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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Feb. 7, 2013

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 3:18 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all. Just got back from the Penguins' morning skate, working on a couple of puck-related things for the weekend. But not just yet ...

Zack: Tough to see Ben Lovejoy go, good guy. Any others you see going in a trade? I'd think Dustin Jeffrey or another Dman.

Dejan Kovacevic: You aren't alone in expressing that sentiment about Lovejoy, one of the more upbeat personalities around. Was just talking with Deryk Engelland, his longtime partner, and he put it best: "It's a great opportunity for Ben, going to Anaheim, where they like to activate their D. He can use his skating."

Otherwise, the kind of trades you're describing are essentially more of the same, the fifth-round-pick level, barely worth the speculation.

Kevin, Tampa: Dejan. Love your chat from the sunny city of Tampa, FL. Do you expect the Pens to pick up another defenceman by the trade deadline? Letang, Orpik, Martin, Niskanen, Despres and Engelland just dont scream confidence in winning another Stanley Cup.

Dejan Kovacevic: I do say Ray Shero pursuing another D, but that's also the beauty of seeing Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo step up — at least early on — and take jobs. The more guys who do that, the fewer moves that need to be made.

Remember, too, D aren't easy to acquire. Look at what Dallas gave up for James Neal and Matt Niskanen.

What, too soon?

Bernard: Given Colbert's recent comments about the running game, do you see the Steelers letting Mendy go and drafting a RB in the early rounds? If so, would they more likely target a larger back like Lacy or Bell?

Dejan Kovacevic: Those are really two separate issues there in the first question alone. If I read Kevin Colbert right in our meeting two weeks ago, you've seen the last of Rashard Mendenhall in Pittsburgh. Now, Colbert also suggested he'd be open to a back in the early rounds, but that's not so simple. It's not a great crop, for one, and the team has other needs such as middle linebacker and safety, maybe another receiver.

If I'm the Steelers and scouting backs by style, I'd love to have someone who can actually turn a corner. No one on the current roster can do that, and it severely restricts the play-calling.

The Bee: What rookie would get your Calder Memorial Trophy vote as of today?

Dejan Kovacevic: You mean other than the Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko?

Have you seen this kid?

Big Nick: DK, love the columns. Is there even a need for the Pirates to sign Liriano? They have Sanchez on a Minor League Deal already. Who is the rotation you see coming north with club?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not sharing this same sense of security with the rotation that some apparently are. I still see two steady guys in A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, a solid No. 3 in Jeff Karstens if you limit him to 20-22 stars, a HUGE question mark in James McDonald and an even BIGGER question mark in Jonathan Sanchez. Behind that, you're looking at minor leaguers.

I'm not sure Liriano strengthens that equation all that much, but the idea that the rotation is somehow sufficient is escaping me. A lot of ifs.

Yinzer in va: Dejan, no Bettis in the HOF! I thought this year would be it since Curtis Martin went last year. I'd rather have Bettis than Cris Carter, and Larry Allen. Bettis can make up for a lack of stellar lineman, and there were a few seasons he had to do just that. During those years, the team was still competitive even though the record wasn't great.

Dejan Kovacevic: Can't get caught up in the Bus angst, sorry. He's the No. 6 rusher of all time, a Super Bowl champion and an incredibly popular figure in the game. He WILL get in. This isn't interesting.

I hear about the 2.9 yards per carry as if it's some prevailing negative. If anything, I'd counter it was a testament to his durability and toughness that he ran that hard, that relentlessly for such an extended period.

Nothing to sweat here. He just has to wait his turn.

Both better than Dead Kennedys: Bad Brains or Black Flag?

Dejan Kovacevic: Black Flag — "Drink! Don't think! Drink! Drive! Kill!" a resonating masterpiece about the reckless of drunk driving — was wonderful, but not close to the Kennedys. Take it back.

Nich_olas: Who will not be a Pittsburgh Steeler on the defensive side of the ball next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll take the Snack.

