Bill Cowher's weekly press conference

Opening Statement: Let me give you the injury list for the game at Cincinnati. Unfortunately, it's rather lengthy. One player is out, that's Clark Haggans. We've got two players doubtful, Ricardo Colclough with the shoulder and Deshea Townsend with the hamstring. We have six players that are questionable: Alan Faneca with a toe; Aaron Smith with a back; Hines Ward with a hamstring; Antwaan Randle El with a foot; Cedrick Wilson with a wrist; and Tommy Maddox with a shoulder.

Bill Cowher: We have four players that are probable: James Harrison with his groin; Ben (Roethlisberger) with his knee; Clint Kriewaldt with his knee; and Joey (Porter) with his quad. Some of these questionables, I will try to keep you updated as the week goes on in regards to their status. Let me just say this in regards to the Jacksonville game. You go back through what was probably one of the most frustrating losses that I have experienced in my 14 years here. And certainly when you go back, as all head coaches do, you reflect back on the decisions that were made, the choices that you had. Ultimately, you're responsible for all of them. I am the first to tell you that I accept that responsibility and I am responsible. Two elements of that game I know there has been a lot of talk in regards to. No. 1 was did you think about pulling Tommy and why didn't you? All I can say is that two of the first three series ended in interceptions, but I did feel that he had settled down. Really as the game went on, he had done a good job with the no-huddle as we began the fourth quarter. As we got into the fourth quarter, at that point in the game, I did not think about Charlie (Batch) and did not ever think about using Ben at that point outside of an injury would have been the only reason for using him. The other element that came up was Jerome Bettis, why was he not in the game in the last series? That's a legitimate question and the only thing I will say, as the second half unfolded, we did not have Jerome in the game. I wish I would have gotten him in the game in the second half. When we got in the fourth quarter, a couple of those drives started with the no-huddle in the spread offense. He was not in the game in the last series in overtime because he had not been in the game in the second half. That's a decision that I am responsible for. I'm not going to dwell on it any more than I just did. I don't think it serves any purpose. The big thing was when you look at that game, we still had a chance to win it. We had a minus-3 in the turnover/takeaway and it's very hard to overcome that in any game, certainly playing a good Jacksonville team. Having said that, we had our opportunities to win the football game. We had an opportunity to kick a field goal at the end of regulation and certainly having the ball first and 10 at the 26 in overtime. You'd like to think you'd have another opportunity at worst. But we have another turnover. It was a disappointment, but our defense did a good job of getting it back. Then the last play was the interception for a touchdown. We uncharacteristically displayed some things we had not in the first five weeks and we've got to put it behind us. We're getting ready to play a very good Cincinnati team. This is a football team that is playing as well as their record indicates. They are No. 2 in the league in offense and leading the league in takeaways. They are 5-1 and very easily could be 6-0. Without a doubt they are playing with as much confidence as anyone in the National Football League right now and they are playing at a very high level. Having said all of that, I will open it up to your questions.

Q: What do you think would have happened on the (Willie) Parker play and the fumbled snap in overtime? Was it there?
BC: Yeah, but we didn't get it off clean.

Q: Five yards, 10 yards, more?
BC: It would have been a gain. It would have been a positive-gain play. I don't know. We didn't get it done. We didn't execute the play.

Q: Did the game unfold in a way that took you away from the run game more than you would have liked?
BC: I don't know if the game unfolded. We weren't able to do it successfully. We had a lot negative plays, even in the run game. That was disappointing. We had a few sacks. We had a few holds. We put ourselves in a lot of third-and-long situations. We were two of 13. We really never got into a rhythm on third down. We weren't very crisp running the ball and some of that credit goes to Jacksonville. But it was a guy here and a guy there. Unfortunately, that's been the case the last few weeks.

Q: After the New England game you were asked about that whether there were some correctable issues with the offensive line. Are we back to that point?
BC: We're not performing to the level of expectations that we have for our football team. We recognize that. Our offensive line will be the first ones to tell you that. We'll work hard to get back to that and that is our goal.

Q: Ben is back as the starter?
BC: Yes.

Q: And his backup is Charlie?
BC: As of today, yes.

Q: At what point did Maddox suffer his injury?
BC: I was just made aware of it yesterday.

Q: Given his stature on the team, have you had a conversation with Jerome about not using him?
BC: We'll talk at some point. I haven't at this point.

Q: Is Cincinnati for real?
BC: Yeah. I think so. There stats indicate that. They're No. 2 in offense and leading the league in takeaways. They are playing at a very high level with a lot of confidence. They're for real. There's no question about that.

