Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Oct. 11, 2012
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Dejan Kovacevic: Hoka Hey from the Honky Tonk capital, my brothers and sisters. It's Steelers-Titans here in Nashville tonight, it SHOULD have been Penguins-Islanders back home tonight, Pitt's back in action this weekend at 11 a.m., Penn State's on a well deserved break and who knows what Bob Nutting is uncovering these days? Away we go ...
Mike H: Final score tonight in Tennessee?
Dejan Kovacevic: Steelers 31, Titans 10. That's the way I presented it this morning in the blog.
NYJohn: What is the schedule like for the Steelers players when they travel? Is it back to back meetings and preparations, or do they have down time? What is it like on away trips?
Dejan Kovacevic: Well, first to clarify, reporters never travel with the teams they cover. We go on our own, paid on our own, the whole deal. Most of the Steelers' preparation is done during the week, and Saturday -- the most common travel day -- is just that, a travel day. Players are free to the extent that they'd best be snug in their beds by curfew. But really, there's almost never more than one advance day for an NFL team, so there isn't much time to do anything. They leave for Pittsburgh immediately after the game.
Frank: Can we expect to see more Cameron Heyward given it's a short week for the Steelers?
Dejan Kovacevic: Hate to keep beating the same drum, but I'd like to see more of Heyward and Steve McLendon on a regular basis. If you saw Mark Kaboly's excellent Steelers Film Study feature in the Trib on Tuesday, you'd see the pluses and minuses of using McLendon over Casey Hampton, but the pluses of having him at least involved are huge. In a game like this, the guy I'd keep an eye on is James Harrison. He went every snap Sunday, but that's unlikely tonight. Because Jason Worilds will be covering for LaMarr Woodley on the left side, that means more Chris Carter on the right. Or not. We thought this last week, too, and Harrison went the distance.
Henry, Coraopolis: How important is timmons to this team's success? Without Polamalu, there isn't that element of surprise when he is out. Timmons seems like the only other player on the defense who can provide that versatility and be the X factor.
Dejan Kovacevic: He can and, from the sound of Dick LeBeau a couple days ago, he'll continue to play that role as he did Sunday against the Eagles. That means two things in Timmons' case: 1. Be unpredictable in terms of where he sets up. 2. So long as it's near the line of scrimmage. We saw -- and the Steelers apparently finally saw -- the negligible impact Timmons had when pulled away from the line or dropped into coverage. Now that they've seen what he can do in terms of not only chasing the QB but also in run pursuit, that doesn't figure to change.
Joe: Do you feel that the past few years' top draft picks not panning out for the Steelers is starting to take its toll?
Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. Check Wednesday column for much more on that.
Xray: For the second time this year, the Steelers spiked a ball inside the 10 to kill the clock at the end of the first half then ended up kicking a field goal with plenty of time left (in this case, :08) to have run that play. Anyone on the coach staff notice? Anyone care?
Dejan Kovacevic: Uh, they don't care? That's not on the coaching staff, at any rate. Ben lines up, and Ben's the one who wants the time to get the right play. It doesn't look great, but this isn't Madden 13. There's no pause button to figure stuff out.
Brian G.: Just got word that Beano Cook has passed away at 81. Any favorite stories. It's a tweet from Colin Dunlap.
Dejan Kovacevic: Just saw that myself. Awful news. A true Pittsburgh icon with a national scope and universal respect, every bit at the level of Myron Cope in that regard. Condolences to Beano's family, friends and yes, his many fans.
Mike A.: Is Bob Nutting going to take so much time reviewing what went wrong that he will lose out on some potentially qualified replacements for his team president, GM and scouting director, should he decide to make a change? What time frame would be optimal?
Dejan Kovacevic: I've never been given a precise timeframe, though you're correct that the window would be closing not so much on personnel -- there are always qualified individuals available for the highest-level posts in an organization -- but on making the right preparations for 2013. As was the case in 2007, when Nutting fired Dave Littlefield, he gave Frank Coonelly and then Neal Huntington plenty of time to hit the ground running going into the offseason. As for Nutting's actual review, I am assured it is happening. I have no details to offer on that.
MarcusGilbertRules: What is your World Series prediction?
Dejan Kovacevic: That I will be watching football. And hopefully, hockey. Anything's got to be better than hearing the guys at YESPN crowing about the Yankees' "mystique" rather than mentioning the $210 million payroll.
Greg from Atlanta: Hi DK! Care to take an educated guess on who are D-Men will be and pairings when we finally get to playing in December or so? I really hope Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres are here and in the lineup vs Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland.
Dejan Kovacevic: You don't want Engelland in the lineup? Really? Would love to hear what you don't like about a big, fairly mobile, smart D-man who can clean people's clocks and is beloved by his teammates. Despres will be here regardless. He's ready. But I'd go into the season viewing Bortuzzo still as minor-league depth. And remember, when they do come back, training camp will be a blip on the radar. No real chance for anyone to "win a job in camp."
