Poll Question: Do you think Ryan Shazier will be the first Steelers rookie to start on defense since Kendrell Bell?
Answer #1: Yes (93%)
Answer #2: No (7%)
Syd Thrift: I hate seeing Gaby on the bench, I know Ike is having a great May but is the Platoon at 1B what winning teams do?
Jerry Micco: Unless you have a no-brainer at any one position (like Cutch, Alvarez or Walker) most teams will platoon even at a power position. The 1979 Pirates had a platoon at catcher (Nicosia and Ott) and even Willie Stargell platooned some at 1B with John Milner, who also platooned in LF with Bill Robinson. The latter was more a left/right platoon, the former was to give Stargell a rest. Also, guys like Lee Lacy and Mike Easler saw some steady playing time on that championship team. The Pirates bench is much improved from last season, but the bullpen and starting rotation is not.
James_Oakland: What happened with Brandon Moss, did NH give up on him too soon?
Jerry Micco: It looks that way now, but back then, people were not high on Moss reaching any type of big league potential. Sort of like Jose Bautista, who no one thought would ever hit 50 HRs a year, but kills it for Toronto. And there is no guarantee that would have happened here with either guy. In hindsight, yes, would have been great to have both, but if they had kept both, you might not have Alvarez or maybe Marte.
Guest: Jerry, how can unsigned rookies compete in OTA's without a contract, what if they get hurt?
Jerry Micco: I'm not entirely sure of the answer, but I guess that's a risk they take since there isn't full contact. But as we can see from the unfortunate Sean Lee incident, injuries do occur. Ed Bouchette or Ray Fittipaldo may know more, though, on this topic. They do regular chats here, too. Could be they are covered for OTAs since these are agreed upon by the players and the league.
James_Pittsburgh: Will the Penguins hire someone internally for the GM position? Will Tom Fitzgerald or Jason Botterill be the next guy?
Jerry Micco: Could very well be and Dave Molinari has reported that there is interest both inside and outside the organization. I think Dave Morehouse will cast a wide net. Sometimes an internal hire is the best route, but we shall see. They still have some time before they have to make a decision.
James_Pittsburgh: The A's platoon guys and are a first place team. They won the division in 2013 as well.
Jerry Micco: The A's, who like the Pirates are a team that does not have a large payroll, always have had to platoon guys. Every player on that team has a role and because they draft and develop very well, they are able to bring role players in who can fill significant holes. It's why they are at least able to get into the playoffs yearly, but rarely able to get much beyond the first round. The talent level just can't match the big boys.
Chunkles: Jerry, are you surprised how the Pirate pitchers have failed, so far? Lariano had a good 2013 but thats been it for some time, Wandy was risky going into 2014, and Burnette leaving was the right move but it was a hole.
Jerry Micco: I am a bit surprised. I did not expect Liriano to be a 16-game winner, but I didn't expect him to be winless in the first 2 months. I really thought Morton would come on and be a better pitcher. I thought Wandy could win 11-12 games as a starter. So I'd say I'm pretty underwhelmed by the staff in general.
jd: any chance Neil Walker makes NL All Star team
Jerry Micco: If enough people vote for him, yes. I think he's the most deserving Pirate. He's having a very good year, maybe the best of any NL second baseman. If he's not voted in, I'd hope the NL manager would select him. I think the Pirates best shot for all-stars would be Walker and McCutchen.
Trevor: After finishing strong last season and getting faster and younger on defense, could we see the steelers get an above .500 record and back to the playoffs this year?
Jerry Micco: Certainly a chance, but it's really too early to tell. They haven't put the pads on yet, and I want to see how much better the defense looks. You put younger guys on the field and sometimes that can bite you. They tend to make more mistakes and when you put them in game situations they slow down because they don't want to make mistakes.
James_Pittsburgh: Do the Pirates resign Russell Martin this offseason? Wandy's contract and Liriano's will come off the books. 2 years $20 million for Martin, what do you say?
