Bill Cowher held his weekly press conference Tuesday following the team's loss Sunday night to the San Diego Chargers. The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach also discusses the team's upcoming matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Opening Statement: Let me give you the injury status of our team. We have one player who is definitely out, that is James Harrison. He's got a high ankle sprain. He'll be casted for a couple of weeks, actually 10 days, and we'll go from there. We'll see where he is next week at this time. Another player is doubtful, that is Willie Reid. Willie's got a mid-foot sprain. He got the MRI done and a scan done and everything came back as good as can be expected. It is just a mid-foot sprain. He's doubtful and we'll see where he is at the end of the week. Brett Keisel is questionable with the rib contusion and Danny Kreider is probable with a knee. Obviously, talking about the San Diego game, it was a disappointing loss. Like I said after the game, it was pretty much a tale of two halves. What changed from the first half to the second half? Our inability to get off the field on third downs on defense and our inability to sustain drives on offense. We only had 18 plays in the second half as opposed to their 41. I think the biggest thing right now is that we have to win a football game. That to me, as simple as it may sound as a solution, is really the only remedy that exists. I brought the players back in yesterday after we got back in at 6 a.m. to watch the game and just so that we could come back here Wednesday with a clear vision of this week and not have to reflect back. We're going to do that and prepare to play a good Kansas City team that's 2-2 and coming off a good victory at Arizona. They've won two games in a row and they're a very good football team. Damon Huard right now is the quarterback for (Trent) Green and you can see with each game since the Cincinnati game he has gotten better and better. He probably played his best game last week. Larry Johnson is a premiere running back in the National Football League whether he's catching the ball out of the backfield like he did last week or running the ball. Then you have Tony Gonzalez who is probably one of the first in setting the mold for the matchup problem-type of tight end like Antonio Gates. You've got that. Defensively, they've played very well this year, they really have. They have a veteran secondary in (Patrick) Surtain and (Ty) Law at the corners and (Sammy) Knight and (Greg) Wesley at the safeties. It's a good front seven. Jared Allen is very good. Talimba Ali is another guy who has looked very impressive with his energy manning the other corner. It's a good football team and like I said, we've just got to find a way to win a football game.
Does it feel good to finally have them here?
Yeah. It seems like every time we've played Kansas City, it's been in Kansas City. It will be good to play them here and play at home and to get ourselves untracked.
TV showed Ben (Roethlisberger) before the game rubbing his arm and in a splint, is there anything to that?
I didn't see a splint.
He had it in his shirt after the game.
Oh, after the game. He got it hit during the game. Before the game he was fine. It's another one of the sensationalized stories that sometimes these sideline reporters want to create. It becomes a little bothersome because they try to make more than what's there and we're not trying to hide anything. He gets something sometimes like tennis elbow, so he's trying to loosen it up like a kicker is loosen up his leg. He's fine. Sometimes there's so much sensationalism that takes place with this that it gets annoying at times.
With Harrison out, is there any chance you'll make a roster move on a temporary basis?
I don't anticipate a roster move at this point, but certainly he's an integral part of our kicking game. He's a quality backup linebacker. I think the good thing is that it wasn't a fracture. It's high ankle sprain, so we'll have to deal with that. Other people will have to step in. I think that Rian Wallace will be the guy who has to step up and take his place in the kicking game and Arnold Harrison will have to step in as the backup at outside linebacker. Things like this happen through the course of the year and they'll test your depth. Those other players will have to step up.
Will Santonio (Holmes) return punts now?
At 7-5 last year what did you do to turn things around and are you in a similar position this year at 1-3?
Obviously we've been there before, but that doesn't guarantee anything. I think last year was last year and this year is this year. I don't think there's any magic potion you can give to them or any magic word you can say other than realizing where you are, why we are where we are, and more importantly, what we have to do this week. I think when you look at the last two games, they are two games we've been leading in the second half. Those are games we have to win. When you're leading games in the second half, you have to be able to close out a game. We haven't been able to do that. If you look at the last three weeks, the one thing I will say is that we were behind by three points going into the fourth quarter against Jacksonville. We were up by three points going into the game against Cincinnati. And we were down by four points going into the fourth quarter the other night. You look at the fourth quarter of those three games, we've been outscored 26-3. We've put ourselves in position to win football games, but we have not been able to close those games out. Those are the facts. As I look at what we're doing. At times in the second quarter of that game, I thought we were playing as well as we could play offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. But we were not able to sustain that. We've had some chances to take control of a game, whether it be that second drive against Cincinnati and you have an opportunity to go up 14-0 and we weren't able to do that. The other day, a third-and-one that we couldn't convert and we only score three points there. But you also have to be able to stop them. We give up the big kick return and we hold them to a field goal. We take a drive and we take a shot down the field and it gets intercepted, which is fine, the ball's at the 9-yard line. We have to stop them right there on defense. We gave up and 80-yard and a 91-yard drive the other day. I'd like to think around here that we go through a season and we rarely give that up. We gave up two in one game. There are opportunities in a game where you have to take control. We have been presented with those opportunities and we have not seized them. That's what you have to be able to do to be a good football team and play good football. I still think we're a good football team. I just don't think that right now, we're doing the things it takes to win against good teams.
Did the Chargers do different things in that second half defensively?
I think it was more of an execution thing. There was really nothing they were doing that we hadn't seen.
What's the problem with (Ricardo) Colclough?
There was really no definitive answer we were able to get. A lot of the tests that were done, there was still some unknowns. In fact, we're going to do another test here that they wanted to wait 10 days before we could do another test because of a lot of the testing that was done. But it was still going to be four to six weeks for him to regain the strength. It just didn't have have the luxury of being able to wait that much time.
Will you use more three corners and three safeties rather than four corners?
That really hasn't changed anything.
As a coaching staff do you look at the player's execution or do you change things schematically?
We don't need to make wholesale changes. Certainly we have to tinker with it. We have to look at things as a staff to make sure we're doing things to put players in a position where they can be successful. I think it's a combination of both of that. I think you have to look within before you start looking around. As a staff we'll do that and as the head coach, I'll do that. I think it's important that everybody understands that there's an accountability that exists throughout this team. Like I said before, it's important not to get caught up with what's going on around you, but to look in the mirror. I think that's true as players, but it's also true as coaches.
You have a veteran team who has experienced this, is there a danger in them thinking, hey, we were here last year?
I think we're beyond that. The danger is there. There's danger is if you start thinking about last year, you lose sight of where we are right now. We understand that. History will not dictate the future. History will not influence what happens in the future. Fate is something you can also control. All of those things, we understand that. It's something we have to do as a football team. Like I said before, the preparation can't deviate. The mindset can't deviate. We just have to go out there and win a football game. I don't want to get paralysis by analysis. It really is no simpler than that.
Santonio got in on two-receiver sets a lot more. Has he merited that or are you disappointed in Cedrick (Wilson)?
It's similar to what we did a year ago in keeping Cedrick involved with Antwaan (Randle El). What he's done has merited that approach.
It will be a rotation?
Pretty much, yeah.
Ben handing the adversity?
It's, I'm sure, very frustrating. You stay in any business or do anything long enough, you're going to experience it all. That's the truth. I think for all of us there's a lot of frustration that does exist. You understand when you go through this, there's going to be a lot of criticism, a lot of negativity. That's the thing you have to fight. I'm respectful that some guys handle that differently. Everyone handles that in different ways. All I can do is make sure they have the proper perspective, understand where we need to be. Like everyone else, nobody likes to go through this because it is frustrating. But it's not what you're going through that really will determine the outcome, it's how you deal with it. You don't have to learn to like it, but you do have to deal with it. That's where we are right now and we're in the process of seeing how we deal with it.
(Another question about last year)
Everyone wants to refer to last year. Last year was last year. Last year is behind us. We've got to deal with right now. We've played some good football teams. I don't know how they view it. You'd have to ask them from their standpoint. We've gotten ourselves into situations, like I said, when I look at the last three games where we've been in a position to win these games in the fourth quarter. We just have not been able to finish it. All the other speculation about handling the year after a Super Bowl or how a team is playing you or can you get back because you did it a year ago, that was a year ago. We're dealing with right now. And right now, the reality is that we are not finishing and closing games. I think we're doing some good things and in some respects, we've take a step forward each and every week. But we've got to do it in all three phases, we've got to be able to do it for 60 minutes and we've got to be able to finish games. That's the simple facts of where we are.
Last week you mentioned the one-two punch of LT (LaDanian Tomlinson) and Michael Turner, (Nahjeh) Davenport got in the game last week and played well. How encouraged were you by his performance and will he return kicks this week?
We'll look at that as a possibility. I was encouraged. I think he's gotten more comfortable in this offense. I think he can also give you some things in the kicking game. When we lost James the other day, he was covering kicks. He's also in a position to cover punts. He can obviously return kickoffs. So he does give you some versatility. He's got excellent hands, so he could potentially be a third-down guy. I think he is getting more comfortable here and again, we'll see how things progresses from here on out, but I liked what he did the other night.
