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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Nov. 1, 2012

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 3:06 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hello, one and all. Apologies for tardiness. I'd tell you what the punishment will be for that, but that joke's probably a little stale at this point ...

Zack: Is it possible Nutting has made decisions already and is searching for replacements?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't have reason to believe that either one of those is the case. I wrote about a month ago that he goes slowly with these things, and you're seeing it now. Last week, he flew to both San Francisco and Detroit -- alone -- in trying to ask questions of baseball people he knows, and he still has work to do in that regard on the Pittsburgh end.

Bladen: Dejan, thanks for doing the chat. In your honest opinion when Bob Nutting talks about his investigation, what do you think will be the final result? Coonelly gone? NH gone? Stark/Broadway gone? Nothing?

Dejan Kovacevic: I do my best to give an honest opinion on all topics, and this isn't any different: I'm not sure Nutting has made up his mind yet, plain and simple. Again, he's not done.

Brock: Any truth to the rumor that was mentioned on the Pirates message board about Tony LaCava sitting with Bob Nutting at the World Series?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't know which message board you're citing, but no, that isn't true. LaCava did not attend any of the World Series games.For those who don't know, LaCava is the Oakmont native -- and still resident -- who is Toronto's director of baseball ops and has been a finalist for a handful of GM jobs around the league. That includes right here in Pittsburgh when Frank Coonelly decided on Neal Huntington. I haven't communicated in any capacity with Tony since we shared a flight out of Nashville about five years ago, but I'd have to think he's still interested in being a GM somewhere.

Guest: Can this be the year we recognize Ben as the greatest Steelers QB of all time?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, winning Sunday would at least make for a fine argument starting point, right?No, really, that's never going to be a clean argument, so long as anyone can count up Super Bowl rings. I know it's not that simple. I know Dan Marino's still Miami's greatest QB, not Bob Griese. But when having arbitrary discussions like that, it's a really easy place to lay your chips and call it a day.More relevant to the moment, I think, Ben's playing some of the best football of his career right now. Thanks in no small part to Todd Haley's life preserver of a playbook. And, as noted above, beating Eli Manning certainly bolsters that argument.

kevnj: DK, great column recently on the idea of Mario inserting himself into the negotiations for the agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA. Have you heard anything new on this?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean Mario getting involved?Ha! Well, he's a wealthy man, but I strongly suspect even he would feel a missing $1 million in his wallet for talking about such stuff. It's been intriguing to me in the past week that three Canadian pieces emerged discussing -- or speculating -- how some NHL owners are getting tired of having the process dictated by the Flyers, Bruins, Flames and usual suspects. I could very much see that being the case especially with a team like the Penguins. But when I raised the point with Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gary Lawless on my radio show Tuesday, he had a far different take: He believes the owners in places like Florida, Nashville and others have been VERY vocal in maintaining this stance, even to the point of being angry that the league conceded 50/50 on revenues.What a mess.

Janet: It's not a question, just a suggestion... How about a campaign for hockey fans to donate the $$$ they would have spent on the NHL this year to the Red Cross (or other organizations helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy). Seems like a much better use of our hard earned cash!

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll bet the citizens of coastal New Jersey, Long Island and Virginia would find better use for that $3.3 billion pool of money, that's for sure.

Eric Majeski: There is plenty of blame to go around on both sides for the current state of the NHL, but are there harsh enough words to describe how bad it would be for the Winter Classic to become the latest casualty if the league and players' association refuse to meet face-to-face again before doing so?

Dejan Kovacevic: There really aren't, Eric. That issue, to me, isn't just about the money involved. It's about damaging the league's brand. The NHL has made significant strides in turning that into THE event of its regular season, in the mold -- if not the scope -- of the NBA's Christmas doubleheader. To just toss that out shows a disregard for ... well, you're right, there aren't harsh enough words.

Kyle: Dejan, so much has been said about the challenges Bill O'Brien faced when we became the head football coach at Penn State. Once the season ends, he has to recruit not only future signing classes but also his current team. Do you expect guys such as Carter, Barnes, and Robinson to stick with the Nittany Lions or take the path of Redd, Brown, and Fera and bolt to what they consider greener pastures?

Dejan Kovacevic: Only those athletes and their parents can know that. To me, Allen Robinson would be of particular concern because he remains BY FAR Penn State's best individual playmaker. The Lions have fared OK in replacing Silas Redd through Michael Zordich and a banging-style running game, but there isn't anyone else who can make Robinson's plays downfield. That said, without a doubt the greatest benefit to O'Brien's early success is that he's stabilized the program in all facets, now and for the recruiting season. When you watch the energy and emotion this team plays with, you can see there's a togetherness among the players, as well. I'd have to think that's more important to players such as Robinson than whether or not they're in a bowl game, but only time will tell.

