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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Credit Steelers’ corners

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>>My Monday column off the Steelers’ stirring victory over New England focuses on the Steelers looking a lot like themselves again. Well, here’s one part where they didn’t look much like their recent selves: Their cornerback play has been really good.

Ike Taylor has been hearing praise from all over the NFL, but the names never mentioned are those of William Gay, Keenan Lewis and now Cortez Allen, too. The latter two spent a little extra time on the field yesterday, and it’s generally considered a great thing when their names aren’t called.

Seems to be how they like it, too. This was an exchange I had yesterday with Gay …

Me: Will, how satisfying has this been, especially after so much concern about the Steelers at your position?

Gay: Media’s going to say what they want.

Me: Does it feel good to prove people wrong?

Gay: We’re 6-2.

Me: No, I mean individually.

Gay: We’re 6-2.

OK, so I saw where that was going. Athletes find motivation in many different forms, but the most common is the traditional chip on the shoulder.

Give Carnell Lake credit, too. He’s new at coaching the DBs. If someone had told you the Steelers would have the No. 1-rated pass defense in the NFL halfway into the season, you’d have nominated Lake for sainthood. (And not the kind that loses to the Rams, either.)

>> If anything could cheer up Pitt running back Ray Graham this week, it’s this: LeSean McCoy rushed for 185 yards and two TDs for the Eagles yesterday. If McCoy can do it, so will Graham. Similar backs.

>> If there is still anyone questioning the value of Jordan Staal to the Penguins, rewind your DVR to watch their penalty-killing Saturday night in Toronto. They went from the NHL’s best unit to that mess mostly for one reason.

>> What would it take for Albert Pujols to leave St. Louis now?

Really, when is enough enough?

The Cardinals already are known to have offered him something in the stratosphere of 10 years and $200 million, an astounding, borderline un-spend-able amount of money in a reasonable lifetime. All that, and he gets to stay in the place where he is most loved, where he clearly has a chance to contend year after year, where he has dug deep roots.

>> My weekly appearance on the online-only TribLIVE Radio is today at 11:30 a.m.


  1. pensfan says:

    Have to disagree with your comment regarding the Penguins penalty kill unit. “the mess” was for TWO reasons: 1) Zbynek Michalek and 2) Jordan Staal. Please give Z some credit. Dont forget the Pens PK was pretty darn good last year while Staal was on the injured reserve…

  2. pensfan says:

    Dejan, regarding the TribLIVE there a link where podcasts/shows are archived for later listening? I work and always seem to miss your segment.

    DK: Sure, here it is …

  3. pghboyinca says:

    Jordan Staal is inthe running for Pittsburghs most underrated athlete. Steeler corners were outstanding and receivers were just as good. Hines Ward being unable to paly was a BLESSING, not having to pretend that he is or second best reciever helps us tremendously. Opposing will be sending hteoir training staffs to Pittsburgh to help get him back ont he field and take snaps away form Antonio Brown. A defensive coordinator has nightmares facinghe Steeelrs with Brown and Wallace out wide, Sanders in the slot and Miller at tight end. Harrison needs to get better by next Sunday with Woodley out….

  4. JAL says:

    JAL’s Night Comes in Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3- 2011-12 Pirates Prospects Off-Season Calendar

    4 Pirate Offseason Stats

  5. JAL says:

    6 Bucs Dugout

    MLB Trade Rumors: Pirates Reportedly Likely To Non-Tender Garrett Jones, Could Pursue Jason Varitek

    7 Rumbunter

    Pirates Josh Bell Has Some Bills to Pay


    8 Des Moines Register

    Munson: ‘Field of Dreams’ to become baseball complex

  6. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Steelers Defensive Development on Full Display in Win Over Patriots

    Ben Roethlisberger Becomes Fourth Fastest to 75 Career Wins after Leading Steelers to 25-17 Win Over Patriots

    Steelers Dominate Patriots, Claim Top Spot In AFC With 25-17 Win

    -Steelers Depot

    Steelers Game Recap

    -Steelers Gab

    Tomlin Talks on the Win Over the Patriots

    Woodley’s Hamstring Likely to Sit Him Sunday vs Ravens

  7. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    Pitt Blather

    Expansiopocolypse: Big 12 Circles Back to Hoopies

    Cardiac Hill

    Big 12 & Big East Expansion: Will West Virginia Departure Trigger Loss Of Notre Dame?

