With a short week, Bill Cowher was forced to hold his weekly press conference on Monday this week as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to play the Cleveland Browns Thursday night. Here's what the Steelers head coach had to say:
Opening Statement: Here is our injury report, obviously given the fact that it's less than 24 hours (since we played). Ryan Clark and Cedrick Wilson, I'm not sure they'll be able to make it on a short week. And certainly with Troy (Polamalu) and Hines (Ward), we're still in the process of seeing where we are with the injuries and we'll go from there. Obviously there will be a chance of some roster moves. Some of those things may take place as the day unfolds, but I'm not ready to make any announcements at this time.
What do you know about Derek Anderson?
I saw him play for a half just this morning and he was impressive. I think what they did to come back from 14 points down against Kansas City, he had a big scramble in the overtime to set up the winning field goal. He showed really good composure. He checked the ball down a couple of times, I was impressed. He looked good, he looked mobile. They'll be coming in here high after a big win.
From a preparation standpoint, does it help having a division team like Cleveland coming in on a short week?
Without a doubt. That does help tremendously. I'm sure it does for them as well. But there's no question it helps.
What's your opinion of these Thursday games?
If your a fan, it's great to have football in the middle of the week – unless you're playing in it. I guess both teams are in the same situation. But I'm not a big fan of it this time of year. It is what it is. It's part of the entertainment business we're in. It will be nice over the weekend, but it's a lot of work between now and Thursday.
Were coaches consulted about this?
Consulted? No. We don't get consulted about schedules. We don't get consulted about rules. We don't get consulted about a lot of things. We get more consoled than we get consulted.
How do the logistics change this week, do you have to cut corners here and there?
I went back to the three Thursday games since I've been here. We had always given the players off Monday and game planned and then had them work two days. We're 0-3 in those games. That's why I kind of looked around and talked to some teams that had done this. The consensus was to come in today and try to treat this like a Wednesday. Tomorrow will be like a normal Thursday. Wednesday will be like a Friday, like you do in the preseason because you still have a little workout on Friday. We'll go to the hotel Wednesday night and then wake up and have a normal day of the game routine. That's how we're approaching it. It's a little different. I think the last Thursday game we played was probably Thanksgiving day. That's been a while. That's how we're doing it. Today's kind of a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday all in one. I think we're doing Monday was this morning. You're in the middle of Tuesday and once I leave here with you guys, it becomes Wednesday.
The game plan is today?
Most of it.
You can't afford to do something early like last week, can you?
No, but like I said, we know the opponent. The hard thing is you make preparations and then you have injuries and you have to kind of throw that out. So between today and tomorrow we'll have most of it in.
You said today is like a Wednesday, but you practice hard on Wednesdays. You can't put those guys through that today.
No. We're not going to have any 9-on-7s today and they're not going to have any shoulder pads on all week. Certainly I'm not that would be foolish to do that. It is important preparation wise to see it and rep it. The tempo today will be like it would be after a Sunday night game, certainly. Basically it's important right now that we get thinking about Cleveland and try to get some normality to this week.
Is that a big part of it, to yank their heads? Usually they'll have a couple of days, you have to get their attention immediately on Cleveland, right?
Oh yeah. And they knew that. We talked last week about what the next 10 or 11 days would entail. They understood it. They understand the sacrifices and being able to put that last game behind us and getting prepared for a very important game. They understand that.
Especially at this time of year, is there a big benefit of getting through this and having the extra time on the other side?
There is. It's a little like a bye week from the standpoint that we'll have some extra time on the weekend to get away and come back and gear up for our last three games in the regular season. Right now you don't think about that, but it does help you on the other end.
How's Ike Taylor taken to his new role in the defense and how long do you anticipate his role being what it is now?
It's hard to say. I'm sure he probably doesn't like it, but he's accepted it and he understands it. Just like anybody else, the thing that has gone on with injuries and everything else, it's an unselfish team. They sacrificed a lot for the team. They've taken on that mindset. That being said, every opportunity you get, whether it be in the kicking game, offense or defense, you've got to seize it. That's what I like about this group of guys. We've been through a lot. A lot has been said about them. It hasn't unfolded the way we want it to unfold. But they keep at it. I'm proud of them. We'll see what happens.
