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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Greetings from Mesa, Arizona, where it's sunny and ... ah, you don't want to know, do you?

Jandy: DK, what is your take on the Letang suspension• And do you think this type of ruling will actually encourage the player turning his back to draw the penalty/suspension?

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolute no-brainer. I don't care about a player's intent. I care about his actions. Although I don't doubt for a second what Letang told me the other night in Minnesota -- that he had zero intention to hurt the Jets' Alexander Burmistrov -- the player has to be responsible.

If the NHL applies that across the board, the sport will be better for it.

Bsteel: DK: There is grumbling amongst the Steelers faithful about the 2011 offense. We were expecting "The Greatest Show on Dirt" from Heinz Field, but instead have an O that too often can't score, sustain drives, put away inferior teams. The Steelers wouldn't be human if there were not also some grumbling by the defensive players and coaches. Even Coach Tomlin has to be concerned, although he would never say so, publicly.

Dejan Kovacevic: Go no-huddle, I say. I'm totally with Ben on this. Check the blog this morning for my reasoning. I get into it a lot there.

TR: Do you see Resop coming back in the bullpen for 2012?

Dejan Kovacevic: Resop would love to come back, but he's an arbitration guy, and the Pirates tend to get a little goofy at arbitration time, as if they've got something to prove to the system rather than just keeping players they want. We'll see.

Resop and the bullpen as a whole did well this year, and Resop makes great insurance for Evan Meek.

Ian: I love JoPa to death, and think he can stay as long as he wants. The only problem I have with him Is that he continues to employ his son as the QB coach. I've seen some talent at QB got through Penn State over the last decade and I feel the have won in spite of Jay Paterno, instead of because of him. Am I wrong• Is Jay considered to be a good coach?

Dejan Kovacevic: Really• You're OK with the current state of the program• That record right now is hiding an awful lot of warts in some eyes, but not all. Regardless of what you think of Paterno's legacy or what's owed him, this whole idea of even a figurehead coach being as removed from the action -- with all due understanding -- as Paterno has been ... is that where you're sending your son if he's being recruited?

As for Jay, that's about as obvious as it gets. Joe wants to pick his successor. (Have you ever seen a quarterbacks coach quoted so often?) If Penn State has any fortitude -- and it clearly hasn't to this point -- it will insist on choosing its own man through a real hiring process.

James_San Jose: Dejan, do you see the Steelers and Steelers fans in for a rude awaking over the final 10 games• By that will they end up losing games we think they should win and missing the playofffs.

Dejan Kovacevic: The next three weeks will tell. No question the Steelers need to win out here Sunday, and the real tests follow in bang-bang fashion with New England and Baltimore. If you see the first-half Steelers from the other day, they'll be OK. If you see the second-half version ...

Shallow Hal: Too cold to be playing baseball, especially in Missouri. Who do you think will win the series, and why?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, picking a Series winner after Game 1 is kind of cheating, but I see St. Louis prevailing if only because their starters have to be better than they've been. Jaime Garcia is pitching tonight, and he's a lot better than most think. When Andy LaRoche was with the Pirates, he once told me Garcia was the best pitcher he'd ever faced. Best ever, really.

As for being too cold for baseball, I will disagree. I'm heading over right after the chat to watch some baseball out here, in fact.

JAL: Do you think Mendenhall's 146 yards against Jacksonville was more a poor defense, better O-line playing, or did he just put things together and play harder than in past games?

Dejan Kovacevic: No one will want to hear this, with the news that Doug Legursky will be out a while with the dislocated toe, but Legursky was a big part of that. When he went out, so did the running game. The Steelers were running the bulk of their run plays through the right side. That stopped when Legursky left.

Give Mendenhall credit, too, though. If we're going to rip him when he doesn't hit the holes, you've got to praise him when he does. He ran hard.

Shearer: Orpick is back tonight. What should we expect out of him?

Dejan Kovacevic: Montreal sure doesn't make for an easy comeback opponent, given all the Tomas Plecanek, speedy-type forwards they have. It's going to be a lot of skating.

It will take time, but having him back in place of Brian Strait (elbow) is a much better option than bringing up someone else from Wilkes-Barre. Orpik is an elite defensive guy when on top of his game.

BR: This is not an anti-Staal question, but do you think Shero would have been wise to select Toews instead?

Dejan Kovacevic: An "anti-Staal" question• What's that• Why do so many people feel the need to fall into camps to have a discussion about sports• It's weird.

You can rewind drafts in all sports and say any team should have gotten so-and-so. There are almost no exceptions to that. It's magnified in the first round. The Penguins felt Staal offered them a very good two-way center with the capability of some scoring. That's what they've gotten. You might recall they already had two pretty good centers in the fold.

