Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript

<b>BILL COWHER</b> <br><br> OK, first thing I'd like to do is address the health status of our team. One player is questionable and that's Kendrell Bell (shoulder), and Kendrell is much further along. He's questionable really today based on the fact we practiced Monday and we didn't hit anybody. We'll put the pads on Wednesday and hopefully he'll get through that and he'll be ready to play on Sunday.

Two players are probable and that's Ainsley Battles (ankle) and Deshea (Townsend, groin). In terms of the starting positions, I've talked to both Jerome (Bettis) and Duce (Staley). Duce will be the starter; Jerome will be active on game day. There's no real set plan going in to how they will be used from the standpoint of anything predetermined and we'll just have to go with that. Hopefully we'll need them both at some point during the season. But that's how we're going into the season.

I'm looking forward to Sunday. Just in looking at Oakland very quickly, they're a very good football team. I think Norv Turner has taken an offense out there and in a short period of time they look very comfortable running. Rich Gannon looks like he's been running it for awhile, and certainly with the skill-positions players that they have, in (Jerry) Rice and (Jerry) Porter and (Doug) Gabriel. Doug Jolley is a tight end. They've been very efficient in this preseason. (Tyrone) Wheatley is the back. He's running very hard. (Justin) Fargas and (Amos) Zereoue are great change-of-pace runners to Wheatley. They've got a good offensive line. Obviously, Robert Gallery was the second pick of the draft and when he can't crack the starting five immediately it says something about their offensive line.

Defensively, the two guys in the middle - (Ted) Washington and (Warren) Sapp - they've acquired this off-season. Rob Ryan came there as the coordinator from New England and has implemented both the 3-4 and 4-3 defense. We're preparing for both. And obviously getting Charles Woodson back takes a pretty good set of corners in Denard Walker and Phillip Buchanon and gives them three pretty good corners. So it looks like a very good football team that found a little bit of its identity in a very short preseason.

Will Duce play on third down?
We'll see, maybe on some packages but Verron Haynes will also be a part of that.

Are you satisfied with your progress in your off-season goal of upgrading your offensive line, secondary and pass rush?
Time will tell. I think with the offensive line, certainly when you lose a Kendall Simmons it sets you back, but I've been very pleased with where Max Starks is. Max Starks has played very well these last couple of weeks particularly. I like the depth we have there. Jim Jones was kind of a pleasant surprise. Barrett Brooks played well. I feel with the experience Keydrick Vincent got last year it's been a pretty cohesive group. In terms of the secondary we've got a lot of young players and I think we'll be tested, particularly this week by a veteran quarterback. I think time will tell in regards to that. I think we've got a lot of bodies but I think it's still a very young group that has to come together and kind of create their own niche. In terms of a pass rush, again, we just got Clark (Haggans) back for the last game. I think he'll give us something there. I've been pleased with the defensive line as a whole. I think even on defense we're grasping a little bit some of the new concepts we're doing with coach (Dick) LeBeau. Even though a lot hasn't changed, it still has because of some of the youth we have and some of the different guys we have playing new positions. I think a lot of the questions are still there and that time will tell.

Is it the typical Norv Turner offense?
I think the one thing Norv has always done is he's utilized his personnel as well as anybody. You have a Ricky Williams in Miami and they really exploit the running game and really feature it. Then all of the sudden you come out here and you have a Rich Gannon who's got some mobility, he's got an awareness. He looks as fresh as ever. He's running around this preseason making plays. I think he's utilizing that, so I think he does a good job of mixing things up. I think he's one of the better offensive minds in the league as far as utilizing people.

Have Sapp and Washington shored up their run defense?
They take up a lot of space, yeah, they do. We're preparing for both, whether it be the 34 or the 43. Is Napoleon Harris going to play? Is DeLawrence Grant going to play? We're not sure yet so that may have a lot to do with what they play schematically. They've got a formidable front seven. Tyler Brayton is a guy with an unbelievable motor who can run, so I think he's trying to find ways to implement all those guys into the scheme. While there may be some young safeties back there, even though Ray Buchanan's back there as a free safety, they've got three very good corners.

Bill, you've never gone with just two quarterbacks. Can you give us the background on your move of cutting Brian St. Pierre?
Well, no I have not. And I think when we saw Sean Morey on the wire, I mean, here's a guy who was the MVP of their special teams and it wasn't just any special teams they were ranked second or first in the NFL last year. He's a very, very special player from that standpoint, and to find a way to get him on the roster without it being disrupting, it was the move we made. Is it a little bit of a roll of the dice? Yeah, it is. But we're going to go in and Ben (Roethlisberger)'s going to back up Tommy (Maddox). We feel good about Brian and the progress he's made and we'll see where we are as of four o'clock today, but we will have a quarterback on the practice squad and hopefully it will be Brian. If not, then we've got to get another guy trained quickly.

Do you have a package ready for Antwaan Randle El?
Oh, yeah.

Is he the emergency quarterback?
Well that's the other element involved with it. I know it's going to be a limited package but he has played quarterback. We will put a package together for him to be the third quarterback.

What are the changes in your nickel and dime defenses?
Ricardo (Colclough) will be coming in. I'm not sure how we're going to do it, whether he'll be inside or outside. That remains to be seen. We'll make a decision on Sunday. And then Willie (Williams) will probably come in in the dime.

Ike (Taylor) didn't have a good game?
We felt this was the best way to go.

Bill, how did Jerome take the news? Will he have a role Sunday?
I'm not sure. I really didn't make any promises or define any plans going it. I think Jerome, I will say this, it's probably the best he's looked in the last three years in camp, in terms of his feet. I mean, last year he was still coming off the surgery. His weight's been good the last couple years. I think he was probably somewhat disappointed but understood. I think he was very much aware of the parameters going in and I think they both had an equal opportunity to run in the preseason and a decision was made based on that and now we're moving on. He's got a lot of respect for Duce, as Duce does for Jerome. I think it's a healthy situation and hopefully we'll be able to get them both involved.

Do you have a number of touches you want for Duce?
No. I think every game takes on its own flow. I know we got involved in one series in the preseason where we got involved in and long drive and Jerome ran in for a couple plays. We'll still get Verron involved, too. Where we are, you want to have both those guys fresh through the course of a whole season. We'll just have to monitor that and see how the game unfolds.

Is it still important to get off to a fast start?
I don't think there's any question. I think the fact we're opening up at home and have two difficult away games. It's ironic how this season takes on the same makeup as last year. You look at the first six games with the bye coming in the seventh week, it's the same makeup as a year ago, different teams. But it's still important. Last year we got off to a 2-1 start and we were facing two home games, which we lost. I think a lot of everything has to do with winning your games at home. It has to start there.

Will Morey be used solely as a special-teams player?
We're going to look at our options there but he's a guy who can impact a game. We've got to find a way to get him on the field. Like I said, it wasn't like we were looking to get a player. We were very surprised he was released. With him and Chidi (Iwuoma) I think you've got two pretty special coverage guys. Not that we plan on punting a lot. We're looking forward to kicking off a lot. Special teams is very important. We take a lot of pride in that. It's a third of the game. We've got some special returners on this team. We have to handle the other element of it from a coverage standpoint, too.

Are you concerned with roster flexibility with basically six guys on the roster who are just special teams players?
The snapper and the two kickers, those are givens. You can add those to six, but most teams have that. I look at Clint Kriewaldt as more than just a special teams player, he's a pretty good linebacker as well. Certainly Chidi (Iwuoma) is pretty special in what he does and now picking up a Sean Morey - I don't want to pass judgment because I've never even met the guy - I've seen him. I know what he's done to us, he's been very disruptive. I've talked to him on the phone. But let's see what they are as football players. I don't know that I'd call it a luxury. I know the kicking game is important. Special guys that can impact the game, not just with what they do, but how they approach the game - a big hit does more than just what it does from a coverage standpoint, it ignites your football team. When you get an opportunity to get a guy who was the special teams MVP of a pretty good football team, I look at that as an opportunity to upgrade the football team. I'm looking at the future, but the one future I'm looking at now is how to win on Sunday.

Have you seen any tape of (Morey) playing wide receiver?
No. That's not why he was brought here. If there's a role he can play, be that fifth receiver - he's from Brown, he's a smart guy - I'm assuming he can learn it very quickly. He'll help this team on Sunday on kickoffs and returns.

Have you settled on who will be the return men?
(Antwaan) Randle El will handle punts and then Ricardo (Colclough) and El will be back there on kickoffs.

Ricardo seems like a natural on kickoffs. Can you talk about that?
He's a strong guy. He hits it going north and south. He makes one move and then he's gone. That's the thing I like about him. I want to make sure he secures the ball. He's got a lot of very natural skills. It comes very natural to him. We certainly don't want to over coach him.

You don't have a backup fullback. Is that Cushing now?
That's correct.

Has anybody picked up J.T. Wall?
Not that I'm aware of.

Steve Sciullo was cut by the Colts. He's a Pittsburgh guy and started 13 game as a rookie for the Colts. Did you put a claim in on him?
No we did not.

Is (Kendrell) Bell's injury something that will go away or is it something you have to continually treat? I know you called it an arthritic condition before.
I think this one has gotten better. There was obviously a direct blow that initiated it. It's gotten better over time. We've been very cautious in approaching this and making sure he's close to 100 percent before we put him out there. Hopefully he'll get through (Wednesday) and be ready to go. We'll see where we are after practice.

What was your biggest surprise in training camp?
How good the weather was at camp. I don't know, reflecting back, I'd probably say Willie Parker kind of came out nowhere. I don't think anyone would have envisioned that on draft day when we were putting our board of free agents together. I don't know if there was a surprise. I think every year you're taking a different group and things change from season to season, not just with players, but things change with coaches. I think going in, you recognize it was kind of a new start, so to speak. We're trying to re-establish a mindset, an understanding of how we were going to play football. We were going to have to go through some growing pains in doing that. I don't know if anything's really been surprising. Like I said, there are some players you really didn't know anything about, but I think the bottom line is we're all 0-0. There's some accountability that has to take place, not just for veterans, but young players. People have to accept roles and be prepared to seize an opportunity if it comes because they can come weekly. That's the challenge that's ahead of us. We're heading into a season of unknown, as every team is, we're going to go along some bumps along the way.

Coach, you talked about that mindset all summer long - so I'm going to ask you again - five days away from the season, does this team have the mindset you want them to have?
No doubt about it. I think they're ready for it. It's a journey, it's not going to be reached in one game. It's not going to be reached in one month. It's something that's reached over time. We'll all be tested. It's not going to be easy, but I like the approach that we've taken and I like where we are right now. Where we go from here will be up to us. There's been a good foundation that's been set, but we really haven't built anything yet.

Because there's a new defensive scheme and Clark Haggans and Kendrell Bell have missed time, are you worried about defense or is that something that's going to unfold throughout the season?
I think it's something that's going to unfold over the course of the season. I'm aware that there are going to be some growing pains over the course of the season. I think from Clark's standpoint, he's been able to practice the last few weeks. Kendrell hasn't. Kendrell's going back in to some live bullets, but it's not like he's a rookie. It's not like he doesn't know this defense. How much we put him in there, how much we leave him in there on third down, we have to be careful about that. Even with some of the young guys, and I'm not just talking about Ricardo, I'm talking about Chris Hope and Troy (Polamalu). This is their first year of being starters going into this thing. There are going to be some growing pains. As long as they don't lose their aggression and get tentative, we'll handle it. Just play hard and fast and be decisive and we'll work through some of the bumps along the way.

Do you still see any signs of indecision from Hope or Polamalu?
No. I think Troy and Chris will be fine. The more they play, the better they'll get. By nature they're not real talkative guys. We're trying to get them to be more outgoing on the field and talk a lot more. But neither one are really guys who are outgoing by nature. I think the more they keep playing together, the more the whole group plays together, the more cohesiveness they'll develop.

Are you concerned they're liable and likely to see things they've not seen before?
There's no doubt they're going to see things they haven't seen. Rich Gannon is a veteran quarterback. Rich Gannon is going to find Ricardo Colclough wherever he may be and he's going test him. We have to understand that going in. This is a good quarterback who's been around awhile. For Chris Hope, he has to understand that (Gannon) will look him off and he's going to have to study and understand who he's playing against. There will be some things during the season that they've held back and they may come in here and try to run it and then go play action, or they might come in here like they did a couple of years ago and spread it out and throw it all over the place. I don't know, but we've got to be prepared for that.

Interceptions and sacks are tough to get against Gannon. Can you beat the Raiders without a couple of those?
I just think we have to stay away from the big plays. We have to be patient with him. He's one of those guys who will dink and dunk you down the field and then all of a sudden you start to inch up and he goes deep on you. You can't underestimate (Tyrone) Wheatley. He's a big back and they've got a good offensive line. I think the biggest thing is that we don't beat ourselves and make them earn everything they get. Turnovers will be big. That will be the telling tale and if we can get a couple that will help immensely.

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