Jerry Micco: I think the Pirates should re-sign Martin and that number is a fair one. He's very important to the club. They can bring up Sanchez and catch him a couple times a week. He needs to become a better defensive catcher and needs to work on calling a game, but his offense is fine. But he's not Russell Martin.
James_Blawnox: Who gets more sacks this season Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier or Cameron Heyward?
Jerry Micco: I'll say Jones, because he's in his second year and the position is designed to get sacks. Heyward won't surprise anyone this year and will get more attention. Shazier is going to have a learning curve issue and while he may blitz some, you may see him in coverage more.
James_Pittsburgh: The Pirates lineup is set moving forward. Everyone is under contract except Martin and the Pirates can choose to go with Martin or Tony Sanchez next year. Have the Pirates built a team that can win in 2015 and 2016? (Lets save the discussion about the pitching staff for another time.)
Jerry Micco: The everyday lineup, to me, is solid if Polanco is ready to play everyday in RF and if you think the Lee/Sanchez platoon at first is workable, which I think it is. Shortstop, unless Mercer finds a way to hit .250 and hit for some power, is going to be a hole.
James_Tel Aviv: Jerry is anybody from the PG covering the World Cup in Brazil?
Jerry Micco: No, not a staffer. We will rely on our wire services to cover the World Cup for us. And we plan on devoting some space to it so we can bring soccer fans solid coverage of the event.
JamesinNYC: If the Pens stay internal for GM does that mean Disco Dan would be more or less likely to stay? From a PR move if you fire him you would be more credible right?
Jerry Micco: My guess is that if it was an internal hire that Bylsma would have a better chance of staying on board for at least one more year. Remember, he has 2 years left on his contract extension. I think the fanbase, at least the majority of it, thinks Bylsma should go. But that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. If the owners and Morehouse thought that, he'd have been gone with Shero.
Chunkles: Jerry, reading Jarvis Jones's comments from OTA's, seems like Joey Porter may have been the Steelers best off-season acquisition?
Jerry Micco: I'd think a guy like Porter can only help a guy like Jones. Besides motivating him, he can show him the way to be a better player in the NFL by using more than muscle to do what's necessary to be a Pro Bowl type OLB. Porter brought so much intensity -- sometimes too much -- to the game. Jones is more laid back, but is a very athletic guy. You can do a lot with a player like him.
Pei Mei: Jerry, How is it possible that Colbert and Tomlin didn't know that Jarvis Jones was weak when they drafted him? Isn't there some objective measurement of strength on which they could have relied to inform their decision? Or did they conclude that he was too talented to pass up and that they could make him stronger?
Jerry Micco: I think when the guy who led the SEC in sacks, which is the best college football league in the country, is available to you in the draft and you have an aging outside linebacker, you draft him. No one you draft is perfect. No one. You always have to work on something. I remember being at Latrobe for a day and watching Jones. Very athletic and thought he was better in coverage than rushing the QB. The Steelers probably knew that, too, which is why he didn't start right away. So you work on a guy's weaknesses and hope he gets better. Jones will have to be much better this year.
James_Pittsburgh: The Pirates really need to develop a third base prospect. The Pirates seem to lack infield prospects. Alen Hanson could possibly take over for Neil Walker when Walker becomes a free agent.
Jerry Micco: The Pirates do lack infield prospects and they have Alvarez under contract through 2016. It does give them time to either make a deal to get stronger in the infield, or draft infielders. I know they like Jacoby's Jones' bat, but I don't know if they like him as a shortstop.
Macon Steeler: Do you believe that a Bob Nutting owned Pirates team can really be a consistent play off team?
Jerry Micco: Well, I see a team like the A's, with a lower payroll, do it year over year. It's not always payroll, it's scouting, drafting, developing and making the right trades. All of that is important to the success of teams that aren't the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers. The Pirates are trying to emulate the Cardinals as far as building a minor league system, and they have a very good one. But they have to keep it stocked, and that sometimes means trading good players who are about to become free agents to do it. We'll see if they can do that of if they want to do that.
Jayhawk: how long do the Pirates own the rights to Ike Davis?
