Steelers: Bill Cowher Press Conference

<b> Cowher:</b> Let me give you the injury situation going into the game Friday night. We have one player that is definitely out. That is Brett Keisel. Brett evidently injured his shoulder Thursday night and then came in practiced on Monday, he thought it was kind of stiff and it bothered him. We had an MRI done and at this point, he has a loose body, a piece of cartilage that is in his shoulder.

He will be evaluated today by Dr. Bradley and then they will assess the next steps to take. There is a chance that he could be out from four to six weeks. We will know more, obviously, after he sees Dr. Bradley today. Two players who are questionable, but probably will not play are Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and Jerame Tuman. Both players are doing better. But, we will probably err on the side of caution. We will see how they are and how they work today and tomorrow. We will go from there.

Oliver Ross is also questionable. Oliver has a medial ankle sprain on the inside. He is doing better. He is going to do some stuff today, a little bit of work, and then we will have a better sense of him. That may even be a game day decision with him on Friday night. Chad Scott is another guy who yesterday, in practice, got a lateral ankle sprain out there on the field. He is a little bit stiff today. So, we will assess him on Friday or even tomorrow and see what his availability is in regards to the game on Friday night. Everybody else should pretty much be available. In regards to how much they will play, they will play at some point in the first half there may be some changes made. I can't say at what point, but probably at some point.

Q: Will you substitute individual guys or whole units?
A: I am not in a position to say who, but it could be a little bit like last week. We took the receivers and Tommy Maddox out and we left the offensive line in there, and put Charlie Batch in and left the back situation play the way it was playing out. So, it could be along those lines again with some positions playing a little longer than other positions.

Q: Would you like to keep the offensive line together longer?
A: We will see how it goes. I feel pretty good about the fact that last week we got work with Jeff Hartings and Kendall Simmons in there. The left side has been pretty set. Obviously, we will see where Oliver Ross is and this will be a good chance for Todd Fordham to get a number of reps. He has probably been more behind Oliver Ross to this point just because of the fact that he has been playing some guard, as well. He missed the one game, as well with his elbow. He will play without a doubt probably the whole first half, regardless of what other changes are made.

Q: Is Brett Keisel good enough to wait out his injury?
A: We will have to weigh all those things after the game on Friday when we make the final roster. We will have to make those decisions.

Q: Will Carolina's defensive line be a good test for your offensive line?
A: I think it will be. I think it is a good football team. I think they have a done a good job. They finished very strong last year. I think we were one of the few teams that beat them in the month of December. I think they won four of their last five games. When we were playing them, they started playing pretty well. They have done a good job. They went out and got Stephen Davis in the off-season, and Ricky Proehl. They drafted Jordan Gross in the first round. Jake Delhomme from New Orleans and he is kind of in a battle with Rodney Peete and Chris Weinke. This is a good football team. I think there is a lot to be said for finishing strong in the season and being able to take that to the next year. If you look at some of the down years that we had and we finished strong, we have been able to come back the next year and use that little bit of momentum that you build going into the next season. Starting 3-0 in the preseason has been good. There is no question with Julius Peppers and Michael Rucker, and those two guys coming off the corner. Those are two good pass rushers. Kris Jenkins inside is a big guy. They have a good defensive front. There is no question that this will be a good challenge for us. They have been playing very good defense.

Q: Is this a big game for Todd Fordham? Is the right tackle job still open? 

A: I said before that at this point I could not start against Baltimore. Yes, I would say it is an important game.

Q: Is the team making progress?
A: I think so. I would like to see us be more consistent. We have had too many penalties for whatever reason that have been disruptive to us on both sides of the ball. We jumped off sides last week on third down and we take a third-and-eight situation and make it third-and-three. Those are types of things you can't do. We have been inconsistent and to a degree a little sloppy with some of the things that we have done on both sides. I think we have made some progress. But, I think we have a ways to go from the standpoint of playing up to what we are capable of playing in all three phases.

Q: Has Alonzo Jackson been one of the more pleasant surprises?
A: He had two big plays last week. Again, we have to get some degree of consistency. But, it was very encouraging to see him step up at the end of the game last week in those must pass situations to be able to come on and make those two big plays. Again, we will maybe have to the chance to get him in there in the first half this week and see how he measures up against these two tackles. They are pretty good, Todd Steussie and Jordan Gross. I don't know how long we are going to stay in there, either. That is up to John. We may have a chance to assess that. But, he has made good progress.

Q: Can you assess Tommy Maddox's preseason?
A: I have seen it is practice. We have been off a little bit. I don't think it was ever to a point of concern. Last week we were able to hit some big plays and make some big plays. Tommy threw the ball well last week and has thrown the ball well again this week. I think some of the timing has come back because we have had some practice time on some fields were we were able to run full speed. I think you feel comfortable from a passing standpoint, we have to get the running game going and have to make that a part of our balance that we can count on were people sit back there and try to take our receivers away and play pass first we need to present an element of the running game so we can create match ups so we can throw the ball.

Q: Will Deshea Townsend start for Chad Scott?
A: Correct. We were going to continue to do the same thing that we have been doing the last couple of weeks if Chad Scott can play. I think a lot of this is predicated on where John Fox is with his groups and how much he is going to play his first team. If Chad Scott does not go then Deshea is the guy that will step in.

Q: Who becomes the third cornerback then?
A: We have Hank Poteat, Chidi Iwuoma, and Ike Taylor. We really haven't talked about it. It cam up yesterday and I was not sure how he was going to feel today. I do not want to be premature and make a comment on something that we have not discussed as a staff. Those are our options.

Q: Has Ike Taylor picked things up?
A: Yes, I think Ike has. I am really pleased where he is. He understands the things he is supposed to do with the pictures he has seen and the speed of which it is happening. IT has created some inconsistencies with him just like you would think with a first year guy. He is back there right now with all the other corners that have been in the system for at least a year. I am very pleased with were he is and the things he has been able to show. It has been very encouraging to watch him play. If Chad Scott can't go then this may be a good situation for him to step up and get some more experience.

Q: Do you wonder how good a guy like Ike Taylor could be?
A: Yes. He has some good people in front of him to learn from. They have done a good job of accepting him and helped him. He has shown that he is not a bad kickoff return guy. He will cover and tackle. For a guy that you did not have a whole lot of information on outside of the measurable, we have been very pleased with some of the instincts are as a football player and how he has been able to transfer some of that onto the field.

Q: When do ball skills come for a cornerback?
A: It just comes with experience. We don't encourage guys to keep turning around to find the ball. I think that is when you get yourself in trouble. That is part of the game and there are times when you do it and there are times when you don't. I go back to the one play that stands out in my mind in the first preseason game against Detroit. It was the end of the first half and we were in 2 deep defense and Ike let the guy get outside him and Joey Harrington threw the ball in the little area 20 yards deep where it could be the safeties play or the corners play, but the on thing I noticed was when he timed his jump he came pretty close to the ball. Those are things you are looking at when you are asking yourself, can a guy judge a ball?

How does he judge a deep ball?

You see guys all the time jump too early or panic. What I saw there was a guy who has a pretty natural feel for timing a jump. Those are little things you look for when you are looking to see if a guy has ball skills. That is an assessment of ball skills. That was encouraging to see. I think that will come with time. I look at Chad Scott and I think that is one of Chad Scott's greatest attributes, is his ability to play the ball. Sometimes that can overcome a lack of speed. The bottom line when you are a defensive back is your ability to judge the ball. You can take a guy that is 6-6 and he can't get the ball at its peak, but you can take a guy that is 5-9 and he can judge it and get it at its peak. Now you take a guy like Chad Scott with his long arms and can play the ball those where things you saw of him coming out of college that I think give him a chance to be a pretty god corner. I saw that and remember that play to this day because I said at that point Ike Taylor has some pretty good ball skills. I wish he was two yards deeper and made the play, but those are the little things that you are looking for that say maybe he has a chance.

Q: Is it starting to click for Troy Polamalu?
A: I don't know if he has had problems. It is clicking. I think he is feeling more comfortable. He has been playing well in everything we have asked him to do. He has had a very good camp.

Q: Are you pleased with the defensive line?
A: It is a solid group. Casey Hampton came in heavier then we wanted him to be, but he has worked his tail off and he is about two pounds away from where we want him to be. He has flashed some pass rush, which I think has been good. Aaron Smith and Kimo von Oelhoffen have been very solid. Kimo's shoulder looks as good as it has in the last couple of years. He had it cleaned out in the off-season. Rodney Bailey and Kendrick Clancy have had good camps. I think the one kid that probably has stood out is David Upchurch. I think he will get to play a lot this week because of Brett Keisel's shoulder. They have been solid.

Q: What kind of feeling do you have when one of your former assistant's gets a head coaching job?
A: When you can provide them with that type of opportunity I think there is nothing more rewarding for a head coach because you helped them along the way. I think there is without a question a level of gratification that comes with that and you feel very proud. That is why people are in this business. You work hard as assistants and every time you get an opportunity you work as hard as you can and it will open up opportunities for you later. Do your job and when you do it well people around the league recognize it.

Q: Does Kendall Simmons need more playing time?
A: I don't know if he needs more. We will keep him in there and let him play through things and see how he is playing and monitor that. I am happy where he is. He is starting to get acclimated to the lifestyle he is going to have to live with for this year. If he has not had one thing it is another. He hits his elbow the other day in the one-minute drill and he is wondering what else can go wrong, but there he is two plays later. He is fine. Kendall has a great mindset and approach to the game. He probably beats himself up way too much. He is hard on himself. He is very proud and a great worker and he will be fine.

Q: Were there trade possibilities before you made the last three cuts?
A: We were talking. I don't know if there were any trade possibilities, but we still were talking up until the last minute. Kevin Colbert and I talked and again, we wanted to get through practice and see what happened there. I think all three pf those kids are good players. We feel good about all three of them. If something were to happen somewhere down the road, we would feel very comfortable with any one of those three kids coming back. I think we were just trying to give more exposure to them and give them another day on the job.

Q: I am sure you were not surprised with the way that Jerome Bettis responded to losing his starting position. What does it say for Jerome Bettis?
A: I think that is why he is the player that he is. We have all been around this guy. He is a very unselfish player. He is a very tough player and a very proud player. I think when you look at the way he is handling himself as a pro and how consistent he has been year in and year out, I think that exemplifies how he has dealt with whatever hand he has been dealt. It does not surprise me. You would like everyone to respond the way he has responded. When he gets the opportunity, he is going to seize it. I would like to think that other would approach it the same way. He is a consummate pro and I am glad he is on our football team.


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