Weekly Bill Cowher Press Conference

Opening Statement: OK, let me give you the injury update as we head into this week. Jerome (Bettis) is doubtful. He's doing better, he's been running, but at this point I would still list him as doubtful for this game. Three players are questionable. Duce (Staley) is questionable with his knee. He's doing fine. He should be practicing tomorrow. Bryant McFadden with a calf and Sean Morey with a hamstring.

Bill Cowher: Three players are probable. Chidi (Iwuoma) with a shoulder, Ben (Roethlisberger) with his back and Deshea (Townsend) with his foot. So really we're pretty healthy going into the game and like I said, we're playing the defending champions. This has nothing to do with last year or revenge. It's still week 3 of the regular season. Certainly, there is a degree of importance to it for both teams, certainly from New England's standpoint, they had a tough loss in Carolina last week. This is a team that's not used to losing, period. Back-to-back weeks is unheard of for New England. I think that compounds the challenge that we have this week. From our standpoint, it's a good barometer to see where we are. Certainly it's the best team we have played to this point and we'll find out a little bit about ourselves on Sunday.

Q: Coach, the quarterbacks who come back from a hit like Ben took, does the team respond to that kind of toughness?
BC: Ben's a tough guy. Any questions about that in my mind were answered down in Dallas a year ago. We went down there and it was very early, maybe the second or third start he made. He faced a blitz package that was sending everybody every snap. He took a lot of hits in that game. From that game on, I found out a little bit about him. This is a very competitive guy, a very tough guy. I don't think anyone has really questioned that part of him. He took some hits on Sunday and kept coming back and worked his way through the injury last week. He got himself prepared to play. It's a lot of credit to him and John Norwig and the training staff that he was able to get out there and perform at a high level.

Q: What would it be like if you lost both coordinators?
BC: We lost two last year and went 15-1.

Q: Good coordinators?
BC: Pardon me? I screwed your story up, huh? I don't think I want to go there. I think that football team is well run. The people who have taken over were in that system. I think there's a lot to say for that as well. I don't think you're seeing them missing a whole lot. I think that's a natural thing to think when you have a team coming off back-to-back Super Bowls. I don't think there's any question that Romeo (Crennel) and Charlie (Weis) had a great influence on their success. But Bill (Belichick) is still the head coach. As a head coach, you're preparing for that when you have coordinators that are starting to get a lot of notice. In the back of your mind you're preparing for that. Obviously his changes, they made were in-house and he felt comfortable with that. That's why I think there may have been a little bit of overreaction with those two guys, not to take anything away from those two guys. But the fact that he promoted from within, I think everyone feels comfortable with who they have.

Q: When you play a team or coach a lot, can they come up with something you haven't seen?
BC: No, not really. We know New England, New England knows us. It's a bit of a guessing game sometimes, but I'm sure, from their perspective, do they blitz Ben, do they drop eight into coverage? Are we going to spread it out? Are we going keep them packed in? Are they going to go 3-4 or 4-3? Is he going to go no-huddle and spread it out as they've done in their first couple of games? Ben Watson has become a big part of their offense, they didn't have him a year ago. There may be some things new, things you didn't have a year ago. I think it's a little bit of an adjustment that will take place coming into this game, but it's still going to come down to execution and us doing the things we've done these first two weeks, executing and playing smart and utilizing the opportunities that present themselves.

Q: Has that defense lost anything because of the absence of (Tedy) Bruschi or (Ted) Johnson?
BC: I think it's too early to assess that, but it doesn't look like it to me. The scary thing for us is that Richard Seymour didn't play in the championship game and now he's back healthy. You've got three No. 1 picks on that front line in (Ty) Warren, (Vince) Wolfork and Seymour. (Mike) Vrabel and (Willie) McGinnest are still playing at a high level. And Chad Brown and Monty Beisel, those guys are fine in there. I think they've upgraded themselves at corner. I know they've got some injuries there, but they've got a lot of depth now. Chad (Scott) is over there, and I'm sure we'll see a lot of Asante Samuel and (Duane) Starks. The defense looks pretty solid to me.

Q: They still switch back and forth a lot between the 4-3 and the 3-4, does that cause a problem?
BC: The good thing is that us being a 3-4 team, in the preseason, we had to switch back and forth a lot in practice. It creates an awareness that you have to have. They bring in Jarvis Green as a fourth lineman and he's very productive as well. We're going to have to be prepared for that and any other front they come up with, like the five linebackers last year to stop our two tight end package. We've got enough to look at in the last couple of years of playing them that we'll just have to be prepared for whatever their decision is on how to stop us. We've got to be aware of the front, no question.

Q: The turnovers have been the key to whoever won the past four matchups. Is it an oversimplification to say that whoever wins the turnover battle wins?
BC: It seems like the turnovers have been real feast or famine. We returned one for a touchdown that kind of set the tone in the regular season (last year). And we're driving down (in the playoffs) and (Rodney) Harrison returns one for a touchdown when we were trying to get back into the game. Those were very pivotal plays. It's not just turnovers. When you get returns for touchdowns, those are tough to overcome. There's no question it plays a big part, as it does every week. But I think when you get involved with a team like this, I know that we cannot turn it over and expect to win. They're too good of a football team for us to match up against and do that. If we starting beating ourselves, we don't have a chance.

Q: Coach, a couple of times in the game Sunday when (David) Carr was scrambling out of the pocket, was that your biggest concern?
BC: No. The only thing I'll say is that defensively in the first two weeks, we've given up 14 points. We've gotten five turnovers. We have not been as efficient on third downs as I would like. We have not gotten off the field in some of those situations. At some point, that will catch up to you. David Carr is a good athlete. He's going to do that to a lot of people. That doesn't concern me as much as making sure we can minimize the big plays. That will be important in this game because this quarterback is very good at testing the discipline of your coverage. He can look you off with his eyes. If you void a zone, he will find it. They do a good job of spreading it out. He runs their protections. He runs that offense. This guy does a lot of little things that I don't know if he gets enough credit for. He's as good as there is in the game, without a doubt in my mind. This quarterback is pretty special.

Q: In light of the concerns about the condition and weights of the players, Houston had the roof open. Does the league have to be concerned about that?
BC: I think your point is well taken. Obviously, given some of the attention that has been given to some of the heat-related incidents that have taken place, I think we have to look at that. It is a competitive advantage. I said it last week, if I was a coach in Houston and I had a team that was coming from the north, with all due respect to the fans, I would have the roof open. I would make them wear black. I would talk about it enough to make it work into their minds. I'm not so sure how much of a problem it really is, as much as you think about it. We're pretty conditioned. We had a good training camp. We were pretty lucky because we had hot weather for us up here. It wasn't as bad as they had said. They actually had air conditioning on in that stadium. Some of those thermometers you see on the field that were in the sun, that's not really accurate to how you're feeling. It was hot, don't get me wrong. But I don't know that it was 120.

Q: How about some of the technology. Should that be available to everybody? For example, Houston has those things that can inject coolant into their shoulder pads.
BC: They do?

Q: Yep.
BC: In their what?

Q: Their shoulder pads.
BC: I don't know. My gosh, we're going to be playing in space suits pretty soon. I don't know. It didn't help them that much. We're fine. The game's good the way it is, let's not get too far-fetched. We've got to be on top of it because of the size factor. A lot of the information we're gathering now, we've got to look at it from a safety standpoint. As far as some of those other things, that's a little far-fetched.

Q: With all of the sacks Sunday, where does the secondary come into that. Also, Andre Johnson was a Pro Bowl receiver and he was a non-factor?
BC: The plan was to make sure we were aware of No. 80. We wanted to take him out of the game. He was the one guy on that football team, he was their big-play guy. We wanted to be aware of him wherever he was on the field. The secondary has played well. Again they go hand-in-hand with pressure. And with all due respect, the first two weeks, we've gotten up and it's played into our hands. This will be a good test this week. This is a very good quarterback with a good group of receivers. You add in another No. 1 pick at tight end in Ben Watson, who has become a big part of their offense, this will be a good test or us.

Q: It didn't look like they went after the deep pass in the championship game. Did they? And do you expect them to do that again?
BC: I think they went after our safeties. They do that every week. They get the running game going and then they do a good job of trying to create one-on-one situations in the secondary, whether it's with the corner or with the safety. They're going to do it. This quarterback will test the discipline of your defense. What we have to do is minimize the big plays. They hit a lot of big plays against us last year. We won our fair share of snaps, but we gave up too many big plays. Those are the things you have to stay away from. You have to be patient against this football team. They're going to make first downs, they're going to move the football. What we can't do it void zones or jump up on certain things and expose ourselves to the big play because this quarterback will expose it.

Q: Are they using Chad Brown inside like you guys did and what did you like about Beisel when you had him in for a workout?
BC: Chad's getting acclimated to the 3-4 defense. They're playing within their scheme of how they play. And Monty Beisel is a good football player. They're active. And I don't know what the idiosyncrasies of the New England defense. Certainly, it's been documented about a lot of the things they do. And when you watch them on tape, you understand that too. Both of those guys will become more comfortable as the year goes on. But I don't see them lost as I look at tape. I don't see them out of position as much. They look like they're fitting in quite well, actually.

Q: What about Mike Vrabel?
BC: He's a very smart guy. He understands the game, studies the game. He has a great feel for the game. He's one of those guys who has a feel for screens. He's got a feel for any kind of reverse that you may try to pull. He's always had that. Some guys have it, some guys don't. Mike always has. He understands the game, studies it very hard. I don't know that you have to be aware of him as much as you have to be aware that he's aware of you.

Q: Is part of the problem with them trying to figure out their groupings more than their scheme? And do other teams try it? Are they just better at it than other teams?
BC: Yeah. They do a nice job. He'll have a plan coming in. You can spread people out, but sometimes you can spread people out and not know what to look at and what to read. They do a nice job of mixing it up and keeping you off balance. This quarterback, you've got to disguise stuff against him, but you had better not put yourself out of position. At some point, he sees the direction things are going and he sees the weak points of the defense. They've got good people they're doing it with. They do a good job of utilizing the people they have and Kevin Faulk is very good out of the backfield. He's got great hands. They take some of the players they have and put them in a position to be successful. The one thing Bill has always done is mold a team to what personel he has rather than sticking people into his system. I think that's why they've been successful over the years.

Q: You've mentioned they've got some different people, different weapons. But is Troy Polamalu a different player than when New England last saw him?
BC: Troy is playing, even a year ago, he played pretty well for us. He's a guy who loves to play the game, studies a lot. He's got a great feel for the game. He's a guy you can do a lot of things with. You can move him around and do things with him. He certainly has gotten off to a good start this year.

Q: Are there any significant or subtle changes to the coordinators that you see on tape and what did Carolina do to them?
BC: Carolina played a good game. They got some turnovers. New England had three turnoves. The last touchdown, Tom Brady got sacked and fumbled at the 12 yard line. Carolina is a pretty good football team as well. I don't know that there's much you see in two games. I don't see a whole lot of changes in what they do. The head coach has got his thumb on a whole lot of what they do. You aren't seeing them deviate too much from what they've done in the past.

Q: Coach, is it more about stopping Corey Dillon and that running attack?
BC: If he gets going, it compounds the problem. It's one of those things that pick your poison. It's going to be a big challenge for us. It's a good football. They've got a lot of weapons. They can spread you out. They can throw it. They have three really good tight ends, they can pound on you. You saw it the last time we played them, they hit big plays throwing it, they hit big plays running. They present a big challenge. We're going to need to be on top of our game, eliminate the big plays and try to make them methodically move the ball. If we can do that, hopefully somewhere in there, we can make a play. It's a big challenge. This is a good football team. It didn't help much that they lost last week because now they're coming in here with a chip on their shoulder.

Q: Can you talk about Jeff Reed and his consistency? When Heinz Field first opened, it didn't look like anyone could kick here.
BC: Jeff's been very, very dependable. Last week, kicking off, we had six kickoffs and four of the six they started on or inside the 20. That's pretty goood. The conditions were good. But this guy, you send him out there and you don't have any questions. He's been good. I don't want to give him the kiss of death or anything, but he's been solid.

Q: You mentioned that this will be a good chance to learn about your football team. How much have you been able to learn in the first two games against two struggling opponents?
BC: I'd like to continue to see us respond this first month and see how we handle the challenges we've been given. The first two games have been a good start, but we have to prove we can do it consistently. These next two games, the first one at home, the next one on the road, against two playoff opponents from our conference, will be a good barometer about where we are for the first month of the season. We can sit in here and talk about what I know about the team then and have that nice Tuesday press conference. But right now it's too early to make any judgements.

Q: Do have to be careful not to put too much emphasis on this game?
BC: We don't. We're not. We put it in its proper perspective and will continue to do so. I have no problem getting hyped up for the game. Our guys will be and they were last week. That's what this business is all about, making sure you take nothing for granted. Look at each week and understand the importance of the preparation, the importance of the mindset. It will not get done just showing up. This week more than the last couple, we've got to be on top of our game. We have no margin for error against this football team. I think our players understand that. They're not going to be intimidated by Heinz Field. They're probably going to enjoy Heinz Field. But we're going to enjoy having them here as well.

Q: There's been a theory, at least outside the team, that Willie Parker wasn't an every down back. When you were running out the clock, you gave it to him six straight times. Did that clear a hurdle for him?
BC: There was no hurdle to clear from my perspective. I know all the questions that were asked were pure speculation because we hadn't seen it. I had never looked at the glass as half-empty. I always thought he could do it. He didn't have to clear anything in my mind. I think he's proven to be a pretty good running back, inside or outside. He's performed pretty well these first two weeks.

Q: Does New England come at a good time for you? You had two lesser opponents, do you need to keep that edge?
BC: We'll keep that edge. Trust me. Whether it's New England or whoever. Not having it is not an option.

Q: When people talk about New England, they talk about the system. Does it get overlooked how good their players are?
BC: I think it is still players. The players that operate that system, make no mistake about it, they've got a lot of good players. You talk about the defense. I don't go any further than those three down linemen. They're all first-round picks. They're all pretty good players. The linebackers are good. Rodney Harrison is one of the best in the game. They have a lot of good players. It starts up front, even on the offensive line. It's pretty solid as well. The quarterback is special. And the receivers are pretty good in (Deion) Branch and (David ) Givens. Corey (Dillon) and the tight ends as well. Those three tight ends are all former No. 1 picks as well, I believe. They've got a lot of pretty good football players that play well together.

Q: Is points allowed the best way to judge a defense?
BC: I always talk defense in three priorities. No. 1 is take the ball away. If you can take the ball away, that's the first objective of any defensive play. Second thing is to try to keep them out of the end zone if you can't take the ball away. The third thing is to minimize the big plays. That will ultimately affect the scoring. We try to take it away, minimize the scoring and keep them out of the end zone. I think we look at defense in those three elements.

Q: What stats do you look at that are significant to you?
BC: I think third downs is a big one. You're going to have to convert third downs on offense and you have to get off the field on defense. I think you get into the red zone, the ability to score seven and not kick three on both sides. There's a four-point swing there. And turnovers are first and foremost. Those three things come to mind as I would judge a football game. A lot will be said when you look at those things as to determining the score.

Q: Yards allowed doesn't matter?
BC: When we get up, we're going to allow some yards. We just don't want to give up the big play. If we get up like the other day in the first half, we're not going to throw the ball. You're not going to get a lot of yards. That can get distorted. You look at the 300-yard passers every week and I'll bet 70 percent of them are on losing teams. Stats, yards, is a very distorted stat. It can be. Not that it isn't telling. If you can't stop the run or run the ball, it's going to have an effect on your team.

Q: Those three indicators are the things you're always talking about?
BC: Pretty much so. I believe it comes down to that. Play smart, play good situational football and find a way to win a close game.

Q: Coach, they had 12 penalties and threw the ball almost 2/3 of the time. Would you say that's non-typical of New England?
BC: I don't know. I saw them beat us throwing the ball 50 times too. They just spread us out and start winging it. This quarterback is very comfortable doing that. We've still got to be prepared to stop Corey Dillon. The turnovers and penalties were uncharacteristic of a New England team, that's why I'd be very surprised if that happened two weeks in a row. They'll be on top of their game coming in here and we've got to be on top of our game to be able to compete with them.

Q: Did they spread you a lot in the championship game? You made them pay for it the first two times during the regular season.
BC: No. They didn't have to. They were pretty successful doing the other things.

Q: What do you make of Ben being 15-0 as a starter?
BC: It's pretty good. He's done a good job. I'm glad to be a part of it.

Q: There was a play in the Houston game where Cedrick Wilson had a questionable catch and you guys raced to the line of scrimmage. Was that Ben's initiative or was somebody in his ear?
BC: There was somebody in his ear, yelling for him to get up there. It turned out to be a good catch, but we didn't want to take any chances.

Q: Your team really hasn't done anything wrong yet, so what do you do to tell them they're not all hat good?
BC: I haven't said that. It's an ability to play at a level week-in and week-out. The challenge is very big this week given who we are playing.

Q: Where does this rank on the rivalry scale?
BC: When you're playing the defending two-time world champions, they're everybody's rival. They're a marked team. I don't know that they're a rival for us. We're trying to get where they are. They're coming to our place Sunday at 4:15, we'll kick it off and when it's all said and done, we'll be done with week 3. It's a big challenge for us.

Q: Do you have a guy in the box whose job is to look at replays?
BC: No. I take into account what everyone says. I ask everyone who's up there. I listen to what is said, speak when spoken to and that's how it works.

Q: Do you talk to the line about that?
BC: There's a command. It's a set play.

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