Poll Question: Where do you lay the majority of the blame for the Penguins postseason collapse: Answer #1: The front office (Votes: 3) Answer #2: The coaching staff (Votes: 2) Answer #3: The players (Votes: 2)
James_Pittsburgh: Why is Clint Hurdle playing Josh Harrison in right field? He probably cost the Pirates the game last night.
Jerry Micco: My guess is Hurdle thinks Harrison gives them some pop at the top of the lineup. He's hitting .300 and this is a team that needs guys who can hit. Now, you are giving up something in the field when you play him in the outfield, but Hurdle likes what he sees at the plate. My take on Harrison is he's a nice stopgap player, but not a full-time guy. And when Marte gets healthy, he likely will return to the bench.
Ron Shock: Jerry, next year instead of spending all my thousands of dollars on Penguin Season tickets, playoff tickets, parking, concessions, I'm just donating it to a good charity. I recommend other season ticket holders do the same.
Jerry Micco: You are not the first fan I've heard say this when it comes to the Penguins, and this has started to come to the forefront this season. This is why I believe there are many changes coming to the organization. The fans expect more from the team and that did not happen. Unless there are changes, they will speak with their wallets.
Steeler Rich: Well Jerry all Pens fans are looking to place blame for the so called choke. I believe that basically the Pens need a new coach and some toughness upfront and on defense. What do you think?
Jerry Micco: I think they need a new direction and that may reach as high as the front office. I don't know what Mario Lemieux has in mind, and I don't advocate that people lose their jobs, but the franchise in its current state has not done what it is capable of doing in the last five years. It is a team built around a couple of superstars and a nice supporting cast, but it is not a very physically tough team, which you need some element of that in the playoffs.
James_Pittsburgh: Why haven't the Pirates brought up Chris Dickerson has a stop gap? He has a career .745 OPS at the Major League Level and is an above average defender.
Jerry Micco: Good question, but I don't know the answer. Maybe they like who they have right now.
Guest: Jerry, any opinion on how this team is not built for the playoffs and how the officiating is different in the playoffs? Bottom line is Sidney Crosby was ineffective.
Jerry Micco: No question Crosby was not effective, particularly in the Rangers series. Marc Staal really clamped down on him. And I saw shifts from Crosby in this series where he lost battles for pucks and couldn't even handle pucks. That's not the Crosby I've seen play here for years. He says he was fine, but things just didn't work out in this series. I don't know, he didn't look at all right to me.
James_Pittsburgh: Do you think there was a rift between Crosby and Dan Bylsma?
Jerry Micco: There was something amiss there. I don't know what it was, but when your captain is yelling at your coach on the bench, then there is something not right. If you don't have your captain on your side, one of you has to go. I think we know who generally departs in that situation.
James_Pittsburgh: Can Ryan Shazier be the next Troy? Or is that just hype!
Jerry Micco: Hype. He's not a safety. Too big. He has the chance to be a really good ILB, though.
James_Pittsburgh: Can Ryan Shazier, Timmonns, Jarvis Jones, and Jason Worilds restore the Steelers defense back to being a top five defense?
Jerry Micco: I don't know if those four alone can do it, but on paper it is an impressive group. But as you know, these things are proven on the field. We'll see how they look when they put pads on and play against the other guys. I want to see if Worilds is the monster he was in the 2nd half of 2013 for all of 2014. If Jones has gotten stronger. If Timmons continues to play well, and if Shazier can play inside and take on guards and centers with his quickness and make plays.
Dirt Winston: What was the worst pick of the Steelers in your opinion Jerry? McCullers seems like he won't make this team. Tomlin even said he was a project.
Jerry Micco: McCullers is a guy who is big and that pretty much sums it up. He lasted until the late 6th round for a reason. I know some people love the Dri Archer pick, but I want to see if they can do something with him. He can't return punts; they are going to have to teach him that skill. Kick returners in the NFL don't get that many chances anymore. He'll have to show his wares as a slot receiver and gadget back, much like Chris Rainey, who did little in this offense. I just hope Archer is a better player.
Chunkles: Jerry, if your Mario or Burkle, what is your sales pitch to me as a fan to continue to show up during the regular season when for five years the team that wowed me in the regular season spudders in the play-offs, embarrassing themselves?
Jerry Micco: I think I'm going to have to prove to you that I still have great players and that trading them won't solve the issue. But I'm going to make some changes, maybe in coaching and possibly in the front office. And while Malkin and Crosby will stay, I may trade Neal and Letang, and let guys like Orpik and Jokinen go. And surround my stars with guys who are workers that can be physical in the right way. They are going to have to blow it up with out blowing it to smithereens. Send a message that things are changing for the better without looking desperate.
Franky: Any idea on Pitts ooc hoops schedule? We've been hearing from Jamie and Paul Zeus about some upgrades but no news has been reported. Why?
Jerry Micco: Must not have it nailed down just yet. We have had the Big Ten-ACC challenge game (Indiana) and that they'll be in the Maui Classic and who those teams are with them out there. When we get word from Mt. Olympus, we'll make sure Zeus gets that info into the paper and on the Website as soon as possible. Zeus. It's Paul Zeise.
Chunkles: My three "Milk Box" candidates for the 2014 playoffs are Crosby, Neal, and Scuderi.
Jerry Micco: Glad you didn't include Malkin, who I have heard some people malign. I think Malkin played very hard during the playoffs coming off his foot injury.
James_Dormont: How badly do the Pirates miss Russell Martin? Tony Sanchez is horrible behind the dish.
Jerry Micco: The reason the Pirates wanted Sanchez to play in AAA another year was his defense. Now you know why. Yes, they miss Russell Martin. And I still think they should try to re-sign him for at least one more year.
Mike: 29 had a .889 save percentage in games 5-6-7. How are some saying "he is back"?
Jerry Micco: He had a lousy game 5 and started out lousy in game 6. But he was terrific last night, and he did have two shutouts in this series. I won't put this series loss on Fleury. From what I see, he gets very little defensive help. Watch how teams like the Rangers play in front of Lundqvist. Makes a great goaltender even better.
Roxy: How do you determine which columnist (collier/cook) covers game 7 for the PG?
Jerry Micco: A bit of a rotation and it's a yearly thing. This year, Ron had the first road trip with the Penguins. In that instance, the Columbus series was "his" series. Meaning he'd have the majority of the games and he'd get a Game 7 if there was one. For round 2, that went to Gene. Had there been a round 3, back to Ron. If it was the Cup, both columnists would go, and both would have written off Game 7.
James_Saskatoon: How can a team be ahead 3-1 in a series, with back to back shutout's and all it took it seems was Marty St Louis Mother's passing to change this series? Is the game of Hockey that emotionally fickle that talent doesn't win out?
Jerry Micco: I think the passing of St. Louis' mom did give a lift to the Rangers, as sad as that episode was for him and his family. A bit of a rallying point with the team down 3-1. But that wasn't the reason the Penguins came out so flat in game 5 and played their worst game of the series. Once they lost game 5, they lost the momentum in the series.
Disco: 4 and 5 in the past 9 playoff series. Ouch.
Jerry Micco: And that usually means a bigger hurt is coming.
JW...: Does Pitt and Paul Chryst even try anymore with James Franklin now kicking their arse?
Jerry Micco: Recruiting is a funny thing and it's a long process. A lot of kids haven't signed yet, and Pitt is in the running for several kids. Of course Pitt and Chryst will be out there and working for their recruits. And Franklin has done a tremendous job thus far at Penn State. They have thus far recruited one of the best classes in the country for 2015. It's not easy when someone in your back yard is doing that, but certainly Pitt will get some guys and Chryst will continue to build the program. Still a long ways to go.
Tomo: Where are all these great defenseman shero drafted?
Jerry Micco: Mostly in the minors or on their junior teams. Although Olli Maatta stuck it through the entire season. Though the last 6 weeks he was a pretty beaten up player, who looked all of 19. Dave Molinari, our excellent hockey writer, always says that defense is the toughest position to learn in the NHL. He's right, and it also wears you down quickly, too.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, it seems to me that in today's NHL, skilled players are a little over rated. I am not saying that teams don't need a goal scorer. However, the Penguins have not under performed. They don't have the right skill set to compete in the playoffs giving the current rules. They have not under achieved despite what fans think. The results are due to not having the right talent.
Jerry Micco: But I see the Blackhawks, who I said before the playoffs started would 3-peat, being a very similar team, and it looks like they can get back to the finals. The are built similar to the Penguins with one difference: They are a bit tougher on the wings and their defensemen are a bit more physical. But they have two terrific players -- Toews and Kane -- and some good parts. Otherwise, a lot of nice players to go along with them and a decent goalie in Crawford.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, there is some speculation that Shazier will play all over the field like Troy and could make the big plays. I know he is not a safety.
Jerry Micco: They may move him around some, but he'll mostly play ILB and line up there. Maybe they'll move him around on the outside to blitz, or if a TE is in the slot they may move him out to cover him, but there was a lot of talk on draft night by fans thinking he'd actually play safety. That's not in the cards.
James_Munhall: It seems the Steelers take alot of input from their Coaches with regard to the draft. Carnell Lake, Keith Butler, Richard Mann. Is that a good thing?
Jerry Micco: Certainly. Coaches and scouts study game film, too, and they have to coach these guys. They may see things that others don't. Eventually, Colbert and Tomlin have to make a decision, but the coaches appreciate the fact that they get a chance for input. They know they don't have final say.
Louisy: Dri Archer will not last one season. He will get broken in half like a twig.
Jerry Micco: I wouldn't go that far. Darren Sproles is a similar player and has lasted many years in the NFL. I just want to see if Archer can be a guy who can be on the field 10-15 times a game and make some plays. If he can do that, he's quite a weapon.
Harold: I've read speculation the Pens may not want to shake things up so close to the draft. Isn't that a terrible reason?
Jerry Micco: Well, if you unload the entire scouting department as well as the GM, that is not a good thing so close to the draft. Usually what happens is the GM is gone and everyone else is kept. Then after the draft, others are replaced by the new GM. But if you think that the draft philosophy is what has been the issue, then you would not care if you replaced the GM a month before the draft. You'd want to change it, I'd think.
Donnie: When will the sellout streak end?
Jerry Micco: If they are going to discount tickets to students, maybe not for a while. And remember, this is a team that rang up 100-plus points in the regular season and dominated their division. Its problems come in the playoffs.
James_Pittsburgh: How will the Steelers line look without Mike Adams? I expect that the Rooney's will say goodbye to him sometime soon.
Jerry Micco: I don't think they will at all. I'm not getting that vibe, neither are any of the beat writers.
Ray Miller: My weekly Charlie Morton stinks question. Why did they give this guy a long term deal?
Jerry Micco: I thought Morton could have a breakout year this year. OK, he's 0-5 and his ERA is 3.22. With that ERA, he leads the starting staff. I'm not saying he's an ace, but to say he stinks is a bit over the top. And they signed him long team because they can see that he has a lot of upside. I think his ERA proves that. His control issues need to get addressed, though.
James_Pittsburgh: You cannot be serious about letting Jokinen go! He was an important part of the team. However, trading Letang would be a nice start.
Jerry Micco: Well, Jokinen and Niskanen are free agents, and they are not signing all of them. Letang just signed an 8-year deal, so you are going to have to find someone willing to swallow that. Neal is probably the most movable part.
The Ole Ball Coach: I say Johnny Football within 5 years will be working for ESPN as a College Football analyst. His style of play, especially playing in the AFC North does not translate to success. What say you?
Jerry Micco: I think he has a chance to make it, and I think he has a chance to fail in a large way. He's a boom/bust guy to me. You watch him on one piece of tape and he makes all the throws and can do wonders with his legs. Watch him other times, and you'll not see him read a progression to save his life, and just tuck and run. In the NFL, those guys don't last very long. Be fun to watch, though.
James_Jamestown: If I'm the next head coach of the Penguins, do I start my business by stripping all players of their 'C's' or their 'A's' on their jerseys and start from square 1 depending on who leaves and who comes in?
Jerry Micco: I certainly don't strip Crosby of the C. The players in the room, and most of them will be back, won't appreciate that. They are the ones who helped put that C there. Maybe the A's go, but not the C. I think any coach that comes in is going to have to deal with Crosby. Just a fact of life if you want to coach in Pittsburgh.
James_Pittsburgh: I hope Mario shows these guys film of their playoff 'success' the past few years each and every day before practice...maybe that'll put some pep in their step?
Jerry Micco: Well, they've got to try something.
James_Johnstown: What is it about Milwaukee that makes the Pirates forget how to play good baseball? Is the visitor lockeroom painted pink? Does Randell Simon wacking their sausage racers haunt them? What is it with these guys?!
Jerry Micco: Just can't seem to beat Milwaukee. Don't know if it's a matchup thing or if the Brewers come in knowing that they can do just about anything and beat the Pirates. I think after a while it's a confidence thing.
The City of Pittsburgh: Jerry, I feel like Cleveland with our recent sports success...can you give me anything to look forward to?
Jerry Micco: I think the Power are decent. Score a lot of points. Oh, wait. That league you are supposed to score a lot of points. Unless the Pirates can put a 7- or 8-game win streak together soon, they may be playing second-division ball well into June. This is going to be a tough road trip for them at Milwaukee and the Yankees.
JB: So much was said before the draft about the steeler's so called weakness at CB. Given the extraordinary time before the draft, how could the steeler experts be so clueless about the how the steeler management and coaches feel about the current crop of CBs
James_Buzzards Bay: Jerry, do we still give Colbert and Tomlin the benefit of the doubt on evaluating talent?
Jerry Micco: Well, they did say they wanted a CB. Steeler said that. Even said Justin Gilbert was the one they wanted. Once he went, and I think once Kyle Fuller went, they didn't want a guy they considered as the third-best CB at No. 15, so they took the guy they considered the best ILB in the draft. If you only draft need, sometimes you take the 3rd or 4th best guy at a spot. You don't want to do that when you pick in the top 15. Sometimes you go another direction to get quality at a spot where there was need. LB was a need spot for them.
JB: I think the multiple James_* questions are from the same person. What do you think?
Jerry Micco: I have no clue. I just answer them, I don't look at the names too closely.
James_Pittsburgh: The Steelers have lost to the Browns 4 times since 2000. I put the over/under for Johnny Manziel career victories vs the Steelers at three. Are you taking the over or under? (no money involved)?
Jerry Micco: I'll take the under. I don't know if he gets that many starts and if he's going to hang around that long.
Chunkles: What's the read on this Tuitt guy? Do you think he can compete for a starting position job at his position this season?
Jerry Micco: Absolutely. I think, by the way, this was the best pick in the draft for the Steelers. A real position of need and this guy was a first-round talent for most of the pre-draft. He dropped because he wasn't a flexible guy for a 4-3 DE, but I think he was a great pick.
James_Oakland: Do you think Cole plunking Gomez last night was a 'soft' message?
Jerry Micco: I think a pitch might has just gotten away from him, but I didn't see it as I was at the Penguins game last night.
James_JB: Jerry, do you think JB figured me out?
Jerry Micco: Hmmmm....Maybe.
James_JB: Its just a popular name JB...say does that J stand for James by chance?
James_Pinehurst: Jerry is this the year Lefty completes the Grand Slam?
Jerry Micco: As much as I'd love to see Lefty get his career Grand Slam, and finally get his US Open, I don't think he'll do it this year. Pinehurst is the kind of place where he could do it, too. But he's not played well recently and his putting is pretty erratic. He's going to have to putt well there to win, and I don't see that happening. Also, he's going to have to become much more consistent off the tee. I don't know why his game has left him all of a sudden, but I hope he can recover it in time for Pinehurst.
The Monk: Here's my poetic take on what ails Sid. Sid always had someone in his face, taking aways all his time and space. Said Sid, "In the regular season they let me run and run", "playoff hockey just ain't no fun."
JB: I like james. What is the backlash when bucs trade walker and do the pirates consider this when contemplating a move/signing?
Jerry Micco: I think they take everything into consideration when making a trade, but first and foremost, they consider if the trade will make the club better. I'd hate to see them trade Walker because he's got some power at a position where it's hard to find power. But he's also due a big payday and he's a guy they could get a couple good players for right now. We'll see how that goes, though.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, thanks for another great chat. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me this week. I'll be back at noon next Wednesday and we can do this all over again. Until then, have a terrific week everybody! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco