AFC Championship Press Conference

Steelers head coach Bill Cowher addresses the interception that was, wasn't, then was again; his relationship with Mike Shanahan; and his team's injury status heading into Sunday's AFC Championship Game vs. the Denver Broncos.

Bill Cowher Press Conference

Opening Statement
Let me give you the injury update as we get ready for Sunday's game. James Harrison is doubtful with an ankle. We have the following players probable: James Farrior with a calf; Kimo (von Oelhoffen) with a knee; Ben (Roethlisberger) with his thumb; Travis Kirshke with a groin; Deshea Townsend with a knee; Joey (Porter) with a hip; Larry Foote with his knee; and Chidi (Iwuoma) with his shoulder. Again, we came through the game pretty good. We anticipate having all of those players who are probable and we'll see how James (Harrison) is at the end of the week.

The first thing I'd like to do is in regard to the Indianapolis game, I know a lot of talk has taken place with the reversal, the league has come out and talked about Troy (Polamalu's) interception, the biggest thing to understand is that all of our questions have been answered. The league got back to us yesterday about that.

I think it's important that we move on. I'm not going to sit here and talk about that. Our officials are doing the very best they can do. Obviously, at times there are going to be mistakes made. Like I said, to me, those guys are human like the rest of us. We're moving on.

Joey's comments after the game were made out of frustration. We have a 15-minute cooling off period. We have some guys that could use a little longer than that. That's to be said. There's no conspiracy or things of that nature, that's ridiculous.

We were fortunate to come out of that football game. We played well. But we had two turnovers without any takeaways. You go through a game minus-2 in the turnover takeaway and you win the game, you're fortunate. We played well in all three phases last week.

As we're getting ready to go to Denver, it's going to take another superior effort on our part. The are a football team that has not lost at home this year, they are 9-0. You look at them offensively, they're second in the National Football League rushing. They have the fewest turnovers. Defensively, they're second in rush defense and they've got the fourth most takeaways. They're right behind Cincinnati in the turnover takeaways. This is a football team that will not beat itself. They will force you into mistakes. And I think they have the best signal caller in the game in Mike Shanahan.

We'll have to prepare for everything. What you saw last week, you won't see it again. He'll give you regular people on third down and long and he'll spread you out on third and short. We've got to be prepared for everything and anything. He does a good job of keeping you off balance.

I think (Jake) Plummer is having and outstanding year, a Pro Bowl year in my opinion. He's making great decisions. He's mobile outside the pocket. He's probably a little different in contrasting him to Peyton (Manning) in that we wanted to collapse the pocket and force him outside. It's a different situation with Jake in that you want to keep him in the pocket. He's very dangerous outside of it.

It's a whole different approach for us this week. We have not played this football team before and they're playing with a whole lot of confidence. Like I said, this is a big challenge for us. It's one we're looking forward to certainly, but we will have to play our best football - better than we played last week, and I mean that sincerely – to have a chance to compete against this team.

Based on what you just said, it sounds like the pressure is on them.
I don't know if there's pressure on anybody. We know the opportunity that is there. It is a big challenge. It was a big challenge last week. I think this one is greater because they have come off the bye, they've got a win under their belts and they probably feel like they could play a lot better than they did. They beat the defending champions who had not lost a (playoff) game since Tom Brady took over. Certainly they are playing at a high level with a lot of confidence at a place they have not lost this year.

Speaking of pressure, last week a lot was made around here about being the underdog. You and the team looked very loose before the game. Can you go back to that emotion, particularly the way the game unfolded? (What?)
This is another step. We looked at last week, we're just trying to live another day. And that's how we're looking at this week. We have been in this mode – and maybe I'm saying some of the things I said last week, but I don't see it being any different – we've got a little further to go on this trip. There are a lot of obstacles to deal with. We're not going to reflect on anything, we're not going to draw on anything. We're just going to focus on this week. We have not played this football team. And I'm not sure how much we've seen of them in the cross-study of football teams. It's going to take utilizing every minute of our preparation. If we don't have good preparation, we will not perform. We will squander an opportunity. Is it a tough opportunity? Yeah. But it's an opporuntity we have and we've got to sieze that.

You talked about Mike Shanahan coming at you with different looks and schemes, your coordinators have done a good job this season of mixing things up. Can you talk about the job they've done?
We've done a good job this year. I think the players have done a good job of preparing. A lot of times you go into a game with a gameplan, but you see how it kind of unfolds early and you kind of utilize what you have as the game's unfolding. We've got a good coaching staff. You talk about chemistry with football teams, but there's great chemistry on this staff. There's a lot of unselfishness on this staff. They work hard at it. And the players, there's a good blend. They take to heart all of the little things and we spend a lot of extra time working together. They've done a good job and we're going to need every bit of effort this week because this is a big challenge.

Can you talk about your relationship with Mike Shanahan?
I interviewed Mike in 1992. I offered him a job. I think he went to San Francisco at the time. His record speaks for itself. He's won two Super Bowls. The guy's in the playoffs every year. Everybody talks about our rushing offense, they to me, have the premiere rushing offense. I know some people will take exception, but you take a back and put him in that offense - I'm not taking anything away from the backs, Terrell Davis will take exception, but don't; you ran through us too in 1997 - but he has a system there that is as good a running system as there is in the game. A lot of backs go in there and flourish. It's a good scheme and it keeps you off balance. I have a lot of admiration with Mike and what he's done.

Is their running scheme unique in the NFL?
No. It's not unique. They're just very efficient at it. I think a lot of people have tried to emulate it. They've got a commitment to it, they've done a good job finding people that fit it. They've been very good at doing it, year in and year out.

You called him the best play caller in the league. What gives him that designation?
He's unpredictable. That's what makes it hard. We're going to have to be on our Ps and Qs and see what he comes out in, whether he comes out and tries to spread us out with nobody in the backfield with Plummer, or line up with three tight ends and try to hammer the ball. They do a great job. We're going to have to be prepared to make some adjustments during the course of the game, no doubt about that.

They have ability to make plays on the edge on both side of the ball.
Their linebackers are outstanding: D.J. Williams, Al Wilson and Ian Gold. I've always been a big Ian Gold guy. I thought he was a great player coming out of Michigan. Their defensive line, it's a lot of the same guys we played last year in Cleveland - (Mike) Myers, (Ebenezer) Ekuban, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren. But the linebackers can flow. And in their secondary, the safeties (Nick) Ferguson and John Lynch are like linebackers. They give you a lot of different looks. Champ Bailey is one of the top corners if not the top corner in the National Football League, and they've got a couple of young kids that have stepped in and played very well for them. (Dominique) Foxworthy and Durant Williams, they have come in and made a lot of plays. There's no surpises when they come after you. They will come after you. They will put a lot of guys at the line of scrimmage and sometimes they'll come and sometimes they'll bail. And you'd better be prepared for the blitz and at the same time, not panic when they drop back and turn the football over.

When you put the ball in the hands of your young quarterback on the road in the playoffs, what's that say about the trust you have in this guy?
I don't look at him as a young quarterback, to be honest. He's been doing this for two seasons and to me, he's earned that trust. He has a good feel for the game. In a lot of respects, we're going to go as far as he takes us. I'm not trying to put any pressure on him, but that's the facts. He likes that, he knows that. You've got to have balance. In this league, you're not going to go far if you don't have that. We understand that and we feel like we have some good weapons around him. At the same time, we're not going to try to lose our identity. But part of that is trying to have some balance and do some things that may be against what some people think you are. We've played some high-scoring games, you look at the second Cincinnati game, Ben has proven he has the ability to do that. He did a lot of good things. People say we got away from the run too fast, but I don't know how you can fault scoring 30-some points. We just turned the football over and gave up a couple of big plays. We have a lot of confidence in him, he has a lot of confidence in the people around him, in our line and our signal callers, that's all part of having a balanced offense.

Will you do anything to deal with the altitude?
No, the biggest thing is to hydrate and make sure you get enough fluid in your body. We'll stick to our same schedule, a lot like New England did last week. We'll get our there late Saturday and play Sunday and I don't think it will have much of an affect.

When you were with Cleveland, you guys went to Albuquerque, right?
We did, but you were forced to go in two days before. I think if you go as late as we're going in, I don't think it will have a big affect.

Did it help?
We lost the game. The fumble, if you remember the fumble drive. I guess that answers that question.

When you went there in 2003, did it affect anybody? I know you had to extenuating circumstances in that game.
I don't remember it being. That's when we were substituting linemen instead of receivers on third down. I don't think that was much of a factor.

The 14-point lead, did it give you opportunities to do some things defensively?
We talked about it the night before the game and I thought with them having had the week off, there would be a little acclimation back to the speed of the game. If we were going to have a chance to jump on them, it would be at the beginning of the game. If you look at Denver, too, I think it's going to be very important for us to start fast because they have been a notoriously fast starting team. If you give them a lead, you are playing right into their hands with their running game, with their defense. It is going to be very important we start fast just because of Denver's history this year and how they like to play the game. We did talk about getting off to a fast start and there's no question that helped us because we were able to dictate some things we were able to do.

Precious opportunity?
The biggest thing is not looking at the end, it's a short-term focus right now. We've been in this mode for about the last month, month-and-a-half. I don't see it being any different. The focus has to be on this game, with this team. As I referenced earlier, because we played Cincinnati before, played Indianapolis before, this is a team we have not played before and have not seen a lot. Our focus is going to be solely on Denver in a very short period of time and we have to have a good week of preparation. Talk about anything else is irrelevant.

Is mobility more tough to prepare for in a quarterback?
I don't know that it's more difficult to prepare for. But it's kind of like the awareness of backs. Tatum Bell is in there and he's got great speed. And Mike Anderson is a good cutback runner. Now the containment issue is going to be more of an issue, just from the awareness of it with Jake because of his mobility. There are a lot of bootlegs to both sides that we're going to have to be prepared for and be more disciplined in our rush lanes.

Can the ‘Us against the World' mentality continue to work?
We are traveling a road no one else has been on. However you want to view that. We certainly aren't going to let history dictate our journey. As I told the players, your journey can make history. That's the mindset we have.

It's almost like your team prefers to be on the road.
We're not at home. We're on the road. We're playing a team that has not lost at home all year. No team has ever been where we are. But that is not going to discourage us. Does it make the challenge great? Absolutely. But at the same time, we have to sieze this opportunity.

Do they still cut-block as much as they always have?
I don't know that it's any more than anybody else and we'll look at the film and they'll understand what they're going against.

Other than the altitude, can you talk about the other problems playing out there?
Obviously, it's loud. But it always seems like they have good football teams there as well. Even when I was an assistant, John Elway sent me to the Pro Bowl a couple of times. They've had good quarterbacks and they flourish under Mike's system. … I don't know if it's so much the Denver stadium or arena. It's the football team that you're playing is pretty good.

Doctors were working on Ben's arm, is he OK?
He's probable with a thumb.

When there's a replay, is the official on the field consulting with anyone upstairs?
No.

There's no consultation?
I don't believe so.


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