Bill Cowher Press Conference Week 14

<b>BILL COWHER: </b>First of all I'd like to take this time to make a public apology to Dale Hamer and his family for my comments that were made after the game. They were inappropriate. They were out of line. I have personally done so to his family. Just to clarify some matters, my state of frustration after the game, as I made a reference to Dale being a Pittsburgh guy, was more in reference to the fact that the replay official is not part of the crew that goes with crews from game to game.

I'd been discussing this with Mr. Rooney for the last couple of weeks with all the talk about replay. That was my state of frustration with the make-up of that fact that each city has a replay official who is a part of the NFL but they don't travel with the crew, and that was my reference point. There is no justification for my remarks. Dale Hamer is been in the National Football League for over 30 years and not only is this guy qualified, really, the city of Pittsburgh is very fortunate to have a guy of his caliber to be up in that booth. If anything he's overqualified, so again I'm sorry for anybody I offended with it and I am fully accountable and will accept any consequences that will go with that. And having said that, I'd like to leave it at that and no further comment on that.

In regards to Oakland, we've made a roster move. We've placed Chad Scott on IR. Chad tore a flexor tendon in his hand. It was an injury that requires immediate surgical repair so he'll be able to have full use of his finger and full grip. He initially tore it, had a slight tear in it, from last week's game and finished up this game and it came off and they have to surgically repair it, re-attach it. In doing so we've brought Russell Stuvaints off of the practice squad onto the roster. We're currently looking to replace the practice squad, probably with a corner. We're in the process of doing that.

Marvel Smith is out. He had re-occurring stingers in the game. We took him out in the first half. I don't think he's back to where he was from the initial time he did it but certainly he'll be out this week and we'll see where he is at the end of this week and take it week-to-week from there and have a better sense after that.

We have two players questionable: Tommy Maddox (knee) and Jay Riemersma (chest); and then four players are probable: Jerome Bettis (shoulder), Verron Haynes (knee), Hines Ward (glute contusion, his ribs are fine) and Jeff Hartings (knee). That's our status going into the Oakland game.

Q: What will you do to replace Scott at cornerback?

A: We're going to re-insert Dewayne (Washington) and move Deshea (Townsend) over to the left side. Ike (Taylor) will continue to play his role as the third corner.

Q: When did Scott have surgery and where do you place his recovery time?

A: His surgery is being done as we speak. The recovery time for that is six weeks.

Q: Is Stuvaints a strong safety or a free safety?

A: He's played a little bit of both. He'll be listed on the depth chart at strong but I'm sure most of his playing time at this point will come in terms of the kicking game.

Q: Where did Scott get hurt?

A: He hurt the finger in Cleveland initially. Like a lot of guys right now, there's a lot of bumps and bruises guys are playing with. He was fine to play. He had it protected and it just re-occurred on Sunday. He played with it but it's one of those injuries where you have to do it in the first 10 days because it detached and you have to re-attach it in a very short period of time.

Q: Does Alan Faneca go back to left tackle?

A: That's correct, with Keydrick (Vincent) playing left guard. That's how we finished the game.

Q: Is it the feeling Ike isn't ready to start?

A: Yep. Right now we're putting the players at every position that give us the best chance of winning. That's the first priority at this point and will be for the remainder of this season.

Q: You're facing a Super Bowl team that's 3-9. The other one is 5-7. Is this typical of the modern NFL? An up-and-down cycle?

A: I don't know. I'm probably not the one who should be passing judgment on other teams. It's just been that type of year. Look at the performance New York put on last night against one of the top teams in the AFC. I think it's been that way. I look at our last seven games, and five of those seven games we were winning or tied midway through the third quarter, and in the other two games we were down by three points midway through the third quarter. We just have not been able to finish games, but that's the thing winning teams are doing. That was just like the other day, when you take a three-point lead and you're playing at home and there's 1:05 to play in the game, you've got to win that game and we weren't able to finish it out. Probably a lot of teams, and look at the Raiders, they were playing Denver last week and the score was 14-8 throughout most of that game. They were one play away from taking the lead. Denver scored a late touchdown with about two minutes to go, but they were right there and I think you're seeing that being the case probably throughout this season. There's a very fine line. The winning teams right now are finding a way to win those close games.

