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Sunday column: The Steelers’ Donald Sutherland

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media


The Sunday column from Latrobe focuses on Emmanuel Sanders, the player I pick on the first full day of training camp to be the Steelers’ ‘X’ factor.

Although, as you’ll see in this Antonio Brown video, I’m not ruling him out, either …

Who is your choice?

Would love to read about it in the comments below.

Also in Sunday’s paper from our Steelers coverage team in Saint Vincent College …

>> A one-on-one interview with Ben Roethlisberger by our Alan Robinson details what’s changed with the QB and Todd Haley since last season. Lots of good stuff in there.

>> Heath Miller sounds more pessimistic about his health than anyone. Mark Kaboly reports.

>> Here’s the Steel Mill blog, which will be updated often.

>> The daily training camp photo gallery, by staff photog Chaz Palla.

Finally, a reminder that Alan and I will be part of the panel tonight on WPXI-TV’s ‘The Final Word,’ and we’ll be talking a lot of football.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.


  1. Ghost says:

    Maybe this will work. Sanders pulls a defender(s) deep while Brown keeps running the underneath routes because he’s actually the best threat to bust a move and make it a long-gainer.

    You had two “X-factors” or “Swing Votes” for the Pirates. Is Sanders your only one for the ’13 Steelers? Mine is Polamalu, or Thomas, if Polamalu pulls something again. We need to get back that torpedo-like presence blowing up plays all over the field. If Thomas can remotely impersonate Troy — or Donnie Shell, the original “Torpedo” — the Steeler D will be back.

    DK: This had nothing to do with the Pirates.

  2. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    Things won’t start to take shape till hitting is allowed.

    From what I hear, it can’t start till Monday.

    DK: That’s correct.

  3. Jim Calhoun says:

    Khashif Moore…he can catch on as the last WR and be a deep threat specialist.

    DK: He had a big one today, too.

  4. theplanisworking says:

    I think the TE position could be huge for the team. Miller isnt ready to go, and the depth at the position is poor. In Haley’s offense, the TE is a check-down when the WR’s dont get open quickly, and they provide much needed blocking for the running game, another huge question mark.

    Another position that is crucial is the D-line. If they cant contain the opposing running game, and get some pressure on the QB, the rest of the defense suffers.

    DK, did anyone look out of shape, like Hampton in previous years?

    DK: Unfair until pads. 77 obviously didn’t do himself any favors.

  5. Jim Calhoun says:

    It’ll take a lot more than one day, but if he can consistently prove that his speed is an asset, I don’t see why he can’t fill some of the void Wallace left.

  6. Drew71 says:

    “…Emmanuel Sanders, the player I pick on the first full day of training camp to be the Steelers’ ‘X’ factor.”

    Well. At least you gave it some time.

    “Although, as you’ll see in this Antonio Brown video, I’m not ruling him out, either”

    Definitive, too.

  7. John Lease says:

    21 more Pirate wins for a winning season.

    And that is all the headline anyone needs.

    Well, that and McKenry going 4 for 4.

    Don’t see that every day…

  8. JoeyBats says:

    Hoka Hey everyone!
    Pirates win…Pirates win!!! ….LXI wins down, …and XXI to go.
    Yes, GM Neal and Mgr. Clint ….82 wins DOES make a difference.
    Beat Em’ Bucs !
    PS:…. :-(……tooo many innnings for the effective bullpen…can’t keep leaning on them for 3 & 4
    PSS: nice to see the Cutch family and friends fill up an entire section @ Marlins ballpark

  9. JoeyBats says:

    ………………………………….oh yes, Steelers X-factor …..rookie RB, #2 pick, Mr. Bell.

  10. JAL says:

    JAL’s Gone Fishing Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates Stats

    5 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker

    BLOGS and such

    6—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Charlie Morton is Jeff Locke With Regression

    McKenry Has a Career Night at the Plate, But Also Tweaks Knee

    Prospect Watch: Strong Pitching From Dickson, Dodson and Johnson

    7 Bucs Dugout

    Michael McKenry (?!) keys 7-4 win over Marlins

    Pirates trade rumors: No Cliff Lee, but Bucs looking at outfield market


    Game 102: Pirates 7 Marlins 4

    9 The Green Weenie

    Bucs Jump Out Early On Way To 7-4 Win

    10 Rumbunter

    Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Rumors: Hunter Pence

    11 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Pirates 7 Marlins 4

  11. JAL says:

    NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    12 Miami Herald

    Marlins can’t come up with big hit in loss to Pirates

    13 City of Champions

    Pirates defeat Marlins behind gusty performance from Michael McKenry

    14 New York Daily News

    Anger over latest PED scandal in baseball could lead to penalty of erasing contracts

    15 IS Sports

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Would you trade Jameson Taillon? (Part 2)

    16 CBS Sports

    Pirates v Marlins Game Preview

    17 Fish Stripes

    MLB Scores: Miami Marlins 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 7

    18 PBC Site

    Pirates break out early, hold off Marlins

    Notebook: McKenry injures knee late in career game


    19 Baseball Prospectus

    This Week in Catcher Framing, 7/26

    20 Fangraphs

    The 2013 NL East, and Strong and Weak Divisions

  12. JAL says:

    Gone Fishing Bing Crosby and Louie Armstrong

  13. JoeyBats says:

    I CAN’T believe we’re putting our faith in Matt Spaeth, DJ and Jamie McKoy until Heath comes back…… opinion, a big mistake. I know you have to pick your spots with limited resources however a healthy, HEEEEEE-ath can’t get back, soon enough.

