Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher's Opening Statement
Let me give you where we are with some of the players. We should have pretty much everyone available for Super Bowl Sunday. The only person is Andre Frazier. Andre fractured his ankle and will have sugery tomorrow. We'll probably make a roster move either sometime later today or tomorrow to fill that spot. The only other person, if I had to list a guy as questionable, would be Travis Kirshke and that's with a groin. We're hopeful everybody else should be ready to go full next week. Our players came in yesterday and talked about last Sunday's game and we went through the logistics of what next week will entail, the tickets and the travel as it relates to family and friends. The players will be in the process of getting some of that information back. We'll be gameplanning Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Monday morning we will leave for Detroit. We'll get a light workout, get familiar with the facility at the Silverdome where we'll be working all week. Tuesday is the media day and then we'll have pretty much a basic Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Obviously we're excited about the opportunity to finish off a very good season to this point. We're facing an opponent, that if anyone has flown under the radar, it's Seattle. They earned the No. 1 seed and obviously one of their losses came in the last game against Green Bay in a meaningless game. They may have had a little bit of rust in the first game, but they were very potent in the second game against Carolina. They showed why they were the second-ranked offense in the NFL. They led the league in sacks, were No. 5 against the rush. They have two young linebackers that lead the way. It's a solid football team in every way. Mike Holmgren has a history of knowing how to play in big games and we'll have a big challenge for us on Super Bowl Sunday.
Coach, is it more important to get the majority of your gameplan in this week so that you don't have the distractions of next week?
The distractions are going to be there and we'll have most of it put in. It's going to be a very important week of work, there's no question about that. We'll talk about what they're going to face going there. We've got some guys who have not been there before, but we have a lot of coaches who have been there before. We'll try to educate them, but this will be a very important week, no doubt.
Coach, because of that, is it important that they're able to take care of family and friends?
I think that's the biggest benefit of the next couple of days, which is why we're trying to get all of this taken care of by Thursday so then we can focus on football. It's an opporunity that you want to share with a lot of people and the logistics of doing that can be overwhelming at times with all of the requests. At the same time, you can't overlook what we're going there to do. Obviously, it can be very overwhelming to do in just one week's time. People have done it, I don't envy that.
Here's a question about momentum from an unemployed guy looking to get a new job?
We have created a golden opportunity for ourselves, but we have not done anything. And that's what we have to keep in mind because some people are giving you the kudos. With two weeks to go, they can talk about all the things you've done well. That can all change with one bad play, one quarter or one bad game.
A second question from the unemployed guy about what Cowher learned 10 years ago.
There's some things you can share with them. You talk about the demands and what the game day is like and the pregame. There's some things that you share and I've talked to some people around the league as well because it has been 10 years. I think we're trying to inform them and keep them aware of what to expect. It's still going to be a football game when the ball is kicked off and it's still about executing.
Is that why you're going in Monday?
There's no need to go Sunday.
It's close and we're going to be there Monday.
Did they try to get you to go Sunday?
No, they asked us.
You guys are on such a roll right now, some of the guys said yesterday they'd like to play this week. Is that a concern to you?
No. I think because of the logistics of everything that's involved with it. From a football standpoint, we're pretty healthy. From that perspective, maybe we'd just keep playing. But because of everything that's involved – it's not just the next game, there's a lot more involved than that – I think that's why we tried to get them in Monday and get them the information, get it to their families. And the coaches are in here working, getting another day of preparation. And we'll get them in here Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We'll put a lot of it in, not all of it, give them that edge, I don't want it to get stale. We'll be alright.
How do you make sure they carry over that momentum (because playing for the freaking Super Bowl won't be enough)?
Remind them. Remind them of where we are and the fact that it's not a done deal.
How much did you believe in this team last year?
When you looked at the group, it was a young team. We had young players are key positions. Certainly our quarterback was going to be a year older. We had two safeties who were starting for the first time and they were coming back. You had some youth and some experience along the way. Certainly next year will be different from this year. But at the same standpoint, it was key positions that we had youth that would only gain experience. At the same time, we had some luck along the way. Let's not kid ourselves, a ball bounces here or there, we're not sitting here. There's a very fine line that you have to be able to walk. We aren't suddenly this great team that's sitting here six weeks later, we aren't. We haven't been. It's the same group of guys sitting in there. And you can't forget how you created the opporunity and I want to make sure they understand that. We've done nothing, nothing at all. We've created a golden opportunity and we've worked hard to get to this point. What we have to do is make sure we don't underestimate what's in front of us. It's a stiff opponent, a good football team, very well coached and they are just as hungry as we are.
How much personal satisfaction do you take from going to another Super Bowl?
None as compared to winning it. Getting there is one thing, but it's not so much personal as it is for this organization, for these players, for some of the guys who have been through the tough losses we have in AFC Championship games.
As the home team, you get to designated when you get to do the interviews. Will you do them first or second?
What color uniforms will you wear?
Is that because of the road thing?
We're on the road I think. We're not playing at Heinz Field.
Your team has embraced an underdog role. Why is that?
Everybody roots for the underdog, so why not? But when you get to this game, I don't know that there is an underdog. When you're playing the Super Bowl, you've got two good teams that earned the right to be there. You work hard to travel this path, but if you don't finish the deal, it will be forgotten. You have a chance to put your name up there with some of the great teams. That's the opportunity we're selling to the players. They don't remember who lost the game, they remember who won it.
Wearing the white jerseys, is that like fans who have to sit in the same chair?
I'm sure they will be. They'll be in the same spots. It's just a little later.
Is your team wearing the white jerseys because they work?
We're not at Heinz Field, so in my mind, it's an away game.
He's a different kind of back. He's a very patient runner, he's very strong. He's got great balance and vision. He's one of those guys who doesn't look like he's going very fast but he just keeps on going. He's an outstanding running back and perfect for that system. He's a big guy that can break tackles, so he's not an easy guy to bring down.
What's different this time as opposed to 10 years ago?
What's different? The opportunity. The longer you stay in it, the more you cherish it. The first time, it was our fourth year. To get back there, you don't realize how hard it is to get back there. We'll cherish it. We'll enjoy it. The most important thing will be to make sure we go there and accomplish what we set out to do.
Was there anything the first time that surprised or overwhelmed you?
It's different. It's not like any other game. That's been the thing, trying to educate the players what the week is like, what the game is like. You can enjoy the process, but don't lose focus of why you're there. I think certainly you want to go through it, but you'll have a lot more time when all is said and done to reflect on what you've been able to accomplish.
You said you sought some advice from colleagues about what's changed. What'd they tell you?
I'm sure 10 years ago they didn't have all the sports shows setting up in lobbies. It's become more of a production. It's a big production. It was big back then. I don't know, it's a big to-do. But they still have to play a football game when it's kicked off. At that point, we've got to be ready to play football.
The unemployed guy asks about guys returning to Detroit and it being so close it's a home game.
It's hard to say. We may practice with noise a little bit. Certainly, it won't be like going to Seattle and playing in their place. They're going to have a fair share of fans too. It's not like they'll all be there pulling for Pittsburgh. It will be evenly distributed. It was when we played in Arizona. When Dallas scored, they cheered. When we scored, they cheered. I'm sure that's the way it's going to be this game too.
Does it mean anything more to you that the guys on this team are players you drafted as opposed to the last time, when they were guys you inherited?
No, because when you're with these guys – even the guys who came here during the offseason – we've been together for so long. These are your guys. We've been through the thick, the thin, the tough times, the wavering that could have taken place, the uncertainty that took place at times. Being able to fight through that, overcome that, whether it be injury , the challenges, the games that we had to go through, it's a bond that's created. These guys and this year, I think it's important to sieze every opportunity, because it's going to be a different group of guys next year, let's face it. I think it would be unfair not to take every year and try to be the best that you can be. Throw everything you can, heart and soul into things. These guys have done that. This coaching staff has done that. We're trying to cap off a good year and try to make it very special in two weeks.
Coach (getting back to the slappiness) you mentioned 10 years ago, things were different. Your family at home (as opposed to that secret one he keeps on the road) was much younger. How has it been with the girls being able to understand what's going on?
They're going to be there. It's just a little harder logistically. Meghan is playing at Brown Saturday night. She's got a weekend of basketball, but we'll get her in there Sunday. And my other two are playing here Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh. They're going to play their games and get there on Sunday. I know the last time, Megs came to the game and the other two were back in the hotel making lemonade. This time they'll go to the game and enjoy it more than the last time.
You've averaged 2.7 yards per carry the past two weeks, how do you turn that around?
Your point is well taken. We've got to be able to run the ball better. We've played two pretty good defenses, there's no question about that. This one's no different, they're fifth against the rush. I concur with that assessment. We have to be able to run the ball more efficiently than we have the last couple of weeks. We can't just sit there rely on throwing the football all the time. We want to have balance and be able to do that, but I think we have to be able to run the ball more efficiently.
Were the jerseys your decision?
I guess it was my decision, I didn't consult with anybody. They asked me and I told them. I didn't think too much about it. I don't think it's that big a deal what jersey color we're wearing, to be honest with you. Maybe that's just me. They wanted to know if we wanted to wear our away jerseys or home jerseys. I figured that we're not playing at Heinz Field, to me it's an away game. I think anybody can understand that rationale of thinking. That's what I was thinking. If it's a sensitive issue to people, I'm sorry.
Are you superstitious?
No. We've been playing well the last three weeks on the road. This is another one.
You wore black in Arizona.
I have no idea.
Will the coaching staff wear white?
I don't know what they'll wear. I'll wear what I did in Indianapolis because it's in another dome. We're really getting, you want to know what shoes I'm wearing?
Did the visit from Mike Shanahan surprise you after the game?
No. Not knowing Mike. He's a class guy and that's a class organization. I have unbelieveable respect for him. He has two Super Bowl wins. I thought that was a classy thing he did. I've got a lot of respect for him.
Unemployed guy again, how inspirational has Jerome (Bettis) been?
We've talked about it and the fact we've been able to play this last game back there. Now we've go to make sure it's a positive finish.