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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings, all, and welcome to another rain-soaked edition of the Chat. We'll talk for the next 45 minutes or so, which is 45 minutes more than Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley have talked, apparently ...

The Arena: Man, now every time I try to get some sleep somebody is coming up and trying to talk to me. Thanks a lot, Dejan...

Dejan Kovacevic: Very funny.

Colby: Is Paul Martin THAT bad, or is he just the the "whipping boy du jour" of Yinzer Nation?

Dejan Kovacevic: Right now, he's that bad. It's not an illusion, not a Ron Stackhouse situation where people just decided they didn't like him because he's soft. (Or "soff," for that matter.) Isolate on him for yourself next time you're at Consol. It's a constant struggle for Martin, positionally, with the puck and otherwise.

The coaches see it, too, trust me.

Brian in Wallingford: What's holding up the Burnett deal• Will it still get done?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, and I'll repeat the week's No. 1 keyword: Relax. Check today's blog . And the one from the day before. And the one from the day before. These types of deals take time. There's no urgency. No one needs a pitcher for the upcoming weekend.

Eric87: The steelers glaring need in the offseason/draft is the guard/nose tackle position. I have heard Cordy Glenn or Dontari Poe. Do you see this as accurate• Colbert did say the draft class was deep at cb as well. Could we see them drafting a starter opposite ike• Gay did well this year for the first time, and I will admit that against my former beliefs, he should be brought back. Allen and Brown too, seems kinda deep. Heard safety mark barron as well. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you're talking first round, that just doesn't follow the M.O. When you hear the Steelers talking about a draft being deep on the interior line, I'd take that as a sign that they'll address it the way they did last year with the corners, by taking Curtis Brown on the third round, Cortez Allen on the fourth.

First round, as always, is going to be the best non-QB available. (Well, probably best non-WR, too.)

MalkalineTrio: Dejan - speculation runs rampant that Hal Gill may find his way back to the Pens' blue line. If Gill is traded back to Pittsburgh, which d-man would sit for him?

Dejan Kovacevic: Our Josh Yohe reported yesterday that he has it on good authority the Penguins are looking into Gill himself. If that were to happen, I wouldn't lose a second of sleep scratching Martin and/or Zbynek Michalek, who mysteriously turned himself into a Zamboni last night in front of the NHL's MVP and allowed Corey Perry an easy goal.

Neither of these guys has played well. It's not an illusion.

MalkalineTrio: Dejan - are the Pens in the market for a third line center with some grit• It would seem that the attempt to catch lightning in a bottle with Cal O'Reilly has been a dud so far. Not to mention that O'Reilly and "grit" are polar opposites on the hockey spectrum. I've heard Dominic Moore's name mentioned as a possible option. Any other players who might fit that bill?

Dejan Kovacevic: How about this kid named Jordan Staal• Lay out the lines yourself if/when Sidney Crosby returns, and No. 11 is still your No. 3 center. Best in the league, too.

I do share your opinion of O'Reilly, though. Not much there, other than a lot of pirouettes in the attacking zone. Looks cute at times, gets little done.

JaMain Stephens: I hear where you are coming from, but I really have to disagree with you on your take on Hines Ward . In the free agency era of sports, loyalty on both sides of the table became irrelevent. Players are afforded the right to stiff their teams for greener pastures and bigger dollars, so expecting an organization to be held to a higher standard is simply nostalgia getting the best of you...

Dejan Kovacevic: I respect your view on that, and I'll disagree with what you say in only the rarest of cases. Hines Ward might be one of the Steelers' half-dozen greatest individual players ever, and that's some extraordinary company there. As my Monday column stressed, I don't care if he's cut. I don't care if he's kept at a reduced salary. I do care that he's being strung along and being subjected to leaks through the national media.

Rick: What are your thoughts on Ziggy Hood. He doesn't seem to have made much of a splash at DE, yet there are rumors he could be Casey's successor. Is he good either position•
That's not how the Steelers have done things. It's not how they came to be the Steelers.

Dejan Kovacevic: The DE in the Steelers' 3-4 is never going to make that big a splash. If you want to know how effective Hood can be, check two things: 1. The runs to his side. 2. Film of the games where he and a healthy LaMarr Woodley are over there together. Hood and Woodley -- and they'll tell you this -- work really well together, and the idea is almost always to spring Woodley for a chance at the play in the backfield. Woodley will get the glory (and the cash), but Hood sets it up.

