Bill Cowher press conference, Oct. 17

Head coach Bill Cowher held his weekly press conference to discuss the Pittsburgh Steelers upcoming game with Atlanta and to recap the team's win over Kansas City. Here's what Cowher had to say:

Bill Cowher, head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Opening statement: OK, here's our injury update as we head into this week's game at Atlanta. Only one player is definitely out and that's James Harrison with his ankle. Joey (Porter) with the hamstring is doubtful. Then we have two players who are questionable: Willie Reid with his foot; and Kendall Simmons with his foot. Three players are probable: Deshea Townsend with a hamstring; Danny Kreider with the ankle sprain; and Jeff Hartings with his knee. Certainly last week was, I thought, our most complete game of the season and certainly one that was much needed. But as we talked about yesterday, nothing's changed. We've put ourselves in the situation now to see if we can sustain that level. We're going down into a tough place. Atlanta is a very good football team and certainly coming off the tough loss that they had will make them twice as dangerous. They're a lot like we were a week ago. We recognize the challenge that's ahead of us and we're looking forward to it.

How did Chris (Kemoeatu) play last week?

Well. I thought the whole offensive line did well. When you run for over 200 yards, you're doing something right. I thought they did a good job in protection and handling some of the blitzes and our preparation leading up to it. They presented some unique fronts and we did a good job as a staff preparing for it and certainly the execution was excellent.

Has Marvel (Smith) been particularly stout the last two weeks in pass protections?

Yeah. I think Marvel has had a good year. I'm just looking at last week and particularly looking at that, I thought the whole line did a good job from a protection standpoint.

How about Arnold Harrison and Chad Brown? How did those two guys play?

They did well. Chad in the amount of time preparing for the game, he was in here late every night preparing for it and he had his wristband all set. It was good to see him get some work in the dime and get some work late in the game in the Okie. And Arnold did fine. He played well. Then again, that was a little different offense than we're going to face this week. This is a unique offense from a standpoint of having a player like Michael Vick. He presents many challenges to your defense. Some of the things they're doing with him now, it's going to be a big challenge.

Along those lines, it seems like they've gone to almost a college playbook for him to make some of these plays.

Yeah, they've got the old option draw back in. You see it in college all the time. I should call some college coaches up about defending that thing. They do. You're talking about the team that's clearly ahead of everyone and setting records rushing the football. He's part of that. And it's not like he's the only one. You're talking about Warrick Dunn. It's like he's found the fountain of youth. He's running hard and fast. Then they bring a kid like (Jerrious) Norwood in, who's got unbelievable speed. You're talking about three that can run in Norwood, Dunn and Vick. They do a good job of presenting some different challenges to a defense in terms of testing the perimeter and reading some things with Michael. We'll have to be very disciplined to say the least.

Were the Giants more effective against them than others or was it a case of the Giants being able to get their run game going?

Probably a combination of both of those. They did a good job against them and certainly Tiki Barber is a good back. They made some plays on defense, but again, they're a team that has put up some pretty impressive numbers, so it will be a challenge for us.

Can you blitz a guy like Vick?

You want to mix up your approach. We played against him a few years ago when he was here at Heinz Field. You're not going to make a living doing it, but you don't want to sit back because you're going to need to have some guys fill some lanes. I think you've got to be able to pick and choose and just keep him off balance as much as possible.

What's the number one thing a player has to be cognizant of playing against a guy like him?

Depends on where you play. In the secondary you have to be careful you don't come out of your coverage too quickly because he has an unbelievably strong arm. We'll talk about his scrambling, and he'll scramble to run, but at the same time, you cannot drop coverage. Up front, you have to come under control. A lot of times we talk about quarterbacks and containment because we don't care if he's out of the pocket. This is a guy that the pressure lanes will be very important. But at the same time, as defensive players you can't get frustrated. You can do your job and sometimes he's going to make plays. The biggest thing is to minimize the big plays that he makes and stay patient and hopefully somewhere along the line we'll make some big plays.

Can you even try to simulate him?

Me personally? No. I just think there will be some plays that will last longer. We'll have to be patient with the bootlegs, with his improvision that takes place. I don't know if there's anyone in the league that can imitate him through the course of practice, particularly the speed with which they play.

Guys were talking about that after the game with lane assignments, no matter what flashes in front of you, stay where you are.

There's a fine line between being too cautious and going in there and you still want to play fast and be aggressive. But you have to be very cognizant of where you are and disciplined. You talk about it in the run game, but the run game with a guy like Michael takes place even when a pass play is unfolding. You've almost got to apply the same principles and make sure you're balanced across the field and that you're very disciplined in your rush.

Is that 2002 game too far away to look at?

No. You can look at some things. It's a whole different staff and they take a different approach to the game. I think you can refer to it with the players who were here in understanding the speed with which this guy can play the game.

You talk about playing in a dome, that game in 2002 was played on what was then a sandbox of a field. Now you're getting them on turf. Does that speed it up for him?

Yeah, it speeds it up for him. But I always thought the field, we all play on the same field, so speed is relative. A fast guy on a sandy field is still going to be faster that a slow guy. I think speed is all relative. Certainly down there their football plays well. He'll give us the challenges he's going to present for our defense. But you look at the other side of the ball and they've got a fast defense. That will be the biggest challenge playing in the dome. You've got two guys in (Patrick) Kearney and (John) Abraham who are speed rushers. They can present issues for you.

If discipline is a big key, do you have concerns about having to start a rookie outside linebacker?

It is what it is. You can be concerned all you want but that's the way we're going in. I think the fact that Arnold has a game under his belt from last week will be a good thing. Any apprehension he had going into the game will be removed. We'll get a good week of work and try to get a good plan together and try to slow their rushing offense.

