Jerry Micco: Hello everybody and welcome to our weekly chat. I’ll be back at noon to officially start things, but in the meantime, feel free to submit early questions and vote in our on our poll question. See you in a bit!
James_Pittsburgh: Who do you think the Pirates can get in return for Justin Wilson?
Jerry Micco: Maybe a first baseman, or if AJ Burnett doesn’t sign, a starting pitcher. But not a front-line starter. A middle-of-the-rotation guy would be in the offing I’d guess.
James_Pittsburgh: Any truth to the rumors that Adam LaRoche will be wearing a Pirates uniform again?
Jerry Micco: Of all the names I've seen bandied about on the Winter Meetings trade rumor mill, I’ve not seen LaRoche connected to the Pirates. Doesn’t mean at some point it won’t be, but haven’t seen it yet.
James_Pittsburgh: Who do you expect not to return from the Steelers defense in 2014?
Jerry Micco: Clark, Keisel and Hood for sure. I think they’ll look long and hard at Woodley to see if they think he can finally get his health in line and become highly productive again. If they keep him, then for sure Worilds will go. I do not see them keeping both guys. I think Polamalu stays for one more year. I think Ike Taylor stays for one more year and who knows, maybe at safety. Don’t be surprised to see something like that. Larry Foote could be kept around, too.
James_Pittsburgh: Should we be concerned that Ryan Clark is going to start at safety in the final three games?
Jerry Micco: No, not really. I think you may see Shamarko Thomas worked in there some, too, but he’s the starter and Tomlin has said the starters are going to get the marjority of the snaps.
Chunkles: Jerry, Ben IS the Pittsburgh Steelers and he has 10 years of experience. Why not let him be on the committee to pick his next OC? You want your number one guy to be happy and comfortable.
Jerry Micco: I don’t know that the Steelers operate that way. I think they will seek some input from Ben or better yet, Ben may give them input whether they want it or not, but who knows. They may just keep Todd Haley. Ben seems to defend him vociferously every chance he gets, except after games, and the offense has been scoring pretty well since early in the season.
Bill L: Jerry, I appreciate and thank Ike Taylor. But it’s time to turn the page. I don’t want to see him next September (don’t mean it like it sounds) and would much rather take my lumps with two rookies vying for his spot.Chances of this happening?
Jerry Micco: I think very good that he won’t be a starting CB. But again, I could see him move to safety, where he won’t have to single cover WRs. But in that case, your CBs will be Will Gay and Cortez Allen, at least to start. Curtis Brown has never panned out and the rest of the CBs are special teamers. This draft has some decent CBs, but I don’t know if the Steelers will take one in round 1. There are probably 4-5 who might go in the first. Most are from picks 15-30.
The Chief: Jerry, hope you had a good week. Who gets your award for the Steeler that has improved and regressed the most YoY?
Jerry Micco: Good question, Chief. Improved has to be Cameron Heyward. He looked lost last season but has really come on to be very good at DE. Regressed has to be Ryan Clark. He seemed to be playing really well last year then just seemed to fall apart this season. But you could say that about a lot of guys on the Steelers this season.
Phil: Danny Snyder, RG3, no draft picks and no defense. There’s a plumb job. Who gets that one? Haslett?
Jerry Micco: Lovie Smith? Good coach who was fired by the Bears.
Dr Doom: My list of outgoing Steelers this off season: Troy P, Ryan Clark, B Keisel, I. Taylor, E. (hot potato) Sanders, M . McBriar (yeah another punter), Maybe Woodley, how close am I?
Jerry Micco: Pretty doggone close. I’m not sure Troy and Ike are gone for sure. I think Sanders is, though. But if you look at his numbers, similar to Mike Wallace’s in Miami believe it or not. I’d like to see much more of Wheaton the next 3 weeks if indeed Sanders is gone. WR is a tough position for rookies to learn in the NFL, and Wheaton has a lot of work to do. I’d like to see him get more in-game work.
James_Pittsburgh: I doubt Kiesel will be gone. There is no one to replace him.
Jerry Micco: That is the dilemma, but I think you could start Al Woods and Heyward at DE and be OK. You’d have to sign a couple of FAs or draft a DE in a later round for depth. If they were going to keep one of the 2 DEs, they’d keep Ziggy Hood who is younger.
James_Pittsburgh: Could we actually see the Steelers sign a starting cornerback this offseason? A mid tier free agent to play with Ike Taylor.