Do the tight ends become more important with the injuries you have at wide receiver?
Yeah. Certainly a guy like Heath (Miller), he's such a multi-talented guy. He's got great hands. I thought Ben (Roethlisberger) made three really good plays that were improvised: the one to Willie (Parker) in the second quarter; the one to Nate (Washington) at the end of the third quarter; and then obviously the touchdown pass was a little of an improvision. The line did a good job of protecting him to give him time to look down the field and Ben did a good job seeing the whole field. Those are three big pass plays. But they are. Jerame (Tuman) and Heath are two good tight ends.
Could they learn some of the four wideout roles?
Yeah. Some of those you have to have contingency plans during a game. We will take the players we have and utilize packages that we have.
Might that be Nate at flanker and Santonio (Holmes) at split end if Cedrick cannot play?
That is correct.
What did you think of Nate yesterday?
Nate is a good football player. Nate's played really well. He's had a couple of drops this year, but he's made some tough catches. He really has. He made a couple of catches last week and took some hits down the middle and he got up. He took another one the other day. He's got good hands, he's a tough kid, he runs good routes and he's still a young player. That's the thing, people are so quick to be judgmental of a guy. It's his first year playing. He didn't play last year until we got into the playoffs. He's a good young player, just like Santonio. They're going to get better the more they play. I don't like the circumstances, but they're going to be playing a lot more now.
Specifically (since I'm trying to fill time), what pleased you the most yesterday outside of winning?
Just the way they played. I look at this football team and we've won three of the last four games. Around here it gets focused on the game we didn't win. And we didn't play well against Baltimore, so so be it. I think it's a resilient group of guys, they play hard. We still have not played our best football. I'd like to see us continue to grow from that. We have some challenges ahead of us. The one thing we control is how we think. We can't get caught up with all of the cynical people who talk about how we beat and who we beat. There's a lot of negativity out there because there are high expectations and we have not met those expectations. The only thing we can do right now is control what we can control. That's going out there and it will be more defined by our performance than anything else. That's why I'm proud of this football team. We will go out there and battle week in and week out and not be deterred by what people are saying or where we are. Don't get caught up in that. You can't control what people think. What you can control is the future, not what took place behind you.
(Stop, Ellis time) Recognizing that, do you still look at the teams ahead of you and see that the door is still open a bit?
No. We can't control that. The only thing we can control right now is the fact that we have to take every game and do what we can to win every game. I go back and I talked to the team about it yesterday, just focusing on the process. What happens, the result, I talked about it last year during the playoff run. It's no different now. Don't get caught up in the season, if you could have done this or that. Just focus on the process right now. That becomes a lot more defining than any result. The result will be nothing more than byproduct of the process. I believe that. And I want the players to understand that. That's the same thing in the course of a game, not to get caught up with what happened on the previous play. Just play. If you surround yourself with guys with that kind of mentality and that kind of mindset, good things will happen because you won't dwell. You won't sit there and worry about things that are going to happen no matter what anyway. It's like the first interception. OK, it happened. Go out there and stop them. I had all kinds of time to wonder if I should let Jeff Reed kick a 50-yard field goal. I was starting to ponder, well if I don't, they get the ball at the 40. If they get a couple of first downs, it's 7-3. If I punt I can go in at 7-0 because they probably can't drive that far. But I was thinking about the result, not the process. But the kid was out there, just like in practice. I told him, ‘You've got a strong enough leg, just don't try to overkick it. Just play inside right, it's a little left to right wind.' I like to be Jeff's caddy. And you know what, he did. He put a good swing on the ball, he didn't try to kill it. That thing would have been good from 55, 60 maybe. When he does that and quits worrying about the mud and the wind and all those other things, he's a good kicker. I like the fact that he's more bothered about the one he missed than gloating about the one he made. That's what makes him a good kicker.
You mentioned the mud, is the field at Heinz Field an issue?
Both teams have to play on it. I like it. You're talking to the wrong guy. That's what the game should be played on. I think a natural surface, when you look at most players, through the course of their careers, would rather play on grass than any kind of artificial surface.
Grass doesn't seem to be the issue.
