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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Nov. 29, 2012

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 12:51 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings, all, on the eve of my first soccer column. No, for real.

Hey, I did a badminton column from the London Olympics. That'll pretty much blow away all barriers until the end of time.

Away we go ...

Jose "No Pants" Lind: With the pirates hiring four pro-level scouts, do you imagine they will finally be committed to advance scouting, as well as trying to legitimately make acquisitions at the trade deadline?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maybe and no. There have been plenty of good people all along in the Pirates' front office. The problem is that there voices haven't been heard often enough by those at the top.

I'll believe that human advance scouting is important to this team when I see it. It isn't right now. And I won't believe that there will be quality work in trades until the front office is replaced. Courage and conviction are a HUGE part of that facet of the job. See Brian Sabean, Walt Jocketty and others.

Gary Zelina: Dejan, the Steelers have played 11 games this year. Out of Harrison, Wallace, and Mendenhall who has the best chance of staying with the team next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd say James Harrison, easily, out of those three. Yeah, I know he's due $10 million, but the Steelers have had a relatively easy time renegotiating salaries in such cases. And let's not ignore amid all the gloom over the past couple weeks that Harrison played VERY well. If that knee is healthy, he can still play. He's showing it right now.

The other two are pretty much buying their own plane tickets out of town at this point.

Joey Pittsburgh: Mario (and Burkle) know that with 87, 71, and this fan base the lockout isn't going to affect tomorrow's revenue much. Is he being silent to hold out for the best financial deal for him as an owner down the road when there's no 87 or 71 and a few losing seasons?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, that wouldn't make much sense. Crosby's already signed to a mega-deal, and Malkin has strongly indicated he'd want one to stay here, too.

Here's my theory regarding Mario's silence, illustrated in the blog this morning.

tedr91: Love the chats and blog, kudos to the Trib for keeping good content free. Would you vote Bonds in the Hall of Fame?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't have a vote yet. I'd rather pass on Hall questions -- any sport -- until I do.

Dom: Knowing the Steelers constant issues with keeping our offensive line healthy, was it a good idea to keep either Demarcus Van Dyke or Kelvin Beachum over Trai Essex?

Dejan Kovacevic: Van Dyke was supposed to be a special teams firebrand, but he got caught holding far too often. Beachum ... we'll find out Sunday. But yeah, Essex would have been nice to keep around, certainly if anyone would have known this many O-line guys could go down (yet again).

But that's all hindsight-ish stuff, much like the current wrangling over the backup QBs. It's abundantly clear now that the Steelers should have kept one Dennis Dixon type on the roster over two brittle old men. But the complaints were few and far between at the time. If anything, Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch appeared to give some -- though not all -- a sense of comfort if anything happened to Ben.

BMac: Awful timing on the Trey Ziegler arrest. Seems like he was starting to get healthy/comfortable. Levance Fields was arrested and then suspended from team activities until his hearing a few years ago, but that was in the offseason. Do you see a similar type of return date for Ziegler?

Dejan Kovacevic: There's no good timing for a DUI, although I'll commend Pitt for at least showing good timing in coming clean with the DUI right after it happened.

Jamie Dixon hasn't indicated how long Ziegler will be out, but I'll add here that I liked what I'd seen of him on the court. Good slash-to-the-hoop kind of guard. More like a forward, actually. It would be surprising if he doesn't play a more signifcant role as the season goes on.

jmiller71: Hey DK, should the Steelers make the playoffs, list in order which of these teams you would be most afraid to play on the road: Baltimore, New England, Denver, Houston?

Dejan Kovacevic: New England. Not close right now. They're just devouring teams.

Denver would be second.

Mike H: What do you make if Mike Wallace's demotion? Will he see fewer snaps on Sunday?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, as fellow Trib columnist Joe Starkey stressed this morning , we don't technically know yet if Wallace will be demoted. That either/or designation looks bad on the depth chart, but a real demotion comes into play when a player actually stands on the sideline.

