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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all, and Merry Christmas to you and yours. Here we go ...

Mike Jones: After watching the video you posted on your blog of Paul Chryst, I fear ... ohhh nooo ... it can't be ... is that John Russells theme music ... Is this Steve Pedersons last chance or is he safe until the boosters finally say either Pederson goes or our money goes?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, but which is good anymore, the Mike Haywood dead-man approach or Todd Graham's hyperbole?

I thought this one would be Steve Pederson's last chance, but that apparently isn't the case. Maybe he can continue hiring three football coaches a year indefinitely.

Matt G: Why have the Penguins been so quiet when it comes to Crosby• Simple questions like whether or not he is still getting headaches should be easy to answer.

Dejan Kovacevic: The Penguins are quiet when it comes to everything, especially injury-related. And for an organization that is so secretive, they sure are sensitive when anyone in the media dares to tread in the realm of speculation. It's a strange mix.

david d: Isn't it a little concerning that after 5 yrs Coach Tomlin's time management during games hasn't improved• My 13 yr old daughter asked why he didn"t use the final time-out at the end of the half on Monday.

Dejan Kovacevic: He could have and should have, and he acknowledged it the next day in Pittsburgh. Yes, Mike Tomlin's clock management could be quite a bit better. Does anyone have a stat on leading the league in unused timeouts?

Bsteel: DK: Two quickies please: Who's the Steelers punter next year. And are the Steelers better off siigning Clay from the pracrice squad or having a look at a veteran RB like Tiki, or even Willie Parker?

Dejan Kovacevic: 1. Jeremy Kapinos. He's earned it, and it sounds like the Steelers know they should have kept him in the first place. 2. Always better at this time of year to go with the guy who knows the playbook.

Kurt from Cal: Was losing Khem Birch really addition by subtraction• Basketball is a team game.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's spinning things, Kurt. Losing an elite recruit who had zero trouble off the court and was just getting warmed up on the court, that's subtraction.

MartiniMark in ATL: Dejan, with Ben's limited mobility, why aren't the Steelers doing more west coast style offensive plays• Everyone is giving Wallace a 10 yard+ cushion, why not throw quick outs for 5+ every time, much like SFO did to us Monday night• I'm not talking about the 'bubble screens' either. That plan needs shredded.

Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers did what you want -- and what I advocated in the Wednesday column -- in the first half, then Ben just started winging it after that. The bubble screen was out of the picture, too.

We're on the same page: Quicker plays, quicker releases, more time alive for Ben. They should look not all that different than the Patriots, given how he's moving.

Curt: When do you think Penn State actually hires a head coach?

Dejan Kovacevic: When do I think• About three weeks ago. Hard to imagine why it's taking so long. I understand the grave circumstances that led to it, but there still have been candidates and interviews.

Give it to Tom Bradley already.

James: Dejan, I know the Pirates are trying to build from within and when Neal and Co. got here the farm system was thin, but how long does it take to turn it around• I look at Arizona, Tampa, and Miami and they seem to stockpile talent at the major league level a whole lot faster than we are. Is that a direct reflection of Neal's team not getting the job done, 19 years of losing, tight purse strings, or some other factors• Thanks and have a great Christmas.

Dejan Kovacevic: I still point to the trades made in the early going of his tenure, unpopular as my stance is with some in the fan base. Somehow, some way, more needed to be culled for the players shipped away. It's easy to say those players weren't Hall of Famers -- they weren't -- but neither was Xavier Nady.

Good trades still can be executed with the right level of scouting, research and aggressiveness.

Patti: I'm a 20yrs+ Pens fan from Columbus, GA. My husband, daughter and I are flying up to Pittsburgh to see the Pens- Flyers game next Thursday. Just how crazy is it going to be in the Consol Center with Jagr now playing for the arch enemy• We can't wait!

Dejan Kovacevic: Honestly, Patti, I wonder about that. If this game had been played back in the summer when all this stuff happened, it seems, it would have been much worse than what we'll see Thursday. It's been a while now, and the Penguins aren't exactly desperate for that big scoring winger anymore, with the emergence of James Neal.

One thing to keep in mind: A good portion of the fan base now is too young to remember Jagr stiffing the Penguins the FIRST time around.

Seth: How did Pitt hold its recruiting class together like this?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd give Rushel Shell a lot of credit for that. The terrific Hopewell back stepped up on Twitter the day Graham was fired, and it's hard not to think that had a big impact on the rest of the recruits.

SteelerGirl: Hi Dejan. I saw a bunch of articles saying that it might be Hines's last year. I find it hard to believe that in one year, his performance has fallen off that much. He was great last year, and I still think he is this year, but no one is giving him a chance to even catch a ball. It's not like he's just any reciever--he's a hall of famer! Do you think Hines will come back• And, do you think something else is going on as to why Hines isn't playing• (coaches, players, etc.) Thanks so much and happy holidays!

Dejan Kovacevic: Actually, that's usually how it works in sports. The falloff is not gradual. It's steep, right off a cliff. There can be no question at this point that's what's happened to Ward. Doesn't mean he wasn't in shape. Doesn't mean he wasn't focused during the lockout. The man just got old.

Punxsutawney Phil: As much as I liked Mario Cristobel, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been back in the state of Florida in 2 years once someone gets fired in Miami. PS: You coming to Groundhog Day 2012?

Dejan Kovacevic: There's going to be all kinds of cynicism regarding Pitt's football hires for years to come after what just happened. Cristobal did, in fact, seem plenty attached to Florida.

Anthony Paterra: Haven't heard much on the status of Letang - any word on his progress, if any?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, because the Penguins don't give any. But don't speculate, either.

Guest: Do you think the Steelers are too infatuated with Wallace's play• I don't think he's the all around receiver, still a one-trick pony that other teams are catching onto. Do you sense the Steelers placing less emphasis on him?

Dejan Kovacevic: It seems convenient to me that issues like clock management and this one get attached to the coaches rather than Ben. Ben actually was responsible quite a bit for the clock mishap the other night. And it's Ben, I guarantee you, who's looking downfield for Mike Wallace.

The one-trick pony argument is old. Wallace has done just about everything to disprove it.

Apolo: Do you really think an ankle injury accounted for all of those miscalculated throws• What do you think of Ben's year thus far?

Dejan Kovacevic: 1. No. 2. He's been tremendous. Imagine the Steelers' record without him. Or with just an average quarterback.

bcgrey: Dejan, why do people care that Chryst is a blah coach with no personality• as long as he wins and surrounds himself with great people - shouldn't that be what we are looking for?

Dejan Kovacevic: Right now, and for the foreseeable future, character and personality will be a really big deal when it comes to Pitt football coaches. Very much understandable. And that's mostly all we'll have to look at for many months to come.

George: What's your level of faith that McGehee can bounce back and play like two years ago if Lee goes elsewhere, as it appears likely?

Dejan Kovacevic: Casey McGehee profiles as one of those classic not-as-good-as-he-was-and-not-as-bad-as-he-was players. I remember seeing McGehee a lot in person a couple years ago, and the guy crushed the ball on a regular basis. Last year, he did next to nothing. The truth is somewhere in between.

But the idea that he can play first base regularly has yet to be proven.

JamesinNYC: Maybe it is just me but Engelland's hit while hard, to me wasn't that bad. Looking up his hit on Kruger on Google gave me that hit and a half a dozen other hits that Kruger got creamed....cannot some of it be blamed on him for skating with his head down• Obviously not the first time and if he doesn't pay attention won't be the last. I am not trying to blame the victim but sometimes guys are not real smart.

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't care if it was that bad. I don't care if he meant it. A head shot's a head shot. And no, the victim should never be blamed for a head shot. That's Sutter/Murray/Burke/Milbury thinking that the NHL needs to eliminate.

Todd from Jersey: Do you cringe like me everytime Mendenhall carries the ball so far away from his body, especially in traffic• I can't believe he does not lose the ball more...

Dejan Kovacevic: I do not. But I often shake my head after watching a gaping hole get avoided. Rewind the Steelers' very first play from scrimmage the other night to see what I mean. His look to the left side was bigger than the Bay.

seth: i would like to revisit James' question. conceding the bad trades you allude to, that alone does not account for the paucity of quality talent in the upper levels of the system, does it?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, of course not. Another big factor is that the Pirates haven't drafted offense with much degree of success.

ATL Steeler Fan: So are the Steelers looking for a QB next year• I thought we were deep but Leftwich is oft injured, Batch is Old, and well Dennis Dixon, I don't think the Steelers are high on him.

Dejan Kovacevic: If you mean a backup-type in the draft, that seems at least plausible. Every team, even one as set as the Steelers at the position, benefits from having at least one protege type. And you're right about Dixon.

bcgrey: Do you think this hire of Chryst would help boosters and alum to get the bad taste out of their mouth with Pederson or is it always going to be there?

Dejan Kovacevic: Again, he survived this, so it's hard to imagine he wouldn't survive anything. If the boosters and alumni really wanted Pederson gone, more than a handful would have piped up publicly. That would have ratcheted up pressure on Mark Nordenberg and possibly forced action. Didn't happen.

AL: Do you think the NHL should bring back the 2 line offsides pass rule• Wouldn't this slow down play through the neutral zone and therefore reduce high speed open ice injuries?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've heard that posited, but I'd need to see a breakdown of how many injuries are caused directly by open-ice checks in the neutral zone. Most of the head shots, based on nothing other than my own viewing, seem to occur with a stationary player along the boards in the attacking zone. Two-line passes would do nothing about those.

As I wrote last Friday, if you want to get rid of head shots, you can. Just punish all of them. No questions asked. No Twitter videos. No public debates.

Burgher: Chances Ravens lose to Cincy and the Steelers win out?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd say that's at least decent. One positive that seemed to be largely overlooked from the past weekend is the Bengals winning and making the rest of their games more relevant. They could have a lot more on the line that weekend than Baltimore.

tk: Is it me or does it seem like the penguins pass the puck to thier teamates backhand when they have a chance for a one timer?

Dejan Kovacevic: I saw Kris Letang doing that with Evgeni Malkin in the first couple months, but team-wide, no. The Penguins are a very good passing team all-around, including their breakouts.

ATL Steeler Fan: So what is James Neal doing different compared to the end of last year, it appears to be working, or do you think he is just being streaky in a good way

Dejan Kovacevic: Ohhhh, don't make me say it. Someone else say it, please.

tk: Neal is shooting low?

Dejan Kovacevic: Nicely done.

Hank: Are you now or have you ever been a member of the BBWAA and your thoughts on their handling of the Conlin case?

Dejan Kovacevic: I have been for seven years. More facts are needed, but it's obviously something that would require action if those facts play out the way it's been reported so far. Horrible story.

Jandy: Hey DK, just wanted to tell you how much I (and everyone else) enjoys this Chat. I look forward to it every Thursday. I want to wish you and your family the best Christmas ever, and hope that the New Year brings you good health and happiness.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thanks, Jandy. Have to cut this one a little short today, unfortunately. Working on Pitt column for tomorrow, and I still haven't packed for Winnipeg later in the day. The latter is no easy chore.

Columns run Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The blog is like snow in Manitoba. Always there, always with a white background.

Merry Christmas to all!

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