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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Sept. 13, 2012

| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 7:47 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings, all, and welcome to another hour of splendor in reveling in the glory of Pittsburgh's many highly competitive sports teams, pro and college.(Dons armor, readies for your worst.)

PZ: Pirates are 4-14 in their last 18 games and still have GAINED a half-game in the wildcard standings. Encouraging or even more disappointing?

Dejan Kovacevic: To me, that makes the collapse all the more disappointing. It only magnifies the opportunity squandered by ownership, management, coaching staff and players. All of them. They've all blown this.

Andrew: Pirates. I'm just so depressed. This could have, SHOULD HAVE been the year. Say something, ANYTHING to ease the pain.

Dejan Kovacevic: Nope. Whether or not it should have been the year is open to debate. The whole thing still felt like it sneaked up on everyone. But the fact that it ended up being this level of opportunitiy is now beyond question.Want an amazing stat?The Pirates are 2-15 these past six weeks in games decided by two runs or less. Remember that when someone tells you they really weren't that close to competing, that another player added -- or another player improving his own performance -- wouldn't have made a difference.

Guest: Is the general lack of buzz about even possibly firing Hurdle the surest sign so far of the organization's (and most fans') low expectations for this season? Even the Brewers canned Yost in September 2008 when his managing threatened to slam their window shut just as it was cracking open. How long do we have to stick with Hurdle just because he says he likes Pittsburgh?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't see that happening. And I don't see Hurdle being anyone's preference because he says he likes Pittsburgh. That's needlessly sardonic.Hurdle has made some mindbending decisions of late. I detailed the ones the other night in the Tuesday blog entry . But he's also achieved things in the first half of the past two seasons that no one else has in these parts in around 20 years.All concerned need to figure out why it keeps fizzling.

Najed: Are there any indications of how long Harrison will be out? If he's out for an extended period of time, do you see this being his last year in black and gold?

Dejan Kovacevic: The simple fact that James Harrison's status seems to change from day to day -- he's playing, no he's not, he's practicing, no he's not -- is maybe the strongest sign that his issue is long-term. Even if he makes it onto the field against the Jets.Knees are nagging, annoying things. I asked Harrison last week if he'd had any further actual procedures on it, even draining, and he replied there hadn't been anything like that since the last operation.So what is it?How long will it take?And yeah, at 33 and in the final year of his deal, is this it?

Jason81: If you had to venture a guess, when does the NHL season start? October? Around Christmas? October of 2013?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll stick to maintaining that a week or so will be lost. That's it.This whole thing to me still reeks of posturing from the owners' side. There's no way there's this much resolve to save the Coyotes, Panthers and a couple other teams. Not when new arenas are going up in Quebec and now Seattle. There's a very simple solution for the league's weaker franchises, and if they need a road map, they can just draw a line from Atlanta to Winnipeg.

PhillyJake: What is the mood in the Pirates club house?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm in Pittsburgh this week since returning from Denver and the Steelers.

DaveH: Dejan, How do you summarize the Pirates recent collapse?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll be doing that, in kind of an odd way, for the Friday column.

Lee Foo: keep saying the BMTIB is remaining silent (for weeks now). What do you want them to do? I've read your columns and have seen nothing concrete. I do not understand why this is bothering you so much. They aren't the problem anyway.

Dejan Kovacevic: Lee, things really do bother me in life. What the Pirates' front office does or doesn't say wouldn't crack my top one zillion.I don't WANT them to say anything. I don't have words to put in their mouth. But any illustration whatsoever of urgency, whether verbal or otherwise, would at least offer a sign that the top priority in 2012 was -- and remains -- seizing an excellent opportunity to participate in the playoffs.I've never gotten that sense, verbal or otherwise. I've covered many other teams over the years and have never felt such a thing from any of them. With this one, I do.

Nicole: Dejan, if you could sum up in one word what you feel is the overwhelming reason the Pirates are playing the way that they are, I would love to hear it, because I can't quite put a finger on it myself.

Dejan Kovacevic: Fear.

Ryan, Wexford: Where is the backbone and leadership of this team? It seems to me that no one is taking responsibility for this free fall (especially the manager). Also, not one player has publicly supported Hughes through the media with Phillips's accusation (even though it's clear as day that there was no racial slur). When Cutch was beaned, where was the retaliation? The players laugh and joke on the bench, but I see a spineless team.

Dejan Kovacevic: And you didn't even mention A.J. Burnett being the only player over the dugout bar in Cincinnati the other night when things started getting heated. How alone Burnett must have felt.Bottom line: You can lead all you want in the clubhouse, but if that same urgency/confidence/lack of fear isn't felt all through the organization -- very top to very bottom -- you're going to be the one jumping over that railing all alone, then wondering why you bothered.Again, more on this tomorrow.

