Jerry Micco's sports chat transcript: 10.3.12

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Poll Question: Looking at the entire season, what grade would you give the Pirates?

Answer #1: A -- Within a game or 2 of snapping slide (8%)

Answer #2: B -- Very good; lots of memories (8%)

Answer #3: C -- Mediocre team, mediocre year (17%)

Answer #4: D -- How do you fall apart like that? (50%)

Answer #5: F -- 20 years and counting (17%)

Guest: Jerry, do the Steelers make the playoffs this year

Jerry Micco: I think they will with a 10-6 record. I think they can go 4-2 in division and they have some winnable games on their schedule. That said, if they lose on Sunday and go to 1-3, their playoff hopes take a major hit.

Guest: Jerry, with the return of Troy, Sylvester, and Harrison, do you see any reason why the Defense won't dominate on Sunday?

Jerry Micco: I didn't think Sylvester was coming back, but if he is, he'll provide special teams help and depth. Polamalu is a guy you always have to account for, so having him on the field makes the defense better. Let's see if Harrison is healthy enough to play. He still has to go through some practices this week to test that knee. And if he can play, it obviously makes that defense better.

Guest: Jerry, who would win a Steelers Jeopardy Competition between you, Dulac, and Bouchette?

Jerry Micco: Put your money on either Ed or Gerry. I would not be able to come close to those guys. I have some knowledge of 70s stuff, but I didn't work this market for nearly 25 years and much of that was pre-Internet. My knowledge came from what I saw on TV and wire stories. When you don't follow a team day to day, and Ed and Gerry have for years for us, you have inherit knowledge of the team that few people have.

Dave: Is there some clubhouse story that partially explains why the Pirates stopped playing "fundamental" baseball in the last two months?

Jerry Micco: I don't think so. I've not heard that the clubhouse was in some sort of collapse mode around the trade deadline, though some people feel that was the case. I insist that Huntington made his big trade in mid-July getting Wandy Rodriguez. He rightfully saw that pitching was likely their weak link and tried to shore it up. Now, maybe Correia wasn't a happy camper for a while, but that wouldn't put the clubhouse in complete disorder. Maybe what we saw in June/July was a team playing way over its head and what we've seen the last 2 months is a team that is underachieving. If someone had told you the Bucs would win 80 games this year in March, most people would have laughed him out of the room. Well, they can win 80 if they sweep the Braves today.

T22Post: Jerry, do you think this is Lebeau's last year, and the final year of the 3-4 D?

Jerry Micco: I think they are a 3-4 team because Tomlin has bought into that defense, so I don't necessarily buy into the premise that if LeBeau goes, so goes the 3-4. As for it being LeBeau's final season, I'll have a better idea in December. He's 75, but looks in great shape. I think he still works as hard as ever. And if you believe the players, it's not the scheme, it's the execution.

T22Post: Do you foresee the Pirates front office spending again this off season to surround McCutchen will more bats

Jerry Micco: Well, if Alvarez (30 HRs), Jones (27 HRs) and Walker (69 RBIs in a short season) are all back, they have a pretty solid lineup of hitters. Now if they can upgrade, I'm sure they will, but I don't see them being heavy hitters in free agency. I think their big questions will whether or not to pay Jones and Hanrahan, who will be offered a lot in arbitration. Are both worth keeping? If so, then they are likely in the $7-10 million range for a season. I think those are the decisions that they will have to make and that may drive how they approach free agency.

War18: Jerry, what do you think the Steelers can do to contain Michael Vick, Do you think we should concede the short stuff and let Vick make mistakes?

Jerry Micco: I've always thought the key to beating Vick was to keep him hemmed in the pocket and make him beat you with his arm. Now, he's become a better pocket passer over time, but to me it's his legs that make him dangerous. The Steelers would gladly concede the short stuff if it meant Vick was kept in the pocket. If Vick has the kind of day where he's scrambling for big gains, then the Steelers are in trouble.

War18: Jerry, is Mendenhall going to be the shot that helps this ailing running game?

Jerry Micco: We'll see. The Eagles defense is a tough run defense, so it may be tough for the Steelers to be effective on the ground. I think Mendenhall certainly helps, but I only see him playing about 15 plays. You'll still see Redman, Dwyer and some combo of Batch/Rainey. I'd also like to see them throw to Mendenhall. Always thought he was a threat on swing passes because of his speed in the open field.

War18: Jerry, the lack of splash plays concerns me on defense, do you think that can be changed with scheme or is it simply a lack of talent?

Jerry Micco: Guys are taught certain things, like how to strip balls and how to get into passing lanes for picks, but you have to actually do those things to get turnovers. I think the players on defense are underachieving. And I think it's in this area, and the pass rush, that you see where the Steelers defense is truly lacking.

The Chief: Hi Jerry, out here on the Left Coast. How do you explain a team like the Nationals who won 59 games in 2009 winning their Divison , while the Pirates linger in mediocrity?

Jerry Micco: Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Trading for Gio Gonzalez. Already having an Adam Zimmerman at third, and signing Jayson Werth, who while tremendously overpaid, brought some veteran leadership and winning to the team. And Adam LaRoche has been huge for them. Made all the right decisions and spent some money, though not always well as far as the latter. And caught a terrific break getting back to back No. 1s in the draft when Strasburg and Harper were there.

War18: Jerry, Thoughts on Paul Chryst? I mean is there any reason why Pitt football is not better then they are, great facilities, pro stadium, football crazy town, big university, plenty of $$$. what is the problem?

Jerry Micco: After a rough start, Pitt has looked very good. I think going through 3 or 4 coaches in the past couple of years has hurt the program, but I'm a fan of Chryst. I think he's the right guy for that program and will make it competitive in the ACC, which is a much tougher conference for football than the Big East. And while Pittsburgh is a football-crazy town, I see it as a pro football-crazy town. Pitt has always had problems drawing fans, but I think there are a lot of Pitt fans out there. I look for Chryst to do good things here. I guess we'll see.

The Chief: Jerry, do you expect to see anything different with Steelers coming off the bye week?

Jerry Micco: If Polamalu, Harrison and Mendy play, I look for them to be much better overall. That's a lot going back into the team, and they are all key players. I'll watch the OL closely. That group has not played all that well so they'll get my attention. If that unit can play well against a good Eagles defense, that will be a huge boost for the Steelers.

War18: Jerry, do you think its fair to blame the Steeler's slow start on injuries?

Jerry Micco: Gotta play with who you got. Injuries or not, they should not have lost that game in Oakland. Just a bad loss all around.

The Chief: Your thoughts on the Ryder Cup, has it developed into anothe made for TV spectacle?

Jerry Micco: I think it's a great event and it was very compelling TV on Sunday. Of course, being an American I was disappointed with the finish, but the competition was excellent and both sides were very even. That makes for good TV right there.

War18: Ed, I saw on the PG+ that Tomlin wanted to bring Vick in, do you think that would have rubbed Ben the wrong way?

Jerry Micco: I don't think so, but then you never know with athletes. I think having Vick as a backup wouldn't work. Maybe his first year he needed to be part-time but after that, he would want to be a starter. And it would make sense to start him. That would not have happened here, however.

War18: Jerry, was the Raider game the best that you have seen Ben play ever?

Jerry Micco: A couple years ago in Heinz Field, a 37-36 (or was it 38-37) win over Green Bay was maybe the best game I've seen him play. He was great and won it with a last-second pass to Wallace after driving the field. Incredible game. I think that was in 2008 or 09.

Ken: Should you cheer a no-hitter if it means rooting against your team?

Jerry Micco: No-hitters are history. If your team is losing 6-0, it's probably going to lose. Might as well root on some history while you're team is being drubbed. Sure, cheer away.

War18: Jerry, I really thought that Chris Rainey would provide more of spark, kinda like a really really poor mans Darren Sproles. Do you expect anything from him this year?

Jerry Micco: I think as the season goes along, you'll see more of Rainey and he'll be a very good player. He can be a real force on special teams, and that's where I look for him to do some damage. But it'll take some time for him to learn the offense and how to play in the NFL.

T22Post: Jerry, if the Steelers take the L on Sunday and move to 1-3, how many Steelers fans will off themselves in Pittsburgh? Count me as the first to go.

Jerry Micco: All of them.

War18: Jerry, gun to your head, do you think the Steelers can make the playoffs with such tough teams as Baltimore and Cinci in the division

Jerry Micco: I think so. I think Cincy is very good as is Baltimore. But the Steelers can play with both of those teams, and beat them. I think Houston is the best team in the AFC and New England is second. Then you have 3 teams in the AFC North that are all good, and could knock off both the Texans and Pats. I think the Steelers are a top 5 AFC team. Though that loss to the Raiders could haunt them.