Outlaw Pete: Thoughts on Cam Wright's game lately? While everyone has focused on other Panthers, he seems to have really stepped his game up from when he was benched a few weeks ago.

Dejan Kovacevic: Wright's not alone. I've liked Lamar Patterson's upswing of late, too. But Wright has found a way to get involved, partly by driving to the hoop (always welcome on a Pitt team) and partly by just hitting the occasional big shot. The latter is where he's made the biggest difference of late.

Hope you had a chance to check my Monday column on Wright and Jamie Dixon.

Davis: Really enjoyed reading your article about the potential for a Superbowl at Heinz Field. Although I don't expect Pittsburgh to receive the bid for 2015 or what ever year it would be, do you think the chances of it happening will largely depend on how successful the game is in New Jersey this upcoming season?

Dejan Kovacevic: That wouldn't hurt. But, as stated in the column, the biggest variable here is the Rooneys. In my eyes, if they want it, they get it. Simple as that. If they don't ...

Mason from the mount: I see your article has started a lot of outcry for a Super Bowl in Pittsburgh. I would love it, but just for sports talk sake, why not have home field advantage in the super bowl, like in the Stanley Cup Final or World Series.

Dejan Kovacevic: The Super Bowl is a bigger even than any World Series game and infinitely bigger than the Stanley Cup finals. It requires not months but years of logistical planning, not least of which is security.

Oh, and electricity. That, too.

Tony: With Pitt looking for a DC, any chance of Tom Bradley getting a interview ?

Dejan Kovacevic: That might be nice, on a lot of levels. I just really think there aren't too many schools that would be willing to take a chance on anyone that was part of that Penn State program — fair or not — for fear of something new arising.

I like Bradley. I actually thought Penn State would have been within its rights to consider keeping him as Joe Paterno's successor. But there's a stigma there I doubt anyone associated with that staff or administration will be able to shake.

Guest: Dejan: What are your plans for Bradenton / spring training coverage ?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll assume you mean for the Trib as a whole. Our beat man, Rob Biertempfiel, will be there for all but about 11 days. I'll take over for one full week, Feb. 28-March 6, and Biertempfel's beat partner, Karen Price, will do five days after that.

I'll do columns, blog entries, game stuff, videos, the whole deal, no different than the past when I'm there. I'll also appear on TribLIVE Radio a lot with Ken Laird, who will be there for about the same time.

Guest: We know Neal Huntington is on thin ice...who is more stable, Kevin Colbert or Ray Shero?

Dejan Kovacevic: First off, one of those things isn't like the others, to borrow the old children's refrain.

Between Colbert and Shero, I'd say you have a very strong tie for the not-going-anywhere-and-you-can-bank-it category. Both men have won championships, have led their teams to participate in multiple championship games. Neither is perfect. Neither has done all that well in the draft, for example, in recent years. But both are among the best in the business at what they do.

JC: Do you have any guess as to what is wrong with Kris Letang. he missed practice Monday, played Tuesday and left practice today. he's now a game time decision. could it be the hip issue that bothered him last year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I walked past him briefly this morning. That's it. He was walking just fine. All I know.

jriggi87: Any thoughts on the coaches dislike for Lovejoy? from what ive heard from players, and even Crosby said he was always one of the hardest workers and best guys in practice. He made mistakes yes but he barely got a chance to play, and get into a groove. Any ideas on what there problem with him was?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't agree with this, but the coaches felt Lovejoy didn't do enough of the attention-to-detail stuff they covet. My counter is that the only way you develop something like that is to play regularly and not feel like every next shift will be your last.

Bernard: Should Steelers fans be worried about Ben's attitude? Ownership fired an OC that he loved (and who went on to have huge success with a less taltented organization); they hired an OC that he appears to dislike; the new offensive system does not fit his style of play; and now it appears that his deep threat is going to walk in FA. Oh yeah, Flacco just won the Super Bowl running an offense that seems much better suited to Ben.