    WVU Blogs

    Metro News

    Freshmen Talk Moving To The Big 12

    WV Illustrated

    Shawne Alston Delivers When Called Upon



    Not Enough Comebacks: Leafs Hold on to Beat Pens 4-3

  8. Jandy says:

    DK, I swear, if I hear one more person bash Staal, I’m going to…well, you know ;)

    pensfan, you have it right. It was bad enough without Z on the PK, then when Staal went down, I knew we were in big trouble. To lose by one goal (considering we allowed two PP goals) hurt.

  9. leefoo says:

    I loved that the Steelers won, but they sure made it interesting at the end. If BellyChick challenges that Gronkowski catch at the end, the Pats pick up two whole minutes. Maybe we drive down the field, maybe we don’t.

    I don’t really blame it on Suisham missing that one kick, because their PK missed one, too.

    I blame our Redzone offense. To use a baseball analogy, we had 4 runs on 13 hits and they had 3 runs on 5 hits.

    We shudda been up at LEAST 27-17 at the end, if not more.

    Oh well…….I’d rather be belly aching about a close win than a loss. :)

    BnG Foo

  10. CWalton_67 says:

    I do not share the enthusiasm for this Steeler team. I think the credit for yesterday’s victory goes to the coaching staff, who clearly out coached the Pats on every level. What should have been a blow out victory, was turned into a nail-biter in the final minutes due to inability to execute in the red zone. I also think it is very telling that even on a day when they were thoroughly unprepared, Brady has his team in the game until the very end. What if the opposite had been true? Would the Steelers have been able to hang around with a chance to win? I think that answer can be found in the first Ravens game… I have no idea how Shawn Suisham continues to be employed in this town.

  11. Milo Hamilton says:

    The Pirates have officially declined the options on Paul Maholm, Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, and Ronny Cedeno.

    Translation: If you’re going to make anything over $9.50 an hour – we don’t want you. Every time someone from the best management team in baseball says “it’s not about the money” an electric shock should be sent through their bodies.

  12. aglebagel says:

    @ leefoo-

    Late in the game I Tweeted that for all of our enthusiasm for our young, fast receiving corps, it does seem like the red zone neutralizes it to an extent, because there’s no room to burn people and there’s no real size among them for jumping over people. I was thinking that we actually could have used Plaxico yesterday in those situations, but in talking with my dad on the phone after the game, he pointed out that we were missing Hines, and he’s absolutely right. Even though he’s not a big, tall guy, Hines knows how to score touchdowns, either by finding openings in the endzone or fighting his way across the goal line, and we missed that yesterday.

  13. aglebagel says:


    I’m totally with you about Pujols and his amazing current situation in St. Louis…
    However, we’ve got to remember that the great ones, like Pujols, generally just don’t think the same way as the rest of us. They are driven by an almost insane competitiveness, and in the world of professional sports, money is as much about respect as purchasing power.

  14. Naje says:

    Say what you want about the Steelers defensive backs, and they have played very well. But name me a Patriots’ wide receiver OTHER than Wes Welker. Please. 5 seconds.

    Yeah, you came up with Chad Johnson… wow, the guy who didn’t sniff a pass yesterday.

    The truth is, the Patriots WR options are extremely limited. And those big tight ends can’t run away from defensive backs.

    Great effort from the defense, but the Patriots have no legitimate downfield threat… and that makes playing in man, press coverage all game a lot easier to do.

  15. Milo Hamilton says:

    Tony LaRussa retired ? Boy, they really need to re-sign Pujols now.

