Head coach Bill Cowher held his Tuesday press conference to discuss the Pittsburgh Steelers latest debacle and where he thinks the team will go from here.
Opening Statement: OK, let me give you our injury situation. We have two players who are definitely out, that's James Harrison with his ankle and Willie Reid with his foot. Both players are not ready to play this week. There have been no setbacks and hopefully we'll have both players next week. Two players doubtful are Jeff Hartings with his knee and Clint Kriewaldt with a back. We have two players questionable, James Farrior with a groin and Mike Logan with his hamstring. Five players will be listed as probable: Troy (Polamalu) with his foot; Najeh (Davenport) with a knee; Clark Haggans with a knee; Deshea (Townsend) with a quad; and Sean Morey with his toe.
Just relative with the lineup, I'm not going to discuss any changes at this time. Certainly we'll see how the week unfolds. There could be some lineup changes, but it will be something that won't be discussed. Some of those decisions could be game-day decisions for obvious reasons. I'll say this, out approach will be no different than last week. We've got to find a way to win a game. That's the way we're going into it against a very good New Orleans team that's 6-2 and playing with a lot of confidence. They're very impressive to watch so it will be a big challenge for us.
Billl, Willie Parker said some things after the game that was kind of two-headed. There's a lack of trust and that maybe you were hungrier last year and that there's a Super Bowl hangover and that guys aren't selling out. Can you comment on both of those?
I think again, as I talked to the team about it, you have to be careful what you say. Everything you're talking about is pure speculation. I've talked to Willie about it. Willie was certainly not implicating any teammates by any stretch of the imagination. To read into that would be a misrepresentation of what he said (what?). I understand the disappointment and if there wasn't that sense of disappointment and frustration it would not be a good situation. Our whole football team is learning to deal with this. Like I said, the thing about right now is we've got to fight through it. We've got to get back to work and continue to look at it. There's so much speculation about why this and that, but the bottom line is that you cannot turn the football over like we've turned it over. You've got to get off the field when you get people in situations like we did the other day with third and 10. We've got to find ways to take the football away. That's not as controllable as it is from a turnover standpoint. You control turnovers and have much more control over that than you do takeaways. Those things tend to come in bunches. Those are the facts. Right now you've got to deal with facts and not deal with speculation. That's the approach every player has to take.
Are you concerned this disappointment will carry over into their play. Even Hines (Ward) said something about the team auditioning for next year. Are you concerned the team won't be ready to play the rest of the season?
No. It's something you monitor. It's something you talk about and I will continue to talk about. If I have any sense, whether it be through body language or things that they're saying, then certainly I'm going to put players out there that give us the best chance of winning. Everybody's going to be held accountable and they know that. This is new territory for this group of players and nobody is asking for self-pity. You find out a lot about people, it reveals a lot. And at this time, that's the approach that we're taking.
There's probably not a lot that you haven't dealt with as a football coach. Is this new to you?
I've not been here in this position at this point in the season. Certainly the challenges have been there in the past. Let me tell you something, with sports, it's a microcosm of life. You're going to have peaks and you're going to have valleys. It's never as bad as it appears and it's never as good as it seems and I truly believe that. How you deal with those circumstances speaks a lot more than the circumstances themselves. That being said, I'm not trying to be a philosophical guy here, but that's the truth. How you respond to things is how you think. And how you think reveals how you act. It's all how you want to view something. To me this is an opportunity for us to go back and display who we are individually. That in itself should show who we are collectively.
Do you believe how the team handled 2003 was in some way a foundation for 2004?
I don't know. To go back and reflect too much, I don't know if that's the best thing to do. You have to deal with the reality of it. Like I said before, we have to work though this, we have to fight through this. You have to surround yourself with people who will make the sacrifice, who understand that. You have to keep the negativity away from you. You're going to have to fight that. People have bad days at the office all the time. You pass them on the road and the difference is that you don't know that they had a bad day. They can keep that in and get away from it. We can't get away from it. We're in the fishbowl. We're always reminded about that. That's the thing you have to be careful about, that it doesn't influence how you think, how you act and how you prepare. It's very important that we put ourselves in that little room and recognizing what we need to do. We can't get caught up in the why, when and where. The fact is we've got to be careful with the football. I've got to hold people accountable to do that. We've got to make sure we're doing the little things on defense and get off the field when those opportunities present themselves. They're going to move the ball. We're going to go three-and-out. We've got to maintain the mindset that we expect to win, we're going to find a way to win. You can't start pressing to the point that you're afraid to play or that players are trying to do too much because they want to win the game themselves. There's that fine line where I don't want people to play scared or trying to win the game themselves. I've got to try to bring that back into sync where we're all working together. I think right now we're out of sync. We've got some guys who are afraid to make a mistake and we've got some guys trying to win a game by themselves. There's that fine line of getting people back in balance. That's where we're at. We're out of whack in that standpoint.
There seems to be a perception that the season is over. Do you talk to the players at all and say that there's eight games left, the Ravens have a difficult schedule. If we win eight-straight, we can win the division?
I think they know that, to be honest with you. I think to look at the big picture would be foolish. The little picture right is what we have to do. We have to correct the things we can control. We have to win a football game, not to look at anything else but winning a football game. I have a sense that we will do that. We're going to attempt to do that. I'm not making any guarantees, I learned that a while back. But at the same time, there's got to be a very short-term focus. Is it a challenge? You're darn right it is. But to me the challenge is more of an opportunity than anything else.
(Stop, Ellis time) Last week some players were talking about luck (though I wouldn't know that for a fact since I never set foot in the locker room). Is that something that you accept or is that something …?
You create your own good fortune. I believe that. Certainly things will even out. As long as you play hard and continue to put yourself in that position, through the course of time, whether it be calls or the bounce of the ball, those things have a way of playing itself out. I believe that. That's relative to takeaways. They don't always come, but you've got to keep playing hard, trying to strip the ball, trying to keep your hands up to tip passes. We had one go through (Bryant) McFadden's hands. We had another one that was this close down in the red zone that Larry (Foote) could have had. But keep putting yourselves in that position. That will be something I will continue to stress. We are putting ourselves in that position, we're just not finishing. We're not coming up with those three or four plays that it takes to win football games. I'm going to continue to say that and continue to stress that. I want to continue to put us in those positions. If we're not in those positions, it's even more of a concern.
One of your corners talking about the jump balls, said it might help if the schemes were freshened up, if they had more help on those plays?
There's a lot of people looking for answers and a lot of things are said after games. Certainly it's easy in hindsight. I don't concern myself at this point in comments like that.
Are you seeing teams drop more guys into coverage and are they still getting pressure with those fewer guys they are rushing?
No I don't. I don't see teams deviating from what they do. Do they drop eight guys in coverage at times and rush three? Yes. But I don't see that being a deviation. They did that to other teams as well. What happens in those times, you have to buy time. And that's what we're doing. Sometimes buying time doesn't mean just sitting in the pocket. You can sit in the pocket and like I said before, there are times when you need to sit in the pocket and make throws. There are times when I've encouraged him to at times to buy time, not unlike the things we have been successful in the past. Just because a guy is running out of the pocket doesn't mean there is bad protection.
Changes sometimes have a way of sending a message. Is that your purpose?
I don't send messages. I deliver them. I try to talk to the team very openly. It's about accountability. I do things that are in the best interest of this football team to win a game. If changes are made, it's for that purpose only.
Do you think Ben (Roethlisberger) did a better time of buying time in the pocket with his legs?
Oh yeah. I said that after the game. I said it was an ill-advised throw down at the goal line to Champ (Bailey), that's an ill-advised bad play. He threw one down the field to Hines on third-and-10, I didn't have a problem with that. It was almost like a punt, it was downed at the three-yard line. Obviously the third interception was at the end of the game when he was trying to make a play down the field. The first interception was a big-time problem. That's the thing that's happening now is that we're getting turnovers as we're getting close to the goal line. That's two weeks in a row that we're inside the 15-yard line and we've thrown interceptions. We're getting yardage, but our production is not matching our yardage. You get almost 500 yards and 20 points, something's wrong. And you can look at five turnovers on offense as being the reason for that.
Four of Ben's picks have been down by the goal line, does he have to be more judicious down there?
Yeah. That's the point I'm trying to make. You work too hard to there. You work too hard to put yourself in those positions. Coming away with a field goal isn't a bad thing. That's points. You want to come away with points, you want to finish drives. But the worst-case scenario is that you want to come away with three.
Speaking of turnovers in the red zone, on Cedrick's (Wilson) catch-and-run, he was carrying the ball, it looked like a loaf of bread. How can he do that considering all the turnovers you had coming into that game?
You need to ask him that question.
You said you didn't like the look in Santonio's (Holmes) eyes. Can you expand on that and have you seen that look a lot through the years?
I didn't like the look I saw Sunday, not after the second fumble. He's a young player and I believe that Santonio Holmes is going to be a really good football player in this league. But it's like everything else, and I know that New Orleans has a rookie who's having a heck of a year in Michael (Marques) Colston. But it's the speed of the game, the impact of the hits, sometimes it's something you have to get acclimated to. He's put the ball on the ground way too many times. He knows that and I remind him of that. He's got to do a better job of securing the football. In terms of a receiver and picking up this offense, I think he's gotten more comfortable and I think he'll continue to get better.
(Stop, Ellis time) You were down 14-0, but you got back into it by halftime, how did that impact the game? (Are you kidding me?)
The question is how did that impact the game? (Even Cowher doesn't understand the question). When we went in at halftime, I thought the momentum was on our side. We had moved the ball back down after the missed field goal by Jeff (Reed) and we had moved the ball back down and done a good job of getting the placement team on and we had used the clock well and made it 17-14 (it was 14-10). We came out and talked about that first series, we have talked about that all year. Really, one of the back breakers was that 72-yard reverse that Lelie (wow, this question really confused him). We're back down by 10 again (really it was 11). It was one of those games where we just fighting an uphill battle. We could never get back in a position where, we got back within three again (really it was four) and we hold them to a punt and they punt the ball down at the three-yard line. We run three plays and we get sacked. We punt the ball out and the next thing you know, they're starting at the 17-yard line because of the personal foul on Anthony Smith. We got behind and we kept trying to get closer but we couldn't get over the hump. Even right down to the wire, trying to hold onto the timeouts. If we score there and then kick the ball deep, if you hold your timeouts, you're only a field goal away. Again, completing a two-point play. These guys are playing hard. The disappointing part of that is that they're not getting the benefits from the preparation. They're working hard during the week. There's no problem with that. We've got to carry that over to the game. We've just got to get people to not be afraid to fail and some people from trying to win the whole thing themselves. That's the fine line we're walking. (Thank God we cleared that up).
You're like third lowest in the league in penalties, but you had a couple more personal fouls?
Yeah we did. We addressed them and talked about it. James (Farrior) lost his cool. Anthony Smith was kind of a push. They're calling games close. There's been a lot more personal foul calls in the league this year, not so much from that standpoint, but there have been more taunting calls, celebration calls, which people are interpreting as that. That's fine, that's the way it should be in our league, I don't have a problem with that. We've got to use better judgment. I concur with that assessment.
Are those types of penalties out of frustration?
I don't think there's any question there's some frustration involved with that. But you've got to maintain your cool. But I don't think there's any question a lot of it has been frustration. But you've got to be able to deal with that. That's what separates people. You've got to be able to deal with a little adversity. It's not the situation, it's how you respond to that. Certainly at this point, we have not responded very well.
They hit Joey (Porter) pretty hard for just saying something, was that deserved?
I don't know. He'll go through the appeals process and we'll go from there.
Are there any guesses why Santonio is having trouble holding onto the ball on punts as opposed to when he's in space as a wide receiver?
Is it because players are coming down with more speed?
That sounds pretty good to me. This league, the impacts you take are going to be greater than they were in college, particularly when you're dealing with the kicking game. The kicking game, a lot of these guys who are covering kicks were starters in college. They're pretty good athletes. They're fast and they're big. That's speculation on my part. That's something you have to understand. There's an acclimation process. But I certainly wouldn't expect to turning the ball over to be part of that process. He has to experience that and understand that and he's going through that right now.
Why do you think New Orleans has turned it around?
The quarterback has done a very good job of playing smart football. They've got the fewest sacks, or among the fewest sacks in the league. They're throwing the ball quick. He's got a lot of really good skill players around him. I talked about Marques Colston before. Reggie Bush is a very dynamic player. He does a lot of things for them. He can run the ball, catch the ball. I think they're playing with a lot of confidence. Defensively, they've got a lot of young players and they've won a couple of close games. They're playing with a lot of confidence right now. I give Sean (Payton) and his staff have done a good job of utilizing the players and getting those guys to believe in the system and they're playing very well.
(Stop, Ellis time) The defensive backs have had a tough time with big receivers, is Colston another one of those?
Oh yeah. Yeah, you see him every week. He's 6-3, 220, has soft hands. He's making a lot of good plays for them.
How did Najeh do in the third-down role?
I thought Najeh played really well in any role we've put him at this point. He's been a real pleasant acquisition. Whatever you ask him to do, he's done it. He's done it very well.
Will you get him a little more time?
Right now I would say him and Willie are a good compliment.
Will Rian (Wallace) have to assume a lot more of what Clint does?
Yeah it will be a lot more, we're pretty short there inside. He'll be assuming a lot more responsibility. He'll be here today.
Are you concerned about where Ike's (Taylor) head is at?
Oh yeah. And it's how they respond to the situations. You see some guys who bounce back. You see some guys that it can linger with them. That's true not just with him but with a lot of players who go through tough games and tough periods of time. No one said it's going to be easy. You have to fight through it. There are going to be things can control. You have to deal with that too. You have to deal with the hand that you are dealt. How you respond to that will speak volumes. You can grow from that or you can dwell on it. The choice is usually up to the individual.
How did the offensive line grade out?
I think for the most part, they did fine. Even on the first sack Max (Starks) gave up, he was expecting help from Najeh and Najeh was supposed to help him. That was kind of Najeh's first play on third down. He was more concerned with his route than he was with his protection, just chipping the guy. Outside of that, I thought Max played a much better game than the week before. The line in general did a good job. We got beat a couple of times, but that's a pretty good defensive line too. We did a pretty good job for the most part.