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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011

Tim-Imperial: With Brady throwing the ball all over the field, do you think Cortez Allen can be a factor???

Dejan Kovacevic: First off, good afternoon to one and all. Thanks for your participation, as always.

Tim, you're assuming extra DBs on the field, which is almost always a safe assumption vs. New England. We saw plenty of it last week in Glendale, and I'm sure we'll see more Sunday. Thing is, the extra DB most of the time was safety Ryan Mundy. Early on, when the Steelers went with two down linemen (sometimes just one, with Brett Keisel upright), it was Mundy that got the extra work.

Cortez could be involved, but remember that New England's bonus "receivers" are the two tight ends. Might be better for a safety to handle. We'll see.

Kirk: How many people were really at Heinz Field last night• ESPN had 40K+ in their box score........ I am guessing it was closer to 10K

Dejan Kovacevic: That's not an ESPN box score. That's the same official box that goes out via the Associated Press to all news outlets. Pitt counts its attendance by a paid figure, and their paid figure takes into account that a lot of people have to buy full-season plans just to get, say, the Notre Dame game.

Obviously, the crowd was less than 20,000.

Daniel: Is this the best Pens team on paper EVER• When we get Sid back and Geno gets more games under his belt, I can't imagine any team even coming close to better.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's potentially a superb team once (if) everyone is healthy. But they'll have to prove on the ice that they're better than the 1992-93 team, the most stacked, outright unfair roster in franchise history.

Len T_Houston, PA: Is there any reason to believe the Pirates will be able to sign Neil Walker or Andrew Mccutechen to long term deals?

Dejan Kovacevic: Able and willing can get muddled in discussions like this. They're able to sign either player tomorrow. But, specifically where McCutchen is concerned, there's a clear disparity on what both sides perceive as the player's value five, six years down the road in buying out his free-agent years. Not only is that not easy to solve, but it also isn't urgent.

I'll repeat this for those who don't know baseball's system: McCutchen isn't going anywhere for at least four more years. He could play for close to the minimum in 2012, then have three years where his salary is decided through the arbitration system. It's only after this that he can declare free agency.

Frank in Ohio: What is your opinion on the play of Steve McLendon and Ramon Foster.

Dejan Kovacevic: Taking them separately, my naked eye on Sunday told me that the Cardinals were running right through McLendon, especially in the first half. I was told later by people with trained eyes -- that's why you ask the questions -- that McLendon actually did surprisingly well in closing up his gaps. That said, again, the Steelers went with a lot of two down-linemen sets, so McLendon wasn't on the field as much as Casey Hampton or Chris Hoke would have been.

As for Foster, plain and simple, the Steelers love to run to the right side. Our Mark Kaboly estimates that as many as 89 percent of their run plays go to the right, which is just nuts. That's Foster's side, so that should tell you something.

Eric C: Has bryant mcfadden moved down the depth chart due to his hamstring injury or due to his horrid play last season• Gay and Lewis have played well, but he it seems he is even below cortez allen as well now. If he is that terrible why not let him go and resign donovan warren if he is still available• Should have kept warren in the first place, they said he had no upside though the kid seemed to perform in every game he was given a chance. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: There can be no question at this point that McFadden dropped on the depth chart on merit. There was a time there when Carnell Lake wanted to make something of a project of McFadden in going back to basics, but that time was training camp, which McFadden missed almost entirely because of the hamstring.

As for William Gay, haven't heard his name much, have you?

That's generally a great thing for a corner.

Devin: Love the weekly chats DK! With TK being the latest Penguin to suffer a concussion on a long list in the NHL the past few seasons, do you see a change in headgear in the next CBA• Perhaps a requirement for all players to have visors and Messier helmets• If not, should the penguins themselves implement the policy?

Dejan Kovacevic: Every case is original, and we still don't know -- though I suspect the Penguins do -- what led to Kennedy's concussion.

The morning I was in Winnipeg when Dan Bylsma made the announcement, it was glaringly obvious he was under orders to stay totally mum about every aspect of Kennedy's status, including how he was heart. Maybe the Penguins want to avoid another Oliver Stone-like conspiracy mindset, as with what followed Sidney Crosby's concussion.

Aleksey Morozov once got a concussion from the tip of an opponent's stick jabbing his jaw. So the helmet isn't always a culprit or a help.

That said, additional player safety is never a bad thing. We'll see if there's some movement to the Messier model.

Kyle: What were your thoughts with MLB choosing to postpone Game 6 last night in St. Louis well before game time?

Dejan Kovacevic: My first thought was that Tony La Russa was behind it, if only to give Chris Carpenter a chance to pitch Game 7. (Sorry, but I've sat through more than one contrived delay/postponement in St. Louis that clearly was aimed at a strategic benefit for the Cardinals. I know they're not actually involved in this one.)

If a one-day delay helps both managers preserve their starting pitchers uninterrupted, it makes for the best baseball. I'm all for it. Weather's supposed to be clear at Busch next two nights.

Mike: Sullivan and Neal are really looking great with Geno. Do you think they break up that line when/if Sid comes back• I can't imagine they would, but Neal was always mentioned as being perfect for Crosby. As a side note, to me Dupuis has really played well this year and deserves maybe even more ice time. Seeing him on the point was interesting as well.

Dejan Kovacevic: James Neal would look great right now skating next to a fire hydrant. Let's dispense with all the talk about chemistry and that sort of thing. He's creating a ton of offense on his own.

When Crosby returns, I'd still like to see him with Neal and Chris Kunitz. Malkin can be with Pascal Dupuis and Steve Sullivan, and the usual Jordan Staal/Tyler Kennedy/Matt Cooke line can remain.

Assuming all kinds of recoveries there, obviously.

Ian: Tomlin said that they most likely will not use Ike to cover Welker, who do you see the Steelers using• And who in G*ds name are they going to use on those tight ends?

Dejan Kovacevic: I won't buy that Ike won't be on Welker until I see that Sunday. Ike is plenty capable of sliding into the slot and covering a receiver.

As you seem to suggest, there aren't a ton of great coverage options on the inside, including on the tight ends. I don't want to see James Farrior covering anyone. I'd rather see LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons rushing the QB. (I'd rather see Timmons back on the inside, too, but that's another discussion.) Troy Polamalu hasn't been particularly good in coverage this season.

Rustyb: Are you surprised a little about Ben's comments towards Brady• "He sits back there flat-footed with all day to throw"

Dejan Kovacevic: It was a compliment to New England's line. Can't imagine any QB would take umbrage to having his line complimented.

But yeah, it still raised an eyebrow.

baypanthEER: I cant beleive that some of my buddies were kicked out of #OccupyHeinz last nigh for chanting against Pitt. They said its cause we were swearin. Pitt people are pathettic.

Dejan Kovacevic: Do you have 20,000 buddies?

Seriously, there's a code of conduct that's read aloud before every Pitt home game. If you violate it, you should be tossed out, regardless of rooting interest.

sammy: What do you think will be the impact if Ray Graham is out of the Pitt lineup for a extended period of time.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's just devastating. I mean, we've been talking for weeks now about how terrible the offense has been, in the same breath that we've been praising Ray Graham as one of the NCAA's leading rushers. That's a pretty wide swing there.

Without Graham, teams that are a lot better than UConn should have an easy time loading up against those dink passes the Panthers will need to use.

dillonerd: Dejan, Garrett Cole had another impressive outing yesterday. You got to see him first hand and I am sure it would have been fun to stay out there and watch him develop. My question is, am I allowed to get excited about a Pirate pitchign prospect?

Dejan Kovacevic: You can get excited about a handful of them, all for different reasons, including Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia.

Gerrit Cole is the real deal in terms of talent level, as I wrote in my Friday column from Mesa . There's not much debate when a kid is throwing 100-plus with a compact, effortless motion, and mixing in a highly effective changeup. Doubts have been raised about him while at UCLA about command issues, but those haven't been seen at all in the Arizona Fall League.

Wild Bill: Hello Dejan, Much is made of Coach LeBeau being at the center of trying to stop New England's offense. But doesn't Carnell Lake's coaching of the secondary this season factor into this to some extent?

Dejan Kovacevic: Lake is a positional coach, so he's going to be much more heavily involved in execution than game-planning. And I'm not really sure about your point there. If you're implying that Lake's secondary has been a disappointment, there is overwhelming evidence to rebut that. (Although it always bears repeating that Matt Schaub and Matt Hasselbeck have been their best QBs faced so far.)

Bsteel: DK: What are Whis and Grimm doing at this time, next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: If Ken Whisenhunt had anything to do with trading for Kevin Kolb, then paying him $60 million, he's going to be out of work. That's a terrible Arizona team, and the luster of the Super Bowl appearance is long gone.

If Russ Grimm had anything to do with Timmons and Woodley being left completely unblocked on plays Sunday (Woodley told me that was only the third such occasion he could recall in his NFL career), then they'll be gone together.

Ted: So, given all that has happened with the WVU/Louisville/Big 12 soap opera with members of Congress getting involved, what do you think is ultimately next for WVU, and where do they go from here?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Big 12 isn't a great fit for the Mountaineers geographically, but then, neither is being left out on the Big East island. Depending on which account you believe, the Big 12 promised WVU it would get in even if Missouri hangs around. We'll see.

Duke: Sure looks like a good decision by Ray Shero to not bring back Max Talbot, do you agree with that?

Dejan Kovacevic: I didn't think that was a complicated decision at the time, really. Whether or not any of us could have seen Richard Park or even Joe Vitale coming, there always was going to be a cheaper alternative to fill that role.

Duke: Any chance Pitt gets out the Big East early and starts play in the superior ACC?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sure, if more and more teams defect from the Big East that there's no one left to play, right?

Mike: Does the media take issue with Tomlin's general answers during press conferences• He does not seem to give the media anything to work with. Is there any animosity there?

Dejan Kovacevic: Animosity over answers?

No, that really wouldn't make much sense.

The only times you'll see the media get outright ornery is when there are no answers at all or if, as we just saw in the World Series with the Albert Pujols controversy, no one shows up to answer the questions.

With Tomlin, his answers sometimes, though not often, can be pretty insightful. You just kind of have to pick your way through it all.

Jack: Good afternoon to the best writer in Pittsburgh. Loved you article on autographs. If I ever run into you which would you prefer: a handshake or a cup of Starbucks.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll take the cup, thanks.

Oh, and there was much feedback to the autographs column , way more than I'd anticipated for a fairly light topic. But my favorite of all was hearing from the actual manager of that Monroeville Thrift Drug store I describe from Mario Lemieux's visit about 25 years ago. Check the blog for what the man had to say.

PirateApologist: Your column yesterday was great, and it once again proves how much Mario has done for this city. Think of all the rinks and youth leagues that exist now because of him. Not to mention Consol.

Dejan Kovacevic: Not sure what that has to do with the autograph/story-telling sequence, but I appreciate the kind words about the column, and a column I wrote from Minnesota last week will support your conclusion about Lemieux's cultural influence around here.

Wild Bill: Is it crazy to begin to think of a Vezina Trophy for Marc-Andre Fleury?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not at all. Hate to keep referring back to recent columns, but I wrote at season's outset that all the stars are aligned for Fleury to do something of that order. It's a very good defensive team, and the return of the stars will have the Penguins playing even less in their own end.

Pensfan: A lot has been said about a weak free agency market upcoming for the MLB. However, there are some big names such as Fielder, Pujols and potentially Sabathia. What do you think about the Buccos making a run at a big name• It could be a good investment and would attract other free agents.

Dejan Kovacevic: That just won't happen. Right or wrong, the Pirates don't see the economics of such monster signings as adding up.

I usually never take this topic seriously, but let me try just this once: If they commit $20 million to a player annually, can they generate $20 million in additional revenue to offset it• And if so, are they maxing out to the extent that they'd never be able to add to that player?

Part of the challenge in St. Louis and Milwaukee has been not so much paying those two guys, but paying enough to have strong supporting casts for a legitimate contender. If you've got one star player, then you're little more than the Texas Rangers back when they had A-Rod. He wins all the awards, but the team finishes last.

Matt_Newport Beach: Given Wallace's success this year and last, shouldn't the Steelers target him more• He's third in receiving yards but only 20th in targets.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd rather see Ben spread the ball as he did Sunday to eight different receivers. It means he's making the right call on a given play. Wallace actually wasn't covered that badly, the one play aside, and it was clear that Ben and Bruce Arians would spend more time targeting Antonio Brown (on easy routes) and Emmanuel Sanders. The fact that they did might have been the most encouraging thing to come out of that game.

Couple more today ...

Ed: Who does Ike Taylor shadow this week if anyone?

Dejan Kovacevic: My money's still on Welker. Just doesn't make sense to me to waste him on a lesser player, even if Taylor is a bit out of his element in the slot.

Matt_Newport Beach: Do you expect the Backyard Brawl to end if WVU is accepted into the Big 12• Iowa St would be the closest conference game, only 871 miles away from Morgantown. It was be nice to have a local rival.

Dejan Kovacevic: Man, I hope not. And I would think not. It's not like Pitt and WVU are making some acrimonious split here. Both schools are just moving to situations they see as better for them. And there's so much to gain, financially and otherwise, by continuing their traditions in football and basketball.

D Kurtz: What's your recommended Steeler's pregame bar/restaurant on the North Side• Coming to town against Balt

Dejan Kovacevic: It's not on the North Side. It's Sixth Street Downtown, right off the Clemente Bridge. Your choice of absolutely everything is all in one block, and you're still within walking distance of the game.

Guest: who is the pirates 2011 mvp

Dejan Kovacevic: Joel Hanrahan. Andrew McCutchen's falloff in the second half, for me, loses the edge of being an everyday player. Hanrahan was among the best in the game at what he does, and he did it all year long.

Doug: So do we finally get off the schnide this weekend and beat these guys, or is this a case where we just don't match up personnel wise (yet) and have to rely on help from others in the AFC?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers still don't match up personnel or strategy-wise with New England, and not having James Harrison exacerbates that all the more. Can't say I go into Sunday with a warm-and-fuzzy for the Steelers.

But I have a column running tomorrow that challenges three of their defensive players to step up and prove that wrong.

Thanks again to everyone here. My columns run Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the chat is Thursday, and the blog is like those stinky bugs around your house: You kill it once, but it keeps coming back every day!

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