Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript

<b>Bill Cowher - </b>I'll give you an injury update after a short period of time, based on what we know today. Some of this could be updated as the week goes on. As of today, three guys are definitely out for Saturday's game:

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 yesterday?

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 confuse him?
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 lacks 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 explosive offense.

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.

Special teams?
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 half?
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 game.

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 of 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 Duce?
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 stretch.

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 guys?
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 defense.

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. There's 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 teams physically?
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 at 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 playing.

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 got through the first half. I thought he did fine.

You had no sacks. Was part of that the respect you had to show Curtis Martin?
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 thought 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.

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