Q: Have they improved on defense?
BC: I think so. They've got some young guys coming in and helping. Odell Thurman, the rookie. David Pollack has come in. They've gotten good depth now. You see them rotating guys in and out. Justin Smith and (Robert) Geathers, Duane Clemons. You see some fresh bodies in there. Pollack will come in and rush on third down. What you see is that they have some depth there and some young guys running around. You still have Deltha O'Neal and Tory James playing at a very high level as corners. They're creating a lot of turnovers taking the ball away and the quarterback is playing very well and they have a lot of weapons on offense.

Q: Are there any similarities to San Diego?
BC: Certainly they are very efficient offenses. You look at this and there might be more weapons, per say. I don't know if there's a receiver in San Diego - they're good receivers - but not one in the class of Chad Johnson. But LT (LaDanian Tomlinson) is unique in his style. They've done a good job with Rudi Johnson and now Chris Perry has been more involved. Chris Perry, they use him a lot out of the backfield. You look rest of the receiving corps and they're pretty good. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, if he plays, has been a productive player. The kid from West Virginia (Chris Henry) has shown up and now he's making a lot of plays down the field. Kevin Walter and Kelley Washington, they've got some weapons and the quarterback is playing very well.

Q: If Deshea doesn't go, how do you approach defending Chad Johnson?
BC: It doesn't look like he's going to go, so we'll try to come up with a plan to defend their offense. He's a big part of it, but you have to defend everybody else too.

Q: How'd (Bryant) McFadden do?
BC: He did fine. It was his first activity in a while and I thought he did a good job. It's going to be a matter of going out and getting some activity during the week, which, given our situation, should not be a problem.

Q: Willie (Williams) starts?
BC: Yeah, Willie will be involved as he was last week when Deshea went down.

Q: How's Ike (Taylor) played?
BC: Ike's played very well the past could of weeks. With each game, he's gotten better and better. He's making plays on the ball. He's always been a good tackler. He's played very solid for us.

Q: You always talk about his high-pointing the ball, how good is his tackling?
BC: He's a strong kid. The thing about Ike is that he's a good matchup. He's a tall kid that can run he has great ball skills. He's a good tackler. He's got outstanding speed and he plays fast.

Q: Are you surprised or disappointed at the situations Troy (Polamalu) has gotten himself into the past couple of weeks?
BC: I don't know about surprised. More disappointed. You have to use good judgment. The two fouls he got the other day, we talk about that if you touch anything close to the head of a quarterback, they're going to call it. He came in and went high trying to block the ball. It was the same with Aaron Smith. Those things are going to happen. It wasn't intentional. On the other one, the guy wasn't out of bounds, but he didn't have to dump him like he did out of bounds. He's got to use better judgment. But Troy's a good football player and I don't want him to stop playing with the emotion and passion with which he plays. He'd just got to use good judgment and maybe better judgment at times.

Q: Have you determined whether it was the snap or Tommy? Both players disagree.
BC: I'll just leave it as it was what it was.

Q: You mentioned the takeaways by the Bengals. They have 14 picks. That's a lot of interceptions. How are they doing it?
BC: There are some tipped balls and guys are making great plays on the ball. You go through games, it seems like any ball that is in the air, they're catching it. You see our game the other day, we probably could have had some more balls picked off. At the same time, we probably could have picked off a couple of more balls. Sometimes you get those things that go through people's hands. It seems like any ball that is in the air against Cincinnati, they are catching it. Whether it be a tipped ball, a bobbled ball by a receiver, a hit or just a good break on the ball, they're playing very well.

Q: Are they a sound defense? Do they gamble a lot?
BC: No. They're very sound in what they're doing. They're playing very solid football and very aggressive football. They've got great team speed and they're very active. They're very sound in what they're doing as well.

Q: Coach, will you stay with the same kick returners?
BC: Yeah. We'll see what our health situation is. That will probably be more of a determining factor. I'm not displeased at all with our return game.

Q: How's Hines coming along and what effect did that have with him not being in the lineup?
BC: He's coming along fine. We'll monitor him this week and hopefully, he'll be ready to go. It's always tough to not have one of your starting receivers and your starting quarterback in there. But that's what this business is all about. People have got to step in and you've got to meet that challenge. Hopefully, we'll be able to get both of those guys back this week.

Q: Is that one of the reasons Heath Miller stepped up?
BC: I think everyone has to step up. It's hard to say what the effect is. The sign of a good football team is having guys step in and be able to play at a high level when people go down. We're no different than anybody else. You're going to have injuries in the NFL. The quality of any team will not be measured by their starting 22. It will be measured by the entire football team. At some point, somebody's going to have to step in and not miss a beat. We're no different than anybody else in terms of being measured like that.

Q: Coach, are you looking at any changes on the offensive line?
BC: You always see what your options are. I've never been one to not look at that. They'll be fine. I have all the confidence in the world that they will work through it.

Q: Willie Parker's numbers haven't been what they were. How's his psyche?
BC: I think it's fine. The bottom line is winning football games. That's what we're trying to do. Everyone's a little frustrated from that football game the other day. Not only is a game we could've won, it's a game we should have won. That's what made it more frustrating.

Q: You mentioned Palmer. He seems a lot more comfortable this year?
BC: He is. He's playing at a much higher level. You don't see a lot of mistakes by him. He's not turning the football over. He's completing a lot of balls, taking the checkdown, not locking in on the receivers. He's been very impressive using the entire field. He's playing at a very high level. He's been the catalyst to that offense.

Q: Is he doing things that you hadn't seen him do before?
BC: I think the whole offense is performing at a higher level. Certainly getting Chris Henry from West Virginia, who has stepped in. Chris Perry has stepped in. I think you can see that they have incorporated more people and they're more comfortable. It's a young team that's starting to feel more confident.

Q: Is the sixth game of the season too early to label it critical or crucial?
BC: Any time you're playing a division game, it's an important game. Certainly when you look at playing a team that's already a game ahead of you, it makes it a very important football game. There's a lot of football left to be played, no doubt about it. But we're starting our division schedule here. Three of our next four games will be against teams from our division. We have to be able to understand that, accept that. This is going to be a big challenge. They are playing very well. They're leading our division and we can't afford to fall too far behind them.

Q: The last couple of years, a lot of Steelers fans have been there. Do you think it will be any different this time?
BC: Oh yeah. They were a little drowned out last year. It was a grind, too. Both of the games we played last year went down to the fourth quarter. It's going to be loud. It's going to be an intense game, a physical game.

Question about running backs inaudible...
BC: No. I think the second half, as I stated before, was relative to us going no-huddle. At the same time, let me say this, we didn't run the ball efficiently. That's the bottom line. Outside, inside, no matter what. We tried a lot of different running plays, none of which worked consistently.

Q: Did Roethlisberger lobby hard to play?
BC: I conferred with the doctors and made decisions that were really in his best interests. Yes, he lobbied very hard up until game day.

Question inaudible…
BC: I don't think you need to utilize Chad to do anything. Chad's going to be Chad. The way they played speaks for itself. Chad Johnson's one of the better receivers in the NFL, there's no doubt about that. But there's a lot of other weapons on that team.

Q: Will the defense go more toward him and leave everybody else alone?
BC: I think everybody has their own approach. It's hard to say what other people have done. Whatever they've done, they're still second in the NFL in offense.

Q: Road success?
BC: I'm not doing too much reflecting right now. I'm focused on this game.

Q: Tommy's post-game comments?
BC: I addressed the team on Monday. We had that 24 hour rule. We looked at it, analyzed it and we're moving on. The worst thing you can do is dwell on a game like that. Just like the week before. Everybody kept talking about the Monday night game. You've got to put that behind you in this business. To validate who you are, it's more about what you do the next game, not the last game.

Q: Maddox's shoulder injury, when did it happen and should you have been made aware of it?
BC: Nobody was made aware of anything during the course of the game, we were just made aware of it yesterday.

Q: Which shoulder?
BC: I'm not sure right now.

Q: Marvin Lewis?
BC: Marvin's a good football coach. He's going to have an impact. Sometimes it doesn't happen overnight. They've been very close the last couple of years. You look at some of the teams that are up on top now and what their records were a year ago, there's a fine line. They've got a bunch of young kids flying around, playing well, playing with confidence. He's doing a good job of managing that. He's a good football coach. There are no questions about Marvin Lewis. His record is speaking for itself no matter where he's been. I've got a lot of respect for him and that football team. It's always been a battle for us. We don't look at their record. Every time we play them it's a battle.

Q: Was the wind a factor in not kicking the field goal at the end, running a few plays?
BC: Yeah it was. I certainly would have run the ball three times regardless of what the wind was. We got to receive and they kicked with it. Mostly it was more swirling and coming toward our bench. I still would have run the ball three times and kicked the field goal if we didn't get the first down.

Q: Did you give any thought to kicking it right there?
BC: Not with how far away we were. If we were closer, I would have considered kicking on third down. I thought we needed to get, because of the wind, closer.

Q: Can beating the Bengals make them doubt themselves?
BC: I don't worry about the Bengals. This is more about the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is more about us not losing sight of the things we do well. You can talk all you want about the choices I made and my decision making, but the bottom line is despite how we put ourselves in a situation with our kicking game, with our defense, with our inability to move the ball to win that football game. I don't want to lose sight and put the focus on the things we didn't do because we still did some things pretty well. We lost a football game. We have to eliminate the things that we didn't do that have not been characteristic of this football team. It's not going to be easy. It's a grind every week. It's going to take a focus every week for who's in there, regardless of who it is, that we go and play as a team, offense, defense and special teams. It's going to take a complete effort to go down there and beat this football team.


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