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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Steelers’ changing of guard?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Monday column is on the Steelers’ Aaron Smith.

I really look forward to your feedback on this.

>> Was there a changing of the guard at wide receiver?

Not really. Hines Ward was injured, but it was clear that Bruce Arians and Ben Roethlisberger were aiming to get Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders more involved in the offense.

They did so with very good results, obviously, but show me what they do against New England and Baltimore before we get serious about some change.

>> Best observation of the day was shared with me by Craig Wolfley, lineman turned commentator. Wolfley watched the entry of Corbin Bryant into his first NFL game for his first NFL snap and noticed — just as Bryant went into the down position — that Bryant’s left leg was trembling.

“Reminds me of my first NFL play,” Wolfley said. “I wanted so badly to be out there, was so excited that I missed my guy by a mile and went down on my face. Good for Corbin. You should be nervous out there the first time. It tells me he was excited.”

Bryant was signed off the practice squad after Smith went on IR.

>> The ending to the Michigan State game was great. Really was. But man alive, let’s cool it with the “historic” and “miracle” hyperbole.

Focusing just on the finish, we’re talking about a 44-yard touchdown pass that decided what had been a tied game, and that pass bounced off the initial receiver’s face. It was not a great athletic play, it lacked the drama of an actual comeback, and it doesn’t come within the same solar system as Kordell Stewart throwing that Colorado pass 73 yards in the air a few years back.

Again, great finish. Not historic. Let’s take a deep breath.

>> James Neal finally scored on a high shot Saturday, sadly ending a run of scoring all seven goals on low shots. It was the right thing to do, though. Always, always shoot high on Johan Hedberg, even if it’s right between the Moose antlers.

>> I’ll be heading home tonight from this Manitoba/Minnesota/Arizona journey, but not before I check in with TribLIVE radio at 12:45 p.m. your time.


  1. pghboyinca says:

    Antonio Brown is clearly the second most feared weapon in Bens arsenal, he needs to be on the field as much as possible. The Steelers can’t run even when Ward is in there so his blocking value is diminished. I’d like to see Ward be the 3rd wide receiver, it is time to pass the torch.

  2. JAL says:

    JAL’s Travelin’ Man Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3- 2011-12 Pirates Prospects Off-Season Calendar

    4 Pirate Offseason Stats

  3. JAL says:

    10 Fort Worth Star Telegram

    Holland steps up when Texas Rangers need it most

    Derek Holland, Mike Napoli make history, now it’s up to C.J.

    Grown-up Holland pitches the game of his life


    11 Rant Sports

    What the Pirates Should Do With Catchers’ Options: Part 1

  4. Officer Mancuso says:

    Awesome Monday column.

    DK: Thanks, OM.

  5. Absolute59 says:

    Dk: Great article.

    DK: Gracias.

  6. Drew71 says:

    Nice article. Better player. One of the best over the past decade, for any team not just Steelers.

    Steelers are beating the mediocre and bad teams and so far losing to the very good teams. Still early but they “feel” like a playoff – but not a championship – team.

    That said, this feels eerily like Cowher’s 2005 team that won, in Feb 2006, Super Bowl XL against Seattle in Detroit. they were 7-5 after losing to the good teams and beating the bad ones, and had to win the final 4 regular season games just to make the playoffs. They were at mid season point far from the best team in football…and as with Aaron Smith, that team had an inspirational player, Jerome Bettis, for whom they wanted to win a SB in his hometown.

    That is NOT a prediction. Just “circumstantial evidence” but interesting similarities.

  7. CWalton_67 says:

    Some of your best work is done on player profiles, DK, and this is no exception. Very nice read on Aaron Smith. Seems to me that Aaron Smith, the man, is what made Aaron Smith, the great player. This is unlike so many other celebrated athletes, who possess unlimited athletic ability, but lack the character to go with it. (Wonder how many laptops have disappeared in Charlotte this year?)

    Devoutly hoping the Steelers find a way to keep him around and involved. It’s too bad that his career will likely end this way, but having suffered a severe neck injury, I can sympathize. The pain can be enormous. Good luck, Aaron.

    DK: Appreciate it.

  8. JoeBucco says:

    Thanks for saying just “a few years back” in describing the Kordell pass. Makes me feel less old. Saying over 17 years ago would have been really depressing to hear this morning. :)

  9. pgherinfl says:

    Excellent article Dejan. Of course, I expect nothing less from you. I’ve followed you since the other papers days to here now. Keep up the great work!!!

    DK: Thank you. That’s very kind.

  10. Dan says:

    Fantastic column, Dejan. I think it’s good that the Steelers’ defense is dedicating the season to him – we all know what happened when the team did that for Bettis in ’05 – however Ryan Clark said it best when he said that Aaron Smith deserves a better ending than this.

    Had the pleasure of meeting him a few times. Awesome guy, extremely nice. I wish him the best and hope he finds a way to stay around the team. Future D-Line coach??

  11. JAL says:

    Very enjoyable article. Smith was a great player but all careers eventually come to an end.

  12. leefoo says:

    Just getting around to reading here. I have to agree with everyone else that has complemented you Dejan on that article about Aaron Smith.

    We just had a great guy here who left because of a well deserved promotion. If it is anywhere close to the feeling the Steelers had for Smith then it has to be hugely emotional.



  13. leefoo says:

    JAL……..Aaron’s career may end, but his influential personna won’t. And THAT is the most important.



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