Has there been time when you've had a team come in after a night game like that?
That was a first. That was unplanned. I decided to do it as we were driving to the airport. I didn't like how I felt. I knew that was probably how they felt. And I didn't want to sit here and talk about this game any more on Wednesday because I thought it was important that they come in at 2 o'clock yesterday. They came in, we talked to them. We watched the game and put it behind us. I think it was important that we experience that, talk about it, so that come Wednesday our minds are clear. We applied the old 24-hour rule and we come in here and now our focus is on Kansas City.
They didn't come directly from the airport?
No. The coaches came directly from the airport. But the players did not.
They're a good defensive front and I think we're a good defensive front. You knew that running the football was going to kind of be a grind. For the most part, both defenses did a pretty good job. Those three guys they have up front are good players. Williams made the big play on third down, he got the penetration. But I thought Jeff (Hartings) did a pretty good job, really with him most of the game if you look at the whole game. I thought Casey did a good job as well with Aaron (Smith) and (Brett) Keisel. Like I said, our front seven, for the most part, particularly against LT, did an excellent job of containing him. I thought Michael Turner got outside on the one return. We didn't get fallback late in the game, we lost some integrity late in the game. But those were two good defenses you saw on the field.
After what San Diego did throwing the ball to the backs do you expect to see more teams doing that?
We'll see. I think teams won't get away from what they do. Certainly this week, Larry Johnson is a good football player. He's also a little bit like LT, only bigger, because they use him out of the backfield. Getting the ball on screens and checkdowns. Obviously he's a big man who runs downhill. He'll test us there. We'll see. They do have some guys they can spread it out to. Dante Hall, if he plays, and obviously Gonzalez and the matchup problems he causes. And (Eddie) Kennison and (Sammie) Parker are two good receivers.
Johnson seems like he initiates contact, almost welcomes it.
He runs with great body lean. And he has great vision. You'll see him cut back. For a big guy, he's not a straight-line guy. He has ability to jump-cut and he works downhill when he's doing it. He's a special back.
Have they changed their offense from the past?
Mike Solari, he's there offensive coordinator and he's been there. He was their offensive line coach in the past. Just watching them a little bit early, there isn't a lot of differences. There's a lot of motion and shifts It doesn't look like they've changed a whole lot. Obviously they're probably doing some things differently with Huard than with Trent Green, but it doesn't look like it's that much of a change.
What about defensively with Herm Edwards the coach?
We haven't played these guys in a few years, but Gunther (Cunningham) is still the defensive coordinator. They're going to give you that, we always call it sticky Sam, 11 guys at the line of scrimmage and sometimes they bail out of there like Denver did when we played them last year in the playoff game. But they've got two veteran corners in Surtain and Ty Law. They've played very well. They haven't given up a lot of points and they've been very impressive in watching them.
Do you focus on 1-3 or the positives?
I don't overanalyze it. I know how I felt. I thought it was important that we look at the game, talk about the game. I didn't want to rehash this on Wednesday. I didn't want to talk about it too much again when we needed to focus on Kansas City. The basis again was the fact that we look at the game. When you watched the game, I wanted them to see it: We had opportunities and there were some things we did there that we have to be able to rectify to be able to win games against good football teams. It was just more of a basis of wanting to discuss it and I didn't want to dwell on it.
When you have meetings like that, do the players speak out, or is it just the coaching staff?
A little bit of both. I don't have an open forum in my meetings, it's not like that's the case. I explain what I see, what I perceive. Sometimes that's in the eyes of the beholder. With all due respect to every player, I'm giving them my opinion. At the same time, it's an opportunity for them to look at it and see it and make sure we're all on the same page communication-wise. There's dialogue. We've got good veteran players and they understand that. Not to go into the actual who said what in what meetings, that's not really relevant from the standpoint of knowing that we're all on the same page.
Sustaining things, is that something you can work on in practice or does that have to manifest itself?
Probably a little bit of both. Practice-wise you want to have that crispness and avoid lulls because lulls will probably present lulls in a game. There's just a couple of plays if you could come back. Look at Deshea (Townsend). He's had three plays in the past two games where he's been right there to make a play. My message is just to keep doing the things you're doing because those things have a way of evening out. I'd rather have the player be in that position to be there than have him be afraid to take a chance, start playing soft. That's my message. We are able to be there to be able to seize these things, so I don't think there has to be a drastic change in what we're doing other than that at some point, we have to be able to make those plays it takes to get us over the hump to win a game. To me it's about winning a game and not getting caught up in a dialogue like when you lose a game, now everything is under a microscope. Again, we can't overanalyze. We need to talk about what's been the constant. We need to identify that and again, how that alters the midset, so be it. Every guy is different. But I don't want them to lose sight of the fact that they're doing some good things, it's just the ability to sustain it or be consistent. To me those can be the same thing.
You saw Ty Law a lot with the Patriots, is he recovered from his foot injury a couple of years ago and how has he helped the KC defense?
He's played well. He had a big interception last week for them at the end of the game. He's a guy you cannot relax with. He's a great student of the game, you can tell that. He has a great feel for the game. He's obviously given them experience in a secondary that was young and with him and Surtain, they've got two solid corners.
Ben told us last week you wanted him to run a little more. Obviously he didn't run last week. Were there opportunities?
I'm not concerned about that. We talked about it. He knows. He tried to get out of there at one point and they snagged him. I'm not concerned about that. It's about creating opportunities to make plays, good decision making and trying to put the ball in the end zone.
Has he been under an inordinant amout of pressure?
They're going to do that. They're a good defense. They put pressure on a lot of people, especially at home with that noise. I thought we did a pretty good job, for the most part, with protection. We were able to help the tackles a bit with some nicks on the outside. Like I said, we had opportunities, we just couldn't make the plays when we had to.
Anything stick out on the long drives? vThird downs. We got them to third down and seven on the one drive twice. We couldn't get off the field. Those are big. You work real hard on first and second down. Really on both drives, obviously they had the great throw and catch for the touchdown. If he doesn't make that play, they're probably kicking a field goal. Third and 11 he makes a great throw to Gates over the middle. Third and seven twice on the 91-yard drive in the second half. You get third down, you've got to be able to get off the field. That's what we were able to do on the first three series. We got off the field on third down and they never got into a rythym. After that, they converted some third downs and got in a rythym and he started to throw the ball accurately.
Are you looking for a big play out of somebody?
We've had some plays, not at the times when I've said. You'd like to be able to make a play or seize control of the game. Whether it be converting that third down and scoring a touchdown at the end of the first half or whether it is coming up with an interception from Ike Taylor in the end zone instead of knocking it down. Those are plays people are intercepting against us. We have balls that bounce in the air a couple of times when we hit the quarterback and they hit the ground incomplete. Ben throws his the same way and they hang up there longer than the other guy's and they get intercepted. To get those one or two plays is the difference in the game. I don't want them to deviate the way they approach the game these past couple of weeks because I don't see it being a problem with that as much as carrying it over to the field and being able to deal with whatever happens in a game. It's not so much the ebb and flow of because that's going to be there every game. It's how you respond to that and we talk about that on a weekly basis.
Long passes down the field?
We've taken some attempts down the field and we'll continue to take them. We just have not been able to hit on them. I think we've got to continue to take those shots down the field, we've just got to hit some.
Have you had that particular punt play in for a while now?
Yeah. About two or three years ago we used it. I don't even know if it worked then. It probably didn't. My memory is like a cornerback. You have to forget the bad plays.
Did you call that?
Yeah, I did. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.
Did you ever have to land somewhere like Baltimore did here?
I've never had to land in Baltimore on the way back to Pittsburgh. We got home at 6 o'clock the other day too because we had to wait on Brett to get checked out at the hospital. It was ironic because he had a kidney situation that had come up. We had noticed before we got on the plane so we had to take him to the hospital after the San Diego game. We waited to see if he could fly with us, because he could not fly if he was bleeding, so we waited. It came back negative, but that's why we got back so late. It's kind of ironic that it happened to us Sunday night and then the reason why the young man, Khorey Ivy, came here was because of a kidney bruise as well. It could have been us had we not done that the other night. Hopefully he's OK.
Brett's kidney was OK.
How long did you wait?
It was 2:15, I never changed my clock.
There was a curfew issue there as well.
That's why the buses were waiting.
You would have had to go to L.A.
Yes we would have. It was not a pretty thought.
Why was Mike Logan inactive?
It was just a roster makeup. Actually the situation was to get Willie Reid up and get six receivers, I had to take it from somewhere. It was either that because we had to have eight DBs. I felt we needed to have four corners and four safeties rather than three corners and five safeties. That was the basis of it.