Jerry Micco: There is always that possibility, and I’d like to see them get more active in free agency. They have never been huge in FA, but they have been active in years past. Guys like Jeff Hartings, Kevin Greene, James Farrior, Duvall Love and Ryan Clark were all key FA signings. And Jerome Bettis was a draft-day trade. They just seem much more sedate on that front as of late, and I think that’s where they have lost their touch. Free agency is the quick stop-gap that helps you fill in the holes immediately. Just think if they could get a good CB in free agency how that might reshape their entire draft.
Danny Murtaugh: Is there a deadline for AJ to decide if he is going to resign with the Bucs?
Jerry Micco: Neal Huntington only has said “soon.” But has given no timetable.
The Chief: The Penguin’s young D really look great, although no of them are playoff tested! Do you see Martin or Letang being traded for a top six forward?
Jerry Micco: Well, Martin has to get healthy first. You really have to think long and hard about trading Letang. Guys with his skill don’t come around very often. It’s tempting, and you could get a lot for him, but you also lose a lot when he leaves. Martin has turned into a solid D who can QB the power play. Again, invaluable asset. He can get you a top 6 forward, but not like a guy Letang could bring. If Ray Shero deals, it’ll certainly be from this group of defensemen as his bait.
James_Pittsburgh: Do you see Dick LeaBeau retiring? I am not saying that he isn’t doing a good job. However he may decide to let Butler rebuild the defense.
Jerry Micco: If he leaves, it’ll be because he’s retiring or resigning. I don’t believe the Steelers will fire him.
Bryan Hinkle: Jarvis Jones apparently isn’t strong enough to take on OL, how is it possible that couldn’t have been evaluated before the draft?
Jerry Micco: I think it was evaluated and that’s why he dropped on some boards, but his athleticism intrigued a lot of teams including the Steelers. You can make guys stronger in this league, even legally. I think the Steelers will do that with Jones, who if you remember has missed a couple of chunks of time this year. That kind of stuff hurts a rookie. I think Jones will be a much better player next season. And fans won’t regret that pick.
Spirit Sniper: Jerry, which player do you think the Steelers missed more this season, James Harrison or Casey Hampton?
Jerry Micco: When he was healthy and on his game, Hampton. Teams could not run on the Steelers when Hampton was playing well. Took away that part of a team’s offense.
The Chief: You surprised by Neal’s 5 game suspension and what do you se happening to Thornton?
Jerry Micco: I was not surprised, and thought he could have gotten 10 games. I mean, he kneed a guy in the head on purpose. I thought it was a cheap shot and the NHL did, too. That’s his third suspension, which is not a good thing. Bad for him and bad for the game. As for Thornton, I can’t say how much time he should get. Is 25 games enough for assaulting someone from behind and knocking them cold? The NHL really needs to look at this stuff and be much tougher with it.
Bill C: Jerry, be honest. Would you rather see players ticked off and storm to the locker room after defeats or exchanging jerseys?
Jerry Micco: When I played sports, and only as far as the high school level, we shook hands after games. Now, guys have the same agents, train together and often live nearby in the offseason. They are much closer than the old blood n guts NFL days. I think guys can be both. Trade a jersey, but feel terrible about losing a football game. I’ve seen them be, and do, both.
Chunkles: Kris Letang is a heck of a hockey player BUT he seems more interested in scoring goals than playing defense. Is there any possibility the Pens convert him to a winger in 2014/2015?
Jerry Micco: I don’t think they’ll convert him to a forward because he can play defense when he wants to and oftentimes does a nice job of it. It’s his careless plays sometimes with the puck that gets him in trouble. There have been guys through the history of the league who play on the blue line, but have more offensive than defensive skills. They key is to pair them with a guy who is a stay-at-home D. And the Pens try to do that with Letang.
James_Pittsburgh: The Steelers have to find a way to sign a mid-tier free agent cornerback or someone who is a backup who has the ability to start. The Steelers have no one that can play CB at an NFL level on their roster.
Jerry Micco: Oh, I don’t agree with that. Gay has really had a nice season if you talk to coaches and see what NFL grading sites say. I think Taylor has slipped badly. But I agree that signing a quality CB is important. If they can do that, I think, it would make a big difference. I know they are somewhat cap strapped, but every team works under the cap. The Steelers need to keep being creative.
Ken: Jerry, it’s getting closer and closer. How big a controversy will it be if no one can throw the football at MetLife Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday. Even the NFL might not be able to scrape thst egg off their face.
