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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Hello to all from my earthquake-proof basement shelter, and away we go ...

Maddamma: Dejan, you've spent some time with the Pitt football team. What is your overall impression of Coach Graham and his staff and how would you rate their ability to recruit. They got one blue chipper and, I believe, are up to 12 commitments for 2012.

Dejan Kovacevic: Glad you asked, as my Friday column will reflect some of that time spent. The focus is on how Tino Sunseri will handle an entirely new offense. He's got the personality, no question, but is he the right quarterback• ... My impression from the South Side is that these are the loudest coaches I've ever heard. Seriously, they are nonstop, uptempo this, hyper that, and the decibel level beats those trains passing nearby. It's a neat scene, for sure.

BSteel: DK: My problem with Bruce Arians is that there seems to be no orchestration of the offense. You've got to set up plays with plays like a good pool player. The Steeler's play selection is disconnected. So, assuming that this is BA's last year, what are the chances that Mike Tomlin brings in Brad Childress to run the offense• Wasn't Tomlin with him in Minnesota?

Dejan Kovacevic: Will someone please explain to me the relative lack of popularity for an offensive coordinator who has helped his team get to two Super Bowls in four years and who is so beloved by his QB that the QB basically talked him out of retirement• ... I mean, I get that we all notice a bad play call a heck of a lot more than a good one. That's human nature. I do it myself. But results are results. Even the running component went up from 42 to 47 percent last season, as so many — including the owner — had been seeking. What else does he have to do?

Stu: just released MLB players poll asking which manager they would most like to play for. Tracy came in #13. Hurdle was not on the list. What's your take?

Dejan Kovacevic: I actually helped compile that poll, which is taken back in spring training. That might be why Hurdle didn't register. Means very little. ... Did Tony La Russa finish last• Just curious.

Kyle: I know you are not a big college football fan, but is there any chance you will be heading to Happy Valley for the Alabama game• I admire your work and would really enjoy seeing some Nittany Lions coverage on your part. Thanks for all that you do!

Dejan Kovacevic: I look forward to every day on this job, every assignment. Having the time of my life, and it shows. ... To clarify, I'm not a big fan of how college football decides its champion, to put it kindly. That's turned me off since childhood. But I can enjoy a great college game as much as the next guy, including at the I-AA and lower levels. ... As for Penn State-Tide, we haven't plotted that far ahead.

Mike: It's safe to say Sid will not be in the lineup opening night as of this very moment. That said, Staal looks out of sorts as a second line center (away from TK and Cooke--regardless of what line you call it) and if Crosby isn't a go there is no way he plays center to Geno. With Malkin centering the top line do you think there is a better choice aside from Letestu to center the 2nd line for the time being?

Dejan Kovacevic: Tossing aside Letestu, huh• ... My choice would be Dustin Jeffrey. He's top-six material all the way, and I'm kind of surprised you didn't mention him.

Jeremy: How has Carnell Lake's presence on the coaching staff changed the DB's?

Dejan Kovacevic: We'll see, probably, just by watching Bryant McFadden. I didn't have a chance to get into all this in my piece about the corners last week, but Lake has really taken McFadden under his wing. He's doing, really, a back-to-basics approach on technique. Lake sees the same natural skill set others have seen, but it sounds to me like he also sees a mess in terms of fundamentals.

Patrick: Awhile back , you mentioned J. Harrison as a top Pirate prospect -- looks like a great call, as he has been pretty impressive both times he has been up and playing. Do you think his future with Pirates is limited to the bench?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, actually, I completely blew it with Harrison, Tony Watson and maybe Mike Crotta. Those were all fringe guys for me when I was helping to compile Baseball America's top-30 prospects list, and Harrison barely made my final cut at No. 30. ... Harrison has done well enough in the majors — it's modest, I know — to have deserved better.

rich: I keep seeing and hearing about Donavon Warren but mst people don't have him making the roster• To me he's playing to much not to make it. What are your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: I haven't heard anyone, including Lake, dismiss him in the slightest. If Warren keeps having games like the one the other night — not least of which was being in lockstep with James Harrison for that half-sack — he's going to open eyes. If there's any position on that roster that's more open than it appears, it's corner. Especially with guys still hurt.

BlackandGold: The Steelers have four good QBs, but only keep three. Who will get cut, Charlie or Dennis?

Dejan Kovacevic: Every year for, oh, about a decade now, we throw Charlie Batch out to the curb. And he still somehow not only makes the team but ends up getting playing time. ... Maybe not this year. If all are healthy, Byron Leftwich gives you plenty enough experience.

