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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Limp for your life, Ben!

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> Don’t play Sunday, Ben! Limp for your life!

Remains to be seen, of course, if Roethlisberger will. More should be known today.

>> Only the final portions of the Steelers’ practices are seen by the media, but it still could make for some telling stuff. If Mike Tomlin was serious Sunday in Houston — and he sure sounded that way — that the team’s problems are limited to some fundamentals, then I’d imagine we’ll see as many fire-breathing, full-contact drills on the South Side as the new labor agreement will allow.

>> I enjoyed watching Joe Morrow in the Penguins’ camp as much as anyone. Kid skates upright, smoothly and confidently, in the mold of Scott Niedermayer. Moves the puck effortlessly. Shoots like a rocket. But there’s an awful lot that goes into being an NHL defenseman, more than any position, and it’s only fair to Morrow’s development that he learns the right way.

Morrow told me in St. Paul the day he was drafted that he has work to do in his own end, and there were signs of that in camp. If that had been exacerbated even in the scope of nine games — the maximum he could play without things getting messy — it would have turned a positive experience here into a negative.

>> It’s about time the Penguins had a recent draft pick raise some eyebrows, huh?

I’ve never understood why the team’s drafts of late have received so little criticism. Simon Despres looks promising, but they haven’t been great classes.

>> Remember all the times I’ve referenced the Pirates not having many hitting prospects?

Here’s what Baseball America has so far on their individual league lists, along with analysis by Bucs Dugout’s Charlie Wilmoth. Please note, as Charlie does, that Class AAA and AA lists still have to come out.

Oh, and also note that Robbie Grossman, the Pirates’ choice as minor-league player of the year over Starling Marte, did not make the Florida State League list. Yet another sign that management chose Grossman to serve their own purposes, in this one view.

>> Still no word on those offensive line tryouts.


  1. Naje says:

    Talk about conspiracy theories… DK, it’s a minor league player of the year award. Wow. Grossman put up great numbers; so did Marte. Axe to grind over this?

  2. leefoo says:

    Wow! Looking at the front of the Sports Page and according to the Trib, there are NO Baseball playoffs. Not one headline, unless my caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet and I missed it.


    Naje…….I agree with you 100%. Not sure where Dejan came up with that conspiracy theory. Maybe its because DK writes for BA, they’re the ‘Gods’ of this stuff? Who knows how close the voting was. Besides, it means nothing towards their prospect status. Didn’t Walter Young win it one year? In fact, without looking it up, who the heck remembers who the last 5 winners were? :)


    The Steelers are in BIG trouble. The OL and Defense are a mess.
    Is it fixable? I doubt it.


  3. JAL says:

    JAL’s Just One Look Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3- 2011-12 Pirates Prospects Off-Season Calendar

  4. JAL says:


    4—Pirates Prospects

    Team USA Falls To Puerto Rico, As Mercer Helps In 9th Inning Rally
    5 McEffect

    Yankees Lose

    Justin Verlander 10/3 Pitch F/X

    6 Hyzdu Headquarters

    What Do We Have: Bullpen

    7 Raise the Jolly Roger

    2011 Season Recap Video

    8 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Caffeine: Mulling New Medical Options

  5. JAL says:


    10 USA Today

    Cardinals’ Tony La Russa an exception to managerial rule

    11 Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

    Hometown pros, October 4

    12 WV Metro News

    Making the Baseball Playoffs Relevant

    13 Chronicle Herald

    Brewers’ Morgan keeps team loose with crazy antics

  6. JAL says:

    14 Detroit Free Press

    Michael Rosenberg: Justin Verlander doesn’t dominate, but he shows guts in win

    Mitch Albom: Tigers leap ahead in series on Young’s homer

    15 NY Daily News

    Yankees’ Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez struggling in ALDS as Bombers in 2-1 series hole

    16 St. Petersburg Times

    Tampa Bay Rays lose 4-3 in Game 3 of ALDS to Texas Rangers, face must-win on Tuesday


    17—PBC Site

    Year of growth nets McCutchen Aaron nod

  7. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers Vs. Texans: 10 Story Lines That Aren’t Being Discussed

    Steelers Rashard Mendenhall: Dancing Too Much? Not So Fast!

