Bill Cowher press conference for Houston

Opening statement: Let me give you the health status for this week in Houston. One player is doubtful, that would be Jerome (Bettis) with his calf. He's getting better, but he's obviously on the down side of playing this week. We'll look and see where he's at. Duce (Staley) is questionable with his knee. Again he will work tomorrow and we'll try to keep you updated with his status.

Bill Cowher: And we have eight players probable. We have Ben (Roethlisberger) with a left knee, it's a bone bruise; Marvel (Smith) with a knee, he's got a sprain; Max Starks with an ankle; Clark (Haggans) with a groin; Alan Faneca with a quad; Joey Porter with a knee; Hines (Ward) with a back; and Willie (Williams) with a groin. So again all of those players are probable. Some will work tomorrow, some will be limited somewhat. All of those players are probable. As we prepare this week heading down to Houston, the thing we have to remember is that Houston is coming off of a tough loss. I think they've come into this season with higher expectations than any year since they've had that franchise down in Houston. They haven't played at home in three weeks. Their last two preseason games were on the road, they opened up on the road. This is their home opener. There will be a lot of excitement I think. It will be a challenge for our football team to match that energy. The noise will be a factor, the heat will be a factor. There's a lot of things we're walking into that we have to be aware of and it's going to be a challenge for our football team. Their defense is a lot like ours from a standpoint of scheme-wise. Coach (Dom) Capers still uses the 34 defense. They have good players that run it. They played very well last week. I think the big thing was a lot of the turnovers that Houston had against Buffalo. They kept holding to field goals. It's a testament to their defense. And offensively, they've got a lot of weapons. Domanick Davis is a solid running back. Andre Johnson is a Pro Bowl receiver. David Carr is a guy who is very, very mobile, probably a lot like the guy we played last week. They definitely have done a good job of upgrading their offensive line. I think this is nowhere close to the team we played two years ago. They're a much better football team. Like I said, they're a team that has gotten better every year and they've got some high expectations and it's their home opener. I think we're looking at a pretty big challenge for our team this week.

Q: They really did look like they had issues on offense the other day. Was that something Buffalo was doing or just the thing that jumped out?
BC: Buffalo's a pretty good defense and they were playing on the road. The ball didn't bounce right a couple of times and Buffalo tends to make you look that way. They've done that to a lot of teams, not just Houston.

Q: Marvel Smith's injury, did somebody twist his knee in the pile?
BC: I'm not sure. I know he came off the field after the quarterback-center exchange issue.

Q: Sometimes things like that happen in some of these pile ups.
BC: I'm not aware of it.

Q: Is it hard to assess Carr as a quarterback because of the offensive line in front of him?
BC: It's hard for me to assess it. I'm not with the guy on a daily basis. I do know that they have done a good job every year of surrounding him with some weapons and creating some stability on the offensive line. Just looking at him as I studied him a little the past couple of days, he is an outstanding athlete. He's got a strong arm. He's got Andre Johnson. We had the opportunity to coach him at the Senior Bowl. Being around him, that's a special player. I think, again, that's a team with a lot of high expectations and I can see why. There are a lot of good football players on that team.

Q: Did you make a move?
BC: Not yet. We'll make one this afternoon sometime.

Q: How did Ike (Taylor) play in the game and will he start?
BC: I have not made that determination at this point, but I thought he played very well. I thought he did a lot of good things. He tackled very well. He was in position when he needed to be in position. I thought he played a solid game.

Q: A lot has been made of whether Willie (Parker) will be able to hold up over the long haul. It looked like he enjoyed (the contact) the other day?
BC: I enjoyed it.

Q: Is he aware of that? Is he out to prove that is not the case?
BC: I don't know that he's out to prove anything. Willie's a good football player, but we're going to need everybody. When you get an opportunity to play, be prepared to take advantage of it. We talked about this season, the one thing you ask these players to do is take a very unselfish approach. It could be somebody else this week. That's the thing we just can't get caught up in. We can't rely on one guy to do it. You take it upon yourself to play within this system, to play together, to play with a degree of trust. However a game unfolds, you have to have the right mindset to do that. Willie is a very unselfish player. He's a good football player. And he gives us an element as a running back that some of these big guys don't have. I think he's got outstanding speed and he showed for the first time the other day that he can carry the ball that many times. We've never seen him carry it that much, although he did last year a little bit against Buffalo, which is why there's not a lot of aprehension on my part. A lot of people talk about that game. That game, while it was not meaningful for us, it was veyr meaningful for Buffalo. At that point you could see. He's probably a little better runner today than he was last year. He showed some pretty good skills last year.

Q: Does he do everything required of a running back besides running?
BC: Yeah. He knows where he needs to be. He can catch the ball. He's a good blocker. He's been prepared to be a third-down back for us, so he knows what he's doing there. We've got a lot of good backs. Verron (Haynes) did an outstanding job there as well the other day. To have Duce and Jerome, hopefully back, it will be a nice problem to have. All of those guys are a close group of guys. The only thing they are interested in is winning football games. We've got to do a good job of keeping them all invloved. But certainly the other day was a pretty special game by Willie.

Q: Could Duce be a third-down guy if he plays this Sunday?
BC: We'll see. There's always that possibility, yes.

Q: Did his inside running impress you watching it?
BC: Yeah, he did. I just like the patience with which he's running, understanding the situations. It's third down and one and he was able to keep the feet going and get the first down. He played patient. He played calm. I know he exudes some emotion at times, which is fine. But he'd come back after a long run and you think you have to take him out, but he was very relaxed out there and he played well.

Q: Coach, can you talk about Heath Miller, your first round draft choice (in case you forgot). It seems like he's done everything right from start to finish.
BC: He has. His blocking has been excellent. I think the thing between him and Jeremy, and Jeremy had an outstanding camp and first game, I think those two guys give us two guys who are not only blocking well at the line of scrimmage, but they give us two guys who can stretch the field as well. Heath has picked up a lot. We move him around a lot, so it is impressive to see how quickly he has picked things up and not made mistakes. Him and Jeremy both played very good games last week.

Q: Is he turning into more of a pass-catching weapon that fans are always clamouring for you to throw it to?
BC: We had two catches the other day. We only had, what, nine catches total. Those guys are good. We'll need those guys. We've got some unselfish guys on this team and I'm proud of that. We're going to need the passing game to be something that's going to have to carry us at times when we run into some of the inconsistencies that will be there in the running game. When people try to take that away, we've got to be able to throw the ball. We're going to need those guys. Those two guys have been an integral part of both the passing game and the running game.

Q: On the touchdown pass to Miller out of the double tight end package, had you thrown a lot out of double tight end packages before?
BC: I don't know what you'd constitute a lot. We've thrown enough would be the best way to answer that. We've thrown enough to keep people honest.

Q: Can you pinpoint why the passing game was able to click after it had been so sporadic?
BC: We only threw it 11 times, it's not like we've arrived. I'm not concerned with that. I'm not ready to sit here and say everything is set with one game. I've said this before, the first month of the season, you're creating an identity. It's not what you do in one game. It's not what you'll do in two games, in that first month, you become who you are. You find out about people, because again, you have to do things week-in and week-out. You have to play at a consistent level. I'm not ready to make any final judgements or pass judgements on any element of this football team until we're able to see an ability to do something week-in and week-out. Again, what I to see more than anything else is that we had three penalties, all post-snap penalties. We overcame them all. We had zero turnovers and four takeaways. I like that. That's not beating yourself. And you play physically, you play hard and you don't beat yourself, a lot of times you're going to come out on the winning side of a football game. I think we've got a ways to go from an execution standpoint. To me we still haven't shown the ability to do it week-in and week-out. We've played one game and I'm not ready to pass judgement on any element of out football team, offense, defense or special teams, based on that one game.

Q: How many games will it take?
BC: I said a month.

Q: The last time you played these guys, was that as bizarre a football game as you have ever been involved with?
BC: Oh. Bizarre is a good word. I remember the game, but this morning, I was looking at the stats of the game. We lost by what? What was the final score, 20-7. They had 47 yards and we had over 400 yards of offense. It was a really bizarre game. That was a weird year.

Q: That game cost you home-field advantage in the playoffs.
BC: Were talking about this year and now we're going back to 2003? I don't know. Did it?

Q: Yeah it did.
BC: Thanks for the memories.

Q: You weren't exactly thrilled with what happened early with the defense. When you looked at it again, did it look better or the same?
BC: We gave up 180 yards in the first half, they had a 57-yard pass and a 35-yard run. That first series, we weren't real sharp. They hit a couple of runs against us. But we settled down. They moved the ball. We had two big turnovers in the red zone. That was big. The players understand too. We weren't in right fits during the game at times. We did a lot of good things, don't get me wrong. We played hard, came off the ball. Tackling was a little inconsistent, but we did make some good tackles. We did a good job disguising coverages and those things. There were some things we did well. Taking the ball away four times and holding a team to seven points is a big part of it. We certainly can play better, I think, and we need to play better.

Q: As you build and identity, how important was the win in building some confidence?
BC: I don't know how much we're grasping for. Any time you win, it breeds a degree of confidence. The fact that we didn't play our crispest game but still found a way to win, allows us to look at it objectively and not lose sight of the fundamentals of doing the little things it takes to win football games. Again, I refer to not beating yourself, not turning the ball over, playing good situational football, stopping them in the red zone and scoring when we're in the red zone. Those are the types of things the game comes down to. The execution part of it, I'd like to think that will get better. Certainly from a first-game standpoint, it was probably pretty good. There are some things we can do better execution wise. But you still have to go into a game with an approach that allows you to be physical yet disciplined. You have to be decisive, yet smart. It's a fine line that you're walking to do those things, but that has been a line this football team has learned to walk pretty well.

Q: Even though you only threw 11 times, he spread it around to six receivers. Is that something we're going to see a lot of?
BC: I can't sit here and say. I don't know how this is going to evolve. I wish I could sit here with a crystal ball and tell you, but I really don't. We've got to continue to take strides each week. How these games unfold, I don't know. But it's like we were a year ago, we're going to need to come from behind. We're going to have to find ways to win. I think we're going to need every one of those receivers, offensive linemen and backs at some point this season. And keep finding ways to win football games. I'm sure it will unfold a little differently each week.

Q: At this point, if everyone gets healthy who wasn't healthy last week, will you be able to dress an extra offensive lineman?
BC: I could. I guess I could.

Q: Usually you liked to have three offensive linemen on the bench?
BC: Never. I think one game we had three. Usually it's two. Usually we carry seven offensive linemen going in. One of the reasons is it's Chukky (Okobi) and Barrett (Brooks). One reason is special teams too. I can't keep eight offensive linemen who aren't going to give you a lot in the kicking game or keep up a seventh linebacker, Andre Frazier, who helped us in the kicking game. The kicking game has a lot to do with the makeup of who you're keeping up on that day. If I keep eight, it may be because of a health issue. Somewhere else you're going to pay the piper. You're limiting some of those packages. The heat was a concern the other day with Joey. Then I had Clark with a groin and James (Harrison) with a hamstring. I didn't like the thought of that with 80 degree weather. I had to get Andre up on Saturday.

Q: If Marvel has a problem, will put Barrett in or will you swing Max (Starks) over from the right side and put Barrett there.
BC: Barrett will play there. He's a versatile guy. He can play guard as well. That's the nice thing about having him up. Versatility becomes a big part of the gameday roster. While they may not be the guy you would put in there if you knew you were going to lose a guy for two or three weeks, they might be the guy you put in there for a game. You have to know more than one position.

Q: Did Andre Frazier make the club or make your move today tough?
BC: He played well.

Q: Coach, the offensive linemen on the right side, how'd they do?
BC: I thought Kendall (Simmons) and Max played well. We missed some things at times, but they played well. Starks is a good player. I thought the offensive line was really pretty solid. We ran the ball for 200 yards and Willie made some guys miss, but they did a good job up front.

Q: Given that Willie did so well, would you take more of conservative approach with Jerome and Duce?
BC: I don't know if it's just because of Willie, but with any player, you don't want to put them out there too early, especially at this point in the season. We're fortunate that we have Willie and Verron and we've got Noah Herron healthy. We're fortunate that we don't need to push a guy with Duce and Jerome. They've got to feel comfortable. I've got to see them run and I've got to see them jumpcut and accelerate. They have to feel comfortable and I have to feel comfortable to put them out there. It's the same thing I told Joey last week, he can't be out there avoiding contact when he hasn't been out there in a month. I need to see him take on the tight end. I need to see him put his head into a pile and not worry about the knee. It's more for their sake, but I think it's not fair to the football team to put a guy out there who's not ready to play. Our guys understand that. We'll do the right thing.

Q: An concerns in the kicking game?
BC: The kicks weren't as deep as you'd like them, but had good hang time. They did a good job. they caught the ball at the 10 or 11 a couple of times, it's still not bad coverage. They only got 20 yards on the return. I thought our coverage teams were pretty good.

Q: Any advantage on either side with the 3-4?
BC: I don't think you can surprise. I think it's going to come down to execution. We'll have a good week of work and not have to worry about any extra protections. From that perspective, it's not going to be that much of an issue.

Q: Does it help with more teams playing it?
BC: It helps the teams that we're playing. For us, it was always a bit of an advantage because teams only had one week to prepare for it. The last couple of years with more teams going to it, there's not much of an advantage.

Q: Are they going to it more because you're successful with it?
BC: I don't know. I don't think so. Maybe there's more coordinators that feel comfortable doing it. And maybe you're finding more 245-pound defensive ends and you can make them a linebacker like the kid down in Dallas (DeMarcus Ware). It's hard to say.

Q: How important is the nose tackle?
BC: It's critical. Seth Payne is the guy they've got down there. They've got good linebackers. I'll say this, people have always talked about linebackers and linebackers are important because they make the plays. But if you don't have three good down linemen, you'll find that your linebackers aren't as productive. Our down guys are very important. People are recognizing that. Aaron Smith and Casey (Hampton) and Kimo (von Oelhoffen) and Chris Hoke and Travis Kirshke and (Brett) Keisel. We're able to now, we rotate those six linemen. Hopefully that will help you not just during the course of a game, but through a season. They won't wear down. I think the 34 defense, people talk about the linebacker and they are important, but the linemen are critical.

Q: Dom didn't come from a 3-4.
BC: No they ran a little.

Q: You converted him quickly?
BC: Yeah. We had a nice mix with Dom and (Dick) LeBeau and Marvin (Lewis).

Q: They're all 3-4 guys now.
BC: No Marvin's gone back to the 4-3.

Q: Do the penalties give you an idea of the focus?
BC: Yeah. Every time you go out there, you're in a quest for an identity. And it's how your perform. How you perform is how prepare. That goes back to how you prepare on the practice field and in the meeting rooms. Respect everybody you're playing week in and week out and everything will take care of itself. This is a good football team. I know how we would be if we were backed into a corner. And that's how I think this team will be. We're going to get their best shot. Don't underestimate this team, they've got a lot of of good football teams.

Q: New England?
BC: We don't look ahead. Houston is the only team we're worried about.

Q: The roof?
BC: I'd like to have it closed with air conditioning on, but I don't think they'll do that.

Q: Advantage for them?
BC: Yeah. We'll have our black jersies on, but we had them on last week. We'll be all right.

Steel City Insider Top Stories