Poll Question: How many game will the Steelers win in the 2014 regular season? 12 or more (8%) 10-11 (54%) 8-9 (31%) 7 or less (8%)
Ron: I am of the opinion that the Steelers D was doing everything they could to stop the Eagles O and couldn't - how bad is this season going to be, Jerry?
Jerry Micco: As I always say, you never show you hand in the preseason. That said, it was not a good display against the Eagles. I think the Steelers defense will not be as bad as it looked against the Eagles, but it will not be the dominant force that it has been in years past. This team, to have any success, will have to live and die with the offense. The defense, I think, will get better as the season progresses, but won't be the team's strength.
Brent in NC: Hey Jerry, How are you today? I have a question about the nickel defense. They keep going with a straight 2-4-5 or a 4-2-5. Why not do a hybrid with Worilds and jones on the outside and Big Mac and Thomas on the inside
Jerry Micco: I am good, thanks for asking. The use a lot of different packages, but all of them involve using Worilds and Jones because those guys are supposed to be their best pass rushers. Jones is going to have to show that at some point this season. I think Heyward is the better inside person in that sub-package than McLendon because he can put on a better pass rush. They need guys who can pressure because the secondary is pretty vulnerable.
Jimmy: With this young D, How important is it in your opinion the Steelers post wins in 3 out of 4 of their first games? I would say they'll need to find a way to win until the game slows down for someone of these guys later in the season
Jerry Micco: The have a chance to go 3-1 in their first 4 games, but likely will go 2-2. The pivotal game will be at Carolina on Sept. 21. The Panthers are not that good, but it's a road game and if they let Cam Newton run wild on them, they will lose. A good early start to the season can only help a team that has some young guys finding their way on defense.
Baseball Joey: Hello Jerry. I think the Pirates need to attempt some bold moves this winter. The window might not be open all that long, with some key players not long for Pittsburgh and top 5 draft picks no longer in abundance. Agree?
Jerry Micco: I'm sure you'll see them shopping guys like Alvarez and maybe Walker. I think a bolder move might be trying to re-sign Russell Martin and maybe making trying to sign a top-flight starter. The window is still pretty wide open, but if they are going to rely on the minor-league system solely to build their team and castoffs that work out, they will always have to be perfect. I think you are right to say the Pirates need to perhaps be more bold this offseason.
Baseball Joey: I think the past few years have shown us Tomlin's true colors. Not a bad coach but not really a great one. 8-8 is pretty much what he is.
Jerry Micco: I also think you are seeing a team in transition. I think some of that is on Tomlin, some on the front office and some on the players. I don't think Tomlin is a bad coach. I also think that another 8-8 season will not go over well with the Rooneys, so it will bear watching how Tomlin coaches the team this year and how they respond.
JamesinNYC: Do the Pirates get into to post season?
Jerry Micco: I think it's a bit of a long shot. I can see them winning 86, maybe 87 games. And that may be just short of what they need. I think 88 or 89 gets them there.
Roland: Jerry, why no mention by Ron Cook of James Harrison's domestic assault in his piece yesterday? I guess coming from a guy who feels Penn State needed to heal but nothing about the true victims it shouldn't surprise me.
Jerry Micco: Do you mean the case where the charges were dropped? And you don't read very well because I don't think anyone who writes about what Jerry Sandusky did doesn't ever mention his victims and what a horrible thing Sandusky did. No one. I think you need to read a bit more closely.
Brent in NC: I will agree with you that having the DEs in there does provide a better pass rush but between last year and this year teams have been gashing the Steelers up the middle when they are in that formation. Wouldn't dropping two pretty athletic NTs or even one in there help fix tha problem some. Sorry that is wehat I was trying to get out earlier but hit the enter button by mistake.
Jerry Micco: I think part of the problem is McLendon has not been very effective against the run. As a result, the opposing OL has been able to get out on the LBs and that allows the running game to gouge the middle of the Steelers defense. The Steelers need to be more stout up the middle and perhaps as you say getting a guy like Thomas and pairing him with McLendon would work better. Be interesting to see how LeBeau works it this Sunday. You could see some changes as you mentioned.
Roland: Jerry, Penn State played a game in Ireland but yet is banned from bowls. Don't you think that is a bit hypocritical? Doesn't seem like much of a change in culture.
Jerry Micco: Well, as you know, that game was Central Florida's home game and they had to agree to switch it to Ireland. They did not have to do that and could have played the game in Orlando. I think your question maybe should be directed to the UCF athletic director.
Roland: Jerry, what will we see first from your sports department, an article criticizing Penn State or Bob Nutting? Trick question we know the answer is never :)
Jerry Micco: Again, you aren't reading our pages very carefully, or you are being creatively selective. I think it's the latter. But I know what you're doing here. :) Smiling right back at ya.