    -Steeler Depot

    11 Years of Steeler Turnover Differential

    -Steelers Gab

    Mendenhall’s Hamstring Injury Doesn’t Appear Too Serious

  8. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    Pitt Blather

    Expansiopocolypse: Indecisiveness Reigns

    Cardiac Hill

    A Student’s Perspective: Despite Poor Attendance, Pitt Shines Against South Florida

    WVU Blogs

    Gold and Blue Blog

    WVU Jumps to #16 in AP Poll, #19 in Coaches

    WV Illustrated

    Kevin Jones on Preseason Wooden Award List



    Pittsburgh Trims Active Roster to 23

  9. JUCOFan says:

    Sadly the Yankees win top prospect in the GCL and NYPL, while Taillon places 4th in the SAL, behind two shortstops, no less.

  10. leefoo says:

    While these Top Prospect lists are wonderful and make for fun conversation, just remember that Brandon Wood and Pedro were once Top 10 overall prospects.

  11. popsfan says:

    How long now has it been that the Steelers have had a weak O-line? Seems like a decade, at least. The crispness with which the whole team used to execute has been in decline for half that. The Steelers seem poised to regress into just an average franchise, not the perennial contender to which we have become accustomed.

  12. Bucco_Jax says:

    Saw alot of chatter on Twitter and FB last night about WVU possibly jumping to the SEC and that their is some sort of annoucement today. Anyone heard heads or tails of this?

  13. popsfan says:

    Don’t get me started on the Pirates.

  14. JAL says:


    Here is an article on WVU and the SEC but no official word yet

    Source: Eers are In

  15. leefoo says:

    I wonder if WVU goes to the SEC, if the Backyard Brawl will come to an end?

  16. leefoo says:

    JAL……..why the “Just one look” title?

    Never liked that song, but………..:)

  17. Drew71 says:

    pops – is it my imagination, or does THIS set of Steelers’ GM-Coach seem to prioritize O Line lower than the matching management of the 90s-early 2000?

    Maybe that’s not fair or selective memory. After all, they drafted what appears to be an outstanding Center with last year’s #1 pick. And this year, they have had early and multiple injuries.

    But somehow the emphasis SEEMS to be less, at least to this observer.

    So what to do about it? Dunno. But I can highlight what I think they should NOT do:
    – Do NOT reach with the draft. THAT is how you end up with players like Troy Edwards. That is how OTHER teams wonder why they are mediocre after years of need-drafting reach-picks.
    – So I’ll give this regime credit for NOT reaching. But that does not give a blanket excuse for not addressing.

    That last sentence was too negative. I give this management team the benefit of the doubt. Three Super Bowls in six years, winning two. And playoffs most years.

    And consider how good the coaching was last year: They made it to the Super Bowl with a relatively weak O Line and secondary. That says something.

    So I am all over the place with this post. Let me finish with this, my expectations:

    1) Of COURSE they are going to point to “fundamentals”. it’s mid season. That is GOOD COACHING. Don’t allow for other excuses, NO MATTER HOW VALID that those excuses might be. That is how the Steelers MAKE it to the Super Bowl with some glaring holes. Players hear accountability and accept it. Players Play Up. Great coaching. Therefore, I EXPECT THEM to focus on PLAYING BETTER rather than trying out players who can’t make other teams (more mediocrity). During the season, FOCUS ON PLAYING BETTER.

    2) AFTER the season: Get this solved. They drafted a potentially great Center a year ago. MY OFF SEASON EXPECTATION: find a way to get another excellent offensive lineman. Then, they are anchored by TWO, umm, anchors rather than one. Few O Lines, even excellent ones, are made up of 5 HoFers. Maybe none. With Excellent lines, there are usually a couple of outstanding linemen anchoring a couple of solid but not spectacular players. ONE MORE ANCHOR and suddenly this line is much, much better. But you won’t find him NOW.

  18. JAL says:

    Mister Foo

    Because sometimes posters take Just One Look and make evaluations

  19. JAL says:


    As you point out, they did draft a top center. He is the only offensive lineman they have drafted in round 1 since they took Alan Faneca back in 1998. I would call that neglect of the o-line.

