ShareThis Page

Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all, and happy chat day. The Penguins play the next two nights, Pitt's on ESPN's Gameday the night after that, and Joe Flacco will take to a football field wearing a Fu Manchu mustache this weekend. Sporting paradise.

Tim: Dejan - The thing that concerns me most about Crosby's situation is the lack of information on Ted Carrick's legitimacy. has anyone looked into his qualifications• My very limited experience with chiropractors is that, when you get them away from back adjustments, they are apt to do more harm than good. I get the idea that the other healthcare professionals are not too crazy about this guy?

Dejan Kovacevic: The scope of the chiropractic practice is much, much broader than simply cracking one's neck, and I'm sure you can find all kinds of evidence to work one way or the other.

If Sidney Crosby feels Carrick helped him the first time, then there is absolutely zero harm in trying a second time. This is NOT a back adjustment. It's a balance/motion issue. From what I've read, nothing gets thrown out of whack.

Hockeymn25: Dejan, with the return of Kris letang, who is the odd man our on D• They have played pretty well lately and someone is going to be disappointed.

Dejan Kovacevic: It's just got to be Ben Lovejoy. He played very well right after his return from injury in late December, including the game of his life that I covered up in Winnipeg, but he's been far less than that since.

Mike: Do you think Bruce Arians will retire?

Dejan Kovacevic: He very seriously considered it last year, and Art Rooney II told reporters this week that some on his staff are considering it. Look at that staff and know that Dick LeBeau will be back, and it's a pretty simple conclusion to reach.

Sell Now Nutting!!: The Steelers new OC should be a simple choice: Hue Jackson.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, Jackson's certainly available. Not sure if he might be a little bombastic for the Steelers' tastes, given some of his rather odd news conferences as the Raiders' head coach. But other teams are interested. I read that he's already interviewed for the Rams' opening.

The Steelers almost always are going to want to keep things internal, which is yet another reason it's a tragedy that running backs coach Kirby Wilson is going through his current ordeal. A bright, highly respected individual.

Jack Splat: Dejan, love your insights. It's obvious Ben needs to "tweak" his game and get rid of the ball quicker and take advantage of open receivers on short routes. Joe Montana got in the HOF completing 5 yard passes to Jerry Rice and letting Rice run another 40 yards! You don't have to put the ball in the air 40 yards to have an effective passing game. That being said, who do you see as the new Steeler OC that could implement that philosophy• Let Brown and Wallace run wild after the catch! PS - Steelers must resign Wallace. You can't coach speed.

Dejan Kovacevic: I love the idea of Ben staying in the pocket more. Been pushing it all year. Loved it when the ankle chained him down in the Tennessee game. Loved it any other time we saw it, including much of the New England game. That's not to suggest he never scrambles, but I think even Ben doesn't realize that he can be great without being all playground all the time.

djon: what chance do you see of Pitt turning it's BB season around• And where do you see the most potential improvement this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Anyone who saw the Marquette or Syracuse games will have to believe Pitt can play way, way better than in its first four Big East games. To me, the biggest difference -- and no coincidence -- is that Ashton Gibbs is back at his natural position, shooting guard.

Much more on this in tomorrow's column. (Cheap tease.)

Jeff King: With most of the arbitration cases out of the way, what do you think the percentage is that the Pirates will still sign a SP or IB since there are a handful of decent FAs still available• Please don't tell me the percentage is 0 because the current roster is just fine the way it is.

Dejan Kovacevic: What I tell you about the roster doesn't matter much. But the Pirates sound almost entirely set about what they'll take to Bradenton. Doesn't mean it won't change. As you've seen lately, free-agent prices have started to drop. It's that time of year. Even Edwin Jackson, who was seeking two moons, is now apparently down to one moon. If someone falls into whatever passes for the Pirates' internal value, I'm sure they'd take a whiff.

But no, if your main point is that the roster isn't good enough, I'll concur. Just pause and imagine the difference another serious starting pitcher would add to the whole picture.

Dejan Kovacevic: Or a first baseman!

Stephen: The North Shore renaissance that we were promised when the stadiums were built has moved at a snails pace and still isn't finished. With the arena coming down, finally, do you see that area being able to develop at a better pace or will it be similar to that of the North Shore?

Dejan Kovacevic: Actually, Stephen, there are development people who will tell you they're eminently impressed that as much has happened on the North Shore as it has. If you count the casino -- which seems fair -- there also are two major riverfront office buildings housing Starkist, Equitable Gas and Root Sports, plus three hotels and a full-scale indoor-outdoor amphitheater.

That's not bad in about a decade.

The arena area probably will be different, as it's all controlled by one developer in the Penguins, unlike the piecemeal North Shore. My understanding is that the Penguins have every intention of honoring the swift timetable to which they agreed in writing. If they don't, they lose right rights.

BluDvl1992: What is it about Max Starks that bugs the Steeler coaching staff• For the last 6 months, there have been many many stories about him that refer to disatisfaction of the coaches with him, but nothing specific is ever cited. The guy saved the season, at least until he was undressed in the 2nd half of the 49rs game.