Beyond whatever message gets sent there, though, no, I don't see him missing time. No reason for the Steelers to hurt their own cause by benching him, assuming he plays a LOT harder than he did in Cleveland.

I'lll bet he does. Nobody likes to be embarrassed the way Wallace visibly was yesterday on the South Side.

Brian: Afternoon Dejan. Could the Pirates really get Russell Martin for their team? Bigger question, should they try?

Dejan Kovacevic: For three years and close to $25 million?

For a .211 hitter whose numbers have declined five years in a row and whose strikeout rate was higher than Rod Barajas'?

Yeah, actually, that sounds about right.

Here's Russell's official page so you can check for yourself.

Mike H: What are the upsides of Russell Martin over the Fort?

Dejan Kovacevic: He'll be more expensive.

Jon D.: Hey Dejan, I've seen/heard you mention multiple times now that the Pirates may non-tender Jeff Karstens. That seems like an insane move to me considering their need for more pitching and the fact that they have yet to be linked to any reliable SP FA. What have you heard that makes you think they may not tender JK a contract?

Dejan Kovacevic: Plenty, not least of which is that the athlete himself is convinced of it. Generally speaking, if you're going to try to force a guy's price down in advance of a non-tender, you'll at least approach him to discuss something. To my knowledge, that hasn't happened yet.

If I'm Karstens, for more reasons than one, I'm hoping like mad they DO non-tender me. Look at the starting pitching market in free agency right now. Can promise you there are teams out there who will value him more than this one has.

Not to suggest Karstens is Cy Young or something. He isn't. He's got his shortcomings, notably a lack of durability. But there are ways to navigate that if he's the fifth starter, and the numbers will attest he gets people out when he pitches. Solid, smart performer.

Guest: The NHL is teetering dangerously close to losing another whole season. Can they come back from this if it happens again or is the "average fan" gone (I realize hockey will always have its diehards)?

Dejan Kovacevic: The weakest debate I've heard during this lockout is that diehards might go away. They won't. Hockey is its own animal. Its fans are devoted for life. Trust me, I've lived that life.

The real loss here is in southern markets. And not just the obvious ones. One I rarely hear mention is Los Angeles. Think about it. The Kings just won the Cup, just got celebrated by the nation's second-largest market, were feted in front of 55,000 at Dodger Stadium, appeared on Leno and Fallon and all those shows ... and then they just disappear, like the Pittsburgh Power at an Olive Garden.

That's when fans in those areas go right back to thinking of the NHL as some kind of indoor lacrosse league. And THAT takes a long time to overcome.

Brian: Pitt hoops looks very young and inconsistent. Adams looks very mobile but they don't seem to be giving him many touches some games. The games I have seen make me think that a offense that runs the play thru the low post would benefit this team. As it stands now, they run around setting screens 20 ft from the basket. I don't want my 7 footer 20 feet from the basket at any time. Is he not ready for that type of game plan or are they just reluctant to change their ways?

Dejan Kovacevic: Steven Adams actually needs to be MORE mobile, in my view. And by that, I mean vertically mobile. Needs to get his feet off the floor. Right now, he's playing like someone who's spent his whole life being effective under the hoop simply by being 7 feet tall. That won't cut it in Division I, certainly not once the Big East schedule gets going.

Brian: The badminton column was very good, don't sell yourself short.

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Here, then, is the badminton column its very bad self.

Jon D.: What do you think is the best thing that's happened to Pittsburgh's downtown in the last 5 years? I tend to go to places like the North Side, Strip or the East End neighborhoods more often than downtown, but my wife and I had a great time with friends who just moved to the area on Light Up Night.

Dejan Kovacevic: Two words: Market Square, our heartbeat. Fabulous right now.

Richard: Do you think the Big East will adopt a new name within the next 12 months?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. Conference USA II.

Matt: Does anyone realize Jason Worilds lead the team in sacks? Also, it's hard to not like the way Emmanuel Sanders plays. The Wallace demotion is really a credit to him.

Dejan Kovacevic: I haven't been a Worilds fan, but I'm always open to change. He's got the five sacks, and he's made an impact despite limited snaps.

