Up next, Cleveland Browns

With the upcoming game against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday, Bill Cowher's press conference was moved up a day. The health of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks good going into another big game.

Opening Statement: Given the short period of time, there's nothing that has surfaced from an injury standpoint from this game. The only update I do have is the guys who didn't play yesterday. Andre Frazier will still be listed as doubtful. Marvel (Smith) I would upgrade to questionable. We'll see if he can work tomorrow and we'll go from there. We came out of the game pretty clean from an injury standpoint. We have some guys who may not practice tomorrow, but I don't foresee holding them back Saturday.

A quick reflection on the game: Our defense came up with a very good effort against that football team. Having the opportunity to take the ball away twice and our red zone defense stopped them when they got the ball at the 3-yard-line on the punt. It was like the week before. That was a big stop. Our special teams did a good job with (Antwaan Randle) El's return and our coverage did a good job and performed very well. I thought offensively we did some good things. Certainly we didn't throw the ball as well as we would have liked, but I thought given the set of circumstances the only negative was that we weren't able to finish off drives. We settled for three field goals out of the four times down there. It's something we can improve upon and need to improve upon. Nothing's really changed though. Our situation is pretty much the same as it was last week. We have the next game and that's the only game to focus on. We know what's at stake and the only thing we can control is how we play.

Q: Does this seem like their Super Bowl, a chance to knock you out of the playoffs?
BC: There's no question. I'll say this about Cleveland. I haven't had a chance to look at them yet, but I know (Charlie) Frye's been starting. He's a very good athlete and I know he brought them back yesterday for a game-winning field goal attempt. I think anytime you're looking at a first-year coach, you don't look at the record so much as what they're trying to build. It's a football team that took Cincinnati down to the last second the week before. They beat Miami 22-0 a few weeks ago. There will be great satisfaction if they can knock us out of the playoffs. We understand that and we know the challenge will be going on the road and winning in that stadium.

Q: Does it look as if they are responding to what Romeo is trying to get them to do?
BC: Yeah. They're making a commitment to the young quarterback. They're going to get better with that. And they've had some tough injuries. You lose your No. 1 pick at tight end, the No. 1 pick at receiver. At the same time, they've still got (Dennis) Northcutt and (Antonio) Bryant out there. Rueben Droughns has rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time since back when I was coaching them. They're making strides. They've got a lot of football players who are trying to build something. I don't think there's any question they're making strides in the right direction.

Q: Differences with Frye? (Even though you said previously you hadn't seen them yet)
BC: I have not looked at them enough to answer that question.

Q: Did your offensive line maintain what it accomplished against Chicago or did it take a step or two back?
BC: Every week's a challenge. Every week you're dealing with a different challenge. We weren't as crisp, but I give credit to them too. Kevin Williams came back. He was disruptive. He's a good defensive tackle. We dealt with the noise OK. It was a little spotty at times but sometimes you're going to play games like that. We got off to a rough start with the false starts and a holding penalty, but after that we settled down with the noise. Even the protection was good for the most part. I thought we did a lot of good things. We weren't as efficient as you'd like to see. We had some third and makeables that we had a chance to convert that we weren't able to do, but I give a lot of credit to Minnesota. They had a lot at stake as well. We knew it was going to be a tough football game.

Q: (Stop, Ellis time) Gobbldy-gook about being afraid to commit turnovers against Minnesota's defense.
BC: I give them credit because their front four can create some problems for your offense. Particularly they got Kevin Williams back and he was a key person for them to get back. They've got some corners that can make plays and safeties that understand that defense. We missed some opportunities, left some plays out there, but we did a lot of good things. We played smart. We didn't beat ourselves. If we finish off a couple of those drives, we probably walk away from it feeling a little better. Four times in the red zone, we only scored one touchdown. A lot of times when you do that, it's going to come back to haunt you. The fact we weren't able to finish those drives made it look more uncomfortable than it was. But I give a lot of credit to Minnesota. But at the same time, we did what we had to do.

Q: Any thoughts on using your defense more as your punt return team considering how well that worked out?
BC: We've done that quite a bit depending on down and distance. We got a returnable punt and he took it. We've been close on some of the punt returns. We're trying to eliminate the penalties. I sometimes feel like that's all I'm ever talking about. We had two penalties on punt returns this week and one of them was negated by them being downfield and I made them kick it again. I told them that whatever you do, no penalties. My man Mike Logan goes out and gets a penalty. But they're aggressive penalties. There's a fine line there. I'm promoting finishing, making sure you get a hat on a hat. It is an act of aggression. I don't want to diminish that. Mike's a good football player. He takes a lot of pride in that. We're getting close, we were getting close last week. And El's getting excited about that too. If we can get our kickoff return going, we were a little behind with that yesterday. We're going to need all three phases. That's what this team is built on. We want the special teams to be a positive each week and then find a way to win on offense or defense or both - would be ideal. We did some things better than the week before and that's the key this time of year, to continue to get better from the previous week.

Q: Would you like to see El be more north and south?
BC: Yeah. But sometimes you have to make a guy miss. It's easy for us to say. We're not the ones down there covering punts and having guys flying down at you. His statistics over the years warrant his decision making. I trust him with the ball in his hands.

Q: Is a defense vulnerable if it is over aggressive?
BC: Yeah, it's going to happen. It's good to know we've got some guys who can make big plays. You look at Willie Parker yesterday. He gets two, he gets three. But you know if you keep giving the guy the ball, if he gets a seam on that carpet, he's going to go. Ben (Roethlisberger) made a great throw to Heath (Miller) on the bootleg and Heath did a great job. He's got an uncanny ability to make people miss. The other thing we're getting is some great blocks from our wide receivers. Antwaan on Ben's touchdown run, he comes back and gets Pat Williams, who's like 350 pounds, in the air. Hines Ward, what he does week-in and week-out. Quincy Morgan on the bubble screen to El. Cedrick Wilson in there recovering a fumble last week. The hustle and effort we're getting from our receivers, everything that we're doing, is what you're going to win football games with. I can't say enough about those guys. We feel like we've got enough playmakers that we're going to get a play. Just don't beat yourself. If you have to punt, you have punt. Don't force the issue.

Q: It looks like James (Farrior) and Joey (Porter) are getting healthy?
BC: Yeah. Joey is getting energized and getting his knees back. I don't think he's been 100 percent all year long. He never really got a chance to rest it. I think James is probably the same way. I think yesterday was the first time he's played without the knee brace in some time. We've got good depth on the defensive line. Casey Hampton, I can't say enough about him. On the safety, he takes the center and pushes him back into the back. Everyone else kind of cleans up behind him. You bring in Travis (Kirshke) and Brett Keisel, who's been playing great, and Chris Hoke. Then in the secondary, Ike (Taylor) has been playing very solid for us. And Deshea (Towsend) makes plays. And Chris Hope and Troy (Polamalu), they're all playing defensively at a high level. Offensively, we feel like we're going to get Marvel back here soon and Trai (Essex) has done an excellent job of filling in for him. You'd like to think we're getting a little better and getting a little energized this time of year because we need to be. If you're not going to be peaking now, you're not going to be. I like the mindset of our team now.

Q: (Stop, Ellis time) Another rambling question, this time about the challenge - which wasn't a challenge - and slowing the game down helping the road team.
BC: The Randle El play, to be honest with you, I wasn't sure why the initial flag was thrown. I can't answer that. Do they have the right? They have the right to do whatever they want. The idea is obviously to get it right. Obviously, the more conferencing they do, the less credibility that comes with the game. It slows down the game. You wonder why you have to conference a false start? It's a false start or it isn't. They got the play right. The only thing I question is Randle El getting pushed into the ball, which I still contend. They didn't see that, it wasn't a reviewable play, so you have to live with what is called. I really didn't know why all the things took place. I was just standing there watching. At one point, they said we had the ball, I thought that was great. I wasn't going to question it. They've got a tough job, but they got it right. He came and said we had the ball. Then he came over and said it was their ball. I told him that if he got pushed in, the touching wouldn't matter. I asked him to ask those people if he did get pushed into it. When he signaled first down their way, it wasn't a long discussion when he asked. I didn't think our chances were good.

Q: (Ellis is still going) Delays help?
BC: I don't know if it helps anyone. We're ready for our calls. It's hard to say.

Q: Minnesota's offensive line was jumpy. We're you doing some things to disguise and get them on edge?
BC: We do some things. We've got Troy running around. Troy knows where he needs to be when the ball is snapped. Where he is prior to that, they can talk about that all they want because we don't know where he's going to be either. He kind of does his thing out there, but he knows where he needs to be. I don't know what their discussions were, so I can't comment on that. But we did do a good job of disguising some things. We were trying to move around to try to create a little uncertainty, even with just our basic rush. How much that helped or affected them it's hard to say. We feel like that's part of what we do.

Q: Are you playing the kind of defense you need to play now?
BC: We're playing how we should be playing. Not to take anything away from Minnesota or Chicago. But those offenses are two that we should be able to stand up to. We played some good offenses before that in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. They're some of the top offenses in the National Football League. We did some good things against Indianapolis, but we gave up too many big plays to Cincinnati. We need to play this way and take a step forward. We can't have any letdown. Droughns has over 1,000 yards rushing. Frye has made some plays running around. This is going to be a big challenge for us on the road. They'd like nothing more than to end our season. We're not looking too much about where we've been or where we're going. It's where are we at?


Steel City Insider Top Stories