But yes, Ziggy also has been mentioned as a possible nose tackle, especially with Hampton apparently out for the early part of the year. I'd still look more toward Steve McLendon there, but it could change. If your D-line is Cam Heyward, Ziggy and Brett Keisel, left to right, that's not too bad if Ziggy's good in there.

BigNick: Dejan, Whats your prediction to rotation with out without Burnett• If he returns to hid old form he could easily be the number 2 or even the ace.

Dejan Kovacevic: An ace is a designation I'd use only for a legit ace, not just the guy who happens to be No. 1 on the staff. The Pirates don't have one of those and, really, haven't since maybe Doug Drabek.

The Pirates see Charlie Morton, James McDonald and Erik Bedard as their three guys who can offer the highest ceiling for 2012. Not sure I see that in McDonald given his inability to go deep, but that's not me, that's them. Jeff Karstens and Kevin Correia come next.

Correia's going to make $4 million again next year, which is a lot to pay a long man, but he sure looks like odd-man-out to me with Burnett on the staff.

But that's probably not how this will work out. Morton probably won't start the season because of the hip. And a full rotation very rarely stays healthy for too long.

Adam: Why will the Buccos yet again begin the season will the lowest payroll in the league• I've seen figures under 50 million.

Dejan Kovacevic: The Pirates haven't been the lowest spending team in baseball in quite a while, Adam, if you want me to take your question literally. Their own current internal projection is an opening-day payroll of $48 million, which would be $5 million higher than last year. And adding Burnett would push that into the $53M-$54M range, which would be right around the franchise record.

It's not enough. I know that. You know that. But we can all deal with real numbers and real figures to make our case.

TK: DK, if you want Rick Nash you would have to give up Staal.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, that's not right. And let's tackle Nash as long as we're in mythbusting mode here: The Blue Jackets want a package of elite young players/prospects for Nash. Scott Howson, the bright young GM in Columbus, is hoping to use Nash as a leaping-off point for a different generation of Jackets after t his one has done nothing for a decade. Jordan Staal isn't in that age group. Neither are about 99 percent of the names I've seen floated regarding Nash.

This isn't something the Penguins will do. Nash makes a ton of money, and the Penguins' commitment to their own core -- as well as mistakes like Martin -- make it close to impossible to clear cap room like that.

new fan: how do hockey stat keepers decide who wins a face off

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. In each arena, there's a dedicated group of officials who track all of those NHL "real-time" stats you can now find easily online. That's draws, hits, giveaways, takeaways, blocked shots, that kind of thing.

The group at Consol is as experienced and dedicated as they come in the league. They're loud, too. They sit right behind us in the press box and communicate with each other over the crowd noise.

JBick77: Is it wrong to feel like I need something flashy from Todd Haley• I think i could stand up there say that we will do what is necessary to win games (run the ball 63 times). I need to hear specifically how he intends to improve the weaknesses of the offense!

Dejan Kovacevic: More mythbusting: The Steelers' breakdown of pass plays to run was 57-43 percent last season. Share that with a fellow fan, and they won't believe you.

What Haley needs to do is get the best out of his talent. To his credit, he's got a history of adjusting to whatever is there, in Arizona, Dallas, K.C., wherever. That has to happen here.

The issue that Art Rooney and some others have with the running game is that the Steelers had reached the point where they couldn't run when they needed to. It's one thing to do a couple handoffs for show. It's another to convert on third-and-1 or second-and-3, when the opponent can see it coming. That's the part the upper front office found frustrating. I can't blame them for that.

Mo: Franchise tag coming for Mike Wallace• I would rather take a 1st round pick and keep Hines than pay Wallace 9 mill +. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers are hoping to avoid the franchise tag with Wallace and instead work out a long deal. Hines won't factor into it one way or the other.

gsantini: Oliver Luck claims to want to continue the Backyard Brawl. Is this just lip service• After all, they have three non conference games this upcoming season and I understand Marshall and Maryland on the schedule. But James Madison...come on; give up the home game for the brawl if you really mean it!

Dejan Kovacevic: It didn't come across that way. Luck mentioned Steve Pederson by name, saying he hopes they can get together and work it out. The 2012 schedule for the Mountaineers had to be whipped up in a hurry and, as you point out, you can't leave Marshall off.

But your point about JMU totally ignores that top college programs need X number of home games to make money. Thinking that WVU is helping itself by driving up to Pittsburgh to preserve what for a long time was a secondary rivalry, that's just sentimentality.

I could see Pitt and WVU hooking back up once the dust settles on both sides. They're just too close with too much to gain.

Alex: Are you wearing a Penguins jersey tomorrow?

Dejan Kovacevic: Say what?

PirateApologist: Knowing what you know about Garrett Jones, is he going to ok with losing his arbitration hearing• I remember Jack Wilson won his and was still completely ticked off.

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, wow, yes. Garrett Jones is SO not the grudge-holding type, especially not over what's a peculiarly small difference $250,000 -- over which to have a hearing. The whole thing was a little weird, actually.

Jones needs to be -- and will be -- focused on earning his time at first base. There were times last year where he looked lost to the world. That can't happen again, or he'll be out of the majors.

The Standard: How are so many in the Pirates organization so high on J. McDonald.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's always about the stuff in baseball. McDonald has a 95 fastball, a hammer curve and a couple complementary pitches. He also has OK control. There's no reason that shouldn't translate into an efficient starter, unless he's doing the Kip Wells/Kris Benson thing and nibbling at corners.

When McDonald's at his best, he's worth being that high on him. Just doesn't show it often enough.


Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, well, no, I won't be wearing a Penguins jersey. That's not how it works in our business. Maybe I'll wear the jersey of my kids' youth teams. (Might have to stretch that one vertically a bit.)

Dejan: Do you have a favorite for the Daytona 500?

Dejan Kovacevic: Jeremy Lin?

Dejan: Not a Nascar fan eh?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't have anything against it. It's just that a lot of time and energy goes into covering Pittsburgh sports, so not everything can be on the list. I'm that way with the NBA, too, probably the only person in the known universe who hasn't watched Lin play yet.

GoneNotForgotten: When their careers are over....who will have the better hockey legacy....Malkin or Ovechkin?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's not even close right now. Not in any way.

JAL: The game with James Madison is played at Fed Ex Field. It is listed as home game for WVU. They will get about $2 million for the game and also hopes it helps with recruiting in the DC Metro area.

Dejan Kovacevic: Bingo.

OK, everyone ready for the rapid-fire part to close it out?

jefft: Was Jones too much to ask to send to Burnett• not meant facetiously)

Dejan Kovacevic: It's absurd that the Yankees ever sought any meaningful baseball component in a salary dump.

Guest: Pittsburgh Steelers on-the-field product - on the rise, stable, on the decline?

Dejan Kovacevic: More stable than people think. That quarterback's still really good.

Derek Smith: Hey Mr. Kovacevic, any news on McCutchen extension• Why don't the Pirates try to focus on locking him up for at least a couple years of his Free Agency, kind of like with Jose Tabata• I know McCutchen would require more than Tabata, but if they have extra money, lock the guy up, right?

Dejan Kovacevic: "Mr.?" Seriously• I'm not Mr. to anyone! Take it back!

No, nothing new on Cutch.

Guest: Your thoughts on the Caps and Ovechkin's struggles?

Dejan Kovacevic: They're dogs right now, but they're still better than the phony Leafs and will take that No. 8 spot in the East.

AJT Long Island: Are you traveling to Bradenton to cover the Pirates this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, of course. Sometime in March. Looking forward to it.

SeanE: In your opinion is it AJ Burnett or bust• If this deal does fall through do you see the Pirates trying to work a deal for another starting pitcher or was the Burnett deal just too good to pass on.

Dejan Kovacevic: The deal will not fall through. Relax. Don't make me go ahead and write an entire column about this for tomorrow's paper, because I just might.

Adam: DK do you know if there was ever a moment's consideration for renovating the Igloo• I have yet to hear one person in NYC lament the fact that MSG is being renovated rather than razed. Say what you will about the Civic Arena but it was distinctive in a way that Consol will never be.

Dejan Kovacevic: There was more than a moment's consideration. The roof wouldn't allow expanding the footprint, so the Arena's greatest strength became its downfall.

JamesinNYC: Who assuming one gets extension Walker or Cutch?

Dejan Kovacevic: Neil. OK, one last one today ...

Jack Schuster: With all the Steeler talk about Ward and vet. receivers did anyone note that they signed Derick Williams weeks ago. He was pretty good at PSU and was with a bad Detriot Lions team .Do you think he could be a nice #4 or5 slot man?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, but only if he can play special teams right away. No Arnaz Battle anymore.

SeanE: Does Starling Marte's development this year play any role in a Cutch extension• I say yes.

Dejan Kovacevic: None.

Jandy: How many on the blog today?

Dejan Kovacevic: There were 782 live in the house. That's pretty cool. Thanks to all for participating. If you're up at Pitt-West Virginia tonight, stop over by press row and say hello!

Column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday, the chat is each Thursday, and the blog is like the great Teemu Selanne, eternally marching on and still somehow armed with a devastating backhander.

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