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Sunday column: Steelers deep-sixed? Not so fast

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Sunday column is part of our 12-page NFL Preview special section, focusing on the Steelers’ six guys with two Super Bowl rings, six potential new starters and six reasons why I think they’ll be a success.

You’ll find my prediction for the season record in there. I want to hear yours, too, but be sure to back it up. Don’t just toss out a couple numbers.

Here’s the section cover …

Here’s our full Steelers coverage. including the stunning cut of Jonathan Dwyer and much — but not all — of the preview section. To get the full experience, the print product is a zillion times better.

Also, here’s a reminder that the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt, Penn State and more are among the talking points of tonight’s The Final Word on WPXI-TV at 11:35 p.m. I’ll join Mark Kaboly, Alby Oxenreiter and Bill Phillips.

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. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    I’ve been through this schedule every which way but sideways, and I can’t get better than 7-9….Worst case scenario 5-11.
    I saw too much of the same old same old during pre-season.
    Will it change?….Possibly.
    Could it change?…Definitely.
    I’m hoping like crazy I’m wrong….

    DK: Maybe I can help: Show me your nine losses.

  2. theplanisworking says:

    Agreed Daquido.

    For 10-6 to occur, everything would have to go perfectly.
    No injuries to Troy.
    No injuries to Ben.
    A very strong running game.
    D-Line to step up.
    Secondary to not get burnt.

    I see 7-9, or 6-10.
    If Ben gets hurt, it could be worse.
    But, its early, so I will hold out hope for the best.

  3. Ghost says:

    Haven’t paid close enough attention yet to be able to participate in the “Guess the Steelers’ Record” game, but a quick glance at the six names who have two rings is not encouraging. Ben is still in his prime and I think Ike is, too. That’s it. Polamalu will show flashes of brilliance but will eventually break down. Miller won’t be at 100% this year. Keisel and Foote are well past their primes and both in their last year here.

  4. Ghost says:

    Ben is a great crunch-time player, but he and Troy are the only known entities possessing that X-factor, going into 2013. And I’m already discounting Troy’s season. Just as Ben is the Steelers’ once-in-a-generation quarterback, players like Hines Ward were also once-in-a-generation champions that aren’t readily replaced. I also believed that about Santonio Holmes had he been able to stay, but that wasn’t to be. Don’t be surprised if it’s a while before the Steelers have enough “X-factor” players again. You can’t anoint them, they just are. And they’re rare.

  5. Donnie Mason says:

    Hey, Mr. Kovacevic! I love your writing. I’d be honored if you checked out my blog and told me what you thought of it. Thanks!

  6. JD says:

    I’m eagerly looking forward to your next “I was wrong post”. You should prepare to be overwhelmed sometimes instead of underwhelmed.

    Go Bucs! Go Steelers!

  7. JAL says:

    JAL’s Wake Me When September Ends Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 Pittsburgh Pirates Stats

    BLOGS and such

    4—Pirates Prospects

    First Pitch: Morneau For Two Players Who Barely Made It Out Of A-Ball

    Pirates Take First Place in NL Central, Beat St. Louis 7-1

    Prospect Watch: Austin Meadows Homers in First Game With Jamestown

    Pirates Notebook: For Garrett Jones, C’est La Vie

    5 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates take over sole possession of first with 7-1 win

    Justin Morneau trade analysis: Pirates get little, give up even less

    6 Rumbunter

    VIDEO: Pittsburgh Pirates Breaking Bad by Benstonium


    Game 135: Pirates 7 Cardinals 1

    8 The Green Weenie

    Bucs Back In First After 7-1 Win

    9 Raise the Jolly Roger

    Pirates 7, Cards 1

  8. JAL says:

    NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    10 City of Champions

    Pirates bomb Cardinals, take over first place in NL Central

    11 Minneapolis Star Tribune

    Morneau traded to Pittsburgh for outfielder

    12 Rant Sports

    Pittsburgh Pirates Acquire Justin Morneau For Basically Nothing

    13 Redbird Rants

    St. Louis Cardinals on verge of being swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates

    14 Cincinnati Enquirer

    Time is running out for division title run

    15 KDKA

    What Are The Pirates Getting In Justin Morneau?

