Poll Question: Decisions, decisions: When the Penguins and Pirates are on at the same time, but different networks, which do you choose to watch?
Answer #1: Penguins (85%)
Answer #2: Pirates (15%)
The Chief: Jerry, hope you had a good week. Any surprises in the 8 playoff series in the NHL?
Jerry Micco: Been a pretty good week, Chief. Not surprised by Montreal beating Tampa Bay. I thought, and stated last week, that the Canadiens could win that series. I was surprised that they swept them, however. But not really surprised by any series so far.
James_Pittsburgh: It is early, but can the Pirates rebound from their 9-12 start?
Jerry Micco: I believe so. But the pitching, both starters and bullpen, is going to have to get better as they go along. The hitting is going to have to become more consistent, too. Let's see if Ike Davis is the addition they need to platoon with Sanchez at first. So far, so good on that front.
The Chief: Jerry, we are three plus weeks in the Pirate's season. What are the early plus/minus of the team.
Jerry Micco: I think the biggest plus is the pitching of Edinson Volquez, who has been terrific. Also Neil Walker has been hitting with some pop, which is something they have needed from him. But too many minuses. Wandy Rodriguez has been ineffective and is injured again. Charlie Morton, after a nice start, has tailed off. The bullpen has nosedived lately, too. Alvarez showing nice power, but not much average wise. Mercer can't hit a lick. Too many negatives, which gives you a 9-12 record after 21 games.
kjacksonpgh: Hi Jerry, do you feel that the Steelers will try to move down and possibly pick up an extra draft pick? Also the possibility of selecting a DL or WR in the 1st round?
Jerry Micco: A lot of teams will try to move down in this draft because it's wide and deep. But you need a trading partner to do so. Just remember when you move down, you don't get as high a quality player. I think they'll go WR or CB in round 1, not DL.
kjacksonpgh: Jerry, can you confirm that contract talks between the Steeler and Big Ben have started? If so any idea what it will cost to keep him in Black & Gold for his entire career?
Jerry Micco: I cannot confirm that. The best person to ask that question to would be Ed Bouchette, who is much more in tune with those things than me. Since I'd consider Ben a top 5 or 6 QB in the NFL, my guess is he's in the $18-20 million range. Could they get him a bit cheaper? Maybe, but not much.
The Chief: I have to tell you that after watching numerous first round NHL contests. I am convinced the Penguins are not built for the playoffs. They seem to be deficient in the grit and toughness that other teams have.
Jerry Micco: The Penguins are not the league's biggest team, and that can work against you in the playoffs. But despite that, they did make the conference final last season. What they can't make up for in grit and size, they do in talent and great special teams. Maybe that has not shown this series, but it has at other times.
kjacksonpgh: Jerry, The Steelers have been pretty lucky with players falling to them in the draft. What player would you want to slip through the cracks as your #1 pick?
Jerry Micco: I'm still a Darqueze Dennard guy. I think he's got good size and is a good cover CB. Maybe that's not a "slip through the cracks" kind of guy, but he's the guy I like for them. I guess if Justin Gilbert, the CB from Oklahoma St. falls to them, they'd have to make a choice. Gilbert is faster and has a different skill set. He can return punts, too. I'd take either one.
Chunkles: Jerry, do you remember after the NHL strike each team could terminate a contract, no matter what the contract read? The Pens didnt do this. Is it still and option and would you see them do that to Letang before his new deal kicks in?
Jerry Micco: Technically, it was a lockout, not a strike. I don't believe this is still an option, but again, I'm not 100 percent sure. I'd not do this with Letang, however. Why would you not get out from under Scuderi's $4 million deal for the next 3 years?
Phil: NFL schedule announcement show tonight=bad television. Yeah I'm interested in the Steelers, but I don't need a hyped show about when the Cowboys and Giants meet in Dallas.
Jerry Micco: But Giants and Cowboys fans will watch it, and would care less about when the Steelers play the Ravens. Tons of people will watch the schedule show, which is incredible to me. The NFL Network will fill two hours with it. People just love the NFL.
Bill L: The Pirates don't have any line drive hitters. It's a problem. Marte and Tabata are disappointing in that regard. And of course, Alvarez doesn't make much contact either.
Jerry Micco: Actually, I think they do have line drive hitters. They just hit them right at people. Marte has been disappointing at the plate this year, I will say that. And Alvarez, too, but he has really cut back on his strikeouts. Check those stats.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, the Pirates basically have players in place at each position until the end of the 2016 season. Russell Martin will likely leave, but Tony Sanchez will get a shot. Have the Pirates build a contender or another pretender?
Jerry Micco: Hard to say, because you have to look at the pitching, which will not be in place until 2016. Liriano, Volquez and Wandy are all gone after this year, unless they are re-signed. And the back end of the bullpen is, too. Maybe that's all good, but that's a lot to replace, too. So unless the pitching is replaced, they are a pretender. As I always say, the pitching is always the key.
Ken: Are we serious NFL fans really going to be subjected to alot of hype about DeSean Jackson? We don't care, tevevison executives!
Jerry Micco: TV, like newspapers, always look for stories that drive the needle. One way or the other. DeSean Jackson is in a city that is as football crazy as it comes. And he's in a big market (Washington). That's going to be a story.
JamesinNYC: Sutter been the best center for the Pens in this series?
Jerry Micco: Overall, yes. Give him some competent wingers and you can see that offensively, he can get some things done. He's always been a good defensive center and can take care of things in the face-off circle, too. I've always thought Sutter was an underrated player on the Pens.
Phil: I know no one cares about the NBA here, but did I really see where the Knicks are hiring their 8th coach since 2002? That is a joke. I remember when the Knicks brand was an elite one, even during the Ewing-John Starks years.
Jerry Micco: The Knicks are one of the oldest and grandest franchises in the NBA. And they hired Phil Jackson as president. Let's see if he can return it to past glories. The league is better if the franchise in New York is better, I think.
James_Pittsburgh: The Pirates will need two starters in the off-season. Cole, Morton, and Pimental will be the three pitchers under contract who will be in the 2014 rotation. What do you see the Pirates doing?
Jerry Micco: Likely signing a free agent, or perhaps seeing if they can get Volquez on a 2-year deal like they did Liriano. If they think he's found lightning in a bottle.
Ken: Mike Francesa of WFAN, New York, simulcast is on Fox Sports One now. Good NFL stuff during the football season. Looking forward to it.
Jerry Micco: Francesa has his fans and detractors. I've never much cared for him, but I do know people who like him say his NFL stuff is what makes him good.
Zio Guido: With the 3rd round compensatory pick the Steelers select .......an ILB? After WR and CB in rounds 1 and 2 do you agree from a need standpoint?
Jerry Micco: If the draft goes as you say with WR/CB in rounds 1 and 2, I'd say LB in round 3, but could be inside or outside. And I'd not be stunned to see DL there. But it always depends on who is sitting there. If there's a WR or CB they really like, they could get him. They have great need at both spots.
mat: How long do you think the Manhattan College basketball coach will remain at Manhattan before he will be able to move up in coaching ranks? Could you foresee a school going after him again next year?
Jerry Micco: I think he'll have to get his degree first, right? Manhattan is allowing that to happen while he coaches. So he can't go anywhere until he gets his degree. And you know what? I think after he gets that degree, he owes Manhattan at least a year because they are going to stick by him.
James_Pittsburgh: I don't see Columbus winning this series despite the poor play of the Penguins. Can the Penguins turn it around against the Rangers or Flyers, or will they be eliminated?
Jerry Micco: It's all about matchups. The Penguins match up better with the Rangers than the Flyers, just as the Rangers match up better with the Flyers than the Penguins. So if the Penguins play the Rangers, I like the Penguins. If it's the Flyers, I think the Flyers have an edge. But if the Penguins play as poorly as they are in this series, no way they win in round 2. They have some work to do if they want to win this series.
The Chief: Jerry, they say a rivalry never develops in the NHL until the two teams meet in the playoffs. Based on the proximity of the two cities, does the Penguins/Bluejacket rivalry eventually replace the Penguins/Flyers ?
Jerry Micco: Not a chance. The Penguins-Flyers rivalry is a blood rivalry. It's born of both of them coming into the league at the same time. Being from the same state and one team, the Flyers, bullying the Penguins for so long, until the Penguins got better and bullied them back. No, the Blue Jackets-Penguins won't get to that level. Just don't see it.
James_Pittsburgh: If Volquez post a sub three ERA in 2014, I think he will likely go for the money while it is there. I hope I am wrong.
Jerry Micco: You are probably right, but maybe the Pirates will come up with enough to keep him. They will not have Wandy's big contract to deal with, and if they don't try to re-sign Liriano, then that money's there, too. We'll see, but they are going to open up some money after this season.
The Chief: We have seen Scuderi's skills diminish this year. How much do you attribute to his health?
Jerry Micco: Well, he was injured for a big chunk of this year, but the decline to me has been rather sharp. And they are so deep in defensemen that they could afford to go without Scuderi. Unfortunately, they would have to eat his contract. And you wonder if he's 100 percent next year if he isn't a phoenix-like Paul Martin. Where he's back to blocking shots, being physical.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, Although I am a closet Flyers fan (until they play the Pens of course), do you see any chance that they can swing it past the Rangers after going down 2 games to 1 last night?
Jerry Micco: Sure. The Flyers offense is very good and can score on anyone. But the Rangers seem to have the edge on them right now in goal. The difference is Lundquvist and the Rangers ability to block so many shots, thus keeping the Flyers forwards around the perimeter. And Emery isn't as good as Mason, so that helps the Rangers, too.
James_Pittsburgh: Do you think the Steelers can win the division in 2014? The Bengals are over rated. I actually think the Steelers played down to their competition last season.
Jerry Micco: I think the Steelers have a chance to win the division because of the quarterback. I think the offense, if the passing game keeps up and the running game improves, which I think it will, does what it can, they can win games. The defense is a huge question mark. If they don't win the division, or even compete to do so, it'll be because of the defense.
Chief: Jerry, as per you comment on the 2015 Pirates rotation, why wouldn't they give guys like Compton, Irwin or Gomez a look for potential starters?
Jerry Micco: I think they will look at Cumpton, and they might very well do that this season moving forward. Irwin is a possible, but not as much as Cumpton. Gomez has been pretty ineffective thus far, and Pimental has moved ahead of him. Of course, Taillon was the guy who was penciled in as a sure thing before the TJ surgery. But now, he likely won't pitch until late next season.
James_Pittsburgh: Despite the fact Volquez will probably leave, I do like a rotation of Cole, Morton, Volquez, Pimentel, and another reclamation project or Locke.
Jerry Micco: If Cole continues to grow and Morton gets back on track, that's a nice top of the rotation. If Volquez stays, that's a plus. No leftys there, though.
Chief: What would be more of a disappointment, the Pens not making the Stanley Cup finals or the Steelers and/or Pirates not making the playoffs?
Jerry Micco: I don't think most fans think the Penguins are making the finals, so I'll eliminate that one. I think a lot of folks will be upset if the Pirates don't make the playoffs. They want to see consistency, not a one and done. And of course, every year Steelers fans expect a Super Bowl win. So yes, they'll be disappointed if they don't make the playoffs.
James_Pittsburgh: Where would you start this off-season if you were Ray Shero?
