Verron Haynes (knee), and he's the only guy that will not practice tomorrow but he should be ready to go Thursday, and the other four are Kendrell Bell (groin), Clark Haggans (groin), Antwaan Randle El (toe) and Deshea Townsend (hand). Everybody else is pretty much ready to go.
Obviously, having looked at the game I don't know if I feel any differently than after the game. Certainly it was a game that we were fortunate to come out of with a win. We did some good things, but we did some things that you normally don't win games doing, and that's allowing two returns for touchdowns. But we did win the football game and now recognize that there's a very big challenge in New England. New England is the defending champion until someone knocks them off. They should be favored as they are, and it's going to be a big challenge for our football team and one we're looking forward to this Sunday.
Do you think your team has a mental edge because it beat them earlier?
No, I don't. It was three months ago. And I don't know if you have an edge over New England when you get in the playoffs. They have proven the last few times they've been there they've not lost playoff games. Tom Brady's 7-0 in playoff games. I don't know what kind of edge that would give you.
With Corey Dillon playing for them, how do you change your game plan?
You've got to account for him. He's a great back we know all so well from playing against him those years in Cincinnati. We have a lot of respect for him and he just gives them another weapon. Tom Brady's a playoff-type of quarterback who's going to find ways of getting it done. They've got all their receivers healthy. They've got a very, very explosive offense and they don't beat themselves. They can present you with different challenges. I'm sure there'll be kind of a package-of-the-week that they'll come in and attempt to play us with. They may spread it out. They may come in and just try to hammer it with Corey. I think the biggest thing for us is to be able to be flexible enough to see what their approach is and have something to counter that with.
How much of a difference would he have made the first time? Or were you just so on offensively that it wouldn't have mattered?
I can't answer that. I don't deal with those types of hypotheticals.
Bill, after playing so many of these AFC championship games at home, have you learned down through the years? Have you changed anything in how you approach them the week of or anything like that?
No. I think every game has been a pretty good football game. We've just come out on the short end more times than not. But I think each game has had its own identity. I think we've been prepared to play every game. We just have not made the plays that you have to make in big games. I think that's the thing that's happened. The further you go into the playoffs, you're playing quality teams. You can't turn the football over and squander scoring opportunities. Those things have a way of staring you in the face at the end of a football game. This is a quality team we're playing this week and we recognize that. But we've worked hard to get here and I think everybody that's still in this thing right now - the four teams still standing - everyone realizes what's at stake. We're happy to be here. What we've got to do is try to seize this opportunity.
What was going through your mind when you watched what the Patriots' defense did to the Colts?
It was a good game. Certainly, I think when you watch it doesn't surprise you. I mean, Bill (Belichick)'s going to come up with some things to try and take away your strength. I'm sure that's going to be the same thing with us this week. He's going to look at that last game and he's going to counter things that we were able to do well and he'll come up with something that we probably haven't seen before. And the players have done a great job executing his plan. It's just a quality football team. One of the best things they did was control the football against a Peyton Manning. I mean, that's one of the best ways of controlling that offense and they did a great job of that. So it doesn't surprise you. They know how to play football this time of year.
If two teams want to possess the ball, what will determine who wins that?
Again, that's hard to say. Every game kind of has its own identity. You have to be able to do what you do best. At the same time, you've got to be able to make some adjustments in the game. Our M.O. all year has been trying to play mistake-free football and take away the big play on defense. Somewhere in there you'd like to think that we'll have some guys that can make plays. We still have to stay a patient football team and so I think again I don't know if there's any true secret. When you have two good football teams playing, some of the mistakes can be very glaring and good football teams have a way of capitalizing on that. So we've got to play aggressive but be patient.
Did Sean Morey run too far out of his lane on that punt?
No. His lane is to go right for the ball. He's the fullback on that.
It looked like three guys went right to the ball. What happened on that?
Well, three guys were heading to the ball until Santana (Moss) stopped and those three guys kept going, and he went where they weren't. Basically that was it. There was nobody left.
Coach, Coach Whisenhunt is going to call his first AFC championship game. How do you get him ready?
We're not going to deviate from what we've done to this point. We all recognize what's at stake. We all recognize the magnitude of the game, but you don't deviate from what you've done to get here. And we're not going to do that. I don't think anybody's going to do that. It's going to be a normal week as usual. We're playing a tough opponent. We've got to have a good week of work, stay focused. A lot more bodies are around but our guys are not going to change their approach. I don't see any reason to do that. We recognize the challenge we have. But it's just another football game that we've got to get prepared to play a very good football team.
Do you think having a playoff game under his belt will help Ben (Roethlisberger)?
Yeah, I do. He recognizes it. I like his understanding, his evaluation of the game himself. We had a chance to look at it yesterday. We came in. We talked about it, both sides of the ball, the things we need to be able to improve upon, some of the things we did well. I think we wanted to look at the game and put it behind us, cause you know, looking at that game we also recognize that's what New England's looking at as well. So we took that into account and we watched the game. They left here yesterday and come back here tomorrow. We're full-speed ahead focusing only on New England and not on the past.
What kind of psychological effect will the Jets game have on your players? Will they feel they've gotten away with one and know they have to play better?
Yeah, I guess all of that. It's a little naïve to say you don't feel fortunate coming out of that game. Like I said before, when you give up two returns for touchdowns you usually don't win those games. I don't know what the percentages are, but I know they're not high. So I mean we were able to get through it. The one thing I'll say is it's been a very resilient bunch. They just kept playing and we did what we had to do. There's a lot to be said for that, and at the same time there's no need to apologize for winning and no one should do so. We won the football game and we're moving on with a golden opportunity ahead of us on Sunday. That's the only thing we're worried about. We're not going to dwell on that win like you don't dwell on any win that we've had this year, whether it be good or ugly.
Where did you physicality come from and can New England match that?
We've had a lot of teams match it. That's just our approach to the game. It's no secret what we want to do. We like to try to establish the running game. The only way you're going to do that is take a very physical approach to it. We like to play aggressive defense. I think everyone recognizes that when they play us. We've had a lot of teams match that. We played a very physical game in Jacksonville. We played a very good New York Jets team twice that matched that. There's no question these guys will come in and match it, and it's going to come down to executing the plan within that approach, and to sustain that. It's one thing to be able to do it in the first series when the emotion is high. It's being able to do that also in the third and fourth quarters and being able to stay focused in the course of having that approach. That a lot of times will be the difference. We were in a lot of close games. That's the way we play the game. So when it happens you like to think we can continue to draw on our experience and draw on the sense that we feel when we go on the field that we will do what it takes to win football games. We've been able to play and have success doing it different ways each week. However this game unfolds we've got to be able to do that again on Sunday.
Will you make sure that Ben wears the gloves all week if he's going to use them in the game?
He's got to assess that. I'm not going to sit here and tell him what to do in regards to that. Just throw the ball to the receiver, with or without the glove. I really don't want to get into the idiosyncrasies. I know everyone's worried about his thumb. I didn't know anything about his thumb. He said it wasn't fitting right. I don't ask those things. Just, the guy's open, throw it to him whatever that entails you wearing.
Were his problems the result of nerves? If not, what?
I don't know. I guess everything gets magnified this time of year. When he looks at it, the ball to Plax (Burress) sailed on him. His feet were spread out. And I think the other one he could've run for it and tried to flick it to El and it got picked off. Those were probably the two plays I look at. Like I said, we threw the ball with 1:57 to go on the first play. When he missed it and we got the ball back in the overtime, we threw the ball on the first play there. That should tell you we have confidence in the guy. That speaks volumes. And he made some throws he needed to make, the third-down throw to Hines (Ward). I have all the confidence he'll do what it takes. It's a big football game but it's another game. He'll learn from the last one just like he'll learn from future games that he gets involved in.
There was also the fade to Plax. Was the ball thrown to wear it was supposed to be? Or was Plax supposed to go more inside?
Oh, I don't know. I'm not sure which one you're talking about. Down by the goal line?
Yeah, right in the end zone.
No. He threw it where he wanted to throw it, just a little bit overthrown.
He did well against them the first time. How much does that help? Or will he see something totally different?
Oh, he'll see something different. You can take that to the bank. But it's been like that all year. It's like I said, the Jets didn't do anything differently we hadn't seen, you've got to go out there and execute. You've got to trust what you see. There are going to be times you get one-on-one match-ups. We wanted to throw it up there and somehow make a play. If you don't make a play, it's an incomplete pass but I like taking a shot and I don't want to discourage that. It's like asking if I'm concerned about him running around. I'm not concerned about him running around. He's made a lot of plays. We're not sitting here today if it wasn't for him doing some of the things he's done all year. Let's not lose sight of that. If you want to just look at his last game and analyze it, overanalyze it. I'm not going to overanalyze it. Certainly there are some choices he made and I'm sure he'd like to have them back, for all of us. But it was what it was. We overcame it, we're moving on to the next week and we're not going to lose the approach that's got us to where we are today.
Is it possible you can pay too much attention to what Belichick might do?
Bill's a good coach. Don't get me wrong. He's done a heck of a job. I love the way his team plays. I love his respect for the game. I have nothing but respect for the guy. But to me it's not so much a reflection of Bill as it is just playing the New England Patriots. You've just got to understand what their approach is to the game. So I don't think it's a mystique or anything else. It's just you've got to understand going in that what you see isn't always going to be what you get. That being the case, you're going to anticipate some things based on the looks we get, but just understand going in there are no guarantees that it's going to be how we talked during the week. I don't think it's any
over-analyzation. That's what you've got to understand when you go play New England because they are very well coordinated in what they do. They'll try to take away your strength and make you beat them with what they perceive as your weakness. That's been his philosophy since he's been up there and they've done a pretty good job of it on a pretty regular basis based on their record.
Is their defense more complex than most you've faced?
Will you start Jerome Bettis again?
Considering the way Duce Staley was running last week, might you use him more often this week?
There's a good chance of that.
How about Kendrell Bell?
He will not start. We'll see how he is as the week goes on. He's probable.
They use (receiver) Troy Brown in their secondary. Did you ever consider doing anything like that?
Well, I think they got into a situation where they didn't have a whole lot of options. All of the sudden the guy comes in -- he played it in college -- and Troy played it pretty well. Bill's done that. They've got (Mike) Vrabel playing tight end and (Richard) Seymour as a fullback. It's not unusual for them doing those types of things. Troy's a great athlete. He's another guy that this time of year you'd better be aware of. They've got him back there now returning punts. We don't have to re-hash. I know what happened three years ago so you don't have to ask me. I know about it. So he's a good football player.
What do you make of Chris Gardocki not having had a punt blocked? Is there something in his technique that's allowed this streak?
The thing I've seen is he's quick, quick and aware. He's got the ability to get things off as fast as he needs to.
Coach, have you seen any reaction from the team to being a three-point underdog?
No. We just met yesterday. I don't think we're too caught up in any of that. We recognize the opportunity we have and we also recognize the big challenge we have. We're playing the best team in football. They're the defending champs. Until somebody beats them, they're on top so they should be favored.
Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript
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