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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Oct. 25, 2013

| Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, 1:19 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings, all, from the Starbucks on Sixth and Penn for this week's live chat. If you haven't been down to the beautifully remodeled/expanded store, it's well worth a stop.

Away we go ...

Newtang: Uh-oh, the Steelers are undefeated this year when there's no weekly chat. Just throwin that out there.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yikes! Starting off with a jinx question! Bad start.

Let's start anew.

SeanAY: Jarvis Jones was inactive last week due to injury, but his first handful of games didn't produce anything particularly eye-popping. Maybe the best you could say was that he was good at getting “near” the quarterback. What assessment has the coaching staff given him?

Dejan Kovacevic: They've been encouraged by Jarvis at times, but it's also fair to accept their broader position that he really hasn't had a chance to get into a groove yet because of a couple (unrelated) injuries. He's a rookie and, regardless of pedigree, he needs to be on the field to learn the trade.

Had a good talk with Jarvis two days ago on the South Side. His spirits are still up, but it's so easy to tell he feels he's got “such a long way to go,” as he put it, to reach the level he wants. And that's Lawrence Timmons level. He's an ambitious kid who's known nothing but success, so it's also possible he's got to deal with something other than glowing platitudes for the first time.

I really like him, for what it's worth. Think he'll be just fine. Great attitude.

Matt in Ann Arbor: Zatkoff is starting tonight, over/under on when the Pens get a win from their back-up goalie, December 1?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't like to be that guy who knocks a rookie, but I've seen nothing — and I mean quite literally, nothing — from Jeff Zatkoff to indicate he'll be an NHL goaltender for very long. There are struggles and yips and nerves and jitters, but then there is being unable to skate at the top level. He flat-out can't. He can't go left-right, and he can't get back up out of a butterfly stance quickly enough.

These are fatal flaws.

Doesn't mean he can't steal a game here or there, even against a rushing, attacking team like the Isles. But in the broader sense ...

TIM - Imperial: Why do you think Ryan Clark is starting instead of Shamarko??? Steelers need TURNOVERS!!! I LOVE THE PUMKIN SPICE LATTE

Dejan Kovacevic: They do need turnovers, but I'm not sure that right now, flipping Clark with Thomas is the answer. It had better be by next season, but not now. Shamarko would be the first to tell you he's got a ton to learn, in particular in reading off Troy Polamalu, who's spending so much time up on the line now he can be confused with Steve McLendon.

That said, Clark's been lousy. Really has.

BenderHeel: Why haven't the Steelers tried to upgrade their punting situation? Even by Tomlin's own admission, the current punter is “junior varsity” quality.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's not what Mike Tomlin said of Zoltan Mesko. He's said that Mesko has had one “junior varsity” punt per game, and he'd like Mesko to eliminate that. No need to exaggerate.

Jandy: Who do you see the Pens moving to stay cap compliant when both Neal and Bennett are ready to return from IR? Injuries have not “taken care of the situation.”

Dejan Kovacevic: I've been saying Matt Niskanen for a long time now, and that won't change. Sure, it's an injury risk if Niskanen goes and is replaced by Robert Bortuzzo, but you still have Deryk Engelland in that case. Say what you want about Engo, but he's as viable a No. 7 option as there is in the league.

Olli Maatta and Bortuzzo were very good together. No reason that shouldn't be allowed to continue.

Alan: Should the Pirates attempt to resign Byrd for RF, sign/trade for better option, or use internal option

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm on record as supporting bringing back Marlon Byrd, even if it means a two-year deal. If Gregory Polanco, the top position-player prospect and a right fielder, exceeds expectations — and he's only 10 for 20 with three bombs right now in the Dominican Winter League — then you trade Byrd. There will always be takers.

Can't afford to go with a mediocre seat-warmer out there.

Daquido Bazzini: In recent weeks both Ryan Clark and Mike Tomlin have had semi-squabbles with the local Pittsburgh media. I find this to be rather rare. What do you think has launched this local disrespect to a higher pressure point?

Dejan Kovacevic: In neither case would I describe Clark or Tomlin as having even ‘semi-squabbles' with the media. Both those gentlemen took a couple of jabs, neither of which was all that harsh, and no one in those settings on the media side said a word back.

As for what launched any resentment on their part, call me nuts, but I'd say that 0-4 might have had just a little to do with it.

Tim: Can Penn State win 4 titles in a row?

Dejan Kovacevic: Never doubt Cael Sanderson, one of the great wrestlers of our generation and, apparently, an equally superlative leader of young men. If only Sanderson had followed the pleas of so many of his fans and suited up for London two years ago, it would have been my pleasure to cover him taking gold. I truly believe that.

You are referring to wrestling, right?

Joshua: Dejan, why the disdain for the World Series? As a genuine sports fan and baseball fan — one who makes a living following sports, no less — I would think you would want to watch the championship games of a sport that you care about, regardless of what you may think about the actual business of MLB. And the Cardinals and Red Sox are two interesting teams who have the potential to play some memorable games. The game of baseball is so much bigger than the people who run it.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's not the World Series. It's the baseball playoffs as a whole. Just no interest in watching the same teams compete year after year, with the same payroll levels, blah, blah.

My job is to cover Pittsburgh sports. That's how I make my living, and it's my passion. I'll trust you found that, when the Pirates were in those playoffs, they were my intense and singular focus. When the Pittsburgh team is out, I'm no different than anyone else: I'll watch what I want.

I'd rather watch anything shy of Kardashians than playoff baseball, sorry.

Jeff Brown: You mentioned this morning about the Pens possibly trading for a backup goalie....who are the top 2 or 3 who might be available?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, if you're referring to the TribLIVE Radio interview, what I said was that the Penguins should not trade for a goalie. Not with a healthy, available and cheap Johan Hedberg sitting out there ready to play for minimum wage.

Edward: DK, I'm concerned about Coach Jamie Dixon's recruiting of now bringing in JuCos and WPIAL players. Doesn't sound like the formula were so accustomed to. Talk me off the ledge! #H2P

Dejan Kovacevic: If Jamie was bringing in those guys for anything beyond supporting cast, then you could worry. But if you look at Hampton's Ryan Luther, the 6-8 kid he landed last night, Luther was recruited by Duquesne, George Washington and Dayton. That's not a player who will start for Pitt, plain and simple.

Even without Steven Adams, Jamie likes the team he has, and he likes its makeup enough that he's entertaining — with a straight face, no less — ramping up efforts to run the court. (We'll see about that.) As such, no harm in adding complimentary pieces. Not everyone can be some mega-star mega-stud out of a New York high school.

Rob: DK!! If Duquesne could somehow even sniff Ryan Luther's list, why didn't that Andy Toole get involved over there at that RMU? They know how to win, they've been there before. Not saying they land him, but how does RMU get involved with these local guys?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maybe Andy didn't like him. And moreover, maybe Andy knows that, with the Colonials ranked No. 2 in the NEC's preseason poll, he doesn't need Luther. I'll repeat: Look at the schools that were recruiting Luther. Not like he was some grand prize.

As for Duquesne ... sigh. Jim Ferry's trying. It'll take time and, for now, a whole lot of juco ringers, but he's trying. The man won at LIU-Brooklyn, and I'll trust he knows what he's doing, even in the context of working for an administration that couldn't care less about athletics.

Derek: Dejan, I liked your Timmons article. He has been impressive this year to say the least. It would be nice if the rest of the D can step up.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Derek! LT is a fine man. My pleasure writing about him, always. Been a shame, I think, that his fine performance all season has been kind of lost in 2-4.

theplanisworking: Bigger winner at the Olympics........ US Hockey Team, or Fleury, for getting those 2 weeks off.

Dejan Kovacevic: U-S-A. I was having some fun putting together a U.S. roster for Sochi — new addition: Blake Wheeler of Winnipeg — and it's going to be as fast and formidable as any team over there.

I openly welcome the chance to cover the American gold medal in hockey. Not going to lie.

Guest: Why isn't there a bigger deal made out of Coach Tomlin's preparation, and record, for road games out of the Eastern time zone. He is 0-7 recently in those games and his answer when asked about this was “I hadn't thought about it”.

Dejan Kovacevic: Same stuff he told us when asked about how he butchered the London travel arrangements and then acted stunned when his best tacklers — even Timmons! — couldn't bring down Adrian Peterson on a fairly routine run up the middle that resulted in a 60-yard touchdown.

As for a bigger deal, you obviously haven't listened to TribLIVE Radio this week or seen the sites I'm seeing: It's been a top topic.

Thundercrack: “Love My Way” by English band The Psychedelic Furs, is that your ringtone? Thought I heard it during the opening rant of your radio show.

Dejan Kovacevic: Wow, you're good. Yes, one of my top-five fave songs of all time.

Nick: Has any of the recent circus surrounding AJ Burnett altered your opinion on the likelihood of his return?

Dejan Kovacevic: A.J. is A.J. Nothing that anyone's heard from A.J., recently or otherwise, will surprise anyone who knows him. Nor, for that matter, will it sway how they feel about him pitching for their team. You take the good with the annoying.

I happen to like and respect A.J. Have from Day 1. Never had a problem with the man. Always found him to be professional, courteous and, in some cases, above and beyond.

But I also feel compelled to add that, even if I thought he was the biggest jerk on the planet, that wouldn't sway how I'd write or speak about him publicly.

Dave in Ross: What is Simon Despres' future?

Dejan Kovacevic: Exactly what I — regrettably — predicted it would be back in camp, when I heard all that nastiness from some Penguins fans: He isn't an NHL-caliber defenseman right now, and he won't be one until he fully applies himself. Plain and simple.

I'd love to see Shero get something for him while he still — ahem, Angelo Esposito — can.

dubs: how would you categorize the last Pens game? An anomaly? How can such a high-powered offense get so shut down?

Dejan Kovacevic: Got beat. That's it. J-S Giguere beat the Penguins. Nothing more.

Drew72: When you refer to a “mediocre seat-warmer” are you referring to our boy Tabby, or Snider or our choice to pick one?

Dejan Kovacevic: Just meant anyone. But yeah, Travis Snider would fit that bill.

Harrisburg Hal: Any Jim Leyland stories? Not enough here space to relate one?

Dejan Kovacevic: None of any consequence. Leyland, with all due respect to what he did here a long time, did that here a long time ago. I've heard very, very little from my readership to suggest there's still much interest in that.

BenderHeel: Why duck the question on the punter? If he's executing one “junior varsity” punt per game, isn't that “junior varsity” quality? No exaggeration there - it's from the head coach's lips. But why have they taken no steps to improve the position - and show that there's some accountability for poor play?

Dejan Kovacevic: Duck the question? You twisted what Tomlin said. You butchered it badly. All I did was correct it and move on. There was nothing to respond to besides that.

Damon: Which Penguin players do you think will be playing in the Olympics in 2014?

Dejan Kovacevic: U.S.: Orpik, Martin

Canada: Crosby, Kunitz, possibly Letang

Russia: Malkin

Finland: Jussi Jokinen (not big brother Olli), Maatta

Germany: Tom Kuhnhackl (if you want to count prospects)

Am I missing anyone? It is a live chat. Going off top of head here.

Alan: I am surprised at a lot of people reacting negatively that Aj wanted to pitch game 5, isn't that what you want in a pitcher, someone that wants the ball

Dejan Kovacevic: Huh? The point of contention is that he didn't want to pitch Game 5. He told the staff that, if he was going to be the NLCS Game 1 guy, he'd need to pitch a side before before Game 5. As soon as he pitches the side, he's ruled out of Game 5. He knows that.

So A.J., who pitched in Game 1 of the NLDS and only two-plus innings at that, wasn't available for Game 5. But Francisco Liriano, who pitched Game 3, was.

Damon: If the Pens are calling up Megna and playing Engelland at wing, what does that say about Jeffery?

Dejan Kovacevic: Of all the offseason moves the Penguins made this summer, retaining Dustin Jeffrey, a player for whom they clearly have no use, made the least sense.

JamesinNYC: Bring the Moose back...he was always a great guy.

Dejan Kovacevic: Far more important than that, Hedberg was a quality performer for the Devils just last season. Not like you'd be throwing the guy a bone.

DMFH: Referring to your answer on Burnett, was John Tortorella a special kind of jerk for you to say so publically? Not that I disagree with you on him.

Dejan Kovacevic: My reference when I say that is to people who are jerks to the media out of public view. And trust me, that only happens all the time.

There was one athlete this summer who was an epic jerk to me, in particular, and it didn't deter me in the slightest from writing a glowing Sunday column about the season he was having, including how gracious he appeared to be with other people. What he thought or thinks of me could never have been part of it, and it wasn't.

DMFH: Any plans for the Riverhounds to expand Highmark Stadium within the next year or two, or is that being overly ambitious?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think it's that ambitious. There's ample room to easily expand on the side that faces Station Square. No reason they couldn't go from 4,000 to about 6,000, should the need arise.

They did sell out most of their games this past season, but they'd also have to guard against the honeymoon-is-over factor next season. And from what I hear, in terms of fielding a competitive team and bringing back their very best players — including league MVP Jose Angulo — they're poised to do exactly that.

Dejan Kovacevic: Tampa Bay Lightning time?

Marty St. Louis sure thought so in OT last night!

dja: do the buffalo sabres need a complete overhaul to save the franchise?

Dejan Kovacevic: Fire Darcy Regier. Fire Ron Rolston. Fire them yesterday. They're an embarrassment to a long-proud — if not yet a champion — franchise. The fans of Western New York have been great and deserve a lot better than these gentlemen.

Guest23: Maybe Duquesne ought to drop the basketball program if their current head coach doesn't turn things around. It seems to me if he can't turn things around, no one will.

Dejan Kovacevic: Both of those are fair viewpoints, and I can agree as someone who went to school there that no one at Old Main will care in the slightest if that were to happen.

Newtang: Too early to say that 2013 Steelers draft class has the makings of being one of the best in years?

Dejan Kovacevic: Wow. Way too early. How about we wait until Jarvis gets his first sack?

Allen: Any local sports blogs you particulary enjoy?

Dejan Kovacevic: I enjoy a ton of the Steelers and Penguins blogs on a regular basis, and I'll occasionally give shout-outs on Twitter. I'm afraid if I do that here, I'll leave someone out. But the quality of the blogs related to both of our most popular teams is, I dare say, among the best in the country.

Old Main: Dk, when's the last game you took in at the Palumbo Center?

Dejan Kovacevic: Last season. Took the wife up. Awful game, even worse atmosphere. Pretty much par for the course.

Harrisburg Hal: That Trent Richardson trade doesn't look so bad for Cleveland now, does it? The draft pick looks very bad, but they got something for that guy.

Dejan Kovacevic: Time will tell. For sure, Richardson isn't doing the Colts any favors. Bottom line is still that the Browns fantastically wasted high first-round picks in both Richardson and, as we've seen in the past couple days, Brandon Weeden, too. That's what losers do.

Dave in Ross: In steelers hierarchy, who has more influence on personnel? Coach or GM?

Dejan Kovacevic: Always, always, always the head coach.

pattonbb: Any idea how long John Scott's “indefinite” suspension will last?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not as long as Matt Cooke's 17-gamer. How's that for a guess?

If Brendan Shanahan is still giving out 10-gamers to Patrick Kaleta, of all players, no reason to think this goon won't get the same.

Leon Garber: Any chance Martin replaces Bylsma this season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not liking that 7-2 start?

And no, there is no chance.

hankpsu: What's keeping the Pens from signing one of the goalies on the street to back up Fleury (a la Hedberg, Theodore, Bryzgalov). Not world beaters, for sure, but any would be an improvement on Zatkoff, no?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. No idea, really.

Guest 23: Sure hope, for your sake, that Oakland has solved that plumbing thing at the wonderful Coliseum out there. Sorry, I forgot which dot com company it's named after these days.

Dejan Kovacevic: That would be Coliseum, and I'll certainly keep my nose up for any extra-nasty smells near the visiting locker room, the site of most of the sewage issues.

TK: Are you aware if the Steelers employ any kind of advanced analytics.....Although not as prevelant as in baseball, I know several NFL teams have recently built those departments out.

Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers are famously miles and miles and miles behind on that.

Damon: Why are there no NHL forwards or defenseman that wear #1? Is that just a tradition that only the goalie wears #1?

Dejan Kovacevic: Pretty much, yeah. It's 1, 29, 30, 31, 35 more than anything.

Thundercrack: Sixth & Penn. I am on my way

Dejan Kovacevic: Be sure to get here in time to pick up the tab.

Dave in Ross: Do you think the sochi olympics will have a negative impact on the participating nhl players when they return?

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolutely, unequivocally. Especially those who reach the gold-medal game. It's some hellacious hockey.

Troy: Hey DK, non sports question. I heard u on Ken Laird's show today that u love San Fran. I was thinking of going in Jan or Feb. can u give me a few tips/locations I should visit? Thanks man.

Dejan Kovacevic: You can't go wrong there. As many times as I've been, I still make a point of taking the cable car all through town and over to the Wharf, then making an afternoon of it in that area, then returning to the Union Square area the same way.

That'll be my tomorrow, in fact.

Drew 72: Prediction for PSU-OSU?

Dejan Kovacevic: Won't be pretty for the Lions. Nowhere to hide at the Horseshoe if you can't tackle. Doesn't mean Christian Hackenberg and Allen Robinson won't keep it respectable. They could. But you have to play far better defense than Penn State's shown to this point.

Guest23: Don't forget that rockin' comic book store in Union Square!

Dejan Kovacevic: It's actually down on Market. Nice try at busting my S.F. knowledge!

Jimmy D: If you had you only one choice in 2014, FIFA World Cup Final, or Gold Medal Olympic Hockey game.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've already done the latter, in 2010 at Vancouver. I'll take the World Cup, please.

Guest: No Neal in the Olympics?

Dejan Kovacevic: Too late to convert to Russian citizenship and play with Geno?

Matt in Ann Arbor: Can Pitt find four wins the rest of the way and finish 8-4?

Dejan Kovacevic: Have you looked at that schedule? Similar to Penn State, I like a lot of what Pitt's been able to do offensively, but there's nowhere near enough there on D — aside from Aaron Donald — to expect a run like that.

Allen: Are there any players who you think DON'T want to go to the Olympics? I know the honor of playing for your country is incredible, but the rest and escape from the toll it would take on their true vocation seems appealing as well.

Dejan Kovacevic: Not one! That's the beauty of the tournament. It's all-in.

Rob: Is Clark's play this season the result of age, injury, or just having a bad year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Might just be that the NFL has taken away his edge. Can't rule it out.

Casper: What's the date on that Sunday column with the glowing review of the Pirates' player?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ha! Right!

Dejan Kovacevic: That's all I've got for this week. Heading out to the West Coast tomorrow for Steelers stuff, then back for more next week.

Thanks to all for participating!

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