Bill Cowher press conference, Nov. 21

Bill Cowher thinks the Ravens will be a stiff challenge and he's not ready to wear a suit.

Head coach Bill Cowher held his weekly press conference to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers' victory Sunday in Cleveland and next Sunday's game at Baltimore. Here's what he had to say:

Opening statement: Let me give you the injury update for the game against Baltimore. One player is doubtful, that's Willie Reid. He is getting better, it's just a slow process, so he's doubtful for this week. Two players are questionable, Najeh Davenport with the groin and Hines (Ward) with his knee. All preliminary tests were done. He basically has a hyperextension of his knee, so we'll see how he progresses as the week goes on. Then we have four players who are probable: Jeff Hartings with the knee; Deshea Townsend with the ankle; Clark Haggans with a quad; and James Harrison with an ankle. Certainly when you look at last week's game, it was a big win, just considering how it unfolded and how we finished it, for two consecutive weeks being able to come from behind. I will say this, we have to play better than we have these last two weeks to even be able to have a chance to compete against Baltimore. This is one of the premiere teams in the AFC. You look at them and they have no weaknesses. They are solid from top to bottom. They're playing with a lot of confidence. They're playing very well. We're going to have to play at a very high level and play our best game to even have a chance to compete with this team. They're playing that good. Those are just the facts and it will be a big challenge for us going down there and we'll see what happens.

What kind of difference has (Steve) McNair made for the Ravens?

That's something you'd have to ask them. I think if you look at last year, they had a lot of injuries last year. They come back this year with a Steve McNair, it's just the confidence that they have. You can see some of the comeback wins they had early in the season, those were big. Coming to a new team and you do what you've been known to do, which Steve has done throughout his career, you do that, it just strengthens the confidence they have in you. They're a confident football team. They've had some comeback wins. They were down by almost 20 points to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago. To come back and get that win, they're a confident football team that's playing well right now.

Have you noticed a difference to (Brian) Billick's playcalling to when they let (Jim) Fassel go?

Quite honestly, I haven't looked at all the games, I've looked at the last four. They're averaging 28 points per game these last four games. That's hard to say, I haven't really studied it to that extent. They are where they are now. Right now they're a productive team.

(Stop, Ellis time). Bill, they've been helped field-position wise by B.J. Sams. What are some of the things you're seeing in those games with him and those teams?

He's a Pro Bowl returner as a punt returner and kick returner. They have created outstanding field position with him. Certainly where we are right now, we have – it goes without saying – it's going to be a big challenge because our coverage teams have not been very good. That's going to play a big part. He's a guy that can make people miss. He's got outstanding vision, he's got strength. He has everything you're looking for. They have an outstanding kicking game. I think Matt Stover missed his first field goal in this decade this last week. They're very sound in all the things they're doing right now. They're not turning the football over. They lead the league in turnover/takeaway ration, plus 12. They're second in the league in defense. They have a good kicking game with the solid kicker and premiere returner. Like I said, we're going to have to be at our best to even have a chance to compete.

Will you consider putting any more starters on the kick teams?

I'm considering everything and anything. It's something that has to change somewhere, somehow. The results are not where they need to be. I'm disappointed. I understand this time of year in the kicking game, you're outside. Unless you have one of those two or three guys in this league who are just kickoff guys, you're going to have to deal with the field position being a little bit higher. But you can't give up the returns like we gave up the other day. You go back to New Orleans, we gave up a 50-yard return there. Denver was the best kickoff coverage that we had all year. But there's been that one or two returns every game and that's just unacceptable at this point.

Are the problems in coverage the same or have they been different every time?

It's different. We've consistently had breakdowns. That's been consistent. If there were any one thing, you'd be able to pinpoint it. It just takes one guy to get out of a lane and them hit the right return and you have what you have.

How much of the return is the return man as opposed to the blocking scheme-wise?

It's hard to say. It varies. With some returns, B.J. Sams had one last week that he must have made six or seven people miss. You look the other day when (Josh) Cribbs returned it, he looked like he was running on air. Sometimes it's the scheme and people get the right timing and execution. Other times it's just great effort.

Will you make any changes on your kickoff return if Najeh can't play or even if he can?

I'm very pleased with the kickoff return. That is the only phase I will say we have made progress. Sean (Morey) had a big return the other day and we had another return called back because of penalty. But that's been the one phase I've been comfortable with. We've gotten nothing out of our punt return. I don't know how many true opportunities we've had. But really where we are at this point, we haven't gotten much out of it.

You'll put Ike (Taylor) back there with Sean if Najeh can't play?

At this point.

You talked about the turnover ratio with Baltimore leading the league on the plus side. They lead in interceptions. How good is their secondary?

They're excellent. When you look at their defense as a whole, they do a good job of disguising things, they're always moving around. Adalius Thomas and (Lee) Suggs are two good pass rushers. Kelly Gregg is stout in the middle. Bart Scott has been all over the field. They're probably going to get Ray Lewis back, he's like the emotional leader for them. Ed Reed is one of the top safeties in the National Football League. And Samari Rolle and (Chris) McAlister, those guys, they tackle well, they play the ball well. They've got a lot of playmakers on that team. They've been there week-in and week-out. You're going to have to be very patient with this defense. The one thing they thrive on, like you say, they take the ball away and create field position. They're scoring touchdowns. Again, we had two returns against us last week. It's been well-documented. If you give up two returns for touchdowns, you win about two out of every 10 games. You can't give up returns for touchdowns. You can't give up points like that, or even field position in the kicking game. Those are some of the things we've been doing that we just can't afford to do against this football team.

Ed Reed and Troy (Polamalu) are probably the two best safeties in the league, how similar or dissimilar do they use him? He makes a lot of plays, I know.

There are some similarities. He moves around a lot. He blitzes I wouldn't say frequently, but enough. He's just got a great feel for the ball. He's a guy that's a true centerfielder. You'll see Troy probably more around the line of scrimmage than you would Ed Reed I think if you looked through the course of a few games. But the one thing about both these players is that they are both so instinctive. They've got great instincts and great feel for the game. I think that's the one thing that separates them from other safeties.

What are they doing to stop the run (Like they've never done that before)?

They've got (Haloti) Ngata is a big guy they picked up as a No. 1 draft choice and Kelly Gregg. And like I said, they've got linebackers that can move. Bryce (Trevor Pryce) is in there from Denver. They're just very sound at what they do. They bring some eight-man fronts and they have corners they aren't afraid to leave out there one-on-one. Like I said, it's just a case that they try to stuff the line of scrimmage and force you into a one-dimensional game. Once they can do that, they can get some negative plays and get you into third downs and they force some turnovers. They've got some good run defenders coupled with some guys that can make plays. That's a good combination to have.

Ben (Roethlisberger) seems comfortable in the no-huddle offense. Have you considered using it more and what are the negatives of it? Does it take away a lot of your running game if you do use it?

Yeah. You're limited to what you can run. I think we'll use it as a change of pace like we did the other day. I don't think it's something we want to live by. We're not the Indianapolis Colts. We feel good with our offense, the way we have it designed. There's different ways to do different things. It's a nice option to have and he did a good job the other day, which was used more out of necessity because of the time frame we had to work with in that fourth quarter. But it's nice to have that option so that when you get behind because you know that you've been there before.

(Stop, Ellis time) Was that helpful the other day being down by 10 with nine minutes to play, some of the guys said the poise remained the same despite being in that situation (Helpful?)

The last two weeks we've dealt with the whole ebb and flow deal. They have done a very good job. You look at the other day. We did not convert a third down in the first three quarters, we were 0-of-6 in the first three quarters. We were 6-of-6 in the fourth quarter. We got 21 points in the fourth quarter, we came up with key stops on defense. There were a lot of positives. But I'll say again, the team we play this week, we cannot dig ourselves the hole we dug ourselves the last time and expect to get out of it. It will take a complete game in all three phases to have a chance to compete against this team. But there was a lot to be said for what took place the other day.

What does that say about Ben that he can play poorly and have the mistakes for two or three quarters and then play the way he did in the fourth quarter?

I think it's a confidence that you have, No. 1. You have to not lose confidence in yourself, and more importantly, in the people around you. And stay within yourself. Sometimes there's a tendency to try to do too much. I know a couple of times he got out of the pocket and threw the thing away. I thought those were some of the better throws he had, not trying to force it. He hit some checkdowns. That's the thing I like right now, he's seeing the whole field. You look at the three interceptions the other day, the first one was a high throw to Santonio (Holmes) that he tipped. The one hit Ced (Wilson) in the facemask and the guy intercepts. The other one, the guy comes in and knocks it away from Hines. His decisions have been good. He had some throws that got away from him. But I like his decision making. That, at times, was the thing that had gotten away from him earlier in the season. He'll have to be careful again this week because they have got some ballhawks and Ed Reed is a guy that if you stare someone down, he's going to get there before the ball gets there.

