 2026 NFL Draft

Pittsburgh will host the 2026 NFL Draft, the league announced Wednesday at its spring league meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

“The NFL Draft is one of the biggest, most-anticipated sporting events of the year, and we’re thrilled to partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers and VisitPITTSBURGH for our 2026 event,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We have a unique opportunity to spotlight this wonderful community on a global stage, benefiting Pittsburgh’s economy and entertaining football fans from all markets. We know this pride of Pennsylvania will shine bright in 2026.”

Pittsburgh will serve as the 10th NFL city to host the draft since it moved from New York in 2015. The 2025 NFL Draft will be held in Green Bay, Wis.

The 2024 draft, held last month in Detroit, drew a record crowd estimated at 775,000 over the three-day event.

“We are excited that the City of Pittsburgh has been selected to host the 2026 NFL Draft,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said. “This will be an amazing event that will highlight everything the region has to offer on a national and international level. … We look forward to football fans from all across the country coming to enjoy our city’s culture while also showcasing our rich football history and tradition in the region.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 25, 2023; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils linebacker Tre Freeman (12) tacks Pittsburgh Panthers running back C'Bo Flemister (24) during the first half of the game at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Duke owns second half to get past Pitt 30-19

Grayson Loftis threw two touchdown passes and Duke went ahead late in the third quarter on the way to a 30-19 victory against visiting Pitt on Saturday afternoon at Durham, N.C.

The outcome clinched Duke’s second consecutive winning regular season under Mike Elko, who is gaining interest from programs with head coach openings.

Jordan Moore and Jalon Calhoun each had TD catches and combined for 15 receptions to help Loftis to 248 passing yards.

The Blue Devils (7-5, 4-4 ACC) won for only the second time in their last six games. They now await a bowl invitation.

Quarterback Nate Yarnell threw for 265 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for Pitt (3-9, 2-6), which never won back-to-back games this season.

Duke clinched the outcome on Todd Pelino’s 48-yard field goal with 1:59 left. Pelino also delivered a 25-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half for a 13-10 lead that came at the end of a 67-yard drive.

Pitt’s Ben Sauls tied it 13-13 from a season-long 47 yards out on Pitt’s first possession of the second half.

Loftis threw 15 yards to Calhoun for the first touchdown of the second half with 3:44 to go in the third quarter, giving Duke a 20-13 lead.

On the last play of the third quarter, Calhoun had a 32-yard pickup on a short pass to become the fourth player in Duke history to reach 3,000 career receiving yards.

Duke extended its lead to 27-13 on Jaquez Moore’s 3-yard run with 11:54 remaining.

On its next possession, Pitt drove inside the Duke 15 until Yarnell was picked off by Jeremiah Lewis. The Panthers got the ball back and Yarnell threw 14 yards to Bub Means for a touchdown at the 5:17 mark, though the score stayed at 27-19 when a two-point conversion pass failed.

The teams traded first-quarter field goals with Pelino good from 47 yards and Sauls connecting from 35 yards.

Pitt went up 10-3 on a 93-yard drive that consisted of 15 plays. Karter Johnson bulled his way to the end zone to complete a 21-yard pass play from Yarnell.

The Blue Devils needed only 25 yards to go back ahead on Loftis’ 10-yard, third-down pass to Jordan Moore. After pinning Pitt inside the 5-yard line, the Panthers managed just a 15-yard punt.

–Field Level Media

Nov 16, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Nate Yarnell (19) passes against the Boston College Eagles during the third quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Duke looking for first win over Pitt since 2014

Pittsburgh and Duke have both lost four of their last five games entering Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season finale in Durham, N.C.

The Blue Devils (6-5, 3-4) hope for home relief after losing 30-27 at Virginia last Saturday and 47-45 in double-overtime the previous week at North Carolina.

Duke is bowl eligible but on a downward spiral following a 4-0 start to the season.

“We have to very quickly try to figure out how to resolve it and fix it,” Duke coach Mike Elko said.

The Blue Devils, ranked for much of the season, won’t be able to repeat the nine-win season accomplished in 2022 in Elko’s first season.

“Obviously, a lot of people in our building and in our locker room want to make sure that this group goes out the right way on Saturday and has a really strong finish to what has been a really strong two years,” Elko said. “That kind of becomes a rallying cry for this week.”

Pitt (3-8, 2-5) halted a four-game skid by defeating Boston College 24-16 last Thursday in its home finale.

“Things haven’t gone our way in a lot of games, but I couldn’t be prouder of our football team,” Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi said.

This will be their final game, but a positive outcome could help set the tone for the offseason.

“You have to focus,” Narduzzi said. “Just focus and take care of the details, and good things happen.”

Pitt will have quarterback Nate Yarnell at the controls for his third career start. He passed for 207 yards and a score and also rushed for a touchdown against Boston College.

“He protected the ball and gives you a chance to win a football game,” Narduzzi said. “He just takes care of the details.”

Pitt has won all seven meetings against Duke since Narduzzi became the head coach in 2015, including a 54-29 rout on the most recent trip to Durham in 2021.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2023; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Sam Hartman (10) celebrates after Notre Dame defeated the USC Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Notre Dame, fresh after bye, aims to stay hot vs. Pitt

Coming off a bye, No. 14 Notre Dame is feeling rested and refreshed as it prepares to host Pitt on Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Ind.

Notre Dame (6-2) has not played since Oct. 14, when it rolled to a 48-20 win on its home field over then-No. 10 Southern California. The Fighting Irish held a 24-6 lead by halftime and never relented.

Then came a break, which Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman described as “much needed” for his team as it gears up for its final four games before bowl season.

“For our players, mentally and physically, they needed it,” Freeman said. “You think about, we started this season the last week of June (when) we started training camp, and we had gone straight until last week. It was a great chance for them to have a bye week.”

Now, the Fighting Irish turn their attention to Pitt (2-5). After winning their season opener against FCS foe Wofford, the Panthers lost four straight. However, they showed improvement in the past two weeks with a 38-21 win over then-No. 14 Louisville and then a narrow 21-17 loss to Wake Forest on Saturday.

Part of Pitt’s progress has come thanks to running back C’Bo Flemister, a Notre Dame transfer who will go up against his friends and former teammates. Flemister leads the Panthers with 282 rushing yards to go along with two touchdowns, and he has 92 receiving yards and a touchdown.

Pitt also has found some success under new quarterback Christian Veilleux, who is set to make his third career start. He threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns last weekend.

“It’s a team that I see that is continuously getting better,” Freeman said. “This team has gotten better from what they were at the beginning of the year, so we’ve got to understand the challenge that will be presented on Saturday.”

Meanwhile, Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman will face a defense that he opposed in the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference championship game while he was at Wake Forest. Through his first eight games for the Fighting Irish, Hartman has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 1,838 yards, 18 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said Hartman’s scouting report changed this season compared to his time with the Demon Deacons.

“Obviously, a totally different offense,” Narduzzi said. “He’s in a pro-style offense. He’s huddling up and taking snaps under center. If he’s going to play in the NFL, it’s going to be in that type of offense, not what they were doing at Wake Forest.

“I think he’s probably enjoying it. I think it’s every childhood kid’s dream to play in the National Football League, and he’s going to have an opportunity just by being able to make run checks, sit underneath the center and do all the things that they ask him to do there.”

Notre Dame also showcases a potent ground game led by running back Audric Estime, who enters this weekend averaging 6.2 yards a carry. He has rushed for 787 yards and nine scores.

Safety Xavier Watts leads the Fighting Irish’s defense with four interceptions. Three players are tied for the lead in sacks with two apiece.

Pitt’s defense features three players with three sacks apiece. Defensive back M.J. Devonshire has two interceptions and eight passes defended.

The Saturday game will be the 73rd meeting between the programs. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 50-21-1, with wins in the past three matchups.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  A Pittsburgh Panthers helmet on the sidelines against the Louisville Cardinals during the fourth quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest caps wild final moments by beating Pitt

Cameron Hite caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Santino Marucci with seven seconds left as Wake Forest pulled out a 21-17 victory against Pitt in a wild final stretch at Winston-Salem, N.C.