Dejan Kovacevic: How you as a fan or a reader feels is up to you. I don't like to even suggest how anyone should feel about any topic.

That said, the Steelers themselves absolutely should be concerned about anything that Ben feels or thinks, if only because of his immense importance to the franchise. This is a big reason why a lot of their behavior around this time a year ago seemed so odd. They acted as if they could simply impose their will.

Sounds nice, but this isn't the Ara Parseghian era anymore. Star players have to be handled a certain. Especially a QB, who has to be TOTALLY invested in what you're doing.

Matt in Ann Arbor: Ryan Whitney and Alex Gologoski both healthy scratches in the last week, will anyone elver trade a forward to Ray Shero for a D-man?

Dejan Kovacevic: One would hope not, but there's always someone.

And don't be surprised if Edmonton doesn't sit Whitney again, after the way Jaromir Jagr ate his lunch in overtime late last night. Man, he looked bad there.

Damon: Letang left practice today with no apparnt injury — there is no way he has been traded, right?

Dejan Kovacevic: Come on.

Mr. Negativity: The Olympics are a year away. Any Pittsburghers going to be there ?

Dejan Kovacevic: Assuming you mean beyond hockey, yes, we have ... well, we've got possibilities in ice dancing and luge, of all things. Much more on that — and any other surprises — in the year leading up to Sochi, but I've learned from covering three Olympics that there always are locals totally off the radar right up until the Games begin.

Matt in Ann Arbor: Has Pitt turned the corner, are they a lock for the NCAA's? or will there lack of finishing come back to bite them?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, we're getting into pretty comfortable territory with the overall record, combined with the Big East's reputation, getting Pitt into the NCAA no matter what happens at the Garden next month. Doesn't mean they're a lock yet, but there's nothing about this team's trajectory — especially that of Steven Adams right now — that suggests they're about to collapse.

Tim: Is Steve McLendon a lock for the starting NT of is it possible they take one in the first round?

Dejan Kovacevic: I just can't see a first-round nose tackle. Not after a fourth-rounder just went into Alameda Ta'amu, and not after the very promising glimpses McLendon's shown.

That said, I also would be very surprised if McLendon isn't challenged based entirely on run-stopping. He'll be the first to admit he has to get better in that area, maybe a lot better. But no question he can get to the backfield. Seemed to do it every other snap. (Then get benched.)

The Bee: Tarasenko has been phenomenal. I remember watching the 2010 draft hoping that Tarasenko would fall to the Pens at 20, but the Blues got him at 16. Wonder if Shero would have rolled the dice?

Dejan Kovacevic: European forward?


Toby: What's been your assessment of Zach Boychuck this far?

Dejan Kovacevic: I really WANT to believe he's more than just a Jim McGeough type. (If you don't know, ask your mom or dad.) He shows at least decent hands once he has the puck, even if it's clear the finish hasn't been there for him at the NHL level.

Bottom line, though, is the kid can fly, and there's always a place for that. Speed doesn't go into slumps, as they say. If all you get out of Boychuk is consistently hard forechecking, disruption and a little bit of playmaking, I'll trust the other two guys on the line with the finish.

Rob: Regarding Liriano. The situation seems to potentially ring of the of Mondesi and Santiago senarios. Could we not have directed that to a SS earlier in the year?

Dejan Kovacevic: You wished the Pirates had directed a lot of money at a shortstop.

Oh, please don't make me type up that whole list of all the shortstops they've acquired in the past five-plus years. It frightens away too many readers.

Ernie: Do u see any other shortstop in the pirates farm that will make a impact this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not in Pittsburgh.

jamesche85: Do you see the Steelers pursuing Reggie bush Or A.Bradshaw?

Dejan Kovacevic: Neither is a great back, obviously, but you'd certainly have that turning-the-corner isue resolved. All depends on the cost, of course.

kudyba: What do you think of Pitt's class this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: For Paul Chryst to land three big pieces for his offense is quite a coup. Dorian Johnson can anchor the line for years, Tyler Boyd can be an impact receiver, and Tra'Von Chapman at least allows Chryst some legit choices at QB. Add Rushel Shell and Devin Street into the mix, and that's pretty good — if not great — for an offensive core.

