Poll Question: Wallace, Mendenhall and Harrison all are gone. Have the Steelers lost too much in free agency?
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, are you still predicting the Pirates to finish over .500?
Jerry Micco: I think I feel pretty good about that. I really do. I don't take too much from spring training, but for the first time since I've been here, I see a solid core of hitters and guys at the top of the rotation that are all capable of double-digit wins. I'm not saying they'll make the playoffs, but 83 wins isn't out of the question.
The Chief: Jerry, hi hope you had a good week. Great Penguins game last night. Your thought on Bylsma rotatating the D-men as he has been doing.
Jerry Micco: I think it's probably a good idea because it allows different guys to work together. At one point, he wanted to mix and match right-hand and left-hand shots so there was one with each pairing. So I have no problem with him switching guys up. They do it with forwards every game.
James_Pittsburgh: Do you see the Penguins getting Iglana?
Jerry Micco: I don't. And frankly, I'm not sure they need him. They could use a big, stay-at-home defenseman, but those are tough to find and even tougher to trade for. Teams that have that type of player usually do a lot to keep him. That said, I'm sure Shero will listen to all offers and if he thinks it'll help the team, he'll pull the trigger. He's shown a willingness to do that if it's the right deal for the team.
James_Pittsburgh: Maybe I am alone, but I don't find the loss of James Harrison a big deal. However, the Steelers receiving corps worry me. The Steelers may be without Heath Miller to start the season as well. Wallace and Miller each caught 8 touchdowns in 2012.
Jerry Micco: I have said all along that the loss of Harrison won't be bad unless Jason Worilds completely bombs out. Also, I think this allows the Steelers to look really hard at drafting another OLB high in the draft. There are many good ones in this year's draft. Signing Foote helps inside, but if Sean Spence has to miss another year, ILB will be of some concern, too.
The Chief: I see the Pirates have a home game (Reds) on June 1. Is that the day we see Garret Cole's Major league debut?
Jerry Micco: I'm thinking late June for Cole. After the amateur draft. But your guess is as good as mine.
The Chief: Really think the Steeler fans have a short memory. in the past the Steelers were built from the draft. Do you feel the current "panic" is from the poor drafts they have had over the past 2-3 years?
Jerry Micco: I'm not sure they are "poor" drafts. I think last year the Steelers had a major setback when their first three picks suffered injuries of varying degree. Guys like Antonio Brown, Keenan Lewis and Pouncey came in those drafts. Sure they have whiffed on some guys, but everyone does. That said, there is still much work to do.
James_Pittsburgh: I don't think that Jerome Iginla will solve the Penguins biggest problems, but they may add him since a short term rental won't cost a lot. Not to mention that rumor has it he wants to play for the Penguins.
Jerry Micco: I know he and Crosby have formed a friendship out of the 2010 Olympics. What line would you put him on? I'd not move Beau Bennett at this point. That guy is good and getting better. Excellent passer and he gets open. I kind of like how they are set up, and when Malkin returns, they should be even better.
The Chief: You are on record as this is the year the Pirates win at least 82 games. The Pirates schedule is more difficut as they do not play the 'stros 18 times. Why do belive this is the year?
Jerry Micco: As I've stated earlier, I think they have a core of good hitting and a top of the rotation that could all be double-digit winners. Add to that a guy like Cole sitting in the minors who could pitch half a season, and there's some optimism. I realize I'm in the minority on this, but I just think that enough will click for them to have a winning season.
Chunkles: Jerry, Harrison, if he is healthy, would have been nice to have around for another year. LB is so thin right now. I see Bellicheck getting a hold of him. Wallace, its all about the money. He will NEVER get a ring in Miami. I like the way Colbert handles his teams, year in and year out. You never see any of the players he lets loose have anything but an average career after they become an ex-Steeler.
Jerry Micco: So why think Harrison will be more than a 1-year player before he falls off some? I think Harrison probably could help them, but the price of his services was too high. The salary cap forces tough decisions and losing Harrison was a tough decision. But at some point, Worilds or even Chris Carter have to step up. Or, a draft pick has to assert himself. You are always going to lose people when you're tight to the cap. The key is team depth. And we'll see if the Steelers have that.
James_Pittsburgh: Jerry, you move Pascal Dupuis off of Crosby's line and play Iginla with Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
Jerry Micco: Dupuis has 11 goals on Crosby's line. He'd be on track for 30+ goals in the regular season, and Crosby loves having him on his line. Put Dupuis on the third or fourth line and he's just another player. Put him with Crosby and you have a guy who can score.
The Chief: Your thoughts on Dan Connor as an ILB and of moving Timmons to the outside.
Jerry Micco: I think Timmons prefers the ILB spot and honestly, Connor hasn't impressed me all that much so far. The Steelers guessed right several years ago when they took Farrior as a FA from the Jets. He was drafted as an OLB, but the Steelers moved him inside with great success. I think Timmons should stay where he is because you saw how good he can be last season. No need to tinker with that.
Ken: Fitting that Wallace goes to Miami. There aren't many places where winning is secondary to "the show". And in this case, it's an owner who needs stadium upgrades in order to host more Super Bowls. So better throw money at free agents.
