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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Apologies for delay to all. I feel like Duquesne's rebounding total last night. Will make it up to you with longer than usual session.

MattySteeler: Hey, Dejan. Do you think the drop balls and over all rustiness was just a fact of coming off a bye thru a holiday week• I thought Ben looked good, but for the most part the receivers looked sloppy, especially Wallace.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's been my thought after since that ball clanked off Mike Wallace's hands. The whole game, particularly on offense, had the feel of rust. I didn't hear any of the Steelers use that as an excuse, which is great, but doesn't mean it doesn't apply.

Darren S: How deep is this Steeler team• It seem this year even more then previous ones the Steelers are able to get the next up and he plays at a very high level. I know they've been able to do this in years past to some degree, but in years past when Smith or Troy would go down we'd have problems. Now it seems like depth is at a different level especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, Darren, it's so deep that ...

john: Trying to grasp the meaning of the Depres call up but I have no idea...Can you help• If Z or Tanger is out long term why does this help?

Dejan Kovacevic: Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek both have concussion-like symptoms, both have uncertain statuses, and the Penguins wanted to go with their most talented guy. I sense a lot of angst over this. Not sure why. Simon Despres acquitted himself well in the summer and into training camp.

jj: Hey Dejan, thanks for being here. It seems troubling that we continue to see hockey players not showing concussion symptons until a couple of days or so after a hit to the head. Letang and Michalek both are showing symptons of concussions even though Letang passed the baseline test after he was hit and returned to the game. Has there been any talk of adjusting these baseline tests?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's a good way of looking at it, J.J. And that's yet another reason why I wasn't wild about Mike Tomlin pronouncing Troy Polamalu likely to play this Sunday even before he was scheduled to take "a battery of tests" to see how he's doing.

The term "err on the side of caution" needs to more than something spoken.

FireHuntington: if the Pirates don't sign either Pena or Lee. Who are possible alternatives at 1st that might be available via trade?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't expect Derrek Lee to return, and I don't think the Pirates do, either. From there, I'll be surprised if they venture to the outside. Could be Garrett Jones' job to have again. I do know that Clint Hurdle was much happier with Jones late in this past season than he was early on.

Dave: Dejan, Seeing as how the Pirates don't want to really spend on the active roster and how MLB put a cap on international signings and the draft, what will be the Pirates excuses for not actually competitively spending money now, especially since it appears they're more willing to deal McCutchen instead of signing him long term.

Dejan Kovacevic: There's slightly tighter guidelines on revenue sharing in the new CBA. They'll spend more than what you're seeing now. I'm close to positive they'll be in the $50 million range by the time pitchers and catchers report.

Kurt: Can we expect a standing ovation in Washington tonight for Sid• Would be a great way for Cap's fan to show a little class after the poor way they acted after Crosby's concussion they were responsible for.

Dejan Kovacevic: Sure, right after all the politicians in that same city stand outside the Verizon Center and sing on the steps.

Dan1283: Hi Dejan, after seeing Pitt a few times, how do you see the inside games of Taylor and Birch developing over the season• Will this still the team's weakness come tournament time, or do you see them improving to become real, productive assets?

Dejan Kovacevic: Really, Dan, it will develop at whatever pace Taylor wants it to develop. If he plays with the hunger he showed last night in destroying the Dukes inside, I'm sure Jamie Dixon can find plenty of room for both on the floor. But Taylor has a lot of doubts and doubters to overcome. He seems intent on doing it, but let's see it in Big East games.

As for Birch, all he's doing is getting better with each game. No reason, given his pedigree, that shouldn't continue.

It won't be the same kind of inside game we saw with Gary McGhee. He'd just stand under the basket, and those broad shoulders would block out the sun. These guys will have to be more athletic. Of late, they have been.

yinzerinva: Dejan, Do you think PSU ever had a chance for Urban Meyer• Do you think he had his heart set on OSU ever since Tressel resigned?

