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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript

| Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012

Dejan Kovacevic: Afternoon, all, and a fittingly gloomy one at that. Better get this chat going before I pull a pinky-finger muscle typing or something ...

Mike K: Has this been the worst week and a half ever for Pittsburgh sports• Both college & pro teams in football and hockey have been beat. Also college hoops have been terrible for both mens and womens at Duquesne, Pitt, and Robert Morris.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, and it's not even close. Those of us who remember Sid Bream sliding into home plate ... worse than David Volek, worse than Neil O'Donnell's picks, worse than Bob Moose's wild pitch, worse than anything. The city felt like it had just watched the death of a franchise, given baseball's messed-up economics.

And who's to say we were wrong?

Andrew T from Long Island: Bigger dissapointment, losing the Superbowl last year, or this years playoff loss?

Dejan Kovacevic: Seriously• People, some perspective is needed here.

This was a wild-card loss, and it was probably a loss by a group that was going to get creamed the following weekend in New England. Yeah, I know the Steelers took it to the Patriots during the season, but those Steelers had a pass rush and some semblance of offensive consistency. These Steelers didn't have it for the final few weeks.

Andrew T from Long Island: Biggest Steeler need for next season?

Dejan Kovacevic: Offensive line. Exclamation point.

Jim: So what do you make of Sid skating in Florida• Why didn't he stay in Pgh and skate• I believe he will not be skating with the team anyway. Seems strange to me.

Dejan Kovacevic: He wanted to be around the team. That and much, much more in my Crosby column running in the Trib tomorrow.

Andy: Don't get me wrong, I love LeBeau, but I feel like he's been above criticism. That final play (and much of the game) was LeBeau's scheme as much as Ike, Mundy, Troy, etc.

Dejan Kovacevic: You clearly didn't read what I had to write this week, Andy, including my Monday column from Denver in which I directly asked LeBeau about the lack of getting after Tim Tebow.

Andrew T from Long Island: Do you think the Pirates will add anyone more of significance• They surely could have afforded Maholm!

Dejan Kovacevic: They could have, and they chose not to, in large part because -- as I wrote i a news piece last week -- they're mostly settled on the roster. I might not like it, you might not like it, but they seem to.

espo33: Why is Sullivan buried on the 3rd line• He should be with Jeffrey and Dupius or TK on 2nd line.

Dejan Kovacevic: He's been really lousy five-on-five. Just crosses the blue line, pulls up and dishes off. Again and again. He's not creating much offense.

I like Sullivan. I was on record before the season as saying he'd contribute meaningfully. It would appear that was off the mark.

Chris Tamer: Dejan, Ray Shero is an excellent GM and we are certainly lucky to have him, however, do you think he has stuck with the "3 Center" model too long• Outside of James Neal, we've counted on the bulk of our scoring to come from the big 3, but with Staal and Sid out and Geno in the midst of another inconsistent season, do you believe it's time for Shero/Bylsma to sit down and think about reconstructing this team?

Dejan Kovacevic: As with most everything, Crosby's status dictates all. I didn't hear anyone talking about reconstructing the roster for that game or two when everybody was healthy and the Penguins looked loaded enough to go 82-0.

As for the scoring-winger thing, that's a meme that really needs to fade away. Count up the Penguins' scoring from the wings and match it against that of either teams. They do just fine, in the overall picture.

What ails this team right now is that their effort last night in Washington -- a really good one -- was the exception rather than the norm.

Ed from Delaware: Did R Mundy come down that far into "the box" on other plays last Sunday, or was that play the first and only time he did so• Has anybody gone back and studied the game film to see?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Steelers did have 10 in the box on other plays. On the decisive one, it's pretty clear on film that Mundy took a step too close to the line, mostly because you can see him backpedal immediately and violently in pursuit of Demaryius Thomas. He obviously never made up the ground, because he was out of the play by the time Thomas caught the ball.

By the way, Ike Taylor is probably delighted you're bringing up Mundy.

Carl: Good afternoon Dejan! Wow! Really with the Pitt basketball team. That was bad. Even if Birch was there, what happened to this team• Diod he see the writing obn the wall• Also, do you think the Steelers would bring Hines Ward back for $1 million or possibly less• Would he accept it to stay if they did?

Dejan Kovacevic: This Pitt team is ... wow. Anyone who says they saw this coming is lying. I mean, I didn't think they were No. 8 anything going into this season, but who could have imagined 12 field goals and 39 points in a HOME GAME against RUTGERS?

Or that Nasir Robinson would go without a bucket until midway through the second half!

Or that Ashton Gibbs would flat-out forget how to shoot!

Just look at that schedule, too, and the bad is about to get worse.

