Cowher's Tuesday Press Conference, Steel Quotes

<b>BILL COWHER: </b>Just to give you the information I have right now on the two guys that got hurt last night. First of all, Jerome (Bettis) has an MCL sprain between grades 1 and 2. Right now, if I had to list him, he's probably doubtful for this game. So we'll see how it goes late in the week. I think that's good news.

The second one is with Jeff Hartings, and right now the initial prognosis on the MRI that was done this morning is that he basically twisted his knee and he aggravated the lateral cartilage in his knee. No surgery is needed. Again, I'm going to say he's probably doubtful to questionable, so we'll see how he is for this game. Again, on the short week, he's probably leaning more towards doubtful. But I think the information we got on those two players is good, relative to obviously what the alternative could have been.   

Jerame Tuman is the only other player I would list probably as doubtful for this game. He still has the quad and it's taken a little bit slower than what we had anticipated initially, so he is doubtful. John Allred, he is going to be questionable at this time. He aggravated a calf last week in practice. We put him on the injury report, didn't think it was anything, and then he aggravated it again Saturday night in practice. Actually, we worked him out prior to the game and he couldn't go. He's a little bit sore based on the workout we had last night with him. He's truly questionable. There's no one else that showed up from last night's game. Again, it's still early. I know Rodney Bailey has got some ribs, Marvel (Smith) has a knee, Mike Schneck is probable with his elbow. He should be available to us. Basically, that's our situation less than 24 hours after the game. That's the best information I can give you in regards to injuries.   Certainly it was a big game for us last night. The one thing about a Monday night is you don't have much time to sit around and dwell on it. We've got a tough, physical game next week, after coming off a physical game last night, with Baltimore in Baltimore and there's no question they're playing very well right now. We all saw what they did to Denver a few weeks back on Monday night. Then they had an impressive performance last week against Jacksonville. It's our leading rivalry in this division right now. They were the last team out of this division to win the Super Bowl. It's going to be a big test for us.  

Are they a mirror image of your team?

  •   Yeah. Jamal (Lewis) is running very well and there's no question he's a big part of their offense. Him along with Todd Heap. He's a guy (Chris) Redman seems to be getting more comfortable with. And I think their quarterback is getting better each week. I think that's the one thing I've seen from them, from the beginning to where they are now, is the fact their quarterback is starting to play with some confidence. He's getting some playing time. They're utilizing their players. Their big running back, they lean on him heavily. They utilize that running game to get match-ups with their tight end. And he can create match-up problems for you. He's like a big receiver at times. They line him up all over the field and we have to be aware of where he's at. He's a big part of their offense, along with Jamal.   There's not going to be any hidden secrets as to what they're going to do. There never is when we play this football team. It's a physical game as it is every year we play this team. You go toe to toe and it comes down to the fourth quarter and who's still standing. I can't foresee this being any different.  

Who will start if Jerome can't play?

  •   I would imagine Amos (Zereoue) to start, and mix in Fu and go from there.  

Will Chukky Okobi play if Hartings can't?

  •   Chukky's definitely the guy. I thought he did fine. Jeff's a good football player and certainly you're going to miss him if he can't play; and it's good news that it shouldn't be any extended time if it's any time at all; but Chukky's a very natural center, so we expect him to step up and perform at a high level.  

Who would be Okobi's back-up?

  •   I don't know. I guess Kendall Simmons.  

Could you comment on your safeties?

  •   Yeah, they're making plays. The corners did a very good job last night. I thought Tim Lewis called a very good game. We mixed it up against that quarterback, and he's good. You sit there and play any one defense, he will pick you apart. We mixed it up between three deep and two deep, between pressure with single high and pressure with two deep. We tried to take Marvin Harrison out of the game. There's no question that was our key going in, to make sure he didn't beat us. We wanted to make Edgerrin James beat us. We were not going to get impatient. We knew there were going to be some five or six-yard runs but that wasn't going to beat us. The other guy can beat you quick and I thought our corners did a nice job in coverage; our safeties did a nice job in disguise and communicating. It was really a pretty solid effort on the defensive side of the ball.  

What did Kendrell Bell add to that?

  •   He was thrashing around in the first half. He took some bad angles at times. Those are things that come with the speed of the game. Those things are hard. He's just been out there practicing last week really for the first time. Even in practice last week, we practiced a lot with the dime defense because we anticipated seeing a lot more three-receiver sets, so he had limited practice time to begin with. If you watched him play in this game, in the second half his angles were much quicker, yet he was very decisive, very aggressive. You could tell when you turn on the video, he was back to himself – not always where you would expect him to be but very disruptive.  

Will Kendrell be back in the dime defense anytime soon?

  • I don't know. We'll have to look into it. Clark Haggans has done a very good job. I'd be hard-pressed to take him out. We just want to get Kendrell out there on first and second down. Let's walk before we start to run.  

Do you think you will face Ray Lewis?

  •   Well, Ray Lewis will play in this game. There's no question. I think they had to probably hold him back from last game. There's no question we are going to prepare for him to play, and he is without a doubt one of the premier football players – offense and defense included – in the National Football League. He is a difference maker. He is a presence on the field and you better account for him. They have performed well in his absence. They've got some good players around him. They're very solid. They're very scrappy and they run to the football. You can tell his demeanor has become contagious with some of the young guys they have on that team. (Peter) Boulware has picked up his game; (Ed) Hartwell is a good player inside who can run; they've got two rookie safeties that are excellent tacklers; (Chris) McAllister is playing at a very high level; (Mike) McCrary's back for them. It's still a good defense and it will be even better with 52 in there.  

