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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Leave Ben alone!

SAN FRANCISCO – Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Wednesday column is about Ben Roethlisberger needing to play. I’m sure this will be greeted with universal acceptance from the agonizing Nation.

>> Among a handful of oddities from Mike Tomlin’s news conference yesterday was his insistence that he had no idea if Roethlisberger was given a cortisone shot. That’s really hard to digest. For one, a head coach really ought to be apprised of such things. For another, even if he didn’t know, he probably should have been aware that both Roethlisberger and head athletic trainer John Norwig told the world the night before that there was no shot.

>> One film review showed that Jerricho Cotchery played 58 snaps, Hines Ward just nine.

Can we finally drop the 1,000-catch controversy now?

>> My plane landed too late to catch the Penguins’ whole victory, so I mostly saw the team getting schooled the entire third period by the Hawks. Not a pretty scene, but somewhat understandable with three defensemen out.

>> Soon, it will be four defensemen out. Deryk Engelland’s head shot deserves a suspension, probably one or two games. It’s astonishing to me that people were able to manufacture debates about this last night.

>> Great to see Ben Lovejoy out there again. An outstanding rush and assist, plus good stamina for first game in nearly two months. He’s always been a sharp fit for the Bylsma system.

>> If Mario Cristobal is fine by Steve Pederson, he’ll have to prove a lot more to a lot of people than the average new coaching hire.

>> I will appear on Mark Madden’s radio show — 105.9 The X — at 4 p.m. today.


  1. Leah Backus says:

    I just don’t know about the Engelland hit. Yes, in slow motion it looks like he got his arm up. Did he target the head? Emphatically no. There was hardly any time for premeditation. Was the head the principal point of contact? I don’t think so. He did leave his feet and he did make contact with the head. I don’t see this being more than a warning or a fine (unless Engelland has priors? Do we know?). I’m uncomfortable with the media (be it VS. or whoever) passing judgment before the league has a chance to look at things. Of course, this is an opinion blog and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion!

    Lovejoy was a joy to watch (no pun intended). He was just everywhere, playing with skill and executing everything he did just about perfectly. At least I didn’t see him make many mistakes. I’m waiting for the “sit Paul Martin even when he’s healthy” comments to start. :-(

    Mark Madden? Must you? I can’t stand that guy. He gives me the creeps.

  2. Jandy says:

    Leah, I’m with you on the Engelland call. He wanted to really HIT his target, but i don’t feel he targeted the head. However, he did hit the guy’s head, so, at least a warning. I don’t believe he has any priors.

  3. leefoo says:

    The Steelers laid an egg. C’est le vie. I find losses like this are a lot easier to take when you only read about them. I’m starting to like these Night games more and more. :) :)

  4. JAL says:

    JAL’s A holly jolly Christmas Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3- 2011-12 Pirates Prospects Off-Season Calendar

    4 Pirate Offseason Stats

    5 Yahoo Free Agent Tracker;_ylt=AvN8KLXkNW0TcRjzSCagLIMBbgM6?slug=jp-passan_ultimate_free_agent_tracker_baseball_110211

    6 Pirates Prospects Offseason Tracker

  5. JAL says:


    7—Pirates Prospects

    Winter Leagues 12/20 — Thomas’ First Win

    Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Top Prospects: #6 – Robbie Grossman

    8 The Green Weenie

    Last Minute Xmas Shopping

    9 Rumbunter

    Pirates Sign Jeff Clement: A Man Set to Prove Everyone Wrong

    Pittsburgh Pirates Looking to Avoid 20 in ’12

    Pitching Options – Joe Saunders

  6. JAL says:

    10 McEffect

    Pirates Sign Jeff Clement

    11 Bucs Dugout

    The Pirates, Intangibles, And Style Points For Losing


    12 Sporting News

    Hall of Fame baseball writer Bill Conlin retires amid child-molestation allegations

  7. JAL says:

    13 Richmond Times Dispatch

    Picture this: Baseball historian interprets vintage T-D photos

    14 Arizona Republic

    VH1’s ‘Baseball Wives’ offers glimpse at Scottsdale lifestyle

    15 The Chosunilbo

    Park Chan-ho to Donate Salary for Korean Baseball

    16 Kansas City Star

    Legacy of Negro Leagues slugger Josh Gibson lives on


    17 PBC Site

    Bucs sign Igarashi, Clement to Minors deals

  8. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Only One AFC Power Won In Week 15 – The No. 1 Seed New England Patriots

    Moore Has Sprained Knee, Mendenhall Bruised Ribs After Loss at San Francisco

    Has the NFL Painted Themselves Into a Corner With the Harrison Suspension?

    -Steelers Depot

    James Harrison Reports Back After Suspension

    -Steelers Gab

    Moore Out For Rams Game; No News on Roethlisberger’s Ankle

  9. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    Pitt Blather

    The Grand Triumvirate

    Cardiac Hill

    Ashton Gibbs, Not Tray Woodall, Named As Bob Cousy Award Candidate

    WVU Blogs

    Metro News

    Williamson Continues To Make An Impact

    WV Illustrated

    Bob Huggins Sits One Shy of 700

    Big Three Continue to Carry Load for WVU



    Malkin Enters Tie in Scoring Race – Pens Beat Blackhawks 3-2

  10. lasedog8 says:

    I disagree with Leah about Engelland. I don’t think he is a dirty player, but it was a bad hit and the league needs to suspend all players who go to the head, premeditated or not. The league needs to protect it’s players as much as possible. Intent is always a judgment call so punish everyone who goes to the head.

    I do agree with her about Madden.

  11. Rob says:

    I agree that all head hits need to be penalized. The call needs to be enforced like a high sticking penalty. Intent should be a non-issue. The whole idea of determining a players intent is ridiculous.

    I’ll also add that I don’t think the current rash of concussions is a new phenomena. The only thing that has changed is awareness and new metrics used to measure the extent of brain damage. In the past players ignored or dismissed concussion symptoms, and team management and medical personnel were all to ignorant of the symptoms. Too many early retirements and too many retired players who lose their ability to function and live a normal life. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to indicate that too many players suffered irreversible brain damage playing their respective game. It may be that no matter the game and no matter the rules head injury is unavoidable, but how a player is treated once diagnosed and how the rules and equipment used to reduce head injury are enforced and implemented should be the top priority of every organized contact sport.

  12. December 21

    59 days until Pirate Spring Training
    81 days until clock is correct on Dejan’s Blog

  13. Drew71 says:

    Just back in town, and got myself caught up on the Pitt search.

    Mario Cristobal.

    My sense is that this is going one of two ways, and we’ll likely no by late tonight.

    1) Option one: he was sincere about waiting until the conclusion of the bowl game. If so, this will happen today.

    2) Option two: he was using the delay to ensure he has time to work with FIU and get a bidding war going. If so, this will drag for a few days and Pitt will take its wounded pride to Chryst.

    I have no real idea, but this is a time when I think it would be better for Pitt County (not really Pitt Nation, is it) to coalesce around one obvious #1 candidate, isn’t it? Plan B just feels like Here We Go Again.

    That may not be fair on my part. Just saying, this would be the time for a Royal Acclimation, where everyone can get in line to say, This Is Who We Wanted From The Get-Go, without any, you know, here-we-go-again-Pederson-searches.

  14. radio wave says:

    Pitt has already lost their #1 choice.
    it was paul Rhodes, and he immediately signed a 10 year renewal at Iowa State.

  15. djininwestpa says:

    I must be honest that I am at the point where if Pederson likes him, then I don’t, no matter who the candidate turns out to be. I have absolutely no confidence in that man anymore.

  16. Bizrow says:

    Ditto on Pederson

    Crap, here we go again

  17. SeanE says:

    @Drew-I don’t think FIU can get into a bidding war with Pitt for Cristobal. He only makes $500k at FIU now. Pitt can easily pay him 3 to 4 times that amount….and not even pay him what Graham was making. It would be beyond shocking to see a Sun Belt Conference team pay that much to a head coach.

  18. Drew71 says:

    Question (I really don’t know): Last time, with Graham, it was reported that Pederson wasn’t quite leading to the extend an AD usually does. (Which itself is a problem; but let set that aside as it is not the point of this question.)

