SteelQuotes - Bill Cowher Press Conference

<b>BILL COWHER</b><br> We have released Jeff Smith and signed Marco Battaglia. As far as the game and injuries, John Allred will be out of this game with a concussion. Two players are questionable: James Farrior (sternum), Wayne Gandy (calf), and Hines Ward (hamstring). Probable are Lee Flowers (quad), Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (pec), and Jerome Bettis (knee).<p>

Which quarterback will start?
There won't be any roster changes outside of what may necessitate by injury through the week. There's not going to be any changes in our lineup on either side of the ball.

Who will play center?
Jeff (Hartings) will be back. He finished up the game and will be back in the starting role as the center.

What did you tell the players Monday?
It's hard to explain a game like that. Having been through and been in this league since '80 as a player and a coach for 23 years, I don't think I've ever experienced a game like that. I just told them to be careful. And I looked at the week of preparation; it probably was as good a week as we've had leading up to the game. Watching all three phases, everybody played hard. And I liked how they responded every time a negative happened. They came back and played till the bitter end. In doing that, as I stated to them, they'd better be careful not to let five or six plays dictate their mindset. We are in a situation right now. We are in control of our destiny. Everything we want is ahead of us. Did we squander an opportunity? Yes. But I think if they allow five or six plays to dictate their mindset, I think they're wrong in doing that and I think it will have an effect on our football team, collectively not just individually. We talked about it, offensively and defensively. Like I said, we've got to come back with the same type of preparation. Obviously we have to have greater focus and we can't have the turnovers…. When we are playing at our best, we can play with anybody. But we cannot keep continuing to overcome ourselves.

Were you concerned about this loss being a problem psychologically?
There's no doubt. You go back to the Tennessee game; they were more physical than we were. But this was a game that, this one there's no question it affects your mindset. I mean, for the first time I said, "You can apply the 24-hour rule to this thing." I mean, didn't even want to look at it. We didn't look at it. It would just make you madder and madder as it did me. And you've got to get it out of your mind in 24 hours, and I gave them a 24-hour extension to have 5 minutes of venting. But after that, we come back Wednesday and we get it out of our minds. … I'm not going to tolerate the continuing of doing that of shooting us in the foot, and they understand that.

What does Maddox need to do differently? Are they finding out about him?
You can't force the issue at times. It's OK at times to punt. It's OK to take a 5 or 6-yard gain and not to keep trying to force the issue. You've got to be patient.

Did you get away from the run too early?
I don't think so. If you look at the end of the first half, when you had first and second downs - take away the third-down situations and the plays in 4-wide sets with 2:30 remaining - we were 15 and 14, run and pass. The third quarter we came out and tried to run a little more. You try to throw on first and second downs to try to take advantage of the single-high coverages and the 8 in the box, so I really don't feel like we did. No.

Maddox said the wind was affecting his passes. Was it?
Well I would've liked to judge it by the other team but I couldn't do that, so I'm sure to some extent maybe that was the case. There were a couple of throws that went through Plax a couple times in the end zone and that's what he said. It was a windy day. There's no question. And yet, as I watched closely in pre-game it didn't seem like it was altering it that much. And we weren't that far enough off and when we had some chances we had a couple drops.

Were Plax's drops due to a lack of concentration?
He's had a good year. For us to sit here and start classifying one game, that's unfair. I don't think it's fair to assess and start categorizing people based on a game. That's not a fair thing to do.

Understanding it was only Houston, did your defense take strides?
I think they are. We're not going to apologize for who we play. The most important thing is how we play and I think we've got to continue to play at that level. We're playing with some confidence on defense now.

Gildon and Bell were more active last week. Is it something you're doing?
The opportunities are coming. I think it's a coordination of everybody - coverage, up front. Our down linemen played very well the other day. Jason probably had his best game. Kendrell again is getting into the flow of things. Joey (Porter) has been solid all year. James Farrior is starting to feel very comfortable within this defense. I can't say enough about the defensive line. Casey Hampton had a great day. Kimo (von Oelhoffen) played very well. Aaron Smith's been solid all year. And we played well in the secondary. Lee (Flowers) came up and had a couple big hits for us. They're playing well. They're playing coordinated. We're not giving up the big plays and I think that's a big, big key.