Brian G.: The NHLPA is working on a new proposal (supposedly). Do you think they will make significant changes in their stance or do you think they are still fuming over the league's first proosal enough to not even try?
Dejan Kovacevic: Found it kind of odd that the Fehrs didn't bring a plan to their New York meeting yesterday. Seemed like the perfect opportunity, just the two of them as well as Gary Bettman and Bill Daly. I've been in the players' corner to date, but Daly had a good point yesterday when he said that he's tired of hearing concepts and ideas and wants to see an actual plan.
Buckeye Phil: Any chance we see three corners in our base defense tonight since Troy is out? LeBeau has done this before, and I am of the opinion Cortez Allen is a better overall player than either Will Allen or Ryan Mundy at this point.
Dejan Kovacevic: More nickel is certainly an option. The Titans are ranked 16th in the pass, 31st in the run. At the same time, the guy on that side of the ball most capable of beating you -- that's capable, not necessarily willing -- is Chris Johnson. I don't know that I'd walk onto that field with a stop-the-pass-first mentality. I'd rather see Johnson stuffed a handful of times and knock the wind out of Tennessee before it even gets going.
Greg from Atlanta: I like Engelland, but certainly not more than the young kids. I view Engelland as 7th D-Man and plays when we need the toughness and/or need to protect stars against teams like Philly.
Dejan Kovacevic: I respect your view, Greg, but I'll strongly disagree. Engelland has a lot more to offer -- and has proven that -- than being the designated fight-the-Flyers guy.
Brian G.: Do you think it was the money or the Pittsburgh D that knocked the "Want to" out of Chris Johnson?
Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, it was the money, no question. All I'm saying is I wouldn't want to give him a chance to be the best player on the field. He's got as much talent as anyone on either team.
Susan: I think NHLPA is hesitant to bring a new offer in fear that Bettman will swallow it up and not negotiate off it. In 2005 the players offered the cap and 24% rollback as an idea, and Bettman took both. Can't blame the players for being cautious. There is no trust in Bettman.
Dejan Kovacevic: That's fair, Susan, but there's nothing iron-clad about offers and proposals. They can always be pulled back. For the record, the initial offer the owners made -- which was awful, no matter how you see this in general -- is no longer technically "on the table." Not many seem to have noticed that. I see no problem with the players making a real proposal that might move things forward.
Dejan Kovacevic: You might be getting overly gimmicky here, Phil. It's the Titans. The base defense really ought to cut it tonight.
JAL: Is Michael McKenry capable of being a No. 1 catcher or should Pirates look to trade for a good catcher?
Dejan Kovacevic: The Fort's kind of an odd case. He's hit his share of home runs, both in the minors and the majors, and he's clearly a good game-caller and good defensively. (I think he'd be better at throwing guys out if the people running the Pirates actually made a point of having their pitchers contain the running game.) But yeah, whoever is running the Pirates in 2013 will probably be better off looking for a first-string guy that pushes McKenry into a backup or even a tandem role than going out and looking for a backup.
Rob (far far away): I am by no means a medical expert but I was curious if there is anything to Troy's constant injury problems. Other than the concussions it has been groin injuries, calf injuries and a hamstring. Any insight on this?
Dejan Kovacevic: As someone inside the Steelers said to me the other day on the South Side, once you cross 30, that's when the soft-tissue injuries start happening. Nothing more to it. That said, let me ask you in return: How many games did Polamalu miss last season? How about over the past two seasons? I'll wait for your answer.
Brian G.: Our corners seem to do fairly well in press coverage and man to man and seems to struggle with passing receivers off in the zone. If that is the case wouldn't that be to our advantage? Press corners would allow us to blitz more and more correct?
Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure which of the current corners you're identifiying as being good on the press. Ike Taylor had an outstanding press performance last season against the Patriots, you'll recall, but I don't know if I'd want Keenan Lewis or Cortez Allen doing it. Check my numbers from the Wednesday column. These guys are all playing it about as conservatively as you get.
MarcusGilbertRules: Troy missed just two games last year and I don't believe he missed any in 2010, right?
Dejan Kovacevic: That would be correct. He missed two out of 36 possible games, including playing in all four playoff games. Perception always trumps reality, huh?
Mitch: Not much impact from Curtis Brown or Cortez Allen this year, concerned?
Dejan Kovacevic: They're going to stick with Lewis for the foreseeable future, presumably in part because Brown WOULD be the replacement, and that would be tantamount to starting all over again with yet another inexperienced CB. Still surprises me this position wasn't more solidly addressed in the offseason, at least in terms of depth. It's not like some of these problems have come out of nowhere.
yinzer in va: Why wasn't Sandusky given a bigger penalty? I know he'll spend the rest of his life behind bars, but a message needs to be sent that people like him should be severely punished. Especially after his conspiracy comments the day before sentencing.
Dejan Kovacevic: Are you weighting into this Sandusky's eternal damnation? I am, and I'm OK with it.
NYJohn: What are your top three concerns in all of the Pittsburgh sports world?
Dejan Kovacevic: Hm. That's a neat question. Well, in the context of a live chat and looking only at right now, I'll go with ... 3. A healthy Troy Polamalu. The Steelers are a totally different franchise -- never mind just the current roster -- without him. 2. Bob Nutting being serious about his investigation. If he isn't, the Pirates have far, far bigger problems than any catcher or shortstop could solve. 1. The NHL lockout. Not so much because we all miss hockey, and certainly not because millionaire players are missing out on a couple checks. But because good, hard-working people whose incomes rely on the Penguins playing in our city are hurting from this. I know some of them. This stinks on the highest level because of what THEY'RE going through.
James_Indiana: Lets say that the Pirates hired a new GM. Is it reasonable to expect a new GM to find talent in free agency considering most valuable players would rather sign elsewhere? What would be your approach if you were GM?
Dejan Kovacevic: Any GM worth being hired should be able to identify the talent pool at the very top of the baseball chain, and that's free agency, the guys who have been in the bigs for at least six years. At least you'd THINK that would be the easiest to identify.
Brian G.: I think your stats were in regards to targets and completions. What about the difference between those stats in man to man vs. zone?
Dejan Kovacevic: I've never seen such a breakdown. If you do, please share.
Richard Butler: Better coaching job so far this season: Bill O'Brien or Dana Holgorsen?
Dejan Kovacevic: Completely different circumstances, but both excellent jobs. I can't pick one over the other. Just can't. O'Brien has taken on an unprecedented challenge -- literally -- and overcome two tough opening losses to win four in a row and maybe rescue a football program from a four-year plunge into oblivion. That takes a remarkable man AND coach. Holgorsen has been everything as advertised, and maybe a little extra, bringing not only his high-flying offense -- unlike Todd Graham's, his is more than just talk -- while molding BOTH Geno Smith and Tavon Austin into Heisman candidates, even as he's openly and brashly pushed the West Virginia community to do more in getting behind the Mountaineers. And on top of that, he walked into Texas and won. Like I said, I can't pick one.
It's time for the Nashville Predators round (hey, it's where I am) ...
MartiniMark in ATL: Odd man out when Wes Saunders roster exemption is up?
Dejan Kovacevic: I'm guessing Leonard Pope.
NYJohn: How did you celebrate your birthday?
Dejan Kovacevic: Radio show in the early afternoon, drove over to Steelers practice next, wrote Steelers column for Wednesday, hugged kids and pretended to be a good father for the rest of the night.
tim m: Do you expect Nutting to put a statement out if he keeps the current team in place?
Dejan Kovacevic: Really don't know what to expect, other than you can expect the Trib to continue pursuing the story. It won't just fade away.
James_Indiana: Why do NFL analyst get so excited about teams like San Francisco and the Packers last year through 5 weeks? The NFL is about peaking during the second half of the season and not crushing teams during the first 8 weeks.
Dejan Kovacevic: Hard not to picture big things with how the Niners are playing, isn't it? The team that DOESN'T excite me in the least, despite also being undefeated, is the Texans. J.J. Watt might be the best defender in the NFL right now, but I don't see that offense winning a Super Bowl.
Alan Gifford: In your opinion, besides McCutchen, Pedro and Walker who from last year should be guaranteed to retain starting spots?
Dejan Kovacevic: Garrett Jones, at either first base or right field. He did a lot better than most seem to have noticed this year.
NYJohn: Favorite football stadium not in Pittsburgh ...
Dejan Kovacevic: 1. Tampa 2. Baltimore 3. Kansas City. And those are including Heinz Field, which wouldn't make my top 10. The Steelers skimped on design, allowed those silly cocktail umbrellas to cover the rotundas and dump on their riverfront property with those ugly white tents that never go away. If the Pirates were doing that, they'd be getting savaged for it.
MartiniMark in ATL: Bigger disappointment - Steelers running game, offensive line performance or defensive woes? Which is easier to correct?
Dejan Kovacevic: The defense is a far greater concern on many levels, not least of which is that there are so few in-house solutions. There are very clear answers for the other two you cite, especially with David DeCastro and Mike Adams on the way to help with both. Couple more today ...
BadDealNeal: Which franchise is worse over the last two decades? The Pirates or the LA Clippers?
Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates. And I say that with all due apologies to the Maple Leafs.
Brian G.: How does the stadium in Tennessee compare to the big ketchup bottle in Pittsburgh?
Dejan Kovacevic: The Titans' place is really bland. The Predators, on the other hand, have one of the coolest venues anywhere on one of the coolest streets anywhere, Broadway right through the heart of Nashville. Heading out to enjoy it now for the rest of the afternoon before kickoff.
Thanks to all for participating. I'm taking next week off, which means no columns, no radio show, no chat and really, nothing more than reading comic books and wiping out my kids in table hockey. (They make me be the Flyers, and I STILL win.) I'll be back for the Steelers' game in Cincinnati.
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