Cowher Talks Cowboys

"Vinny has played very well. When you look at what Bill (Parcells) has done down there, he has brought in his guys. He brought in Vinny. He brought in Rich Anderson," said Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher.

Three players that we have that are probable: Duce Staley with a groin, Jeff Hartings with his knee, and Deshea Townsend with an Achilles. We are relatively healthy, I think, going into this game.

Last week's win, when you look at it again, there are a lot of good things. We played very good situational football. I think that was the best thing we did last Sunday. When you look at Dallas from the standpoint of offense, defense, and special teams with their situation coming off a tough home loss, I don't think there is any question that this will be the stiffest challenge we have had this year. This is a well-coached football team, a playoff football team, and they are going to be a mad football team. I don't think there is any question that this will be a big, big challenge for us, and a good barometer to see where we are.

Do you get excited with a match-up like this because there is a coach like Bill Parcells on the other side?
I don't know if I get excited. I have a lot of respect for coach Parcells. I think of all the coaches in the league, I look up to him as much as anyone, no one any greater than him. I think what he has accomplished, how he handles things, I learned a lot watching him. If you watch other people, you can learn a lot, I think, in any profession. I know I have learned and grown a lot just watching him deal with things through the years even when he was with the Patriots, the Jets, and now down in Dallas. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he is an outstanding football coach. He and I are not playing, but I think his football teams are always very, very prepared. Coming off of a tough loss, there is no question that this is going to be a tough game for us.

What have you learned about the team over the last two weeks?
It is an ongoing process. It really is. Certainly, we came out fast the other day. We played very good situational football. I think that was big. If you throw an interception for a touchdown, it is hard to give up seven points. I think the figures and stats will show that rarely do you come out on the win side when that happens. It happened so early in the game, and it was a very fast paced first half, probably not what a lot of people expected. These guys are starting to get confidence and gain confidence. We are still growing together. Like I said, we have done what we needed to do to this point. But certainly there are some bigger challenges ahead of us and an opportunity to kind of gauge where we are as it relates to the greater scope of things. I think the biggest question we have right now is, as we get ready to go into this bye week, is going down into a very hostile environment against a playoff team coming off of a tough loss. This will be a very stiff challenge for us, there is no question about that.

You know a lot about Vinny Testaverde?
Vinny has played very well. When you look at what Bill (Parcells) has done down there, he has brought in his guys. He brought in Vinny. Rich Anderson is down there at running back. He brought in Eddie George this year, then you have Keyshawn (Johnson) from the Jets, Antonio Bryant is a guy that he has picked up there. Terry Glenn is a guy from the Patriots. He has surrounded himself with a lot of his guys. It is a very good offensive line, as well. Larry Allen is a Pro Bowl player. It is a very impressive group of guys that rank seventh in the league passing and ninth offensively overall. It will be a big challenge for our defense because they work very, very efficiently. Vinny has worked very efficiently. He has been very impressive to watch. Would it do you any good to look at Cleveland and Baltimore tapes when he was a quarterback there?

You are not defending the quarterback as much as you are defending the system. I think that is the thing you have to realize. You are looking at a system. I think that is thing, that you watch them, and they are going to do a little bit of the unexpected. He is going to have a little bit of a package for us that they are going to work on and present, and it will be a little bit different from last week and the week before. But there are some basic concepts that are there. He wants to run the football. He is going to throw it and he is going to get the ball to Keyshawn (Johnson) in the red zone. You know that is going to happen. They have been productive. Like I said, it is a quality football team.

How significant is good health to your team?
It is very significant. The more that you play together, the greater the continuity becomes, particularly on the offensive line. When you look at the right side with Keydrick (Vincent) and Oliver (Ross) and now all of a sudden, they keep working with Jeff (Hartings). They are starting to develop a little bit of continuity.

The whole offensive line has. There are a lot of calls that take place. Jeff has played very, very well these last two or three weeks. He has kind of been the anchor, and makes a lot of those calls. Alan (Faneca) and Marvel (Smith) have been so solid on the left. That whole offensive line has been healthy. The secondary, for the most part, we lost Mike and he has been in and out. But that starting group has been pretty healthy. They are starting to communicate more and more along with the defense in general. Larry (Foote) is in there with James (Farrior). It is important. It is important in what you are trying to accomplish. It is important in trying to make adjustments with people that have been playing together and you are talking to the same people, and you are dealing with the same faces, and you not dealing with new bodies and new faces every week. There is no question that the more you can put the same 11 out there, the better you should become.