Q: What's the update on Alonzo Jackson?

A: Alonzo's doing fine. He's working very hard. I think you look at the outside linebacker situation with Jason (Gildon) and Joey (Porter) and Clark Haggans, the inside guys we have with James (Farrior) and Kendrell (Bell), and then you have Larry Foote and Clint Kriewaldt, and Foote and Kriewaldt have had great years in the special teams. Clark Haggans is our captain. It's just hard to dress eight guys just from a kicking game standpoint because we've been really dressing a ninth guy, a guy like Chidi (Iwuoma) who's a very, very extraordinary cover guy. I think it's more of a numbers situation with Alonzo, and the fact is that he's getting better in practice. He's working hard there. His time will come.

Q: Are you more apt to look at him in these last four games?

A: If the opportunity presents itself.

Q: What can these last four games mean to this team?

A: They're important for two fold. Number one, we're three games out with four games to go. I know it may not be probable but the possibility exists and until they tell us we're mathematically eliminated we're fighting for that last playoff spot. And secondly, if it's not for the post-season, then you're fighting for next season. We all know the importance of finishing strong. You made a reference to the year 2000. We didn't make the playoffs that year but we won three of our last four, four of our last five, and we were able to take that into 2001. How much of that was built upon because of that finish? It's hard to say that but I think there's a lot of merit to it. When you look at how you finish a year, you look at Seattle last year and what they were able to take into this year. There are a lot of examples that finishing strong is very important in terms of what you're trying to build for next year. In our case, if it's not for the post-season it's for next season.

Q: Do you have any plans to use younger guys?

A: Our plans are to win football games. We're not going to do that at the expense of just trying to give people experience. If we feel like it gives us the best chance of winning, and they both coincide, so be it. But our plan is to do whatever we can to win these last four football games.

Q: How positive was it for Troy Polamalu to get that sack? Was it a confidence-builder?

A: I think his confidence has come from the way he's played. You look at the last three games he's played, I think he's played real solid. He's getting more comfortable out there. With each game he's gotten better and played his best game. He's getting a lot of repetitions. He's on the field more and more and Mike Logan has played very well and has kind of accepted where he's at and he's playing great on first and second down. Troy's kind of come in on third down. Troy's played very well. He's done a great job in the kicking game and he's kind of taken control of that, so he's getting a lot of experience, which is really good for him, and he's playing very well.

Q: How has Chris Hope played?

A: Chris has played fine. With all the opportunities he's had I think he's done well. He's getting some experience and he's played well in the kicking game. He's getting well, as Ike. They're getting invaluable experience. He's playing against some of the top teams right now, at least in our division, and there's no substitute for that. There's no question they're all becoming more comfortable and they're learning week to week.

Q: How do you account for the jump in your receivers' production?

A: I think offensively it was one of our better games, when you look at third down particularly. After the first two series I think we were 12 of 14 on third down. That was impressive. We got into some rhythm. I thought Plax (Burress) played his best game in awhile. He made some big catches. Hines, what can you say about his performance? He was pulling himself up off the ground after every hit. He's giving you everything he's got, as with most of these players. They're all playing hard. That's probably the most disappointing element of it, to see the two or three plays that have taken place each game that seem to be staring at you coming away without those victories. Those two guys played good games. Tommy threw the ball well. The line did a good job. We had some pressure at times but I thought for the most part they did a good job giving him time, particularly on that last drive. The last drive was impressive. To take the ball with four minutes to go and put it in the end zone, drive 80 yards in 11 plays when you're down by four, that was very encouraging to see and there's no question that will give us confidence for our offense.

Q: Why don't you use the no-huddle offense earlier?

A: We did it periodically. We may continue to do it again. It's hard to say. Like I said, outside of the first series we had only one three and out the whole game and after the first two series we did a good job of mixing it, trying to establish the running game, getting it going, and I think we ought to continue to do that. Certainly that's an element we have experience with and was able to come to our advantage particularly in that last drive because there were two elements of it: The one was the no-huddle about the last two minutes, but the first two minutes, starting at the four-minute mark, it was not the hurry-up it was just the no-huddle. There's a lot more options we have with that package of people and Tommy does a good job of orchestrating that, as do the players. We've had it in all year. If we ever feel we need kick-started we will certainly go to it.

Q: Is it more frustrating when you consider how much money was put out for this team?

A: I don't look at it as any one year. I think this team has made a financial commitment ever since I've been here. We've always been at the cap. We've always tried to make moves that give us the best chance. Sometimes it works out; sometimes it don't. So I don't look at this year being any different than any other year. I see it being very frustrating certainly from the standpoint of what the expectation level has been and should be and hopefully will continue to be. That's the way it should be. It's just frustrating we've not been able to win some of the games that we had an opportunity to, that we're sitting where we are in December. That's where we are and what we've got to do is finish strong.

Q: Coach, could you tell us about the big game against Oakland?

A: I look at what they've been doing pretty successfully the last three weeks since Rick Mirer's taken over (at quarterback) and he's done a good job. He runs around kind of like a young Rich Gannon. But they've been doing a good job of handing the ball to (Ty) Wheatley and (Charlie) Garner and running the football. They've got a big offensive line. They've got Jerry Porter back and he's become a big very good receiver for them and the other guys aren't too bad either - Tim Brown and Jerry Rice, Hall of Fame guys. They've moved the ball. They play hard. They were tied with Kansas City in Kansas City and lose on a last-second field goal by Morten Andersen. They beat Minnesota the week before, and 14-8 against Denver last week. They've been involved in some tough games and have had some tough losses. You watch them on video and you see they're playing hard. They've got some talented guys. And like I said, those two backs - Wheatley's a load. He gets going downhill. He's a big guy. And Garner came in here a year ago and I think he was the one guy who beat us, and Jerry Porter is coming back home, sorta speak. And Mirer's done a good job. He's starting to become more comfortable in his offense. He runs around and has been making some plays for them, and they're playing hard on defense, so it's going to be a tough game.

Q: Can anything other than rest help Marvel?

A: No. Unfortunately that's the only remedy he has.

Q: Can you talk about how important he is?

A: I think you saw when he's in there, being able to put Alan at left guard and move him back to his natural position. How we've been able to play when he's been in there speaks for itself.

Q: Have you considered shutting him down?

A: Well, he's shut down this week and we'll just kind of go from there.

Q: Per these last four games, do you watch your players carefully to see their level of concentration and dedication and seeing if they prepare as hard as they might if you were 8-4?

A: Very, very closely, and they know it.

Q: What exactly is Tommy's injury? And how many reps will Charlie Batch get in practice?

A: He kind of hyperextended his knee - Charlie may get them all - but he feels a lot better today than he did yesterday and he was walking around yesterday. So I'm not sure how much Tommy will do (Wednesday) but we'll take it day to day.

Q: Were you encouraged by Charlie's first two plays?

A: I guess yeah. The first two were good. Charlie Batch has won a lot of games in the National Football League. He came in. I thought he did a very good job. He throws the ball to Plax, stepping up in the pocket, and then he really puts the ball on (Antwaan Randle) El. I mean, El may have the best hands on this team and if he catches the ball it's a touchdown and we don't even have to worry about my apologies the first part of this news conference. But, no Charlie did fine. He's ready to play every week. He's the consummate pro.

Q: After your own review, was it an incompletion or a fumble?

A: It was what was called.

Q: What was the problem with Marvel?

A: He just had stingers, an inflammation of the nerve. There's no long-term effects from this but he's got to be careful with it.

Q: Any structural or disk problems?

A: No.

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