I'll say this, and I suspect it won't be popular: Worilds deserves to be playing ahead of LaMarr Woodley now, and not just because of the injury. Woodley hasn't had a statement game yet this season, and often hasn't even been noticed.

Moreover, it's certainly fair to question Woodley's conditioning at this point, not just because he clearly lacks the pursuit he's shown in the past but also because of the many and varied injuries.

The Steelers deserve far better for their $60 million investment in No. 56.

JamesinNYC: O'Brien showes why JoePa should have been fired.....not for his alledged part in the Sandusky horror but because the world had passed him by. What do you think O'Brien could have done without a gutted team?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll assume you're not taking issue with the actual reason Paterno was fired -- that he failed to take action despite knowledge of a serial child rapist -- so I'll move past that to the football.

Yeah, Bill O'Brien and his whole staff have shown the Penn State community a lot of what it's been missing in terms of modern, intelligent coaching. And there can't be a better example than Matt McGloin himself, who suddenly looked like a real Division I quarterback after years of looking anything but under Jay Paterno as QB coach.

Naterosboro: Dejan, what do the defensive players attribute to the lack of takeaways?

Dejan Kovacevic: "Just not making plays."

They say it all the time, said it again when I was over there yesterday.

One thing to remember about Sunday is that there were two teams out there, and one of them -- the Browns -- played as if the fate of the free world hung in the balance if turnovers weren't created. They jabbed and poked at the ball at every turn. It was a very impressive defensive performance.

Damon: With Eric Tangradi and Beau Bennett having success in Wilkes-Barre this season, and if the lockout were to end soon, would either be a fit on Malkin's LW if Dupuis and Kunitz are on Sid's line?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, I don't see that. Pretty clear that Dan Bylsma and staff are preparing to at least start out with Tyler Kennedy getting top-six consideration.

TK can't pass a puck to save his life, but he'll gun it, and he will create offense along the left boards and slipping into the circle. Not sure how that would mesh with 71 and James Neal, but honestly, I'd rather see that than trying Tangradi or Bennett. At least at the outset.

Can we still have Tampa Bay Lightning time in a lockout? If so, here it is ...

MAdesso: DK, are you as down on Steven Adams, as most appear to be lately. I personally see a whole lot of potential there. Guy is only a freshman people!

Dejan Kovacevic: Completely with you on that. Not down on Adams at all. He isn't your typical freshman who's played a ton of top-level high school ball, summer tourneys and all that. The talent's there. Be patient.

Dave in Ross: The ACC as a football conference looks mediocre for now and more of an outstanding basketball league. Didn't PITT just leave the same league? If ACC sustains any more big time football school losses, it will look like Big East redux.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll agree with that only if Florida State bolts. Which can't be ruled out.

Matt: The Steelers' O-line swapping at practice is a joke. Right?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean Maurkice Pouncey and Doug Legursky switching center/guard?

No, not at all.

Legursky's history is of a center, and he might be about 10 times better there than at guard. His last start at center got the highest of grades from Sean Kugler and staff. They really like him there. And Pouncey is athletic and intelligent enough that you could pretty much play him anywhere.

We'll see Sunday, but I thought that was some neat outside-the-box thinking by the coaches.

Brian: Why can't the NCAA govern or restrict conference realignments? I think it needs reconfigured based on region. Penn State, Pitt, WVU, BC, Marlyand, VA, VA Tech, Rutgers, Syracuse should all be in the same conference playing each other regularly. I would be willing to throw some other regional teams in there also.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's all money. If the NCAA had created a football playoff, say, 30 years ago, it would oversee everything just as it does in basketball. AND it would have collected all the cash, then spread it out evenly among schools.

That ship long ago sailed.

Rob: I like what O'Brien has done this season but I think the bigger question will be in the years to come when he has to recruit people to come pay for Penn State. What are your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Most important is retention, because those are scholarships they can't reclaim. O'Brien's biggest selling job has to be to Allen Robinson and other underclassmen to stay.

Otherwise, they'll have to be creative. Our Kevin Gorman has heard that Penn State is telling recruits that they think sanctions could be lifted before the four years are up. (Undoubtedly basing that on absolutely nothing.) Also, recruits are hearing that Penn State might play one road game a year in a fancy place like Hawaii, as a way of replacing the lost experience of a bowl game.

Won't be easy, but it SHOULD get easier as the sanctions come close to an end. Easier to sell a kid on only having one or two years of sanctions during his collegiate time.

Tony: Do the Steelers go on to make the playoffs this year with loss to Baltimore this week?

Dejan Kovacevic: Even with the AFC kind of sagging, 6-6 is never an easy record to overcome to get into the playoffs. It's possible. Look at the schedule, and you don't see any powerhouses on there. (Cowboys, Chargers, Browns, Bengals)

Devin: Thanks for the chat DK! Do you think Wallace's lack of producion is a lack of effort from contract issues like Desean Jackson in 2011? If not, does his bad season mean the Steelers will be able to resign him for less?

Dejan Kovacevic: Can't rule it out. Wallace seems happy, to see him and hear him in the locker room, how he interacts with teammates. No visible issues. But he's a deep-threat receiver who's made two deep catches 10 games into the season, so that probably cuts both ways. He isn't playing his best, and the Steelers aren't getting the best out of his talent.

Shawn M: Dejan, How do the Pirates plan on improving a team when the organization seems too cheap to keep Jeff Karstens. I really don't see turning the ball to Locke, McPherson or Mazzaro as an upgrade. What do you think?

Dejan Kovacevic: If Karstens gets non-tendered, the one thing you can bank on is that a similar pitcher will not be found in free agency at his price, even if it's around $5 million. That reduces you to trading for one (good luck) or using someone from the inside.

But again, we'll see. It hasn't happened yet.

Turner Ward: DK, you raised an interesting point about Lemieux's involvement in the NHL labor talks this morning. Is it possible that he's also quiet becuase as a former player, he's more sympathetic to the players' cause? This would be a minority opinion among most owners - not just the Jacobs and Sniders of the world - so he is just keeping quiet.

Dejan Kovacevic: No. Mario's far enough removed from playing -- it's been, what, six or seven years now -- that he's not that guy anymore. You don't see him hanging out in the locker room. When he's at practice, he's sitting in the seats with Ray Shero.

He still commands the respect of the players for his playing ability, but there's a difference between that and Mario still thinking of himself as one of the boys.

Richard: MLB Trade Rumors has a surprisingly accurate algorithm for estimating arbitration awards. They have Karstens at $3.8 million. seems pretty reasonable to me.

Dejan Kovacevic: Like I said, we'll see.

Rob: In one sentence what is the biggest hold up to seeing hockey anytime soon?

Dejan Kovacevic: Too few owners are holding sway over the rest, and Gary Bettman is being highly effective at shutting up the rest.

Napper: What has Marc-Andre Fleury been doing to keep himself sharp in case sense and reason sets in?

Dejan Kovacevic: Fleury is a regular these days at Southpointe. Saw him just the other day.

Rob: Do you think this will be the end of the Byron, Batch era?

Dejan Kovacevic: Undoubtedly. Both of them.

Rich from Florida: Do you give any chance for the Steelers this Sunday and if so how?

Dejan Kovacevic: do, Rich, but only because I can't ignore that the defense is starting to actually LOOK like it belongs ranked at No. 1. No, they don't get turnovers, but teams don't score on them, either, and that's always going to be the primary objective. Adding Troy Polamalu back into that -- right as Will Allen was starting to peel away -- will only improve it.

But they'd better run the ball well, and they'd better find someone other than Heath Miller to stay in and help on the blocking.

Brian: Thank you for the chat DK.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, thanks to all of YOU. Big turnout today, good questioning. And I managed somehow to answer this many without caffeine, which is a situation I'm about to rectify.

The column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The TribLIVE Radio show is Tuesday. This here chat is Thursday. And the blog is as old and annoying as the owner of the Boston Bruins.

Soccer tomorrow. Really.

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