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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011

Dejan Kovacevic: Morning, all, and welcome to yet another afternoon in advance of yet another night game for the local football team. Seems the nation just can't get enough of the Nation ...

rlockhar1: Do u think the steelers can go deep into the playoffs without a consident pass rush?

Dejan Kovacevic: Answering that a different way: I think the Steelers can have a consistent pass rush if they have James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley sharing a field for more than 4 1/4 games. In addition to their individual impacts, having both adds to what they can do schematically, including blitzes.

SterlingCooperDraperPrice: More charges on Sandusky, was the judge that set the $250,000 bail the same judge that set the lower amt before?

Dejan Kovacevic: No, it wasn't. But the bail still looks stunningly low and, as you've seen, Sandusky was able to post it yet again. This story never stops churning the stomach, does it?

IA Pirate: In summary, it's OK for the Angels to spend $250+ million for Pujols and $75+ million for CJ Wilson but the Pirates can't spend over $10 million on ALL of their draft picks?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, glad that little inequity got solved. And remember, this was the TOP PRIORITY for Major League Baseball entering that labor negotiation.

Andy: Should Penguin fans be worried about Sid or is it "really" just a precaution?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ask me again Monday. Really, I parsed over that team statement probably the way many others did, looking for clues, and the bottom line I'm still left with is that Crosby has practiced twice since missing just one session. That, plus his being cleared on that test, have to mean something.

Amy: Why do you think Sid isn't scoring as of late?• Fatigue?

Dejan Kovacevic: If you mean four points a game, Amy, that obviously wasn't going to be realistic. He still looked pretty good to me. What didn't look so good was the power play. Some of you will recall that was the No. 1 issue I had -- on the negative side -- for the Penguins upon Crosby's return. Lots of talent, but not nearly enough pucks, not nearly enough diversity in style. The thing's a mess right now.

Ian: Dejan, it's hard to find burning questions when the Steelers are playing the Browns. The Steelers had good run production against the Bengals, a team with a very good front seven - with the Steelers offensive line starting the same five guys for the second straight week (Who would have thought that would be cause for major celebration), do you see the Steelers having a day runnig the ball as productive as the Ravens had last week against the Browns?

Dejan Kovacevic: They've been full of surprises in that regard, so we'll see what Bruce Arians digs up. It's worth noting that the Bengals came out in a scheme designed to take away the pass, daring the Steelers to run, and it's to the Steelers' credit that they came out and did so. I'd be surprised if Cleveland doesn't come out in a similar formation. Teams fear the Steelers' pass far more than the run.

But the answer is yes, if they want to. Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman could have some more fun tonight.

Jason: I don't understand... Paul maholm was, for the most part a durable lefty that seemed like he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh. Erik Bedard has been anything but durable. The money Maholm will get won't be much more than $4.5 million... why does this always happen in baseball. Players leave for teams that will pay roughly the same as the team they were with for what seems like nothing but principle.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, actually, Jason, Maholm was going to get $9.75 million if his club option were exercised. (It wasn't.) As it is, he can pick his team now. And a player of his durability is going to get more than a one-year contract. That's his top selling point, that he'll get you innings.

I'll take a healthy Bedard over Maholm, but there's very rarely any such thing as a healthy Bedard, so I'd obviously have kept Maholm, all other things being equal.

This addition does about as little for me as the rest so far.

Pretjah: with Graham saying he's gonna look for an experienced QB (either juco or 5th yr sr) and Dayne Cryst saying he's going to leave ND - is that the perfect fit?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm sure Todd Graham will look anywhere and everywhere to find someone other than Tino Sunseri to play quarterback for him. And I can't say I blame him.

I was willing to give Sunseri a chance. I wrote that before the season and again after his fine showing vs. South Florida. But he ended up doing very poorly overall, obviously, and Graham was well within his rights as a coach to be frustrated with that.

But maybe I should check with Dave Wannstedt first on that count.

homeequity: When do you expect to get a contract offer from "The Fan"• I find you to be more knowledgable than most. You remind me of Stan Saverin when he was much younger and in his prime.

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm a newspaper guy, have been all my life. Any radio or TV work I do is extra, mostly focused on attracting people to the stuff I write. I enjoy it, but it's never, ever No. 1.

But I appreciate the compliment.

Guest: Hi Dejan, I have been watching Timmons recently, trying to figure out why he is not making an impact. It seems he is quite easily blocked, even by RB's, and lacks aggressiveness in getting to the ball carrier. Any idea what is going on there?

Dejan Kovacevic: Lawrence Timmons hasn't been an impact player this season, plain and simple. He was expected to be that, and he hasn't delivered. I do understand it's not easy to switch from middle to outside, then back again. Not many linebackers can do it. But Timmons had challenged himself, and the coaching staff had challenged him, to start approaching the rare air of someone like Patrick Willis. I wrote about that in a column from Latrobe .