Defense is a little murkier, obviously, but I don't see how anyone wouldn't give Chryst a good grade for this class, by all accounts a top-25.

stooge clown: Do u think the flower is good enough for us to win a cup this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, but he might not have to be. That's the difference now.

hickle: What team is your favorite to cover, Dejan?

Dejan Kovacevic: No such thing. I love this job overall on so many levels I don't even think that way.

That said, your Q affords me the opportunity to share that I've really, truly enjoyed my time around the Pitt basketball program. Of the newer challenges I've taken on in covering all Pittsburgh sports, this one has been a lot of fun.

david d: With Bettis, you mean 3.9 per carry.

Dejan Kovacevic: Indeed. Thank you.

Playoffs by 2012: When can we expect your first 2013 Pirates column to be printed?

Dejan Kovacevic: They'll have an item in tomorrow's notes column, something I'll be doing every Friday going forward. And this weekend will bring the first of my new regular column for the Sunday paper.

As for the Pirates and 2013, we're five weeks into the calendar year. What exactly have they done in that time?

Stan The Man Terlecki: Dejan — You forgot the number one reason why it's quiet at Consol for Penguin games. It's because hockey is a boring sport to watch. Admit it.

Dejan Kovacevic: You didn't read the byline to that column today, which was written by colleague Joe Starkey. Admit it.

Moreover, 1978 called and wants its opinion of hockey back.

Andrew from Long Island: Think the Pirates record will regress this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Right now, I don't see how it wouldn't. Forget the weak offseason. Just look at the simple math of the Pirates having gone 12-4 against the Astros last season, and the Astros now moving to the American League. Take that 12-4 away, and the Pirates were a 67-79 team.

Southcentral Bucco: Will USMNT make the World Cup? The system is set up so US and Mexico will make it in perpetuity. Still got to wonder.

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, they'll make it. Every World Cup qualifying season, they go into harsh environments like Honduras and lose, and everyone freaks. But the CONCACAF landscape is set up so that eventually, all they have to do is beat Trinidad and Tobago in a home match, and they go.

I'll take Clint Dempsey's goal yesterday, by the way, as play of the week. Beautiful strike.

Two more today ...

Mike A.: Do the Dukes go 0-for the A-10 season? I like Jim Ferry, but this is tough to take.

Dejan Kovacevic: I really don't see that. Duquesne gave Georgetown a game a long time ago, for one thing. For another, the Dukes are getting a ton of scoring from freshmen right now, including another 18 from Derrick Colter last night. Those kinds of teams tend to get better, not worse.

Give Ferry a chance. Winning coach, REALLY bright guy.

Matt in Ann Arbor: How does Agnus Berenato survive this year? Is it just lower expectations for the Women's team? If this was the Men's team Jamie Dixon would be tar and feathered!

Dejan Kovacevic: That's one of the items in tomorrow's column.

tim m: i hope this doesn't happen, but if the pirates start slow would Nutting make a change during the season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes.

UP#1: Will teh Pens still look to move Despres or another young D man or two for stud winger for Sid?

Dejan Kovacevic: If Despres looks like he's a fit here, then no. What I really hope moves at some point is the discussion past the Sid/winger thing. Maybe someday Sid will have a four-goal flanking him, right?

That's not to suggest Chris Kunitz is anything more than what he is, but the fact is having a couple of 20-goal guys to your sides at even strength isn't the world's worst situation for a star center.

Jim: Odds of Keenan Lewis being in black and gold?

Dejan Kovacevic: My feeling is that they're very good.

That's it for this week. A reminder: The column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and the new notes thing every Friday. The radio show is Tuesday, the chat Thursday and ... what day am I leaving out?

Oh yeah, the blog. That's every day all the time.

Thanks to all for participating! Good stuff today.

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