First Call: 2 names emerge to start 2nd round of Steelers GM interviews; how Malik Willis learned of Kenny Pickett’s selection

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Friday’s “First Call” zooms in on a second round of Pittsburgh Steelers’ general manager interviews. The Seattle Seahawks may not be at the top of the Baker Mayfield sweepstakes after all.

We also found out how Malik Willis discovered the Steelers were drafting Kenny Pickett instead of him.

And the NHL Eastern Conference regular-season champs bounce back strong in the playoffs.


another round

According to the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolothe Steelers are going to conduct a second round of interviews for their general manager job.

He claims that the Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Cowden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ John Spytek are on that list.

Spytek is the Tampa vice president of player personnel. He has been there for six years and has been part of the NFL for 18. Cowden joined the Titans in 2016 and previously worked for the Panthers. He is Tennessee’s vice president of player personnel.

It has been known since late January that current GM Kevin Colbert has been planning to step down after the draft. It’s believed that the team have interviewed at least 16 people for the job.


Bagging Baker

It doesn’t sound like Seattle is going to be a destination for disgruntled Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Via ESPN.comSeahawks coach Pete Carroll said Thursday that he doesn’t “at all” envision the team trading for a quarterback.

Carroll was on Sports Radio 950 KJR-AM in Seattle. While not asked about Mayfield specifically, since organizations can’t publicly comment on any possible interest in players on other clubs, Carroll was asked if the Seahawks are interested in adding a veteran quarterback with starting experience.

“I don’t see us making a trade for anybody at all. I don’t see that happening. But we’re certainly going to continue to be open to chances to help our club, and meanwhile we’re just going to be battling and competing our tails off. There’s always possibilities, so we keep open to that,” Carroll said.

hmm. I guess that goes for Mason Rudolph and Mitch Trubisky, too, then?

The current Seattle quarterbacks are Drew Lock, Geno Smith, Jacob Eason and Levi Lewis.


Malik’s moment of understanding

After the Steelers chose Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round of the draft, one had to wonder what was going on in Malik Willis’ mind.

Many believed that if Pickett wasn’t picked by the Steelers, they would’ve gone with Willis — a quarterback out of Liberty — instead. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe did an in-depth story on Willis’ NFL draft tumble. It included a quote from Willis’ Atlanta-based quarterback coach Sean McEvoy about bracing his pupil moments before the Steelers selection was announced.

After it became clear on Twitter that the Steelers were about to take Pickett.

“Obviously, Pittsburgh was the tough one. That was the one Malik felt good about, with the conversations Malik had with the Pittsburgh higher-ups and decision-makers during the process and his visit from him, ”McEvoy said. “So there was a moment there to let Malik know this is what’s about to happen so there’s no shock when they call a different name than yours. That was the toughest moment of Thursday night. Because then, it’s like, what’s next? There weren’t a lot of teams at the end of (the first round) that were looking at a QB. Obviously, the possibility is there of a team trading up to the back of the first round to get the fifth-year option. But the idea is kind of slipping away of being a first-round pick as those last few picks dwindled away.”

Willis wasn’t selected until the 22nd pick of the third round by the Tennessee Titans. He’ll likely start his career backing up Ryan Tannehill.


panther prowl

The Florida Panthers were in lock step with the New York Rangers. They bounced back to win Game 2 of their Eastern Conference playoff series at home after dropping Game 1 in their own house.

The Rangers beat the Penguins 5-2 on Thursday after falling 4-3 in triple overtime Tuesday. The Panthers were even more decisive, dispatching the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Thursday after a 4-2 opening game defeat.

The Panthers got goals from five different skaters enroute to the win, including a beautiful set up from Jonathan Huberdeau to Aleksander Barkov.

In net, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 26 of 27 shots for the Panthers. Vitek Vanecek gave up five goals on 19 shots in the first two periods for the Capitals. Ilya Samsonov took over in goal for the third period — stopping all 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes.

The Caps had 21 giveaways in the game. The Panthers only had six. Game 3 is on Saturday in Washington, DC Three of the four Eastern Conference series are tied 1-1. Only the Carolina Hurricanes, who are matched up against the Boston Bruins, have a 2-0 lead.

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 otherwise specified.

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