Tom: Dejan, what is the best reason you can think of to explain why the Steelers are bringing back Bruce Arians?

Dejan Kovacevic: Two words: Ben Roethlisberger.

Most NFL teams with a star quarterback tend not to overthink these things. The QB and his OC have to be on the same page. In Ben's case, being able to call his own shots and have heavy influence is part of that. Arians lets him have that.

Matt_Newport: Dejan, thanks for Sano Twitter pic, it was a nice stomach punch for Pirates fans. Looking at the NL Central, the Pirates' competition for 2012 has been significantly weakened with the losses of Pujols, Fielder, and Braun (50 game suspension). I believe this is why I am particularly disappointed with the Pirates' offseason moves. Adding a good starting pitcher and 1B would make the team much more competitive. The Reds recognize the division is down and acquired Latos, Madsen, and Marshall to make a run for it. Why don't the Pirates do something similar?

Dejan Kovacevic: You're welcome on Sano. I'm pretty sure I'll let go of that topic ... um, never.

The Reds kind of go for broke every year, so I'm not sure they responded to a weakening Central. I'm with you, of course, that the division appears to have taken a step backward, but I wouldn't have that dictate my team's moves if I'm the Pirates at this stage, with so many question marks still.

That said, I still get the feeling that the Pirates might forever lack that aggressive backbone when the time comes that they really need it. Prudent is wonderful at certain stages, but at some point risks are needed.

James_Miami: Do you see Pedro Alvarez finally hitting 30 home runs this year• I am predicting .240 30+ home runs.

Dejan Kovacevic: Thirty?

How about five just to upgrade over last year?

Our Rob Biertempfel reported this morning from Bradenton that Alvarez looks good in all facets. Check his blog , and you'll see video, too.

We'll see if that means anything.

Rich: Hi Dejan on the Steelers as a whole do they cut veterans revampwith FA'S or go thru the draft to rebuild.

Dejan Kovacevic: All addressed in the Wednesday column , Rich. No rebuild necessary.

Mike: DK, In your article yesterday you wrote the Steelers need to make the tough call on the aging veterans, Do you believe Tomlim can make these "emotionless" decisions or do you think his hand might need to forced?

Dejan Kovacevic: People seem to forget, but we watched Tomlin bench most of the players in question at various points in the season. That had to be tough, too. I think he can -- and should -- do it. Never mind the cap. Never mind the roster spots. This team needs to lower its average age.

Chris: Couldn't agree more with the wounded Steelers standing no chance against the Patriots had they won. Who do you think will represent the AFC in the superbowl?

Dejan Kovacevic: It really should be Baltimore. They're more well-rounded than New England and have an infinitely superior pass defense.

But then, the words "Super Bowl" and "Joe Flacco" don't exactly mesh well in the same sentence, do they?

Joel: What is your opinion of the NHL's policy for length of suspensions being based on the initial assessment of how injured a player is• Kris Letang came back into the game he was hurt, which even factored into Shanahan's video explanation of the suspension given. Here we are 17 games later with him out, and that hit is the sole directly attributable reason.

Dejan Kovacevic: Glad you brought that up: It's preposterous, irrelevant, inconsistent with other applications of NHL rules, and it's surprising to me more people aren't discussing it. Every time I hear Brendan Shanahan cite that on those videos, I'm surprised.

A foul is a foul, regardless of the level of injury. And I say that both ways. If a player is seriously injured as the result of a barely illegal penalty, should he be punished more?

Did you see what Marc Savard tweeted the other day?

He suggested 10 games for a head hit, no questions asked, no gray area.

Sounds right. If nothing else, it would end all these silly, arbitrary suspensions and all the debates about those suspensions.

Mr. Negative: Who will win a game next, the Steelers or the Penguins?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Penguins will win in Florida tomorrow. They had a terrific effort, I thought, in D.C., and that's usually the precursor to ending a long losing streak.

David in Ross: Bottom line. Pens make the playoffs??

Dejan Kovacevic: Won't be easy. Check my blog today for an item about the other teams in that mix.

Puma34: Dejan: I enjoy your work on the Sunday Night Sports Talk shows. Question: Are those filmed live, or recorded slightly earlier• Just wondering... my job doesn't often take me to midnight!

Dejan Kovacevic: The KDKA "Showdown," which I assume you're referencing, is usually taped around 8 p.m., though there are times when it will go live if there's a key Sunday night event that needs to be discussed.

I'll be on this week, by the way, along with Paul Zeise and Bob Smizik. I'll be the really angry one shouting the whole time!

Russ: If the Penguins losing ways continue into February, do you see Bylsma's job in jeopardy• Currently the parallels between his situation and Therrien's before his firing are eerily similar so far.

