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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all, as we're only a handful of hours away from the official start of the unofficial NFL season in Pittsburgh. Let's get going ...

Mike: DK obviously the Steelers will have spots that are weaker than others but why isn't there more talk of bringing in a corner that could start??• McFadden still hasn't played this preseason and as the Lee Evans pickup by Baltimore proves good 2nd tier players can be had for mid round draft picks. I know we won't get Samuel due to finanicial constraints but Philly has a 4th corner that apparently would be better than almost every one we have besides Ike that I've heard could be had. Think Colbert makes a move aside from the Macho Man and Dockery• I know its later to bring in a potential starter but I think our corners keep us from the Super Bowl this year as is. Thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's very late in the process for that. It's one thing to bring in a Jerricho Cotchery who will have to learn plays and routes, but nothing approximating what a DB has to pick up, especially in the Steelers' complex defense. I share your view about right cornerback, but I'd think it's pretty clear at this point that the Steelers are hoping to get something more out of their current guys, whether that's McFadden, William Gay (gasp) or even a couple of the younger ones.

Maddamma: Dejan, which of the potential NHL rule changes, currently being tested, would you like to see implemented• Personally, I would love to see 3-on-3 at some point in the overtime.

Dejan Kovacevic: Eliminating icing while short-handed. Did you hear new enforcement czar Brendan Shanahan's line about that• To paraphrase: Why should a team that broke a rule be allowed to break another rule for those two minutes• Beautiful.

SouthSideBucsFan: Do you think Paul Maholm's post-ASB struggles (0-5, 5.75 ERA) have affected his chances in staying in Pittsburgh past this season• I'd have to imagine the Bucs would be a bit leery giving him big money if he continues to struggle.

Dejan Kovacevic: What's more telling, I think, is that the Pirates weren't approaching him even when he had that sub-3 ERA through the All-Star break. You had to think they never seriously entertained picking up the $9.75 million club option for next year, but to not even go to him and broach the idea of an extension ... we'll see. I do know this: The Pirates' alleged cavalry of pitching at the Class AAA level hasn't exactly blown the door down. By that, I'm referring to Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens and Bryan Morris. Morris is pitching well, but he's doing so as a Class AA reliever.

BSteel: Has anyone ever actually seen Dukes BB coach Ron Everhart's reflection in a mirror• Just wondering.

Dejan Kovacevic: Ummm ...

Jim East Tennessee: Has there been any trade interest in our AAA pitchers• Would love to see some of our atckpile of arms changing into bats.

Dejan Kovacevic: Package deal• No soup!

ry_toth: i think crosby should take off as much time as he needs even if that means all this year. what do u think?

Dejan Kovacevic: I think we're well past the point of that being an opinion. It's cold, hard medical fact.

Derrick Jones: Hi Dejan, and greetings from Michigan! Now that the Steelers have signed Jerrico Cotchery, what role do you envision him having for us, and do you think Tyler Grisham still has a realistic shot of making the team• Have heard some good things about him. Thanks

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings from my basement, Derrick! (I'll be at Heinz Field later tonight.) Cotchery has performed well enough in camp that he should get more of a look than a conventional No. 4 receiver, but I'll tell you this: I'm not taking Antonio Brown off the field all that much to accommodate that. Brown looks like one of those players who's about to move to some other level.

Jeff King: Do you envision an outfield of Tabata, 'Cutch and Presley to start next season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, and more important, I envision it to finish out the rest of this season. It was a nice gesture to add Ryan Ludwick, one that I don't think should be second-guessed in the slightest because of the team's position in the standings at the time. But you've got to go with your young guys down the stretch now, and it sounds like that's what the Pirates will do.

AdamO: Barring injury who do you think the Steelers starting offensive line will be when the season opens?

Dejan Kovacevic: Left to right, Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Willie Colon. Doug Legursky can back up at all three interior positions.

Zachary: What are your thoughts on Ryan Doumit really putting the pieces together in this past series?

Dejan Kovacevic: Actually, it goes back to the moment he returned, really. He's been swinging with confidence and gusto, doing that thing where he gets a little lower on his back leg and drives the ball. Great timing, too. His option won't be picked up, either, and it soon will be free agency time. Unless, of course, the Pirates keep him. (No move there yet.)

Brian: Dejan: you've said we can no longer call the Pirates cheap. Sorry, but spending record amount of dollars on draft picks still equates to peanuts when compared to average MLB payroll. Do you honestly believe Pirates ever spend over $60mill on major league roster?

