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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Wakeup Call: Hines’ march to 1,000

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> My Monday column is an odd collection of random conceptual gifts for local sports personalities, many of which are sure to be sent back.

>> All kinds of actual football relevance will — and should — dwarf Hines Ward’s bid for his 1,000 career catch Sunday in Cleveland. But I get the sense it’s become fashionable to bash Ward and/or the Steelers for paying attention to it.

That’s unfair and shortsighted.

Ward has given a ton to the Steelers. He’s played an integral role in two Super Bowl victories. He’s had a Hall of Fame career as a receiver even while establishing himself as one of the best blocking receivers in the game’s history.

Part of what makes the Steelers what they are is continuity. It’s maintaining a legacy of greatness. Taking care of their great players is part of that. Those players look at how a Ward gets treated near the end, and they want to commit to the Steelers just as much.

Don’t misunderstand: I want to see Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. But I’m not about to dismiss how much it would mean to Ward and the Steelers to produce that 1,000th catch.

>> Heard in Winnipeg that the Penguins’ coaching staff felt that Ben Lovejoy has played two of the better games of his career since rejoining the lineup. Good for him. Quality player and person. Great fit for what Dan Bylsma does with his relentless aggressiveness on the puck and seamless skating.

>> Sidney Crosby will be just fine. He’ll be back before long.

>> I reference this in the column, but it’s worth adding a link here. The Robert Morris hockey team has a big game Friday vs. No. 4 Ohio State. It’s surprising to me that, with all the love of the sport in this town, not many people know of how good the Colonials’ program is getting under Derek Schooley.

Any city will support a good NHL team. They did that in Tampa and Raleigh. But the next step for this region is supporting the sport with actual attendance at all levels.

>> I appeared on KDKA-TV’s Showdown last night.


  1. Sandip Jain says:

    I noted how you slipped in there Sid will be fine and back soon. Do you suspect his ice time will be reduced and monitored very carefully like a pitch count this time around? After his first game back last time I felt they were a little lax in that department.

  2. Leah Backus says:

    Is that wishful thinking, Dejan, or do you have something concrete to base that on? If he does come back soon, I think they need to make a real point of dressing MacIntyre (what else did we hire him for if not to protect Sid?). Guys need to understand that if they’re going to tangle with Sid, they’re going to have to dance with Mac. God knows, I hate to have that attitude, but he needs to be protected a la Dave Semenko and Gretzky.

  3. SD says:

    Dejan – there were so many rumors about Sid having another injury besides the headaches. Do you know if it’s true and were they just hiding that injury under the “headaches” explanation? I guess I’m hoping that it wasn’t his head which I’m sure is wishful thinking on my part.

  4. scapper says:

    I remember in an earlier column that you said Sid will be just fine. Wasn’t the case, as we all know. I don’t believe it. My common sense keeps telling me he’s done for the year. Misses over ten months, comes back and plays a couple of weeks and has to sit out again even though he didn’t take any major head shots? That poor kid has serious problems. Sure hope I’m wrong wrong wrong, but….

  5. JAL says:

    JAL’s You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me 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

  6. JAL says:

    7 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker


    8—Pirates Prospects

    The 1906 Pirates Season

    9 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates Should Consider Re-Signing Chris Snyder

  7. JAL says:


    10 Altoona Mirror

    Pirates star McCutchen faces pivotal season in 2012

    Hartsock: Pirates have been aggressive in offseason deals–Pirates-have-been-aggressive-in-offseason-deals.html?nav=751

    11 Daily Herald

    Baseball and fast cars and heroes in oodles: The Daily Herald thinks of a few of our favorite things about the year in movies

    12 Milwaukee Journal

    Brewers’ Marcum was ‘shocked’ by news about Braun

    13 The Republican

    Writer picks his Baseball Hall of Fame final four: Bagwell, Morris, Larkin, McGriff

    14 Fox Sports

    Offseason twists to continue into 2012

  8. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    -Behind the Steel Curtain

    Thoughts and Ramblings After a Dominating 27-0 Steelers Win over St. Louis in Week 16

    Steelers Pitch Second Shutout of Season with Routine 27-0 Win over Rams

    -Steelers Depot

    Breakdown of James Harrison Abusing Adam Goldberg for Near Sack

    -Steelers Gab

    Steelers Game in Cleveland New Years Day Pushed to 4:15pm Start

  9. December 26

    54 days until Pirate Spring Training
    76 days until clock is correct on Dejan’s Blog
    51 days consecutive the time has been incorrect

  10. Drew71 says:

    Well said, Dejan re: Hines Ward.

    On this team, the players – especially the many grizzled veterans, have almost a college team love affair with the franchise and the city. This stuff adds. And the city loves them back in the same fashion.

    The 1000-catch effort reminds me, just a bit, of the drive to win the Super Bowl for Jerome Bettis, by then a part time player, but still the heart of the team.

    Let’s lay off Hines. The Steelers are too focused to let it become a distraction from winning. Hasn’t their winning legacy earned some trust about that?

    And wouldn’t WE feel disappointed if he ends with 999?

    PS…Hines may also make an extremely effective decoy with the Browns. THEY know what is going on. Look for the Steelers to take advantage and try get a bit less double coverage on their speed guys. Sort of a version of play action, except instead of trying then faking run, they initially pass short to Hines, then later fake to him and go long. So he could end up being a USEFUL part of the game plan.

  11. Pensfan says:

    I know Dejan has been dismissive of the idea that Sid’s symptoms were part of the original concussion, largely because Sid was believed to be symptom free prior to rejoining the Pens. But consider, he was “symptomfree” in the summer prior to ramping things up to 90%. Isn’t it possible that after “ramping exertion to game level” that a few symtoms emerged. This would mean Sid was ALMOST well, and just needed a little longer to fully recover. (Instead of re-injured).

    This also explains the missed shots, and the miss judgements where he was running into team mates.

    Regardless, good to hear he is feeling better. (based on your cryptic comments tossed in above).

  12. Milo Hamilton says:


    Enjoyed your column this morning. But let’s not be so quick to wish Tino Sunseri out of town. That’s a classic case of “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. I love that cliche. You’ll have a new coach with a reputation of tailoring his system to fit his QB. Other than Sunseri, you’ll have a stable of very inexperienced QB’s. It wasn’t that long ago that Billy Stull came off a poor junior season (mainly due to a concussion) & in the opener of his senior year the students were booing him & chanting “Tino, Tino”. Stull kept himself together & put together a fine senior season. And no more boos after that 1st interception.

    Call me a dreamer but I’d like to see an experienced QB that’s survived a nearly impossible situation be given the 1st shot. I think It’ll be a breath of fresh air for him. At least let the new guy decide if he can play or not.

  13. Pensfan says:

    OK…what gives with the cryptic Pen’s comments?

    If “Sid will be fine” why does Geno need to be prepared to be the “franchise star?” Are you suggesting Sid will return but be in a diminished role?

  14. Drew71 says:

    The column was, well, fun. A few follow-up comments:

    – Paterno, and an accurate accounting – there are TWO elements to an accounting:

    A) McQueary, at the recent hearing, gave a reasonably clear accounting about the 2002 incident, indicating that out of respect for Joe and his age, McQ did not give Joe all the details that he later gave to Curley and Schultz. We then pretty much know what Joe did and did not do: Told his superior, not the authorities. While the less specific details provided to Joe may soften the blame a bit for Joe in THIS situation, what remains is…

    B) What was Joe’s (and the university leadership’s) awareness of the ONGOING Sandusky situation after the 1998 incident and after the 2002 incident. This, to me, is the key legacy issue for the man and the institution. It is possible to get too focused on one incident (2002) and forget that some have claimed that the Sandusky situation was an open secret around the program. Was it? If so, what did the various members of the leadership suspect and do or not do?