Nick: Do you think Chris Rainey will get more touches this week?

Dejan Kovacevic: I raised that point in the column from Denver on Monday morning, citing just the two I believe he had. It came up, too, in Mike Tomlin's press conference, and he gave something of a vague answer.Especially when facing a blitzing team, you'd love to be able to utilitize the screen pass more. Ask Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas.

Zack: Highest expectations of any Pittsburgh sport? I'd say Pitt basketball should go out of the Big East with a bang and then some

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll agree with you in terms of the potential on paper. This roster has the look of the most FUN team Pitt will have had in a while, with so many youngsters anchored by Steven Adams, an improving Lamar Patterson and a wealth of really good guards.But they've got to put it together on the court, and they've got to do it in a hurry to competitive by the team they reach the Garden.

Geno: Will there be any Tribune coverage of the Magnitogorsk game Malkin will play in on Sunday?

Dejan Kovacevic: Nyet.

Jon: People always cite age as being an issue for the Steelers defense. However, far too often the last two years it is the young guys that have been non-existent. $110 million is being paid to Woodley and Timmons for the foreseeable future, yet neither of them seems to make a difference. Thoughts on those being bad contracts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Thoughts on the Steelers being OLD and SLOW were laid out in the Wednesday column . Let me know on the blog what you think, Jon.

Dave in Ross: After Brandon Phillips second accusation/affirmation of Jared Hughes comments, why is there no MLB involvement? This is a serious thing to just throw out there without proof or response.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've had a few readers raise this very topic, but where is the precedent -- right or wrong -- for punishing anyone for an accusation of racism?I agree with you, Dave, it's a terrible thing to do. If it were me, I'd be lit on fire with anger. But as far as any MLB involvement or that of any league, I'd need to see some kind of precedent before expecting official action.Fact is, right now, if you look at that video I've shared online, there's proof Hughes never said what Phillips charged him with saying.As a result, Phillips looks terrible in saying so.

Guest23: If you had unlimited funds to do so, what band would you hire to play a private party?

Dejan Kovacevic: XTC. That's easy.

NYJohn: Wow! Fear.. Fear of Success? Fear of Losing? Fear of Heights (in the standings). Nicole asked for one word... I'm going to ask for a few more.

Dejan Kovacevic: You'll get 749 more tomorrow!

Kevin: Brandon Phillips needs to grow up. He is a show off player and was looking to cover up his mistake of tossing the ball back to Hughes.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, yes and yes.

Ronnie James Dio: ND's move to the ACC. Good for the ACC or are we looking at the 'new' Big East? Duane Allman and I both think it's a darn good move for the ACC. Well played sirs! "Holy Diver!"

Dejan Kovacevic: It certainly doesn't hurt the ACC, let's put it that way, especially having a significant -- if not all-out -- football component. We can all talk about how the Irish aren't what they once were, but it's amazing how the brand resonates so many years after the last time they were truly national contenders.College sports are about TV money. Notre Dame brings that. Notre Dame could have brought that to another conferenece such as the Big 10. It chose the ACC.

Grey: why do you and everyone else in the pittsburgh media continue to lob Hurdle those softballs?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm in Pittsburgh. I do travel a lot, but I'm wholly incapable -- unfortunately -- of teleporting anywhere I wish at the snap of a finger.Speaking only for myself, anyone who knows me knows that I don't exactly hold back in my line of questioning of anyone.

PirateApologist: If it ever a slow sports day on your new radio show (congrats, by the way), are you going to just spin some Violent Femmes discs for an hour?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, but we ARE using Dead Kennedys in the intro. For real.Oh, and that radio show starts Tuesday at 1 p.m. It will run every week at that time on our online-only TribLIVE Radio that you can find right here .

Steel34D: I'll have to respectfully disagree on your assessment of Woodley, at least. If we're just looking at the Broncos game, we have to remember that Manning didn't hold on to the ball long enough for the pass rush to get to him that often. So then you look at the run game. It wasn't Woodley's side that the Broncos were running at - it was Carter's. I'll defer to your assessment of his involvement in coverage.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, I'll further add that Woodley was sent in on a blitz only 10 times, according to our Mark Kaboly's film study that ran in the paper Tuesday. That's no way to take advantage of the asset. Woodley also had the fumble recovery after Larry Foote popped it loose.But Woodley is the easiest player on the defense to assess. He either gets to the QB or doesn't. That doesn't mean he's wholly one-dimensional in the mold of Kevin Greene, but that's the task at hand. No sacks, no hurries doesn't cut it.

