Gene Collier's sports chat transcript 01/02/08

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James_Taipei: Do you think that Terrelle Pryor will land with Michigan? It seems that with Rich Rodriguez now at Michigan that his best choices would be Michigan or Flordia. I think that Rodiguez work with Pat White makes him an excellent coach to work with for Pryor!

Gene Collier: I think he will, but I wouldn't rule anything out just yet. My info is that Pryor still doesn't know. Not even Penn State is out of this picture.

Pickman: Happy New Year Gene, I love baseball and its just hard to invision a winning season anytime soon. I know we're about halfway into the offseason so there could be acquisitions or trades in the future. But right now it seems that there is still nothing on our herizon to dictate what are their intentions to either trade and build for the future or to improve the current team. What is your take on their stagedy?

Gene Collier: My take remains that the Pirates are still hunting mostly for inexpensive players, having already secured an inexpensive manager and an inexpenive general manager. It requires a lot more spending to be competitive than the Pirates are willing to engage in. Until that changes, the relationship between the Pirates and contention, much less a post-season appearance, is purely hypothetical.

jimmy_g: The Steelers at this point seem to have many personnel needs. What do you think they should be looking at first in the draft?

Gene Collier: Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. After that, a wideout, a safety, an inside backer, a returner. Remember, when you're drafting a receiver, you need someone who can separate, when you're drafting a corner you need someone who can close, and when you're drafting an equipment manager, you need someone who can separate the clothes.

jimmy_g: The devastating injury losses that the Pitt basketball team has suffered may be too much to overcome. How do you see this affecting their remaining season?

Gene Collier: Negatively and substantially. With Cook and Fields out, 30 percent of the scoring is gone, not to mention their experience. Fields ran the show. Now the show goes on without a front man. Fields could return by March. DuJuan Blair has broad shoulders, but not this broad.

Pickman: Can the Steelers win on Saturday if the weather dictates that the running game is necessary? Especially with the loss of Parker and the Steelers unable to stop the run recently.

Gene Collier: The Steelers can win on Saturday and I plan on figuring out how later in the week. See my Saturday column for that theory. Roethlisberger and Holmes figure to be a big part of this, so long as there is some kind of defensive effort that resembles typical Steelers competence. I think all the pressure is on Jacksonville in this game, and I don't think anyone can beat Pittsburgh twice in this town in the same year. It's never happened.

PhillyMarty: Hi Gene. Other than perhaps the "see through" curtain, since our lines are as weak as ever, can you tell me what identity this Steelers team ever established? Or how would you characterize Mike Tomlin?

Gene Collier: This is a good question especially relating to offense. I wrote a column on this in October and not a lot has changed, but it's more a matter of something we're just not used to around here. The offense isn't easily identifiable, but it does work. Defensively, the Steelers remain extremely complicated, but you can have Dwight Eisenhower as your defensive coordinator, once you lose Aaron Smith you're in trouble up front.

jimmy_g: I just caught the end of the Penguins-Sabers hockey game yesterday but it was quite a specticle. What are your thoughts?

Gene Collier: It sure was a spectacle. Was that real snow, or did NBC provide that as well? The network trucked in the snow in the days before the game to provide a kind of winter wonderland backdrop. It reminded me somewhat of a baseball playoff game on the west coast. It starts at 8 in the East, but the sun is so bad at 5 in the west that the announcers spend the first four innings talking about what a problem it is THAT THEY HAVE JUST CREATED!

Much of the broadcast had to do with the challenges of playing outside, which is why they moved the game inside about 100 years ago.

It was great TV, I guess, but fairly dreary hockey.

Highlight was when the play-by-play Emrick said to Olczyk, "Ed, for those of our viewers who have never played the game, discuss how the wind effects the players."

So Edzo launches in dutifully, but I couldn't help thinking, "Wait, I have to have played hockey to know the effect of wind?"

Is this why I've never understood the second line of the Irish blessing, "May the wind be always at your back . . . " Sorry, I didn't play hockey, I don't know what you're talking about.

jimmy_g: Where do you see Duquesne finishing in the A-10 this year?

Gene Collier: Eleventh sounds about right. I think that was the pre-season rating. I was impressed with the Dukes against Pitt, but they lack a lot of critical parts. Who is the supposed go-to guy. James gives them something they haven't had in a while, and Mensah's a decent player, but they've lacked so much for so long, the fact that they're not abjectly terrible I think has a lot of people expecting too much. All that said, it'd be quite novel to see them shake up the A-10 tournament on the boardwalk.