  14. Scott says:

    Chewed on the article overnight. I’d have to go with Rookie RB Bell. Need the ground game to do well to pull the safeties closer to the line, or the deep ball will likely have double coverage.

    DK: A fair choice, Scott. I just have a hard time picturing Tomlin trusting the kid so quickly in a feature role. Even yesterday, he seemed especially tough on Bell during drills.

  15. Drew71 says:

    Let’s ask Thunder who he’s selecting from the Ravens’ camp.

  16. Eric Bowser says:

    I can’t pick an X factor because the Steelers have too many question marks for one guy to make a difference. The lack of a RB, no threat at TE w/out Miller, unproductive DL, who steps up at OLB replacing Harrison, Woodley plays or sidelined, will the offensive line actually play like 1st/2nd rd picks + Foster, is the secondary too old and midget WR with old Plax is underwhelming.

    Like I said, no single X factor will push this team to a winning record and make playoffs.

    Pirates need a RF, Giants need to be given an offer they can’t refuse in order to trade Hunter Pence.

  17. Thundercrack says:

    I think the X Factor is right field

  18. Eric Bowser says:

    That is an X factor!

    Going to Sunday mass with wife and her family in honor of her father. Since I will be in a church, hell will freeze over & Pirates get a RF.

  19. theplanisworking says:

    Agreed, Jose. ;)

    This could be crucial to the teams fortunes this year.
    Matt Spaeth……………… that says it all!

  20. theplanisworking says:


  21. theplanisworking says:

    Prepare to be underwhelmed.

    neal wont give up prospects………. sellers asking too much……… dont see it happening.


  22. Eric Bowser says:

    With Pirates about to break their losing ways, about time I start writing that book. Lol

  23. Maddamma says:

    Without pure speed, a receiver has to beat a guy straight off the line in man coverage, or use a move or a double-move downfield to get open for a deep ball. That requires Ben being prone long enough for that to develop. The ‘X’ factor for the deep ball is the two tackles. I just can’t get around that. Adams and Gilbert have to stick at their positions, play well, and stay healthy or this is going to be a long season.

  24. Thundercrack says:

    Just watched the replay and post game interview from David Ortiz. Last night he took his back and smashed a phone in the dugout. After watching the replay and hearing him speak and try to explain it: he is a moronic macho man

  25. Drew71 says:

    Great! i LOVE them!

    Is he the Indian Chief or the Policeman?

  26. Thundercrack says:

    I think he is a new one. Big Papi

  27. sidelinespensfan says:

    I have a few random questions I hope someone, with more knowledge of the situations than me, can answer:

    1. There has been a large off-season turnover in Wilkes-Barre for the Baby Pens. Is this a by-product of the relatively young stars on the NHL club, the lack of true prospects, or is there something deeper within the organization that we are missing?

    2. Let’s say the Steelers improve on their 8-8 record of last season, and the biggest difference in the team is the improved play from the young guys put into new roles. Would the coaches be praised for the improved performance, or would there be some questioning as to why it took so long to replace some vets? Sometimes it is easy to discount the human element as fans, but it has to be hard for a coach or manager to turn away from a vet that he knows personally, and has done the job for him before.

    3. I don’t have the stats, but it seems the Pirates hit slightly better later in the game whether it is the starter going long, or the bullpen comes into the game. Could you argue that this is due to a change in hitting philosophy where the team is less interested in pitch count? I understand the desire to run up the pitch count on the starter, but there seems to be a select number of pitches that are taken for no reason. I believe in the “patiently aggressive” strategy where a player looks for either one select pitch (fastball, curve, change), or one select location (up and away, middle in, etc…) and doesn’t swing at anything before 2 strikes that doesn’t fit what he is looking for. The Pirates seem to do this later in the game when the pitch count no longer matters.

    DK: My try …

    1. That’s life in the AHL without a steady stream of forward prospects, much less no forward prospects at all. Those minor-league lifers live off one-year, two-way deals.

    2. Probably a little bit of both.

  28. JAL says:

    On number 3–different players do it differently. Walker and Marte often swing at the first pitch while other let it go by. As for hitting better later, a number of factors could be a work. One that comes to mind is relievers usually don’t have the pitches a starter does so you guess less. A good starter will have at least 4 pitches to throw while many relievers only have 2 good pitches. So when facing a starter you have to guess slider, curve, fastball, changeup. while when facing a reliever only a fastball and slider.

  29. Ghost says:

    This must be payback for the time the Pirates climbed atop the MLB with the best record and I couldn’t believe all the posts were about the NHL draft…

    But does the “This” in “This had nothing to do with the Pirates” refer to the Sunday column, or to my post?

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