Coach Bill Cowher Week 4 News Conference

<b>Bill Cowher:</b> Let me give you the injury status going into Sunday night's game against Cleveland. We have four players that are questionable: Plaxico Burress is questionable with a hip pointer, Clint Kriewaldt is questionable with a knee, Jay Riemersma is questionable with a shoulder, and Marvel Smith is also questionable with a shoulder.

All of those guys have a chance of playing. We will assess it during the course of the week and make any changes in their status accordingly. Two players are probable: James Farrior and Todd Fordham. James has a glute, and Todd Fordham has a knee.

We recognize we have a divisional game at home. It is important for both teams, but certainly for us from the standpoint of anytime it is a divisional game in the situation where we are tied with Baltimore at 2-2. This game has a lot of significance in terms of those standings. We would like to get the sour taste out of our mouth from Sunday, and we look to forward to the challenge Sunday night.

Q: Cleveland is 27th against the rush, and fourth against the pass. Does that change the way that you approach your game plan and what you want to do?
A: I don't just look at stats. We look at their defense. We know them well, as they know us. We will come in there, and we always want to try to establish the run, and see how the game unfolds, and what they give us. We will make our play selection accordingly. Stats can sometimes be a little misleading. Jamal Lewis had a big day against them. He has had a big day against a lot of people. They took a team like Indianapolis and they played very well against them on opening day. It is a young group really, when you look at them defensively, particularly with their linebackers. They are all second-year guys, and I think the one thing you see is them getting better each week.

Q: Is stopping William Green the key?
A: Yes, but their receivers are pretty good. William Green is a quality back, there is no question. He was running really well when they came in here in the playoff game, and they kind of just spread it out and started winging it all over the field. So, there is no reason to believe with the success that they had doing that, that they would not come back in here with that same approach. Whether it be Tim Couch or Kelly Holcomb. They really don't change their offense, based on the quarterback. I think we are always trying to take away any good runner as he is. But, I think we also have to be prepared for them to come in here and spread it out over the field, given the success they had in the playoff game last year.

Q: Their offensive line is banged up. Is that the reason they are having a hard time scoring points?
A: I guess. With their offensive line, they have had some injuries. They lose Ross Verba who is a quality offensive linemen. The rookie center is getting better, but he is still a young center. They had a play last week against Cincinnati where the guys fumbles on the 10-yard line going in. They had some misfortune. You still see a lot of big plays from them. Regardless of who the quarterback is, they are going to be throwing the ball down the field against us with some play action. They spread it out. They have some guys that can run after the catch as well with Dennis Northcutt, Kevin Johnson, Quincy Morgan, and Andre Davis. Those are four really quality receivers.

Q: Do you welcome teams who open up their offense?
A: I think so. We thought we were prepared a year ago. But I think that we would anticipate it. Every week is going to be a challenge. I don't think that all of a sudden we feel a comfort zone that we suddenly found an answer or anything. I think every week is a new challenge and these guys will present a different challenge than anyone we faced to this point. I think that just the quality of receivers that they have in those four guys; I think those four are as good as any quartet of receivers in the league.

Q: Are you concerned with how many balls are being batted down at the line of scrimmage?
A: No, I haven't sensed that really being much of an issue, to be honest with you. I know the one got batted to Hines. It got knocked out. I know we have batted some balls down. It happens. A lot of times you are trying to throw into lanes, and with a lot of the different blitzes you end up getting people who are going at different angles and you just have to continue to negotiate that. That is why we try to do a lot of the throwing that we do in practice. It is with 11 people up there just so the quarterback has a sense for having to throw around arms, through arms, and trying to find some of the lanes that you have to find to throw. I have not sensed it really being that big of a problem.

Q: Do you need to take a different approach inside the 20?
A: Yes, one that is a little more successful. No, I really don't have a problem. We have to make good decisions when we are down there. I am not looking for us to push any kind of panic button right now. I think that is the worst thing you can do at this point, by having people start to try to make the perfect play or the perfect read. I think we have to go down there and do the same things we are doing out in the field, to be decisive and trust what you see. We will continue to do that. We are getting down there a lot. We just have to start putting it away.

