Opening Statement: Let me give you the injury update as we go into the second game. We have three players who are questionable: Ben (Roethlisberger) with the appendicitis that he is coming off of; Jerame Tuman with the hamstring; and Troy (Polamalu) with his shoulder. We have three players who are probable: that's Hines Ward with the hamstring; Max Starks with a knee; and Nate Washington with a knee. Again, as it relates to Ben. He'll work some tomorrow. We'll practice tomorrow, we're not going to do anything today. We won't make any decisions Wednesday or Thursday. We'll probably wait until Friday or Saturday before we see how he feels and where he's at and we'll go from there. It's the same with Jerame. Jerame will work Wednesday and we'll see how he feels Thursday. So we'll have more of an update on him later in the week. That's the status of our team. Certainly the game we played last Thursday against Miami, we did a lot of good things but still left ourselves a lot of room for improvement. But the fact is, we had one turnover, one penalty. I thought we played very aggressively. If you can do that and still have just the one turnover and one penalty, that's a line we're trying to walk week in and week out. I thought we did a good job on third downs on both sides of the ball and I thought we played well in the fourth quarter. Certainly we left ourselves some room for improvement in all three phases, but I thought it was a good start. We're getting ready to go down and play a good team in Jacksonville. It's a team that came off a very impressive win against Dallas. They came back after being down 10-0. They're a good football team. They were 12-4 a year ago and we've played them the last two years. We won on a last-second field goal two years ago. We lost in overtime last year. It's a team that doesn't just play us tough, they play everybody tough. They're a talented football team in all three phases, they're well coached. They play tough and hard. It's going to be a big challenge for us to go down there next Monday night. We're going to have to prepare well because it's going to take our best effort to go down there and beat this team.
Are they one of the few teams that can match your team physically?
I think there's a number of teams. They certainly play that way.
We're not the only team
that takes that approach. Certainly they match up well against us.
They feel very confident
playing against us. Every time we play against them it's a tough
matchup and I don't see it
being any different Monday night.
Does it play into your hands playing against a team that likes to
play like you?
It's tough to say. A lot of teams attempt to take that approach. The
most important thing
is how you execute, not the approach you take. This is a team that
won 12 out of 16
games a year ago playing in a pretty tough division. Their success is
well documented and
I think you can see that with how they carry themselves on the field.
Is their passing game different without Jimmy Smith and has one guy
stepped up into that
No. I think it's like anything. That will evolve over time. But
they've got big, tall receivers.
Reggie Williams is the guy who can kind of stretch the field. But you
look at (Matt) Jones
and (Ernest) Wilford, those are big guys. Those are guys who do a
great job of positioning
themselves and Byron Leftwich does a good job of putting the ball
where they can make
plays. And then certainly you couple that with the running of Fred Taylor, certainly we
know what he's capable of doing. It's a very balanced team that's got
big, tall receivers.
We've matched up against them in that past. If you don't get your
position and get your
head around, these guys are going to go up and get the ball. It's
going to test our ability
to be disciplined in coverage. At the same time, we're going to have
to be physical
because that's how these guys like to play.
The scheduling of these first two games seems to favor you,
especially with Ben, because
you have so much time between games.
This is true. That's the one thing when looking at it. But there
wasn't much of one when
you went from the last preseason to the first game. The fact is, we
got through that game.
Considering the circumstances, you get 10 days, almost 11, before you
play the next one,
certainly it was a big benefit. We'll turn around after that one and
have a short week
before we play Cincinnati. The schedule is going to be what it is,
there's three of the four
games we start with at night and two of those are on the road. It's a
tough schedule, a
tough first month. But that's what we talked about doing, trying to
get off to a good start
because that's very important.
What's going to be the decision on whether Ben will start?
Probably just see how he feels. Talk to him and see how efficiently
he can move around
and go from there.
There's no more danger of injuring it worse, there are no sutures or
anything like that?
From that perspective I think he should be fine. I think with any
player, it's how they feel.
We'll work with him and talk to him and go from there.
Does he have to practice at some point and will it be a gametime
Yes and yes. Yes he needs to practice and yes it could be a gametime
decision if it gets to
that point. I can't answer that right now.
But you don't need to see him practice?
Yeah, I need to see him practice. He's not going to sit there and not
practice up until
Monday and then have me say go out there and play. You have to
Najeh Davenport, what kind of role do you see him playing?