Did O-line injuries contribute to the 6 sacks?
Some of it has. There were some miscommunications. They won some one-on-one battles at times. There were times we held the ball a little bit longer than we probably should have. It was probably a combination of a number of things.

Is Maddox's background causing him to force passes?
You don't want to take away from a guy's decisiveness, a guy's confidence, but at the same time they've got to be smart. In my mind, that's what separates the good ones from the guys who keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Was he rusty?
Maybe it was the speed of the game, having not been in there a couple weeks. Was weather a part of it? I don't know. I'm not looking for excuses. We've got to get results and he knows that.

Are you trying to create stability at that position?
That's important. I think it's important to have stability, certainly, at that position. You don't want to jeopardize your team's ability to win and at the same time you want to make the decision that gives your team the best chance to win. Those are always tough decisions to make. I'm the guy who has to make them and certainly when it doesn't pan out you become open to criticism but that's the nature of this profession. It's making changes at the right time that you deem it to be, and again that's always subject to different people's perspectives.

Are Maddox's last two games a trend or incomparable because of the time between the two?
It'll be monitored and we'll go from there.

Do you have anything predetermined for the position?
I have nothing predetermined. It'll be a feel thing and we'll go from there.

Were you watching Maddox's psychological status since he was coming off the injury?
Not really. When he went into Jacksonville, he went in there as the second quarterback, recognizing he may have to play after the first play if something happened to Kordell and he prepared all week accordingly. And then this past week I thought he was fine. Even after a couple hits on the sideline I thought he was fine. I thought he was into the game. We just couldn't make a play that could get us over the hump, for whatever reason.

What is it about Maddox that makes you believe he's the guy?
Based on what I've seen throughout this year.

What kind of receiver is Hines Ward?
It's a great story to begin with. From where he came in Georgia, not really played receiver. And then having come here and just worked his way to what he is. You just look at a guy who keeps getting better every year, in terms of route running. You know he's a tough player. He's one of the best blocking receivers in the NFL. What goes overlooked is he's a very clutch receiver. He has excellent hands. He runs excellent routes. And he can break tackles. He's a multi-talented player and he's getting his credit. He deserves it because he's worked very hard for it.

Who will return punts?
I put (Hank Poteat) back there for a couple punts after El dropped that catch. And then I thought he was OK and put him back in and then he dropped a punt. We'll see how it goes this week.

Has Randle El hit a rookie wall?
I don't know. You wonder about that. Certainly that's hard to say. No rookie will ever admit to it. I think it's time to sit down with all those guys. They've played more games now than they played in college, although colleges are getting to the point where they're playing as many as an NFL season, too. But it's a long year. It's a grind. But he's a class-act kid. He works very hard and is very proud. I think he'll be alright.

What kind of job has John Fox done at Carolina?
He's done a great job down there. John's a good football coach. I've always had a lot of respect for him. I knew him when he was here and then he went to the Giants. I think he's a good fit down there for that football team. They got off to a good start, then they kind of went into a lull and they've played very well. Even go back to them playing at Tampa. They played them very well down there. They lost 23-10 but it was a good football game. Their defense is very solid. They don't beat themselves and they put pressure on you. I know they lost Julius Peppers but Mike Rucker is a good football player. He's outstanding. They just don't beat themselves. He's a good football coach. That's going to be a good team.

Is their defensive line responsible for all their sacks?
They're a good coverage team. They'll pressure; they'll blitz you. But a lot of what they want to do is make you beat yourself. They play a lot of two-deep defenses, mix it up with the blitz. Their defensive line does a good job. They penetrate. They're very active. They're good athletes. They can rush the quarterback.

Considering the suspensions at Carolina, how did you address the supplementation issues?
Anything that they put in their bodies, we ask that they talk with (trainer) John Norwig. Even things you can buy over the counter. I know a lot of the stuff we are banning in the National Football League, you or I could buy over the counter. So we just made sure that anything they put in their bodies, check with John Norwig to make sure it does not constitute a possible suspension or violation.

It's a no-tolerance policy, which I think is good. I'm sure there's going to be some modification, but I think a no-tolerance approach is one of the most eye-opening approaches you can take in sports. There should be nothing wrong with checking with your team before you put anything into your body. I don't see how that can be a negative.

--Jim Wexell

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