Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon all, on a strangely sunny yet rainy day. I read that we're going to be getting a lot of that this weekend, even as we have Pitt-Notre Dame, Steelers-Colts, Penguins-Wild and ... word is, the baseball team is in town, too.

MPM: I think the only way Pitt beats Notre Dame is if the Irish turn the ball over at least three times, and the Panthers have no turnovers. Do you agree?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sounds about right. But where are the turnovers for the Panthers' defense• Bottom line, to me, will be on offense: If you're ever going to have a game where Ray Graham carries, oh, 150 times, this is it.

Invention Guru: Based on MLB most equitable arbitration system, how big of a raise do you think Ohlendorf will receive for next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: The arbitration model actually does allow for a pay cut. Jody Gerut took one with the Pirates once, if memory serves. If ever there were an example for there being another, this would be it. That said, no way he gets tendered. Just no chance.

Dave: Dejan, You mentioned Neal's play in the blog today. What are the differences in systems between the Dallas Stars and the Pens• Could it be he was just a perfect fit for the Dallas offense?

Dejan Kovacevic: Got a lot of response to that, many people accusing me of ripping James Neal. That's not the case. He's fast, he's all over the puck, and he shows a decent passing instinct at times. Happened on a couple plays last night with Evgeni Malkin. ... But the next sign I see of this kid being a goal-scorer will be the first. He shoots high as his default position, which not only is no way to score, but it's no way to generate rebounds for teammates. And he shoots from pretty much everywhere a la Tyler Kennedy. That's not a goal-scorer. Not until someone teaches him how to play the game in that regard.

Bsteel: 2, please...1, Who had the better catch--Ward hanging on the the sideline like a bird on a wire or Wallace snaring the back end of the football• 2, Given Peirera's explanation of legal and illegal chop blocks, do the Steelers use them, legally of course, themselves?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll take Mike Wallace's over his shoestrings. The man was moving right down the field. That's pretty courageous, on top of everything else. What a first two games he's had, huh• ... The Steelers do some of the blocking you describe, just not at some overarching systematic level.

WyattBurp: Afternoon, Dejan. I'm a Detroit Lions fan. Have the Steelers recovered from the beat down they took from Baltimore?

Dejan Kovacevic: Apparently, they began to do that. The better question is whether the Chiefs recovered from that ... what 48-3 beating from your Lions• What was that• The Pirates in first place, and the Lions beating teams by 45 all in the same year?

Dave: Dejan, With the Pirates looking lifeless right now and playing around .300 ball since August, do you still agree with Huntington's extension• He was applauded for the team's early success shouldn't he be held accountable for it's recent failure's as well?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ask and ye shall receive. All that is covered in my column tomorrow morning, which will include at least one statistic about the baseball club guaranteed to blow your mind.

Brian, Wallingford, CT: Any chance that Derek Lee comes back for another season• Also, are there any free agents (that the Pirates could actually sign) that they may be after?

Dejan Kovacevic: Neal Huntington apparently isn't wild about the free-agent market that's coming up. Given how the Pirates have fared in acquiring position players from that route, that might be a good thing. ... I get asked the Lee question a lot. The Pirates want him. They're willing to pay for him. He has to be willing to come back. That's not clear. Remember, he didn't want to play in San Diego this season -- his hometown -- because of the ballpark. Let's see if he warmed up to PNC.

Greg in NC: Is the development of Strait, Bortuzzo, Sneep and (soon) Depres soemthing that would allow the Pens to move d-men for a winger or 2• Is Orpik a likely potential trade chip?

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, man, you leave out Joe Morrow after the game that kid had last night• Seriously• ... Yes, defensemen make great trade chips in the NHL, which is one reason it's terrific to be loaded in that area. That's how Alex Goligoski could be moved, and we're still talking about great depth. ... But Orpik• No.

Bennett8111: Dejean, I LOVE the move to the ACC as Pitt finally was proactive, but I wonder if Jamie Dixon will now step his game up in recruiting the South• He has done well in NYC, DC and, dare I say, CAN and NZ, but can he take on the Coach K's and Williams' who are in the South?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, I think you pretty much answered your own question by noting that Khem Birch was out of Canada, Steven Adams from New Zealand. Dixon says he'll go wherever he needs to go. I accept that. But it's also forever been the case that successful college programs will recruit well from a specific base, a home base. That's my area of concern. Some of Pitt's best players -- even if it hasn't been a great volume -- have come from the NYC/Philly/NJ area. Ashton Gibbs is one right now. I maintain that turf will be harder to control. But we'll see.

