Bill Cowher press conference

Opening Statement: Let me give you the injury situation going into the game. One player, Clark Haggans, is out with the groin. Three players are questionable: Hines Ward with his hamstring; Joey Porter with his knee; and Ike Taylor with a knee. We have six players that are probable: Ricardo Colclough with an ankle; James Farrior with a back; Jerome (Bettis) with his calf; Duce (Staley) with a knee; Sean Morey with a hamstring; and Deshea (Towsend) with a foot.

Bill Cowher: I think certainly when you look at San Diego, they lost two really close games. When you look at this football team, they could easily be 4-0 right now. They've played four quality opponents. That's based on the records that you look at. Certainly the last two weeks they've been very impressive, obviously last week beating New England and the week before against the Giants. This is a football team that has put up over 400 yards of offense the last two weeks. They've scored over 40 points the last two weeks. They can present a lot of problems from a matchup standpoint. They play solid defense. They've got an outstanding kicking game. There's no real weakness to this football team. From that perspective, it's surprising that New England lost at home. But when you saw this football team, it does not surprise you. They are a very explosive football team. They return every starter from a team that went 12-4 a year ago. That should tell you about the expectations of this football team and they're playing to it right now.

Q: Coach, you talk about matchup problems. What kind of problems does (Antonio) Gates present? How do you try to slow him down?
BC: Antonio Gates is a receiver in a tight end's body. He's got size. He's got elusiveness. And above all, he's got outstanding hands. He can catch anything that's close to him. They do a good job of utilizing him. They move him around. They split him out as a receiver. They put him in tight. They do a good job of putting him in situations that create matchup problems. You have to be aware of them doing that. He's a very talented guy that can do a lot of things and do them well.

Q: LaDanian Tomlinson?
BC: LaDanian Tomlinson, I think, is the best back in the game today. That's my personal opinion. When you look at all the things he can do, look at the fact of what he can do with the ball in his hands running, he can catch, he can throw. He's just a guy who's extremely elusive, he's got great balance and great vision. When you do hit him, he doesn't always go down. He has the ability to stop and start. I think it starts and stops with him. They will use him out of the backfield. He's got outstanding speed. He's the catalyst for them. You've got a guy like Gates who's a good blocker, but is also explosive in the passing game. And then you've got a quarterback who doesn't make mistakes, a quarterback who's playing at a very high level right now in Drew Brees. He's throwing the ball very accurately. He's making good decisions. Those three guys, they're three pretty good players.

Q: Can you dress four halfbacks?
BC: I can do about anything. But we'll see how the week unfolds and go from there.

Q: A third-down back, can Duce play that position?
BC: Yeah.

Q: What are the requirements?
BC: Certainly you have to have an understanding of protection with blitz pickup. That's a big part of it. And you have to have the ability to work with holes. A lot of the running plays that you get are delayed-type of running plays where you're picking and choosing as opposed to the power running you're doing with two tight ends. I think it's more of an understanding of protection, first and foremost, and the type of things you'll see with three receivers and four receivers that we have on the field.

Q: Jerome said that it's not complicated for them, but it's complicated for you?
BC: Correct.

Q: Do you find it complicating?
BC: It's a nice problem to have. I will say this in regards to Willie (Parker), Verron (Haynes) Duce and Jerome, I think they all are very unselfish guys. That will make my job, while it's a tough decision to make, they recognize that position has epitomized the unselfishness on this team that we've had the last couple of years. At some point, we're going to need them all. It's nice at this point to have some of the options that we have. Certainly we have to look at the big picture and do what's in the best interests of this football team for this game. We'll look at that. It's a nice problem to have and I like the players we have and their perspective as well.

Q: Do you go into the game wanting to get Duce involved?
BC: We've got to see how it goes. We'll see how the week unfolds.

Q: What's happened to Brees?
BC: I think the one thing that I'll say about this team from a couple of years ago, they had Tomlinson, they had Gates and they had Brees, the one thing that is clearly different is their offensive line. The offensive line is the one thing that has changed and they have done an outstanding job. (Nick) Hartwick is an outstanding center. (Shane) Olivea is a solid tackle. They did a good job getting Mike Goff at guard. I look at that line and they work very well together. They have upgraded their offensive line and it's made everything around it that much more efficient and more consistent.

Q: Most of those guys weren't there the last time you played them?
BC: It's the same line from last year's 12-4 team. But when we played them two years ago, there aren't many of those bodies still there.

Q: They aren't exactly thin at running back either with (Darren) Sproles and (Michael) Turner.
BC: Turner's the guy who comes in. He's a load. He's a hard-running back. Sproules is electifying as a return guy. They'll get the ball in his hands on tosses and reverses. They'll throw it to him out of the backfield. They do have some weapons besides LaDanian, there's no question about that. But's he's the guy. If he's out of the game, it's because he's trying to catch his breath. That's usually the only time he's out.

Q: With the bye and the Monday game, is it difficult? Will you be rested or rusty?
BC: That's always the case with any bye week. The extra day won't have any affect on it. In the old days with byes, a lot of the time you were playing another team that had a bye. That was negated. Now you're playing a team that's coming off of having played a game. There's probably a little bit of acclimation involved when you haven't played a game in a week. For us, it will be even more so on a Monday night being out there in San Diego. We're going to have to weather the flurry that will be involved with the emotions, the speed of the game and us playing a high-quality football team. We have to watch everything we're doing so that we don't fall behind. This is a very potent football team. They're very explosive and playing at home on a Monday night, it's going to be a big challenge.

Q: Considering the firepower they have, is one of your best defenses a good offense and controlling the ball?
BC: Without a doubt. Like we talked about with what they've done the last couple of weeks, our ability to convert third downs, keep the time of possession on our side will have a lot to do with how effective we become. This is a team, you've watched them the first two weeks and they weren't able to finish in the second half. I know that Marty (Schottenheimer) made a big point of that. You look at the last two weeks, what they've been able to do is wear on people. They played very physical football the last couple of weeks. This is a physical football team and you couple that with some of the skill people that they have and it's a big challenge for us.

Q: Coach, if Hines can't go, how does that shuffle the receivers?
BC: We'll see what the options are. We went through that in the preseason as well. I feel good about what we have with Cedrick Wilson and now with Quincy (Morgan) and Sean Morey. I think we'll be fine.

Q: Can Cedrick step into where Hines is?
BC: We have a lot of options.

Q: The offensive line seemed to struggle against the Patriots, is that correctable stuff?
BC: I'd like to think it's correctable. We did not play to our ability and the standards that we've set here. You'd like to think that it's something that is correctable. Time will tell whether it is or it isn't. Not to take anything away from New England, but sometimes you're going to have a day like that. You look at that game, we did not have our best game, but we still had some opportunities to win it. We just fell short. Hopefully we'll improve from last week to this week. It's a big challenge, but I'd like to think we can play better.

Q: With their return game, will that be a big point of emphasis?
BC: There's no doubt that field position will be very pivotal. They've got two very solid kickers. Our ability to create a short field and obviously be able to keep their return guys down and create long fields will play a a part. The kicking game, when you get teams that are evenly matched like we had with New England and this week with San Diego, field position becomes a big part of it. You look at the New England game. Tim Dwight gets a punt return back to the 30-yard line and that sets up a field goal. They get a kickoff return at the end of the game that sets up another field goal. You can't give quality offenses position or expect to drive the length of the field against a quality defense. You can't do that. The kicking game is vital when you talk about field position, particularly when you play a quality opponent like San Diego.

Q: How much of that do you attribute to not having Sean Morey and do you plan any changes?
BC: There's going to be some changes. James Harrison is now a starter, so we're going to have to monitor how much we use him. Obviously, Sean is one of our better cover guys, but whoever we put in there, we expect to have the job done. Just because Sean wasn't in there, the expectation level isn't lessened. We put a lot of emphasis on that and take a lot of pride in it. Getting Sean back will help us. But at the same time, there is a big challenge because this is a good returner. It's something we'll look at and try to put the best group out there, recognizing that it is important to the greater scheme of it. In our mind, every kick is the first play of defense and every return is the first play of offense. That's how we view it.

Q: Are there any nuances or differences between right outside linebacker and left outside linebacker that Harrison will have to be aware of?
BC: No. He filled in for Clark last year when Clark went down the last three games. James stepped in and played at a very high level. It's just getting acclimated to one side. We have flipped those guys pretty much throughout the camp with James and Andre (Frazier). It won't be any big acclimation for him.

Q: What makes him such a good pass rusher on the outside?
BC: He has a very low center of gravity and he's a very powerful guy. He can dip and get around the corner. That's something not a lot of people can do. It's one thing to be able to get to an edge, but to plant that foot and be able to get skinny, as we talk about, that can really separate people. You see a lot of people getting pushed by. But people try to set deep on him and he can kind of bull them too. He's built low to the ground and he uses that to his advantage.

Q: Coach, can you talk about the emotion of playing on a Monday night?
BC: It's good. You know everyone in the league is watching. Monday night football, it's kind of got that stigma to it that you know all of your peers are watching. You know you're playing a pretty good football team. You're viewed as one for the most part because of the previous year. That being said, we didn't play one last year, so this is the first one we've played in a couple of years. It's always a lot of excitement. Sitting around all day on a Monday. It's certainly a lot nicer playing them at home. But when you go on the road, you have to deal with the noise and the emotion. But that's all part of the challenge of playing on a Monday night.

Q: Do you do anything to stay distracted?
BC: Yeah sleep. Because you know that Monday night, you're not going to get a lot of sleep. Tuesday, I'll be back in here talking to you guys, so I want to be well-rested.

Q: You and Marty don't play a down in this game, but what's it like going against a guy who's a friend a year.
BC: If Marty and I played a down in this game, it would be one of the most interesting downs you've ever seen. I've got a lot of respect for the man. He gave me a chance to come into this league as a coach and I will forever be indebted to him for that. You never forget where you got your first opporuntity. He trusted a lot in me as an assistant coach, gave me my first opportunity as a coordinator. That's the only head coach I ever worked for as a coach. I still do things the way he did them. He's probably going full cycle. A couple of years ago we were talking about practices and he said, ‘That's a good idea.' I said, ‘I got that from you.' He had kind of going all the way around. Marty is a good football coach. He's got a good feel for the game, understands every element of the game. He knows the rules and has got a great rapport with the players. He knows how to deal with things and keep them in perspective. He's done this consistently at a high level, year-in and year-out. That's not always easy to do. I think he's one of the better coaches to ever come through the National Football League. There's no doubt about that in my mind.

Q: McCardell?
BC: We're going to be aware of him. We know all about him from Jacksonville. He's got a great feel for the game. He knows where to sit in voids. He's a guy who catches everything near him. You can't overlook the guys on the outside. (Eric) Parker and (Reche) Caldwell are pretty good too. They've got a lot of weapons. I know one thing, if you don't stop LaDanian Tomlinson. These guys have rushed for over 200 yards in their past two games. If you don't stop the run, the only thing Drew will be doing is handing if off left and right. We've got to be able to stop that. We're very respectful of the other elements of their game, but you've got to make sure you take away the big play, but every time they put the ball in the hands of 21, that's a potential big play. We've got to be very much aware of him.

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