Jerry Micco: Hey, in the old days, there have been some low-scoring, pound-it-out Super Bowls. Why not another one in the cold and snow in Jersey? They are bringing it to the most populated place in the country, so there’s that. I’m really interested in seeing how this works. It could be a game in terrible conditions. But there are several regular-season and playoff games played that way. Why make the championship game any different?
JamesinNYC: Decent CB in the draft right about 40 so I would look for that. If one jumps up maybe. Do you think NT or LT is more important next year?
Jerry Micco: I’d take a NT higher than a LT because I think there are only 2 LTs in the first round worth taking. Jake Matthews, in my mind, is far better than Taylor Lewan. And Matthews is a top 6 pick. I don’t think the Steelers will get him. Lucas Nix, the big NT from Notre Dame, has been my favorite, but he’s had knee surgery. If you don’t mind that risk, I think he can be a very good NFL player.
James_Pittsburgh: I see Shamrko Thomas and Troy stating at safety in 2014. I thin there is no way Troy will be released this offseason.
Jerry Micco: I think they keep Troy for another year. And I think Will Allen will stick around, too. Robert Golden has quietly done a good job in spot duty, too.
Paul: What happened to Cortez Allen’s tackling? There’s someone who needs to work hard and prepare this offseason.
Jerry Micco: I think Allen blew a terrific chance to grab hold of a job and make it his own this year. He really came on nicely last year as a nickle and dime CB, then seemed to digress this season. I can’t understand why, either. But he’s shown he’s a good player. Yes, he needs to get back to what made the Steelers let Keenan Lewis go in free agency before this season, and keep Allen around.
Cam Bonifay: All this talk about giving up Polanco, Kingham, Josh Bell for James Price, is there any credence? To me this would be insane.
Jerry Micco: I saw one writer blog this, a national guy. He was proposing the Pirates do this because their window is small and they would get Price for two seasons. Seems an awful lot to give up, but if it allowed them to contend for two more years, maybe you take the risk. They are very deep in the minors.
James_Pittsburgh: How do the Penguins continue to win with a bunch of minor league defensemen?
Jerry Micco: Because their fill-in guys are system guys and are good at running the system. And they still have guys like Letang, Niskanen and Maatta who have a lot of skill. Maatta, in particular, has held up very well for a rookie.
Dr Doom: I know everyone wants a big WR, but how about a Jimmy Grahm like tight end, if they can not get that WR?
Jerry Micco: A couple of mock drafts I’ve seen have the Steelers taking the TE from Texas Tech, whose name escapes me. Very much the catch-can’t-block type, but can run the deeper seam routes. I like what he could bring, but I really think the defense needs a lot of help.
The Chief: I see where Kubiak was finally fired by the Texans, who else gets their walking papers after the season?
Jerry Micco: I would think Mike Shanahan for sure. Probably Mike Munchak in Tennessee.
Ralph The Plumber: When you see a guy like Chip Kelly come in and actually ‘coach up’ a team with his knowledge do you feel a guy like Tomlin can do that? He doesn’t seem like he’s that type of Coach, just more of a motivator and a player’s coach
Jerry Micco: Well, when Chip Kelly gets to a couple Super Bowls, give me a call. He’s 8-5 and Andy Reid had worn out his welcome there after many years. Every team goes through cycles, except may be New England. The Eagles are on a bit of an up after being a bit down. Kelly’s done a nice job, but I’m not ready to say he’s a great NFL coach after 13 games.
James_Pittsburgh: By the time the Post-Gazette reaches my doorstep, everything is old news. How much longer will the print edition of your paper survive?
Jerry Micco: We are buying a new press and looking for a new printing plant. I think that says an awful lot right there. We still have 175,000 daily subscribers and over 300,000 Sunday subscribers. And not all of our readers get their news from the Web. Many just read the newspaper. Plus, there are things in the newspaper that are not posted to the Web until midnight, so for some, it’s the first time they see a story.
Dr Doom: Don’t know why people fuss about trading jerseys. Jack Lambert invited plenty of players out to dinner, even hung out with Ken Anderson once. Its a game people.
Jerry Micco: And I think the players get that more than the fans do.
Bill L: Is there any risk if the Steelers play hardball again with someone like they did with James Harrison? You can’t get a reputation for pulling the rug out from every deal, right?
