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Morning Java: Safety first

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Morning, Lunatics …

>> The TribLIVE Radio show will return at its usual 2 p.m. Wednesday slot next week. Today will be a travel day to Florida, Fort Myers, specifically, where the Pirates and Twins will play. I’ll be there for six days, four columns and a bunch of other stuff.

>> So the Steelers put safety first in signing Mike Mitchell, formerly of Carolina, to fill the spot now officially vacated by Ryan Clark, as beat man Alan Robinson reports.

It’s a smart move positionally, it’s above-and-beyond in terms of how the team usually operates in free agency, and it might end up even better from the personnel standpoint. Mitchell is only 26, he’s a former second-rounder, and he very much comes with the bio and background and overall feel of a highly capable talent with an upward arrow. Fact is, if you look in particular at his reputation as being a fierce hitter who sometimes crosses the line, then picture him paired in the secondary with Troy Polamalu, it’s hard not to think of him as a younger, faster version of Clark. Sniff at that all you want, given how Clark performed last season, but for the first half of 2012, he might have been the Steelers’ overall MVP. The guy could play.

Beyond that, it’s always worth applauding when the Steelers a) recognize a real shortcoming and b) find the dollars and the will to address it from the outside. They’ve made a bed with these recent drafts, but it doesn’t mean they have to lie in it.

Here’s the Trib’s Steelers page.

>> Brooks Orpik and the Penguins swept the Capitals in a home-and-home, this time by a 2-0 shutout. Josh Yohe reports from Consol.

I asked Sidney Crosby about his backbreaking goal in the third, specifically how he played off Chris Kunitz on the two-on-one …

Random bloggery from the rink: Lee Stempniak wasn’t one of the official three stars, but he should have been along with Crosby and, of course, Marc-Andre Fleury for his shutout. Stempniak was strong on the puck, quick to move it and, above all, the guy can keep up. Remember, that’s priority No. 1 with Crosby and Kunitz. “No question he’s got the wheels,” Crosby told me afterward. “He can do a lot of things quickly.” Don’t expect this spot to be handed to Beau Bennett. Stempniak deserves a shot. … Orpik really was that good. As Dan Bylsma observed, he was extra-physical Monday, then extra-smart last night, but that made for a 1-2 punch for which Alexander Ovechkin had no answer. … I don’t know that there’s a player anywhere in the NHL less invested in a game’s outcome than Washington’s Mike Green. Man, what’s happened to that guy? He was never good defensively, but he at least went through the motions. … Simon Despres will keep getting called for interference so long as he keeps holding up his man on the right-wing boards every time the puck goes beyond them. Refs aren’t stupid. They remember who does what. The call against Despres in the third was exactly the right one, and it’s well past time he learns from it. … Did Craig Adams and Taylor Pyatt really log more ice time in the third period than Evgeni Malkin and James Neal? … Which aspect of Fleury’s 32-save shutout impressed him most, I asked? “That I wasn’t really busy at all early on. It wasn’t an easy game to get into.” Typical goalie. They’d always rather have shots than not. Fleury faced six in the first period, 20 in the third. He was equally sharp throughout. … If you’re a Pittsburgh fan, you should pray for a first-round matchup with Washington. And not just for the usual historical reasons.

Here’s the Trib’s Penguins page.

>> An Andrew McCutchen sequel for 2014? Travis Sawchik looks back and ahead on a spring off-day for the Pirates.

Here’s the fourth episode of our Jameson Taillon video series, by Rob Biertempfel and Chris Horner

Here’s the Trib’s Pirates page.

>> Robert Morris lost big in the NEC championship game, by Paul Schofield at the Sewall Center. Columnist Joe Starkey writes that there’s no shame in the Colonials’ season.

>> Pitt can learn from ACC tourney history, by Kevin Gorman.

>> Duquesne has found a sharp-shooting gem in Micah Mason, by Chris Harlan. And Mason, I might add, is exactly the kind of local recruit the Dukes need to pursue like their lives depend on it. Not necessarily NBA height or material, but deadly from the outside.

>> I’ll visit with my friends at TribLIVE Radio today at 12:30 p.m., live by phone from Hammond Stadium, southern home of the Minnesota Twins.

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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.

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