    I am not minimizing the first issue, at least when it comes to Sandusky and his victim(s). But when it comes to Paterno and Penn State, I am maximizing the second issue.

    – The Steelers have a general manager? I thought those players just sorta rose fully formed from the earth.

    – I am pulling for Tom Bradley as well. Recognizing that Penn State may be trying for a Hail Mary hiring, might the extended search also be part of a Plan B regarding Bradley? The Bradley coached team lost 2 of 3 so far, and by not winning one more, lost out on the Rose Bowl. Might the Houston game be an audition? Going 2-2 and winning a bowl game looks a lot better than 1-3 and losing to nearly every good team you play. SOOOO….if I am correct, I am especially pulling for Penn State on January 2 in order to make it, well, at least possible that they retain Bradley.

    – Thank you, Dejan, for providing another acceptable “cuss” word. I used to write Freaking. Now I have Sneep or, if really incensed, Freaking Sneep.

  15. Milo Hamilton says:

    “Sid will be fine.”

    The doctors don’t even know that.

  16. Oakland released 26 year old Jai Miller from their 40-man to get all of JAL’s Nats prospects on the club.
    He hit 32 HRs with 88 ribbies last season in the pitching-poor PCL last year while playing mostly Center.
    He also struck out 179 times.

    Is he worth taking a flyer on, to see if his athleticism translates to 1st Base?

    Right now we are looking at a platoon with a man who used to be a ‘Legend’ and a player who lost his starting 3rd Base job to Jerry Hairston and Craig Counsel.

    Don’t get me wrong: I think the McGeheeheeheehee pick up is a good one. We gave up someone who wasn’t going to be tendered for a player who hit 23 dingers and drove in 104 IN THE MAJORS a couple seasons ago.

    Yet we need power and have no depth of hitting in the minors. This guy might be worth a 40-man spot and a look see in Spring Training, which is ONLY 54 DAYS AWAY!!

  17. Scott says:

    I can’t believe Dejan is sticking to the preposterous and indefensible position that Penn State should hire Bradley. What happens six months later if it comes out that Bradley knew something? If there’s even a 1% chance of that happening, you can’t make the hire.

    And the assertion that “Sid will be fine,” based an absolutely nothing? Geez… since the move to the Trib, I find myself scratching my head every time I read a column here.

  18. JohninOshkosh says:

    I love Christmas as much as the next guy-presents, good food, family togetherness and all that crap but, thank god, the NHL is returning today. I tried to watch a little of the Bulls/Lakers but lasted about one minute. And I refuse to watch the Packers so welcome back NHL!

  19. Arriba Wilver says:

    On the idea McQueary’s testimony at the preliminary hearing Friday somehow softens the blow on Paterno, compare the Grand Jury report about what Joe said he heard:

    “Joseph V. Paterno testified to receiving the graduate assistant’s report at his home on a Saturday morning. Paterno testified that the graduate assistant was very upset. Paterno called Tim Curley (“Curley”), Penn State Athletic Director and Paterno’s immediate superior, to his home the very next day, a Sunday, and reported to him that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.”

    compare that with McQueary’s prelim reported testimony that he reported to Paterno that what he saw was conduct in the shower between Sandusky and the young boy that was:

    “way over the lines and extremely sexual in nature.”

    I don’t see any significant difference between those two versions.

  20. CWalton_67 says:

    Are we going to get some qualification on the Sid statement? I don’t mind cryptic, but that statement really shouldn’t stand alone. Especially given your statement about Malkin in your column.

    Hines Ward is, if not the greatest Steeler ever, at least among them. Tomlin should have made a point of getting him to 1,000 catches in front of the home crowd in that meaningless game against StL.

  21. JAL says:

    Ward has been a great player for the Steelers. Made the tough catches and blocked as well any player in the league–in some ways a throwback player who would have been at home on the teams of the 70s or even the 50s.

  22. Drew71 says:

    Don’t read into my comments that there is NO blame, Arriba. Joe himself said “I should have done more.” I Agree.

    My main point was my second set of my comments…they are my more significant point than interpretation of the testimony vs the grand jury report, which I agree, I find to be consistent…and the consistency seems to support the concept that Joe was given less graphic and specific detail by McQueary than Schultz and Curley. And don’t read into THAT more than I intend. Again: “I should have done more.”

    My key questions are: what did Joe (and others) suspect for THIRTEEN YEARS, and what did they do or not do about it? My key point is NOT to absolve for one horrible incident in 2002, but rather to say don’t FORGET about 1998-through-2011.

    And that does NOT just apply to the institution. It also applies to Joe.

  23. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    @All: I didn’t see the Sid line as cryptic, nor as contradictory to the column’s challenge to Malkin.

    In reference to Sid, I’m told his current status is nowhere near as severe as the first time but genuinely precautionary and, hence, he’ll be fine … this time. But given that other players with concussion histories (Bergeron, Savard) have been in and out of their respective lineups for years, it’s incumbent on Malkin to at least mentally prepare himself to be THE franchise star. Not just 1A anymore.

    That’s a level of elaboration you’re not going to achieve in a quick-hits column like that. Just hoping people kind of figure it out.

    @Scott: If my position on Bradley — which presumes he knew nothing — is “indefensible,” then how to explain Penn State granting him an interview? Is that position just as indefensible?

    And I have no idea what you meant by the move to the Trib, so I’ll assume it was just a cheap shot to try to get my attention. There’s no need for that, I can assure you. I read every syllable of every comment posted here. The Sid information was not “based on nothing.” It’s not how I’ve ever operated.

  24. Drew71 says:

    You don’t like his Christmas sweater??


    DK: Yeah, that’s pretty much the argument, I guess, in using that term. By and large, opinions in and of themselves are very, very rarely “indefensible.” We might hate them. We might disagree 180 degrees. But the person offering them usually can muster at least some defense.

    I the case of Bradley, it’s remarkably easy.

  25. Milo Hamilton says:

    How can you trust anything coming from the Penguins about Sid ?

    1. They don’t tell the truth about any injuries.
    2. They haven’t even said that Sid has a concussion – he has “undisclosed reasons”.
    3. They said he’d miss 2 games, we’re at three weeks now.
    4. In January, they told us he had “a mild concussion” & he’d sit for a week. He missed 11 months.
    5. I got sucked into concussion talk. I’m obviously weak & beaten down from Christmas. What’s next ? Fantasy football ? ARGHHHHH.

    The point is I don’t know, you don’t know, the Penguins don’t know, Sid doesn’t know. And most importantly, the doctors don’t know.

    What I do know is that the Pens will play 88 games in 2011 & Sid will have played 10 of them.

    DK: I don’t recall divulging where the information came from.

  26. Milo Hamilton says:


    That was a collective “you”.

    DK: I understood that, but your implication was that this particular information came from the Penguins. You don’t know that it did.

  27. Milo Hamilton says:


    I implied nothing of the sort.

    DK: Fair enough.

  28. CWalton_67 says:

    Thanks for taking the time to clarify on the Sid statement. Much appreciated.

  29. Larry says:

    As more time passes and the public only gets cryptic “no update” updates on Tanger and Crosby, I’m having a hard time believing your statement that Crosby will be back before long. I guess it depends on your definition of “long” is. I have tickets for a game in April and I’m not counting on him playing. The man isn’t even skating yet, never mind practing without/with contact or getting cleared for games. His road is long. Maybe I’ll have better luck getting to see him play in person next season? Is *that* even a sure thing?

    DK: You have every right to be skeptical, Larry. It’s an unpredictable thing. In my case, I’m passing along what I’ve heard.

  30. TS says:

    Did Sid ever sustain a concussion in his time in Juniors? I recall hearing — somewhere — that he did. Hmm.

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