That hasn't happened.

Bsteel: DK: Now that the dust has settled, I think that Big East Football will be a more exciting and watchable product than ACC football. In retrospect, do you think that Pitt's bolting was a mistake• Can they stay if they ask real nice?

Dejan Kovacevic: Mistake• Certainly not based on adding schools from Idaho and California. Who's next, Hawaii?

I'd prefer the stability of the ACC to this current Big East. Remember, as I was writing about NHL realignment earlier in the week, don't look at snapshots. Look at a longer period of time when it comes to stuff like this.

Besides, how many people in Pittsburgh do you think would take their TV sets back to Best Buy once that blue field pops up on the screen?

Chris: What is the first base position going to look like for the Pirates• Can't they please just overpay for Derek Lee?!

Dejan Kovacevic: I've not heard that Derrek Lee is a money issue. It just sounds like he's set on playing elsewhere. I'm sure every man has his price, but I wrote two weeks ago that he isn't coming back, and I haven't heard anything since to change my mind.

First base is going to belong to Garrett Jones, Nick Evans, Jake Fox and whatever else the Pirates can cobble. I can't envision the Pirates landing anyone more significant, and the various names to have surfaced in the past 24 hours with the Albert Pujols move would require a ton in trade.

Ian: Dejan, Really, what is the situation with Woodley• Is this injury going to keep him out the rest of the year• And, what is it with hamstrings• Are they not stretching them properly• I think the Steelers should hire someone specifically for hamstring injury prevention.

Dejan Kovacevic: Check the blog today for more on the Steelers and hamstrings. This one could and should have been diagnosed far better than it was.

Mitch: The Penguins, in my opinion, are HORRIBLE in 2nd periods. Every game I watched they just don't produce and are sloppy. I know some other fans have noticed as well. What is going on!?

Dejan Kovacevic: Horrible• Really• I could see the Blue Jackets being assessed that way. Not a team that's in the Penguins' position.

All that's going on with the Penguins of late is an inability to click on the power play. It's the singular challenge of this coaching staff this season to find a way to make that happen. They failed last season, and they haven't adjusted particularly well to Crosby's return. I could get into all kinds of technical stuff for what I'd do, but the bottom line is that you're going to be limited in your sets with three lefties up front. Just doesn't work.

Ryan: I know your in favor of the new NHL alignment. I think its good for the pens but two things don't make sense to me. TB and Florida playing in the "Northern" canadian team/bos/buf conference. How is the playoff formatting fair allowing 8 out of 14 teams in the east and out of 16 in the west?

Dejan Kovacevic: On the first count, don't overthink it: If it wasn't the two Florida teams stuck with all the Canadian travel, it would have been the Penguins and Flyers. The Pennsylvania teams, as that column noted, came to these meetings with no small amount of clout.

To the second count, remember it's not really an east and west anymore. It's four distinct conferences. And even so, the imbalance you describe easily could be addressed by the Phoenix franchise moving to Quebec.

JamesinNYC: Thoughts on the PBC picking up middling utility guys?

Dejan Kovacevic: Eh.

TheLegendofBobbyHill: Puljols signing with the Angels IS good for baseball. If organizations like St. Louis cannot sign a player they groomed, while packing the stadium most every night, getting huge tv ratings, and winning world series, than perhaps we can add another organization and legion of fans disgruntled to the way the system works.

Dejan Kovacevic: Well, yippee. Maybe in five years they can do something about it, then?

Don't think so. So long as there isn't the groundswell among the owners, and so long as the national baseball media continues to completely ignore issues of economic imbalance -- that's not a shot, it's a fact -- this won't change.

No franchise does everything right quite like the Cardinals, on and off the field. They're a model. The city of St. Louis itself might be the best baseball city in the country. But they couldn't keep the best player in the game.

But no, nothing's wrong with the system because, every once in a while, the Rays make the Yankees and Red Sox sweat.

SterlingCooperDraperPrice: Who do you see getting the most minutes, Birch or Taylor?

Dejan Kovacevic: What we've seen so far is that both Khem Birch and Dante Taylor have benefited from the competition you describe, so that's been good in and of itself. I also wouldn't mind seeing Jamie Dixon show flexibility and find ways to get both big men on the floor. Taylor obviously has played away from the hoop.

Could add a whole new -- and unexpected -- dimension that helps Dixon achieve his goal of lightening the load on Ashton Gibbs.

SterlingCooperDraperPrice: Would you take Pena or Lee?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes.

No, seriously, I'd take Derrek Lee. I really enjoy watching him play baseball.

Rich: What is your take on West Virginia University sports being covered by Pittsburgh media. As a WVU alum it seems to me like the coverage is reluctant. It is an odd situation, given that they are rivals to the main college sports program in town. What do you make of it• I will say I believe the Tribs coverage of WVU sports is the best.

Dejan Kovacevic: Sports editors' decisions about covering colleges has somewhat to do with the number of alumni in the area -- easily tracked -- but also with the general interest they drum up. The latter is one area where I wonder if West Virginia won't suffer in Pittsburgh. It sure helped people -- myself included -- to write about WVU when also doing so in the Pitt context. I've always felt it reached a broader readership.

When that's gone, or even if Pitt-WVU gets relegated to a non-conference game, WVU runs the risk of losing the only major market anywhere near Morgantown. Something to consider.

Carolina ZEB: With the move back to 4 divisions, can we name them: Norris, Smythe, Patrick and Adams• (Not ready for the Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr and Yzermans Divisions) #tradition

Dejan Kovacevic: These suggestions keep coming, and I have a feeling those looking for some kind of legacy names will be disappointed. If you're the Flyers, do you want to play in a conference named after the owner of a rival franchise• Even if you go with coaches (Toe Blake, Herb Brooks, Scotty Bowman, etc.), you'll never find anything approaching agreement.

Hey, why not sell them off to the highest bidder and add to the NHL's broader revenue pool?

Don't be mega-surprised if that happens. I predict the Air Canada Conference, the Tim Horton's Conference, the Bryan Adams Conference (he's still got to have some money left, right?) and the Terence & Phillip Conference.

Sean: I know there is no way to answer this but dont you think Sandusky's wife had to know he had problems• She is very quiet in all this and yet was there to bail him out today.

Dejan Kovacevic: Reading the accounts of Victims 9 and 10 yesterday had me considering that possibility even more than before. But innocent till proven guilty and all that.

SunPirate: DK, It looks like the NL Central will be a pretty mediocre lot of teams. It seems to be ripe for the taking next year. The Pirates, however, have chosen to even push limits of mediocrity. Why is there no interest in Carlos Pena for 1st base• Other than a low average he would seem to be a great fit, possibly as good as DLee. Stir things up a bit!

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, so much for the division of champions, huh?

Well, don't dismiss the Cardinals so quickly. That was a truckload of cash they had out there for Pujols and Prince Fielder is still available. Or they could move Lance Berkman to his natural position, first base, and go for outfield solutions.

The team that loses out today almost as much as the Cardinals is the Brewers. No chance they can end up in Fielder's stratosphere now.

Couple more today ...

Chris: Seeing how Despres is a natural fit once he becomes a little more physical, how is Shero planning on using him the remainder of the year• Also, I was told he can only play in 9 games without counting as a regular NHL salary. Would that include the playoffs?

Dejan Kovacevic: That's the same process as was the case with Joe Morrow, Chris. He's got nine games.

As for being more physical, let's not Kevin Hatcher him before he even gets started. Just because someone is a big body doesn't mean they play a big style. Despres' skill set is much more aimed at puck movement, sound positioning and the good shot than it is at being physical. Not to say he can't be physical. He can. But he brings other stuff.

Jandy: Dejan, you're so diplomatic, have you ever considered becoming a US diplomat• ;)

Dejan Kovacevic: My father was a diplomat, actually. But what do you mean?

Joey Bats: More likely to happen PACKERS undefeated...COLTS winless?

Dejan Kovacevic: Do NOT bet against the Packers. Man, that team is loaded.

brandon: hey DK, I'm a big fan or your work, quick question about the pirates. Do you think that puljols signing in LA will have any affect on what the pirates do in terms of extending McCutchen• I know they still have him under team control until like 2014 but you would think the pirates would hate to see a 'similar' scenario here right ?i'm not comparing cutch to puljols (and his 250 mil worthiness) at all i'm just simply asking for your thoughts. Thanks you

Dejan Kovacevic: The situations have nothing in common, including the stature of the two players. When Pujols was McCutchen's age, he already could have been inducted into the Hall. McCutchen is coming off a .259 season. But you seem to appreciate that.

No, it won't have any effect. In general, I'd look mostly at the fact that the Pirates have McCutchen under control through 2015 -- your year is wrong there -- and that there's no urgency of any kind.

JAL: Steelers-Browns and Pens-Flyers (also WVU-Kansas State) all on tonight--where should our main attention be?

Dejan Kovacevic: Mine will be at Heinz Field, obviously, as I cover all of the Steelers' games for our paper. But that's why The Great Comcast In The Sky made DVRs, right?

I will find it interesting, by the way, to see the comparable ratings between the Steelers and Penguins. There's something of a misperception among some in our town that the two are equals. Even with the Penguins having a very attractive matchup against a rival and Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot, the numbers will show that is not at all the case, I believe.

My columns appear Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The chat is Thursday. And the blog marches on like Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth. Thanks to all for participating!

Jandy: It was just a compliment. You're very good at handliing all the questions here, including the ones laced with hostility.

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, cool. Thanks!

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