Tim in Kentucky: Dejan - Gotta think Sid is done. He will get another concussion if he plays again, and it doesn't look like he can medically afford that. Am I missing something?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, an actual medical diagnosis. ... Don't mean to be glib, Tim, but fatalistic pronouncements like that aren't worth any more than the pollyanna ones. When you see Crosby in contact drills, get your 87 sweater back out.

Rustyb: Will the Steelers be able to free up enough money next year to sign both Wallace and Polamalu• they are going to cost a bundle.

Dejan Kovacevic: They will, but I'm not wild about going the franchise route with Polamalu. He won't say so — now or ever — but I can't imagine he would be, either. Remember, I talked to Marvin Demoff, Troy's agent, last month, and Demoff said in no uncertain terms that he and his client would be open to talks right away. He didn't say that just to clear his throat.

Josh Croup: With Steve Pearce's recent injury, do you think his time in Pittsburgh is finished?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates were granted an extra option this year because of his injury last year, and there won't be another. That means he'd have to be protected on the 40-man. Someone somewhere else will give Pearce a chance — and maybe even the 400 at-bats he so desperately wants — but yeah, I think he's done here.

Joseph (Point Breeze): Hey DK, thanks for the great reporting of late. In your discussions with Penguins coaches and administration, have they mentioned what line configurations they've been experimenting with in case Sid misses time?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've heard nothing to that effect. No need this early, anyway. Having Jeffrey and now Steve Sullivan in the mix — not to mention Malkin back — gives you a top-six either way. It obviously would be infinitely better with Crosby, but I wouldn't see the need for a sweeping roster adjustment without him.

Pens PP: Alvarez a Sept. callup?

Dejan Kovacevic: It would be outright weird if he wasn't, no matter how he fares these last few games in Indy. How would he benefit from just being shut down?

Hoyle13: Why don't the Pens and their training staff get any criticism over they way treated Sid after the Steckel hit• He should have never been allowed on the ice for the 3rd period against the Caps in the WC let alone play against TB two days later.

Dejan Kovacevic: They don't get criticized for that?

Pens PP: Does Tony Hill stick at RG?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not if Trai Essex has anything to say about it. Or Ramon Foster, for that matter. But I'd have to think the two-newborns-lighter Trai and his experience will have an edge if he does what he should.

Chris: Dejan, big fan of your twitter account. it's perhaps the only reason i bother checking that account. anyways-i commented last week about the possibility of an NBA franchise and you questioned the size of our market (completely agree) and whether if this was even a basketball town (completely disagree). Pitt Basketball over the past ten years has generated much excitement and continually get more love from the press.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've heard other people use Pitt's tremendous basketball program as a barometer for potential NBA interest. You can't do that. For one thing, Pitt has been, well, tremendous. That leads to a large following in any sport, pretty much. For another, Pitt's prices and student sections and all that stuff don't even count as a tin can next to what's needed to support the $20 million salaries of NBA players.

JAL: La Russa finished 8th

Dejan Kovacevic: Not on the ballots I took!

JohnCangelosiIsKing: Dejan: Are you going to be covering PItt Hoops this upcoming season• I'm excited about the team, and the recruits they have coming in next year ( Adams, Robinson) look promising

Dejan Kovacevic: I will be there again this coming season. Had a blast up there last season. And I'm really, really interested to see the New Zealand kid.

Hoyle13: You hardly ever hear anyone talk about letting Sid play after the first hit. Everyone is only concerned about when he is coming back. And I love that you are with the Trib and thanks for all the interaction (blog, articles, Twitter, chats). We love it and keep up the good work.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks about all that. I hear that about the trainers/doctors/coaches all the time, maybe 10 times a day from readers. I've written about it, I've talked about it on TV and radio and on Twitter. You want another• OK, here goes: The Penguins and all concerned completely bungled their handling of Crosby, that night at Heinz Field, the days between the Lightning game and by letting him dress for the Lightning game. ... I saw Sid moments after the Winter Classic. I sat in the front chair of the press conference room, asked the first question. He looked right at me with the most uncomfortable glaze. And I remember remarking about that to a fellow reporter when it was done. "Can't believe he came out here." ... If I can see that, the Penguins surely should have.

JHepp: do you think Tangradi would be a good match up with malkin + letestu• that would be a nice physical lineup with a scoring touch.

Dejan Kovacevic: Eric Tangradi needs to make the team. I'm not convinced at all that will happen.

JohninOshkosh: I tend to follow a lot of sportswriters/beat reporters online. I think Pittsburgh has two good ones in you and Jennifer Langosch. I also enjoy Hank Schulman. i truly appreciate the labor it takes to maintain a strong and entertaining online presence. I am curious-who do you enjoy to follow online?