  16. I think part of the problem in Toronto was the umbrella. The Leafs employed the umbrella on the PP, very much like the Pens do, with a shooter at the high position and two players along the half-boards. The Pens PK had to adjust from their standard large-box configuration to a more diamond approach, which put them clearly outside their comfort zone. One of the drawbacks on the diamond PK is that it leaves a single defender to guard the slot. Brooks Orpik was simply outnumbered on the last PP goal trying to defend against two Leaf forwards and one managed to fire a rebound past Johnson.

    As for the Steelers, I will give credit where credit is due: it was a great team effort. From the coaches who put together a brilliant game plan to the players who executed effectively, the Steelers frustrated New England for most of that game. Ben gets the game ball for running his best impersonation of Brady-ball, using every weapon at his disposal to keep the Steelers offense on the field and moving the chains. Ben and the offense pressed each drive, even in the second half, as if they knew the New England beast was preparing to strike. That, to me, was key.

    The Steelers defense made big plays when they needed to and kept the Patriots receiving corps in check with some great man-to-man coverage. Welker looked especially frustrated, losing his composure on more than one occasion. If it wasn’t for the Patriots capable Tight Ends, Brady wouldn’t have even gotten them close.

  17. Milo Hamilton says:

    The next move for the Pirates will be to non-tender Garrett Jones. Can’t see how 23 homers & 75 RBI a year would be “useful” here.

  18. Milo Hamilton says:

    Who says the Pirates are cheap ? They spent $2.2 million today just to tell 4 players to go away.

  19. pghboyinca says:

    How can you even take the Pirates seriously? We have two excellent well run franchises to follow why bother with that disgrace of an organization? The only time spent on them if you are a true fan shouldbe in trying to figure out a way to drive this regime out.

    Thr Patriots have Deion Branch, Welker, Ocho Cinco and 2 exceptional tight ends but that means soem peoplke dismiss yesterdays performance by the D? Isn’t it funnyhow the rest of the league somehow can’t cover these guys?

  20. Milo Hamilton says:


    What in the wide wide world of sports do you think I’m doing ?

  21. leefoo says:

    aglebagel……..hadn’t thought about that our WRs couldn’t get open. Maybe we shudda run more?

    Nage……those WRs/TEs were so bad, that the Pats were averaging well over 300+ yds a game.

    We passed a huge test, with a REAL QB. I, for one, am not downgrading our effort one bit.

    BnG Foo

  22. leefoo says:

    “aglebagel……..hadn’t thought about that our WRs couldn’t get open. Maybe we shudda run more?”

    Left out “In the Redzone”.


  23. leefoo says:

    That should be one heckuva left side of the Infield with Pedro and Chase over there.

    They can’t hit or field….but they’re cheap.

    And to think I used to defend this FO.

  24. pghboyinca says:

    Milo, I know you are, now jsut ry and gethe rest to turn on the ligth and quit sitting in complete darkness……

  25. hsages211 says:

    Frustrating to hear NH describe the free agent market as “very, very thin” and then go out and dump guys like Maholm and Cedeno and even Snyder for that matter. Throw in the guys the Pirates free agents (Lee and Ludwick) and those they will non-tender (Garrett Jones, Ohlendorf, and Veras among others), and the big league club is looking pretty thin on big league players. I don’t have much confidence in the FO’s ability to sign players via free agency. Way more misses than hits, and it’s setting up like we’re going to need to sign a few just to field a team. Willing to give them a chance but I don’t see the Pirates going out and signing guys even the caliber of Michael Cuddyer (1B), Edwin Jackson (P), or Yuniesky Bettancourt (SS). It’s just going to be a shame that any good will built up from the Pirates 1st half in 2011 washed away before opening day 2012.

  26. Eric Bowser says:

    Pirates spend $2.2 million to send away four players (Maholm, Cedeno, Doumit, Snyder) in order not to spend the $20+ million this coming season. The ownership and front office worry about the financial implications but fans wonder, who the heck will play in Pittsburgh and is there any chance for team to be better in 2012 than 2011?