In terms of how much he's throwing the ball, is that the situation dictating that or are you guys getting away from the running game more?

A little bit of both. I don't think it's a blanket statement. I feel like we are running the ball when we feel like we've had the chances. Maybe not as efficiently as we'd like. The numbers are getting skewed home and away and I really don't have an answer for that. I just know going into a game, we're trying to stay balanced to keep a team on their toes, back on their heals more or less (Which is it, you can't do both!). I think as the game unfolds, this last week, the circumstances dictated the ratio more than anything.

(Here comes smiling Paulie with a softball) Now that you've gotten two wins in a row, do you finally feel like you have some momentum?

You have to get momentum this time of year. Right now, we have no margin of error. This is a big football game for us. I know that it is for Baltimore. We're playing one of the elite teams in the AFC and maybe in the National Football League the way they're playing. This will be a measuring stick for us to see where we are. It's a team that we're going to their place, I don't think we've won there in three or four years. There's a lot of challenges we have ahead of us. We're going to have to go out and play our best football. That's where we are this time of year. There's a lot of teams clumped right now. This next month will have a way of separating a lot of teams.

Bryant McFadden made his first start of the year (no he didn't) how did he play? Is he improving?

Bryant did some good things. He did a nice job of playing the ball. I thought he played a very solid game.

Did the tape show that even if those guys had caught the Hail Mary pass, those guys were out of bounds and came back in?

At the end of the game?

Yes.

Braylon Edwards did step out of bounds. If he'd have caught it or not, it would have been irrelevant.

He has to reestablish himself in?

Once you step out of bounds, you're an ineligible receiver.

Is Santonio pushing for even more playing time?

You know what? He's embraced the role he has now. He's getting comfortable. Ben's getting comfortable with him. I like the mix we have. Ced Wilson has done a nice job. Hines and Nate Washington have been four pretty solid receivers for us. I'm comfortable with where we are and we'll just have to see how a game unfolds.

(Paulie Walnuts with another softball) Jamal Lewis looked like the old Jamal Lewis last week. It's probably not the time you'd like him to reestablish that? (He's looked like an old Jamal Lewis a lot lately)

No. He's running well. He's running with great balance. The line is doing a great job of coming off. They're doing a good job with McNair. You look at their receivers, between (Mark) Clayton, (Derrick) Mason and (Todd) Heap, there's about four receptions that separate those guys. He's spreading the ball around. He's running the ball efficiently. They're not turning the ball over. You're not seeing a lot of sacks against them. So they're not putting themselves in a lot of third and longs. You look at their offense, you may look at their ranking, but they're still eighth in third down efficiency. It would probably be higher than that if it weren't for them shutting down their offense in some of these wins. They're playing very solid, very sound football.

Will you consider wearing a suit?

No.

It's just not you?

Not me. You'd like to see me in a suit, wouldn't you? I don't even wear one to church.

(Jack) Del Rio looked a little strange in one last night.

You said it, I didn't. I'm not a trend-setter when it comes to fashion statements. I just wear what they put in the locker. It really doesn't matter to me. If it's cold, I put layers on.

He had to get special dispensation for that, (Mike) Nolan.

I really don't know. I'm not looking into the process. I'm not interested, with all due respect.

What are your thoughts of McNair as an athlete and a competitor?

He's a leader. Steve McNair is a football player, he's a leader. He has a presence on the field. There's no question the people around him have a confidence in him. He's got the arm, which everyone sees. He's got mobility, it's a kind of you see him do it when he has to. You see all the comebacks he's had over the years. He's a leader who inspires the people around him. His productivity and what he's done over time speaks a lot about who he is. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. I always have. I thought we lost him when we went to the new alignment, but now he's back in the division again. He's a good football player. I have a lot of respect for him, he's a class guy.

(Paulie Walnuts softball time again) Is Baltimore proving what you say to your guys, if you don't turn it over, all of a sudden, you're 8-2?

Yeah. We know that. We understand that. But you can't control what's taken place to this point. The one thing you can control is what's ahead of us. We have an opportunity. Is it a big challenge? You're darn right it is. At this time of year it's something you have to embrace. We have to show an ability to sustain play. We have to up our level of play in certain areas. And we have to be able to do it against good football teams. This will be a big challenge for us. We'll find out where we are.


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