Dejan Kovacevic: From Day 1 that the Penn State scandal burst, there's been this near-total denial about the kind of football coach the school will be able to hire from the elite of the elite. It's as if no one has noticed that, even as all this legal stuff moves forth, the NCAA is still eminently capable of issuing a "loss-of-control" edict and severely punishing the football program.

Does anyone really think a great coach, including a proven winner like Meyer, wouldn't have thought of that?

TheLegendOfBobbyHill: Hi Dejan - love the chat. Steelers scraped out a win against a far inferior team the other night and each team has games like that, right or wrong....saying that, I'm not sold on Mewelde Moore. He seems to get a lot of touches relevant to the snaps he takes and more touches than Redman. Why?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers' coaches feel he expands the playbook a bit with his pass-catching ability. Isaac Redman will need to show more in that regard to be viewed as a third-down guy. He's confident he can.

Milo Hamilton: I'll lob this one up for you. Is it true that Andrew McCutchen can't become a free agent until after the 2015 season ?

Dejan Kovacevic: (Crack of the bat!)

CleveSteelerFan: I just don't understand the handling of Hines Ward situation. It was like we put Hines ego over winning a game on Sunday (trying to get him involved) when it's clear he's no longer deserving of high involvement. Is Tomlin listening to the media too much here?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, speaking as the guy who tried to ask Tomlin about Ward last week, only to have him abruptly decline comment and leave the interview -- -- I can assure he's not being influenced by "the media."

Ward made four catches. He had almost no yards after any of those. I'm on record as saying I'd rather see more of Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

But Hines' ego?

I don't know. Go ask the coach.

Kurt: Would think the Steelers will be the favorite from here to win the AFC. The Ravens and Patriots will be fodder for them. Ravens cause of inconsistent QB play and Pat's because of defense being exposed. No other challenges out there.

Dejan Kovacevic: I agree .

I believe we've developed a theme here today!

Jack Splat: Why are the Steelers blitzing so much less this year• That sets the tone for the defense.

Dejan Kovacevic: They've varied that by opponent, to my eye. There also have been games where they went after the quarterback relentlessly. Happened in the Baltimore game. A lot against New England, too. I would have liked to have seen more in Kansas City, with Tyler Palko back there.

AL: Dejan....your view about a sunshine law for hockey is very interesting but I can't justify an illegal defense rule in my mind. If a team can trap their opponent and still score goals, then more power to them. The real problem with hockey in this country is too many guys in too small a space. Going to olympic size rinks would eliminate the trap as teams could skate or pass right through it. Economics aside, wouldn't this be a better solution for continuous action than a sunshine law?

Dejan Kovacevic: For those who don't know, this column is Al's reference.

There are pluses and minuses to an international-sized rink. If you add all that space, you almost completely eliminate hitting, particularly open-ice hitting. I'm not in favor of that. I want to see a player like Brooks Orpik being a physical, intimidating force.

And sorry, but you can't throw economics aside. The owners and arena operators would never forfeit a row or two of seats right up front.

Joey Bats: Dejan....your best educated guess., please ......Next year's PITT starting QB • (a) Tino Sunseri ( b) Chad Voytik -freshman (c) Anthony Gonzalez (d) 5th year transfer?

Dejan Kovacevic: D. None of the above.

I think Todd Graham will go find a fifth-year transfer if hot recruit Chad Voytik doesn't sign or isn't ready.

And I further think Graham will be delighted to do so.

Kraig: Any chance that Tino isn't the starter on Saturday• I just don't feel that he has the decision-making ability to lead the team.

Dejan Kovacevic: He'll start. There are no options. There haven't been any options all along. More on this in my column tomorrow on Todd Graham.

Naje: DK... a lot of links means a lot of questions to answers you've already given... just call you Kreskin, eh• Here's the question: Steelers offense or defense more responsible for getting AND maintaining leads in games against inferior teams (like Indy, Jax and KC)• In 2009, Roethlisberger and the Steelers lost to the likes of Bruce Gradkowski, Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel ... and those three teams had defenses ranked in the bottom 6 of the league at the time...

Dejan Kovacevic: In most cases, it's been the offense. It's easy to blame the defense for letting Joe Flacco take a 92-yard stroll, but it's just as easy for me to blame the offense for not holding onto the ball with that really lame possession right before it. The offense has the highest ceiling on this team, but it's been crazy inconsistent.

Tom: What's with your obsession about getting Antonio Brown more involved• Did his ONE touchdown catch this year astound you that much?

Dejan Kovacevic: I have obsessions in life, Tom, and I can assure you Antonio Brown's snap count isn't among them. But you're right that I want to see him on the field. He's a threat every time he touches the ball. Different receivers do different things. Brown is tremendous at yards after the catch, even better than Mike Wallace on short-yardage throws. The Steelers need that.

I've also noted, in my obsessiveness, that Brown has much work to do on his route-running. That could explain the low touchdown count. The field gets smaller, and everything has to be more precise. But he's getting better.

Now, where did I put my 10th coffee of the day?

Tom: You said in your wakeup call that the Syracuse Post Standard isn't an entity who's responsible for passing along charges that its own reporters couldn't substantiate. But since the investigation was already underway, didn't they have an obligation (along with ESPN) to pass that evidence on to the police• They wouldn't be reporting anything as confirmed fact - just providing evidence to the police so that they could perform a complete and thorough investigation. I guess I just don't understand why they felt they had to corroborate evidence• Evidence like an audio tape doesn't itself need to be corroborated - it's used to corroborate the bigger picture. Am I missing something?

Dejan Kovacevic: It's a really difficult debate, Tom, especially given the implications of children being sexually assaulted. In general, newspapers don't turn over their incomplete -- or failed -- investigations to the police. It's a violation of trust with sources, and it puts the newspapers close to an entity over which they're charged with the public to be a watchdog.

Really, really hard call in this case, though.

Bats du Joey: DK...right now what does the Pirated starting rotation look like• Do you seeing them spending any money on pitching• Got any names?• :-)

Dejan Kovacevic: I'll assume you're referring to the "Pirates," as opposed to a starting rotation that's been kidnapped off the coast of Somalia.

It will be Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, James McDonald to start. Can't say for sure if Charlie Morton will recover in time from the hip surgery. Also can't say for sure that the Pirates will take Ross Ohlendorf to arbitration again after that didn't exactly pan out in 2011. Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke and Rudy Owens also could be in the mix, I suppose, especially Locke given the need for a lefty.

To answer your second question, yes, I can tell you that the Pirates' top priority right now is adding a starting pitcher.

NY Pens Fan: Why didn't the Pens call up Depres for the last game against the Rangers• Are they trying to give everyone a shot?

Dejan Kovacevic: You don't make significant moves like calling up a first-round draft pick for any reason other than that you feel the player is legitimately ready. Anything else is stupid and short-sighted. Ray Shero isn't either of those things.

The Penguins said all summer that Despres would have a tough time cracking the top seven and that he could use seasoning in Wilkes-Barre. Well, the top seven is in doubt, and Despres has had two-plus months there and done just fine.

For those of you who haven't seen Despres, by the way, I think you'll enjoy it. Very, very patient with the puck for a big man. Makes the game look easy.

Turner Ward: Regarding the Syracuse newspaper and ESPN not reporting on Bernie Fine: if they couldn't actually verify the voice on the recording and didn't have more evidence, isn't it best to not report anything at all• If they don't have solid proof that Fine did anything, it seems best not to present him as a child molestor, rather than accuse him, smear his name, and then it turns out the evidence isn't solid?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Syracuse paper did confirm the voice on the recording at the time. ESPN didn't bother to try. That's one of many reasons I'm loath to lump both entities together in this debate. The paper far outworked the network on this and continued to do so by breaking the pivotal story two Sundays ago that finally allowed ESPN to share their own information.

JAL: Dejan didnt finish the Q --what Steeler game do you feel they are most likely to lose• Many feel SF, I lean to this week and Cincy

Dejan Kovacevic: You're assuming they'll just lose one game the rest of the way, but that's OK, I'll play along. The game in San Francisco will be very tough. The 49ers are nothing special on offense, but the opposite is true with Patrick Willis and the rest of a really aggressive defense. That will be tough.

I believe in the Bengals more than I did three weeks ago, but I still can't see the Steelers losing an important game like this at home.

Ryan W: who would you consider the greatest linebacker in Steelers history• my vote goes for Jack Lambert but I think Woodley will overtake that by the time he retires

Dejan Kovacevic: James Harrison.

Norm: The Packers were just 8-6 at Christmas last year. and haven't looked back since. Steelers have been good but not great so far this year. What do you see as the keys to the Steelers becoming a great team by playoff time• My top three are getting/staying healthy (especially Ben and Troy), turning positive on the turnover diff and using depth to keep the old vets fresher for the stretch run...

Dejan Kovacevic: They need to return to being a shutdown defense, and that always starts up front with the Steelers. Now, that goes to your point about being healthy. They've had Harrison and Woodley together for only four games all season, and even then Harrison was still recovering from the back surgery.

When they start scaring opponents up front, that's when they'll look like the Steelers again.

Adam: I'd like to answer Norm's question. Aside from health of key players, try this one: the red zone offense needs to score TD's.

Dejan Kovacevic: Good point. And people want to bench Hines forever!

JAL: Better 5th outfielder, recently departed XP or recently acquired Mike Evans

Dejan Kovacevic: Xavier Paul on tools, but Paul was a ridiculous 4 for 44 as a pinch-hitter. That doesn't help much when a bench guy is bad off the bench.

Guest: Regardless of whether you think PSU should shut down its football program for a few years, do you think there is a chance that it will?

Dejan Kovacevic: If it didn't shut down two weeks ago, with the information that's already available, then no.

Couple more today ...

jj: Any talk in the Pens organization of going back to the 80's and 90's black and gold sweaters• I liked the Vegas gold when it was introduced but I was hoping that was going to be a 1 or 2 season thing. Is it too soon to have, yet another, alternate jersey?

Dejan Kovacevic: I sense the tiniest of all tiny groundswells (me and a couple other people) for the return of the all-yellow home sweaters of the Mario Lemieux rookie era.

Make it happen, people!

Anything but this terrible blue out-of-thin-air concoction. At least the Rangers' Winter Classic sweaters just unveiled are based on something!

Chris: With the recent team suspensions of Patterson and now Wright, is it becoming a concern that this Pitt team lacks overall discipline on and off the court• The defense seems to have taken a big step backwards and players like Moore seem to want nothing to do with the dirty work on D. Whatever happened to the bring your lunchbox type of attitude previous Pitt teams were proud of ?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, when those guys aren't getting disciplined properly, that's when you worry. These suspensions by Jamie Dixon in the past have been followed by very few problems from the offending parties. Cam Wright is a bright kid. Really enjoyed talking with him recently. I'm guessing he'll learn.

Kraig: Why did you choose Harrison as the greatest Steelers linebacker over Lambert or Ham?

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, without getting into a full dissertation on a live chat, Harrison has the multiple whammy of being NFL defensive player of the year, an incredible and unusual force in his style and approach, and the executor of -- sorry, Franco -- the actual greatest play in Steelers history. I doubt anyone will ever top that play vs. Arizona.

But it's a tremendous list from which to choose, obviously.

My columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The chat is Thursday. And the blog is like Wall-E and Eve trolling about the remains of a planet ravaged by Wal-Mart!

Thanks to all for participating!

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