Jerry Micco: Going to be cap strapped, I think. Orpik's probably gone. Have to decide what you are going to do with Scuderi and Dupuis. You have $8 million a year tied up in those 2, and you wonder what's left of them. Letang is young and if you offer him up to trade, you'd better get huge return. He's still a highly skilled defenseman, who many teams would covet. I still think they need power forwards, wingers in particular.
James_Pittsburgh: Who comes out of the NL Central this year in the playoffs? 3 teams, 2 or 1?
Jerry Micco: I think the Central gets 2 teams. St. Louis and one other team. I think the East may get 2 teams if Washington figures things out. The West, I thought, might get 2, but I'm not sure if the Giants are as good as I thought. Still so early yet.
Chuckles: Well if history tells us anything, tonight's game between the Pens and...i can't remember their name...will end 4-3. Who you got tonight?
Jerry Micco: The Blue Jackets. I have the Penguins winning this one, and let's say 4-1 Penguins. I think they'll wrap this series in 5.
James_Pittsburgh: Ture or False, either Dan Bylsma proves to be a genius and turns things around or he is good as gone this off-season?
Jerry Micco: I think even if the Penguins lose in round 2, Bylsma is back. Look at the job he did in the regular season with all the injuries to deal with . At times, his roster had 6 or 7 minor leaguers playing. I know people aren't happy with him, but the Penguins front office is happy with him by and large. He gets at least one more season behind the bench.
James_Pittsburgh: I see the Penguins shopping Letang and looking for a player that is more consistent. Letang lacks consistency.
Jerry Micco: I think they'll shop him and what you say is true. But now he'll have a $7.25 million a year price tag on him, so teams will be wary. He is a very talented player, but you are right, the inconsistencies in his game hurt him.
The Chief: Jerry, I just do not understand Bylsma's reluctance to use England on the fourth line. If folks remember, the 2009Stanley Cup Champs used seven d through out the playoffs!
Jerry Micco: Against Columbus, he wants a bit of speed to go against the Blue Jackets size. He had it going pretty good with Gibbons in there. I think if they play the Flyers, you are likely to see Engelland in there on the 4th line.
Chunkles: Are we paying Ray Searage enough for the job that he has done to possibly create two comeback player of the year awards!? I know its early for Volquez but man, Searage is a secret weapon for the Pirates for some time to come!
Jerry Micco: Searage and his approach have worked wonders for those pitchers and the Pirates. He's been a big reason for their success. And for guys like Liriano and Volquez, not to mention Melancon and Grilli, they have been career-saving. What it does is give the Pirates a chance with guys like that, but it also means that you are constantly gambling -- with guys like that. He's hit home runs thus far, but there are going to be some duds, too, like Jonathan Sanchez.
James_Pittsburgh: Thanks for the chat as always Jerry, have a good week Everyone!
Jerry Micco: Always a pleasure, James. Have a great week. I still have a few minutes for questions if there are any more.
The Chief: With addition of Ike Davis, do you see the Pirates still bringing up Polanco in June?
Jerry Micco: I think you'll see that. Snider and Tabata will bring some depth to the OF, particularly Snider. I'm not sure what they will do with Tabata at that point. Could be that one of them is traded for some minor league depth, or you could see another move and both are kept on the roster.
Steve: Who will score first, Malkin or Crosby
Jerry Micco: I think Crosby because his line seems to be getting more pressure when it's out there. Though Malkin has been playing tough both ways in this series. I think that once each scores, you might see goals in bunches. Both have a tendency to do that.
Chief: Did you happen to catch an of the college football spring games recently Jerry? If so, did anyone stand out?
Jerry Micco: I really didn't. I think a lot of coaches are careful in spring games because they don't want to get star players hurt. They want to do good things for the alums and students, especially if it turns out to be a nice day and they can get a good crowd (see: Penn State and 72,000 fans), but otherwise, it's just a scrimmage.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, time to get back to some other stuff. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. A pretty full hour with some very good questions. I'll be back at noon next Wednesday and we'll do it all again. Until then, have a great week! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco