Notebook: No information was passed

From the blank pages of a notebook that was needlessly opened for Bill Cowher's season-ending press conference:

  • Of the 23 questions asked at Monday's press conference, Cowher answered "No" six times and "I don't know" eight times (twice to end first sentences of responses). The latter count didn't include the slight variations, such as "I don't anticipate" and "I refrain" and "I haven't even talked to John." That leaves six questions. Of those, two were answered with questions, another with "We have to be a more consistent football team" and another with laughter. Rest assured the remaining two questions did not result in information being passed.
  • We hate to read between the lines because when you assume, you make, well, anyway, it appears as if the coaching staff will survive the sharpened axe and Jerome Bettis won't. Cowher was asked about Bettis' future with the team, and Cowher's refusal to respond affirmatively left no reason to believe Bettis will be back. The statistics tell the story. The Steelers finished dead last in the NFL in per-carry average at 3.336. They finished 31st with 93 yards per game.
  • Individually, the only one of the NFL's top 60 rushers with a worse per-carry average than Bettis' 3.296 is teammate Amos Zereoue's 3.28. That might instead indict the Steelers' offensive line, which was cited by team chairman Dan Rooney as the team's biggest problem two weeks ago. And since that line includes more No. 1 draft picks than starters who missed time with injury, the fault would seem to rest with either position coach Russ Grimm or top personnel man Bill Cowher.
  • When asked if he himself is to blame for the 6-10 season, Cowher said "No" and "I don't know" and "I refrain from" and "I don't anticipate," leaving out the ever-popular "I haven't even talked to John."
  • After reading between the lines, fans should probably blame John.
  • Cowher couldn't even tell the city of Pittsburgh the position at which his team will draft next April. It's 11th, and at that position the Steelers are more likely to find better value in selecting a running back than an offensive lineman.
  • The top two running backs in the draft - Oregon State's Steven Jackson and Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones - could both be available at pick No. 11. Jackson is bigger and Jones has more speed. Jackson ran behind a worse offensive line at Oregon State and could probably stand up longer and block better with the Steelers. Jones, again, is faster, rendering his matriculation to the Steelers as doubtful.
  • The one great tackle in the draft, Robert Gallery, will be gone by pick 11, and the Steelers would have to reach for the next one, something they haven't done under Kevin Colbert's direction. Expect them to concentrate on finding a tackle in free agency.
  • Assuming the Steelers will work to fix their running game, another year will pass without tending to the most important position in all of sports - quarterback. That's the wild-card position in the first round, meaning Phillip Rivers is a long shot to wear black and gold next season. Colbert loves Rivers' talent and Cowher might be convinced to look beyond the upcoming season since he and Rivers share the same alma mater - North Carolina State.
  • However, unless the final two years of his contract are renegotiated, it's doubtful Cowher will be convinced to look beyond the upcoming season. Therefore, the forecast for the next 10 years of this franchise ranges from cloudy to bleak.
  • Of course, the Steelers will be able to slam their young running back into the line with reckless abandon the next few years. After which, he'll wear out and a young quarterback will be looked upon as the savior - after a four-year learning curve, of course.
  • Complaints about the present revolve around usual suspects Chris Hope, Joey Porter, Jason Gildon, Tommy Maddox and Plaxico Burress. We'll go from back to front, maestro.
  • Where was Burress in the big showdown against the Ravens? The Michigan State PR department, embedded within the Pittsburgh press corps, believes the disappearance is part of a coaching conspiracy, but Burress' skimpy stat sheet from Sunday night's game doesn't include the penalty that wiped out his third-down drop, nor does it reflect that Burress quit on the deep pass Chris McAlister intercepted.
  • Maddox takes pride in not lifting weights, and there probably are some dads out there who agree that weightlifting only tightens a throwing motion, but perhaps it's time for the Steelers' quarterback to take some interest in conditioning. The sack he took from the fat defensive lineman, who crawled Maddox down, should be reason enough.
  • The Sunday night ESPN announcing crew is just awful, from the irritating and non-informative Suzy Kolber up to the squabbling analysts and the hyperventilating play-by-play man, so it was easy listening to the game on the Steelers Radio Network. The highlight was Bill Hillgrove's excited delivery of a Gildon tackle. Folks, Hillgrove was as surprised and amazed as the rest of us.
  • Porter, if you're going to make a fool of yourself screaming at the other team's captain during the coin toss, at least back it up with a good play or two. Instead, Porter dropped an interception, was taken for a piggyback ride by Jamal Lewis and hurt his team with a critical roughing-the-passer penalty.
  • Did Hope need to run a fake punt 81 yards to get his coach's attention? For crying out loud, if you can't play the young, hungry and talented Hope in place of the league's slowest free safety, even when that free safety has a broken hand, you're too stubborn to coach anymore. Then again, we'd better talk to John first.

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