Do they look different in a 3-4?

  •   No. Boulware is one of those guys who, when he stands up you call it a 3-4 and when he puts his hand down you call it a 4-3. But they do a good job of mixing it up because there are certain protections in which you have to identify the front, and they do some blitzing off of it. They've done a good job of incorporating enough that it keeps offenses off-balance from a protection standpoint and they've got good team speed. They move people around. They blitz from a lot of different places. You've got to be very careful with this team because people are dropping off. Adalius Thomas intercepted a ball last week off of (Mark) Brunell. You think he's rushing but he's dropping. It's a lot like our defense in some respects, and you have to be on top of where people are because they could be coming from a lot of different places.  

How did they turn it around?

  •   Well, on defense, there are still a lot of solid players there. They have some young players who stepped in. The biggest thing on offense is, number one, they got Jamal Lewis back. And I think the quarterback has played better the last few weeks. I don't think there's any question the more he's playing the more he's gaining confidence. There's nothing like confidence in the National Football League. Now they're able to complement their running game with a quarterback who's throwing the ball pretty accurately off the play-action game and creating some match-up problems with a guy like Heap.  

Is the rest of the team feeding off Maddox's success?

  • We have a football team. That's the biggest thing. I don't think it's any one individual. We've been able to play pretty solid football since the bye week. We're not turning it over on offense. We've minimized it. And I think defensively we've not given up the big play. That was a big thing last night. I think they had two plays over 20 yards. I think we're just playing as a team, recognizing it doesn't take any one individual to be outstanding. There's a lot of trust involved, that everyone's going to play hard, be where you need to be and do your job. If everybody does that, we can be a pretty good football team.   I like the way we've been preparing. There's a sense of urgency in what we're doing. There's a focus that exists. There's an understanding that you know it won't always unfold the way you want it, but you have to have that trust and belief and expectation and you know you've just got to win games. Find a way to get one more point and not go into a lull, like last night you were sitting there 21-3 but there's no guarantees. … You've got to be careful, that when a play happens you respond positively. Mike Logan's play in that game was a big play. It totally turned the momentum around. We were able to go down and Tommy hit Hines (Ward) for a touchdown.  

Are you aware you are 70-1 with a 10-point lead?

  • I can not account for that at all. I was totally shocked when I saw that. I never knew we had that many leads. That was shocking.  

Do you suppose your guys thought of themselves as a dominant team coming into the season and that the first couple games served as a wake-up call?

  • No. No I don't. We turned the football over. It wasn't a mindset. We went up to play the defending champions. I don't think we're that much less than them. There are a couple plays every game that will swing the tide of every game.

How were you playing up front defensively last night?

  • The guys were relentless up front. Even though they were getting blocked, they kept after it. They never let him set his feet. I thought we did a good job with the calls; but the players, their effort was very impressive, particularly when you looked at it again this morning on video.

For the 18th consecutive week, coach, how's James Farrior coming along?

  • He's played really solid. He screwed up the touchdown pass, so I refuse to give him too much credit, but he has been a very solid player. He's involved with making a lot of calls right now; he can run, he works downhill in the running game. He's had a very, very solid year.  

How did Dan O'Leary play?

  • He did fine. Dan did good. His snaps were fine. I thought he did a good job.  

What about Mike Schneck?

  • Mike's a really good snapper, there's no question about it. Certainly, we have to look and see how we are health-wise, and a lot of times that will just play out week to week.  

Are you concerned with Todd Peterson?

  • I'd like to see him a little more consistent. We tried a late field goal and it was the same distance their guy tried. I saw (Peterson) hit one from 50 at the same end, but that was three hours earlier and I'm sure it got colder and damper. I didn't have a problem with the kickoffs until the last one. The ones that go out of bounds just drive me nuts. But the ones before it weren't bad. I thought Verron Haynes set the tone early with that big hit on the opening kickoff. The air was a little cold last night. It wasn't going to be as deep.  

Is this a fresh start at 3-3 and playing for first place?

  • I felt that way at the bye week. We were fortunate that, even at 0-2, we were one game out of first place. That's when you feel fortunate and you've got to be able to take advantage of it. You don't get too caught up with the record. You don't get too caught up with worrying about anything more than where you are in the division and how you're playing.  

What do you know about fielding punts?

  • I know you don't catch it over your head. That's what I told Antwaan (Randle El).  

But I saw that in practice Saturday night?

  • If he did it there, then he did it without me noticing. I didn't notice him doing it in practice. He won't be doing it any more in practice.  

Is Heinz Field to kickers what Coors Field is to pitchers?

  • I don't know. It's really a hard place for an opposing kicker. There's no question about it. I think Todd will be fine. He missed the one but he's got an opportunity to go down there and kick on a consistent basis. But if you're an opposing kicker coming in here, one day to get acclimated is not enough. So I would hate to be an opposing kicker kicking in our stadium.  

Is Casey Hampton healthy or playing better?

  • I think since he's had that runback he thinks he's a lot faster. I asked him about that. He was a running back in high school, so he did have some experience running with the football in his hands. But I agree. He dropped some weight since training camp and he does look very fast, much faster. You see him showing up sideline to sideline. It was probably, from the standpoint of watching our defense, it was probably the best effort this year of guys flying to the ball. It was an impressive showing and he does look quicker and faster.  


 --Jim Wexell        











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