  20. Drew71 says:

    Foo – Not sure that when the dust of blown up conferences settle, that a solid conference such as the SEC, or the ACC for that matter, would take WVU when it does not bring a media market, a huge national following (think TV ratings), lots of local prospects, and it adds difficultly and expensive for travel.

    I don’t mean ANY of that to be disparaging to WVU. In fact it is intended as a compliment. I hold WVU in high regard for succeeding so often despite not having the advantages of some other schools.

    Something tells me that WVU will be USED by conferences such as the SEC or ACC, to put pressure on other schools they are targeting to apply and trump WVU. (“Just one/two slot[s] left and we’re about to give it away to WVU.”)

  21. Drew71 says:

    JAL – lost your NOT key again.

    Yes, I may be overreacting. Just my sense. And while I won’t go back and look, I wonder how many 2-7 picks (and especially 2-4) that they have made over the past five years vs earlier. It is not always about #1s.

    I am comparing the two eras of Cowher and Tomlin (and corresponding GMs, though they don’t line up perfectly evenly with the coaches). So about those #1s:

    – The Post-Noll years began with the 92 draft. From 92 through 98, the Steelers picked THREE offensive linemen. (Two worked out.) The three: Searcy, Faneca and Stephens.
    – It has only been five years of this combined regime’s drafts, and they have drafted one OL.

    Probably not long enough to compare. Just saying, I have a sense. Without the 2-7 comparison, and without a few more years to see what this regime does over the long haul, that sense is really what I am basing it on.

    But my ‘senses’ also, as noted, give this organization all the benefit of the doubt in the world. And if this current team does NOT make the playoffs, I will still say that the last off season, leading into this season, was terrific for the LONG haul considering all the guys they locked up.

  22. Bucco_Jax says:

    Foo – They play Marshall every year for a trophy as a matter of state pride, the Brawl could fall into that sort of category, but then again Pitt and Penn State were supposed to rekindle their former rivalry as well, and the move to the ACC may put a wrench in that as well.

  23. Milo Hamilton says:


    “a matter of state pride” ? Hardly. WVU is forced to play that game. They can’t wait to get rid of it.

  24. leefoo says:

    Bucco_Jax………I thought of that PSU/Pitt rivalry also. Maybe $$$ and pride/ego trump all?


    Re: the OL…….actually, I think we would’ve been in good shape this year if not for injuries. We would’ve had:

    LT – Starks
    LG – Kemo
    C – Pouncey
    RG – Legursky, Foster, et al
    RT – Colon

    That line would’ve gotten the job done, imho.

    They then could’ve brought Gilbert along slowly.

    So, it is just not the draft. Btw, Urbik (who was drafted) was supposed to be a top notch OL. In fact, he IS starting in Buffalo, I think. He would’ve looked good at RG.

    Oh well.

    Btw, how many of our Super Bowl Teams of the 70s off lines were 1st round picks? Off the top of my head, only Ray Pinney. Kolb and Webster weren’t.


  25. Arriba Wilver says:

    The O line in drafts? It’s hard to argue with the 3 Superbowl appearances since they last drafted Faneca, and I believe two of those appearances were without Faneca. That’s a confusing way of saying I agree with Drew on this one.

    I could be wrong, but I think DK’s reference to Grossman over Marte is a suggestion that they picked “their guy” over someone who was there when they got here. BA not having Marte, I believe, is irrelevant in this because the BA lists don’t include his minor league level yet. I think the point was that BA didn’t have the guy the Pirates picked as minor league player of the year in their top prospects. And I suspect that BA will have Marte listed high when those rankings come out. On the other hand, maybe DK just listed it to tick off the “all trades were good” crowd. Apparently, in that view, it worked, Lee (Neal is god) Foo. :-)

  26. JAL says:


    Yes, WVU has no desire to play marshall. It is a no-win game for WVU.

  27. Drew71 says:

    Arriba – I am not sure EYE agree with me.