Tim in Kentucky: DK - James Harrison's recovery from surgery is remarkable. His play...slightly more human. Your assessment of how healthy he is (say, 85%), and if he can continue to get more healthy (and play better) while playing essentially every snap?

Dejan Kovacevic: Mike Tomlin last season once invented the adjective "James Harrison-like" to describe Harrison's play, and I dare say that doesn't apply yet.I think Harrison has added more than most people will notice, especially in the area of cutting off runs to that side -- remember when teams were just killing Brett Keisel to that side? -- and with some pressure. But Harrison-like in terms of getting to the QB and extinguishing all heat patterns in his sight, no, not yet.

carisi_99: Are you surprised that with his elite speed that Mike Wallace doesn't take more of those short throws and turn them into long gains? Is that run after the catch ability just something he doesn't have, or is it that the throws are not super accurate to the point he is perfectly in stride?

Dejan Kovacevic: Straight-line speed doesn't always translate into quickness or elusiveness or being able to read the field. To his credit, Wallace has gotten more effective at those plays, I think, as the season has gone on. Well, everything but those end-arounds. The quick pitches are working.Wouldn't mind seeing those go to Antonio Brown, though.

dillonerd: Dejan - For Pitt to beat Notre Dame they must...

Dejan Kovacevic: Run like a house ablaze. In your toughest situations, you need your best players to be your best players. I'm writing a column on this game for Friday's paper, partly to look back at Pitt's amazing 13-9 ... well, if you're a Pitt fan, you hear that score and you know the game. Star that night was Shady McCoy. Star in this game would have to be Ray Graham.Should be a blast. Hope you can check out the column tomorrow.

Kirk: Your thoughts on the hiring of Jay Bell as hitting coach?

Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly, I've been busy with football this week and haven't really had the time to check into Bell's background as hitting instructor. I'm not one of those to hear of a coach hiring and think back to how they played and try to apply it. If you ask again next week, I'm sure I'll have a better answer.I do know that Bell earned a tremendous amount of respect for his fundamentals during his playing days. It has to be welcome, especially in an organization like this, to hire people who have actually done it.

Guest: Dejan, Do you think the cancelation of the Winter Classic--which many people think is imminent--will sound the death knell for the NHL season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Let's put it this way: I'll be calling United Airlines shortly after it happens about a certain mid-December flight to Manitoba.

DC: Curious as to the impact of the blogs, chats, etc since you have been at the Trib site traffic wise. The fact you were discussed on a chat multiple times last week at your old place seemed 'big'.

Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly, that's not the kind of stuff I've talked about ever since the switch in June 2011, and I'm not about to start now. All of us in the Trib sports department are working to gain and/or keep your trust in reporting on the Pittsburgh scene, from our Steelers work with new beat man Alan Robinson, to all of the rest of us. That's in print, on the Web, all night long on the blogs or Twitter, or however else you want it. It's an energetic group that's passionate about its work, and I'm proud to play one small part in it.And I thank you, specifically, for reading us.

John: Are there any prospects in the Pirates system that could be impact rookies for the team next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I like Kyle McPherson. He's another Dave Littlefield draft pick, by the way.

Eric: Do you think this may be Troy's last year in football? With all of the injuries of the past few season and how much he enjoys his life outside of football I could see him walking away after this year. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: There is no chance, as I see Polamalu's current state, that he's done. It's a calf injury. He'll be back, probably within a month or so, and questions like this will fade away. His motivation, as best as Robinson and our staff can tell, hasn't changed at all.

John: I heard Ta'amu had a terrible camp but he must have potential if they kept him around after trying to run down cops. How does his style of play compare to McClendon's and how do you see the future of the NT position playing out?

Dejan Kovacevic: See, I usually hate to get into player performance when discussing whether or not a player should be punished for something legally. But it really does look relevant in this equation. The Steelers, to this point, have looked pretty silly in handing Ta'amu a nothing suspension, then reinstating him, after he did next to nothing in Latrobe. Seems like it's more damage than it's worth.I have more about Ta'amu in today's blog , actually.

It's Tampa Bay ... uh, what was the name of their NHL team again?Oh, yeah. Lightning round. Quick Qs, quick As ...

