Guest: I liked the Bill Brink article that you had on the Pirate management. You often wonder whether the ownership is oblivious or if they recognize what is obvious to everyone else.
Jerry Micco: The ownership has a plan and they want to stick to it. Unfortunately, for 20 years that plan for the Pirates hasn't worked. Now, I will say that 2 years ago, they won 57 games and last year they won 79. By most measures, that's a significant improvement. But you've had late-season collapses the past 2 years, so there is a problem somewhere. And it's up to Bob Nutting to find it and resolve it. Looks like his front office is getting one more chance.
James_Pittsburgh: Looks like a change in plans. I am here today. Do you think the Ravens may look for a new quarterback in the offseason?
Jerry Micco: I'm not sure they'd do that. Flacco is having an up and down season, but he's shown in the past to be very good. I think they will stick with Flacco.
DormontyDawson: Jerry, I know some people hate when the topic of "next year's draft" is brought up, but ... Given the perceived strength of the OL, might it be time to ignore the OL and saturate the defensive backfield with new, high-round blood? Kind of like we did in '87 (I think) when we took Rod Woodson, Delton Hall and Tom Everett (all DBs) in the first 4 rounds?
Jerry Micco: I think safety is an important position of need. I like Keenan Lewis at CB and Ike Taylor was just named AFC defensive player of the week. Also, you have Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen learning the defense and both are CBs. Doesn't mean you shouldn't take a CB high. Can't have enough of them. I also think they are going to look at WR because Wallace may be gone.
Ralph LA: Given the RB situation, would it make sense to have two RB in at the same time? I'm thinking back to Rocky Blier and Franco Harris.
Jerry Micco: I think they like what Will Johnson does for them as a blocking fullback. I think adding that back into the mix has made the run game much better. Johnson is also a reliable safety valve target for Ben when he's in there, too.
James_Pittsburgh: The Steelers haven't had a losing season since 2003. Biggest reason for the Steelers success has been what in your opinion?
Jerry Micco: A really good front office and coaching staff. Kevin Colbert is a very good drafter and signs the right free agents. He doesn't always hit home runs, but he has enough big hits to keep the team going year over year. The coaching staff has had good continuity for years. And don't ever underestimate having No. 7 as a QB. There are few elite QBs in the league. He's one of them.
yinzer in va: Jerry, I thought the NFL referee lockout was over. Did some of the former replacements just get bored and decide to come to Met Life Stadium on Sunday?
Jerry Micco: Not a great game for Bill Leavy and his crew, especially in the second quarter. But in the second half, they didn't make any calls that would have affected the game, I didn't think. But no question, the calls in the first half, some anyway, were just awful. You get that sometimes. These guys are human and they are going to make mistakes. But there's a lot on the line when they do, and it was glaring on Sunday.
kibab1979: Jerry, do you think coaches should be able to challenge these personal foul calls? Clark should not have been flagged on Sunday, and there was a questionable call on Monday night as well. Maybe not all personal fouls, but at least "hits to the head"?
Jerry Micco: I don't think so because then officials may be less eager to call those knowing they could be overturned. I think for player safety, you need to make calls that moment and not review them. Because they are bang-bang plays, sometimes you miss them. It happens. Not as badly as they missed the Clark hit on Cruz, but they do miss them. Most of the time, though, they don't. And when it comes to player safety, nothing in the game is more important to me.
Dahner: I read an article earlier today in the post gazette (not sure if you wrote it Jerry) that the steelers have the #1 pass defense in the NFL?! Where have I been? It must be all of those earlier pass interference penalties that Ike was giving up, which didn't give those yards to the opposing offense...any thoughts?
Jerry Micco: Based on yards given up, they are the #1 pass defense in the league. Held Eli Manning to 125 passing on Sunday and that's not an easy trick. Still think the secondary is their weak link, but you can start to see signs of improvement. It's hard to stop NFL pass offenses these days. All you can hope to do is limit them in the red zone and get some turnovers.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, it is difficult to come up with top defensive backs at the bottom of the first round where the Steelers usually pick. I am not sure that the Steelers would get great value picking a defensive back in the first round of 2013.
Jerry Micco: You are correct, most of the top CBs are gone by that point. But, safeties are usually around late in a round, and I think that is where they have more need. Doesn't mean you can't find a good CB late (Ike was a 4th rounder, Lewis is 3rd rounder) but impact CBs are top 15 picks.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, I am not sure how the Pirates will improve in a weak free agent market? They need two starters and a catcher. They only have Burnett, Rodriguez, and Kyle McFearson. Yes, there is McDonald, but if the Pirates are going to improve he shouldn't be automatically given a spot in the rotation going into spring training.
Jerry Micco: I think he will, though, based on his first-half performance in 2011. And remember, last year was his first full year as a starter. I think they'll pencil him in as a starter. And you are correct, the FA market is very weak. Catcher doesn't offer much and you aren't going to see many teams trade quality catchers. McKenry is a very good backup and can play 50-55 games. But the Pirates need a full-time catcher. I wonder how Charlie Morton's recovery is going vis a vis the starters? And remember, Jeff Karstens is still there. Doesn't mean they should not look at the FA market for a starter, but there are a couple guys they have who could contribute if healthy.
Dahner: Do you think that Todd Haley is taking a liking to the old Steelers style of football and working to run the ball more? The running game has started to shine in the past few games and I love watching the old fashion, smashmouth Steelers football...I hope it's here to stay!
Jerry Micco: I think Haley's done a good job here and he has always liked to run the ball. Did it quite a bit as the head coach in KC. But he knows his best offensive weapon is Ben, and he knows how to use him. And try not to get him killed in the process. Shorter passes and a strong running game keep your best player from being sacked 5 times a game. I give both Haley and Ben a lot of credit for reaching some sort of agreement on an offensive game plan. It has done wonders for the Steelers lately.
James_Pittsburgh: Some people on Post-Gazette blogs seem to think Mike Tomlin is better than Bill Cowher. He may well turn out to be. However to say that Tomlin is better because he has already been to two Super Bowls is weak reasoning. Give Bill Cowher 15 years of Big Ben and QB and the Steelers may have played in a few more Super Bowls under Cowher.
Jerry Micco: I think Tomlin is a very good coach. Cowher did it for 15 seasons, but he had some losing seasons in there. This is Tomlin's sixth season and he likely will have his sixth winning season. Cowher had 11 winning seasons in 15, one .500 year and 3 losing seasons. I'd say right now, Cowher is the better coach because he has a 15-year track record. But Tomlin's 2 SBs do count for something.
Dahner: NHL talks resumed today ... should I be giving up on an NHL season yet, or is there still hope?
Jerry Micco: Still hope, as long as they are talking. If they can wrap this up this week, you may see a start of the season as early as Thanksgiving weekend. And if you do that, you can probably have a 65-game season or more. But there's still work to be done. Call me cautiously optimistic.
James_Pittsburgh: I didn't think the Pirates were going to tender Jeff Karstens. Did I miss something?
Jerry Micco: I'm not sure, but if they didn't, then they are certainly in the market for another starter. But I've always thought you could find a No. 4 or No. 5 guy as an FA every year.
Praveen: What I didn't like about the fake FG - even if it worked, why risk the leg of your kicker? More crucial to have a healthy kicker than a punter(example: fake punt). Besides, a regular 4th down conversion is not only higher percentage play (QB sneak, Redman run, play action pass), you also have the offsides possibility. And Amos Jones sure did a bad job designing that play because more often than not that play fails.
Jerry Micco: Here was my problem with it: If your intent was to get the half yard for a first down and you decided to run to get it, why not your 235-pound RB instead of your rail-thin kicker?
spinner: Will we ever see anything remotely negative written concerning Penn State while Jerry Micco is the sports editor? Seems like you are on a one-man mission to restore the grand experiment.
Jerry Micco: Never. And don't ever read what our columnists write, and have written, about the program. You'll be disappointed because some of them are pretty negative, and rightfully so. Answer your question? I though so.
Praveen: If it were up to Cowher, isn't it true Shawn Andrews(out of football) would have been our draft choice instead of Ben?
Jerry Micco: I think Cowher coveted Phillip Rivers, but maybe that was a ploy to get a team like the Giants to draft him No. 4. Remember, Eli was taken No. 1 by San Diego. They swung a trade with the Giants and asked them to take Rivers, then they swapped picks. Ben was there for the taking.
James_Pittsburgh: I would like to see the Pirates go with A..J. Burnett, Rodriguez, Karstens, free agent, and either McFearson or McDonald. Then you have McFearson or McDonald ready to step in should someone get hurt. If both Mcfearson and McDonald are in the rotation, there is no fall back option if McDonald continues to get drilled or hurt.
Jerry Micco: Well, if you resign Karstens and put McPherson and McDonald in the rotation with a FA, then you have Karstens as a fall-back in case you need him. Just flipping the names/roles around a bit there.
Praveen: I am glad Arians is gone. Both he and Steelers are in a win win situation with him working out well in Indy and Haley working out better for us. What I like about Haley is he learns from mistakes and adapts. The running game was not abandoned. He worked to pare down the plays and use the strengths of what many considered a hopeless situation of an injured OL.
Jerry Micco: I think most people thought when the Steelers hired Haley that they were getting too strong a personality for this team and its QB. Haley has smartly calmed it down some on the sidelines and adapted. And the QB has opened his mind some to not getting killed trying to make plays all the time and taking what he's given. It has worked out splendidly so far.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, both Cowher and Tomlin were in two Super Bowls. They both won one and lost one. I am not saying that Tomlin isn't a good coach. Just Cowher would have had more winning seasons with a franchise quarterback instead of Neil O'Donnell and Tommy and Kordell Stewart.
Jerry Micco: But remember, Cowher won a battle with Tom Donahoe to control the team and the draft, so he owns a piece of that. And as I said, due to his longevity, you give to to Cowher for now. But you have to admit losing several championship games did hurt Cowher's legacy.
Praveen: Can Seattle stop whining about Leavy in the SB XL? Not one call in that game was as bad and critical as the 4 calls/non calls in the 2 TD sequence in the 2nd Q. The worst was the 15 yarder on Hasselback. ANd Seattle lost by 11 points while Steelers would had it close even if they were tolose on some Eli 4th Q comeback. You lose by 11, dont whine about refs for 7 years.
Jerry Micco: Bill Leavy also apologized for calls in the Super Bowl, which just added fuel to the fire. I think the call Seahawk fans were most upset about was the touchy offensive PI call on their first TD. But nonetheless, you live with the results and you move on.
Praveen: THey need to extend Starks and Foster right now if they can be signed for bargain amounts(not necessarily bargain basement deals). INvesting 5-6M a year on two starter/top backup quality OL guys is wise. You can use them for top notch depth or use them to trade Gilbert or someone else for a proven defensive player considering how rare quality OL guys are these days
Jerry Micco: And don't forget, David DeCastro was a first-round pick who everyone thought was a starter at RG instead of Foster. So they have some depth and that's a good thing. I think the Steelers see Gilbert at their LT of the future. They won't trade him.
Chooch: I know it's early, but does the PG have any special plans for the upcoming NCAA Frozen Four tournament in April?
Jerry Micco: We don't have anything on paper yet, but we have met with the PR people both from RMU and the NCAA. The Colonials are hosting. And we'll have quite a bit of coverage in the weeks before the tournament and certainly during it. We see it as a big event here in Pittsburgh, and will cover it as so.
Praveen: I noticed an improvement in the way the OL is sharing pass blocking responsibilities under Haley. They seem to do a better job of chipping in on double team blocks and then refocusing on any delayed blitzes or other changed situations in protecting Ben.
Jerry Micco: The last three games is as good a three as the OL has played in a couple of seasons. The fact that the same unit has been together for several games makes that easier. That's why they aren't rushing Gilbert back in there. Adams has shown he can play RT, especially in the run. Needs to work on his pass blocking though.
Chunkles: Jerry, I have NEVER been a fan of Mike Tomlin but the Rooneys like him so it is what it is. HOWEVER, he really should have had this head coaching thing down by now? #1 With less than 4 minutes left in the Skins game his franchise quarterback takes off running with the ball and his only healthy running back blows his quad with a meaningless run. OK, it gets better, against NY he has his kicker who is like 17 of 18 and having a Pro Bowl year. run a fake. What would the Steelers do if that guy gets hurt.? Tomlin should have been fired for that call. Plain and simple.
Jerry Micco: Let's not get crazy here. Fired? Hardly. As for Dwyer, the NFL on the whole does not rest a lot of guys. You rarely see replacements in a game when it's within 30 points. You see Tom Brady in there in wipeouts, why not Ben or Dwyer? A guy can get hurt on his first run or his last, that's the NFL. I think Tomlin's a good coach, and the results bear that out.
Chooch: What's your thoughts on the success that AB is having in Indy?
Jerry Micco: I think the Colts are a great story. The Chuck Pagano speech this weekend didn't leave a dry eye. And Arians has shown great leadership because he has responded so well after being thrust into a head coaching job. That said, the Colts are going to have a tougher sledding in the 2nd half, so we'll see if the magic can continue. Great news on Pagano, too: his cancer is in remission.
DormontyDawson: Jerry -- why do you tolerate the same, stupid questions from "spinner" or whichever name he changes to from week to week? If your not comfortable calling him a useless jerk, your chat posters will be glad to do it for you.
Jerry Micco: I believe everyone has a right to be heard. And you should see what I don't post. And feel free to disagree with any poster in a civil way. I don't discourage civil exchanges. And by the way, thanks for calling him a jerk. I appreciate it :)
James_Pittsburgh: I think Todd Haley is a great example of what people seem to miss in life and not just football. People act different in different situations. Successful people tend to try to fit in to their surroundings. Sorry it is sort of my pet peave when people judge people based on one single situation. Life is a lot more complex than that.
Jerry Micco: And sometimes, people are good at one thing, but when promoted, can't cut it. Doesn't mean they are bad people or bad workers. It means that certain job or situation didn't work out. For example, the Steelers have two failed former head coaches as their coordinators. By any measurement, both have been very successful in these jobs.
James_Pittsburgh: I agree that losing several championship games hurts Cowher's legacy. But having an elite quarterback that he lacked, might have resulted in more Super Bowls. However maybe we could argue that Cowher is to blame for not drafting a franchise quarterback or developing one.
Jerry Micco: That was my point about his winning a power struggle with Donahoe. Also, Cowher did win his only Super Bowl with Ben, so he knew he had a horse to ride when he picked him.
Praveen: I find it perplexing that the Wisenhunt and Grimm have seen a worsening QB/OL situation over the last 4 years in AZ. Do you think Grimm erred by not going aggressively after head coaching jobs when he had a couple of chances?
Jerry Micco: You take your chances on things like that because you wonder if it'll work. He probably figured he'd get a big bounce out of the SB the Cards lost, but that didn't happen. To either guy, except Whiz got a very nice contract. But the Cardinals haven't been all that good since.
James_Pittsburgh: Do you think that Bruce Arians could be a head coaching candidate this offseason?
Jerry Micco: I don't think so, I think he probably doesn't mind working with a kid like Andrew Luck and being an OC. Bruce is in his mid-60s and that may work against him.
Praveen: Steelers seem to have the best offensive DEPTH of any team in the league. QBs down to #3. RBs 1-3. OL has one quality backup for guard, Center and tackle(when Decastro and Gilbert return), WRs(1-4),
Jerry Micco: And if you draft well, you will get that. One area where they will need to look, too, is LB. Harrison is slowing down, and Worilds is just not cutting it. I'd not be surprised to see them go LB and safety heavy in this draft. Two areas of needed depth.
James_Pittsburgh: But your never know. In the right situation or with more experience Todd Haley could succeed. I am not ready to write him off as a head coach yet.
Jerry Micco: Maybe he learns some things and takes a second bite at the apple. He's young enough to do it. And sometimes guys understand it better second time through. In any job, you make mistakes and, hopefully, you learn from them. You are correct not to write him off as a possible HC down the road.
Gary_Virginia: Jerry, I've never weighed in before but do want to comment in that I have never seen a Penn State bias here or elsewhere in the paper. I'm a Pitt fan, but have always thought the coverage of both schools, and even those characters from WVU was very fair.
Jerry Micco: I appreciate that Gary, and more importantly, thanks for reading our newspaper. I think the folks who see bias, and every school/team makes that claim sometimes, are on the fringe. I can say that the administration, coaches, players and vast majority of Pitt fans has been great to our reporters, columnist and me through my 8-plus years here. It's a fine school with good athletic programs. But some people can't get over certain things. It happens, but every once in a while, you got to stand up and be counted. Part of the job.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, I need to run. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. It's always a pleasure to see you and talk sports with all of you. I'll see you next Wednesday at noon. And remember, we'll be doing our live Steelers-Chiefs chat on Monday starting around 8. Check out our web site for more info. So until next time, have a terrific week everybody! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco
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