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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: On Birch, brotherly love, Big Ben

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Friday column seizes the occasion of PirateFest opening to give the Pirates a B grade for their offseason so far. That’s B as in blah.

>> All the buzz last night was over someone else leaving Pitt, that being basketball freshman Khem Birch, but that seemed to quell as the evening went on. Birch, one of Jamie Dixon’s best recruits in years, has started the past two games, but he’s averaging only about a dozen minutes of playing time.

One would imagine some sort of compromise can/should be achieved. Dixon has a history of not playing freshmen much, but he’s got to make exceptions for exceptional players.

>> This isn’t nearly as offensive, but let’s not overlook that Todd Graham not only would not face his players at Pitt. He won’t face — or take questions from — anyone in the Pittsburgh media since departing. He’s granted interviews only to pure-bred Arizonans so far, from what I can tell.

The Phoenix area has some fine journalists, though. He’ll get his before long.

>> John Harbaugh is known to be helping brother Jim Harbaugh in preparing the 49ers for the Monday meeting with the Steelers. Stuff goes on all the time in the NFL, but it still has a shady feel to it.

>> Ben Roethlisberger said yesterday his ankle is actually worse than it was after the Cleveland game. I’m starting to lean heavily toward wanting him not to play. Doesn’t make sense for the long term. Might not even make sense for this game, given how terribly limiting the Steelers’ playcalling will be.

>> Awful news about Chris Pronger being lost for the season with a concussion.

I’ll say it yet again: Something significant has to be done. The little dark room isn’t cutting it.

>> I’m almost as impressed with rookie Simon Despres’ early showing with the Penguins as I am with his English. The Quebec native speaks with a highly advanced command of English given it’s his second language, and he has no problem expressing himself. Not all that common of French-Canadian players his age. Really enjoyed our conversation earlier this week.

On the ice, Despres recognizes that his ticket to sticking once others get healthy is being reliable defensively. And he’s right. The Penguins know he’ll contribute, possibly a lot, on offense. But his steady play to this point on defense — “All I want to do is make sure I don’t give up an odd-man break,” Despres told me — surely means far more to the coaching staff.

Keep an extra eye on the kid tonight in Ottawa. Assuming Root Sports shows the game.

>> Here’s the chat transcript from yesterday. Heading to San Francisco later in the weekend for Steelers-49ers. Be good.

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