DK: Why do you think McClendon's playing time has gone away (I believe 1 snap versus Bengals and don't remember playing v Skins)? Is this because of more dime/nickel? He was the darling of Preseason but cannot get on the field, for whatever reason

Dejan Kovacevic: It's been the head-scratcher of the season, as far as I'm concerned. No one who's watching McLendon, including experts, sees any fatal flaw in his play. The positive is that he did play nine snaps Sunday, which is way up.

NYJohn: The Meadowlands have power?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, but the bigger concern would be transportation to and from Met Life Stadium, especially as it relates to trains and cars out of Manhattan. Every indication right now is that the game will go on.

JohninOshkosh: By chat time next week, the American electorate will have decided our President for the next 4 years. What happens first before Inauguration Day 2016? Steelers World Championship, Pens Stanley Cup or Pirates in the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: Riverhounds join MLS.

Absolute Locke: Does Karstens get non-tendered?

Dejan Kovacevic: Insanely, yes. At least if this management team stays intact. If new faces are brought in, then no, he'll be tendered and part of a rotation that very much could use him.

Guest: Better Coordinator - Haley or Arians?

Dejan Kovacevic: Bruce Arians won Super Bowls. Let's not lose our minds here.

DC: I read you because you are a great read with a personal style. I read Peter King for the same reason. Thanks for the work you do. And I have to believe you are making a difference for the Trib, keep it up.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thank you.

Mike H: Steelers starting running back once they are all 100%?

Dejan Kovacevic: I really don't see how Jonathan Dwyer isn't the default choice. Hope you had a chance to check out the Monday column on that topic.

Joe: Is there anything beyond the obvious- his being a 4th rd. pick- behind the decision to keep Ta'amu for now?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not that I can see. Tomlin and Kevin Colbert hate to see those picks go to waste.

Guest: Timing of upcoming Ravens / Steelers games - good or bad?

Dejan Kovacevic: If the Steelers win Sunday, it'll be spectacular timing.

NYJohn: Who is playing their last season as a Steeler?

Dejan Kovacevic: Casey Hampton, you'd have to think.

PirateApologist: How close is Bettman to becoming the all time leader of work stoppages for an acting commisioner or any sport?

Dejan Kovacevic: In this narrow a timeframe, I'm pretty sure he's already the king. But then, that's what happens when canceling games is your FIRST resort in negotiating.

c-man: Are ther any speed bumps in the Pitt hoops non-conference schedule prior to Big East play, or are they simply going to manhandle these cupcakes?

Dejan Kovacevic: I believe the kids at Long Beach State and Wagner would like to have a word with you.No, really, this is a different Pitt team, one I think is going to be as exciting as any we've seen here since the DeJuan Blair group. And not just because of Steven Adams. The guards are outstanding, and Lamar Patterson is ready to go to another level. Neat group.

JohninOshkosh: Why do people, me sometimes included, get on Nutting for his careful due diligence? Has he totally lost trust that he can make a wise decision? He is running a large company, after all.

Dejan Kovacevic: We'll see.

dillonerd: More likely to be a Steeler next year, Mendenhall or Wallace?

Dejan Kovacevic: Wallace.

Napper: How concerend are the owners that they have star players playing in other leagues? What happens if Malkin gets a serious injury while playing in the KHL?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's a significant concern. But team execs also know that, if this gets settled, training camp will last about a week. Players will have to come in with 100 percent game readiness.

Jerkstore: Would it be fair to say that Bob Nutting has been the most effective part of this management team? From what we are told he has funded every request for draft picks and free agent signings that Huntington and Coonelly ever made. He also provided money to sign long term extensions to Tabata and Cutch. It seems to me that Bob might be the least of the teams problems.

Dejan Kovacevic: To date, yes, Nutting has been better than any of them. But he's still, for reasons I'll never really understand, the one that ELECTS to take all the arrows for the mistakes of those under him.

NYJohn: Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams MVPs at the halfway point

Dejan Kovacevic: Offense: Ben. Defense: Ryan Clark. Special teams: Shaun Suisham.One more today...

Vinqtin: Why do people care about the Ta'amu situation? I enjoy Pop Tarts but they may have some peolpe with sketchy backgrounds working in their factory. I will still eat them and be entertained by Steeler games.

Dejan Kovacevic: I think people care because they like to think of "The Steeler Way" or the "The Rooney Way" as some higher ideal than what we've seen from the Ravens, Browns and especially Bengals. And people are disappointed to see it really isn't all that different if you're sticking by a fourth-round pick who went on a vehicular rampage that nearly injured several policemen.

Thanks to all for participating.The column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The radio show is Tuesday. The chat is Thursday. And the blog is like a Jonathan Dwyer carry: Makes something out of nothing all the time.

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