Behind Enemy Lines: Bill Cowher

The Steelers' coach spoke about what he expected this season (not 9-1) and Ben Roethlisberger with the Washington media.

Q: Did you have any idea Ben could do this?

A: No one would have expected it and I can't say we would have. He was forced onto the job earlier than planned because of injuries to Tommy and Charlie. He's done a good job and the rest of the team really has with all the injuries he's had to deal with.

Q: Did you expect to be 9-1 after you lost Tommy?

A: I don't think so. We're not in a reflective mood right now. We recognize that we won some close games and I don't think we're that much better than the teams we've played. We've done a lot of little things to win games and there is a fine line in this game. Look at the Redskins. They have seven losses and [five] have been by seven points or less. They could very easily be 7-3. It's the state of the game today and how close these things are.

Q: Did you think you had to make a lot of changes?

A: There was some retooling to be done. You see every year the quick turnarounds by teams and in this system, you can turn a lot of teams around quickly. A lot of games we're winning this year we lost last year. We had close games and tough losses, a lot like where Washington is at. You're not as far away as you think and you're not as good as sometimes your record may indicate.

Q: Did you feel your team had gotten away from your approach of the past?

A: There's no question. We definitely went back with the intention of re-establishing a mindset and establishing a running game. There had been a trickle-down effect with that. We have two new coordinators, new coaches. But there was more emphasis this year on establishing the run. We were 31st last year and that's not us. There's no doubt from offseason to camp that that was the mindset going in.

Q: What did you want to change defensively?

A: We didn't change a whole lot defensively. We're pressuring more than in the past, but our defense has benefitted greatly by the time of possession on offense. They're fresh and they don't take a lot of snaps in the game. Some guys have had super years -- Farrior, Aaron Smith, our two young safeties have given us a big lift. We're doing a lot of things, we're getting takeaways and a lot of times that's good fortune, but we create some of that. We're doing a lot of little things that it takes to win.

Q: What does Russ Grimm bring to your organization?

A: He's the top line coach in the league. That's my opinion. What he's been able to do is take young players and develop them. He has a great feel for the running game and protections. And he does a great job with getting those players ready. Having played the game he knows how to relate and he has a great working relationship with this group. We had a lot of injuries last year on the line and Russ may have done as good a job as anyone. He's an outstanding coach.

Q: Was there any discussion, or concern, that he might want to come back here?

A: He has so much respect for the Redskins and Joe Gibbs and has great memories back there. Who wouldn't have respect? He's a Hall of Fame coach. We talked about it, but Russ is happy here. He knows how important he is to this organization. We have a good relationship. There's no question we all have great respect for coach Gibbs.

Q: What did you see in Ben that you liked?

A: All those quarterbacks were unique. You look at Philip and Eli and the feeling of everybody was that they may have been more prepared to play quicker. The players, when they looked at Ben saw a very good athlete for a kid with that size. He had great arm strength, a great feel for the game. He played in a wide-open offense. And when you get around him you realize that not only did he have ability, but he's a very mature kid. Those are things you don't realize until you're around him for an extended period.


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