Dejan Kovacevic: Mentioned something similar in the blog today. For those who didn't know, Marcus Gilbert went on a national radio outlet yesterday and said the Steelers' coaches told him to be prepared to switch to left tackle next season. That sounds nice -- the line is way overdue for a steady, young presence over there -- but that wouldn't keep me from having Starks back.

Been there, done that.

Eric Francis: Have you found the Pens locker room yet?

Dejan Kovacevic: You people can be very funny.

Jim: Hi Dejan, Let me start by complementing you on your work over the years, I really enjoy it. With baseball season aproaching very quickly, do we have anything to look forward this season with the Pirates• I feel already this will be another season of excuses and incompetence. Also, how much more of Neil Huntington do we have to suffer with• Thanks!

Dejan Kovacevic: It hasn't been much of an offseason, to say the least, so any excitement you experience is going to have to be -- say it with me -- watching the young guys develop. Look, if you want a positive outlook here, I'll muster one: If the starting pitching is anywhere near what it was in the first half, it could combine with a VERY strong bullpen. That's a start. Now, if -- say it with me again -- Pedro Alvarez can do what he's supposed to do, the lineup all of a sudden takes on a wholly new look.

It's a lot of ifs. And again, it's all on Alvarez.

Im Tired, Gomez: Question: do you think Stephen has been to the North Shore at any point since 2001?

Dejan Kovacevic: Didn't sound like it. But then, I still hear people saying ridiculous things like how Downtown is dead at night, Market Square is filled with homeless and all kinds of other things that have no basis in reality.

Tony: Who is the starting halfback this fall• Mendenhall or Redman?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sure sounded from Rooney's interview that it absolutely will be Mendenhall. You don't talk about someone that way as a backup.

Pongo: Caught the Skinner-Orpik collision last night, even the Carolina analyst called it a clean hit after a replay, but then a few minutes later he dissed Orpik for not fighting Allen I think. Is it hockey protocol to have to fight after cleaning a clock?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, your key term there is "cleaning." Because it was 100 percent a clean hit. We all saw it, Skinner acknowledged it afterward, and even the ref apologized to Orpik for the interference minor.

Better that everyone's concern at that point should have been the Hurricanes indefensibly bringing Skinner back onto the ice after he twice staggered following the hit. It was very little different than the Browns leaving Colt McCoy in against the Steelers, a move that prompted an NFL investigation.

I'm sure the NHL will get right on it.

Keyser Soze: Dejan, you provide the best coverage of Pittsburgh sports, period. Do you see any highly touted recruits who are currently uncommitted choosing the PITT football program?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, the brightest sign to date has been that Paul Chryst has managed to hang onto most of the good ones already committed. Just by securing Rushel Shell and Chad Voytik -- if you saw Voytik's Twitter feed, you know he's staying -- he made huge leaps toward keeping things together.

I will say this: I like Chryst's chances of doing what you say a lot better than the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator.

Ron: Has Twitter helped revitalize online coverage for newspapers• I am a lot more likely to read a story when the author tweets a link rather than going to the site directly and just browsing.

Dejan Kovacevic: I've said this before, and there are numbers to back me: More people than ever are reading newspaper content. It's just that they read it in different forms. The only issue our industry has -- and it's a huge one -- is monetizing the newer forms.

I love Twitter, as you might know, but it's not that big a penetration yet. Last I saw, only 8 percent of the population uses it, and you'd have to think only a really small percentage of that number is into sports. But it's one of many social media platforms that helps lead people to our content, yes.

steelerfaninatl: Geno has looked really good in the last few games, and he has great chemistry with James Neal. Do the Pens give Neal a nice big Contract if he is a 40 goal scorer, and does Byslma keep the Geno/Neal/Kunitz line intact when Syd gets back?

Dejan Kovacevic: Trust me when I tell you Ray Shero is aware of the urgency to sign Neal. He will be kept. I have no doubt about that. If you've watched Shero's pattern as GM, he's taken care of the big boys first, then distributed whatever remains to everyone else. It's pretty clear Neal is one of those now.

As for Neal and Malkin, no sane person would separate them. No, what they're doing together doesn't make much sense. Guys who are 1-2 in the league in shots, who both love to be on the puck, they're almost never on the same line. But it works. You see it, and Bylsma sees it.

Dave: Why are the Steelers seemingly afraid to allow the younger players to play in the system these days• When they played at 3 Rivers and Cowher was the coach of the team it seemed they would lose 1 or 2 key players every year and would have someone right behind that player to fill in and do as good of a job or a better job. Is it that our scouting team isn't doing as good of a job finding players, Tomlin isn't doing as good of a job preparing the players, or something else?

Dejan Kovacevic: Actually, Cowher's approach wasn't all that different. If you think back to the examples of Joey Porter or Jason Gildon, they both had to bide their time on special teams and in reserve work before stepping into starting linebacker roles. We've seen much the same with Jason Worilds.

