Head coach Bill Cowher held his pre-game press conference for the Pittsburgh Steelers final preseason contest Thursday night at Heinz Field against Carolina.
Opening statement: OK, let me just say in regards to the game on Thursday, there are only four players who play due to injury. They are Hines Ward, Jerame Tuman, Anthony Madison – all three of those guys have hamstrings – and Max Starks kind of got a knee the other day in the game. He should be OK, but he will not play or dress. Those guys, that's where they are. Everybody else will be available based on health, but how much and if they play will be decided on once we get through these next few days. Obviously we're taking into consideration that we play one week later. Given that statement, I will open it up to questions.
No major developments since yesterday's press conference?
No major developments since I last talked to you 13 hours ago.
The last couple of years haven't you gone into the last preseason game wanting to play the guys a little more to gain a little momentum?
The scheduling will play a factor. In the past when we've played this game, we've had 10 days of rest. This will leave us with basically seven days and that will play a major factor in some of the decisions we will make.
So it may be less time?
It will play a big factor in who's playing, how much and if they play.
So probably less time.
Again, I will say how much and if they play will be factored based on the fact we are playing a game seven days later.
Will Ben (Roethlisberger) play and will he start?
The fact that we play seven days later will play a major part in some of the decisions we make in regards to this game.
How about just you philosophy about playing a preseason game right before a regular season game?
I like the four preseason games. Certainly since we've gone to this Thursday format of opening up – which was done for all of the right reasons – it has definitely altered the thinking of the fourth preseason games as it relates to your starters.
What about the importance of getting a win in the preseason or is it not important?
You never play any game not to win. I don't like losing at anything, regardless of what's at stake or what the ground rules are. As I stated after the game the other night, even in preseason, you have a plan on how you are going to play players. Certainly in that plan you want to win within that structure. You're not going to alter that plan just to win a game. That being said, I think coming out of the preseason, I'm not worried about this team from a confidence standpoint if we go through this 0-4. I think if you're coming off a losing season or a couple of losing seasons, the culture that you're trying to establish or chance, so to speak, I think it may play a factor. I'm not really concerned with that with this team at this point. We've made some progress. Would I like to see us farther ahead in certain areas? Yeah. But we're not. We are where we are. I think the focus of this team yesterday was dedicated solely to Miami. We'll start to do a little Carolina stuff today and tomorrow, but we're gearing ourselves up for that first game. We recognize we have a tough schedule ahead of us. We have a veteran team for the most part that understands what the long haul entails and what the purpose of a preseason and a training camp really is.
With that being said, will practice be a more determining factor at some positions like safety? It looks like you probably won't use the game Thursday?
No, that's not necessarily true. Any time you have a game, you have an opportunity to present what kind of player you are. That doesn't mean what you're doing is not important, it's how you do it. All those things will be taken into consideration. We'll have roles for players as they come in here on Sunday for that first practice. They understand, particularly for those players who have been around here, that the role you have at the beginning of the season is one I want you to embrace and accept. But they should understand that also, within those roles, they can change, based on injury, based on circumstance. My approach is to exhaust every resource that we have to win a game that particular week. It's a week-to-week affair. Players understand that. It requires them to take a very unselfish approach to the game and to this team and what their role is. They may be inactive on game day just because of who we're playing or injury or just the makeup of that team, but that doesn't mean that's how it's going to be all year. They have to understand that and accept that and recognize that it can change from week to week.
Is today's practice to game plan for Miami?
No it is not.
Who will start at right tackle?
We haven't really sat down, I want to get through today's practice, but Trey (Essex) or Willie (Colon).
How has Brett Keisel looked?
Keisel's fine. It's not like he's new to this system. You just won't see him on the kicking game any more and he's playing three downs. I think those things, he's done well. Can he do this week in and week out, can he hold up over the course of 16 weeks? That will be the questions you have to ask. He's earned this and I feel very good about where he is right now.
I know Max won't start or play. How concerned are you about the offensive line?
I don't know if I'm concerned. We've been a little inconsistent there, but I'm not concerned. They've worked with one another, I know what they can do. I would like to think that we'll be fine there.
You have to be more confident than most teams in regards to your backup quarterback position.
There's no question that with Charlie (Batch), this has been the best camp he's had since he's been here. I feel very comfortable with him. It was good last year just to get him in there and let him compete in those couple of games and get the win. Certainly up in Green Bay it was good at that time of year. I feel very comfortable with Charlie Batch, he's had a very good preseason.
Did you see Carson Palmer play last night?
Yeah I did. But I really wanted to watch Andre Agassi play, so I was watching that most of the time. But he looked pretty good.
Palmer or Agassi?
I guess Agassi looked better after I went to bed because he won the match, but I thought Palmer looked really good.
Is losing two starters off the defense significant? Is the transition to two new starters tough to overcome or no?
I guess time will tell. In our system it's unique to be able to bring back the same 11 year in and year out. You're going to have a little bit of turnover, that's the way the system is set up. I think we've been fortunate when you look at the two starters we lost. Kimo (von Oelhoffen), he'll be missed, no question. But Brett has earned that position. Look at the free safety position and we've got Ty (Carter) and Ryan (Clark) and Anthony (Smith), there's going to be a little bit of transition there, but I feel really comfortable with those guys.
When you were playing, when a guy had an injury to the magnitude of what Palmer and (Daunte) Culpepper both had, do you remember guys coming back from that. Are you amazed at the steps the medical field has made with that?
It's amazing, it really is. Those injuries used to be a year and they said you never really got to being healthy until the second year until you get your equilibrium back and getting used to that new joint again. There's no question that the medical advancements out there today (have been great). Carson happened in the playoffs and he was out there last night and he looked as comfortable as he was before he got hurt. It is amazing. It's the same thing with Daunte. It's a credit to them and their staffs and obviously to technology.
Was there anything you saw that looked like he was like Ben was in his first game back with guys flopping around him?
It's probably a little different. Ben's legs weren't involved with his accident. It's probably different when you look a quarterback when it relates to his knee. That's hard to say.
Is this game still about information or is it about confirmation?
Both. Probably more gathering information about the guys who are playing the majority of the game; like I said by gaining experience. I'm for the four games and I will be because when you establish those roles, this game may be the last game they get to be under fire, so to speak, in game-like situations and that will be the last reference point you have as a coach to feel good about that next guy who needs to step up when somebody goes down. It's still about both. You're confirming some of the things you've thought to this point, but it's still another opportunity to see some of these guys play.
Does the last impression sometimes stick?
I think if you talk about being a consistent football team and wanting consistent players, you have to be careful about making too big of a last impression or first impression. You want someone who what you see is what you are going to get play in and play out, week in and week out. I think you have to be very careful about getting too much from a first impression or getting too much from a last impression. It could be just a game and the matchup that existed that particular night. I think it's more about the whole process than it is any one incident.
Are these final cuts going to more difficult than most years?
Yeah it is, certainly at some positions more than others. Once you get through this to see where you are with injuries and playing just seven games later, it's going to have some effect on this final roster.
Will Tuman's injury play a factor in keeping a third tight end?
Like I said, I think some of the injuries are a concern. With him and Hines, those guys haven't been on the field in some time, so to say you feel good about that, I'd say that's not true. I think it will have an effect. It will have an effect on the final makeup.
Will you cut Friday?
Friday, Saturday, we have until 6 p.m. Saturday, so we may use some of that time. There's no hurry. We're going to use whatever time we have to make the right decisions.