    Is Pederson in full AD control of this search? Did the failure of Graham allow Pederson to point out to his bosses why he, as AD, SHOULD have control? Or is this a process as with Graham (as reported by some) that Pederson has input but not driving control?

  19. Bizrow says:

    Good questions, but I would not be surprised after the Heywood signing and subsequent fiasco, that Pederson may not have had full control with Graham.

    If I remember right, they picked Heywood due to the fact they were trying to go the el cheapo route.

    Anyone know what Grahams buy out costs were?

  20. djininwestpa says:

    @Drew – I understand your point, but I ask this: Was he in control of the Haywood hire? Was he in control of the Solich firing and the Callahan hiring at Nebraska? If not, then he has the worst luck of any AD ever for being a puppet AD associated with some of the worst fires/hires known to college football.

    However, I believe he WAS in control of all these decisions, which is why I have absolutely no confidence in his decision-making.

  21. Drew71 says:

    dj – I wasn’t making a point. Was just asking a question. I certainly wasn’t intending to subtly support Pederson. That’s why I set my post up as i did (question: really don’t know).

    I just want to know how the process is unfolding.

  22. TJA says:

    It’s Christmas, so I guess its ok to do the Madden show today, DK, but please, only this one time. :)

  23. Ryan(Nor-Cal Stlrfanrc) says:

    Mike Tomlin sure doesn’t act like a Head Coach, more like one of the guys……….Head Coach’s need to seperate themselves from that…though he’s obviously been successful.

  24. JAL says:

    Link Number 6 did not come out right

    Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Top Prospects: #4 – Josh Bell

  25. Bizrow says:

    Madden still has a show??

  26. CWalton_67 says:

    Engelland should be suspended. It was a head-shot. Head shots have to be taken out of the game or we’re all sentenced to watching Richard Park play hockey, while Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Jeff Skinner, et all, sit in darkened rooms with their heads in their hands. The rules of the game must evolve, just as players and equipment have evolved. The players did it themselves in the 70’s, when a knee injury was a death knell to a career. It’s why you rarely see a good hip check anymore, as low hits were deemed dirty play. The shoulder check came into vogue as a result and over the years evolved into the head-shot, culminating with Scott Stevens/Darius Kasparaitus types lauded for destroying other players with blind side hits to the head.

    Any hire made by Steve Pederson is tainted. I cannot believe he is still employed by the University of Pittsburgh.

    Engelland did not have to make that hit. And while I love the physical aspect of hockey, the game must change. And I believe it can change, without completely removing the physical side of the game. The way to do that is to change the mindset of players with regard to how and when they hit/check and opponent. The only way proven to do so is to take those who violate the rules off the ice. It gets the attention of the player, his teammates, the coaches and management.

    I know many will disagree–and this is all coming from a person who cheered when Kasparaitus hit Lindros like a train. But I’d rather watch skilled players like Lindros, Lafontaine, Crosby, Malkin, etc make sick passes and score highlight reel goals than I would watch someone get hit in the head.

  27. BenderHeel says:

    Mario Cristobal would not be a good fit for Pitt.

  28. Bizrow says:

    One bit of discussion on hockey hits today from the FAN is in today’s game, hockey players almost suit up with a suit of armor, things like elbow pads are rock hard. How did the old guys get by with no helmets? I remember helmets were grandfathered in, only new guys had to wear them. Also discussion on the impact of losing the center line, causes more speed, hence more impact on hits. Something has to change in hockey for sure

  29. Arriba Wilver says:

    I heard the buyout costs for Graham were $ 1 mil. Not sure if it is accurate, though.

  30. Milo Hamilton says:

    Jessica Cristobal would be a fine addition to the community.

  31. CWalton_67 says:

    This is a great point about equipment. Some critical discussion needs to take place regarding the armor players wear. Hard shell shoulder pads, and elbow pads have definitely impacted how players hit each other in hockey, reducing the fear of injury. It’s also why though I am a vocal proponent of the best possible helmets, I am not a proponent of full cages for players–takes the fear of injury to the player wearing it out of the game.

  32. Drew71 says:

    Milo – does she tweet?

    Arriba – if he, supposedly, abandoned job, how would there be buyout costs? I understand you are just reporting it…just asking (which you have to say around here…see above). Maybe that’s why Pitt made a point of saying Graham did not fulfill his contract, to set stage for not owing buyout.

  33. Milo Hamilton says:

    I propose a ban of any sport where there is physical contact. There. Problem solved.

  34. Milo Hamilton says:


    She can make any sound she wants.

  35. NMR says:


    Pure gold!

  36. Milo Hamilton says:


    On the Graham buyout clause. The coach owes the university that money, not the other way around. It’s supposed to be a deterrent to the coach leaving for greener pastures. Remember when Rich Rod sued WVU trying to get out of paying his ? I think boosters at Michigan actually came up with the money & paid it themselves.

  37. JAL says:

    Warning–this a long, detailed story about Bill Conlin (link 12)

    Four say Philly Daily News writer Bill Conlin sexually abused them as children

  38. Drew71 says:

    Milo – Funny. And perfect. Beats mewing.

    And thanks for the clarification re $.

  39. scapper says:

    Regarding the Engelland hit…switch the uniforms of the players and what do you think then? That’s Sid or Geno taking that type of hit from a guy leaving his feet? Sorry, but E will get hit with a fine and short suspension, and that will seem about right. Love the guy and the way he plays, but that hit seemed excessive.

  40. Mike Jones says:

    I feel like Steve Pederson is the AD of Norv Turners. Continues to fail but inexplicably continues to have a job.

  41. BenderHeel says:

    It’s become more common for the best head coaching searches to involve outside consultants and not having the AD be the sole decider. Plus, with Pederson’s track record, I would think that the PTB would ensure that he not have sole authority over the current search.

  42. Bizrow says:

    @Bender – I think they used an outside consultant when they found Mr Graham, they knew just which rock to look under ;-}

  43. BenderHeel says:

    If they used a consultant to find Graham, that’s just proof positive that using a consultant does not guarantee a good result.

    I never thought Graham was a good fit for Pitt and Pittsburgh. Plus he seemed like an arrogant arse once on the job. I fear that Cristobal will be a fish out of water in the Burgh and won’t be able to connect with Western PA coaches and kids.

  44. Bizrow says:

    I’m pretty sure they did, it was mentioned that they did not rehire the same outfit that got them Penni and Co

    Cristobal, from FIU? is a Miami guy and the word is he does not want to leave his hometown.

    Can’t blame him for that, I guess.

  45. Drew71 says:

    Forget the Western PA coaches. There’s more talent in FL. Connect THERE. If the team is any good, plenty of local kids will want to come, just because. If the team is any good.

  46. Milo Hamilton says:

    Just waitin’ around to see how Steve Pederson’s gonna screw this one up. If this goes horribly wrong, as I suspect it will, the blame falls 100% on the shoulders of Mark Nordenberg.

  47. MrB says:

    DK – Nice column today…much improved over some of your earlier efforts when you first started this job.

    DK: Because you agreed with the point? Just curious.

  48. djininwestpa says:

    Dejan – I think all your columns are well-written and incisive, and look forward to every one. Obviously I am not as discerning as Mr.B.

  49. Eric Bowser says:

    PG, Trib and various twitter accounts are reporting the University of Pittsburgh will be hiring Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as the next football head coach for the Panthers.

    It should be a quality hire for the Panthers are Chryst is already rumored to be assembling a strong staff head-lined by defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and two possibilities for offensive coordinator, his brother Geep Chryst or Joe Rudolph.

    Chryst has the support of current PITT wide receiver Devin Street after getting thumbs up from three Wisconsin players and it appears from reports that Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez called PITT boosters/alumni to help put in a good word for him.

    Solid hire, if this happens.

  50. MattyGabe says:

    @all He’s been doing Madden’s show for quite some time, long before he left his previous position to come to the Trib.

    Get over yourselves – even though MM has a sizable portion of the population that despises him, he does have a fair amount of followers as well – so he’s not going away.

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