Mike Tomlin makes no secret of the pressure he puts on younger players. Rewind his news conference on the day he explained Marcus Gilbert missing that meeting, and you'll know all you need.

But as I wrote in an end-of-season column , Tomlin and the rest are going to have to be more flexible in that regard, if only because the defense is in dire need of younger legs at any position. No way a group goes all season with so few takeaways and so few sacks that it doesn't need more athleticism.

Jaxman: Why are you so anti Penn State• The kids playing football did not do anything and yet the whole program is being demonized for one sick individual who by the way has not be convicted of anything.

Dejan Kovacevic: My comment above was aimed 100 percent at Bill O'Brien's decision to remain with the Patriots rather than getting on with the massive task of rebuilding Penn State, in terms of football and all kinds of other areas. I'm on record as expressing that's a pretty dubious call given the circumstances.

What that has to do with Jerry Sandusky or "demonizing" or anything else is beyond me.

Dan1283: Will Tony Sanchez play his way up to the majors in 2012 or do I have a better chance of seeing snow in July?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sanchez needs to hit the baseball hard. Scouts will tell you he's major-league ready -- or close to it -- from a defensive standpoint right now. But those who watched him hit regularly say he actually hit worse than his .241 average would indicate. Just no pop, no power, not even many line drives.

As you might have read in Rob Biertempfel's reporting from minicamp earlier this month, Sanchez is bulking up to get stronger. Maybe that will help, but he still ultimately has to take better swings on better pitches.

One positive: Even with the down average, his on-base percentage was .342, a sign that his selectivity -- and potential in that regard -- remain good.

RT: Who do like this weekend in the NFL?

Dejan Kovacevic: San Francisco and Baltimore.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to douse myself in Gatorade.

Dan1283: Dejan, three candidates for 2012's Alex Presley breakout major league rookie season• Also, I think Tony Sanchez is in the majors by July 1st and that played a role in the decision to let Doumit and Snyder walk. Far-fetched?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Sanchez thing is a bit much, considering he's never been above Class AA, but stranger things have happened.

Texas Steelers: Your gut feeling....will Hines be back next season in black/gold?

Dejan Kovacevic: Gut feel is that he'd better offer to play for the minimum. If not, the Steelers are going to be forced to go another way. Which they might be wise to do, anyway.

Jamsey: Hey Dejan, With Letang, Staal, and maybe sid coming back at the trade deadline or playoffs, the chances for the Pens winning the cup look pretty good. Especially if Geno and Flower keep this up. What are your thougths?

Dejan Kovacevic: If all those guys are back, the chances go beyond pretty good. As well as Boston has played, I'd still take the Penguins at full health over any team in the league. But full health hasn't been part of the equation for so long, I can't remember what that looks like.

Matt: Dejan, What do you say about everyone denying the 45 minute meeting now• Players, GM, coaches are ADAMANT it didn't happen and seemed to have called out your column by wearing the "C." Perhaps a few people "talked about it" briefly, but it seems you made it out like players formally met and discussed this. Explain. Thanks.

Dejan Kovacevic: Was wondering when someone would get around to this!

As I wrote on the blog earlier this week, Matt, I was going to use Tuesday as a cutoff point for going over this again and again and again, so I'll let that blog item stand. But this was the first chat since then, so I wanted to share the link again for those who might have missed it.

RogerJolley: DK. Disagree w/ yu about PSU Obrien. He did right thing by sticking to his committment to NE. Program rebuild is multi-year project. He needed to establish credibility.

Dejan Kovacevic: O'Brien's illustration of commitment comes in a far different setting than Chryst's with Wisconsin.

Pitt's players had just been torched by disloyalty. They loved seeing their coach stick with the Badgers for one more game. And it came during a recruiting dead period. Penn State's has nothing in common with that. If the Patriots beat the Ravens, O'Brien won't begin full duty until the second week of February. That's actually past Letter of Intent Day!

And never mind all the ancillary stuff. How much difference could O'Brien have made if accompanying the new university bigwigs on this current tour of answering alumni questions?

One more today. Waaaaaaay over time here ...

NaplesDave(notWanstedt): If Cotchery goes away and Emanuel Sanders goes down, don't the Steelers need Hines• If not for insurance, who else?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you feel that shaky about Sanders' health -- and I know there's reason -- then sign Cotchery or someone similar right now.

That was too quick. One more ...

Joe: Do you think Shero will be making any moves this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: He'd love to, Joe. I have no doubt of that. But he wants to make them for the right reasons, meaning the team is healthy and primed for a Cup run. In that event, if you look over that roster -- which isn't exactly riddled with holes -- I could see adding a top-six winger to ensure Steve Sullivan isn't one of them and a net-front defenseman. That's asking a lot, but then ...

Anyway, that's all for today. Thanks to all for participating. I will be taking all of next week off, my first time off since coming to the Trib, so all of the usual programming will resume the following week -- all week -- from Indianapolis, the site of Super Bowl Harbaugh.

Take care.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.