Dejan Kovacevic: Did they use different currency on the draft picks• Rubles• Pesos• Not following you there. ... Seriously, you pretty much just answered your own question there. The current payroll will end up over $50 million because of the Lee/Ludwick additions. The current draft figure of $17 million was about $10 million more than most teams spend. Add that up, and it's $60 million right there. So, yeah.

Nathan: Hey DJ, what do you think of the new Woodley deal• He's getting more than Harrison and Troy this season, does this mean the best is yet to come from Lamarr• I feel that they could have signed him to less money. Thanks.

Dejan Kovacevic: Players almost always will watch salary bars rise around them during their careers. That's all that happened here. Woodley came along later than those other two, the bar for elite outside linebackers went up, and the Steelers matched it after franchising him. ... And remember that it's not all guaranteed. I believe only $23 million is, if memory serves.

Dominic c: how do you think james neal will do this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on whether or not he'll remain bound and determined to pick upper corners all winter long. Kid needs to learn how to shoot low and have much, much more of a net-front presence.

Mackey: Can we consider Kris Letang as a Top-5 Norris candidate next season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Depends on Sidney Crosby's health, as we painfully witnessed last season.

Chris: now that we have a new arena in town, is their any hope of getting an NBA franchise in Pittsburgh?

Dejan Kovacevic: Never. We're already one of the smallest metro areas to support three professional sports teams, and we're very fortunate that two of the three have been highly successful to sustain interest. Four is just too many. Besides, I don't really think of Pittsburgh as a basketball town, do you?

Brian: Here is the question you honestly believe the PBC will field a major league roster

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, and I'm pretty sure they'll do that tomorrow at 7:05 p.m. ... Not being glib here, Brian, I swear. I just don't see what you're asking. If you want to know if they're ever going to take payroll into the range of the Brewers, I had an extensive piece about that in Sunday's Trib ... Sounds to me like everything you want to know would be in there.

Bob Robertsons Sideburns: Dejan - What am i missing about Ziggy Hood• All the coaches rave about him....all I see is an undersized guy trying to do the swim move all the time. I see his arms doing the dogie paddle but i never see him make a play. He's either swimming at the line or overruns the play. What am I missing brother?

Dejan Kovacevic: Whether he was a one-move guy or not, he was able to pick up the Steelers' unusual 3-4 schemes for a defensive end -- those can take years to learn -- and fill his role toward freeing up the linebackers. That's the way, way, way highest priority in this defense. Aaron Smith is able to do that AND make plays because he's Aaron Smith. But you still won't see Brett Keisel in the backfield all that often, either. ... Now, Cam Heyward, that might be a different story altogether.

znc1: Is the BB:K ratio the only reason why Starling Marte is still in Altoona• Seems like his power has picked up over the last 2 months.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, I wouldn't read too much into Marte or Morris still being in Altoona. I've seen the Pirates in the past leave kids where they are because the upper levels get diluted, anyway. In other words, Class AAA is a lot weaker now than it was in April. It's still better, but not that much that it overrides a player's comfort level with his current teammates. There also are other considerations, such as development time for all. Gorkys Hernandez is playing a pretty good center field in Indy, and you want both him and Marte staying busy.

ZEB: Wow. Brian is drinking the Haterade. Cutch is 24, Tabata is 23 (Allegedly), Walker 25: a young exciting core in their second year together. Looking at that it almost amazes me what they've already accomplished this year. Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither will the Bucs, but it's good to see construction in progress from my viewpoint.

Dejan Kovacevic: I see nothing wrong with what Brian asked, other than that I kind of had to guess at what he wanted. This management team has made some mistakes, including some huge ones. But things are at least in the beginning stages, I think, of showing tangible improvement at the top level.

Pens PP: Cameron Heyward - significant playing time this year, or lots of learning time ala Hood's rookie year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Lots and lots of learning. But not for too long.

Devin: Dejan, always enjoy your take on Pittsburgh sports! Do you think these continued stories on Crosby's conditions indicate a very significant career-long problem he is going to deal with. I feel like being affected this long after the fact, the future of Crosby's career is likely to mimic that of a player like Marc Savard. Will Crosby eventually put this behind him or will he be a career guy subjected to concussions and long lapses in time away from the game.