There are all kinds of legitimate criticisms to be made of the Penguins' drafting. Adding a guy who helped win a Stanley Cup and remains exactly what he was expected to be, that's not one of them.

JAL: Even though it is said the AFL inflates offensive number should Pirates be at least slightly encouraged that Grossman is in the top 10 in every major offensive category except stolen bases?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll know more in a couple hours. Ask me tonight on the blog.

JAXMAN: No huddle or not Ben has to be more consistent. Sunday against the Jags would not have been close if Ben had been on the mark.

Dejan Kovacevic: Totally agreed. But look back at the Tennessee game and how Ben was forced to make quick calls, quick throws because of the ankle. That's what no-huddle looks like. Looked a lot more dangerous than the scrambling version.

Jeff King: I'm still ticked the Pirates are letting Maholm slip out the door. First, what kind of money do you think he could get elsewhere• Second, what's the likelihood of him going back to the Pirates and signing a multi-year contact• Third, do you see any guys out there in free agency that they would go after?

Dejan Kovacevic: He's not going to get $9.75 million, but he will get multiyear. And that's been my point all along in questioning the Pirates here. The best contract you can have with a starting pitcher is one that covers one year. It minimizes risk, maximizes the player's motivation to stay healthy and do well. It's really not about whether or not you "overpay" Maholm.

Once again, it's about addressing a team need, not winning negotiating battles on points. The Pirates themselves acknowledge the free-agent market for pitching will be bad, but they're still putting themselves in a position to downgrade their own.

JAL: Ok, that is a clue--you must be going to Mesa';s game after the chat.

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, I am. And Gerrit Cole is pitching today. Eagerly looking forward to seeing it, then writing a column about it for Friday's paper.

Matt_Newport Beach: Is Anderson really the best Pitt has at QB behind Sunseri• His lack of arm strength in the Utah game was surprising to me for a college QB.

Dejan Kovacevic: Neither quarterback appears to be Division I caliber. That's not being mean. That's not being anti- this or pro- that. It's just what's become painfully obvious at this point.

Debating the quarterback situation at Pitt looks like it will be a waste of time for the rest of this season. The Panthers need to go a different direction in 2012.

Fugitive: Are we witnessing a "changing of the guard" along the Steelers defensive line• Will Smith and Hampton play less when they return from injury and retire after this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: I notice you left out Brett Keisel, who was in a lot of people's changing-of-the-guard plans until he absolutely dominated Jacksonville last week. That should serve as a reminder that maybe not all of these guys are toast.

Overall, yeah, you're going to see more Ziggy Hood, even more Cam Heyward, especially for as long as Aaron Smith is out. But Casey Hampton will play when he's ready. It's not like Chris Hoke would represent a changing of the guard.

Steel Curtain Rising: Does Aaron Smith get his job back when his health returns?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not as much. Ziggy needs to be out there.

Dave G in Mason, OH: I see Staal's value to the Penguins quite clearly despite his lack of scoring... but what's it going to take to convince the naysayers of his true value to the team?

Dejan Kovacevic: Again with the naysayers and stuff. This isn't politics.

Watch Staal play and decide for yourself. There are times when he can look pretty bad, notably the first period of the game the other night in Winnipeg. I was about 80 feet off ice level, and I swear I thought one of his passes would come my way, the way he was dishing randomly.

But he also made a pretty big contribution the other night in Minnesota, offensively, all while being part of a penalty-killing unit that's now 20 for 20 on the road. The Penguins also did really well on draws on the trip I covered.

People who view hockey solely through the prism of goals and assists have much to learn about its other facets.

Matt_Newport Beach: What weaknesses do you see in the Pens other than lack of offense with Malkin and Crosby out?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, that's a big one, that offense. And I don't mean to dismiss its importance. But the fact is, if Crosby and Malkin were playing, no one would ever bring up how many points Staal has because he'd be in the role where he belongs, where he's capable of doing exceptionally well.

I don't see the Penguins as having weaknesses beyond health, actually. If they've got everyone, if that ever happens, they'll be a tremendously deep and versatile team.

Mattysteeler: Since we didn't hear Timmons number called that often in the Jags game, do you think we be seeing more of Worilds• And move Timmons back to Mack linebacker ?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, and yes. Timmons did not fare well on the outside, including against the Jaguars, though not all of that had to do with the change in position. He just flat-out missed tackles. And, really, he just flat-out has to do a lot better than he's done this season.

Worilds has talent. The Steelers like him a lot, based on a lot of what I heard in Latrobe, mostly. This is a terrific chance to show what he can do.