It's hard to say. We have to see what he's able to pick up, how
comfortable he is. He's a
proven big back. We were kind of looking for that. Cedrick (Humes)
was a good runner in
the preseason, but looking at our football team, the ability to get
Najeh and what's he's
done, I've watched him play and I think he fits what we're looking
for. He's a young guy
who can also play some in our kicking game. He's played third down
and played fullback.
He gives you some versatility. I sat down and talked with him last
week. There are no
guarantees what his role will be. I think he's just excited about the
opportunity. I think he
was just the one guy out there who fit what we were looking for with
the makeup of our
Will he dress for Monday's game?
That's a possibility, yes.
What did you think of your coverage units without Chidi (Iwuoma)?
I don't think it was so much reflective of that. I thought the
coverage guys obviously have
to get better. I don't think it should be said it was just because we
didn't have Chidi. I
don't think it was reflective of that. I don't think some of the
kicks were as good as I'd like
to see. I think overall the performance was not what I'd like to see
or up to the standards
that have been set around here. Hopefully it will get better in the
coming weeks. Some of
it is on me. I saved some of those guys from going out there in the
preseason. I didn't
expose them in the preseason. I saved some of the guys who had done
it in the past, they
didn't cover any kicks in the preseason because I wanted to look at
some other guys. I told
them, I put that first week on me because that was their first
exposure. Even guys like
Clint Kriewaldt and James Harrison, those guys didn't do much in the
preseason. So I think
we have to work out some of the kinks. It's all encompassing from the
kicks to the
coverage, but I think we'll get better.
I know you're happy to get the win, but are you happy to get the
first game behind you to
distance yourself from the Super Bowl and all of the ceremonies?
Yeah. I think all of those things are behind us. All the talk of the
past is behind us. We're
in a pretty good division now. I think that speaks for itself.
There's no margin for error.
We've got to get better than we played last Thursday night. We're
dealing with the present
now. Yeah, I'm very glad we're able to talk about 2006 and no more
The temperature was very high in Jacksonville last week. It's
supposed to be in the 60s
here this week. What will you do to get your guys ready for that?
Obviously playing at night will help somewhat. We'll see what the
long-term effects will be
from the weather, if it keeps us inside. If we are inside, we'll
condition it accordingly.
What will determine if Willie Reid returns kicks Monday?
Just the makeup of the roster. That was the tough thing. You have the
four receivers we
have with Santonio (Holmes) being the fourth guy. Sean Morey is such
a critical part of our
kicking game, it's hard to dress six receivers. It's more the makeup
the game day roster
If you determine that Ben will play, will you keep (Brian) St. Pierre
on the roster?
I don't anticipate any more roster moves at this point prior to the
game on Monday.
(We have an Ellis Cannon sighting, buckle down) You mentioned playing
well in the fourth
quarter. Is part of that the offense and defense playing off of each
other? You had the long
drive offensively before the fumble and the defense was getting
rested and allowing Dick
LeBeau to do more with some of the playmakers.
I think that's always true. We are a football team that feeds off of
each other. I think every
time Miami scored, we came back and responded. I think the way you
respond off of a
negative series or play is always important. We were able to come
back after they scored a
touchdown to come back and score ourselves. They come back and score
again and we
come back with an 18-play drive, which was a good response that
certainly didn't end that
way. But I like the way our team responded. We had the field position
there, we let them
get a couple of first downs, but we were able to stop them on a
critical third down in the
fourth quarter. And then we came back and hit the big play to Heath
(Miller). Our football
team can play better and will need to play a lot better, but we did a
lot of good things.
You mentioned the strength of the division, was that obvious on
I thought so, with the highlights I saw, yeah.
Cleats at Heinz Field?
I mentioned it to the players. We had a lot of guys slipping and
sliding. I felt like more of
our guys were doing it than their guys for whatever reason. I brought
it to their attention
and hopefully it will be something that's rectified in the future.
Is there a maximum number of carries you'd like to see Willie Parker
get and how much
does his size factor into that?
It's not so much his size I think it's the size in relation to 16
games and having him fresh.
I don't think I want to give Willie 30 carries every game. When we're
running the football,
we've got to be able to utilize our other guys. It's something we
just have to monitor. Last
year in the first game, he had 22 and in the second game he had 25.
Then we started
backing back down again. I think it's got to be something we monitor
and see how he
feels. Certainly he didn't have a lot in the preseason. He didn't
touch the ball a lot there.
But when you get into the season and a game in and game out, three,
four, five games in a
row, you have to monitor that.
As you monitor that, are you hoping Davenport will be that guy to
come in and be a
I'm not ready to name anybody. Hopefully somebody will be able to
come in and fill that
role. I'm very comfortable with the backs we have on this team that
we'll be able to do
Has Ben already started to lobby hard to play Monday and do you
expect him to do that?
Yes and yes. We talked yesterday. He's in today and has been throwing
to some receivers
today. I'm sure we'll be talking a lot in the next few days.
Does he have to lobby much?
I don't know if that's the correct word, lobby, we talked. We'll go
Is there a point where it's not the pain, it's the follow through?
It's everything. Again, the bottom line is making sure he's
comfortable and he feels like he
can protect himself and he's not going out there thinking about those
things. It's the fact
of getting the clearance and dealing with the workload seeing how his
body gets through
that. You can say coming off the surgery, but the kid's been through
a lot. I just want to
make sure he's comfortable and he feels good about himself. We'll
make the decision at
that point. I'm not going to say, "the doctors say he's ready to go."
He's a very competitive
young man. We'll talk and we'll go from there.
A manager will go to the mound and ask a pitcher if he's tired. He
expects the pitcher to
tell him how he really feels. Are you at the point now where you ask
Ben and he'll tell you
how he really feels?
Yeah. It's gotten better. I think I can interpret some things that
are being said as to where
it lies. I think that comes with time. I think our relationship is a
good one, at least from my
perspective it is. Yeah, we talk enough that I think I've got a feel
for him and how he is.
It happens. We're in a contact sport. I talked to Ben the other day
and I told him that this
isn't like baseball where you slide into second base and you're
looking to get back up. You
slide in football, you'd better protect yourself. Even Charlie
(Batch) the other night, it's
hard for a defender who's coming at full speed to suddenly the guy is
sliding at the last
minute, to come to a complete halt. Each one is subjective. I didn't
think there was
anything ill-intended with what happened. I think it was just one of
those things that
happened in our game.
Do you think coaches will be more aggressive when they throw the red
We've been told that before. We've always had the freedom to do that.
That has never
been an issue in my mind.
Couldn't you run out on the field?
Yeah, you can go out of the box and go out to the official on the
side and he'll blow the
whistle. I've told them before that I'm looking at it and they tell
you not to get too close to
the snap count. That's really a non-issue.
Did they lose a good player in (Reggie) Heyward?
Yeah, he was their leading sacker last year. They still have some
pretty good players. I
guess they're going to put Rob Meier in there and still have
Marcellus Wiley. They lost a
good player, yes, but they have a lot of good players on that team.
They're a team that is
very talented and very deep.
How tough are their tackles to run against?
Marcus Stroud and John Henderson are a load. Both of those guys are
Pro Bowl tackles. In
the running game you have to be patient. You have to accept the fact
that you're going to
get two or three yards. You talk about two or three yards and a cloud
of dust, that's what
you're going to have because we're going to try to do it and continue
to do it and
hopefully it will be something where we'll break a big one for two or
Leftwich takes exception at being called immobile. He says he moves
better than most.
Would you agree?
I think Byron Leftwich is a winner. You can talk about the things he
can't do. But when it's
all said and done, he wins a lot of football games. He's done it in
college and the pros.
He's got a presence that makes guys believe in him. He's a tough guy
and I think you can
see that in his play. I think the guy is a good football player.
Improvement from game one to game two?
I don't look at it from that perspective. I look for improvement
every week. I guess that's
the only thing I'm looking at. Games unfold differently every week.
In my mind, the first
month is more of an information gathering process more than anything.
You find out
about your team. Somewhere in that first month you'll be faced with
some adversity. How
your players respond to that and how they step up will speak a lot
about your team. I don't
look at the improvement from week one to week two. We play a lot more
(colleges) do. Every week you're playing a pretty good football team.
I hope we do improve
from week one to week two because we're playing a pretty good
It seems like quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball quicker, does
that make it tougher for
the pass rush to get to them?
If they are. I saw something where the sacks were up from the first
week higher than
they've ever been so I guess they've got to get a little quicker.
Is that an constant adjustment?
Yeah. It's a fast game. I think what happens, the speed of the game
goes up in the first
week of the regular season and sometimes there's a little bit of
acclimation that needs to
take place, even if you're a veteran. The players all turn it up a
notch. That's why the
young players are like, woah, it really is fast. That speed is faster
the first week. That's
why defenses, for the most past, start out a little better than the
offenses because of that.
Joey (Porter) had a pretty good opener?
I thought he played pretty good.
When did Troy get dinged up?
I don't know. He didn't say.
Bill Cowher press conference, Sept. 12
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