Guest: Is Frank Coonelly alive? Is the low-profile a result of the DUI?

Dejan Kovacevic: Coonelly is very much alive, and I'm sure he's as deeply involved in running the franchise as he's ever been. But you're correct that he hasn't been as visible. I wouldn't know why that is.

Dumb Fan: Who is the bigger wimp? Crosby for not playing through concussions, or Walker not playing through back spasms? At least Derek Bell admitted he wasn't going to play.

Dejan Kovacevic: You know, you almost had me there until I looked at the nickname. Nicely played.

Matt: Is there a certain Penguins player, be it a developing youngster or a veteran, who would be most hurt by a lockout?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, and that's Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the other high-end guys on the Penguins' roster. But especially those two. Careers only last so long. There are only so many chances at a Stanley Cup, not to mention individual honors. The only thing that can hold players like that down is not playing the games at all. And you never get them back. Anyone ever seen the list of careers ended by the 2004 NHL lockout?Here are some: Ron Francis, Igor Larionov, Al MacInnis, Mark Messier, Adam Oates and Scott Stevens.That's how Teemu Selanne and others could go out.

OK, we're a little late in starting Tampa Bay Lightning time. Quick Qs, quick As, and off we go ...

Guest: Initial thoughts on Haley's offense?

Dejan Kovacevic: I liked more than I didn't. See Monday column for much more.

Guest: Are you buyin' the Ravens?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm starting to buy Joe Flacco, I'll tell you that. He's going mostly no-huddle for the first time in his career, and he's off to a great start.

sms: jerry meals call was considered the turning point in 2010......what is 2011's turning point so far.......

Dejan Kovacevic: Clearly, you mean 2012. I'll say the trading deadline.

BenderHeel: Chad Voytik - will play or will not play this weekend?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's still surprising to me that he didn't step onto the field in Cincinnati, especially in garbage time. I don't care about his redshirt. It's not as if he's some lock to be the QB in the next couple years.In light of that, no, I don't think he will.Maybe for that mega-battle with Gardner-Webb!

NYJohn: Given the comments that Dwyer will get more carries this week... does it mean that Dwyer will carry a full workload (20+ carries, 100+ yards) or just more than the rest of the committee?

Dejan Kovacevic: Being that Dwyer's banged up right now and limited in practice, no, I wouldn't think so.Funny, but did anyone else notice that Ike Redman ran a LOT harder when he came back onto the field after Dwyer's series?

Guest: Bigger Steelers villain - Ray-Ray or Brady?

Dejan Kovacevic: Neither. Terrell Suggs.

Polka: Thought's on Greg Brown calling the video crew in the truck "gypsies"?

Dejan Kovacevic: We are all excessively sensitive. Not even the Romani people themselves take great exception to the term. They don't prefer it, but neither do they abhor it.Honestly.

Naje: Skylarking ... one of the top 10 albums of all time...? It is on my list.

Dejan Kovacevic: XTC's Skylarking is one of my top three of all time by anyone.

Hank: Will we make it to 82?

Dejan Kovacevic: The trend is pointing in the wrong direction, for sure.

NYJohn: Besides today, will Barajas get a day off between now and the end of the season... or two... or all?

Dejan Kovacevic: I sure hope not. Don't know what I'd do without all the email, tweets and other screeds on the topic,

dillonerd: Why all this talk about the wildcat offense from the Jets from Mike Tomlin? I would be more concerned about a pass rush.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm sure they are. I watched the first half of Jets-Bills, and I didn't see anything that would have me preparing for any offense other than the one Mark Sanchez was directing.

NYJohn: Wideouts going to run over the Jets, be shut down by their vaunted secondary, or somewhere in between?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends. If Darrelle Revis still has any kind of concussion symptoms, he won't -- or shouldn't -- play. That changes everything.Last one today ...

Rob: What did you see from Mike Adams?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's funny, but once he finally figured out where to line up, I thought he did mostly OK. Really, the offense as a whole was fine, and it can improve with what look to be easily adjusted things such as a couple extra yards on first down. And you'd have to think that'll happen, as it's unlikely Redman and Dwyer are going to be held to 50 or fewer yards on a regular basis.

Playoffs by 2012: If the Pirates don't get to 82 wins, is this the most disappointing season since "The Streak" began?

Dejan Kovacevic: Easily. None other comes close.

That's it for this week. The column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The new radio show is Tuesday (see above for details and link). The chat is Thursday. And the blog is as relentless as the Seven Springs Death March itself.Thanks to all for participating!

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