JamesinNYC: Our Pirates have a dishonest look about them. If you don't pick up players that you have control over, loose the talent for nothing, you are not trying. I understand they think they would be overpaying but they would be overpaying any decent FA, Did they learn anything from the first half of the year• Like we are starving for a winner(.500 or better PLEASE)

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't think it's dishonest, James. I just think they have this beat-the-system mindset in all venues, and that doesn't always work. Sometimes, you let the system beat you, but you get the player you wanted.

Same kind of thinking led to losing the Dominican prospect Miguel Sano. They had the player. The player wanted to play for them. But they wavered and waffled and waited instead of just paying up, and someone else -- the Twins -- came in and called their bluff.

Well, congratulations on not being swindled in the talks, but the Twins got the player.

Joey Porter: How many times do you predict I give 'the boot' after a big play Sunday?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, there were only five sacks for Porter all of last season, which is why took the huge pay cut. If he's some huge factor, it will be the exception rather than the norm.

Glenn: I read all the articles. I listened to all the commentators after that pathetic second half against Jax. No one mentioned that Arians called a horrible game for the last 30 minutes. Not one slant route to Wallace. Not one pass over the middle to Miller. Yet we saw deep out routes in high winds to Miller and several others. Now Ben comes out and tells the media that he wanted to go "No Huddle". Why does the media continue give Arians a pass• He's a large part of the problem.

Dejan Kovacevic: More labels. What does this "pass" look like• And how do I get one?

There's no question the Steelers were awful offensively in every way in the second half. The next opinion I hear expressing otherwise will be the first. And, of course, that would have to include Arians' playcalling. How could it not?

The Jaguars adjusted to them, and the Cardinals are sure to copy. Let's see how the Steelers adjust back.

I'm sure I'll be hearing from you if the Steelers do great.

marc: Hi Dejan, I have been reading and loving this chat from week one. My question, when everyone is healthy for the pens, it seems to me the best line combinations would be Kunitz -crosby- neal, Staal-Malkin- Sulliven, Cook- jeffery-Kennedy, Asham-Adams- and any number of guys for the last spot. What do you think.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm not going to do a whole set of lines, but I'll toss in a couple things: I want Staal between Cooke and Kennedy. Leave those guys alone, and let Staal match up at home against the other team's top line. It's what he's paid to do. ... I want Neal on the left side. Did you see his vision and release on the shot in Minnesota• I'll take that. ... You left out Pascal Dupuis entirely, right after a wonderful game, no less. I'll take him up there on the top two lines while Dustin Jeffrey works his way back.

Arnold Slick from Turtle: Where do you rank Jaromir Jagr in your list of greatest Penguins ever?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. 2. Look at his achievements while in Pittsburgh. One of the greatest individual runs with one team in hockey history.

Guest: I wonder who would win in a most-unpopular contest: Arians or Tino Sunseri. What are your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's not easy right now. I'd have to guess Arians, just because Tino's only a kid.

Erin: Why is everyone making such a big deal out of the fact that the Pens have 13 games in October....They play 12/13 a month until 15 in March. It is the FIRST month of the season?

Dejan Kovacevic: There's a lot more to the schedule being hard than the number of games in the month, Erin. They get almost all of their hardest travel out of the way right up front, and there's no sustained break of any kind within the month.

The Penguins aren't citing it as an excuse, but it's a valid one.

Couple more today ...

Ryan from cleveland: Staal, Vitale, Park, Adams Pens top 4 centers at the moment• Letestu not cutting it for you either?

Dejan Kovacevic: Getting a lot of Letestu entries today. Really?

Wish everyone could have come with me to Winnipeg and Minnesota to see what real problems look like for an NHL team.

No, Letestu isn't cutting it, though he had a couple decent shifts against the Wild. But he doesn't crack the depth chart with everyone healthy.

ReyGuillen: If you had to make a prediction; is Derrick Lee a Pirate next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Probably not. And this won't be one where I'll blame the Pirates, barring something unforeseen. If Lee was going to come back, you'd think he would have dropped at least some small hint of being happy or thinking about it. He didn't say anything negative, but he didn't do that, either.

Just a feel thing, but no, probably not.

PirateApologist: Have you ever been to the hockey or baseball Halls of Fame and would you reccommend a visit?

Dejan Kovacevic: Only been to hockey's in Toronto, and I've been there about a dozen times. It's breathtaking, spectacular, everything you'd imagine and more. Well worth your trip.

Teke: Didn't every pitcher look like the "best ever' to Andy Laroche?

Dejan Kovacevic: Boom!

That's it for me. Heading over to watch baseball in shorts and sunglasses. Will check in later on the blog , tomorrow with the column and Sunday here from the Steelers game.

Thanks to all for participating!

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