(Stop, Ellis time) Is he different to prepare for because of some of the other quarterbacks you've faced?

Oh, it's a totally unique thing. The guys in that division do it twice per year. But like I said, you don't see the option draw that they play, where he puts the ball in the hands of Warrick Dunn and then reads things. It's the kind of thing you see in college. You kind of enjoy watching it on Saturday afternoon. And you saw, ‘Boy, I'm glad I don't have to defend that.' Now I'm going to have to defend that. It is very unique. When you play a player like this it's different certainly than what we've faced the last couple of weeks. There are scrambling quarterbacks, but then Michael takes that to another level.

What do you remember most about that 2002 game and was it as fun to coach in as it was to watch?

I enjoyed the first half because we were ahead. I do remember it was a game they came back. I remember in the overtime, looking at Dan Reeves, it was a fourth down play, fourth and two. I think he thought I was going to call a time out. But I had no intention of calling time out. But I wanted to make him think that I was thinking about it. He was looking at me and I was hoping that clock would keep on winding and winding. They tried a field goal and didn't make it. We threw a Hail Mary to (Plaxico Burress) and he landed at that point I was hoping he was about six-seven instead of six-five. He landed about two feet short of the goal line. I do remember the game very vividly. That game was a game where we did a good job in the first half, but in the second half he ran around and made some plays. That's my memory of the game. I remember when it ended, getting out of there with a tie at the time, I felt pretty good about it.

What does Vick read on the option draw?

You should ask him tomorrow when you get a chance to talk to him on the conference call. I don't know. I'm assuming I think I know what he reads. But to discuss that here would serve very little purpose for everyone involved in the game outside of your own interest. We can discuss that walking through the hall one day. I don't think that's something I want to disclose at this time. I don't think it's any hidden secret, but ask Michael. If he tells you, let me know, please.

(Stop, another rambling Ellis question. Here's the edited version) Did the offense coming out and scoring early take some pressure off?

No. My first thought was that if we would have hit a couple of those plays in the previous weeks' games, we would have had a different result. But it just seems like everything we called, we were hitting on. We got off the field after that first series on third down and we got a couple of punt returns from Santonio (Holmes). It was just good to see. But at the same time, I've seen too many crazy things happen in this year, last night's game included if anybody watched that. You wonder why I kicked a field goal at the end of the first half, I've seen these things happen where you just have to keep playing and put points on the board. Certainly when you get into the second half, we have an approach that we take with a lead that we believe in. At the same time, in the first half, you can't score enough points.

You had some guys slipping again. Were they using the right spikes or was it the field?

I think it was that time of day. The sun went down and there was a natural drop in temperature. I don't think it had as much to do with the field as it did the time of day.

New England went to artificial turf. Would you like to see that here?

I would never like to see artificial turf. I'm very happy with what we have. Maybe a little unsettling for some of the players, but in the long run, for the health of players, it's the right thing to do.

You've faced a couple of good tight ends right in a row and now have Alge Crumpler coming up. Does that make it easier to prepare for him?

He's without a doubt their number one passing threat that they have. He's good. But it does. Certainly this whole offense is very unique because of what Michael presents back there on offense. But Alge can run, he can block, he can catch the ball, he's a big target. He's a guy we have to be conscious of, no doubt.

Is Kendall questionable because of the burn or is it because of the injury he was trying to treat?

It's the burn.

What has to happen, does the skin have to grow back?

Yeah, and with him being a diabetic, you have to be careful with that. That led to some of the things that took place. His skin is more sensitive and you have a higher risk of infection with a burn of that nature with the state of where Kendall is at. We're very sensitive to that.

How has Vick developed as a passer and a guy who reads defenses?

I think he's fine. You can break down everybody. What he does and what he presents are so unique to the game that people with his passing are looking for flaws. We all have flaws. If you want to compare it to his running, that's a tough standard to hold up to. But the guy's got an unbelievably strong arm. I think he's accurate. Their offensive coaches can assess his play. But as I sit and look at him on film, this guy is tough to defend, so I have a lot of respect for him.

(Since I apparently don't know the meaning of unique) Does he compare to anybody you've coached against?

No, just the Michael Vick from 2002. That's the only one I can refer to. He's a special player.

Around the league, there's a lot of low-scoring games this year. Are defenses making a comeback?

It's hard to say. I don't know about those trends. Sometimes you have to look at it at the end of the season. These things have a way of evening out. It would be pure speculation at this point. I'm just looking at our games. I haven't seen that be the case. Whether it's injuries or offensive players having to get in sync, it taking some elements a little longer to come together, that would be pure speculation on my part.

What was it you liked about Najeh Davenport before and so far since he's been here?

He's a big guy that runs big. You watch his body lean. He's got good feet for a big guy. He's got good balance. He runs strong and has very good body lean. He's a low runner and he's going to break tackles. I thought he did a very good job the other day, even in some of the goal-line situations we had.

With Kreider with the sprained ankle, who is considered the backup fullback? Is it Davenport or is it Verron Haynes?


Can Davenport play there?

We haven't repped him there, no.

Could Chad Brown start?

Arnold's done a good job. We got (Brown) some reps there the other day. He'll be the next guy in line. Again, a lot of it came back to him. It was good to get him some reps and I think he'll be a lot better with a full week of work this week. We'll see how it goes.

DeAngelo Hall is having another good year for them. Do they put him in man a lot?

He has great ball skills. They do put him on the top receiver, usually. Jason Webster, their other corner, is good too. Their secondary, they're two good corners and Lawyer Milloy is back there quarterbacking. DeAngelo is a very good football player. He's got great speed, great ball skills. Certainly you know what he can do when he's got the ball in his hands.

Will they move him around on certain receivers?

They've done it both ways. It depends on how they view our football team, so we'll see how it unfolds.

Steel City Insider Top Stories