Andrew (South Side): Joe Morrow acquitted himself rather well last, though I thought his defensive zone positioning at times was off. With he and Despres developing quite well, not to mention the progression of Bortuzzo and Strait, do the Pens seek to move Paul Martin and his $5 million per year contract sometime in the future• We always here about all the little things he does, but Martin's play certainly has not merited the contract he received.

Dejan Kovacevic: Whether or not Paul Martin can be moved has nothing to do with depth, everything to do with other teams not wanting that contract. Seems unlikely. ... I will respectfully disagree with your view of Morrow's work in his own end. I saw one turnover up the boards. That was it. I also saw one breathtaking sequence where he won a puck one-on-one and turned it the other way into Malkin's goal. Kid stands tall.

Mike: Any concern about Andrew McCutheon being signed long term• Is it possible Neil H thinks Cutch will only be a 260ish hitter with 20 - 25 hr's which is not strong enough in an outfield that also features Tabata and Pressley?

Dejan Kovacevic: If Andrew McCutchen ever signs a long-term deal, then all of the team's fans will be required to spell his name right after all these years! McCUTCHEN. There's no O in there. Sorry, I never nitpick readers' spelling, but it's amazing to me that the Pirates' best player still comes misspelled in my direction more often than not. ... There is no sign of a long-term deal between the Pirates and McCutchen.

jayhawk67: I think ND beats Pitt by 21 points what's your feeling?

Dejan Kovacevic: I thought that would happen in Iowa. I also thought the Steelers were going to destroy the Ravens. And I thought the Pirates would hit well this year ...

PirateApologist: Is it possible that Alvarez agreed to winter ball, but then Boras stepped in and said he agreed 3 minutes after the deadline• #ReasonsPedroSaidNo

Dejan Kovacevic: Nice.

znc1: How concerning is it that McCutchen's been hitting only .220 since the All-Star break• I don't want to whine too much about him, because he's improved in so many areas this year, but it appears the last 2 months as if he's trying to pull and kill everything instead of hitting to all fields.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd agree with that. Concerning might be a bit strong, but McCutchen is going to have to find the strength/consistency to perform all year long for the Pirates to become contenders. Not a lot of people have noticed, but he's hitting .180 this September. His power numbers are up, 16 homers to 23, but his overall average is down 24 points to .262. McCutchen still will have had a nice season, but he can do better. Especially on the basepaths.

ray: who gets bumped from the roster when jericho comes back?

Dejan Kovacevic: Good question. Clearly, it won't be any of the four receivers currently in play, and it sure won't be Arnaz Battle because of Battle's work on special teams. But Cotchery will be in there when healthy. Probably not in time for Indy.

Matt: Do you think it was a mistake by Todd Graham to remain in the hurry up offense with such a big lead heading in the 4th quarter• The extra 15 seconds that they could have ran off on each play would not have allowed Iowa time to make their comeback. Slowing down the offense also allows a tired defense to rest....

Dejan Kovacevic: Way, way too much is being made of the hurry-up issue. When I watched this game a second time on DVR, I was looking at Pitt's times between plays. They were about 20-22 seconds. What's that shaving off the play clock• And really, how is that preventing the Panthers from, you know, actually producing a first down• If I'd seen the Panthers march down the field, then have to forfeit the ball, I'd see the play clock as an issue. But they weren't even getting first downs.

Ted: Hi Dejan, West Virginia fan here. Do you think WVU would be better off staying in this reconstructed joke of a Big East, or just discontinuing their participation in college athletics all together• Personally, I'd rather die a quick death (stop playing) than die a slow, disguting, degrading, insulting death (staying in what's left of the Big East while the rest of the world gets to have their fun). What do you think?

Dejan Kovacevic: Doesn't sound like WVU has a choice, does it• If these reports are accurate that the SEC and ACC don't want them, then the Mountaineers might not have any choice but to stay where they are, find a few friends and make the best of it. If I'm the Big East, I'm knocking on doors night and day. WVU won't be the only school left in the lurch here. WVU isn't the only school not based in a major media market.