    Pirates have Karstens, McDonald, Correia, and Lincoln for the starting rotation with Morton potentially missing the start of the season. Is Huntington going to find a cheap veteran on a minor league contract to provide more than what they’ll get from Locke?

    McKenry and Jaramillo appear to be one horribly configured catcher tandem and with former number one pick Tony Sanchez looking more suspect than prospect, it shouldn’t take much work in free agency to find two catchers more worthy than McKenry and Jaramillo.

    And then there’s shortstop, who thinks d’Arnaud is even in the same ballpark defensively as Cedeno? Offensively, d’Arnaud could be better but I don’t think it happens. If you look at the free agent list, where are the Pirates getting a better shortstop than Cedeno?

    Here’s how I would improve on the lost players via free agency and trades. I’ll use WAR for statistical comparison.

    1. Maholm 2.1 with Edwin Jackson 3.8
    2. Cedeno 1.4 with Clint Barmes 3.1
    3. Doumit 1.8 and Snyder .7 with Chris Iannetta 3.3 (trade with Rockies)
    4. Lee 1.4 and Jones .9 with Nick Swisher 3.8 (trade with Yankees)

    Rotation: Jackson-Morton-McDonald-Karstens-Correia
    Lineup: Presley-Tabata-Swisher-McCutchen-Walker-Alvarez-Iannetta-Barmes

    Iannetta and Swisher would be acquired as salary dumps as Rockies go with other internal options at catcher and Yankees will be looking to get more power from RF. I’d be happy with a .370+ OBP, 23 HR, 80 RBI type first baseman that gets on base in front of McCutchen.

  27. Eric Bowser says:

    Pirates outright Brian Burres, Kevin Hart, Steve Pearce, and Brandon Wood to AAA Indianapolis.

  28. Milo Hamilton says:


    The Yankees don’t dump salaries.

  29. Eric Bowser says:

    Pirates 40-man roster is looking awfully thin right now.

  30. Eric Bowser says:

    @Milo – I read the Yankees wanted to dump Swisher in order to open up the roster spot in RF to get someone who might produce more come playoff time. Since the Pirates are not playoff bound for another 3-4 years, Swisher should be able to handle the regular season.

  31. Milo Hamilton says:


    They just picked up his option. They could have declined & just let him walk. And besides, aren’t we glossing over that $10 million price tag the Swisheroo brings with him ? Haven’t they just proven AGAIN, that they’re not paying anybody anything.

    I, of course, would be all for it. C’mon. Joanna Garcia anyone ?

  32. Eric Bowser says:

    @Milo – I know, Pirates aren’t spending money, it is a shot in the dark for an acquisition.

    They probably won’t sign anyone of note on a major league deal as they’ll go with Jones/Hague (1B), McKenry/Jaramillo (C), Locke (P), and d’Arnaud (SS).

    Like I said before, ownership is going to make $20+ million in profit.

  33. Milo Hamilton says:


    I do think your Barmes & Ianetta suggestions sound right up their alley. Yipee !

    About WAR, until somebody a) explains to me exactly how it is calculated AND b) gives me the name of the mysterious “replacement level player” I dismiss it out of hand.

  34. Milo Hamilton says:

    Ronny Cedeno was just named one of the three finalists for NL Gold Glove. LOL. The Pirates are still be on the hook for a $25,000 bonus if he wins it. LOL.

    Neil Walker is also a finalist at 2B even though elitist sabermetric stats say he stinks. LOL.

  35. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    I agree that it might be hard to find a replacement for Cedeno. At $3 million I would think he would be a reasonable priced defensive stop. He played extremely well on defense, what he lacks in offense could be made up if a.) Pedro comes around, b.) Pirates re-sign DLee or pick up a Carlos Pena type 1B.

    There’s only so many Troy Tulo’s to go around…excellant defense and power from a SS? c’mon…

    These team might wind up being worse than the 2010 version…and I was gung-ho after this year.

  36. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    @Eric, I would switch Cutch and Swisher around in your lineup, but otherwise looks ok to me…

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