Jerry Micco's sports chat transcript: 2.12.14

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Poll Question: Who will win gold in men's ice hockey at the Winter Olympic Games? Answer #1: Russia (10%) Answer #2: Canada (10%) Answer #3: USA (60%) Answer #4: Sweden (10%) Answer #5: The field (10%)

Jerry Micco: Hello everyone and welcome to the weekly all-sports chat. I'll be back in a few minutes to officially get things started. In the meantime, feel free to vote in our poll and post your early questions. See you in a bit!

Chunkles: I love the Pens but I just see another "Groundhog Day" season where they falter in the end. I hope Marc Andre keeps it together, Sid and Gino score, defense shows up. Thats a lot of hoping, huh?

Jerry Micco: I think because they have such a big lead in the division they will win the division and get a nice playoff seed, but as we know, that doesn't always guarantee a deep run. That said, they need some scoring depth and they have to hope the can dodge the injury bug. The key is Fleury and the defense. If both play solid, don't even have to be spectacular, they can make a deep run and possibly win it all.

Guest: Your thoughts on Marcus Smart? I find it hard to believe he snapped because he was call a "piece of crap", I have to think it was more than that...none the less, I think the guy deserved it.

Jerry Micco: We only know what was said from one side and since no one else disputed what the fan said, then I have to take him at his word. A player can never go after a fan. In that scenario, a player is never going to win because they are the ones who have to stay in control. And if a player were to injure a fan, that would turn into a criminal case. There are fans who can be morons, but players have to learn to tune that out. No one deserves to be shoved or hit, that's the bottom line.

Guest: Jerry, I can see Goodell going to the Rooney's and say, I want Michael Sam to go to the Steelers. A class organization with a history of grounbreaking philosophy. Use the pick I was going to take away from you for Tomlin being on the field. He will advise the other 31 teams not to draft Michael Sam.

Jerry Micco: That won't happen because if it ever got out that it did happen, it would be terrible for the league, the Steelers and for Sam. Some team that thinks he can play and play well for them will draft him. He's been projected from the beginning as a 4-5 round guy. I think if a guy can play, he'll get drafted and he'll play. The other stuff will take care of itself. It won't be a road without bumps in it for Michael Sam, but I'm sure he knows that.

Guest: You are aroudn pro athletes, aside from your Richie Incognito types, do you think the majority would really have a problem if Michael Sam were on their team?

Jerry Micco: Incognito Tweeted his good wishes to Sam the other day, so there's that. A lot of players have done so. Now, I don't know if they are being tolerant or just getting on the good side of publicity, but nonetheless, it's good to see the level of tolerance on their part. Some players will have a problem with the lifestyle, no question. Some will not. But that is true of a lot of guys on the team. Some guys may smoke weed, or drink alcohol. Other guys don't like that lifestyle. It's a lot of guys in the locker room and they don't always agree. But bottom line: if they get it done on the field and win, a lot of things get smoothed over.

DNY: Do you buy into the notion that a "well run" team like the Steelers, Packers, Giants, etc. would be best suited to draft Michael Sam. I do think his stock will fall because teams don't want to deal with any potential distractions, unfortunately.

Jerry Micco: There are always some sort of distractions, so that shouldn't matter to any team. Every team will have to answer questions because in many ways, Sam is a pioneer in pro sports. A locker room with strong leaders and veterans is going to be good for any rookie to go into. That atmosphere has been around the Steelers for some time. Some have said that has been lost somewhat with some veteran departures. But no question the organization is solid and stable. That's good for any player to come into.

DNY: Welp, seems Phillies got Burnett, 1 year. Not seeing $$$ info yet, but my impression is the front office screwed the pooch on this one. Thoughts?

Jerry Micco: I don't know if $16 million a year for a guy who won 10 games last year is a good investment or not. I think the Pirates wanted him, but at a discounted rate. I'd have liked to see them make a qualifying offer to see if he would have signed for that. Because then they'd have gotten a draft pick if he didn't.

The Chief: Jerry, your thoughts on the Winter Olympics so far. In this information age, really not much fun watching taped events.

Jerry Micco: I watch them every night with my wife knowing all the results. I even have them on throughout the day at work. I love the Winter Games. The sports are interesting and for the most part, you only see them once every four years. Now if there's a good college basketball game on, like Pitt-Syracuse tonight, I'll watch that. But it's one of the few sporting events my wife will watch with me. And I do enjoy the Olympics.

Chunkles: It had been said in the past Ryan Clark never liked the fans in Pittsburgh. What surprises me is how he turned on his "Teammates". What a jerk! He knows he is leaving so he throws them under the bus. How could another team sign him without their players being able to trust him? I think he is done but sadly, we will probably have to hear his opinions on one of these footballs shows now.

Jerry Micco: I've never heard he didn't like the fans here. I'm sure like a lot of athletes he had his moments with the fanbase, but he seemed to interact with fans pretty well. As for his comments, he probably shouldn't have said what he did, but when you are trying to interview for your life's work, you need to say things that get you noticed. I doubt Clark will return here and he may not play in the NFL again, but I will agree he'll likely be hired by someone to be an NFL analyst. He's good at it.

The Chief: The Pirates are going into spring training with a payroll around 70 million compared to 68 million last year. Have they done right by their fans, especially since they will be receiving the additional $25 mil in league revenue?

Jerry Micco: Actually, it's around $76 million. I think they've done what they needed to do as far as taking care of their players. There weren't great free agents out there, and certainly not ones the Pirates could bid on. They are never going to go after top flight FAs. Just can't compete with the Yankees, Dodgers, etc. But if they draft right, grow their own an pick up guys like Russell Martin, Burnett and Grilli, they can contend. Proved that last year. But they are going to have to work hard to stay on track.

Guest: How is it possible that Michael Sam is a 4-5rd guy. He was the SEC defensive player of the year, and we all know the SEC is the greatest conference in the history of the world (sarcasm), if this news had not brokern, surely he would be projected higher?

Jerry Micco: Before any of this broke, many analysts had him in round 4 or 5. He's a bit of a hybrid guy who probably fits a 4-3 DL better. But he runs a 4.7 40 and doesn't have a ton of speed. Doesn't mean he can't play, he obviously has some talent, but that may not translate into star play in the NFL. But who knows? Right coaching, right system and he could be a star. That's the beauty of football. You just never know with these guys. Antonio Brown was a 6th-round pick.

Guest: I don't think NH or Hurdle want AJ Burnette back at any price. IMO

Jerry Micco: Neither said that. Both said they wanted him back, at least publicly.

Guest: What moves do you see the Pens making leading into their playoff push?

Jerry Micco: They need some scoring depth, so they may look to secure a 2nd- or 3rd-line winger who can score some. Will have to give up one of the young defensemen, though. Also, I wonder if they feel comfortable with Zatkoff. They should, but he's not playoff tested and if Fleury falters or is injured, he's the guy. There's no guarantee on Vokoun coming back, though he is working out some.

Guest: Michael Sam is a tweener. Just like Jarvis Jones. But in Jarvis Jones case he's too small to be effective as a LB. Big whiff by Colbert.

Jerry Micco: I'm not ready to say Jones is a "whiff." Not after one season. A lot of guys learn in their rookie seasons and then come on as they grow. Timmons wasn't all that good until his third year, then he blossomed. The problem was, Jones had to start because the Steelers depth was shot. He needs to get stronger, but he's very athletic. Right now is probably a better pass defender than rusher.

Bruno: Jerry, What does your writer in Sochi have to say about his time in Sochi? Are there any stray dogs sleeping in his room

Jerry Micco: He stays busy, and he's enjoying covering the greatest sporting event in the world, the Olympics. As for the dogs, I hope he's giving them the occasional treat. I'm a dog lover!

Ray Searage: 16 million for AJ. LOL!!!! Phillies are idiots.

Jerry Micco: He won't be expected to carry that staff like he was expected to do here. If he gets them 200 innings and 12-14 wins as a No. 3 or 4 guy, he could be a difference maker for them in a division where Atlanta and Washington look to be the top 2 teams. And the Phillies can pay big money.

Guest: What happened to Pitt hoops? They were fun to watch, but the last 5 games or so have been oh so painful. Do they need a big win this week, either tonight or vs UNC to spark them again?

Jerry Micco: A split of these next two games would be great for Pitt. I think they are struggling some with Patterson's injury and trying to identify someone to pick up the scoring slack. Despite having to grind out wins over teams like Miami and Va. Tech, they did get wins. They will play Syracuse tough tonight, and I would not be surprised to see them upset the Orange. Now, if Patterson is hobbled by that thumb, they may not have enough firepower. We'll see. Should be a really good game.

The Chief: Your thoughts on Christopher Letang and does his status keep Shero from dealing a young D for a much needed scoring winger?

Jerry Micco: What it may do is prevent Shero from dealing a top-flight young D like Despres to get a much better winger. He may have to dip deeper and accept a bit of a lesser player. Letang is out at least six weeks. That does not mean he can come back in six weeks. He may not return this season. It looks like he'll return at some point, but we'll see. It was a stunning announcement and all you really want to see at this point is him return to full health. Hockey really is secondary.

Guest: Are the Steelers feeding this "super bowl hosted in Pittsburgh" talk, just to get the extra 3000 seats paid for by the taxpayers?

Jerry Micco: I'm not sure that's the reason for it, but if they want to float that out there, that's their right to do so. Now whether the NFL even considers Pittsburgh is another thing. Might be cool to have it here, but I think you'd have to spread people out a long way to have the hotel space.

Mel Jr: I just completed a mock draft and have the Steelers selecting FS Calvin Pryor of Louisville.

Jerry Micco: Don't you change this pick every week, Mel Jr.? Though I've seen this name pop up with them a couple of times. I'm still liking Louis Nix III here, though. At 15 he'd be solid and he's a run-stopper, which I think they need. I think a good safety or corner is going to be there in round 2.