Jerry Micco: And the Dolphins have cap money to spend. Mike Wallace for $12-13 million a year? That's the perfect example of bidding against yourself and overpaying a guy who isn't worth nearly that much. Larry Fitz makes $14 million a year and is miles ahead of Wallace as a player.
James_Pittsburgh: I know that the Steelers don't have a lot of money. However I really think they need to find a way to sign a number 2 receiver.
Jerry Micco: I think they are going with Brown and Sanders as their top 2, with Cotchery and Burress as the other two. And at some point, they'll likely draft a WR, probably by round 3 or 4. They will be hurt more by the loss of Heath Miller, who may not be ready to play until late in the season.
Dormonty Dawson: Jerry, Dormont native Bruce Gradkowski just signed with Steelers. Is the nation-wide reputation that Dormont is the new cradle of great athletes just hype or is it well-deserved?
Jerry Micco: Gradkowski is probably a pretty happy guy right now. I know coming home to work is a true thrill.
yinzer in va: Jerry, will you be talking to Ron Fritz anytime soon? I'd like to know the Balt. perspective on their losses (Lewis, Kreuger, Bolden) could be just as bad, maybe worse, than ours. Does he think the Flacco contract will hurt them?
Jerry Micco: I should see Ron at the regional Associated Press Sports Editors meeting in mid-April in State College. I'm sure we'll talk football when we see each other. We usually do. The Ravens are another team that had to put a lot of money into a QB. When you do that, you are going to lose some guys. They are woefully think at LB, though.
The Chief: You surprised that the Steelers brought Plax back. I like it as they finally got a guy that can go over the middle, other than Heath Miller, sorely missed last year with the retirement of Hines.
Jerry Micco: Actually, I wasn't surprised. I thought Plex looked OK in his limited time and he's got that big body that can do some damage in the red zone. And he's not going to cost them much for one season. Plus, the guy will work hard and lend a veteran presence. I've always heard he was a very good locker room guy, so guys like him, Foote, Ben and Ryan Clark form a nice leadership group.
yinzer in va: Wallace has been ineffective the last year and a half. He's not worth 65 million.
Jerry Micco: I agree, though he did put up some nice numbers the first half of 2011. And he did score 8 TDs last season. I'm not ready to say he's a terrible WR. He's not. But in my mind, he's in the $6-7 million range because he's a speed guy and not a complete WR in my opinion. But his salary is the going rate for many No. 1 WRs in the NFL these days.
James_Pittsburgh: I have my doubts that Sanders can be a number two receiver. Not to mention that he cannot stay on the field.
Jerry Micco: I'd be more concerned about the latter than the former. He's still an excellent route runner and is good after the catch. But he needs to work more on his hands as well as try to dodge the injury bug. Right now, he's their No. 2 guy unless they draft a WR high and he comes in right away and establishes himself. Or, if they find some cash they could pick up a WR as a free agent.
Jerry Micco: By the way, the Steelers just officially released Willie Colon, as we reported was going to happen today.
Bill L: There's probably only enough money left over to sign a special teams linebacker type after the Gradkowki signing, right?
Jerry Micco: Well, Colon's release will free up some money after June 1. There are a ton of guys you can grab off the cut pile who could fill that role for the veteran minimum.
The Chief: Wallace is about to find out the Ryan Tannehill (also #17) is no Big Ben!
Jerry Micco: No, but Tannehill is a pretty good young QB. I think Wallace what Wallace will find different is the approach and expectations on a team like the Dolphins, who haven't won consistently for years. It's a different vibe between the Steelers and a lot of the teams in the league.
James_Pittsburgh: Could the Steelers end up dropping Plexico Burress if they draft a receiver that they believe can play immediately? I don't know that it makes a lot of sense to have Plexico as your 5th receiver.
Jerry Micco: They certainly could if they thought they had a guy who could step right up an challenge for major playing time. But I don't see the Steelers going WR early in the draft, and this year's crops of WRs is not great once you get past the first 2 or 3.
Phil: Jerry, everybody says "well, that's the going rate for WRs" but a 10 million dollar receiver ruins your salary structure for years to come doesn't it? Sorry, only first team all pros should get that money. Steelers are being very shrewd here, as usual, and the alot of the league still doesn't get it.
Jerry Micco: I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. I was not in favor of signing Wallace for more than $7 million. He got nearly double that. But the league is turning into a WR's league. It's a passing league, actually. So QBs and WRs are going to make big money. Just the nature of the beast today.
Chunkles: Jerry, the Pens past the halfway mark of their season. How would you rate the trade from last year, Sutter for Staal?
Jerry Micco: It's never good to lose a guy of Staal's talent and character. He's a very good player. Sutter, though, has shined through thus far. He's been very good defensively and on faceoffs, but the surprise benefit has been his offense. Not just the 8 goals, but many have been clutch, none moreso than last night's final 2. Good trade for both teams, I'd say.
Sluggo from Manassas: T.V.stations here in the DC area are speculating that Redskins special team ace Lorenzo Alexander is headed to the Steelers to reunite with newspecial teams coach Smith.
Jerry Micco: Something we'll have to keep an eye on here. Thanks for the tip.
James_Pittsburgh: Why are some writers predicting the Pitt men's basketball team to be better in 2013-2014? Right now they won't have a consistant scorer once Woodall graduates. Steven Adams will need to step up a score some points next year.
Jerry Micco: Ray Fittipaldo would be better than me to answer this question, but they have some top-notch recruits coming in and guys like James Robinson and Lamar Patterson will be a year older and better. And if Adams stays, he'll just keep improving.
James_Pittsburgh: Just remember that even a Larry Fitzgerald doesn't do you much good without a decent quarterback. Look at his numbers last year.
Jerry Micco: That's true, and it's also true that if you don't have 2 top-quality WRs on your team, your best guy sees a lot of double coverage. Antonio Brown can expect that this year unless guys like Sanders, Burress or a draft pick, step up.
James_Pittsburgh: While not entriely his fault, Fitzgerald got paid a lot of money last year to end up with only 4 TD receptions.
Jerry Micco: Again, it shows how the salary cap levels the playing field. Imagine if one team could stockpile a couple Fitz-like players as well as a Roethlisberger? You have to invest wisely if you're an NFL GM, and hope you can draft your way to success because those draft picks won't make huge money for a few years.
Bill L: Do you think Ziggy Hood gets a bum rap? He's contributed to some #1 overall defesnes and started on the 2010 AFC champions. I've seen him labeled as a bust and I don't think it's fair. It's not like he was a top 15 pick.
Jerry Micco: I've always thought Hood did a pretty good job, but he slipped a bit last season. This season, though, he needs to play better. I think what compounds criticism of Hood and Cam Heyward is that they are first-round picks. Albeit late first-round picks. And DE in the 3-4 is not a glamour position. It's a block-eating position that allows OLBs to make plays. Hood didn't do that well enough and it forced Woodley to take on blockers and try to make plays a lot of times. So, when you're a first-rounder, you are supposed to dominate. But DE isn't a dominant position for the Steelers. Certainly not as important as nose tackle is in that defense.
James_Pittsburgh: The reality is that you have to find value. It isn't a good idea to pay a player $13 million a year, no matter how good he is.
Jerry Micco: Steelers did that, kinda, with Ben and he's worth all of it. He's the reason the Steelers always will be tough to handle and contend for, at minimum, division titles. To me, QBs are the most important position on any NFL team because it has become a passing league. So that's where the money will usually go.
Chris Annapolis: What are the chances the Steelers will sign LB Dan Connor
Jerry Micco: I mentioned this earlier, I think the chances are slim because they signed Larry Foote. They are still thin there, but may draft their way, or sign a special team type who can play inside, as a free agent. I'm not sure Connor is the answer. Didn't think he was that good in Dallas.
The Chief: Well the Cinese just ceebrated the year of the Snake, but it golf looks like it will be the year of the Tiger. Do you belive he is back?
Jerry Micco: I do. I said in one of my earlier chats I see him winning a major this year. Either at Augusta or in the British Open, two of his favorite tournaments. It's impressive to win at Doral and he looks to have his putting stroke back. If that's the case, look out.
Gary@NorthernVirginia: I'd say with the signing of Plax, Steve Breaston is not coming to Pittsburgh. Correct?
Jerry Micco: I'd say that's highly likely. But I do look for them to draft a WR and maybe even a TE in this draft.
carisi_99: It looks like in 2014r with the prorated bonuses and the dead money for Willie Colon that about 25 million of their cap will be taken up by previous years restructuring and dead money from players who are gone. Seems like it would make more sense to have just cleaned it this year as much as possible so they would have more space in the future.
Jerry Micco: You can't cut everyone, though you are right, this exercise needs to be done year after year when you do it this way. And there still could be more cuts coming or more FAs who are leaving. Still some way to go here.
The Chief: Jerry do you think we are coming to the end of the "franchise" QB in the NFL being around 10+ years. especially with the new wave of running QBs like Kaepernik, RG3 and Wilson?
Jerry Micco: I think so. The guys you mentioned are tremendous athletes and exciting players. But I do not think that they can physically stand all the hits they'll take in a spread style offense. I could be wrong, and I hope I am, but the NFL is just such a physically taxing league.
Bill L: Warren Sapp couldn't stand any more Patriots hype on the NFL Network. Good for him!
Jerry Micco: But there probably is a better way to do it than F-bombing into a live mic. Probably.
carisi_99: Do you think Bylsma is rotating d-men to keep them fresh for the playoffs with the compressed schedule, or does he just not trust the young guys against some teams?
Jerry Micco: I think there's some of the latter there. And like many young players, you cycle them in and out to rest them and to let them see the game from up above, where you get a different perspective. So far, this has worked well during this streak.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, I need to run back to some other stuff. Excellent chat and excellent questions. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me this week. I'll be back next Wednesday at noon, so please join me then if you can. Until then, have a great week everybody. Follow me on Twitter: @PG_JerryMicco