Jerry Micco: I think the Steelers will continue to negotiate as they see fit. I think they did the right thing with Harrison. He was offered $4 million, which was a $2 million paycut. He would up signing for what, $2 million with the Bengals? And while he’s getting some playing time, he’s not been a big factor for them.
James_Pittsburgh: If the Pirates resign A.J. Burnett or add a free agent, will Jeff Locke begin the season at Indianapolis? (To keep him stretched out for when the first starter goes down.)
Jerry Micco: That’s a good possibility. I don’t see him wasting away as a long reliever in the bullpen in Pittsburgh.
JamesinNYC: FA for the Steelers will always be inside guys because there is value, OG, S, ILB, P, K don’t expect a DE unless it is a non splashy type.
Jerry Micco: And in their defense, DE is a non-splashy position. Eat a couple blockers, get some pressure on the QB when you can, collapse the pocket. The NT in the 3-4 is the one who controls the other team’s running game. It’s the most vital position on the defensive line.
Guest: Prediction on when Pitt gets ranked in hoops? 9-0 and still out of the top 25? There are 2 loss teams that are even ranked.
Jerry Micco: Pitt hasn’t beaten a ranked team yet, has it? Pitt has a very good shot at going unbeaten into their ACC season. Perhaps then it’s ranked. I think it’s a very nice team that can make some noise in the conference. We’ll see if it’s a top-5 team. I need to see them against some stiffer competition.
Guest: Do you think Pitt will ever be relevant in football again? The way college football is now, with all these super conf, it seems like it will be a real uphill battle.
Jerry Micco: I think you will have to have stability in the program, and Paul Chryst is trying to provide that. It’s going to take a bit of time, but what you want to see is some improvement from this season. The 6-6 years have to be over and you have to start to see some 8-win seasons without losses to teams like Navy and Carolina. When you see that, then you’ll know the Panthers have taken the next step.
The Chief: All this Pirate talk about Polanco and lost in this madness is James Taillon. Is he 2014’s Garret Cole?
Jerry Micco: Maybe. I don't know if he'll come up as early as Cole did, but I think we could see him in 2014. Has more work to do down in Indy.
Guest: Who gets to go to Sochi to cover the Olympics for the PG?
Jerry Micco: Brady McCollough.
Guest: Do the Steelers get flexed out of the Sunday Night game?
Jerry Micco: Nope, they're still playing the Bengals at 8:30 this week.
James_Pittsburgh: Will the Steelers draft Sammy Watkins to replace Sanders?
Jerry Micco: Watkins will be tempting if he's there, and I'm sure whoever is coaching the offense will want another playmaker, which Watkins certainly is. But I think defense will rule the day for the Steelers. Saying that, I don't know who will be available, where they'll pick and who they'll get in free agency. Or, who they will cut.
Phil: Leveon Bell almost gets his head taken off on Thansgiving and people are upset that players are smiling and socializing after a game? Get real. They're millionaire professional athletes who put forth great effort between the white lines. No big deal.
Jerry Micco: And this is the view of some folks. Well put.
Beano: Does SEC roll again this year? I think FSU has some real talent on Defense.
Jerry Micco: I think FSU, right now, is the favorite of the bookies in Vegas. Overall, I think FSU is more balanced on both sides of the ball.
Ken: Coaches carousel--Coughlin probably gets another year--his last. Minnesota will probably make a change. How about Mark Davis? is he like his father? Jim Scwartz can't be on soild footing...
Jerry Micco: If the Lions blow that lead in the NFC North, Schwartz could be in danger. I just don't get Detroit. Seem to have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but just can't put anything together.
JamesinNYC: Was there a fine on the hit on Bell?
Jerry Micco: No fine.
James Pittsburgh: Jerry, I don't think there are many defensive players with a top 15 grade in the 2014 draft. So, the Steelers could draft a receiver or tight end.
Jerry Micco: They could, but again, you have to see where your needs are after you do all your roster maneuvering. And where you pick. If you are in the top 10, you may say you have to take the best CB in the draft because he's a top 10 guy and you don't have very good CBs. If you are in the 15 spot, you may think TE or ILB more. So many factors when you draft.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, I need to get back to some other stuff. Thanks for all the terrific questions and for taking the time to chat with me today. I'll be back next Wednesday at noon for our final Wednesday chat of 2013. I'll also be chatting the Steelers-Bengals game live starting at 8:15 p.m. this Sunday night from Heinz Field. Have a great week, everybody! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco
On Sunday, Dec. 15, Jerry will chat live during the Steelers-Bengals game. See you there!
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