The Demon Deacons (4-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) scored two touchdowns and threw an interception in an improbable final 3:02 in halting a three-game losing streak.

Christian Veilleux threw 22 yards to Bub Means with 1:30 left and Pitt (2-5, 1-3) appeared ready to escape. When M.J. Devonshire intercepted Marucci at the Pitt 28, the Panthers were in good shape.

But Veilleux’s third-down run for an apparent first down turned disastrous for the Panthers when it was determined Veilleux began his slide at the Pitt 16, 1 yard short of the first-down mark. A punt followed and the Demon Deacons converted quickly for the winning points.

Demond Claiborne’s 42-yard touchdown run with 3:02 left lifted Wake Forest into a 14-10 lead. Claiborne finished with 96 rushing yards on 14 carries.

Wake Forest had 323 yards of total offense, but 89 of those came on the first scoring drive of the fourth-quarter.

The game marked the debut at quarterback for Marucci, a third-stringer and redshirt sophomore who was in a starting role because of injuries to two teammates.

Ben Sauls’ 41-yard field goal with 13:03 to play put the Panthers up 10-7. That came following Phillip O’Brien Jr.’s interception late in the third quarter.

On its next possession, Wake Forest drove to the Pitt 32-yard line but gave the ball back after coming up short on a fourth-and-2 run.

Pitt’s C’Bo Flemister ran for 105 yards on 23 carries and Veilleux threw for 302 yards.

Wake Forest quarterbacks Mitch Griffis (undisclosed), who started the first six games, and Michael Kern (shoulder) were not in uniform because of injuries.

The rematch of the 2021 ACC championship game pitted two teams that have largely struggled this year. The Panthers lost for the first time in three games all-time against the Demon Deacons.

Veilleux threw 7 yards to Kenny Johnson as the Panthers scored on the game’s opening possession.

Wake Forest, which generated little on offense, suddenly came through by going 55 yards in two plays (plus a 15-yard facemask penalty on the defense) to pull even with 1:32 left in the half. Claiborne ran 18 yards for the touchdown.

Wake Forest had 125 yards of total offense through three quarters. Pitt was at 262.

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2023; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies running back Bhayshul Tuten (33) runs the ball during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Kyron Drones (5 TDs) leads Virginia Tech past Pitt

Kyron Drones threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more as Virginia Tech secured a much-needed 38-21 victory against visiting Pittsburgh on Saturday night in Blacksburg, Va.

Bhayshul Tuten rushed for 109 yards and caught a touchdown pass for the Hokies (2-3, 1-0 ACC), who snapped a three-game losing streak.

Drones completed 12 of 19 passes for 228 yards and gained 41 more on 21 carries. He played in a limited capacity last year for Baylor, and then played sparingly in the first two games this year before his role expanded.

Virginia Tech held the Panthers scoreless for the final 24 1/2 minutes.

Pitt (1-4, 0-2) sputtered again with its fourth consecutive loss. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec was back for the Panthers after leaving a week earlier with an undisclosed injury in a loss to North Carolina. He had trouble getting much cranked up, although two of his first four completions went for touchdowns. He finished 11-for-22 for 235 yards.

Pitt’s first two scores came on one-play possessions. Jurkovec threw to Bub Means for a 75-yard play just 12 seconds after the Hokies’ first touchdown.

The Panthers trailed 28-7 after a 10-yard touchdown run for Drones gave Virginia Tech its largest lead of the season. That margin was brief because of Jurkovec’s 61-yard pass play to C’Bo Flemister on the next snap.

Just 37 seconds later, Pitt’s Braylan Lovelace recovered a Drones fumble for a touchdown as the Panthers closed within 28-21.

Drones responded by throwing a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jaylin Lane with 3:27 left in the third quarter.

The Hokies were up 20-7 at halftime after Tuten, a transfer from North Carolina A&T, scored on a 12-yard reception. Virginia Tech scored earlier on Drones’ 54-yard pass to Da’Quan Felton and on Drones’ 2-yard run.

Tuten ended up with 24 carries. Pitt’s offense had 24 total rushing plays, compiling only 38 yards.

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers tight end Kole Taylor (87) celebrates with teammates after catching a pass for a touchdown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the fourth quarter at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech seeking consistency when Pitt visits

Two teams in need of a positive result meet on Saturday when Pitt faces Virginia Tech in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup in Blacksburg, Va.

This will be the ACC opener for Virginia Tech (1-3), which has lost three games in a row. The past two have come in road encounters with Rutgers and Marshall.

“We’re not consistent enough to be a good team,” Virginia Tech coach Brent Pry said. “We’re falling short in areas at different times.”

Pitt, which lost 41-24 to North Carolina last Saturday in its ACC opener, is 1-3 through four games for the first time since 2017. Since the Panthers just started conference play, there’s no reason to panic, according to coach Pat Narduzzi.

“The two teams that will be in the (ACC) championship game at the end of the year will have one loss, guaranteed,” Narduzzi said. “There’s too much parity in this conference, and there’s going to be two teams with one loss I think. … So everything we’ll do is still ahead of us.

“We’ll be back and go down to Virginia Tech and get it done.”

Pitt might be going through a shakeup on offense. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec left Saturday’s loss to UNC due to an undisclosed first-half injury. Christian Veilleux filled in, but he threw two interceptions.

“It doesn’t matter who is out there,” Narduzzi said. “We still had a chance to win with a makeshift offensive line.”

The Panthers’ work on special teams was easy to spot in the game against the Tar Heels. While Pitt gave up a punt return for a touchdown, it also benefited from Kenny Johnson’s 100-yard kickoff return for a score and Rasheem Biles’ second blocked punt in as many games.

Virginia Tech expects a physically demanding game with Pitt, so moving the ball on the ground could help the Hokies after they racked up 184 rushing yards in the 24-17 loss to Marshall.

Pitt and Virginia Tech have split 22 games in the all-time series, though the Panthers have won the last three meetings. The Hokies have won seven of 10 matchups in Blacksburg.

Pitt won 45-29 at home last October in the most recent meeting between the teams.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Aaron Turner (9) carries the ball on an end around as Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back Phillip O'Brien Jr. (5) chases during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Kiner, Cincinnati best Pitt

Corey Kiner rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries to lead Cincinnati to a 27-21 win over host Pitt on Saturday.

Emory Jones went 18-of-26 passing for 125 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Bearcats (2-0).

Phil Jurkovec completed 10 of 32 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers (1-1).

Cincinnati led 27-7 going into the fourth quarter before the Panthers scored two touchdowns to make it a 27-21 game.

But the Cincinnati defense shut down the Pitt offense from there, and Kiner rushed for a first down with just over a minute remaining to seal the game.

The Bearcats took a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Payten Singletary, and then went up 10-0 with 8:57 left in the first quarter on a 22-yard field goal by Carter Brown.

Pittsburgh cut its deficit to 10-7 with 4:17 left in the first on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jurkovec to Konata Mumpfield, but Cincinnati answered.

The Bearcats drove 76 yards in seven plays and took a 17-7 lead with 13:20 remaining in the second quarter on a 7-yard TD run by Kiner.

Brown then made a 47-yard field goal with five seconds left until halftime to make it 20-7 Cincinnati.

Cincinnati extended its lead to 27-7 with 9:17 left in the third quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Braden Smith.

The Panthers cut into the lead early in the fourth quarter, making it 27-14 thanks to a 9-yard scoring strike from Jurkovec to Mumpfield with 14:48 left.

Pittsburgh then closed to within 27-21 on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jurkovec to Gavin Bartholomew with 11:53 remaining, a score that was set up by a 60-yard pass from Jurkovec to Bartholomew to start the drive.

Mumpfield finished with four catches for 53 yards and the two scores for Pitt. Smith had five catches for 59 yards and the TD for the Bearcats.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Louisville, Kentucky, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi watches from the sideline during the first half against the Louisville Cardinals at Cardinal Stadium. Louisville won 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches set friendship aside as Wofford opens at Pitt

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi will look to put friendships aside when the Panthers host Wofford in the season opener for both teams on Saturday.

Narduzzi will be pitted against longtime friend Shawn Watson, who served as the Terriers’ interim head coach for six games last season before landing the full-time position on Dec. 1, 2022. Watson worked under Narduzzi as Pitt’s offensive coordinator from 2017-18.

“They didn’t win a game before (Watson) took over,” Narduzzi said. “They were 3-3 (with him) as the interim head coach, that’s how he got the job.”

Although Narduzzi is proud of what Watson has accomplished so far, come Saturday, it’s all business.

“You never want to see anybody lose, especially your friends,” Narduzzi said. “But you never want to get beat by your friends.”

Watson’s familiarity with the Panthers certainly should come in handy, but he knows it won’t be easy to break through against a Pitt team that surrendered 24.3 points per game last season en route to a 9-4 record.

“It’s going to be tight coverage. They can cause all kinds of havoc,” Watson told TribLIVE.com when speaking about the Panthers. “They can play out of their base look, and their havoc package out of it is one of the things you have to be prepared for as an opponent.”

Quarterback Bryce Corriston will be tasked with trying to carve up the Pitt defense. He saw limited action in 2022, attempting just two passes across nine games. One of those pass attempts resulted in an interception.

After spending the past three seasons at Boston College, Phil Jurkovec will be starting under center for the Panthers. He threw for 1,711 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his final season with the Eagles.

Saturday marks the first meeting between Pitt and Wofford. The Terriers haven’t had a winning season since 2019 after going 3-8 last year.

–Field Level Media

Mar 4, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs (WO14) participates in drills at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On the Clock: Pittsburgh Steelers draft preview

The Steelers have missed the playoffs in three of the past five seasons and haven’t won a playoff game since 2016.

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin’s job security remains safe, but the recent trend borders on unacceptable in the Steel City.

With quarterback Kenny Pickett entering his second season, the Steelers are balancing his long-term development with short-term gains.

And they have the opportunity to make up some ground on both fronts with three selections among the top 49 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.

New general manager Omar Khan is more worried about making the correct choices than making a splash. But he allows that standing pat is no certainty.

“I’d say all options are on the table,” Khan said. “If there’s a good football player and we have the opportunity to go get him, if we can get him, we’re going to go get him.”

Pickett is lobbying for former Pitt teammate Jordan Addison, who collected 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021 when they last played together. But taking a cornerback at No. 17 overall may be a better move than taking a wideout.

Among the cornerbacks who could be available is Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., the son of the former Steelers standout. He would be a great addition for a defense that features linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

TEAM NEEDS
1. CB: Losing Cameron Sutton in free agency hurt and who knows at what level free-agent addition Patrick Peterson (34 career interceptions) will perform with his last Pro Bowl season coming in 2018. The Steelers will find it hard to pass on Porter if he is on the board.

2: WR: One of Pittsburgh’s two second-round picks should be used on a wideout who get down the field. Diontae Johnson caught a team-best 86 receptions last season but averaged just 10.3 yards and never found the end zone.

3: OL: The Steelers figure to tab a guard at some point in the proceedings. They added Nate Herbig (shaky pass blocker) and Isaac Seumalo in free agency but need a younger one to develop.

2023 DRAFT PICKS
Round Pick (Overall)
1. 17 (17)
2. 1 (32)
2. 18 (49)
3. 17 (80)
4. 18 (120)
6. 17 (234)
7. 24 (241)

BEST FITS
1. OG O’Cyrus Torrence, Florida: Pittsburgh appreciates the power game Torrence plays and the 350-pounder could be the team’s primary target. They’ve met with him at least three times since January, including at the scouting combine and Florida’s recent pro day.

2. CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois: Cam Sutton found a richer deal in Detroit, which stings the Steelers’ secondary. Witherspoon is feisty, physical and versatile but might not be around at No. 17.

3. WR Josh Downs, North Carolina: Smooth in any gear, Downs has advanced skills as a route runner and can sneak behind the secondary with few drops or lapses in focus.

–Field Level Media