    16 CBS Sports

    Cardinals-Pirates Gam Preview

    17 St Louis Post Dispatch

    No joy in Pittsburgh for Birds

    Calling on Clemente

    18 PBC Site

    Bucs erupt early vs. Cards, sit alone atop NL Central

    Morneau energized by atmosphere surrounding Bucs


    19 Baseball Prospectus

    What Makes a Good Changeup? An Investigation, Part Three

    20 Fangraphs

    My Simple(ish) Playoff Chances Simulator

  9. JAL says:

    Wake Me When September Ends Green Day 2004

  10. theplanisworking says:

    I eagerly await to see your FIRST “I am wrong” post.
    But you would never do that, so I wont wait around for it.

    Have a great day. :)

  11. theplanisworking says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot……………

    Relax. Chill out.

  12. radio wave says:

    Scattered thoughts:
    Pirates announcers too giddy for just end of August.
    John in Oshkosh: we were wrong about the Iowa game.
    jandy: NHL camps open Sept. 11.
    Drew: your thoughts on Clemson?
    Break out the brooms.

  13. Drew71 says:

    Looking at the Steelers’ schedule, it’s hard to find more than six losses.

    But remember last season. Who would have predicted a loss to Oakland? I don’t think ANY of us were (or are) prepared to be THAT “underwhelmed”. And yet. I’ve always thought that predicting off the schedule is the false gold of prognostication. With the laudably consistent examples of a very few teams like the Steelers, there are wild and weird swings each season. The NFC South had for four or so years a worst to first division winner.

    Ignoring the schedule, this “feels” like an 8-8 team. Qs at O line, running back, tight end. All may be fine by season’s end. All may be weak to start. But that is a lot of trouble for the offense to deal with, and it puts more pressure on Ben. Which may lead to taking chances. Which may equal injury.

    So. Where’s the secret weapon this year, the part of the team that could positively surprise? I will take the defense.

    The D last season was better on paper than it played in big situations. I am guessing that the Steeler style D is BACK. It may need to be.

    So. Im not by a game by game prediction, but rather an Offense vs Defense, a first half season vs second, I’ll go with 9-7.

    I think the team starts slow and loses a game or two in the first half that they have no business losing. Thus no game by game prediction because it could be ANY of them. (See above re: Oakland, 2012.)

    I think the injuries solve themselves. The O line, which needs playing time to forge itself into a fighting force, will do exactly that. OVER TIME. All of these things over time.

    So I think they just miss the playoffs. Nine wins. But in an odd way, with a very strong ending, we’ll feel better about the season than we otherwise would after missing the playoffs.

    PS: My prediction is the number of games, not the playoff scenario. Too many other factors – other teams – that they don’t control and I can’t predict. Nine wins PROBABLY misses but COULD get in. And if they do, with a strong finish they’ll be the WC team that no one wants to play.

  14. Drew71 says:

    Yesterday, underneath my SEC bluster, I also wrote that we were looking at two teams with legitimate national championship game aspirations.

    Still feel that way.

    Obviously about Clemson. They won.

    And as with Alabama with one early loss against a good team last season, even Georgia.

    Georgia doesn’t play Alabama during the regular season this year, so if they run the SEC gauntlet and beat the Tide in the SEC championship game…

    Possible but I don’t see any real chance this year.

    Last season was the YEAR OF THE VERY GOOD. No GREAT teams. So a one loss team could sneak into the BCS championship.

    Not this year.

    There could be 3-4 undefeated major powers this year. And if Clemson (or Florida State) is one of them, I won’t be waving the weak ACC flag this year.

  15. Thundercrack says:

    Looking at some of the recent trades: Byrd, Morneau, and Michael Young – it looks like the buyers gave up less than they would have at the trade deadline. Of course they also would have had the player for 30 more days if they made the deal in July.

    I can’t tell but it seems like Baltimore may have given up a good prospect for Morse

  16. Drew71 says:

    Is Morneau’s team due a compensatory 1-2 round sandwich pick if he signs elsewhere as a free agent? If so, I don’t get what the Twins did.

    Maybe like the rest of America, they’ve fallen in love with the Bad News Pirates and want to see how the movie ends.

  17. Drew71 says:

    I Was Wrong.


    Just reserving my right to kick some Thundercrack all over the blog.

  18. Vette60 says:

    Just some random Sunday morning thoughts as the rest of the house is slowing getting into gear…

    -Man, the Buccos are rockin’ St. Louis! Checked the score of the game last night after dinner out with the family for my wife’s birthday and it was 2-1. By the time we got to the car, it was 7-1! Get the sweep!

    -Broke down and bought a new cap. Was walking past Lids at the mall and the “P” was calling to me! Will wear it proudly today to a neighborhood party!

    -Steelers record this year – hmmm…10-6 seems reasonable when taking a quick look at the schedule…looking forward to football. Can catch enough of the Steelers games on here in Richmond that I don’t need the Sunday Ticket, plus the NFL Redzone rocks when they are not carried.

    -Hoping to Pitt that they keep it respectable against FSU. As a fringe Pitt follower, I liked the tone that Chryst is setting with the program…we’ll see what shakes out Monday night.

    -Let’s go BUCS!

    Have a great day all.

    Randy in RVA.

  19. Arriba Wilver says:

    I was giddy yesterday, too. So I’ll forgive ‘em.

  20. Arriba Wilver says:


  21. Drew71 says:

    I won’t forgive THAT

  22. theplanisworking says:

    + many.

  23. What were you wrong about, Drew?

    Absolute lock SEC?


  24. theplanisworking says:

    Good Morning Reverend.
    Nice to see you back.

  25. Drew71 says:

    You’re, um, Lucky it’s Sunday, Reverand.

  26. Drew71 says:

    I think we’re saying the same thing with different words, but on Monday night, if it’s Tone versus Talent?

    Bet the house on Talent.

    Because the dreaded Seminoles seem to have pretty good tone, too.

  27. DJ says:

    10-6 seems reasonable. Win one no one is expecting, lose one no one is expecting and other 14 play out pretty much as expected. I am going to think optimistically about our team’s focus and health, say we get on a roll early, going 6-2 in first 8, and finish 11-5.

  28. Arriba Wilver says:

    I think liking the tone that Chryst has set leads to the hope that they do respectable, not the conviction they will. He could have had a more talented team in the short run if he didn’t care about the “tone” going forward.

  29. Keeps me absent.

    And free of bold reamings from Drewolito.

  30. Drew71 says:

    Thing Again.

  31. Thundercrack says:

    Nice article in this morning’s Trib by Karen Price. The subject is Clint Hurdle

  32. Vette60 says:

    Yep, that’s pretty much where I am coming from. Hope, not conviction…

    Take it easy guys.

    Randy in RVA.

  33. Arriba Wilver says:

    You too, Randy.

  34. Arriba Wilver says:

    Old news already, but any intelligence about the Dwyer cut. I know they didnt like his perceived lack of commitment, but . . .

    I like Tomlin overall, but sometimes he overreacts, like in that game last year when he would bench every RB when they fumbled. I think they were all benched in that game at one point. Sounds more emotional than rational (that tactic). Just hope we are OK at RB this year.

  35. Dadtackular says:


  36. Thundercrack says:

    “He’s a catalyst-type guy. He can run, he throws [well] enough, he can steal a base,” Ryan said. “He probably shouldn’t hit the ball in the air much, because he’s not a power-oriented guy. He’s an athlete.”

    This is from the Twins’ GM regarding Presley.

    I guess there really are not secrets in MLB. :-)

  37. Stuart says:

    Please excuse a Pirates post,as I am not yet ready to talk Steelers.

    The Pirates have significance in September.

    Pirate management can now recede into relative obscurity as a topic for the rest of this baseball year.

    It is fruitless to compare trades from the past with the present. Back in the day, when you traded for someone, it was with the expectation that that player, ala Tim Foli, Don Hoak, Bill Madlock, etc would play for your team until he retired or you traded him again. More often than not, current trades are for “rental players”. I guess you can blame Curt Flood for the current system, but in retrospect, the main difference in the times is that all of the players make a lot of money. In the old days, just the owners made a lot of money.

    Here are my lineups against righty and lefty starters:

    Righties – Cutch – 8 Lefties – Tabata – 7
    Walker – 4 J. Hay – 4
    Morneau – 3 Cutch – 8
    Byrd – 7 Byrd – 9
    Pedro – 5 Pedro – 5
    Jones – 9 Martin – 2
    Martin – 2 Morneau – 3
    Barmes – 6 Barmes – 6

    The Bucs now have to be the favorites for the division.

    Happy September/October – Stuart

  38. pattonbb says:

    Good stuff Drew. I think Georgia gets beat by South Carolina and/or Florida. They’re a terrible tackling team. I don’t think that will improve.

    Clemson could have beat them by 2 td’s. They missed several big plays. In the second half, I counted 3 different plays when they had Peake uncovered but couldn’t get the ball to him. Clemson might be the real deal this year. This was my first night game at Death Valley. It won’t be my last. What an amazing experience. My ears are still ringing.

    Bama has their work cut out for them. The OL looked horrible. Hope that improves. Defense will once again be the best in the country, but boy that running game was ugly yesterday.

    Of course only Bama fans can beat a tough Va Tech team by 3 td’s and immediately think, “Boy we suck”.

  39. Stuart says:

    I did have those in columns. Oh well I guess the blog isn’t really for desktop publishing. Sorry about the appearance of my post.


  40. bizrow says:

    No, the rules changed, you have to give the player a qualifying offer, somewhere around 14 million to get any draft pick if he signs elsewhere.

    At least I think that is the current rules

    But I could be wrong, if so, I’ll admit it now

  41. 21sthebest says:

    I’ll never understand the discussions centering around posters, whether it’s beating your chest when you’re right or admitting when you’re wrong. Who really cares. We’re all right and wrong from time to time.

  42. JMB says:


    You pessimists are crazy!

  43. John Lease says:

    The Steelers will probably be right around .500 again. Until their offensive line gets better, they aren’t going anywhere.

  44. John Lease says:

    I thought Jimmy Anderson was a quality major league pitcher. Since that time, I’ve tempered my enthusiasm for my own opinions…

  45. Arriba Wilver says:


  46. Thundercrack says:

    Haven’t the rules changed for the team that trades for the player too?
    Do the Pirates still get a comp pick if they offer Morneau a qualifying offer?

    I’m not sure. I may be wrong.
    (that was easy, and felt good)

  47. JohninOshkosh says:

    This is my post from the Steelers first pre-season game:

    JohninOshkosh says:
    August 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm


    1. Tennessee W 1-0
    2. @Cincinnati L 1-1
    3. Chicago W 2-1
    4. @Minnesota L 2-2
    5. @NY Jets W 3-2
    6. Baltimore W 4-2
    7. @Oakland W 5-2
    8. @New England L 5-3
    9. Buffalo W 6-3
    10. Detroit W 7-3
    11. @Cleveland W 8-3
    12 @Baltimore L 8-4
    13. Miami L 8-5
    14. Cincinnati W 9-5
    15. @Green Bay W 10-5
    16. Cleveland W 11-5

    This is how I see it. You always win one on the road you shouldn’t. I have Green Bay for that game. You always seem to lose one at home you shouldn’t. I have Miami for that. But you can flip it and have them beating Miami at home and losing to Cincinnati the next week and still have the same record. Possibly lose to both the Jets and Ravens in weeks 5 and 6 but still finish 9-7 and a possible WC.

    I’m still sticking by this. Yes, I’m proud to be the only person in America picking them to finish 11-5. I think they will be much better than people anticipate.

  48. Lad9 says:

    Walker leading off today, GI hitting second and playing RF. Morneau in the six hole.

  49. Naje says:

    That is a long lineup, as they say….especially against a RHP…

  50. JRay3 says:

    All the new guys playing today- Byrd, Morneau, Buck….time for the sweep. Looking forward to watching Kris Johnson throw.

  51. Arriba Wilver says:

    I was going to respond but then it got real confusing. Do the Twins get a comp pick? Do the Pirates, and if so, under what circumstances. I don’t “think” there are any circumstances where the Pirates can get a comp pick since he was a mid-season pickup. And I don’t “think” the Twins get anything other than what they traded him for under any circumstances. But they could ways re-sign him.

    I “think” I just “responded.”

  52. JRay3 says:

    Bucs recall Kyle Farnsworth from Indy, reinstate Travis Snider from the DL as the start of the September extra pieces begin to trickle in.

  53. Arriba Wilver says:


    And I could be “wrong.”

  54. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    DK – I’m fearful of losses to:

    Tenn – Yes….I don’t think they’re ready
    Baltimore – Maybe twice
    Cincy – Maybe twice

    DK: Oakland? Buzzzzzzzzz!

  55. cmat0829 says:

    Good luck getting lil’ Elvis to stop hitting 250feet fly balls. I’m pretty sure he was told to learn to hit the ball on the ground for years and he either can’t do it or is too stubborn to try. “Catalyst-type guy”? If NH had said that, he’d be tarred and feathered with 400 posts on the blog.

    No doubt he’s an athlete and if he can change his game he has a bit of value. Let’s see if he can actually change.

  56. cmat0829 says:

    interesting, was wondering if they’d go with Jones or felt compelled to give Tabby the start as he is more of a leadoff hitter…. no beef either way.

  57. cmat0829 says:

    Thanks for laying out the actual opponents and game projections to back up a record prediction. I see a lot of folks throwing out from 5-11 to 11-5 as if the schedule doesn’t have a big impact to the record…. no doubt the Steelers have a lot of questions, but also hard to see Big Ben, if he stays healthy, not keeping this team in most if not all of their games with a chance to pull it out.

    Tennessee, the Jets, the Raiders, the Bills and the Lions are all pretty much universally projected to be very very poor teams. Jury out on Miami and Cleveland a little, but most don’t have them set as playoff teams. The Bears and Vikings may be decent but have lots of questions also.

    Anyone predicting less than 8-8, IMHO, must be thinking a ton of injuries or something like that….

  58. cmat0829 says:

    great anaysis Drew, but I think I lost you a bit on “ignore the schedule”…can’t see how you can do that.

  59. cmat0829 says:

    you mind as well say you are fearful they can – and maybe will- lose EVERY game. If you sincerely think losing at home to Detroit and Tennesse are real possibilities, you should be projecting 2-14.

  60. Brotherhood of the Redus says:

    Funny what a couple years at less than 100% and pretty much on the sidelines might end up doing for troy’s shelf life. This is still a solid defense no matter what folks want to believe…the key will be if the front 3 can begin to develop. Cortez is ready to explode on to the scene and that will make for an interesting defensive backfield.

    I am sticking by “bell is in better shape than everyone thinks”. Tomlin may be shutting the doors of that locker room to but a tiny peep hole after the way things got out if hand last year. Too many opinions. Too much talking. DK don’t be surprised if you guys never get the real story from this organization again. Things have been too public for too long with them…offense is clicking behind closed doors. Offensive line is strong. I do not believe we have seen 1/10 of the scheme they have developed for this year.

    12 – 4 and the rest if the league goes ” where did that come from?”….right here baby. Just needed a little time to figure things out!

    DK: I loved this post.

  61. JohninOshkosh says:

    I agree with you. As long as Roethlisberger is running the offense, they will be in the game. I think their defense is pretty solid, even underrated. They will be competitive in every game. A lot of teams have good QB’s with OL issues (Pakcers, Bears, etc). I think the OL will improve as the year unfolds, thus allowing the offense to click a bit better. Cincy in game 2 will be a tough test, likely tor result in some growing pains.

  62. JohninOshkosh says:

    Sunday morning typing!

  63. MadTurk says:

    We really really get you don’t like Presley wow the man is hitting like .280 something in the minors and was aver .300 in the major last year for a bit before he hit a slump. Not given a long look see this year at all. a game here and there is not enough. Can you imagine if we did that with Clutch or Marte when they first came up?

  64. Sisyphus says:

    I’m pretty sure that you don’t get a comp pick for a guy that you traded for during the season. That change came in the most recent CBA.

    Not that the Bucs were likely to tender Morneau.

  65. Ghost says:

    This scenario is quite plausible. And the Steelers usually bounce back strong after missing the playoffs. But 7-9 ~ 9-7 scenarios are equally plausible. This is because the team is now in full transition. Never (in the past 15 years) have there been so many question marks about so many pieces, and also about how these pieces will fit together.

  66. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    First of all, they’re not going to go 2-14 because they’re not THAT bad.
    Second of all….You might as well go 2-14 in the NFL as opposed to 6-10 or 7-9.
    Ask the Indy Colts….

  67. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    lol….I seem to recall a loss there about 10 short months or so ago.

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