Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript

<b>Bill Cowher</b><br> OK. Before we get started I just want to make a statement about the incident prior to the game with Joey (Porter). Let me just say this in regards to the whole situation. Before the game, there is always emotion and a lot of talking that takes place.

I think that's a very normal thing that happens. I think what was said leading up to this game probably prompted more people to get involved in some of the talking which took place opposite where Joey was stretching. When Joey came down, what took place is documented. The bottom line is that he threw a punch, as did William Green and both players were ejected as they should be. We certainly don't condone that, but at the same time we have to realize with our football team that you can't compromise our ability to win football games. Joey realizes that. I talked to him, he will address the team tomorrow. I don't want Joey to lose his emotion. He's an emotional leader for our football team.

Certainly there's a fine line that you have to be able to walk. Throwing punches is crossing that line. There's no justification for that. You throw a punch, you're going to get thrown out of the football game. That's the way it's going to be, that's the way it should be. Hopefully it's a lesson that's been learned by everybody involved. He will be fined by the league and we're going to put it behind us and we're getting ready to play against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In regards to our health. Chad (Scott) is out. He's coming along right on schedule, it should be a couple of more weeks. We have six guys questionable: Verron (Haynes) with a toe; Duce (Staley) with his hamstring; Jay Riemersma with a groin; Kimo (von Oelhoffen) with a back; Matt Cushing with a wrist; Dan Krieder with a shoulder. We have four guys who are probable: Kendrell Bell with a groin; Jerome (Bettis) with his knee; Travis Kirschke with his back; and Brett Keisel with a hamstring. We''ve got to get a good week of work. We're playing a team that has won three of their past four games in Cincinnati and it's a very big divisional game playing at their place. They're coming off of two impressive wins and it's a big game for our football team and a very big challenge for us as well.

Coach, what have they done better, how have they improved?
First of all, Carson Palmer is a better quarterback than he was when we first played them. His comfort level, his experience, you can just see him anticipating things better. They're moving Chad Johnson around. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is filling in for Peter Warrick. He's fitting in with Kelley Washington coming in off the bench and those are three quality receivers. The offensive line is playing well. Rudi Johnson is the only guy who's had 100 yards against us this year. He's a load. You look at them defensively, and they're leading the league in takeaways. That's not just in the AFC. They've got 24 takeaways. They've got great team speed and the two corners are playing excellent - Deltha O'Neal and Tory James. They're stripping the ball. They've beaten some quality teams. They've beaten Denver, which I think is one of the top teams in the AFC, in that Monday night game. And they lost a tough one to Cleveland. But they turned around and beat a tough Washington team. This is a big stretch for them and a big challenge for us.

You said Joey (Porter) would be fined by the league. Will the team take any action?
No. We'll talk about the situation.

Any concerns teams will target him or go after him?
I don't want Joey to change who he is. He plays the game with a lot of emotion and a lot of people feed off that. At the same time, it's a fine line and you have to be able to walk it when you have that type of personality and demeanor. Certainly, where we are and with the recognition that has come, we have the target on our chest and anybody that can get us to lose our focus and be a distraction, they're going to do what they can to do it. Certainly there's a responsibility to learn from that and I think we will, just because of what took place.

Will you make a roster change or will you wait to see where you are as the week goes on.
I've got to see where we're at.

How about a third quarterback?
We've signed Brian (St. Pierre) back to the practice squad.

You said a fine is possible, is there a suspension as well?
There will be a fine and it's behind us.

Coach, how did Kendrell (Bell) come out of the game. He got a lot of reps Sunday. Might he start?
We'll see. He's got a groin, but I don't anticipate making any lineup changes.

Did he get hurt when they blocked him?
He finished the game. I'm sure that didn't feel real good.

Did he tweak it during the game?
I really don't know. John (Norwig) came up and told me. He's probable right now and we'll go from there.

Aaron Smith has played very well. Does he see a lot of double team?
I'll say this, Aaron Smith has played more than just pretty well. Aaron Smith is one of the best defensive ends in the game. You watch this guy. He never comes off the field. It takes two guys to block him. And if there's one guy, he's usually two or three yards in the backfield. And the guy can rush the quarterback. He's made a lot of plays for us. He is having a big-time year.

(For the 1,000th time) Does anything Ben (Roethlisbeger) does surprise you?
He's playing very well. I guess you look at his rating the other day and I think one of the best throws he made was on the interception to Hines (Ward). Hines' foot got tripped up. That was really a fine read and good decision. He got ready to throw a couple of more and his feet came flying out from underneath him. They had chances to be plays. Willie (Parker) dropped the one. He's making good decisions, he really is. And when he does something, he usually has a pretty good reason for doing it. We're going to get one of those games where we're going to have to throw more than we have and I feel very comfortable doing it. I think our football team does. We have not asked him to throw it a lot. But if we had to, I'd have no problem doing it.

(My last question wasn't inane enough) How important is it to have depth at the quarterback position?
It is. Certainly it's been well documented. I don't know what the numbers are, but there low. Not many quarterbacks can make it through a whole year of starting. So obviously that speaks volumes about having a guy with some experience and having at least two quality guys. We've been fortunate to get through and get Tommy (Maddox) back and have some experience. Brian (St. Pierre) is fine, but he doesn't have the experience. Now, we do have a couple of experienced guys.

Is there a bit of an edge for Troy (Polamalu)? He seems to be very familiar with Carson (Palmer).
No. He's not really playing against Carson, he's playing against their offense. It's not just one guy. I think if you're talking about a corner playing against a receiver, maybe, where it becomes one-on-one matchups. This situation, it's not just him against Carson. We're playing an offense that's pretty balanced and it's got some weapons.

What has improved your secondary, not just from last year, but from the opener when the Raiders hit you for a couple of big passes?
We've played well. We've eliminated the big play. The other day, you look at it, I keep saying situational football is so big. If you can win the turnover-takeaway, obviously that's big. Even though we lost it the week before - we were minus 1 - we were really good on third down. We were really good in the red zone. When you look at those stats, they have a lot to do with how you get into a rythm. We get down there two times last week and score two touchdowns. They get down there and have to kick a field goal. So instead of it being a one-score game, it was a two-score game, 14-3 instead of 14-7. That's big, that's huge. Our secondary has done a good job. Guys have stepped in when they've had t step in, and they're communicating very well. You don't see a lot of missed assignments. And they're playing very well.

Troy makes a lot of plays a safety would make, but he also plays like a linebacker and his interception was like a corner.
Troy moves around a lot. We have a lot of different packages that utilize him. He's back there at safety on first and second down. Sometimes he's up there at linebacker for Larry Foote. Some third down packages, he's back there as a safety. We've got him blitzing, we've got him covering. He's a very instinctive guy. He's been able to sort through where we're moving him around and handle all of that responsibility. He can handle a lot. He can do that in a role that he's comfortable and he's got a great feel for the game. The last interception he made against Kelly Holcomb, he baited him into throwing the ball. This kid's a pretty good player.

Did James Harrison surprise you or did you think he had that in him?
Surprised from the standpoint that he found out about 10 minutes before the game that he was going to start. I think it was good that he didn't have time to think about it. But I'm going to tell you, James Harrison is a good football player. We play him inside, we play him outside. He's been a big part of the kicking game. He's taken a very professional approach from the time he came here last year until now. He prepares, pays attention to detail, the little things. It's important to him. He's a very explosive guy. You talk to anyone on the team, pound for pound, he may be one of the strongest guys on the team. This guy, he's an explosive hitter who can run. He did a great job the other day, he really did.

Is he the backup now?
He has been. Obviously because of the situation we've had. He's a great special teams player. You can only keep so many linebackers on game day. Clint Kriewaldt is your captain. (Larry) Foote has been starting. With Alonzo (Jackson) and James, James is a much better special teams player. That's why he's been out there. And he did a good job the other day. You talk about the backs situation and the tight end and defensive line. You don't want to go in with two less there. Getting 45 guys is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes it does come down to the health of some of these guys on game day.

Shouldn't (Harrison) have been signed by somebody else before he was?
I'm glad he wasn't. I'm glad he's with us.

If Clark (Haggans) doesn't hurt his hand, (Harrison) probably isn't signed here.
There's a good chance that's probably a true statement. Life works in funny ways. If I don't get cut in Philadelphia, who knows if I ever get to enjoy coaching. I'd never have gotten my degree.