Joe: Pirates: New pittching coach? How about seeing if Walker's little league coaches are still around to come in and teach fundimentatl basics to the team next year? But seriously, think we'll see any changes in the coaching staff?

Jerry Micco: Already had one today: Hitting coach Gregg Ritchie is going to coach at his alma mater, George Washington University. After that, I'm not really sure.

War18: Jerry ill answer the question from the Chief, its called Stephen Stausberg, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper. You look at the Pirates draft and their good guys are still in freaking double AA when guys they could have taken are making contributions on the major league level.

Jerry Micco: I'll point out that Walker, McCutchen and Alvarez are all first-round picks that have contributed big time. What you don't see, though, is a pitcher. Had the Pirates picked at the top of the draft 2 years ago, Strasburg would have been here. Now, would they have moved him up quickly like the Nats did? Who knows.

Pablo: Jerry, what happened to Paul Zeise's chat on Monday? He opened in for questions around 11:30, and then never returned.

Jerry Micco: Sounds like a glitch in our system. I'll look into it.

War18: Jerry, How does anyone from the Pirate scouting staff remain there. I mean they pass up Manny Machado, they pass on Matt Wieters, how is it even possible to not be 500 when you draft in the top 10 for 20 years. Even if you just made your draft picks based on magazine rankings you would field a better team.

Jerry Micco: Getting Taillon, who was considered a tremendous prospect, was not a bad pick. You can't judge him until he gets to the majors. As for Machado, a great pick and he's helped Baltimore this season, but it was much more than Machado that propelled that team. I think they could draft better in rounds after No. 1 that. It's where they've fallen off.

T22Post: Jerry, if you had to point at one weakness the Pirates have that needs to be fixed to make the playoffs next year what would that be?

Jerry Micco: Stealing bases and preventing guys from stealing bases. Just now: Bourn gets on (walk) steals second and third, and a fly ball brings him in. That costs them an early run. Too much of that.

War18: Jerry, With regards to Pitt and the Pirates, how many years in a row can someone say wait till next year? I mean any good college football coach will turn a team around in about 2 years correct?

Jerry Micco: Depends on the talent. Different coaches recruit to different systems, and if you have a bunch of guys that were recruited for a different system, that puts you behind the 8 ball. Pitt has been competitive for a few years, but could certainly do better in the Big East. I think if Chryst is given a chance, Pitt will be competitive in the ACC. Not in 2 years, but maybe in years 3 and 4.

War18: Jerry, with regards to Pitt, how good do you think Rushel Shell can be?

Jerry Micco: As good as he wants. Big kid, good vision, good speed. All the attributes of a very good running back. Still could be a bit quicker into and out of cuts and could still hit the line faster, but that will get better with experience. He's going to be another great Pitt back, I think.

T22Post: Jerry, Ben is having his best year so far, he's efficient, he's checking down, and taking fewer risks. Could this be a waste of his best season wasted by a poor defensive unit?

Jerry Micco: I'd like to let the season play out a bit more before I say that. Three games is hardly a barometer. But I agree, thus far Ben has looked great.

Ralph_LA: If you are a team like the Pirates, are you pretty much constrained to making improvements to your pitching through the draft, rather than free agency or trades? (is there anyone of significance that they can afford to pick up in any other way)

Jerry Micco: I think that is the way they will do it. For instance, Burnett is a trade that has worked. Karstens, when healthy, is effective and he's a guy they traded for, as is McDonald. I think they will need a FA pitcher who can be a fifth guy in the rotation, but let's hope he's better than Bedard. But I think 3 spots are certain in 2013: Burnett, Rodriguez and McDonald.

The Chief: Jerry,what are the lessons learned from the NFL referee lockout and can any of it apply to the NHL?

Jerry Micco: No, because with no games being played now in the NHL, there is no real pressure on the league to play games. The NFL was just about shamed into bringing those guys back. I mean, game integrity was seriously in question and for the good of the sport, they did the right thing. The NHL is not that smart and it's a different issue. And if you love hockey, it's extremely disheartening.

War18: Jerry, I swear this is the only time that I will bring this up. i am a huge NHL fan and hockey is my favorite sport but this whole lockout thing again is nuts. Do you think a missed season will kill the sport in the US?

Jerry Micco: Won't kill it, but it won't allow it to grow in the US, either. Not a very smart move by the league.

T22Post: Jerry, Do you think Bettis gets into the Hall this year?

Jerry Micco: No, but I think he eventually will.

War18: Jerry, Tomlin is like 4-0 coming of bye weeks and Philly is lucky to be 3-1, I could see the Steelers with a real big statement game this weekend. Thoughts?

Jerry Micco: If they can keep the Philly defense off of Ben, and keep Vick hemmed in, they should win this game. Not by a lot, but in the 20-14 type of game.

john: If the Pirate front office does not keep Jones and Hanrahan it will show me an unwillingness to build a winning team. That is what this city wants. Not younger and cheaper players that MIGHT succeed but ones that already have. I love the Pirates but will not continue to follow them if they keep up this addition by subtraction business. What is your opinion on this matter Jerry.

Jerry Micco: I think that you have to look at players and ask "are these career years, or is this the start of a trend?" I think you have to ask both with those players you mentioned. Is Hanrahan's last 2 season's late fades say he's not worth big money? Is Jared Hughes or Watson a closer in waiting? Is Jones going to repeat what he did in 2013, or is he a piece you can move for a very good starting pitcher?

T22Post: Jerry, why doesn't Ben ever get the roughing the passer calls Brees, Brady, and Manning? I think the league babies the hell out of them, it's a joke...thoughts?

Jerry Micco: I think because Ben is so strong and extends plays, he does not get those calls. Those other guys are statues, so if they get hit late, they are going to get a call.

War18: Jerry, I heard that David Decastro was walking around without limp, is there any chance he comes back earlier then expected?

Jerry Micco: We'll see after week 8. But I think he'll have to work his way back in slowly.

War18: Jerry, do you ever travel to away game bars to watch games and if so what is the best Steeler bar you have ever been to? I suggest the Hooters in LA across from the Nokia Theater for a real treat.

Jerry Micco: I don't travel to watch any of the teams we cover, but that's a good suggestion for those who do. Though Steelers fans won't get to LA until they bring a team there.

T22Post: Jerry, who do you dislike more Phil Simms or Jim Nance? I hate them both....thoughts?

Jerry Micco: Neither one bothers me. Announcers, to me, are background guys. I like the insights of guys like Fouts, Dierdorf and Collinsworth, but don't pay all that much attention during a game. And if it's a home game, I don't hear them at all because I'm in the press box.

Ken: What if the no-hitter was taking place in a 1-0 game, where if you lose your team is assured a 20th losing season?

Jerry Micco: Then I'd say I'd want my team to get that run -- or 2 -- and win the game. But no-hitters are pretty exciting, so a lot of folks will get caught up in that. And rightfully so.

War18: Jerry, how much do you think it hurts the Pirates if they finish 80-82, I mean I guess its progress but 2 more wins and we would have been over .500!!

Jerry Micco: I'm sure they had designs on 88 or 90 wins in late July. And I'm also sure they'd love to have a winning season. But progress is progress. Let's see if they can tilt this thing next year.

WyattBurp: Afternoon, Jerry. I'm a Detroit Tigers fan. I think Jim Leyland has done his best job of managing this season, which is why the Tigers are in the playoffs. Am I wrong?

Jerry Micco: And it doesn't hurt to have guys like Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. OK, and Justin Verlander, too. But give the Tigers credit, they battled all year and won the division. I had them picked to do that and even win the pennant. But we'll see. And Leyland is a great manager. Good for him.

WyattBurp: MVP in the MLB. I'm biased, but I think Cabrera is hands down the winner. Trout had a great year, but he's a rookie. Isn't all the hype about Trout just a fad?

Jerry Micco: No, Trout is the real deal and will be Rookie of the Year in the AL. Cabrera will be AL MVP. NL MVP might be Buster Posey of the Giants, who will win the batting title.

The Chief: Jerry, if Malkin really likes playing in his homeland, is there a possibilty he stays there? Afterall he has his name on The Cup and won a MVP in both the regular and playoff seasons?

Jerry Micco: I think the money and lifestyle he has here will bring him back. And the NHL is the best league in the world. Guys like Malkin want to compete against the best because they, themselves, are the best.

Jerry Micco: Sorry folks, need to run back to some other work. Left a lot of questions out there, but we were busy from the get-go, which is tremendous. Thanks for taking the time to talk and all the great questions. Join me Sunday for the live Steelers-Eagles chat at 1, then back here next Wednesday for our weekly soire. Until then, have a great week! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco sportsother


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