Dejan Kovacevic: This is the same old boring line, but we have no way of knowing. You saw in our paper a couple days ago a medical expert quoted as saying that it's not good for symptoms to linger this long, but he had no more answers from there than you or I could produce.

Bob Robertsons Sideburns: Dejan - Who has a better chance of scoring• A Miami Hurricane recruit on a visit to a South Beach nightclub or Stan 'The Man' Terlecki at the old 2001 after a hat trick against the Cleveland Force?

Dejan Kovacevic: Spirit reference = Easy way to break down the chat-room door!

Larry: How much playing time will Curtis Brown get this preseason game, and will he get a good look for some playing time this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: He's supposed to get a lot. And I think you're going to see a lot of Crezdon Butler this month, as well. And why not?

suckmeter: It sucks for Matt Diaz, but do you see the Pirates eating his contract when they call Pressley up, or are they just going to wait until rosters can expand?

Dejan Kovacevic: Has Matt Diaz been Boehringered in this town• Remember Brian Boehringer• Guy had a lousy first month out of the pen a few years back, and no one noticed anything that he did after that, which was mostly positive. ... Diaz is batting .282 since May 21. That's not bad. He's batting .391 in his last 46 at-bats against lefties, which is why he was signed. Yeah, they're all dinks, and he still doesn't have a home run. But I'm not looking at setting $3 million on fire over it.

Brian: thanks for the link. consuming that now. Holding out hope that this mgmt team and ownership will do the right thing at the major league level when the time comes. (Lee/Ludwick were an OK start)

Dejan Kovacevic: Let me know on the blog what you think.

Charming Man: Having seen the Brewers up close, can they reach the World Series• Their home splits are incredible.

Dejan Kovacevic: They have to go through Philly, and that didn't go so well for them the last time. ... As for the Brewers' split, if any of you sabremetricians want to win the next big prize in that field (The Nobel Beane Prize?) dig a little deeper on those Brewers' home/road splits, including the individuals. They put the Blue Jays to shame, with or without a guy in a white shirt sending in signs.

John Anderson: Sidney Crosby's health and condition; is there a bigger story in Pittsburgh right now. Why isn't there REAl information coming forth about what problems he is experiencing. And WHEN is the NHL going to actually do something tangible about all the concussions throughout the league.

Dejan Kovacevic: Because even the Penguins don't have the REAL information you're seeking. See my colleague Joe Starkey's column on that subject today. Crosby apparently isn't doing a whole lot of communicating these days.

Uncle Mort: DK, Please justify Steve Pearce being on the current 25 man Pirates' Roster

Dejan Kovacevic: Why?

Andy: Odds that Josh Bell starts at West Virginia next spring?

Dejan Kovacevic: You'll see both Cole and Bell start out in Class A, based on what I've heard, whether that's West Virginia or advanced Bradenton. The Pirates are open-minded right now, but I don't detect any intention of some mega-advanced placement. That might have been different, of course, if they had signed back in June. ... One more today ...

Michael: If Tony Hills plays lights out tonight like he did in Washington, do you see him getting the starting nod over Foster• And if so, what took him 4 years to figure out?

Dejan Kovacevic: Guard is a new position for Hills, so that's asking a lot. But then, Mike Tomlin's throwing him right out there tonight after basically just a handful of practices. What took so long• Well, if he does well at guard, we'll all wonder why he was ever a tackle. ... OK, one more for real ...

Uncle Mort: Steve Pearce---why• Because he is hitting close to 3 weak hits in his last 39 plate appearances

Dejan Kovacevic: I know that. What I meant was why should I justify it• I'm not the one keeping Pearce in the majors. The Pirates are. That's on them.

ND1: I was thinking the other day about how much injuries have hurt our three professional teams this past year. A year that could have sent Pgh sports fans to heaven. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd imagine fans in every city think that, to an extent. We can focus on Crosby and Malkin being hurt, Aaron Smith and Maurkice Pouncey out of the Super Bowl, and the Pirates having a dozen guys on the DL. The flip side is that Ben and Rashard stayed healthy all season at skill positions, that Fleury somehow persevered through about 5 billion shots and that the Pirates had a remarkably healthy starting rotation (Ohlendorf aside) to have their little fun.

On that note, my large iced chai is clearly half-full, and I'm about to make it completely empty. Check the blog for stuff from Steelers-Eagles tonight. That also will be the topic of my Friday column.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks to all for participating, especially Brian for being a good sport and following up twice.

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