Pickman: Why can't the NCAA try and figure out how to have a football playoff? It would seem to me they could still have all their (meaningless) bowl games in addition to the playoff bowl games that would determine a true NCAA champ.

Gene Collier: In a word, money. Despite all the revenue that would be generated by, say, a 16-team playoff, college presidents aren't willing to jeopardize in any way the extensive network of revenue sources already established. I think it's as stupid as you do, and frankly, college football has reduced itself to a unending serious of exhibition games. I think the best thing a playoff would do would fill the gap between the regular season and the bowl games. I'd love to see the bowl games be completely unnecessary. I can't believe the national championship is decided between two teams that haven't played in seven weeks. It's insanity.

TerrorStorm: Gene, Do you think a 4-3 base with Keisel, Hampton, Eason & Woodley is a possiblity in the game Saturday?

Gene Collier: Anything is possible from Dick LeBeau, although I think you'd more likely see Hoke than Eason in this scheme you suggest. If there are drastic changes, I think they'll be more toward the simple. Few stunts, fewer blitzes. More base defense, that kind of thing.

PhillyMarty: Gene, would it be fair to interpret the team MVP going to Harrison as a bit of a reflection of Ben not being all too popular among his teammates?

Gene Collier: That's a likely interpretation and frankly, and it's possible Ben is not the most popular guy in the room, but it's far more likely that Ben's performance is expected by his teammates and Harrison's was so much of an unexpected impact that that swayed the voting. Further, I think if they could take votes back and do it again, Ben would win, because i think some guys voted for Harrison thinking everyone was voting for Ben. I don't think it's real significant either way.

Pickman: MLB seems to have an influx of additional talent the last couple years from Asia. Does the World Baseball Classic deserve the credit for this? Or was it inevitable with the Nomo's, Ichiro's, and Matsui's trickling in over the years?

Gene Collier: I think it was inevitable. Big league teams have maintained an interest in the Pacific Rim going all the way back to the '70s, but there were a lot few Major Leauge-ready players in those days. I love the way Ichiro and Matsui play. They honor the game.

jimmy_g: Gene, is there any reason for optimism with the Pirates this year or will it be SOS?

Gene Collier: SOS. I'm amazed there is a Pirates calendar for 2008. How do they know who to put on the pages?

heywood: Gene, who has better hands? Nate or Ike?

Gene Collier: Ha! Nate by far. Ike might as well wear oven mitts.

heywood: Gene, rift between LeBeau and Tomlin? Seems that way, Tomlin calling out the D in the press.

Gene Collier: You're seeing more than I am. Why wouldn't Tomlin call them out?

TerrorStorm: Gene, Is it just coach speak or do you think Mike Tomlin really believes that Sack numbers are justand he isn't concerned about the startling lack of them?

Gene Collier: I think he likes to think that getting pressure is almost the same as getting a sack. It's not, as sacks are possession-changing plays almost invariably. When I ask specifically about the numbers, (two sacks in 153 opposition pays plays when Hampton finally got one in St. Louis) he always dismisses it, you're right. Coaches always have to leave you with the feeling that you're focused on the wrong thing.

TEssex: Do the Steelers have any hope with Trai Essex playing left tackle? Looks like Saturday might be a long night for Ben

Gene Collier: Essex did all right on Sunday, but he was eaten alive by Freeney in Indianapolis a couple of years ago. You might see a little more rolling pocket than you're used to.

TerrorStorm: Gene, why doesn't troy polamalu return punts and/or kicks? Hair tackles aside he has shown himself to be the most dangerous/allusive man on the team with the ball in his hand. Is it a fielding the ball issue?

Gene Collier: No I think it's a we-don't-want-him-to-get-hurt issue. Coaches, paritcularly Tomlin, always talk a big special teams game, but when it comes down to it, still populate them with marginal players. Holmes should be returning punts, but Tomlin just doesn't want to risk that. I'm not sure that's wrong, I just wish he did say one thing and do the other.

TerrorStorm: Gene, Do you know how Chuck Noll and Myron Cope are doing?

Gene Collier: Sorry I don't.

Gene Collier: Thanks for all the great questions and have a great New Year.



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