You know what, grass turns to mud this time of year. We're not down south somewhere. We've got the weather. It is what it is. Grass does not grow year round in Pittsburgh. But that's what football was when you were growing up. You loved football like that. As long as it was firm - it starts firm anyway - maybe Jeff would take exception with that with his plant foot. But you get used to it. You get acclimated to it, you adjust to it. That's what the game of football is about. Both teams are playing on it, so come on.
Will Santonio be available all week for practice?
How many guys went to Jerome's father's funeral?
A number of them. I don't know what the exact count is. I moved practice back an hour so they can attend. They'll be back here this afternoon. I'm glad they had a chance to go up there.
You talked about the running game yesterday being a sense of slow starts, what are you seeing?
We've been preparing for some fronts. They used that 10 days off to put some new things in. They had played that Thanksgiving day game. They did some things we had not seen. They threw a little loop at us. The one thing I liked was at the end of the game, I saw us getting some good push. Sometimes they ran some plays down. I think we'll be fine. I'd just like to get off to a quicker start, not just in the run game, but offensively. Sometimes you have to throw the ball early to loosen people up and get them to respect it or they'll start bringing eight or nine into the box. I think we'll be able to do that. I'd just like to see us get off to quicker starts than we have in these last three games. You look at Cleveland, Baltimore and Tampa Bay, we didn't get off to very quick starts. We overcame it against Cleveland and Tampa Bay. But we didn't do so against Baltimore.
(Stop, Ellis time) You mentioned external negativity. Do you find it best to avoid that? Or do you utilize that?
You can't escape it, it's there. I can sense it with the words that are used in here. Sometimes the words that I say in here get used in very cynical ways, even after the games. I know that if I'm aware of it, they're aware of it. Just don't get caught up in it. I think it would be naive not to talk about it. Just don't get caught up in it. In my opinion, I can never tell people how to think or how to act. But just give my perception of how you deal with that. Just be careful that you don't get caught up in it, just like you don't get caught up in it when they're giving you the accolades as well. Sometimes, that's easy to do as well. I'm not being upset, I understand you guys have jobs to do and I understand the expectations around here. That's the thing that happens when you've created that and you fall short of that, you understand what comes with that territory. Just be careful that you don't get caught up in it. Like I said before, it's just like success, it works both ways. I think you have to deal with it. In my opinion you talk about it. The only thing we can control is how we think and a lot of times how you think is how you feel and how you perform. We need to look forward rather than get caught up in the results or the big picture.
That being said, how do you think your quarterback has handled the highs and now obviously the lows?
I think he's been fine. I think it's like our football team, I don't look at him any differently. He had the first interception, but I think he came back and he made some good throws. He's working with some young receivers. I thought he competed, got out of the pocket and tried to make some plays. He tried to run the one time and almost got away. He's a tough kid, he's a competitive kid. He's a good quarterback.
Did you use a lot of different stuff against (Bruce) Gradkowski and did he react as you thought he might?
A little bit, not too much. We've got a pretty extensive package. Sometimes we pressured him and other times we didn't. He made some good throws. On third-and-16, Aaron Smith was right in his face and he made a good in route throw to (Joey) Galloway. He made some good plays. They dropped the one on the wheel route. We got fortunate there. We did a good job of getting some pressure on and keeping him antsy in the pocket.
Ike Taylor was a guy who was assigned to top receivers last year. He signed a big contract in the offseason. Is it a challenge to put that guy on the sidelines?
I don't get caught up with contracts. I don't get caught up with what people make. My job is to put the best people out there to give us a chance to win and that's the protocol I use.
In getting back to where he was, is that a day-to-day thing?
Yeah. It's day to day and week to week.
Anthony Smith starts if Ryan Clark can't play?
What did you notice differently in kick coverage?
Obviously getting James Harrison back is big. We've tried to switch some things back on kickoffs with how people are aligned. We've been trying to plug a big hole, so to speak. We're going to have a big challenge this week, because you all remember the last time with (josh) Cribbs as a kick returner and (Dennis) Northcutt as a punt returner. We've got to have our A game without a doubt. We've done some good things the last couple of weeks. We did a good job with B.J. Sams. Certainly we did a good job last night. But we'll have a big challenge this week.