Tom: Should Pitt Bball be worried about playing in some of the most hostile venues in the country• The Big East has some good venues, but the pale in comparison to a Cameron or a LittleJohn

Dejan Kovacevic: That should be the very last of Dixon's concerns. The Panthers have been a very, very good road team for a long time. And I have a hard time imagining people in the Carolinas being more hostile than those in New York and Philly.

dillonerd: Dejan, I appreciate all the work you do with your blog and twitter and keeping us all up to date. Any plans to do a podcast in the future?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm open to anything, as you've seen.

Patrick: Aside from the first game against the Islanders, so you see the Pens having much room in the lineup for their new 'enforcer?'

Dejan Kovacevic: The current game still calls for having a tough guy more often than not. There's always that one matchup. But your point stands in that Deryk Engelland obviously can take care of business AND take a regular shift on the blue line. Part of what makes him so valuable. But I'd think Steve McIntyre will get his games. Philly for sure.

Dan Fike: When will the Steelers offense dominate• I assume the line is the determining factor. 24 points against Seattle proves nothing.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's false. It did show good playmaking by Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders, it showed decent debut work at right tackle by Marcus Gilbert, and it showed Ben playing a whole lot better than in Baltimore. That's still an NFL opponent out there. As for domination, you're right: It's the line. There has to be a pushback in running the ball, especially at the goal line. When you start seeing Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman running well, that's when the rest of this will take off. But it won't happen without the line. And losing Willie Colon really hurts in that regard.

ZEB: I'm going to miss Paul Maholm. I imagine a team like the Yankees or Red Sox will love an inning eating, mostly injury free lefty for a reasonable price.

Dejan Kovacevic: I know that exercising a $10 million option on Maholm sounds unsavory, but let me broach this here: It's only one guaranteed year, which is two fewer than you'll have to give on the open market for a similar pitcher. It's about market rate, as the Pirates found out in their pursuit of Jorge de la Rosa. And it's the one year where you can be certain that any athlete is going to be supremely motivated, looking for his first huge career payday. Why not take it?

Patrick: How about Ciriaco (hope I spelled it correctly) as a full time shortstop. It looks to me that he will evolve well enough as a slap-hitter to fit in with a line-up with improved punch elsewhere. (I would make Josh H. my "super-sub")

Dejan Kovacevic: Ciriaco is capable of line drives, as we've seen, and he has some range to go with a very strong arm and good speed. But the next baseball person I hear describing him as an everyday type will be the first.

znc1: Fill in the blank question: Neil Walker's first full season in the majors was _________

Dejan Kovacevic: Just fine. Neil did well enough. He stayed about as consistent as you'd want, though he faded down the stretch with just about everyone not named Derrek Lee or Ryan Doumit. He also got a lot, lot better on defense. If you don't know, he's got a 50-game errorless streak going into this weekend and the second-best fielding percentage among National League second basemen.

Nutting Special: Love Hines, and he had an amazing sideline catch, but is he still one of our top 2 receivers• Should Sanders and Brown see more time on the field right now than Hines?

Dejan Kovacevic: That question gives me the creeps. I started raising it in the blog the other night and couldn't even bring myself to finish it. Let's see more of Sanders and Antonio Brown before we broach it.

owtahEER: Im kinda nervous my Mountaineers are gonna keep it close then get gassed at the end and blow it on sat, probably blowing all our hopes of joining SEC. What are your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yikes. We're now seeing games on Saturday as selling points for conference moves• Really• ... No, the only thing that could affect that for WVU is if about 3 million people moved permanently into Morgantown over the weekend.

Bob Walks Left Shoe: Bigger tank since late July: the Pirates or the stock market?

Dejan Kovacevic: Pirates. Not close. One more today ...

Guest: Bigger Steelers concern moving forward - the O or the D?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm going to stay on the D, if only because the age issue really doesn't come into play on offense with all the wide receiver depth. As I wrote in my column off the Seattle game, that was a nice start. It was great seeing Troy Polamalu make plays, great seeing James Harrison and James Farrior active and aggressive. But a whole lot more is needed.

I'm planning to be at Penguins tonight, Pirates tomorrow, Pitt Saturday and with the Steelers in Indy on Sunday. ... Thanks to all for participating, and be sure to check out the blog .

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