Opening Statement: Let me give you the injury update. We have two guys who will be doubtful for this week's game at Minnesota. They are Marvel (Smith) with his ankle, he's getting better; and Andre Frazier with his hamstring. I mentioned after the game that he did that in the first half. He didn't set himself all the way back, but he did have a significant setback, so he will be doubtful for this game. Two guys are questionable, the first is Travis Kirschke with his back, the second is Deshea (Townsend). Deshea had a CAT scan and MRI done on his neck and spine and both came back negative. Right now, he's got a neck sprain. We'll see where he is as we go through the rest of the week. There's no concussion, so he's OK from that standpoint. All the news we've gotten has been positive. Then we have seven players probable: Chidi (Iwuoma) with his glute; Jerome (Bettis) with his quad; Hines (Ward) with an ankle; Ben (Roethlisberger) with a thumb; Brett Keisel with a shoulder; Max Starks with a shoulder; and Joey (Porter) with an elbow.
I don't know if it's any different this week than it was last week when you talk about our approach to this game. Our focus is solely on Minnesota. It's a good football team that's won six straight games. They're playing at home and are right in the middle of a playoff stretch also in terms of being very much alive in their division. It's a big test for us. I know we're playing in a dome. It will benefit us some having played in Indianapolis already. We'll try to simulate the noise in practice Thursday and Friday. Hopefully we'll prepare well. It will be a big challenge for us, but there's a lot at stake this time of year and I think we're looking forward to it.
Q: Will you change anything you do in the dome this time based on
what happened last time?
Bill Cowher: Probably not. Hopefully we'll play better.
Q: You're fine with the silent count?
BC: We'll see. We'll talk about it, but I don't anticipate anything dramatic.
Q: What options are available to you in that respect?
BC: You could do a silent count even in the running game, some people have done that, letting the center initiate the signal, the snap count. We'll see. It's something we'll look at. We'll try to simulate it as much in practice as possible. Maybe we'll run some of you guys out there while we're practicing and get it real loud. We'll see what we can come up with and see if we can be efficient.
Q: They talk about putting speakers in a quarterback's helmet for
circumstances like this. Would you favor that?
BC: Absolutely. We should pass that rule today if we could. I don't know. I don't get too concerned with those things. That's for another day and another time.
Q: Why have they been so much better with (Brad) Johnson at
BC: That's hard to say. I haven't really looked at them. I didn't go back to when (Daunte) Culpepper was playing, I didn't look at any of that. It would be unfair for me to say. Obviously turnovers have been cut down dramatically, I think that had a lot to do with it. I think when you look at them defensively, they added four or five new starters and they're now starting to play together. It's hard to play together when you do that. The adjustments you go through with different formations and getting acclimated to playing with one another, there's an adjustment period. It's probably a whole of things. But they're certainly playing with a lot of efficiency. They're taking the ball away on defense. Brad Johnson knows how to win. They've got a lot of weapons around him and they're playing well.
Q: (It's Ellis Cannon time) Bill, I want to ask you this rambling
question about the defense getting takeaways, but my question
is much longer than this sentence.
BC: Some of it's probably the playmakers. They get Kevin Williams back this week and Pat Williams. Those two guys are two pretty good tackles. They can be very disruptive. (Lance) Johnstone is having a pretty good year coming off the bench and Erasmus James is a good edge rusher and (Darrion) Scott has made some plays. Then you look in the secondary and those guys are playmakers. Fred Smoot is coming back. I don't know what role he'll be. But you look at Brian Williams and Antoine Winfield, those guys are good players. (Corey) Chavious and (Darren) Sharper, those two have made a lot of plays in their careers. Some of it is the scheme, some of it is the players starting to feel more comfortable within the scheme. Again, you can't turn the football over against a team like that, but they've been able to week-in and week-out take the ball away.
Q: (John Shumway's going to get to the bottom of the running
game) How much of the running game was weather-related and
how much was game-planned?
BC: I couldn't put a percentage on it. We wanted to establish the run and as the game unfolded, that kind of fell that way. Obviously the weather was condusive to running. There was a time there in the third quarter when I don't think it would have been wise to throw the ball. That one situation where we went for it on fourth down, I didn't want to risk a field goal or punting, but in hindsight, I might have wanted to punt that one. But we took a chance and tried to run it. The weather played a part, but in the first half, I don't think it had any effect at all. The field was in great shape. The weather really wasn't a factor until the second half, particularly in the third quarter.
Q: (His lead-in question now out there, Chumley's going to ask about Roethlisbeger's thumb) Did the condition of Ben's thumb play any part in that?
BC: No. (Curses, Chumley is foiled again)
Q: (Chumley pressing) Did his admission in the locker room …
BC: You've got to let that go man. Honestly. I'm not going to answer any more about that. Really, let it go. Come on. Talk to him. I'm not going to answer questions about it. You can talk to Ben. Let it go John.
Q: But your quarterback says he can't throw past 40 yards. Doesn't that affect the game planning?
BC: I answered your question.
Q: Coach, you mentioned Darren Sharper. Is he a guy like Troy
(Polamalu) that opposing offenses have to account for?
BC: There's no question. He's a very instinctive player. He's a very smart player. He'll read your eyes. Ben knows that. He's played against some pretty good safeties and this guy goes up there with them. He'll understand that a lot of what he does is based on what he's able to pick up in film study.
Q: Is he the type of guy who will fool you going one way like Troy does?
BC: There's a bunch of those guys in this league. You've got to trust what you see. They're a good football team and he's a good player.
Q: Given what they've gone through this season, do you have a
respect for what (Mike) Tive has done this season?
BC: They're a good football team. And they've had their issues and Mike's done a good job of keeping them focused and getting them together and right now, they're in the playoff hunt.
Q: How different is the game indoors rather than outside? (Duh)
BC: I don't know if it's played any differently other than the noise. It's played like a game in September or October or a game played on the West Coast or the South this time of year. That's the only thing I think is different. The noise is a factor, you can't dismiss that as not being a factor, that is an issue. You're going to kick the ball deeper. There are some things that you have to prepare for that are an issue if you're playing in weather games or if you're playing in a perfect condition game. You factor a lot of those things in to what the conditions are.
Q: Is the game faster on turf? (Duh)
BC: Oh yeah. Put the game on from this week and put the game on from last week. It's all relative. But we're faster and they're faster. When we're slower, they're slower. It's all relative. But there's no question the game's slower. The game you saw last Sunday and the game you saw this Sunday, there will be a difference in speed.
Q: Do they have an advantage because they're built for that?
BC: We've played pretty well when we've played on some fast turfs.
Q: Is there one thing you can point to why your offensive line played better?
BC: No. They played very well, though. Give them credit. That was a good defensive line they played against. We've got to do it again this week.
Q: Was it because Trai (Essex) has gotten more reps?
BC: He got better. He played better last week, no question. We still have a ways to go in all three phases. We did a lot of good things. But we certainly are not a finished product – far from it. We have to go out there and play the game the way we know how to play it and respond to each situation and play football and that's the only focus we have.
Q: Trai has been very critical of his own technique in his first three games.
BC: I like people being critical of themselves. That's the whole purpose. Everyone needs to sit back at this time of year and be introspective of their play and making sure they can continue to get better. We all can get better, players, coaches. I think that's the thing we have to look at right now, taking this one week at a time and try to get a little bit better collectively. If we do it individually, we'll be better collectively.
Q: From a pass rush standpoint, did you do something different (Goodness, you had three sacks)?
BC: It's hard to say. It's been good off and on. We had some guys who rushed well. Joey had some pressures and Clark (Haggans) played well. Kimo (von Oelhoffen) had a sack. We had good pressure without blitzing. We got into a situation where we got up on them. We had not been up in the last few weeks. It makes a difference when you have a lead as opposed to playing from behind.
Q: Did you do less blitzing?
BC: Pretty much the same.
Q: If Deshea is out, how does that affect the rotation?
BC: We'll work with Ricardo (Colclough) and Bryant McFadden, kind of like we finished up. We'll see where we are. I'm not sure who will start, but those two guys will factor into it.
Q: You had Ike (Taylor) follow (Muhsin) Muhammed the other day, will you do more of that?
BC: It's a week-to-week decision.
Q: Is that based not only on who their No. 1 is, but also the second guy?
BC: All those things factor into it.
Q: Was that a clinic game by Alan Faneca and has Jeff Hartings
been your most consistent lineman?
BC: The line played well. I though it was Kendall (Simmons) best game and Max (Starks) played well. Jeff has had a consistent year this whole year. Alan is just a super football player. We were able to do some things. We executed some screen passes as well as we have all year. We ran the ball. We were able to get back to running the ball efficiently. Certainly Willie (Parker) made some great runs and Jerome being able to do what he did, the effort and the approach he has, his style of running is something we can feed off of. It was a solid effort. Trai Essex played well and so did Danny Kreider and Heather Miller. I don't want to overlook those guys because they … the block Danny had on that touchdown run, he knocked two guys back. Heath Miller blocked really well and so did Jerame (Tuman) when he came in. I can't say enough about them. I know you talk about those interior five, but you've got to give the tight end and the fullback their just due as well.
Q: Do you tell your players not to scoreboard watch this time of year?
BC: I don't have to tell them, they know that.
Q: You've had eight fumbles the past two weeks and recovered
seven of them. Is that something you can bring up to the team? If those bounce the wrong way, that could be trouble?
BC: Yes they could be. We talk about it. We don't want to have fumbles, we don't want to have turnovers. The minus side of those a lot of times has a lot to do with the outcome of games. You try to look at each individual situation. The ball the other day was wet, it was one of those days, particularly in the second half. We've been fortunate to get some of these back. We'll continue to talk about it and recognize that good fortune isn't going to continue if we continue to put the ball on the ground.
BC: We've had good veteran leadership on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game as well. You have to have that. You're going to have young players who you count on to make plays, but the veterans are the ones you count on to set the tone with how you deal with adversity, success and the circumstances week in and week out. The expectation level, you go to a certain team and certain things happen and people expect it. Our standards are high around here. Our expectations are high. They're a tendency to overreact when something bad happens. It's very important that the guys who have been here can say, ‘listen, that goes with the magnification of where you're playing football and what's expected around here.' Don't overreact, but address it and understand that certain things can't take place. You're banking on experience and veterans and that you're sending the right message to your football team.
Q: Do you express that to them?
BC: Everybody's their own people. You're not going to tell them how to lead. Leaders aren't something you teach someone to do. That comes natural. People do it different ways. They hear me speak on a daily basis and they know the things we're trying to do. When you have success, people understand what's expected without having to say something. Maybe you can look a certain way or have a mannerism that tells them what has to be done. Certainly you want to have things permeated down through. When you have people who have been around, they understand.
Q: As good as Antwaan Randle El has been as a punt returner, do have any issues with him backtracking?
BC: At times. At times you want to see him hit it. But I don't go out there and tell a runner how to run or a thrower how to throw or a receiver how to catch the ball. Those are things that come naturally. Certainly there are things that you design and you'd like him to hit things quicker, but he'll see that. He's a special guy with the ball in his hands. We've got to do a better job with judgement in terms of hitting guys and making sure we do pull up if we see a guy's back. It's something we'll continue to work on. We had seven penalties the other day and three were on returns. Two were false starts. One was on me and the other was on Heath. Two others, one was offensive pass interference on Hines, the defensive pass interference on Deshea. I thought we did a good job on penalties the other day.