    In reality, I’m struggling to make sense of this. Foo makes a good point re: injuries decimating the line THIS year. A counter to that is that I don’t think the line was a STRENGTH last year. I think they succeeded despite an OK line. OK. Not a strength. Not terrible. At least that is my perception.

    I am still struggling to identify the problem let alone the answer. And I give the Steelers credit for not panicking, for focusing on improving performance during the season, and not seeking the mediocre answers that many other teams seek…and fail with.

  28. Arriba Wilver says:

    I guess what I was agreeing with was the not reaching in the draft and that the success speaks for itself. And I do agree Foo has a point with the injuries.

  29. leefoo says:

    AW……..what’s your frikkin point? Huhn? Huhn?

    Why would Mr K write something JUST to stir things up?

    Huhn? Huhn?

    (btw, your thought never occurred to me…….I seriously had no idea who signed Marte)

    Unsigned Foo (and NH IS God… heathen).


  30. Mosca says:

    popsfan, the last great O line was ’05:

    Marvel Smith
    Alan Faneca
    Jeff Hartings
    Kendall Simmons
    Max Starks

    Faneca and Hartings were Pro Bowl, Faneca was first team All Pro.

  31. leefoo says:

    Mosca……..awwwwwwww…..the memories.

  32. Bucco_Jax says:


    I am aware of the disdain for the WVU-Marshall matchup. Sarcasm was implied in my statement.

  33. Milo Hamilton says:


    Sorry I couldn’t read your mind today.

  34. DMac says:

    Blogs sometimes need a sarcasm button. ;-)

  35. CWalton_67 says:

    Agree on Morrow and Despres. Certainly top 4 d-men of the future. Would be interested in your opinion on Brian Strait and Carl Bortuzzo? Are these guys legitimate threats to play for Pens or trade chips? I remain unconvinced that Lovejoy is anything more than filler and Niskanen, despite a pretty good pre-season, is a head case who will never live up to unrealistic expectations.

    Even with the pre-season wins, I think this team may struggle a bit with consistency in the early going. If they can get Orpik and Sid healthy, and settle their lines, we could see a long run in the playoffs. Cup? Always depends on staying healthy…

  36. JAL says:

    Harrison out Sunday, surgery to repair broken orbital bone around his right eye

  37. Arriba Wilver says:

    DMac–I’ve been waiting for YEARS for that “sarcasm” button. ;-)

    Foo- in that vein, I think the voting for the Pirates’ minor league player of the year was unanimous. Frank, Neal and Kyle Stark all voted for Grossman. :-) :-) :-)

  38. Bucco_Jax says:

    No worries, it’s might fault for not noting it.


    On Harrison: I’m surprised the league hasn’t fined him for breaking his own eye bone yet. What’s that gonna set him back? 20-30K?

  39. Milo Hamilton says:

    This note is delicious on so many levels:

    Major League Baseball has fined Cards manager Tony LaRussa for comments he made during an in-game interview during Game 2 vs. Philly. He said that umpire Jerry Meals, “had two different strike zones”.

  40. Arriba Wilver says:

    You’re right, Milo. Who do you hate in a battle between Meals and LaRussa? But I’m guessing Tony felt the fine was worth it, at least after he retired to his coffin to get some daytime sleep.

  41. Jandy says:

    CWalton ~ a lot of people said that Rob Scuderi was worthless too.

    As for Niskanen, I will wait for the first 10 – 15 games of the season to see where his head is.

  42. Naje says:

    AW and Drew-
    One of the big differences in offensive linemen under Cower and his offensive coordinators and Tomlin and Arians is that the former demanded strong, straight-ahead blockers and the latter’s offense seems to draft a lot of “patty-cakers”… guys that just play patty-cake with a pass rusher and when it comes time to drive block, well, let’s just say they get blown off the line of scrimmage quite often.

    Since taking over the offense in ’07, Arians and crew have had a very, very difficult time of getting one yard when they need it most… too many of those short yardage plays get blown up or he tries something other than winning with power.. too many influence blocks and misdirection plays.