On that one kickoff play after they hit that big kickoff, you put (Harrison) back out there. He was off the field on the first one.
Yeah, he was off. But they've hit a couple the last couple of weeks, so we've got to sure that up. We got a couple of more penalties on the returns. We've got to get that cleaned up too. Those guys have been covering very well. Jeff (Reed) had some good kicks. Even the one they hit, Jeff Reed did a great job of slowing him up and we had enough team speed that we caught him and held them to a field goal. That was huge. We had Ricardo (Colclough) and Ike (Taylor) out there and they both took great angles to keep him in bounds. It turned out it saved us four points. I thought that was one of the biggest stands in the game. You lose Joey Porter before the game and kick it off and they return it to your 19-yard line. That was not what you'd call a fast start.

Jerome (Bettis) has 62 carries in the last two games, that's more than he's had almost than any other two-game stretch in his career. Do you worry about how many carries he had if he has to play again this week?
No. He wore down. I think we'll give him off tomorrow. We'll reward him with that.

What does it say when he had a 100-yard game and his longest carry was seven yards?
It says we were grinding. Cleveland played hard and we knew they would. We knew going in we'd have to hit a couple of big plays, which we were able to do. The drive we hit, the 93-yard drive was big. We were down 3-0 and we were able to go down methodically. Their defense has been a good defense. They haven't given up a lot of big plays. Even when you say in the running game, we didn't have a run of more than seven yards, they've got good team speed. The safeties showed up. They were active. We didn't have many foolish penalties and for the most part, we were very good on third downs, over 50 percent when it mattered. I think that had a lot to do with the game.

Talking about the Bengals offense moving Chad Johnson around, is that an indication that Palmer is getting it?
I don't know if it's an indication of Palmer. They're taking a premiere player and trying to utilize him and sometimes use him as a decoy. It's just a growing part to do with their offense. Who's to saw.

Are they likely to commit to the run because they've got Johnson?
They ran the ball well against us the first time, so I have no reason to believe they won't come in and think they can't do it again. I would expect them to come in - I know I said it last week - but I would expect them to come in running the ball. Given what happened our last game, I think this team definitely will come in trying to run the ball and we'd better be prepared to stop it.

How did Willie Parker play?
Willie played well. He's got a dimension that's unique from the other backs. He can get to the corner faster than the other guys who were in there before him. We're more tackle to tackle with the other guys and he gets in there and it's stretched. I wish he'd stay in bounds, but he gets going so fast he can't slow down. He did a good job. Dante (Brown) got in there and got a big third down. Willie handled all of the protection on third down and I know he dropped the one ball, but he's got good hands. He just tried to run with the ball before he had it. We've got some good backs and we had some tough decisions that had to be made. It was a nice problem to have. We've had to use them all. You can never have enough depth at that position.

Can you imagine anybody in the league playing the middle better than James Farrior right now?
I don't know of anyone better. His production as a guy that can have impact tackles, run sideline to sideline, who can go back in coverage, who sets the defense. He doesn't come off the field. I know there are some good linebackers out there. Ray Lewis, Zach Thomas are good linebackers, but James Farrior's pretty good too.

You're banged up at both tight end and fullback. How does the run game compensate?
Three wide package. It's hard to say. Some of these guys we'll see at the end of the week. We'll get Matt Kranchick some work, that's why he's here. And we've still got Jerame (Tuman). We'll see where we are at the fullback situation. We've got J.T. (Wall) on the practice squad, so we've got options.

You maintained last year and at the start of this year that this team wasn't that far away. What did you know that a lot of us didn't?
I don't think there are many teams that far away. We got done with the Baltimore game and everybody wanted to talk about next year. Eight weeks later we're the best team in football with the same guys? How does that happen? I don't know if we're that much better than the teams we're playing. We're doing some of the little things it takes to win football games. If you turn the football over, you will not win games. If you're not efficient on third downs, if you're not efficient in the red zone, you won't win games. You're going to lose a bunch of close games. You start losing close games and you start questioning yourself and the things you're doing. We're playing with confidence, but there's a fine line that exists in the NFL. We're not that much better than the teams we're playing and I think we're doing the things you need to do to win football games as a team. Guys are stepping up. Guys are playing unselfishly. Guys are playing aware and smart. We recognize we aren't that much better. We recognize we have to prepare. We recogize we can't just show up and win because we're the Pittsburgh Steelers. The guys have stayed focused.

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