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolutely not.

BigNick: Dejan, so you see any new team policies regarding social networking coming soon for any of our local teams. I know its not a huge deal but could be entertaining for us (aka Pouncey)

Dejan Kovacevic: You would think the Steelers would entertain one. Maurkice Pouncey isn't the only who's gone way over the line this year. The Pirates clearly have gotten control of their situation, and the Penguins barely have any players participating, so it's not as big an issue.

Tim: Will C Hampton, J Farrior and M Starks all return next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hampton will for sure, though he'll probably be negotiated down in price. Farrior might not. And Starks is a UFA coming off what's now an ugly injury, so that's a tougher call. But would you want to be the Steelers' front office and make the same mistake over consecutive summers in letting Max sit?

steelerfaninatl: So it seems Geno at times plays sloppy, that little thing he does where he once in the offensive zone leaves the puck behind him in "hopes" that a teammate will peck it up, sorta like Kovey would do. Problem is is seems to result in a turn over as much as a scoring chance. Is he being to fancy at times?

Dejan Kovacevic: Malkin loves the trailer. I bet if you add up all the passes he's made this season, the guy who's gotten more than anyone would be Deryk Engelland.

That said, the problem you're citing from last night wasn't the drop pass. It's that he repeatedly skated into the Capitals' zone right into four players, then tried to dish off laterally. If that works, it's great. You spring a winger. If it doesn't, well, you saw that, too.

Jared: Dejan do you think you could deliver a message to Bob Nutting for me next time you see him?

Dejan Kovacevic: Boy, do I miss getting 50 of these a day.

Al: are you from Serbia ?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Parents hailed from Serbia.

Chris: I am a Pittsburgh native who has now lived in Chicago for 13 years. I still keep up with all things Pittsburgh sports and love your columns and chats. For some reason James Farrior's wink and a smile after losing the coin toss continues to stick in my head from Sunday, amongst other moments(!). I know his abilities are diminishing but that moment made me question his intensity as well. Are we missing a defensive emotional leader• None seem to jump out play-to-play, game-to-game.

Dejan Kovacevic: First off, I appreciate the kind words.

Second, you are way, way reaching there. One thing that younger players seek in veterans in times like that is being calm. I was too high up in the press box to see the "wink" you're describing, but I know that Farrior has been the unquestioned leader of the defense, and that demeanor is part of the reason for it.

Rich P: Just read the bucco blog...He mentions Karstens. I'm so excited to see what he can do being stretched out all spring. Any guesses for a final tally for him if he stays healthy?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'm a Karstens guy all the way. Have been for years, as longtime readers know. Karstens told me at PirateFest he was planning to bulk up and, after I finally stopped laughing, he clarified that he is doing specialized strengthening exercises on his arm, shoulder and entire upper body aimed at being durable enough for 32 starts. It's a really big deal for him.

I didn't see a fluke with Karstens last year. I saw a guy who can pitch.

steelerfaninatl: Is Tanger even close to coming back?

Dejan Kovacevic: No. Kris Letang is skating again but, just like Crosby, he'll have to go through the whole cycle of full-contact practices before being cleared for games.

GGGswim: The infamous OT play....Hoge on ESPN analyzed the play and thought, despite Mundy creeping in too close, believed that was a run support move and in that case the CB should be 1) bailing out, and 2) forcing any WR to outside. In other words, though Mundy made a 1-step mistake, it really is all on Taylor to not let his bruised ego get the best of him and play w/in the D. Opinion?

Dejan Kovacevic: Two-fold opinion:

Merril Hoge and I had a long talk on a wide variety of topics last week in Denver, and I'm highly impressed not only with his knowledge but also his candor and strength of opinion. Not everyone on those types of shows has the fortitude to say what he does, particularly about players.

Two, it sure would be nice if Taylor acknowledged that rather than allowing Mundy to stand there for 20 minutes in Denver -- no more than 6 feet away -- and take all the blame himself.

James_Miami: Who steps in as leader of the defense with James Farrior likely to be gone next year• Do you see the Steelers signing a mid-tier ILB to replace Farrior• We all know the Steelers won't make any splash signings.

Dejan Kovacevic: 1. James Harrison.

