Bill Cowher Press Conference Week 13

<b>BILL COWHER</b><br> Let me give you the health situation going into Sunday's game. Jeff Hartings (knee) is doubtful. It's maybe not as bad as we thought Sunday but he's definitely doubtful. It's an MCL sprain on his non-surgical knee. Questionable are Jay Riemersma (chest) and Keydrick Vincent (hip flexor). And two players are probable: Jerome Bettis (shoulder) and Marvel Smith (neck).

Obviously Sunday's game has a lot of implications. Certainly it takes on a lot of importance and what it is speaks for itself.

Q: Any after affects for Marvel Smith?

A: Nothing. He's regained most of his strength. He was back here lifting yesterday.

Q: Since you played Cincinnati the first time, what are they doing better?

A: I think they're playing with a lot of confidence. Their quarterback is playing extremely well. They've got a lot of weapons. All of the sudden a Rudi Johnson has kind of emerged as a back and now you get Corey Dillon back and they've got a tremendous one-two punch with those guys. Kelly Washington is now starting to surface a little bit as a third receiver besides Peter Warrick, and Chad Johnson has been near the top of the AFC this year. They've got so many weapons on offense and I think defensively they're playing very sound, very hard. They're playing like a team that's won five out of six games. They're playing with a very high energy and a lot of confidence and you kind of can see that, particularly when they went on the West Coast last week and won very impressively.

Q: Coach, how impressed are you with Marvin Lewis?

A: Marvin's a good football coach. He's been in the NFL a long time, starting in 1992. He's worked his way there, so he's been through it. He's been through the building process that took place a little bit here, and has won on a Super Bowl team in Baltimore, went back down and saw a new coach coming in in Steve Spurrier and being part of that program the first time around, so he has had a lot of experience in the NFL with three different teams. He earned the opportunity that he has and he's doing a very good job with it. He's kind of installed a new system on defense. Brat's (offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski) kind of doing the same thing on offense and I thought that was a good move keeping him there. He's done a good job. Those guys are believing what he's asked them to do. And like I said, I think you can see the confidence level with which they're playing. Marvin's done an excellent job and kind of dealing with each issue as it comes and doing it his way and the players are certainly respecting him for that.

Q: Tell us more, Coach.

A: He was new. The best thing they did was cut the ties to the past and brought in somebody new who didn't know anything about the past. I think the players kind of read that. I think they wanted a new body, a new approach, not that Mike Brown isn't a part of it, as he should be. Marvin understands that going in. There's a lot of talent down there. Right now they're playing as a football team and they're playing with some confidence. Like I said, all those things from the years past, a lot of those people don't understand the years past, particularly the head coach. He's just dealing with this year. They understand that and they're playing well.

Q: I know we covered this last time you played them but tell us again why you hired him in 1992.

A: Well, you know, I just saw his approach. He's always been a student of the game. Like I said, I knew him growing up. I know when we played, I got a chance to talk to him when we practiced in Albuquerque I think in 87 before the AFC Championship Game we played against the Broncos. He was down there coaching in New Mexico. When we went to Kansas City he came in as the fellowship coach and I had a chance to work with him there. I was a coordinator and he came in and worked with the linebackers, with myself. When Marvin came here, just came from Pitt, it was really where we were going to work him in on the staff. We gave him a group of linebackers, which was a nice challenge for him. A couple of those guys were as old as he was and had been in the league a lot longer. He's grown. He's grown tremendously and never stopped learning and wanting to learn. He's been a guy who's been a great student of the game.

Q: Don't you wish you'd have asked them to hit harder a little sooner?

A: What's amazing is we probably could've had two or three others. We dropped a couple interceptions that were right there for us. They do come in bunches. But you know what? We played hard. We probably didn't play as efficient in a lot of things we did but we played hard as a football team and we played physical as a football team. Sometimes you may not play your best football, but when you do that a lot of times good things happen. I think a lot of things that took place Sunday was a residue of that approach to the game.

Q: Did Cleveland's cover two stymie your passing game and force you to shy away from it?

A: No. Not really. We didn't get anything different. We had some opportunities in the game on offense. We had some opportunities to make some plays, we just didn't execute it. And we weren't very good on third down, and they weren't all third-and-longs. We were 2 of 14 but nine times it was third down and 1 to 7 and we only converted two of those. We had some good third down opportunities to make some plays. I'd like to think we just have to clean up some things, be a little more crisper and I think we'll be a lot more efficient.

Q: Are the passing problems a matter of coverage? Are routes not being run crisply enough?

A: I don't think I can sit here and pinpoint any one thing, Stan, that allows us to be inconsistent. Like I said, we had some opportunities and there were breakdowns. For whatever reason we weren't able to convert, but we did have some opportunities. There isn't any one element. We got a little backed up in the third quarter there. Sometimes it's hard to get in a rhythm. The no-huddle got us out of that initial period when we couldn't make a first down. It's hard to pinpoint any one thing but there were some opportunities. It was probably more encouraging when you looked at it afterwards than you felt walking off the field because we did have some opportunities.

Q: Coach, how much of a factor was Marvel coming back?

A: Marvel's 3-1. The rest of us are 4-9, or 4-7, whatever it is. And uh, um, um, you know but you know it's good to have him back. It was nice in the first quarter when we had that first line in there, then we lost Jeff. Then Chukky (Okobi) is in there now. But you get him back and probably more than anything you get a guy like Alan Faneca back at left guard, who's so dominant. I mean, he's the best guard in football in my opinion, bar none. He's a good football player no matter where you put him, but to put him back there -- Kendall Simmons is quietly getting better each game and getting some confidence back. Oliver (Ross) played a very solid game. The line has just gotten a little bit better each week. The more they can stay together and play together - and Chukky, having him be able to step in and I know what he's able to do, what he's done in the past. He's a solid, reliable player. We need these guys going down the stretch. We need them to be playing their best football. But it was good to have Marvel back.

Q: Are you going to introduce the special teams this week?

A: There's a good chance that could happen.

Q: What are the positions? Or do you just introduce them as guys?

A: As guys. I think only a real guy would appreciate that. I think the fans will appreciate the core group. It would be a core group of guys, the kickers, Antwaan (Randle El) and the rest of those guys.

Q: Have you done that before?

A: Yes.

Q: Have you done that in the past as well?

A: I've only been here.

Q: I thought you may have done that in Kansas City or Cleveland?

A: I've never had control over that but I've seen it done before.

Q: When did you do it here?

A: It was at Three Rivers Stadium.

Q: Were you ever introduced?

A: No. I never started and never had the special teams introduced. In college I was.

Q: Will they come out of the stands and do a dance or anything special?

A: It'll be interesting to see. Get to your seats early. Josh (Miller) and Jeff (Reed) running out onto the field, that'll be a great sight.

Q: Bill, would you explain the thought process on punting at the end of the game?

A: The first thought was run a play and take the five seconds off. My only thought in that was somebody trips and goes down and it's a fourth-down play and the clock stops right now. Then they have the ball and in one play can throw it into the end zone. The other thought was to take a safety, or as we did, tell Josh to punt the ball out of bounds. You knew that would take at least five seconds. There was no question about that. I guess we put the ball in the hands of the most consistent phase we've had this year and that's been our special teams and they did a good job with it.

Q: Did you think about letting the play clock run out because that would've taken it down to four seconds?

A: We took it down to one second. We could've taken one more second off with the penalty.

Q: Wouldn't that have been worth it?

A: It would've taken it down to four seconds. Again, just the thought process of running the play, if you get the penetration and somebody tackles him. They're in control of the clock. When does the clock start? Is the clock going to start right at the snap? Right after the snap? We were in Cleveland. That was the thought process.

Q: Could you also explain late penalties and taking 10 seconds off the clock? When does that apply?

A: Actually there was a change this year. In the past, if you had, in the last two minutes of the half or game, it was a 10-second runoff. What they did this year, which I advocated, there is now no longer a 10-second run-off if you have a timeout and opt to have that taken away.

Q: What's happening in special teams preparation that maybe wasn't happening in years past?

A: Nothing dramatically different.

Q: Are they taking their jobs more seriously?

A: They've always taken their jobs seriously.

Q: What are your thoughts on Kimo von Oelhoffen and the defensive line in general?

A: I thought Kimo played probably his best game the other day that he's played since I've been here. I think our defensive line has played so solid all year. Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith, I tell you those three guys they are using up blockers, they are penetrating. You look at the line of scrimmage, you don't just judge a 3-4 by its linebackers, you better judge it by those three guys up front. And those guys are playing as hard, as consistent as any group we've had since we've been here. To have a Kendrick Clancy come in? He has been solid. Rodney Bailey? I mean, those five guys are unselfish, dependable, consistent. They're warriors. I wouldn't trade them for anybody.

Q: Bill, do you recall how many pressures you had? It seemed like a lot.

A: We did. There were some coverage sacks. We did a great job in the secondary. Tim (Lewis) called a very good game. We tried to keep them off balance with some blitzing and going back into coverage. I don't know what the amounts were, but we were around him a lot. Even a couple times at the end of the first half with the three-man rush we were able to put some pressure on him.

Q: With Carson Palmer there, have you been impressed with the way Jon Kitna has played?

A: He's played very solidly. His decision making has been the biggest thing. He's pulled it down a couple times to keep the sticks moving. I think that Marvin did a good job from the get-go. He never made it an issue. He stated from the beginning it was Jon's team. Sometimes the pressure of playing a No. 1 pick (brings up questions). Why isn't he playing? Is there something wrong with him? But Jon has played very consistently for them this year, and has probably played well the last couple years to be honest with you. I know he always has against us. But I've been impressed with his play on a consistent basis this year?

Q: Were there any noticeable breakdowns in the secondary?

A: No. I know Troy (Polamalu) had a couple penalties but he probably played his best game. You talk about the kicking game and defense, he played very, very solidly. I think it was the best game he's played this year, outside of the penalty on the kickoff and he was offside the one time. As a matter of fact, I was glad he was offside because of the play they had called. That worked out to our advantage. And then he had the holding call. But he played very, very solidly. Ike (Taylor) played good. He played well. And Chris Hope, I thought, played very well. He didn't have a lot of opportunities. I know he made a big tackle once on second down that allowed us to stop them on third down. He played very solid.

Q: What was your reaction to Baltimore's comeback?

A: You want to see what can take place that can help you, but our only focus right now is on this. We can't worry about things we have no control over, and the only thing we can control right now is playing better than we did last week. We played hard, we played physical but we have got to play better football if we want to get where we want to go. So that's really the only thing right now. We're playing Cincinnati this week and we've got three of the last five at home. We're going to have a chance to play the two teams ahead of us again. There's still a lot of football to be played. I know I say it a lot. It's down to five games but every game has a lot of importance to it and so our focus has to just be on Cincinnati this week.

Q: Will Chris Hope continue to get a lot of playing time?

A: More than likely.

Q: Are there many players with a bigger upside than Ike?

A: The experience he's getting now is invaluable. He's a very good kickoff returner. Antwaan's a very good punt returner. I think the experience he's getting on third down has been good and he got a lot of reps the other day. He'll probably get a lot of reps this week depending on the approach Cincinnati takes. There's no substitute for that. He's getting better. Sometimes I feel he gets in a little bit of a lull, which he has to be careful about, particularly playing that position. Nothing comes, nothing comes, then people attack you. But I think there's no question he's got a lot of things you can't coach: His size, his speed, his ability to play the ball. Obviously the experience he's getting right now is invaluable.

Q: How is Deshea Townsend doing against the run?

A: Deshea's been fine. He's played very well. He's playing with a lot of confidence. That's what I like. You talk about having a little bit of a swagger out there, he's got that. He's made a lot of plays for us. Look at the other day. We had a lot of guys step up and make plays, he made a couple big plays on third down. Again, he's playing very well.

Q: The receiver in Tommy Maddox's helmet didn't work all the time and he said it only happens in Cleveland. Has that happened to your team in the past?

A: It's happened periodically. I don't know what the history is of it. Maybe it has happened in Cleveland. A lot of things seem to happen only in Cleveland. But as long as we keep winning that's the only thing that really matters.

Q: Coach, is Jerome Bettis fresh? How's he holding up physically?

A: He's holding up well. Jerome's a special guy. He's had a bad shoulder and he's been playing with that the last couple weeks. He only practiced on Friday. He's running well. He had a run the other day he made a couple guys miss. You see those feet for a guy his size. For a guy with 3,000 carries, he's in an elite group. He's a special guy. He's there for you every Sunday and he gives you everything he has. You wish you had every player like that. He's a class act, a special player. It's good to have him going down the stretch.

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