Dejan Kovacevic: Pretty much everybody on the local level. At the national level, I'm an unabashed enormous fan of ESPN's Keith Law. Someone asked Keith the other day: "You're a jerk sometimes. Why?" He wrote back, "Because being a jerk all the time is exhausting."

Spence: Does Crosby situation hinder contract talks next summer?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's incredibly premature, though I had a few readers raise that in light of some of the stuff I covered in the Wednesday column on Sid's communications with the team. Put it this way: Sid, his agent and the Penguins worked together to put out that release last night. That's a good thing. ... I don't mean for us, either. I didn't care in the slightest if that stuff ever became public. I mean for them.

Kyle: Would you rather... go without coffee for a week, or take a hit from James Harrison?

Dejan Kovacevic: Bring it on, 92! ... I see he's lobbying now to get the full 100 rating on Madden 12 in the hitting category. You'd think the EA geeks would listen.

Andy: If Despres is the 5th or 6th best defenseman at the start of the season, does he stay in Pittsburgh and slowly work his way in or does he go where he'll get 20+ minutes of ice time per game?

Dejan Kovacevic: He'll be in Wilkes-Barre to open the season and come up when the Penguins feel he's earned it at the pro level.

Mark: Is it possible Sid and his crew (i.e., family and agents) have some hard feelings about the way the Pens mishandled his situation during and after the Winter Classic• Could that partially explain his unusual silence with Pens' management this summer?

Dejan Kovacevic: I could have engaged in all kinds of speculation in that column the other day, and I chose not to do so. The closest I came to speculation of any kind was with one paragraph that provided a list of possible reasons to give Sid the benefit of the doubt. ... The fact is that we don't know why this lack of communication happened, so I'd rather leave it right there.

Thundercrack: Yes or No: Do you think Ronny Cedeno will be in a Pirate uniform on opening day 2012?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. He's just not a Clint Hurdle kind of player. ... But then, I'm not feeling particularly good about who the Pirates might find in Cedeno's place. Unless, of course, you like the track record of Luis Rivas, Bobby Crosby, Ramon Vazquez, Chris Gomez and ... ah, I could do that all day. ... The job of finding a shortstop is one the Pirates should seriously consider outsourcing.

Jim: Why not trade Dixon• Got to be a few teams interested.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's one solution Dennis would welcome, for sure. But trades in football are rare.

Gary T: Is there any chance will gay gets cut?

Dejan Kovacevic: None. He's still lining up in the first-team nickle.

Pirates Charities: 1. What is your prediction on % increase in PIrates ticket prices for next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've never heard anything resembling a figure. If I had to guess — and that's all it is — I'll predict that season-ticket holders will be much, much better off than those waiting to buy single tickets.

Josh: A player that will make a name for himself this year for the Pens

Dejan Kovacevic: Jeffrey.

Big City: Dejan, do you get the sense that McCutchen is really invested in being a part of the future here in Pittsburgh?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, no doubt in my mind. But he has a knowledgeable, intelligent agent in Steve Hammond, someone who's not going to take a deal like the ridiculous one Jose Tabata took. That's not to suggest the Pirates are making comparable offers. It's just to suggest it might not happen as quickly with McCutchen.

Gary T: Gay is a good cover corner that is at best a mediocre tackler who has trouble covering the big receiver .........Can his experience be the determining factor Especially when the steelers d backs are asked to keep the play in front Everyone Gay tackles goes any extra 3-4 yds

Dejan Kovacevic: I didn't say he was great. I said he'll make the team.

fish: How about Overbay being reborn in Arizona?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maybe he was asthmatic. Couple more today ...

larry: Do you think Mike Wallace takes that next step this year to being an elite WR?

Dejan Kovacevic: Only if you see him find that added dimension to his game of a) more quick routes and b) more across the middle. Without that, he's going to be an all-or-nothing receiver for a very long time. But he can improve in those areas, I think.

FulltimeJerk: Best memory of the 1991 Stanley Cup final• It was great to see photos of some of the players at the reunion.

Dejan Kovacevic: On a personal level, I remember watching on TV with my dog and, when the Penguins were up by a touchdown after two periods, still sitting there contemplating realistic ways that the North Stars could come back. I kid you not. The whole thing, based on where that franchise had been was just surreal. ... If you mean on ice, I'll go with the great penalty-kill in Game 4. Those of you who remember the original highlights video might recall the narrator calling it "The Dance of Champions." Awesome. Mentioned that to Randy Gilhen at the golf outing the other day.

That's it for this week. The blog lives and breathes around the clock. My Pitt column is tomorrow, and I'll be with the Steelers over the weekend. Thanks to all for participating!

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