2. Sounds right. You certainly wouldn't hand a Stevenson Sylvester a starting job.

3. No, they will not.

BigNick: Ike has been a subpar corner most of his career and the lack of the Steelers seeing and replacing him are beyond me

Dejan Kovacevic: You might want to check our Mark Kaboly's blog entry last night on Ike's overall season before throwing Ike out with the bath water.

alex: what is up with Brent Johnson this year• the past two years he has been the best back up goalie behind Tukka Rask and now this year has has just completely fallen apart. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Anytime a backup gets into a rut, the only way out of it is to get him a couple starts in a week. Obviously, the Penguins have higher priorities right now than making Johnson feel good. Even with the day between the two Florida games this weekend, I'd expect Marc-Andre Fleury to start both.

steelerfaninatl: If Cotchery leaves, and Hines takes a big enough pay cut, Do the Steelers keep Ward as a player/coach

Dejan Kovacevic: There is no player/coach in football, to my knowledge, but if you mean symbolically ... jeez, I hope not. This isn't as much about Cotchery to me as it is about using your whole 53-man roster the right way. Generally speaking, the deeper you go on your wide receiver depth chart, the more you prioritize special teams, gunners and the like. You know, Arnaz Battle.

If Cotchery goes, it won't be Ward that replaces him.

JamesinNYC: What do you think of PSU finally getting a coach, do you think he is the right guy?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ask me when he's done coaching the Patriots.

Matt_Newport: The 4th WR spot on the Steelers is getting too much discussion, Cotchery had 237 yards receiving all season.

Dejan Kovacevic: Cotchery was pretty good as he got used more often, Matt. Remember, he started off hurt. Down the stretch, he was one of Ben's most dependable targets.

Honestly, if I'm Cotchery, I'm telling the Steelers that either I'm No. 3 or I'm gone. In which case, I'm gone.

T: Are the Pirates improved?

Dejan Kovacevic: They are not.

T: Bummer

Dejan Kovacevic: Hate to keep referring back to stuff I've already written, but I did a column on that topic a few days ago, how the Pirates really haven't achieved much this winter. So, rather than give a Cliff's Notes answer here, I think it's better to offer a link to something that gives you more.

Bottom line: Go around the diamond, and tell me where the Pirates upgraded since 2011.


Yeah, OK, but by how much?

Mr. Coffee: Will Therrien get another chance as an NHL head coach?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maybe Montreal will hire him just because he speaks French. Or the Habs can hire him to teach Randy Cunneyworth French.

What silliness that story is, huh?

bcgrey: Pitt is struggling in scoring points - why dont you move gibbs back to shooting guard & move johnson to point - your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This reinventing of Ashton Gibbs, while it might help his NBA draft stock, has achieved little more than eliminating his dominant positive trait. Enough of teaching him to distribute and shoot off the dribble. Let him do what he did for years: Stand there, wait for the ball and shoot.

No skill is more valuable in basketball. Why take it away?

LUKE: Did you see Ovechkin leave his feet to deliver the hit to Adams last night• I thought that was charging and warranted a power play.

Dejan Kovacevic: It is, and it does.

tk: If the Pens miss the playoffs, does Bylsma return next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes, absolutely.

Are people seriously discussing this somewhere?

Are people seriously that unaware of the Penguins' injury list?

societyred: was the production of mike wallace down because of browns increasing or was brown's production up because of secondaries focusing on wallace?

Dejan Kovacevic: I was in Wallace's corner in the days leading up to Denver, up to and including writing a column specifically on that topic. Well, the Steelers did go out and get the ball to Wallace against the Broncos, and he did very little with his chances.

Seems wrong to pin that on Antonio Brown's uptick in production. Wallace just wasn't getting it done.

Jamsey: Hey Dejan, I am from Montreal, and couldn't agree with more about the whole French thing. It shows that French Canadians would rather have someone speak French than win. A little racist IMO. But I do agree Therrien would fit in well there

Dejan Kovacevic: "Racist" is the wrong term, but I know what you mean.

One more for today ...

Mike: DK, you would think at some point MLB at the executive level would tell Nutting, "look fellas it's obvious your under capitalized, you need to sell the team for the good of the league and the Fans in Pgh

Dejan Kovacevic: Forty-eight more of these to go!

OK, let's try another one ...

Offseason woes: Chances that Nutting moves the Pirates after the lease is up?

Dejan Kovacevic: Forty-seven!

Mitch: As much as the Steelers Foundation has been on defense for a long time, do you see a passing of the torch to the offensive side• Spending the bulk of your money to protect ben, lockup wallace, and antonio after next season• Maybe model what teams like the saints have done?

Dejan Kovacevic: Your team strength in the NFL is always going to be where your most explosive players are. I don't think anyone can question that the Steelers' overall strongest suit is at quarterback and wide receiver, without separating the two.

I don't know that this means they have to model anything, though. They're the Steelers. Their model is just fine. They just need some fresher parts to make it work again.

Thanks to all for participating. The column runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the blog is like Dwayne Roloson in that it never sleeps, never retires.

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