Cowher not impressed with record this time

<b>PITTSBURGH --</b> Steelers coach Bill Cowher wasn't about to sugarcoat his answer when asked to assess his team two days after beating the Miami Dolphins, 13-3.<br><br> "To be honest, that was not a very good offense," Cowher said of the Dolphins at his Tuesday press conference. "I think that we'll get a good test this weekend."<br><br>

Cowher is probably smart not to make too much of the win over the Dolphins. Not after he watched a 2-1 record go up in flames last season.

The Steelers were coming off a win in Week 3 over the Cincinnati Bengals last season, and returning home for a two-game stand. But the Steelers lost to the Tennessee Titans, 30-13, and the Cleveland Browns, 33-13. It sent them spiraling to a 6-10 record.

At 2-1 this year, the Steelers are coming home to host the Bengals and the Browns. Whereas the Steelers passed 47 times against the Titans and 30 times against the Browns during last year's homestand, they won't come close to those numbers this year. Not with rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and new runner Duce Staley in the backfield, and certainly not against a Bengals defense that allows an average of 166 rushing yards per game.

The Bengals rank 31st in the NFL in run defense and allow a league-high 5.7 yards per carry. They held the Dolphins to 25 yards on 20 carries, but were gored by both Curtis Martin (196 yards) in the opener and Jamal Lewis (186 yards) last Sunday.

"Lewis is going to do that to a lot of teams," Cowher said. "I think that Curtis Martin has run the ball very well in (the New York Jets') first two games as well. You have to be really careful to draw too many judgments this early in the season, good and bad, about our team, about opponents."

Nevertheless, Staley is coming off his first 100-yard game with the Steelers. He gained 101 yards on 22 carries in the slop at Miami, and did so in only three quarters of action. Verron Haynes gained 35 yards as a replacement for Staley in the second quarter. Haynes finished with 34 yards on seven carries.

"He's the best mudder we have and if it comes up again I thought he ran well," Cowher said. "They all bring something to the table. I'd like to keep them all involved."

A quality running attack will only help Roethlisberger. The rookie completed 12 of 22 passes for 163 yards in the stormy weather last Sunday.

Counting his relief role the previous week, Roethlisberger has completed 24 of 42 passes for 339 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating is 77.4.

"He made good decisions outside of the first pass he made," Cowher said. "He managed the game very well. He's got a good presence in the pocket. That's the one thing that you see with the guy. When he gets out of there, he's not just running, he's doing it for a good reason. There were a couple of times when we got him out of the pocket by design.

"I thought he played a solid game, managed it well and made good decisions."

Cowher also praised the performances of several defensive players, particularly outside linebacker Joey Porter, calling Sunday "his best game." Cowher also had strong praise for inside linebacker James Farrior, saying he was "all over the field."

"But doing it in one game is one thing," Cowher said. "Doing it week-in and week-out is what separates units, separates players. And I think that we will be challenged this week by a team that has a lot more potential explosion than the one we just played."

NOTES - Tommy Maddox (elbow) is the only Steelers player ruled out of Sunday's game. Listed as questionable are inside linebacker Kendrell Bell (groin) and reserve safety Mike Logan (hamstring).

Steel City Insider Top Stories