Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript

<b>Bill Cowher</b><br> Let me give you an update where we are health-wise going into this game. One player is out, and that is Chad Scott. He is doing better. He is making good progress, and he will start riding the bike, I think, this week. So, he is doing fine. One player is doubtful, that is Verron Haynes. Verron has a turf toe.

So, he is doubtful as we speak. Two players are questionable, one is Dan Kreider. He has a hip flexor. The other one is Duce Staley with his hamstring. We have four players that are probable: Jerome Bettis with a calf, Jeff Hartings with a knee, Travis Kirschke with a knee, and Lee Mays with a hamstring. We have a few bumps here going into this game.

We all recognize that when we got done playing four of our last five games at home, I think now you kind of get a measure for where you are in this business in regards to how we can play on the road. We have two very difficult divisional games starting up in Cleveland. I know Cleveland's record may be 3-5, but they have won three of their four games at home with the only loss being an overtime loss to the Eagles. They are playing very good at home. I think any time you are playing a divisional game, it has extra magnitude in terms of the overall picture. So this is a very big game for our football team and a very important stretch that we are entering into.

How do you finish strong while also preaching one game at a time?
They go hand in hand. Certainly as we start to wind down, I think this month is very important month because you are positioning yourself right now. As you sit down and talk next month, you can talk very concretely about where you stand and what is left. But this is a month right now that you have created a situation that you can now start to position yourself. Like I said, we have been a little spoiled, four of the last five games were at home. Three of the next four are on the road. When you play on the road in the National Football League, it is hard to win. It is hard to do it consistently. That is what we have to prove an ability to do. You couple that with having to go to Cleveland to start this off where they are coming off two tough losses losing in overtime to Philadelphia and then they go down to Baltimore and play in Baltimore, a place where we did not even come close. They were throwing the ball in the end zone at the end of the game to tie the game. They are playing well and it is safe to say that they are a better team now than then they were when we played them the first game. You couple that with the magnitude with which they have and not being able to not fall that much farther behind, this is going to be a stiff challenge for us.

Does being 7-1 create any special challenges compared to years past?
I don't think so from the standpoint that we recognize how we got here. I think that we have been a football team that we have had to work very hard to get to this point. There was nothing handed to us. Respect is something you earn; it is not something you are entitled to. I think we recognize that. I said it before, it is hard to get there, but it is harder to stay there. That is where we are, and that is the challenge that is ahead of us.

Who is the fullback if Dan Kreider can't play?
J.T. (Wall) is here. He is on the practice squad. I would think that right now, certainly Matt (Cushing) would be the first guy. But we will se how Danny is by the end of the week.

How has Cleveland improved?
I think their quarterback is a lot more comfortable. I think he is certainly still a big time playmaker. I think at running back, both of those guys have proven to be very efficient guys. They got their right tackle, (Ryan) Tucker back. Defensively, they got Gerard Warren back. I think there are a number of additions they have made. They have guys that have gotten healthier. I think if you watch how they played, they went into overtime against Philadelphia, who was undefeated coming in, and they lose a tough game in Baltimore where not too many people even come close. They went down there and took them in to the closing seconds.

Are you more apt to hold Duce back and save him?
No, we will take the same approach. This is a very important game. I think they are all important games. At the same time, you have to look at the big picture, and we will continue to take both of those into account and see where he is and go from there. We are not in any position to be resting anybody. There is such a fine line in this business and we are playing with a little bit of an edge right now and we can't lose that. You can lose it quickly in this business. How we prepare and go out there on Wednesdays, it starts with our preparation and Sundays have been a reflection of how we prepare. We have to put together a good week of work and having to deal with the added obstacle of the noise, the atmosphere we are going into, we need everybody that can go, is going to go in this football game.

Does that dynamic change when everyone anoints you as the best team? Is that going to be tough for you to deal with as a team?
It only changes if you start to read it and believe it. We have been anointed nothing. We really haven't. We have got here because we understand and we are very respectful of every team we played. We are in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business and it can change weekly. It is not a concern as long as we don't get caught up in it, and we won't, trust me.

As far as individual performance, what has impressed you most?
Probably the way the team has played. I guess I would say that. It seems that every week, there is somebody new stepping up. There have been some constants and you have to have good solid play that we have had from a lot of players. But I think there have been guys when other people have had to step in, they have stepped in and we never missed a beat. It goes back all the way back to the training camp element of it and there is going to be more down the road. Like I said before, everybody has a role and some guys would like to be a little more involved, and I am sure they have, but they have kind of put the team before themselves recognizing that you may have an expanded role based on any one Sunday or a play when a guy gets hurt, and you have to be ready to seize that. We have had a number of players that have been able to do that. You look at the two guys this past weekend, more than anybody with Jerome (Bettis) and Willie (Williams) who have been in this league for so long and have kind of taken backup roles and suddenly they are thrust in to where they had been a lot in their career, and they prepared themselves accordingly. To me, that is the leadership everyone needs to take, put yourself in a position where you prepare and then when you are asked to go out there and perform, you are going to perform at a high level. That is the way everyone should approach their role that they have right now as they prepare Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday because it could be expanded come Sunday based on circumstances.

Is it your goal to make the opposing quarterback run around ever week?
We are trying to put pressure on the quarterback. I think a lot of quarterbacks in this league, if you give time and let them sit there they can get into some rhythms, and Jeff (Garcia) is no different. He is a good quarterback. Jeff is one of those guys who is going to run around and I think that is where he's comfortable. I think he is at home when he is able to get out of the pocket and step up, he did that against us and made some big plays against us. A lot of our success this year has been us getting off to fast starts and trying to take away certain dimensions of a team just because of the circumstances in the game. Jeff Garcia is a good quarterback, he has won a lot of games in the National Football League, and he has a good surrounding group of players up there in Cleveland. Like I said, they scored over 30-some points against a pretty good Philadelphia team two weeks ago.

Are you blitzing more overall than last year?
I don't know what the numbers are, it probably depends on who we are playing. Generally speaking, that is probably a true statement.

Have you noticed (Jeff) Garcia playing tougher lately?
I always thought that he was a pretty tough quarterback. I have a lot of respect for the guy. So it's no greater now then it was before we played in the first game to be honest with you. I think this guy is pretty good quarterback. He is very resourceful and he will test your discipline. And I think the biggest thing that has happened between on and the last time is that he is becoming more comfortable with that offense and with that group of receivers. So I think that it just makes him that much more dangerous just because of that comfort level that he is starting to develop.

Could Jerome Bettis carry it 33 times this week?
I hope so. We are not going to change. We have to have some healthy backs. I think I named about every back that we have on list except Willie Parker so he better get himself ready to play. But if we have to, Jerome played very well and our line did a good job but don't take anything away from the way that he ran. Jerome Bettis ran very well. He made a lot of guys miss. He got a lot of yardage after the initial contact, so did Verron (Haynes) when he was in there. But the line did a super job again and it is going to take another big effort because this team that has been a grind to run the football against. I know the last time we played against them, we had a lot of the same circumstances that we have had the last couple of weeks - opportunities to run out the clock with the lead and we couldn't do it against these guys. We didn't do it the last the time. We missed a couple third-and-ones and we missed a fourth-and-one. We are going to need everybody to be on top of their game because we weren't the last time we played these guys.

Who is the third down back now?
Willie Parker.

Will Kendrell Bell's role expand this week?
We are going to get him in there. Larry (Foote) will start and we will continue to work Kendrell in there.

Do you have time to savor and reflect on what Ben Roethlisberger has done?
No. Why? What purpose would it serve, honestly? I don't think Ben has either, he shouldn't. You don't reflect when you are in the middle of something. It's not the time to reflect. You will have plenty of time when everything is all said and done to sit back and do whatever we need to do. Things can change. This is a scope of what we are dealing with and the landscape of what we are dealing with right now is ever changing, we are creating that. You don't reflect in the middle of trying to do something.

Has he done anything that has surprised you?
You can't take anything from the inexperience that he has and what he has been able to come in and do. He is a very mature kid. He has handled everything superbly. He is like the consummate pro and I think he is learning every week. He does not get flustered. He's very calm. He is business like, very professional like, and he is doing a very good job of leading this football team. He is making plays when he has to make them. I know he only threw the ball about 20 times the other day, got sacked twice, so threw it 18 and completed 11. I think he only throw the ball twice in the second half. I'm going to tell you in those first three possessions, we scored three touchdowns, and he is an integral part of that. Two big third and thirteen's, one he scrambles for a first down. May have had the first down because of the illegal connect but he makes 13 yards, with the other one he gets out of the pocket and hits Verron on a come back that was a little improvised play and those are big plays. He is doing the right things. Even with the interception that he threw, I don't have a problem with that. He took a hit down the field. I'm not going to take away from that aggressiveness. That was fine. I think he is not making the foolish mistakes. He is not trying to force the ball. He is doing very good job of a managing football games and doing what it takes to put the ball in the end zone.

Something else that Ben did was engineer the two hard counts when you were able to get first downs. Was that something you saw in the Eagles and their aggressiveness? That was a pretty veteran move for a rookie quarterback.
We have a Wednesday period and he has been getting our defense for the last couple of weeks. I figured it was about time he tried it on Sunday. He is pretty good at it. It's one of those things that a lot of times you can do it at home and it's not easily done when there is noise involved on the road. He did a nice job with it the other day.

Did you notice Ben's poise during the interview at the combine?
He was a very confident kid. I think all of those kids that you talk to are. You don't sit down in a room and say I know what this kid is going to be like when we start getting involved in the fourth quarter of some of these games or what he is going to be like after he throws his first interception. You don't know those things. He was involved with a lot of the hype that went into it. He went up to New York and was around Eli (Manning) and Phillip Rivers and went through that whole process. I think the attention part of it; he has been dealing with that since the end of his senior year. You really don't know much about people until you are around them on a regular basis. It's hard to decipher a lot of that just in a sit-down interview. I know personally I am still getting to know the kid and he is probably still getting to know me. It's still an ongoing process as it is with any relationship.

How have offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple done with Ben?
Ken has done a great job with the whole offensive staff. Mark has done a super job with Ben. The whole staff with Russ (Grimm), Coach (Bruce) Arians, Coach (Dick) Hoak and James Daniel; the offensive staff has done a super job and Ken has coordinated that whole thing. I can't say enough about them. It's a good coaching staff on both sides of the ball. The coaches have done a good job of creating plans each week and trying to put the players in situations where they can be successful, and players have seized it.

Can you talk about the play of the secondary? It was a young secondary until Willie Williams stepped in?
It's good to have Willie. Ricardo (Colclough) and Ike (Taylor) are getting better each week. They really are. Deshea Townsend has had a really, really good year. The two safeties, you can't say enough about Troy (Polamalu). Troy has had a really solid year, as has Chris Hope. You watch those guys run around and the communication element that's involved. Russell Stuvaints has been on the field a lot for us in some of the third down packages that we have. They have done a great job. Darren (Perry) and Ray (Horton) are meeting a lot with those guys and it's to their credit. We had a lot of mistakes the other day. We didn't have many plays, but we had a lot of mental errors the other day. But they were going fast. They weren't always going in the right direction a lot of the times, but they were going fast. I put down a lot of plays that there were a bunch of mental errors, but I wanted to show them those highlights because it was just the way in which they did it. We have room to get better on both sides of the ball and we need to. I just like the energy level with which they are playing. They are playing fast and being decisive. The secondary has been very solid. Willie played a super game. The two corners played very well the other day. Our two safeties have been very consistent week-in and week-out.

Regarding the success that you have had in running the ball, with teams building defenses to stop the pass, does that work as an advantage to you in establishing the run?
We really haven't been tested in running the football. We're going to get tested these next couple of weeks now. We got up on New England pretty fast, we got up on Philadelphia pretty fast. Nobody has tried to run the ball on a regular basis. We have been pretty fortunate from that standpoint. We're going to get tested these next couple of weeks with teams that can run the ball pretty good. I know how we practice and I know we try to take over how we practice to the playing field each Sunday.

What about you offensively, though? Is it an advantage being able to establish the run when so many teams seem built to stop the pass?
I don't know if teams are being built to stop the pass. I never built a defense for that. You better be able to stop the run. Passing is more prevalent today. The rules have been put in to probably promote passing the ball. If you would like to go that way, a lot of teams have decided to do that. I think it still comes down to playing smart, controlling the football however you want to do that. I don't know if what we are doing is a result of teams trying to stop the pass or not. I don't know. I can't answer that question. I know we're going to do what we do and, hopefully, continue to do it successfully.

What was your thought about the team's maturity level against the Eagles? There was every reason for a letdown to happen and it didn't and they dominated another good team. How important is that as you look down the road?
It's important if we take a mature approach to it. It's a recognition, you know what you are able to do when you do things a certain way. As long as you understand you can't just show up and it's going to happen just by showing up and thinking it's going to unfold that way. It's a lot of hard work to get where we have created the opportunity that we created for ourselves and the worse thing you can do is lose sight of how you got there. We got here through our preparation, for our respect, for our unselfish approach that we have taken within this football team. The roles that some of these guys have accepted, the philosophies that we have adopted that may not be as conducive to numbers that some people may want, got us here. It takes a bunch of unselfish guys that enjoy playing football together who don't lose sight of how you created the opportunity we have created. It's a positive as long as you don't get caught up in it. There is always something you can go back and reflect on and build from. That's what these next couple of weeks will show. Can we now be a good road team? Can we be that team with the bulls eye on it going into that hostile environment, going in with an opportunity to make someone else's season by beating us? Can we handle that? Time will tell.

Is that message better sent from within your locker room?
We have very good veteran leadership. The leadership isn't just what people are saying, but it's how their actions are during a course of a week, on Sunday and their actions in terms of handling everything that takes place. I think there is constantly a message that is being sent by the veterans on your football team and how they handle certain situations. We have had excellent veteran leadership on this team. Leadership isn't something that is just by veterans. And when I say veterans, I don't mean it has to be a seven or eight year guy. A veteran at this point on some of these teams can be a second, third or fourth year guy. The guys are out there playing and being asked to make major contributions and have to do it consistently week-in and week-out. You can't be a one-game wonder or a one-year wonder. You're going to be measured in the long-term in the greater scope of things in the National Football League based on what you do on a consistent basis. That's whether you want to judge a team, a unit or a player. That to me is what each guy has to face within himself is that challenge.

Do you have an update on Myron Cope? Also, what has he meant to this franchise?
I understand he is out of the hospital. Myron is Pittsburgh. I remember growing up here listening to him on the radio when I was a kid. I remember when I first got the job here in 1992, you remember all of those things, but I remember having to go down to his studio and do his show that night and thinking I remember listening to this guy when I was in my kitchen in Crafton. My dad would be out there at night listening to his talk show and I would be thinking why would you listen to that. Then I found myself listening to that. And now I never listen to that. You go full cycle in life. But he is an integral part of that. Myron is Pittsburgh. All of the people that want to imitate him. I still do my show with him and it makes me feel young. He is Pittsburgh.

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