Kendrell Bell with the groin, Chad Scott with the knee; and Clark Haggans with the groin. Clark's injury is going to be at least two weeks, so he'll be out the next two weeks and then we'll take it week to week after that. Questionable are three guys, Plaxico (Burress) with his hamstring, James Farrior with a shoulder, and Verron Haynes with his knee. And we have four guys that are probable: Chidi (Iwuoma) with a shoulder; Troy (Polamalu) with a shoulder; Duce (Staley) with his hamstring; and Brett Keisel with a hamstring. Certainly I guess yesterday's game was a good team win. When you sit down and look at it, defensively I thought we played very well throughout the game. We had three big takeaways against a team that was No. 1 in the league with the fewest giveaways. That was huge. We did a good job containing Curtis Martin. I thought we played solid all day defensively. Offensively, it was a tale of two halfs. The first half, we were 0-5 on third downs and consequently, we were never able to get anything started. In the second half, we were 5 of 6 on third down and had two scoring drives of 70 yards and 80 yards. I thought we did a lot of good things in the second half of that game, particularly defensively. I thought the kicking game was very solid. I thought kickoff coverage was good, punt coverage was very good against a very good returner. Jeff (Reed) hit the one field goal we tried and hit it really solid, right down the middle. I thought our kicking game was very solid. It was a good win for us. Now on the short week we have to play a Giants team that's coming home off a tough loss. This is a big game for us from a standpoint of trying to sustain the opportunity we've created for ourselves. You don't want to come off playing an emotional game like we played yesterday and everything gets lost if you don't follow it up with a good performance and that's what we face this week.
Of all the division titles you've won, is this one the most special
because of the makeup of the team?
I can't answer that yet. You're asking me to reflect back on a
season and this season isn't over yet.
Will James Harrison start? If so, will he stay on special teams.
Yes. And the kicking game, we'll have to see. He won't have the
same role as when he was backing up.
Will you mix in Alonzo Jackson with Harrison as you did
Do you do that to get a good look at Alonzo for the first time, or is
that because of Harrison's shoulder?
No, we just feel like it's a good chance to keep them both
involved in the game.
When you face a young quarterback like Eli (Manning), do you
throw everything at him or do you try to mix things up and try to
We're just going to play our defense. We haven't had a whole lot
of time to look at him to be honest, but I think we have to continue
to do what we do best. That's going to be pressure, keeping
people back in coverage and trying to keep people off balance
between the two. We had the same situation yesterday when you
look at the Jets. They protected the quarterback and they kept
people in. We got free one time and he threw a hot (route). And
then he had to pull it down and he got a two-yard scramble that
wasn't a sack, but had the same effect as a sack. We've got to
continue to mix it up and not be predictable. Coach (Dick)
LeBeau has done a good job of doing that in there. We're going
to do what we do best.
Without that margin of error that you've had in the past, you just
have to win every game down the stretch, do you like that better?
Yeah, that's easy. Just win every week. I don't know if it does.
Right now, that's the way it is. Right now in the AFC, there is no
margin of error, there are a lot of good teams. This conference
right now, we're just one of a lot of really hot teams. There is no
margin of error. Everyone's playing with that same edge, whether
you're winning or trying to stay in the hunt. There's a line that
everyone's kind of walking in the AFC because of it.
Can you talk about - for the 1,000th time - what James Farrior
means to this defense. Joey Porter said yesterday he might be
the best defensive player in the NFL.
I think if you would look from a production standpoint, I don't
know if there's a more productive defensive player. There may be
some better pass rushers. There may be some better
interceptors. But when you look at a guy who plays the run the
way he plays the run, who plays the pass the way he plays the
pass, look at the production that this guy has - interceptions,
caused fumbles, fumble recoveries, sacks - and does the
things we ask him to do, I don't think there's a more productive
player in the National Football League. There may be some guys
who are more productive at what they do, but this guy can play
the run. He has made big hits inside the tackle box. He makes
big plays outside the tackle box. He drops back into coverage.
He rushes the quarterback, sets the defense. He's having a very,
very productive year.
What's been the big difference between this year and last year?
His whole play has just been a comfort level. He's in his third
year playing a new position for him since he came here a couple
of years ago. He's playing very instinctively. He's playing very
decisively. He's just playing with a lot of confidence. He not only
knows what he's doing, he knows what everybody else is doing.
I think a lot of the defensive players right now, they feel very
comfortable, we can make adjustments easily because they
know conceptually, not just what they're doing, but what we're
trying to do defensively. He's just spearheading that and he's got
a lot of good players around him.
Before the draft, what struck you about (Eli) Manning and what
made him different than Ben (Roethlisberger)?
I haven't had a chance to look at him now. Coming out, I thought
those three stood out above all the other guys. Eli's a guy who
has a good feel for the game, obviously is a student of the game.
You can tell just from talking to him that he was able to do that.
He's got excellent mobility. And he can make all of the throws.
He's got accuracy. He can make all of the touch throws. He can
drive it if he needs to drive it. I think again, the only thing he
in being a successful quarterback is experience. I think he will
be successful in time. I don't think there's any question. I think
he's got a bright future ahead of him.
Coach, is the best way for a guy to learn like Eli Manning, even
when he's struggling, to just let him play?
It's hard to say. Every situation is different. Who am I to sit here
and pass judgment on what they should and shouldn't be
doing. Tom (Coughlin) certainly knows his team better than I do.
He's had a lot of success in this league. They've had a lot of
injuries in New York. I know that. You look at that defensive
group, they've had a ton of injuries. It makes it tough. There's a
ripple down effect when that happens. Tom is staying with him.
He's got a good guy in Kurt Warner, who's been very supportive
of him. Sometimes there are going to be some growing pains. I
just hope he doesn't grow up too quick against us. I hope his
pains continue for a least one more week because I'm telling
you, this guy can do all of the throws. He's still got (Amani)
Toomer, Ike Hilliard and (Jeremy) Shockey is one of the best
tight ends in the game. Tiki Barber is a top-notch running back. I
know there are some weapons around him. The last thing we
want to do is let him get into a groove and for that offense to get
into a groove because they have the potential to be a very
Despite those injuries, their defense is still ranked in the top 10.
Can you talk about the job Tim Lewis is doing?
I haven't studied them enough to really answer that question, but
given the injuries they've had, he must be doing a lot of good
things with what he's got. Those guys I know are playing hard.
Like I said, they lost some tough games and had some tough
things go against them. I'm sure Tim's going to have them
playing hard, he's always been very good at that wherever he's
been. I think he's taken this group, he's working with them and
they're playing hard for him.
How did Harrison play on Sunday?
He played well. He played good. He stepped in just like he did
when Joey (Porter) went down. He played solid. Hopefully
between him and Alonzo, they'll step in and get the job done until
Clark gets back.
What do you lose in Clark and how's he been playing?
Clark's played very solid, him and Joey both. Those guys hold
the corner really well. Clark has a lot of energy, like Joey. They're
very athletic. They can plays rushing the quarterback. They can
make plays in space. James has done well. He has stepped in
and like a lot of people on this team, when one guy has gone
down, another guy has stepped in and we don't expect a drop-off.
James did a good job the other day.
Some of those guys will continue to play and other guys will step
in. It's a trickle-down effect. That's the way it's been. It's a good
core on this team, they know how important the kicking game is.
We'll certainly monitor how much they play in the kicking game,
but they won't be dismissed from it. The starters will be a part of
it, always have been. We will not underestimate the importance
of a good kicking game.
Why was the third down production so much better in the second
It's hard to say. In the first half, we had some third and fours and
third and fives, which you want to be in. We just executed better
in the second half. Give credit to them, that's a good defense.
Nothing came easy against them. That's a good football team.
They will be in the playoffs and they will make some noise in the
playoffs. That's a good football team. The game was really what
you expected going in, a game that was going to be decided in
the second half. We just happened to make a couple of more
plays than they did and that was really the difference in the
Is Duce's injury still bothersome to him. He said he's having a
tough time accelerating? Did you notice that?
I think it's not as strong as it once was. I think there's a degree
weakness. I think it probably feels good for a while, but the
strength isn't there endurance-wise through the course of a
game. So I would think he's going to get stronger as each week
goes on. He's getting there.
Does that impact how much you'll use Jerome (Bettis) with
Jerome's running well. You can't dismiss that. We'll continue the
way we're going and if we feel any need at all, we'll put Jerome
in there. I think Duce made some good cuts, but you can't
dismiss that Jerome Bettis is running very well right now. It's
good to have him healthy and the way he is going down the
The last couple of weeks, the offense has been able to come
together late in games, to pull together and make big drives late
in games, does that tell you anything about the makeup of those
We've been playing well late in games. Earlier on, we were
playing well early in games. If we can kind of get that early thing
going like it was and keep the late thing going like it is now,
that's what you'd like. But we're doing things you like. We're
playing smart football and we're playing physical football. And
we've been responding to situations and kept our poise. We've
done what we've had to do. But we've played some pretty good
football teams. I don't think we should be passing judgment too
much on us and not giving credit where credit is due with some
of the teams we're playing. Jacksonville is a good football team.
New York (Jets) are a good football team. Some of the
ineffectiveness that we've had, you have to give some of that
credit to the teams we've been playing. They're tough on
How much of a factor is it that your team believes it's going to
win? Confidence is a factor.
It is. It's one of those things that you certainly can ride it.
a feeling now that if we don't beat ourselves, somewhere along
the way, we'll have some playmakers that will make a play.
That's being patient, not forcing the game, or trying to do more
than your own job and trusting the guy next to you. There's a fine
line because you get tested with that patience. You may feel like
you need to force the issue a little bit. But we've done a good job
of staying focused, staying patient. And somewhere along the
way, we have made plays to reinforce that approach. Again, it's a
group of guys who have been very resilient, very focused and we
need to continue to do that.
How much of being able to win late is because you wear down
That's our approach to games. People have certainly matched it
the past couple of weeks. We know what we're getting in to. You
get on top as we are right now, there's a bull's-eye that goes with
it. We're bringing that nature out in every team, getting the best
they have to offer. It's something we have to continue to match,
week in and week out. You try to take care of them during the
week. We haven't had the pads on the last few weeks because
of that. You can't go out there and keep asking these guys to
continue to play the way we've been playing and lose it on the
practice field. There's a fine line because preparation is
everything for us. It's very important that guys be out there on the
field, even if it's not in pads. We need to be out there practicing
a fast pace with focus and we've been able to do that pretty
much. It is important to get out there on the practice field. We had
to rest more guys that we wanted to last week, but we've got to
go out and continue to prepare. We're going to get that approach
from teams every week. They're going to match us, but it's the
ability to sustain it that's going separate us from the teams we're
How important is it to get Plaxico back out there?
It's important to get him out there, but it's also important to get
him healthy. You're dealing with a position and an injury that you
have to be very careful, particularly with some of the weather
we've had. I think given a hamstring with a receiver, we've got to
be careful. (Antwaan Randle) El has stepped up. Lee Mays has
stepped up the last couple of weeks. And certainly Hines (Ward)
is always going to be there. These other guys have done a good
job, but we look forward to having him back. He'll be a big
addition to our offense, no doubt.
How do you think Alonzo did with his opportunity?
It looks like he did fine. I didn't have a chance to study it. I just
through the first half. I thought he did fine.
You had no sacks. Was part of that the respect you had to show
No, part of that is Chad Pennington. He doesn't get sacked a
whole lot. I think we said going in, don't base the pressure on
the sacks, base it on whether you have a chance to hit him and
let him feel your pressure. He is not a guy you're going to sack
that often. He's going to get rid of it, throw it quick. But I
we did a good job of pressuring him.
Any thoughts on Walt Harris leaving Pitt?
No. Walt did a great job when he was here. I don't know what
took place across the hall. I wish him nothing but the best. He
did a lot for turning the program around here in Pittsburgh.
Hopefully they'll get a good man to replace him.
Just about everybody I spoke to after the game yesterday had a
division champion ball cap tucked away because they wanted
more caps. Do you like that approach?
I want more caps too. It's a good achievement and something
we're proud of, but we're keeping it in its proper perspective.
Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript
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