Cowher press conference, Aug. 17

Steelers head coach Bill Cowher addressed the media Thursday and the main topic of discussion was the state of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's injured thumb. Cowher also discussed his lineup plans for Saturday.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher's opening statement:
In regards to who is playing and not playing Saturday night. Four players are definitely out: Chukky Okobi, Jerame Tuman, Hines Ward and Isaac West. Three guys are questionable right now; Sean Morey has a thumb, he'll run around a little today. He has a fiberglass cast on it. He's got a bone contusion in his thumb. We'll make a decision and see how he feels for Saturday. Clint Kriewaldt has a slight groin strain. Again, he's questionable. We'll see what he can do in the next couple of days. And then Ben (Roethlisberger). Ben has a sprain of his thumb, a ligament sprain. He feels better than he did yesterday this morning. We won't work him today and we'll see how he feels tomorrow. If he feels OK tomorrow, he'll play Saturday. That's pretty much the update we have on him. There's no indication we have to do any tests or anything of that nature. I think he may have hit it on his arm or a jersey. That's pretty much it. AS we go into this game, we're looking at a quarter for most of the players, give or take a series or two. Hopefully, we'll play better this week.

So he hit it on his own arm?
It's hard to say. It's hard to see on film.

He played pretty good with a bad thumb last year.
Like I said, it's something we'll be cautious with. We'll rest him today and see how he feels tomorrow.

He hurt it last year and has done it again. Is it a cumulative thing?
He's been fine, there's been no problem with it the whole camp. He's been throwing the ball good.

So this isn't a long-term thing?
At this point that's what all indications are. It's day to day and we'll see how he feels.

So you didn't have to do any tests?
Correct.

Will you switch quarterbacks this week with Omar (Jacobs) and Shane (Boyd)?
Yeah, they'll both play. I don't want to say one's three and one's four. They're both going to play and we'll go from there. We're probably going to put Omar in behind Charlie (Batch) this week, just like we did with Shane last week.

Same thing at safety, Ryan (Clark) starts this week?
Correct.

Will Batch go longer if Ben doesn't play, or will he just stay with the starters?
Charlie's playing well, we'll get him just enough work to keep him sharp and no more.

What about Joey (Porter)? How long will he play?
It's hard to say. We'll see how he feels and give him enough snaps out there to get acclimated to the speed. We'll go from there.

Is it safe to say you'll err on the side of caution with Ben?
I think that's a safe statement to make.

Will Kendall (Simmons) take a snap or two at center?
Yeah. We may look at that. We haven't really sat down to discuss that, but we'd like to be able to do that, just not to have it come up and him be our only option. We'd like to at least get him some preseason work either this week or next week we'll definitely look at that to some extent.

How much time is Chukky going to miss?
We'll see. He's still got to get all of his feeling back and his strength back in his arm. I think we'll have a better sense for that on Monday. Again, he could be ready for the last preseason game, but we aren't going to mess around with that. We will err on the side of caution with the neck.

Hines missed a couple of weeks of preseason last year. Does that make it less of a concern this year or would you like to see him get some work?
He's as frustrated as anybody. He's trying everything and anything. It's eating at him not to be out there. He likes to practice. You almost have to get him to be patient with this. Yeah, I'd like to see him out there, I'd like to see everybody out there. But you have to be smart with this and recognize the length of the season. We know about Hines. That's not something I'm concerned with. But a hamstring is not something you screw around with. We're going to err on the side of caution with him.

At what point will you make a final decision on the free safety position? Will that be something that goes into the start of the regular season, or do you see doing something before that?
I've not put a timetable on it.

Is it something where Tyrone could start the third game and Ryan comes back and starts the fourth game?
Yeah, it could easily be that. Like I said, I have not put a timetable on it so I can't answer your question because if I answer your question, I put a timetable on it. I'm not trying to be evasive, I'm trying to be honest.

Is there a comfort level there though with Troy (Polamau) for whoever ends up winning the spot? Is that a concern?
No, I'm not concerned about that because Troy has worked with both of those guys and they've all kind of worked together. We've intermixed them enough with Ty and Ryan. Both of those guys have worked with the first group. I don't think there will be any kind of acclimation that will need to take place when we make a decision because they both have been in there enough that we'll be fine at that position.

Who's the No. 2 halfback?
We'll look at it. Willie (Parker) is going to play a short period of time. I want to get Duce (Staley) in there with that first group. Verron Haynes has had an excellent camp. But I want to give Duce a chance to run behind that first line. There's a good chance we'll see him first.

Will Duce get a chance on third down?
We'll look at it and see. Again, sometimes that has to play out. We had him in there last week scheduled to do it and sometimes the situation doesn't play arise. But he'll get some time there.

How's Cedric (Humes) coming along?
Cedric's doing fine. I think he's getting more comfortable. He made a couple of plays last week. Again, he'll get some chances to work in the second halves of these games and it's going to be very important for him as a runner, but also in the kicking game. Those are the things that will play very heavily into those decisions these next three games.

Passing game?
I think it's hard to assess after just the first game. We've done some good things on the field. We had a better week this week, particularly for the young kids. They're starting to run crisper routes and getting the timing element of it. Again, you have to be able to take that into a game. It's hard for me to assess that after one game to say the state of where we are. I'll give you the state of where we are probably after the third game - where I think we are - just like I did last year. Doesn't mean I'm always right, but that's where I think where we are.

Is there anything you specifically look for in the second exhibition game?
I think just this week was a big week. I like to see us be crisp, sharp. We made a lot of mental errors last week on offense and every third down we lost on defense with the first group. Those little things I want to see us improve, particularly third down on defense and the mental errors on offense. We need to continue to take the same aggressive approach. I know there are going to be mistakes and I don't have a problem with that. I just don't want them to be repetitive. You've got to be able to put it aside. I want them to play fast and play with confidence. I think if you do that and take that approach, you'll find the mistakes will become less and less and you'll get more comfortable, particularly the younger players.

Has Duce added weight from last season?
No. In fact, he's lighter this year than he was last year.

How's he looked to you?
He's looked good. We gave him off yesterday. He has a little wear and tear on his body and sometimes you have to do that with players his age and at this point in his career. Like I said, he just needs to play to get back into the running shape and get the feel for the running game. And we've got to give him a chance to run behind a good offensive line just to get a sense for where he is.


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