Guest: Is this a brilliant marketing move by Michael Sam? He surely will have many endorsement deals.

Jerry Micco: Probably more a courageous move by Sam. He's going to be vilified by a lot of people and hear things a lot of people never hear. I don't know if companies will ask him for endorsements or not, but I think they will be very wary because for many people, a gay lifestyle goes against their beliefs. It's still a livewire issue in America.

Guest: The owner of the Browns Haslam is a Tennessee guy. Maybe he wants Peyton Manning to be the GM of the Browns when he retires. What do you think?

Jerry Micco: Peyton Manning would be insane to work for Haslam. He'd probably fire him in 2 years. Manning would be great on television. Studio guy or in the booth. He'll make a lot of money and he'll have none of the nonsense that GMs and coaches have to go through.

The Chief: If the NHL does not return to the Olympics in South Korea in 2018; do you foresee players opting out of the NHL to play in Russia/Europe so they can represent their countries?

Jerry Micco: I don't think a lot of them will throw away NHL careers to play in an Olympics. Now, if they are near the end of their careers or are marginal players, maybe. But stars certainly won't do that. It'll go back to what it was before the NHL was involved.

Doug Froebel: The Pirates couldn't afford to have AJ being 20% of their Salary. Here's hoping ARod comes over to the Bucs and play 1st base in 2015 and the Yankees pay the freight. Jerry Micco: That is the equivalent of the circus coming to town. Holy cow.

Guest: Louis Nix? Is stopping the run even important anymore in the NFL?

Jerry Micco: I still think it is. Seattle does a pretty good job of that and San Francisco does, too. The Steelers used to do it, but don't anymore, and teams can attack them both ways. If you can clog the middle, you free the linebackers to do more. And Nix can collapse the pocket. maybe he ties up a couple OLs and frees up the LBs to do more. I just think he fits nicely in the Steelers defense.

The Chief: After the upcoming NFL season, and players come/go do think getting Mike Munchak as an OLine coach may be the Steelers best signing?

Jerry Micco: From everything I've heard and read about him, he's an excellent hire. We'll see how the OL responds to his coaching. Apparently he is a proponent of the zone blocking scheme they wanted to put into place last season, and it's what LeVeon Bell ran at Michigan State. Put the two together with a healthy Maurkice Pouncey, and the Steelers hope that'll put the pressure on defenses to defend both the run and the pass.

Guest: J Peazy back as a Coach for the Steelers? Who let the dogs out!

Jerry Micco: Porter has very little coaching experience. I think the Steelers, as is their way, are helping him out by giving him a job and getting him some experience. And maybe he helps out some of the younger guys by letting them learn from a guy who has a Super Bowl ring. Works for both groups, I think.

The Chief: Do you feel the PITT and Syracuse (and next year Louisville) have helped stopped the downward spiral of ACC basketball?

Jerry Micco: I thought ACC basketball last year was better than ACC basketball this year. The conference was much deeper. This year, it's a four-team league, with North Carolina inching its way up. And you're right in the sense that without Pitt and Syracuse, the ACC this year would be terrible. No question adding Louisville next year will help. And I expect the ACC will get back very soon to being one of the elite basketball conferences in the nation. Bruno: Steelers have any FA's on a short list? Jeremy Maclin? Jerry Micco: That's hard to say right now. They have to deal with their own FAs first and until we see how they handle that, we really don't know. But they have many needs: safety, corner, DL, WR, ILB. Lately, they have not filled starting spots with FAs and said they'd not do that this year, but we'll see. Like most teams, they do not like to tip their hand early. Guest: Interesting that the biggest game in the ACC tonight is actually Pitt V 'cuse, not Duke v UNC? Jerry Micco: Because UNC has been down a bit this year. And Syracuse has been unbeaten, so yes, Pitt/Cuse is the big dog game tonight. Just like the old Big East days. The Chief: OK Jerry, who you got playing the Men's Hockey Gold Medal game and who you got winning? Jerry Micco: Well, I don't know how the brackets go, but I think the final four will be Sweden, Russia, Canada and the USA. Of those four, Canada and Sweden are the best teams top to bottom. So if they don't meet in the semis, that's who should play for gold. If they do, I like Canada. The USA just may not have enough talent to get there, and Russia has the firepower, but goaltending and defense is not very strong. So my gold pick is Canada. Neal Huntington: Good bye AJ you're not worth 16 Million. We'll beat you every time we see you pitch Jerry Micco: Be careful there, Neal. AJ has a very long memory. And you know if he gets the chance, he'll be fired up. The question is, if he throws one up and in on Cutch, will someone throw a little chin music his way? You know AJ would love the gamesmanship. Say what you want about him, but he loved the competition and he was good for the Pirates. But I don't think he was worth $16 million to the Pirates.

Jerry Micco: OK folks, I need to get back to some other stuff. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. I always appreciate all the good questions and comments you throw my way. Program note: I'll be out next week, but will return on Feb. 26 ready to go. Until then, have a great couple weeks! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco

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