Q: Will you make changes in your starting lineup this week?
A: I don't foresee any.

Q: Will Oliver Ross go to left tackle if Marvel Smith can't play?
A: Yes.

Q: Was Antwaan Randle El standing too far back on the punts, or were they just getting away with short punts?
A: Well, he was it booming the ball during pre-game. That is what happened in pre-game. The guy was kicking it 55-60 yards. Then he had the wind a couple times with him and then he had some bad punts. Contrary to baseball, where you can usually come up, I think with punts, you can always go back. The one time that he came up, he hit one over his head. The ball was not coming off and turning over. It really was a different kind of ball spinning. He does that around the 50-yard line. It is a different punt. It is like a knuckleball punt and then, couple that with the wind that was out there the other day, I just told him to err on the side of caution in that situation.

Q: Speaking of caution, you talked to Tommy Maddox coming into training camp about keeping the turnover ratio down. Do you walk a fine line so Tommy Maddox does not lose his aggressiveness? Is it just a matter of choice with him?
A: I don't put it on the offense. I think it comes down to the decision-making, it comes down to understanding when there are situations where you take the one on ones, which you want to encourage, but you can't force the issue. I think at times, Tommy has indeed forced it. He is the first to admit it after the fact. We have to get him to understand that while it is taking place. He is the first to admit it. There are some that are going to happen. You go back to Kansas City, the ball was tipped off of Antwaan's (Randle El) hands, they get it and go in for a touchdown. Sometimes those are going to happen. But, if you get down to the red zone, you cant throw the one pick that we threw down there the other day in a one-minute situation. We got away with one the play before. Chris Doering made a great play to take an interception away from them. We are in that situation and up by four, we are trying to use the clock, and in the worst case scenario, we go in by four. We are trying to get with the wind and get another three points. So, it is just a little bit of the decision-making. I like his aggressiveness. He made some great throws the other day. But, at the same time, we have to be smarter about some of those decisions. You can call it a fine line or whatever you want, but we cannot continue to have the turnovers that are taking place and win games because there is a correlation.

Q: Because so many of them have been returned for touchdowns, are teams beginning to get an idea of your pass routes?
A: No, I don't think so. I think each one has been a unique situation. No, not at all.

Q: Did you get a look at what Dom Capers did Sunday?
A: I did not look at it, but I heard about it.

Q: Would you do that?
A: Well, yes if I knew it would work. I give it to him. I applaud him. I don't know if many head coaches would have done that. But, I applaud him for doing that.

Q: Did he learn that from you?
A: No, I don't think so. I don't think I have ever done that.

Q: Are there different perspectives the franchises take in this rivalry?
A: Obviously, this (Steelers) franchise is very storied and has a great tradition. It has never really lost any continuity from the standpoint that Cleveland has. They had a period of time where their football team moved to Baltimore. They are kind of re-establishing themselves even though the history of Cleveland and Pittsburgh does go way back. I am sure there is still a period of time that the people are still trying to get over from the time frame where they did not have a team. But, every time we play them, obviously the playoff game from last year starts bringing back a lot of memories and a lot of the great games that existed between these two teams.

Q: Are more teams trying to take away your deep routes?
A: Not necessarily.

Q: Are they rolling coverage to Plaxico Burress to take away the deep ball?
A: No. I think if you look at how many balls we have thrown down field; I think that speaks for itself.

Q: Can taking away a team's number one receiver be counter-productive and how will it affect this game with Cleveland having great depth at receiver?
A: I don't really think it really affected the game Sunday. We weren't trying to take one guy out. They only threw the ball 16 times. I know he completed 15 of them, but five of those 15 completions were wins for us. They completed three third downs that were short of the marker. I don't know if we were trying to take away any one. We were playing our defense right now and again this team presents a lot of problems than Tennessee presented because of all the receivers they have. It is a different offense and really a different approach will be taken.

Q: What does Chad Scott have to do differently?
A: Just keep playing. A lot of those times when the jump balls are happening we have to find a way to make the play.

Q: He said yesterday on the touchdown he complained about the swim move. Does he have a legitimate case with that?
A: There is a lot of contact being made and sometimes they call it and sometimes they don't. Obviously, you see a lot more defensive pass interference penalties called than offensive. That is the nature of the game. It has always been that way, and I cannot see it changing. That is the style of play that is taking place, and you have to adjust accordingly.

Q: Has that ever been a subject of debate with the competition committee?
A: There has been a lot of debate, and as you can see where it has gotten. You can see not a whole lot has changed. It has always been a heavily talked about subject. It is a judgment call and anytime you have judgment calls, people have different opinions and people see things differently. Offensive coaches think it is fine and defensive coaches complain about the call. That is how it has been, and that is probably how it will always be.

Q: Would you like to see the penalty be 15-yards instead of a spot foul?
A: I have always been a proponent that if you did that like the college rule has then you would have a lot more pass interference penalties plays. There would never be a reason to allow a deep ball to be caught if you were ever beat because now you would just give up the 15 yards. I have never been a proponent of that and I think it would encourage pass interference plays. You would coach it.

Q: Do you think it is unfair to label a team a rushing team or a passing team and has your offense failed to create an identity in the first four games?
A: With you guys nothing is unfair. You can label us whatever you want and that is probably one of the kinder things we have been labeled if that is what it is. Is it fair or unfair? I don't look at statistics; I look at wins and losses. There becomes an issue when you look at stats because they do tell you something. Sometimes games unfold like our game the other day. We are getting a lot of yards passing, but they are giving us a lot of yards passing. Some of the games we have been getting all this yardage because we have been behind so much. I look at the stats like turnover/takeaway, third down, and some of the situations that are a lot more prevalent about where there may be some issues. Third down is relative to ball possession, time of possession. Turnover/takeaway is something I have said from the beginning that is something that we have to do a better job of and come out on the plus side of it. That has been a number that is correlated with wins and losses. This football team last year I think we turned it over more against Cleveland in the playoff game, but we still won the game, which usually does not happen. I don't know if it is unfair. It does not bother me what you want to call us. We have to find ways to win games, whatever that entails. I do like the fact that if we are behind there should not be a sense of panic, that there is a margin of error. We should be able to play loose because we have a team that can play catch-up football. I would also like to think we have a team that if we get ahead, we can play ahead football, you can use the clock. We demonstrated that a little bit in Cincinnati. In terms of our identity after four weeks, like I said we have been consistently inconsistent. I see a lot of good things that we are doing. I think we are doing a lot of good things, but we are not doing it on a regular basis, and we are having lapses in a game that has created holes that we cannot overcome. Those are the things we have to avoid. I don't want that to be thought about and be our main focus because we are doing a lot more things positive than we are doing negative. That is the thing you have to caution yourself against. We have had five returns in the two losses that constitute five touchdowns. I think it would be unfair to let those plays take away a lot of things that we have done very well in the first two weeks.

Q: What are those five returns that lead to touchdowns?
A: In the Kansas City game we had a kickoff returned for a touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown and you had a punt return that goes back to the 7-yard line in the beginning of the third quarter. That is 21 points against a very good team. Last week we had an interception for a touchdown, and an interception that goes back to the one-yard line. I know we are giving up a lot of points but we have had three drives that have started at the 7 the 2 and 1-yard line. We had a fumble at the two-yard line against Baltimore. When we are having turnovers, we are having some serious turnovers. That does not even count the three turnovers that have not been returned for touchdowns. That to me is almost like 6. Those are hard to overcome. Those are the things you have to avoid and if you let that make you start analyzing everything else you are doing I think it is an unfair thing to do. We have to be careful not to overanalyze the issue at hand.

Q: What are the things that you are doing well?
A: We are moving the football; we are moving the football on offense. We have taken the first drive in every game and moved it right down the field. We cannot overlook the fact that we are not scoring. We have to finish drives; there is no question about that. We are moving the football. Yes, we may not be running the football as efficiently as you want, a couple of those games we did not try to run it because we got behind by too much. I look at, defensively, third down has been good which was an issue coming in and we are playing good run defense. I look at that and to me we have to do a much better job on defense in the red zone than we have to do on offense. We need to hold people to field goals. The special teams I thought the coverage teams got better last week. We have to get our return teams going. We have a ways to go in terms of that. There are a lot of things we are doing well, but I guess that gets lost a lot of times because everyone wants to focus on the things we are not doing.

Q: Do you believe you can dictate the tempo of your offense even with the running game struggling?
A: I believe you have to have balance. That does not mean that you sit there and force-feed something. I think it comes down to scoring points to moving the ball to moving the chains to time of possession. That does not have to be identified by running the ball. We don't have to be labeled a passing team or a running team to do that. I don't think those things are negative or positive either way. Certainly, you don't want to be a team that is self-destructive. You don't want to be a team that beats yourself. We believe that every week, and we also believe it can be done in different ways. We don't sit there and hang our hat on if we can't pass the ball then we can't move it, if we don't run the ball then we don't move it. That is where I am saying that we do have some flexibility, and we believe that going in. But, we also recognize and understand that it can unfold differently in each game. That is what has to happen. The greatest plans going in do not mean anything. It is how you respond to circumstances that take place early and late that tell a lot about your football team.

Q: Are there any concerns about the emotional response by your team when those circumstances happen?
A: I love coaching football. I don't sit there and worry about what my actions are. I love watching our guys play. I get excited on game day. I just sit there and say so much happens. We haven't responded and we have got off to 10-point leads in the two losses we had. We have has some circumstances take place from which we have not been able to come back. That is disturbing, there's no question about that, because we have not handled that very well. Those are some of the inconsistencies that we have talked about and will continue to talk about because those are the things we have to do. We have to be able to respond. e have to recapture that confidence and we are in the process of doing that.

Q: Would Tommy Maddox have to take fewer risks if the running game was more efficient?
A: I don't think so.

Q: Was the first interception a good play by the defensive back or a bad decision by Tommy?
A: It was probably a little of both. I am not going to sit here and point a finger. I don't do that. It was a good play by him and with the result of the play it was an ill-advised decision by Tommy.

Q: Is it the responsibility of the defense to create turnovers or is it their responsibility to go three and out and get off the field?
A: The number one goal is to take the ball away. The second goal is to keep them out of the end zone and the third goal is to hold them to as few yards as possible. Those are the intentions of the defense. Get off the field as soon as possible by taking it away. If you can't take it away then you better keep them out of the end zone. If you can't keep them out of the end zone then you better eliminate the big plays and the yardage that goes with it because that can be time of possession. I think it is a goal. We go out there and attempt to do that, but I don't sit there and say we are playing bad defense because we are not taking it away. I would not judge a defense based on that.

Q: That would be a way to improve your ratio?
A: There is no doubt. We have been very good historically. We are not doing that at this point after four games and sometimes they come in bunches. Those things are things you have to continue to talk about and work on. Sometimes those are things over which you don't have total control.

Q: Is there a risk in going for a turnover?
A: That is so subjective. It is hard to say. There are certain circumstances that come up. We talk about the second guy coming in and stripping the football, we talk about when the ball is in the air everybody going to the football. The other day Chad bats one up and if you have the right guys going to the football - and you breed that in the players - and then you see Jason Gildon there to make the interception. Those are the things that you are talking about all the time. You go to the ball and if it is on the ground then you have a better chance of recovering it. Those are the things we talk about and historically we have been good at it. I am not ready to pass judgment after four games.

Q: Besides the big plays, how is Chad Scott's overall play?
A: I am not going to sit here and critique every player we have. I don't do that. I think defensively we have done some good things. The secondary has been under a lot of scrutiny and every time something happens everything gets compared to last year. This year is a new year and we have a big challenge this week. Chad and Dewayne love the challenges and they have another one this week. I feel comfortable with them and Deshea coming in. It is a good group. I feel comfortable with that group. Mike Logan, Brent Alexander, and Troy Polamalu are all playing well.

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