Has the offensive line play been as improved as the rushing stats indicate?
I am not into comparing. They are playing very well. Duce (Staley) is running very well.

Can you update us on Tommy Maddox's progress?
Everything is right on schedule. That is about all I can tell you. He had an MRI yesterday. It is healing, and he is starting to strengthen it. We are not close to throwing, yet. Everything is on schedule.

Does he get the starting job back when he returns?
I am just going to laugh at that question, at this point.

Do you expect Dallas Cowboys to come after Ben Roethlisberger?
That would fall in line with a little bit of their characteristics. They have been a team that has put a lot of people up in the box. I would imagine them to come after us, yes. I think we are going to have to protect the blitz. Roy Williams is like a linebacker when they bring him up there, they are very fast defensively. This is a good defense. Greg Ellis, I think, has five sacks. Dat Nguyen is a linebacker in the middle that can run like the wind. I would expect to see a significant amount of blitzing, yes.

Was the field unusually slick the other day? Did guys have to change their shoes?
It is just getting acclimated. Duce (Staley) went out and then he changed his cleats after pregame. You have to get acclimated to the field conditions, particularly at this time of year when there is dew and change of the weather.

Did they over water it?
No, they did not over water. The field was fine. You have to get acclimated with the right footwear.

With Mike Logan out, where does Ike Taylor fit in?
We will see what out options are. He will be active on game day now. We will keep him going and getting in there. We will utilize all those guys now.

What qualifies as quarterback pressures/hits, and can you explain why they are up over last year?
A quarterback hit is obviously hitting a quarterback without it being a foul. A pressure I think, is due to the feeling that he can feel your presence and that it may have some degree of effect on the throw. Is up over last year? We probably have pressured more than we have to this point a year ago. We have some guys playing well. Joey Porter has played well, he and Clark (Haggans). The whole front line, with Kimo (vonOelhoffen) and Aaron (Smith), and Casey (Hampton) has had an outstanding year rushing the quarterback. He already is against the run. But he has been very good at putting pressure. Being able to bring in Travis Kirschke has given us quality time, and Brett Keisel, and we have had Chris Hoke. We have had six linemen up now the last few weeks because we are trying to keep those guys relatively fresh. We are calling a few more blitzes. The combination has created a lot of pressure. The sacks have not been up, but we are getting around the quarterback a lot. I don't just measure everything by sacks. I don't know how many times we hit the guy the other day, and he did a great job of throwing the ball into some area where there was some eligible receiver. I don't know how he saw them half of the time. None of those really were grounding. He just did a great job. We had him on the ground a lot, and that is a mobile guy.

Is there something you saw in the first quarter especially, you seemed to have a lot of success with Larry Foote and James Farrior on the right side, is that something you saw leading up to the game? Or did you just want to get those guys a little bit more active?
I don't think it was anything particular. It is pretty much our package. We have a pretty extensive package that is based on a lot of what we are going to see that week. Then we try to make the calls accordingly. We like to think there is good diversity in what we have and we rep it all. There are some blitzes that we have been repping for the last five weeks that we have not even run in a game, yet. You really just don't know what is going to happen in the game. Like I said, it is a pretty diverse package, but it is one right now that we are starting to get a good feel for and we like to feel that as the game unfolds, that we would have the ability to utilize whatever weakness we feel that we could exploit. Sometimes going in, you may think you are going to do something, but them they come out and they show you something different. You have to be able to adjust to that.

Were you calling more blitzes because of the trust factor in your secondary?
No, I don't know if it is so much that. It has been the make up of how this season has unfolded. I think it is the make up of Coach LeBeau, and as long as they are working, keep calling them.

What are your thoughts on Deshea Townsend?
He has played very solid, not just in the package, but he moves inside in our dime and nickel package. He is involved in a lot of the blitzes we do. He has a good feel for the timing with it. He has played very well in first and second down as well. He has had a very, very good start, a very solid start to this season.

When did he get hurt?
I am not exactly sure, he finished the game. I am just listing him as probable. He did not miss any time.

Do you give coach LeBeau more freedom to blitz than coach Lewis?
I am not going to compare. I think that is unfair to do. Coach LeBeau and I talked just like Tim and I talked. We have a good rapport.

Why are there more 100-yard rushes?
I haven't looked around the league. It is what we are trying to do this season, again, I think some things that you look at after five weeks. I think you have to let the season play out before you jump to too many conclusions.

How have special teams coverage units been, specifically Verron Haynes?
Verron was outstanding the other day. I think we had six kickoffs and he made tackles on five of them. He has been excellent. The kickoff coverage unit on a whole - it is a challenge every week - but they have done a great job. Jeff is kicking the ball very well. They have a great feel of the balance that is needed on the team. We have speed with Chidi (Iwuoma), Sean Morey is down there, and James Harrison is playing off of him. Clint Kriewaldt is playing off another guy, Ricardo is coming in from the side, Willie Williams is coming up big, and Lee Mays. It is a very solid group of coverage guys. We knew that going in and even what we tried to do with our punt team, we have kind of gotten Troy off that because of all that he is playing on defense. Now we have moved Sean into that fullback position to make some of the calls so that we can get another good coverage guy on the field. When you look at the starting points on a kickoff I think we are in the top five or six. Really kickoff return and kickoff coverage it is so important because teams who will have to drive the field against us are going to have a hard time doing that. Our punt coverage has been good when we needed it to be. The only thing that has been a little bit bothersome to me is that we haven't been able to get (Antwaan) Randle El going on the punt return. Some of that has been some short punts, and then we have had some returnable punts where one guys gets down there and in his face so that he can't get started. That is just something we have to keep working on. But, overall, I think that our special teams have been very, very solid.

Do you have a guy like Wes Welker?
That was very, very impressive. Not that I am aware of, and I hope we never have to find out if we have one.

Would it be the same run-pass ratio if Tommy Maddox was at quarterback?
I don't think we would deviate. This was something we had intended and I think when you look at the preseason on, those are the same numbers that we were hopeful would happen. Certainly we have been up in games, we have gotten the lead. When you're not behind and when you are not playing catch up, the numbers are going to be as they are. When we get up, we kind of shut down the pass, that is just the way we play. We are going to run the football, we are going to use the clock, we are going to try to win the football game, and not to get too concerned with anything more than that. So, I think because we have had the lead, the numbers are probably a little bit more leaning that way because of that situation. Again we aren't winning just because we are running it, we are winning because we are doing a lot of the little things. We are converting third downs. We are holding teams in the red zone to field goals instead of touchdowns. We are scoring in red zone touchdowns instead of field goals. Those are big. When you get a lead and you are able to run the ball that is a good formula to have.

Why are you so much better in the red zone?
We probably are running the ball a little bit more. That would probably be the first thing I would say that comes to mind. Is that we have been very successful running the ball inside the 20-yard line. And I think that, that has opened the other elements of it.

How about your red zone defense?
It is hard to say. I think we have mixed it up very well. You will see us drop back into zone or you could see us bring maximum pressure. I think we are trying to keep people off balance down there so that it doesn't become predictable. The guys have executed very well and they have made excellent calls. To this point, it has been big. I thought it was very big last week. You look at the first half and they were 0 of 5 on third down which was big. I think that is huge, third down is key and that has been something around here that we have pointed to is that we can't get off the field on third down. I am just so glad that we got through five weeks of press conferences, and I don't think that I have even answered a question about third down. That's good, when you guys aren't asking questions about something that is always a good sign. Like the offensive line, when you don't mention their name that's a good sign. When you guys don't ask a question about third down that's a good sign. Situational football is what this comes down to, red zone scoring over the field goal, third down converting, and them not converting. Within there, you are going to have some big plays that you are going to have to be able to minimize on defense and try to minimize the turnovers but at the same time the situational football part of it has been very good for us. And, I think that is a big key to our success to this point.