Jerry Micco: He is on a 1-year deal.
jd: If the Pens named Jerry Micco new GM, what moves would you make?
Jerry Micco: I'm not sure I'd fire Bylsma to be honest with you. I know that's not a popular sentiment, but I don't blame him for the team blowing a 3-1 lead to the Rangers. I would look to trade some guys, though. Guys who might give me more grit and toughness. Maybe guys like Neal and Martin or Niskanen go for some bangers who can score a bit. Maybe deal away one of those young defensemen in the organization. I think a couple of big trades to shake up the club is more in order. And maybe try to move up in the draft.
Guest: Why haven't the Ravens released Ray Rice yet? And more importantly where's Goodell on this matter?
Jerry Micco: Obviously, the Ravens will wait for the courts to play out on the Rice matter. And Goodell has been oddly absent on this matter. Though this is a first offense for Rice, it certainly was a high-profile one.
James_Pittsburgh: Ike Davis will be a free agent after the 2016 season. He will be arbitration eligible after the season.
Jerry Micco: Oh, I read somewhere that he had a one-year deal here, but I stand corrected. I guess I was reading that the contract at $3.13 million was in its final year because he's arbitration eligible.
Johnny Mo: I am of the opinion that the Steelers should end negotiations with Worilds and let him play out his one-year contract. If he is as good as many believe, Steelers can negotiate after the 2014 season and even franchise him for another year if he doesn't agree to a contract. Half a season of production is not enough time to determine if he is worth a long-term, megabucks contract. Do you agree?
Jerry Micco: Ed Bouchette, in his blog today, said the same thing. That it's likely the Steelers will let him play for the big money, then see what happens. He stated they could franchise him if he plays well and then let him go. Of course, that likely would mean drafting another OLB in round 1, or round 2, next season. I think Worilds would be smart to take the big money this year. I'd not negotiate a long-term deal if I were him. Why do a long-term deal for a lot less? He could get two big contracts and conceivably a big free-agent deal to follow.
James_Pittsburgh: Jacoby Jones and Alen Hanson will have a chance to replace Neil Walker.
Jerry Micco: Yes they would. Neither guy is a good glove man, but I'm intrigued with Jones' bat.
James_Temecula: What was the final straw for Wandy and his release? He's not salvagle-ble?
Jerry Micco: Goodness, did you see his performance against Baltimore? He was batting practice. His breaking pitch was hanging almost every time. His change had no movement, and his fastball averaged around 87. Wandy has just lost his stuff. Now, maybe he rests a couple of months and his arm recovers, but the Pirates don't have time for him to hang around to do that.
jd: Have you been over to the southside to watch "football in shorts"? Anyone surprise you or stand out?
Jerry Micco: I have not been over there to watch OTAs. Got plenty of folks doing that for us. Also, just so hard to tell who looks impressive in those types of things. I think you have to put the pads on and get into some game situation to see that.
jd: Jerry, How do you decide who to have as your panel on the PG Roundtable radio program?
Jerry Micco: Well, just a few guys on staff can or want to do it, so I use a small rotation in studio. I often put some of our writers on the phone for a segment, which most can handle. The Fan used to provide us a guy, but with cutbacks, they only can do it if I need a replacement for my role as host. So, Tony Greco, who is the writer for Panther Digest, graciously does it weekly for us in studio.
Guest: Jerry I watched Slapshot last night, has to be my #1 sports movie of all time. What's yours, Rudy?
Jerry Micco: Rudy? I wasn't all that high on Rudy as a movie. Why would you say that? I really liked "Remember the Titans." I always cry when I watch "Brian's Song." I guess "Caddyshack" is considered a sports movie, and if that's the case, it's the funniest sport movie ever. I don't watch movies in theaters, so I limit myself a lot. Like I never saw "Miracle," which I'm sure I'd enjoy.
Brodie: Jerry, Given what happened to Donald Sterling in the media and the how Ray Rice is getting some sympathy for his actions don't you think Sterling would have less trouble on his hands if he had assaulted his girlfriend instead of saying stupid things? Not saying it's ok to hit a woman but the media is.
Jerry Micco: I don't know anyone in the media who is saying assaulting a woman is fine. Really? Show me that line in anyone's story who's a credible media member.
NHJon: I'm puzzled by the lack of interest in Velasco's return. Any ideas? He was a great addition last year.
Jerry Micco: Well, with his blown Achilles, I think people want to see how he recovers. No one is biting now even though he's a free agent because that's a tough injury to overcome. The Steelers signed Cody Wallace, who also played well in a short timeframe.
jd: JaCoby Jones may not be here to replace NW. I am reading he may be the PTBNL in the Davis deal>
Jerry Micco: Be a lot to give up for Ike Davis.
James_Pittsburgh: As, I said, the Pirates basically have everyone in place for 2015. The Pirates will need to add a starter or two. However, I think Vance Worley/ Jeff Locke will nail down the 5th spot in the rotation for 2015. It looks like a rotation of Cole, Morton, Cumpton, (free agent/ pitcher acquired via trade), and Worley/ Locke). The 2014 season still has 4 months left, so it will be interesting to see how things develop.
Jerry Micco: It would be good for the Pirates to see Locke regain his form and for Cumpton to solidify his role as a starter. Also, at some point next season, Taillon will recover from his TJ surgery. If you can get him back on track, then you are talking about some depth. And yes, they are going to either sign or trade for a starting pitcher.
James_Pittsburgh: Do you think the Penguins new GM will pursue Ryan Miller? And can the Penguins find cap room for Ryan Miller?
Jerry Micco: I don't think he will, nor should they. What has Miller done that Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't? Except Fleury has won a Cup. Miller didn't get the Blues out of round 1 of the playoffs this season.
Guest: Is it possible Ike Taylor is cut this August or is there a place for a 34 yr old CB on this team?
Jerry Micco: I think the Steelers want to see if Taylor can regain some of his old form and become a serviceable corner. They know he can't shut down the best WR from the opponent anymore, and he won't be asked to do that, just as he wasn't asked to do that the 2nd half of 2013. I think if you are better with Mitchell at safety and you let Polamalu play more safety than LB, then maybe the CBs get some help. Taylor isn't going to wow anyone, but I don't think he's going to be as bad as he was in 2013. But if in camp you see that player, you really have no choice but to cut him.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, the only thing I don't like about "Remember the Titans" is that the story veers really far from what really happened. http://espn.go.com/page2/s/...
Jerry Micco: Well, Rudy really didn't happen like the movie depicted either, but a lot of people liked the story. "Titans" was good because of the acting and the idea of the story. I worked in Alexandria, Va., early in my career and spent a lot of time in Virginia covering high schools. I know how tough it was for schools there to integrate and heard all the stories. So I guess when I watched it, I identified some with it.
Tim Worley: Leveon Bell avg. per carry last year 3.5 yards. Why are people so high on this guy?
Jerry Micco: Because he was a rookie last year behind a so-so line, and he also did a lot as a receiver. I think you'll see a lot more from him this year.
Brodie: The media person I was referring to who gave Ray Rice sympathy was Stephen A Smith on first take. He talked about how Rice was 'truly' sorry and deserves a 2nd chance. Really?
Jerry Micco: Oh, First Take? That explains it. Those guys say stuff to get people enraged. I didn't hear Stephen A's take, but a lot of guys say they are sorry after the fact. Doesn't hide the fact that something bad happened. I'm a believer in redemption, but you have to pay some price for the act, too. We'll see how the courts decide in the Rice case.
Rob: It seems like this year has the potential to be a really good year or a really bad year for the Steelers. Would you agree?
Jerry Micco: I think it has that possibility. But it's a long way yet to Latrobe and to the Sept. 7 opener vs. Cleveland...and possibly Johnny Manziel.
Jerry Micco: OK folks I need to get back to some other stuff. Terrific chat today, thanks for all the questions and for taking time to join me today. I always appreciate the company. I'll see you next Wednesday at noon and we'll do it all over again. Have a great week everybody! Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco