Among several criminal incidents during Pitt's off week, perhaps the event that will have the biggest on-field impact was the news that redshirt senior defensive end Greg Romeus underwent back surgery on Thursday and will be out indefinitely.
All of that seems rather insignificant in light of the news that Romeus' mother passed away on Sunday after a battle with cancer.
"Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with Greg," head coach Dave Wannstedt said at his weekly press conference on Monday. "He's had a very, very difficult five or six weeks."
Romeus' mother's illness likely explains his absence from the New Hampshire game on Saturday, September 11th. Wannstedt planned to meet with Romeus on Monday.
To fill the on-field void
While Romeus is off the field, he will be replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt junior Brandon Lindsey.
"He started the game last week and he's had a very good week of practice. We'll rotate some guys in there, as we did last week."
Lindsey recorded two sacks against New Hampshire in his first career start.
Wannstedt and defensive line coach Greg Gattuso made it known last week that freshman T.J. Clemmings will not redshirt in 2010. Instead, the 6'6" 290-pound freshman from New Jersey will be a part of Pitt's rotation at defensive end on Thursday night when Pitt hosts Miami at Heinz Field.
"We will take the redshirt off T.J. Clemmings; he will play this week," Wannstedt said Monday. "The plan was to try to redshirt him, initially. T.J. gives us some size and some depth at the defensive end position, along with Justin Hargrove and Shayne Hale.
"T.J.'s really done some good things the last couple weeks in practice, and we're going to need him. So we're planning on playing him some in the rotation this week."
A tough week
Two arrests led to indefinite suspensions. One bad decision led to a demotion. And one starting redshirt senior had surgery.
Not a good off week for the Pitt Panthers.
"We've had some early-season obstacles, adversity, but nothing that we can't handle. Trust me," Wannstedt said. "We've got a group of young men on this football team that are ready for a challenge. They're doing thins the right way, and things happen in this game. Things happen on the professional level. It happens on the high school level.
"You know what it comes back to? It comes back to your foundation. If your foundation is solid, you overcome these things. Whether it be injuries or on-the-field or off-the-field, you do everything you can to correct it.
"We know what the values of this football program are. Nobody knows better than I do. We're here to make that happen, and the players know that."
A productive week
While the football team had a host of off-field issues in the last week, the players who were on the field had a relatively good week, according to Wannstedt.
"Our players and coaches really did a great job of taking advantage of the extra days that we've had. With having the extra week, we came back and worked four days; probably half of those practices were against ourselves. Pitt vs. Pitt. So now you have Jabaal Sheard going against Lucas Nix, and the competition was very good.
"We became a better team. I told our players this and I mean this: the way they approached it, with the attitude and the energy leading up to our Miami preparation, I was very pleased with what we were able to get accomplished."
Miami is known for speed, and the Hurricanes use it on special teams. Through two games, Miami has had two returns go all the way, and both came against Ohio State. Lamar Miller returned a first-quarter kickoff 88 yards, and Travis Benjamin returned a punt 79 yards in the second quarter.
"The one punt return for a touchdown, the guy caught the ball and he was literally two yards away from having an Ohio State guy in his face. So they're courageous from the standpoint of, if they can catch the football, they're going to return it. There's not going to be very many fair catches."
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has thrown for four touchdowns and four interceptions through two games this season, and in 2009 he hit on 24 scores but also threw 17 picks. Nevertheless, Wannstedt said that Harris might be one of the most dangerous passers Pitt will face this season.
"As we evaluate the quarterbacks every week, we play 12 games in the regular season and there will probably be four or five of them that can make all the big-time throws, and he's one of those guys. We'll play a lot of quarterbacks that we can play some coverages on defense and do some things because the quarterback is really not capable of consistently making…whatever the play might be.
"You can see him on film making all the throws. He can throw from sideline to sideline and he can throw the ball deep very accurately, so he forces you to defend the whole field, without a doubt."
Special guests on Thursday
In addition to the expected 60,000-plus that will attend Pitt's nationally-televised game against Miami on Thursday night, the Pitt administration has worked to bring in some special guests for the evening.
"We've invited all of our past players to come in and participate in any of the pregame and postgame events going on," Wannstedt said. "I think we have close to 350 ex-players coming in. It's going to be a great group of guys. They're excited about coming back and being a part of a great football atmosphere, come Thursday night."
Quote of the day
"We've had a couple unfortunate things that make us all awful damn mad, to be honest with you."