Have you been influenced by New England's all-for-one approach?
I don't know if it's been done because of New England. When you look at their success you look at what they have been able to do and the acquisition of players and in this salary cap era to be able to keep a core together through a period of time. They have played very solid football. I think there is a lot of change that took place with our football team from last year to this year. There have been a lot of changes on the roster, particularly veteran players, and a lot of changes on the coaching staff. With that being the case, I think it's very important we get to know each other before we start worrying about all of the other things that are involved with this. I think our football team understands that. We're still growing. We're still learning about each other. We're still a relatively inexperienced team when you look at how long they have played together on our football team, with a young quarterback who has now taken off. You look at the right side of our offensive line; Duce is still getting acclimated to our running style, which is going to be an ongoing process. Defensively the secondary and Larry Foote is in there now with James Farrior. There are a lot of elements to our football team that are new. That being the case what I have talked about is more relative to our football team makeup this year than it is anything else.

You seemed to pick your spots in free agency last offseason and got some important guys.
You would like to think so. The people that we have tried to bring in we have brought in for the right reasons. They are coming in here with no mixed messages and wondering where they stand. It's been good. You look at the people we brought in with Duce and Travis Kirschke and the roles those guys have played. They have been very instrumental. It's a solid group of guys and right now we are just trying to get better every week.

Is Duce a good fit for your running style?
When we got Jerome (Bettis) I remember watching Jerome run and we felt he would fit very well into this offense and how we would like to run the football. I think when you watch Duce run the ball you knew that his style was one that he would fit very well in this offense because of some of the running plays that we like to think are our base plays. There is no question that does play a part in it. A guy coming from a wide-open offense where it's all draws and it's spread out, there is going to be some acclimation that takes place and maybe sometimes those aren't great fits. It's a lot like Jerome when he was coming from the Rams. You thought he might fit what we like to do. I think it's turned out, and he'll get better the more he runs some of these plays.

What happened that caused you to have to re-emphasize the run this year?
It's hard to say. I am as guilty as anybody of getting a little enamored with the wide-open part of it when you have a little bit of success. Then all of a sudden you don't have that immediate feedback from running the ball, you are only getting three or four yards. You have one of those games where you don't run it and you start to deviate a little bit and say let's go ahead and try to throw it. There has been a bit more of a priority. You have to stay with it. I will say this, some of it has been conducive to the fact that we have been in games and games have been close. Sometimes when you get behind in games the element and option of running isn't an option anymore because of the clock. Coming into this training camp we wanted to get back to doing that. There is a carryover it has with your defense. Defensive guys get excited about watching their offense run the football. I don't diminish the importance of that. I think there is a lot to be said for that. That's where we are right now. We're doing it well to this point. We still have a long way to go, and we have some pretty stiff challenges ahead of us.

How closely do you have to monitor Duce's carries or is that a concern?
I think we have a pretty good group of backs. If it becomes a situation where it becomes much then we move on to the next guy. That's why I think it's important to have the group of guys we have. I have a lot of confidence in Jerome, Verron and Willie Parker if he has to play. I hope it's a nice problem that we are going to have because it means we are running the ball a lot, which probably means we are ahead in some of the games.

How much credit for running the football should go to the fullback (Dan Kreider)?
A lot. He is like an extra offensive lineman in that backfield. Danny Kreider has had a very good year. I see a lot of fullbacks in this league, and I wouldn't want any other fullback in this league than Danny Kreider.

It seems he is really blowing people up?
I just know he is very sore on Monday's and that's a good thing.

Will he get any carries?
He'll probably get at least one in the next three or four games.

Are you isolating him more on linebackers?
Danny is just a very solid player. The thing you can do with Danny is give him some assignments where he is going to have to work his way through to get the designated guy. He always seems to make the right judgments on how to get to people. Playing that position isn't just going in there and ramming yourself into someone. A lot of times it's trying to get to that guy and taking the best path to get to that guy. A lot of times you will find the ball carrier has a good feel and trust him because he is going to take you to the opening where it may be. It may unfold differently. It's hard to say. He is a very trustworthy type of guy.

Is that position undervalued?
It depends on what system you are in. I think a lot of people recognize the importance of it. It's hard to measure because you are not measuring by carries or catches. A lot of times in the past the fullbacks have been measured because they have been in a pass-happy system where they get a lot of catches. Again he is like a lineman. His good games come on good blocks. We get him in the passing game a little bit and rarely get him in the running game. His touches usually come in the pass. What he has been able to do is open holes and he does it very well.

CowboysHQ Top Stories