    I think it’s a big difference in philosophy from Cower-era OC’s to the current Tomlin-Arians combo…and most of that philosophy comes directly from Arians and his excessively coddled boy Roethlisberger. (who definitely possesses hall of fame talent… just take away his notion of how to call plays…please)

  43. JAL says:

    Robbie Grossman starts the AFL season off with a single to center on 2-1 pitch

  44. Naje says:

    Thanks, jal… not sure he was a legitimate PBC minor league player of the year this year to some, but leadoff hitters in the minors who rack for 144 hits, score 127 runs and draw 104 walks with an OBP of .418 and and OPS of .869, well, those numbers look fairly worthy of minor league player of the year types to me…

  45. JAL says:

    Grossman hits 2 run homer in 3rd as Mesa scores 5 to take a 5-3 lead

  46. JAL says:

    Grossman walks 3rd time up.

  47. AJS says:

    Totally unrelated topic to anything being talked about but…

    Anyone else NOT surprised that Jerry Meals was behind the plate when LaRussa accused the ump of having two strike zones? Meals is having sucha great season as an ump. Remembering back tot he 19th inning hose job, Meals through the Braves manager out for arguing about balls and strikes and different strike zones for each team. And I agreed with him. It was the most inconsistent strike zone I had ever seen.

    And then to top it off he blows one of the most obvious calls ever.

    Why is he even allowed to be on the field for a playoff series???

  48. AJS says:


    It is the difference between a run first and pass first offesne. When you are run first you pick drive ahead blockers. When you pass first you pick guys who attempt to push guys around and get in the defenders way long enough to get a pass off. This line can do neither.

    ben doesn’t help the matter with the way he likes to scramble. It is hard to play like that when the line can’t hold their blocks. he is going to have to start throwing a few more away and taking less big sacks that turn into fumbles. This is not an indictment of the way Ben plays. You take the good with the bad with him.

    You may argue that if the line could hold their blocks he wouldn’t have to scramble, which may be true, but I’ve never seen im get hit from behind after starting to scramble as often as he has this year and that has to come back to the line in some way.

  49. Naje says:

    AJS – my points exactly about the run first v pass first offenses. But being able to run block is a lost art with this offensive line. Really, it takes at least three seconds to run that counter trap with Kemoeatu pulling… in essence, it’s a play-action-run because it is run that slowly… and all it takes is one sloppy, slow, lazy step from one of 8 guys on the offense to make run plays get blown up. It takes a lot of time and reps for a line to get comfortable together, to trust each other. It takes even more for them to get comfy with their running back(s) and their styles of running. One thing is very clear: this current offensive line does not trust Mendy and Mendy does not trust them… they are not working for each other at all.

    As for Roethlisberger… well, I’ll save that for another time.

  50. JAL says:


    Phoenix 12 Mesa 8

    Grossman went 2-4 with a homer, run scored, 2 RBI, 1BB 1 K

    Cunningham was 0-4 with 1 K

    Irwin went 2.1 innings with 3 hits, 2 runs, 2 HR, 0 BB 0K

    Looks like a hitters league–in the other day game Salt River lead Peoria 11-8 in the 9th

  51. CWalton_67 says:

    @Jandy–I didn’t say Lovejoy was worthless. Just that I am unconvinced about his ability to contribute. And I agree–the jury was out for a while on Scuds as well, but he turned out to be solid. As for Niskanen, we had another guy who had confidence issues who is now playing for NYR. I get the same kind of feeling with Niskanen–too fragile mentally.

  52. TS says:

    The fact that Ritchie is still the Pirates hitting coach tells you all you need to no about this f-ing franchise and their “accountability.”

  53. Milo Hamilton says:

    C’mon TS, they fired the trainers, didn’t they ? I hear Tony Bartirome’s available.

  54. JAL says:

    Didn’t see enough to know one way or the other. Team had higher BA, scored more runs, had higher OBP than 2010 team. Ritchie had a constantly changing group to work with due to injuries. Can”t turn a sows ear into a silk purse.

  55. Jandy says:

    CWalton, I didn’t imply that you said he was worthless. =) I’m just saying, Lovejoy is solid defensively and he’s rather young yet. Niskanen may well be having a fluke good preseason. I’ll decide on him after a few games.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m really looking forward to this season after al lthe injuries last season.

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