Post-game quotebook

The Steelers lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 17-10, to fall to 0-2 in the preseason. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a touchdown on his first and only series. It was the highlight of the post-game quotebook, which includes the transcripts of post-game interviews with Bill Cowher, Willie Parker and Ken Whisenhunt.

BILL COWHER, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

We got through the game pretty much injury free. Shaun Nua is the only one; he's got an ankle. Other than that, from a health standpoint, we got through it fine. I don't know if we took a stride. Maybe we took a baby step tonight. We did some things better than the week before but we still have a long way to go in a short period of time.

Were you happy with the first-team offense?

Yeah, yeah. Ben [Roethlisberger] did fine. He went out there and we wanted to work a little bit on the no-huddle. One thing you can see is he wants to do it. He's got great command. I thought he had good presence out there. That was good. I thought Charlie [Batch] did a good job in the one-minute. We would like to have not had the turnover to end the first half. We still had some mistakes here and there; too many little things were popping up. We didn't play consistent in the first half.

Did Santonio [Holmes] cut that up a little too sharp?

Well, I understood what he did. I don't know if it was just him. I mean, I understood what he saw. I don't know if it was the right decision to go there, so it was probably a little bit of both.

What was the problem on third-down defense?

A couple of third-down-and-ones and twos, you're not going to win those. On the second drive we had a penalty by Ike [Taylor], that was a big loss right there. It was going to be third-down-and-12 but the penalty he had on the sideline there, and the third-down-and-one Ryan Clark had a chance to make the tackle in the backfield. The other third down right there the ball got tipped. Troy [Polamalu] was jumping the sight-adjustment to the outside and the ball got tipped back inside. Again, that was a disappointing series from the point of scoring a touchdown but after that the defense did some good things.

You said you were eager to see Duce Staley. What were your impressions?

I thought it was good. Given the opportunities he had, until I get a chance to look at it, I thought he looked fine.

Did you want Willie Reid to return that last punt from out of the end zone?

Yeah, at that point that was the best offensive play we had. I told him the one before that, too, to return the punt, no matter where it's at, because I thought that was the best chance we had to get yardage.

How did you like the two-deep return set-up?

We're looking at that with Santonio and him. I think we've got to keep working some of the kinks out there.

What are the advantages?

It certainly gives you better coverage of the field, and I think we've got two pretty good returners there that we can utilize some things down the road.

Will you look at Nate Washington as a kick returner?

I don't know. We'll look at things, but I feel pretty good about the guys we have. It's not just the returner. It takes a lot of people to be in sync with some of these returns. It wasn't just Santonio or Willie or Ricardo [Colclough] out there. We've got to get everybody in sync right now. We have a lot of different combinations of people we're looking at, so there are some special-teams guys who'll be there day one that are not out there right now because we want to evaluate some of these other guys right now and try to make final roster decisions.

It looks like Nate could use a special-teams niche to get on the active game-day roster, couldn't he?

He'll be active game day.

Any young guys stand out today?

It's hard to say. We didn't do a whole lot there. We lost the game. It's hard for me to assess it from the sideline. I have to look at the video.

Were you close to keeping Ben on the bench today?

No, no. He felt good. He felt good [Friday] when we went through the walk-through and he took the snaps there, so I just told him to let me know if he didn't feel good. We never talked about it until we got out there. Like I said, we wanted him to do the one-minute, I mean the no-huddle, and I thought he did a good job of running it.

How did Joey Porter look?

I thought he looked fine. He was very active out there and I thought he was fine.

Did you have to sell him on much during your pre-camp talk with him?

We talked. I have an open door so we had a very good talk.

When you used the no-huddle with Tommy Maddox, was that a change-of-pace weapon? And might this be more proactive?

I don't know if I look at it any different right now. Where we are right now, I think Ben is able to do the same things that Tommy did. He knows what he wants to run and he's got full ability to call whatever he wants to call. We have a chance to talk to him if we see certain things. I think it's going to be a nice thing to be able to go to at any point. We wanted to work on it and be able to do it. I know he's eager to do it, so it's going to be another option we'll have.

Why didn't you keep Ben in longer? Is it the recovery from the accident?

To be honest with you, the training camp he's had, and I've seen him go out in the games, I think he's fine. I haven't seen any rust. He is playing with a lot of confidence right now. I want to give him enough to get a taste of it. That's all I need to see.

You said you wanted to see how he'd respond to taking a shot.

He's taken a couple. He got a couple today. I don't know if that's even a hurdle anymore. Like I said, at this point I liked what I saw with that first group with him in there. They took the ball down and scored. Now, if they go three-and-out they may go back in. I like where they are. I liked the start we had defensively. That second series we had with that first group, I wish we would've got off the field on one of those third downs, but like I said you look at the penalty, the missed tackle, the tipped ball; we're making some strides. It wasn't like last week where they kind of went right down the field. We took a baby step there, I think. We still need to be able to develop some of those guys playing in that second group. Right now we haven't been able to generate much offense with Omar [Jacobs] or with Shane [Boyd]. They're young players. They're working and they're out there and they're competing. We'll look at it. We'll look at that offensive line. It seemed like there was a lot of pressure with that second group, which is a little bit of a concern because some of those guys are going to be active game day; they're fighting for spots. The receivers, the more experience they can get out there the better they'll feel in the regular season because that's going to go up a notch too. We're getting a lot of valuable experience and a chance to evaluate those guys. But, again, you certainly want to be more consistent than what we've shown.

Any feel for how Trai Essex did at guard?

No. I couldn't assess that.

Did Kendall Simmons play center?

No, I think we're going to do that next week. He just started this week. He got some reps and we'll definitely do that next week.

Is John Kuhn opening some eyes?

Yeah, John's a solid football player. I thought he did some good things. He ran the ball well. I know he can play fullback. I've got to look at him in the kicking game, see how he's doing there, but he's had a very good camp.

WILLIE PARKER

What can you tell me about that no-huddle offense?

We've been doing it ever since I've been here but we just never really got to it in the game. We did it one time with Maddox last year, in the Jacksonville game, but we never got a chance to do it with Ben in there. This year we've been practicing it.

It's smooth. We've got a lot of stuff and didn't really do half the plays we have in it. Hopefully we can get a lot of practice next game.

What do you call it?

Just no-huddle.

How much in command is Ben?

He's in command. He puts people in the right places. One time the receivers were in the wrong spot and he directed them to the right side of the field and then he turned around and let me know everything. He made sure everybody was on the same page.

Do you remember Jim Kelly and the Bills' K-gun?

I watched Jim Kelly but I never paid attention to the no-huddle.

Have you guys revived it?

We like it and think it's something that will be big for our offense.

KEN WHISENHUNT

What do you call the no-huddle attack? The Whis-Gun?

No. It's Ben's. We call it Texas.

Did you just want to take a look at it?

It's been in our package. Tommy had a lot of effectiveness with it during his tenure here, and it's something we've always had in and we've worked on it. We worked on it with Ben last year. We worked on it in training camp this year and Ben has expressed interest in wanting to do some of that, and that's the key. When he wants ownership in that, then that's when you can take that step and start doing some of those things.

What advantage does it give Ben?

He can check to plays he thinks are good against the defense. The advantage of it is trying to see what they're going to do; make them line up and call a play based on that. A lot of teams have done it and had success with it, and it'll be part of our package. It's another dimension that somebody else has to work on.

Do you feel more comfortable with a third-year quarterback running it?

No question. Ben has progressed. This past spring, the work he did in the spring was fantastic as far as understanding what we're trying to get done, and even anticipating things. It's nice to see him do that in a game. This is the first time he's done it for us. He's done the two-minute drill, but not the no-huddle drill. It was something we wanted to look at, give him some opportunities, and he did a very good job with it.

The no-huddle is not the hurry-up?

No. This aspect of it tonight is not the hurry-up. We're not like we're at the end of the game and saving the clock.

So what's the advantage?

They'll play a little bit more base defense, but you make them line up because you give the threat of running a play, and that gives you an idea of what the defense is and you can call a play based on that.

Did your personnel change in those five plays?

No. The formations changed but not the personnel.

Does it compare to the K-Gun?

That's a whole different thing. That's all they did. We're not going to lose touch with the other things we do like running the football and our play-action game. This is just one aspect of it that gives Ben another element.

Does Ben call it?

That's where we're progressing to; Ben is calling a lot of those plays but we'll still call some in by the communicator.

Can he call for the entire package? Can he say ‘let's go Texas?'

He's expressed interest in doing that and that's part of the reason we did it tonight.

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