Baseball Joey: Some Pitt fans are downright giddy after the opening day performance. Should they cool their jets or could Paul Chryst's program be making a leap in year 3?
Jerry Micco: Well, when you ring up 62 points you should be giddy. I think Pitt has a chance to contend for its division in the ACC, and I said that before the season started. Do I think it's the best team in the ACC? No. Florida State, Clemson and Louisville are all better, I think. But Pitt certainly is on par with Duke, which won their division last season. The Panthers are favorites to win at BC Friday night. BC is not a very good team, but road games are always tough. If Pitt can run it well behind their good OL, they should win that one, too.
NaplesDave: HI JM, Looking forward to see Big Dan Mc stop up the middle as the season progresses. Steelers need to control ball with short passes & runs to keep D off field. If so, good chance to win games. Thoughts?
Jerry Micco: Dan McCullers may not play much early. May not even dress. But I think he will as the season moves along. He needs to work and needs some seasoning, but his size cannot be overlooked. And it is the offense that will drive this team. If the Steelers can score 24-28 points per game, they have a chance to win. If they can run the ball at all, they can grind the clock some late in games where they have the lead. It'll keep the defense fresh and keep the opposing offense somewhat one-dimensional.
yinzer in va: Jerry, We haven't seen Sports n at for a few weeks. They are the highlight of Monday.
Jerry Micco: Bob Dvorchak's videos aren't under my supervision, but I'll check on them. He may be taking a bit of a hiatus as he's a part-time employee for us. But I know he's got a following. He does a great job with those bits.
Brent in NC: Earlier you mentioned the Pirates bringing back Martin. Has there been any discussion between the two sides that you know of? I think is he hits the open market he is gone. There is a huge need for good catchers out there now and I don't think the Pirates could match what he would see. I don't understand why they even let him go into this year without a deal.
Jerry Micco: No, no talks that I know of. Doesn't mean they aren't talking, though. I agree. Once he's on the market that Pirates will likely be outbid by other teams. I think to sign him, the Pirates will have to pay in the neighborhood of 3 years and $33 million. Maybe more. I don't know if they want to make him the highest paid player on the team or not.
Brian: Hey Jerry. Has anyone asked Mr. Nutting outright what his plans are with regard to increasing payroll? I think the FO has done a great job withstanding pressure to try to win now, when I think their best chance is in 1 or 2 years. Will they open up the books when they think the time is right?
Jerry Micco: As far as "opening up the books," if you mean spending more, they have increased payroll year over year for the past few years. Just not by all that much. But it's probably as much as they can afford. It's just not a deep-pocketed ownership group. And Nutting has said they will spend money if needed to get the players they need to contend. But the difference is that usually means for a stretch run, not necessarily for the offseason. For instance, you won't see them get in a bidding war for a Max Scherzer (if he were available). But you did see them get Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd last year for a month. They cannot be the Dodgers. Just can't do it.
Baseball Joey: Looking at this Steelers WR group, is it crazy to think Heyward-Bey should start opposite Brown with Markus Wheaton playing slot? It would give them some size and speed on the outside and bump down Lance Moore, who looks washed up.
Jerry Micco: Heyward-Bey did have a nice preseason. Problem with him is he's never proven himself in five NFL seasons. Moore has proven to be a pretty decent player over his time in the NFL. Wheaton was a third-round pick. I think he has a big upside. Don't judge WRs on their first year. It often takes them a year or more to learn the position, and his being injured didn't help. I think he'll be a good WR for this team. And DHB will be a nice addition as a part-time player. The Steelers should be fine at WR this season.
Guest: when can we start placing some blame on Ray Searage? Locke has same problems as in previous season, Vanimal is faltering, Liriano is who we thought he was finally, and Morton has 1-inning collapses that kill us....when can Searage take some heat?
Jerry Micco: I'd say if not for Searage, the Pirate would not have been in the wild-card last year or contending this year. Morton has an injury. Locke has some issues, but mostly he's just inconsistent. He's still a young guy. Worley, too, has been inconsistent. But they are back of the rotation guys. I'm sure Searage would tell you he deserves some heat. But he's also one guy who would be near the bottom of my list of guys who should get a lot of blame pushed their way.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, time to head back to some other stuff. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today, and I appreciate the questions. NOTE: We will be doing a live in-game chat for the Steelers-Browns game Sunday at post-gazette.com. Please join me for that. And I'll see you at noon next Wednesday for our weekly talk. Until then, have a great week, everybody. Oh, one more thing: My Steelers prediction for the season is 9-7 and grabbing the 6th playoff spot in a watered-down AFC. Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco