To fill his spot on the roster, we have signed Walter Rasby, a tight end who has been in the league about 10 years. He initially started with us in 1994 out of Wake Forest. Walter will take his place on the roster. We have two other players who are out: Kendrell Bell with his groin; Chad Scott with his knee. We have four players who are questionable: Verron Haynes with the knee; Plaxico (Burress) with his hamstring, and again, he'll be day to day; Kimo (von Oelhoffen) with a knee; and Brett Keisel with a hamstring. We have six players who are probable: Jeff Hartings with a back; Sean Morey with a quad; James Harrison with a shoulder; Chidi (Iwuoma) with the shoulder; Clark Haggans with a groin; Keydrick Vincent with a quad. So that's out situation going into a very big game against a quality football team that's playing very well. They've won three in a row and there are a lot of implications, certainly in New York's case. They're right in the middle of a division race. And they're playing very well. Offensively, you have the No. 3 rushing offense in the NFL. They lead the league in the fewest amount of turnovers. They are a football team that will not beat themselves. They will impose themselves upon you. They have a very good offensive line, weapons on the outside in (Justin) McCareins and (Santana) Moss, (Anthony) Becht the tight end, and Chad Pennington being back after being off for a while. He didn't look that rusty to me last week. Defensively, what can you say? They've given up in the last three games, seven points, three points and seven points. That's pretty good in the National Football League. They're sixth in the league defensively. They're No. 1 in points allowed. What more can you say about them? They have a formidable front four, a solid group of linebackers. (Jonathan) Vilma a rookie, run all over the place. (Eric) Barton is a very good football player. (Marcus) Robertson and (Jason) Ferguson, those two guys are special. Shaun Ellis is another special guy. You lose a guy like (John) Abraham and you can bring in a No. 1 pick in Bryan Thomas, so they've got some pretty good depth there. It's going to be a big challenge for us - obviously the biggest we've had to this point. They way the team is playing and their record notwithstanding, this is a very formidable opponent we're facing.
Bill, a couple of weeks ago, you sounded optimistic about Chad
Scott, what's going on?
I'm still optimistic. He's been able to run straight ahead, but
when he starts trying to cut and start and stop, we're not really to
that point yet. I guess, just for the interest of time, I'm not elaborating on the injuries. We could make this a whole injury
report. But I'm optimistic, but he's out this week and we'll see
where he is next week. That's where we are.
What about Kendrell? You mentioned when he went out he
might require surgery. Has that been ruled out?
Yes it has. He's lifting and making progress, but it's slow.
Coach, one more injury question. Plax ran a little before the
game, did he say he wanted to play?
He was not 100 percent. At this point with him, the amount of
football we have left, he's got to be 100 percent or real close to it
for us to put him out on the field.
What are your impressions of Herman (Edwards)? He takes a
lot of heat for playing it close to the vest.
Herm's a good football coach. He has played the game,
coached the game down there with Tony (Dungy). He was on the personnel side, that's where I met him in Kansas City. I played
with him to in Philadelphia. Herm understands the game. He
understands players. He has an ability to communicate to them.
He's a good football coach. He understands what this game is
involved with. He's up in New York and dealing with that on a
regular basis - better him than me. But he's done a great job.
They had a tough year last year like we did. The year before, they
were in the playoffs. He's done a very good job and they've got a
very good football team. Even the games they've lost have been
close. Their record could very easily be like ours and ours like
theirs. We could be reversed, very, very easily. I think he's done
an excellent job.
What do you see as some of the reasons they've been so
effective in the second half of games?
They haven't been too bad in the first halves either - seven, three
and seven. I don't know. They're playing good defense. They've
got good team speed. They'll mix it up, give you some different
looks you have to be prepared for. Right now, they're playing very
solid, very inspired football. To be 9-3 and two games behind the
leader in your division, they're playing with a little bit of an
Again, at this time of year, that's the type of games you're going
to play. We're going to be in for a dog fight Sunday. It's going to
be a physical football game not unlike what we just went through
Sunday night. It's going to be a close game. We're going to have
to play our best football to beat this team. I don't think there's
question about that.
You talked about having to play your best football at the end of
the season. Are you doing that now, or did you do it when you
beat New England and Philadelphia back to back?
It's hard to say? Every game takes on its own identity, so to
speak. They may not always be pretty wins. You may hit some
plays early and a game can look on the outside a lot more
lopsided than it really is. Or a game can be closer than it may
really have been. I think what we did Sunday night, we took some
steps forward. I really believe that. I thought we played very good
run defense against a team that was set on running the football.
We're going to get a good test this week. This is a team that's
No. 3 in rushing offense. They're just behind us. Curtis Martin
and Lamont Jordan, behind that offensive line, this will be a test.
But we did a good job in the running game. We gave up some
big plays in the passing game and we gave up some third and
longs, those are things we have to get rectified. But we said
going in, the two guys we wanted to take away were Fred Taylor
and Jimmy Smith. Troy Edwards made some plays, I give him
credit. And (Byron) Leftwich made some throws in there that
were tight spirals. We played some zone at times and he found
the voids in there. I give them credit too. I thought we played well
offensively. First two possessions we go down the field, 70
yards-plus, two touchdowns. The second half, the first two
possessions we get, we have two penalties that negate. The first
possession, we have the ball inside the 30 and we have a
penalty that sets us back. We had a couple of sacks that stopped
some drives. And then obviously the last drive of the game. I
thought we were very solid in the kicking game again. Our
coverage teams were good. I think we're getting a little better in
the kickoff return. I was encouraged there. Ricardo (Colclough)
kind of got that ball stripped from him, but he had a pretty good
seam there if he could have hit it. They did a good job punting it,
they didn't give (Antwaan Randle) El a lot of opportunities. That
kid punted the heck out of the ball. And obviously the big kick at
the end of the game. We're doing some things well, but each
week is going to be a bigger challenge. And obviously we've got
a big challenge this weekend.
You've faced Curtis Martin a number of times. What problems
does he present?
He hits things very quickly. He's a downhill, slashing runner with
speed. He's like a big back that can run fast. You give him a
crack, he's going to hit it. Fred Taylor, he's more of a pick and
choose and if he sees something, he's got the speed to hit it,
Curtis is hitting that thing downhill. He runs like a big back with
speed and he is running very hard, very inspired. He looks a lot
younger than the years he has experience. He looks good. Then
you bring a guy like Lamont Jordan in and he's not too shabby
Do (Ben) Roethlisberger and Chad Pennington share some
Oh, another MAC quarterback. I don't know. It's early to say. Chad
has been a top quarterback a little bit longer. He's proven
himself. There are a lot of similarities. I think Ben's probably a
guy that would run with the ball a little more frequently than Chad
would. Chad's got a great feel for the game. You knew that
coming out. He can make all of the throws. Like I said, he's a guy
who will have a high percentage because he will not force
something. He'll take it. He's got a strong arm and he'll throw it
into cracks. But he'd just as soon dump it off and take some of
the things teams give him and let those guys make plays. He's a
very smart quarterback. They're both very good leaders. That's
the thing I look at with those three guys from that division. I don't
know if there's a correlation, but they've all come in and they're
very humble and they've worked hard. They all have great
leadership skills, unique in their own way. Certainly, being
around Ben, because he's here, you have a better feel for him.
But being on the outside looking in at Byron and Chad, they
handle themselves very well, very mature. They're very good
Did Staley look rusty and did you give him enough work?
Yeah. I think there are certainly a couple cuts he'll look at and maybe want to have back. But I thought he ran hard. I thought he ran fast, ran strong. You saw him a number of times pushing the pile. It was good to get him those carries so he can get back to seeing it. We've got to probably give Jerome a couple more carries than we gave him the other night. We're trying to keep both of those guys fresh.
How will the loss of Riemersma affect you? And is Matt Kranchick ready to contribute?
Matt has to be. He stepped in when Jay was down a couple weeks ago and played and did a good job for us. When you get Walter, it's from an experience standpoint. Matt Cushing's a good guy but he still has that big cast on his hand. Jereme (Tuman) has played very well. Walter's probably more of a run blocker than a pass catcher but Walter's a pretty good tight end. We just didn't want to lose anything from an experience standpoint and it's good to have him out there. If Matt's needed, he needs to step in. He's no different than anybody else on this team.
What did you think about your defense the other night?
We did a great job in the red zone. They scored one touchdown out of five. They had three field goals. We also let them get down there a few times, too. We had them pinned down there on the 2-yard line the one time with a great punt by Chris (Gardocki). We gave them a couple of big pass plays to get out of that situation, so we kind of put ourselves in some of those situations to be honest with you. And some of the time of possession that we didn't have on offense is because we didn't get off the field on third down on some of those third-and-longs. But you know what? The front seven, I don't know if they've ever played harder. I mean we were hitting Fred Taylor and you won't see many plays where there weren't two, three or four guys hitting him. And you can count on one hand the number of times he fell forward. It was big. At the end of the game, what we were able to do to get the ball back for the offense. We did what we said coming in. We didn't want to give up the big plays that we gave up to Troy (Edwards) and (Reggie) Williams over the middle, but we wanted to take away the two guys - Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor. And for the most part we were able to do that, so I thought defensively we did a lot of good things, and the things we didn't do well are very, very correctable.
Did Jacksonville do a good job picking up the blitzes?
Nah, it wasn't the offensive line. They kept the tight end and the back in. They were max-protecting. They only had three guys going out in coverage. Maybe you could put more guys back in coverage and say 'OK fine, you want to play that way,' which we've done. But the feeling was, even though they were picking up blitzes, we had to win some of those one-on-one rush opportunities. We couldn't let him sit back in there. A couple times we let him sit back in there and you try and play a zone and he was hitting the crack. We just did not want to give him time. I mean, we knew they were going to pick it up. They had practiced against it. But they only had three guys going out most of the time.
Why is James Farrior playing so well?
James has gotten better every year. He's very comfortable. I think he's a very natural inside 34 linebacker. He's a guy that can run. He's been a very good tackler. He has played very aggressive each year. I think it's just a comfort level he has right now with the guys he has around him and in this system. He's had a chance on third down to stay on the field. He never comes off the field. He's just been a guy who can drop back into coverage, run from sideline to sideline making plays in the running game. He's a guy who can beat backs in one-on-one situations, beat linemen at times. He can do a lot of things really well and he's got a great feeling for the game. I just think he's feeling very, very comfortable in this system, coming in here, being the third year, making all the calls and certainly become a leader for our defense.
How important is it to gain home-field advantage for the playoffs?
History has proven it's certainly the highest percentage way of getting to the Super Bowl. I think everyone is striving for that, so there's no question you want to play at home. It's big. There's no question you can feed off the crowd and it's a decided advantage for your defense when you have that noise being a factor for you, just in terms of getting off on the ball. Offenses will be late off the ball in pass protection or late off the ball in the running game. It can be a decided advantage for you.
Can it be motivation enough for players if all else is already determined?
I don't know. We'll find out.
Do you look at New England and their schedule and understand they'll probably win out?
Lookin at the New York Jets.
Do you celebrate the division title when you win it?
You certainly can't lose sight of the steps along the way. And if we're fortunate enough to win this division, that's certainly one of the steps. There's no question that's an achievement. We haven't accomplished anything but you certainly can achieve some things along the way, and there's a distinct difference between the two. Achieving that is the first step, but again keep it all in proper perspective.
Would it make it sweeter since you haven't won in a couple years?
No. To me, don't look at the year until the year is over. We're not reflecting on anything. We're in the middle of something right now.
Did you sense the Steelers fans dominating the road stadium?
It's great to have the following that we have, and they're great fans, but early in that game they got drowned out pretty good. On the first third down, when we were back in the shotgun, I didn't hear our fans. They were quiet but the other 60,000 were awfully loud. It's tremendously appreciated, and you see it when we're fortunate enough ahead in games at the end of games. They're the ones that are still hanging around, and you can hear them when everyone else is quiet. It's been like that, probably going back to the 70s and a lot of these people identify with our football team. It's great to see and great to feel when you go away.
What did Joey Porter do to draw the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty?
It was a conversation they had out there, and it warranted the flag. It was a real emotional game early. I blamed it on Troy (Polamalu). Troy started it and I was talking to him as he was coming off the field. Next thing you know Joey and James were all out there and the flag came. I blamed it on Troy. He's the one who started the whole things.
Loudmouth Troy. Do you believe that one?
It looked like Fred Taylor held Troy's leg. Did you see it?
Yeah, I couldn't see it. It was an emotional game. It was hard fought. It had a lot of the playoff atmosphere that you would expect. We knew coming in how they were going to approach it. There was a lot of talking being done prior to the game, during the game, particularly early. It had all the makings of a playoff-type atmosphere.
Is it a surprise Troy has developed so fast?
No. I don't think so. He's a guy that had a lot of skills. A year ago we moved him all over the place. We had him doing a lot of thinking. But I think it's paid dividends. Because of that, this year we've moved him around and he's just playing very natural football because he's been doing it a couple years ago. Did we suffer a little bit last year with him? Yeah, just from the standpoint of having him learn all the different things we do with our defense. He's a very bright guy, so you figure he can handle any and everything. And he always wanted more, then the more you gave him some thinking got involved, as all first-year players go through. What we may have stunted last year I think is paying huge dividends this year because he feels very comfortable with all the things we're doing with him.
Is there anything Ben Roethlisberger has to prove to you?
No. He's been solid, played very consistently. In this business you're judged by what you can do over an extended period of time, what you can consistently do week in and week out. He welcomes the challenge. He's leading this football team. He doesn't get overwhelmed with any situation he's faced with; he hasn't dwelled on any performances he felt were less than his standards; he's hard on himself, which is always a good quality. I think he'll just get better as he gains experience.
Would you mind if he went back on Letterman?
Why would you even bring that up?
Does he need to throw the ball away more or maybe check down a little more?
The sacks I can think of right now: I know they brought one more than we had to protect with on the third down, the one he didn't see until the last minute; there was another one on the play-action we got beat pretty quick; the other one he scrambled, which I wish he'd have thrown away over on the side. You say that and at the same time he's pulling it, he's stopping, he's holding it, then he comes back out and runs over here and throws it over here on a third-and-5 and he gets seven yards and we get a first down and you say great play. Now, was he supposed to throw it away? There's a fine line. It's hard to question him too much. Some of that stuff you don't want to take away from him. You don't want to harness him too much. I like the fact he's not turning the football over. You can overcome a punt a lot quicker than you can overcome an interception.
What about Lee Mays and Fast Willie Parker stepping up in the last two minutes?
I was happy for Lee because of his drop on third down earlier. I was really proud of him to come back with his head up, and the fact that Ben came back to him, didn't lose confidence in him, and he made two big catches going down the stretch. That's been something about this team. Every other week there's been somebody new stepping up. Willie made a big play on the draw and he almost split the thing. He almost took that thing all the way. It's been that type of team. Everyone has stayed prepared and when roles have presented themselves these guys are ready to take it. We're going to need that same approach as this season continues to unfold.
Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript
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