Bill Cowher press conference, Sept. 2

Bill Cowher

Steelers head coach Bill Cowher held his season-opening press conference Saturday in preparation for the Pittsburgh Steelers game Thursday against the Miami Dolphins. Here's what he had to say about the team's final cuts and the start of the regular season.

Head coach Bill Cowher, Pittsburgh Steelers

Opening statement: OK. First of all I would like to give my condolences to the friends and family of former mayor Bob O'Connor. I had a chance to meet the mayor on a couple of occasions and the energy and the vision and the excitement that he had for this city was very refreshing. It seemed that everything happened very fast. I want to send my condolences to his family and friends for a man who was born and raised here in Pittsburgh and had a chance to experience a lifelong dream job that he had. There's something kind of neat about that. He'll be missed, but hopefully the his vision will be carried on by our new young mayor. I wanted to echo that before I got started here. The injury situation, let me give you for this week. We have three players I'm going to list as questionable: Jerame Tuman with his hamstring; Hines Ward with his hamstring; and Chukky Okobi with a knee. Four players will be probable: Willie Colon with a hamstring; Chidi (Iwuoma) with a concussion; Mike Logan with an ankle; and Max Starks with his knee. That's what I'm listing right now from an injury standpoint and certainly as the week goes on, we'll have some updates. In regards to the roster, we've made a lot of our cuts. We still have two more to make by 6 p.m. You can see by the makeup where we are. A number of those players will be asked to come back to the practice squad. I can't elaborate on that because teams can claim them, they have to clear waivers before we're able to bring those guys back. So really, the practice squad really is speculation at this point and I don't want to comment on speculation. We acquired Patrick Cobbs from New England and he's a kid who had a very good preseason. He can run the ball, catch the ball, cover kicks. He's a kid who had a tryout up in New England, but certainly was very impressive through the preseason. As it relates to our running back situation, that will not be part of the cuts this afternoon, so we will go in with four halfbacks and Danny Kreider. Duce (Staley) is on there along with Willie (Parker), Verron (Haynes) and now Patrick. As it relates to the roles they'll have on gameday, I'm not certain. The one and two roles are certainly Willie Parker and Verron Haynes, and then we'll see where we are with Patrick and Duce as it relates to the gameday roster. That's always a tricky thing. Sometimes it comes down to health, the matchups we have for that game and then the kicking game. A lot of factors go into a 45-man roster. I'm not ready to elaborate on that at this moment. As it relates to Duce, I like the fact he ran hard the other day and I like his experience. I like the fact he ran hard. He got a little bit better with each game. We had four halfbacks last year, but at one point, we were down to one healthy one. I think it's important that you have quality backs. We felt like getting Patrick Cobbs, who's young and can also help you in the kicking game, that was the reasoning for that acquisition.

Talking about Miami, they're a good football team. They won six straight to finish out the year and made the acquisition of Daunte Culpepper, who looked very good in this preseason, looked very good against Carolina two weeks ago down in Carolina – that's the game most people look at. And they've got good skill people as well: Randy McMichael; Chris Chambers, a premiere receiver; Marty Booker certainly looks good though this preseason. Defensively you've still got Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Kevin Carter is now acquired, Vonnie Holliday and (Keith) Traylor. And obviously we know their two coordinators in Dom Capers and Mike Mularkey. I'm very impressed with the team and staff that Nick Saban has put together down there. It's going to be a formidable opponent and we're looking forward to the challenge.

Can you describe Cobbs' running style?

He's got very good balance, good vision. He plays fast but probably won't time fast. He's got excellent hands. He's on the smaller side. The biggest negative is that he can probably get overpowered in the blitz, he's just not a big guy, but it won't be because of lack of effort. He's been impressive to watch.

Did you like him coming out of North Texas?

I didn't even know about him coming out of North Texas. We had known about him, but I had never looked at him. The scouts did. I guess he got hurt a year ago and was going to come out but he reapplied for his senior year ago. A couple of years ago, he ran for over 1,400 yards. I first saw him in one TV game we had in the preseason, they were playing against Atlanta. Some guys looked at him and he became available. Now he's here.

You said Willie is one and Verron is two. I'm curious, does that mean Verron is the backup or he's the third down back?

He's the roster guy, but I thought he had run very well. Even last year at times when we took Jerome (Bettis) out, I thought he did very good job in the last five or six minutes of the game. He'll get some backup time there, spelling Willie at times. He becomes the next guy and then Duce. And then we needed another third down guy who could also play third down. You have to use these guys in my opinion so that they're not hit out by November or December. It's very important that we keep these guys fresh. I think that was big key for us, particularly if you're a team that runs the football. If you remember last year, I don't think Jerome played until week 3. You've got to keep these guys ready to play and they've got to practice hard. But I'd to think we can keep these guys fresh and have quality backs throughout the course of a 16-game season.

Can you talk about cutting the two young quarterbacks and Charlie (Batch) and Ben (Roethlisberger)?

What's there to talk about? We will definitely have a quarterback on the practice squad. If we get into the game, the third quarterback will be Cedrick Wilson. We've worked on him in practice with some snaps doing that, that would be the emergency guy. We've not really ever gotten to that point, I hate to say that, but I just did. If that were the case, that's where we would go.

Cedrick is very confident in his ability to play quarterback. You'd rather it not come to that?

I'm glad he feels that way. I'm glad he's confident. Let's hope he stays confident if we ever need him, we'll use him. Let's keep it like that.

Have you decided on a starter at free safety?

Ryan Clark will be named the starter. He's been told. I've talked to Ty (Carter) and Anthony Smith and they understand. I don't know if Ryan won it as much as his demeanor makes him the best guy. That's where we're going to start. I told the guys that the roles they have and what I'm asking them to embrace at this time are very important, that they take a very unselfish approach, but understand that those roles can change. The only prerequisite that I will take is to do what is in the best interests of this team to help this team win from week to week. That is the basis of all decisions.

Is Willie Reid the punt returner?

Yeah, Willie will start and we haven't really decided on who we'll put back there on kickoff returns yet. Ricardo Colclough opened my eyes a little bit the other day. He may also get a shot back there on punts. I thought he did a good job. He had a very good camp. As long as he doesn't pull another Plex (Burress). But I think he made a great cut and he's done a great job, he really has.

Will you use Ty on some of your goal line defenses?

Yeah, he'll be in the third down packages and he'll play a lot.

You mentioned Colclough and with Deshea (Townsend) hand, who will be the third corner?

We haven't really talked about that. I'm very encouraged by Deshea playing. But I feel very good about Bryant McFadden and Ricardo Colclough.

If there's a guy you want to bring back to the practice squad is claimed, does that team have to put him on the 53-man roster?

Yeah. Anybody claimed at this point is claimed to be put on the 53-man roster. Once that deadline is met, you begin to fill your practice squad. Most of the time, players will stay with the team they were with, just because they put in a whole training camp with that team. That's basically the process.

It's it basically 24 hours?

We'll have less than that. We'll have guys here for the practice squad for our practice tomorrow. We'll be on the field at 3 p.m. We'll have all of our practice squad filled by then.

The conditional draft pick, is that conditional on certain things?

Yes.

Will you look at the waiver wire, are there positions that you're looking at?

Yeah, we'll look at it all. But I like this team, not that we'll dismiss some players, even if it's practice squad, just to get an upgrade some of the players we're looking at now. That and anybody else that might pop up. You always have top keep those options open. I wouldn't dismiss anything.

How difficult is it to bring in guys like Cobbs and (Tim) Euace this late?

How quickly they can adjust, sometimes you don't know until you get the player. Some guys are able to pick things up quickly. Tim Euace, he played a couple of years up in Buffalo, so the terminology with Mike Mularkey, he got the whole game plan and was able to play this week. He was in New Orleans, but he had two years of the same terminology up in Buffalo. Patrick, I don't know. He'll be in here today and coach (Dick) Hoak will spend time with him. But that may determine how quickly he's out there on game day, how quickly he can pick it up.

How does Culpepper help their offense?

Daunte's a big guy, hard to bring down. He's got a very strong arm. You can just see the confidence he exudes and more importantly, the players around him exude. Ronnie Brown's a good back. He can catch the ball out of the backfield as well probably as any back in the National Football League. Heck, he was the second pick in the draft. And like I said, they've got McMichael, a Pro Bowl guy, and Chris Chambers and Marty Booker. He's got some weapons around him. Daunte's been a very productive guy in the past. Daunte's amazing, you talk about Carson Palmer coming back from injury, but Daunte's comeback is just as impressive. He's come back and been through training camp. It's very impressive.

Is there anything that stands out from a Nick Saban team?

They're tough. They're a physical team. They're very sound in what they do. You know they're not going to beat themselves. You're going to have to be very patient against them. They're going to play hard and you know that. Nick a very good football coach. His expertise is on the defensive side, but they've got some very good offensive weapons. Mike Mularkey's down there now and Dom's over there. You can see it kind of goes back and forth between Dom and Nick, they've showed the 3-4 look, the 4-3. They stand Jason Taylor up at times. They'll give you a lot of different things to prepare for offensively with their defense. And it's the same thing offensively. They'll take Ronnie Brown out of that backfield and go empty set. And they'll run the no-huddle. They did that two weeks ago against Carolina for almost the whole first half. They ran the whole offense from the no-huddle. Certainly they won't be intimidated coming into Pittsburgh and I can see them attempting to do that here. I'd like to think our fans will be very loud and vocal and will make the difficult for them, but they seem to think they can do that on the road as well. They'll be ready. There will be some wrinkles we haven't see yet, I'm sure. They're very sound, very physical and they won't beat themselves. They'll be scratching and clawing for 60 minutes.

Did you like what you saw out of your no-huddle package this summer?

Yeah. We had a chance to work on it and Ben is very comfortable with it. That's important because he's the guy who's got to orchestrate and run it. I know he feels very comfortable with it and it's something we can use at some point if needed.

How do you get Anthony Smith into the game?

I think Anthony is going to be a good player, he just needs to get more experience. He got a lot of playing time in this preseason, which was great. We'll see what his role is. We'll see how he can fit into the third down and the kicking game and how the makeup comes on game day. Those are things we'll continue to look at and continue to try to get him more reps, even if it's just on the practice field. I really like where he's at.

Are you satisfied with where you're at?

We are where we are. I've never sat there and said this is where we want to be. I'd like to have everybody who's questionable to be there, there. I look at it more from a health standpoint. From a playing standpoint, we've played well at times. But we probably turned the ball over too many times regardless of who was in there. We had some big plays and some inopportune penalties the other night. We never really got the kicking game return phase going. I know we've played some different people and different combinations, but the fact of the matter is that we really haven't been in sync returning the football, punt or kickoff. This is where we're at. Would I like to see us do some things better? Sure. But we didn't. There are some reasons for it. We had different combinations in the kicking game. Some of the turnovers weren't with our first group, but some of them were. Some third down inefficiencies were with our first group and big plays with the first group. But that's what the preseason is for, to kind of see where you are, to address it and make sure you recognize where you need to be. I don't worry about the record as much as the performance and there were some good things. I thought we got better as the preseason went on.

How much time have you spent on Miami?

We spent Monday on it and talked about it a little bit back in Latrobe. The players will be ready for it. It's a short week, but it won't hinder us at all. Today's a Saturday, but it feels like Tuesday. Tomorrow is Wednesday, but it's Sunday. We're not coming in the morning, because I don't to do that on Sunday morning. It's kind of goofy. If you forget about the days, it's a normal week.

Both Hines and Jerame will practice tomorrow?

Jerame will not, Hines will.

Deshea will wear a soft cast?

Yes.

I ask this question every couple of years (then why ask it again?), why is there a 53-man roster that you have to deactivate guys off of and would you like to see that changed?

I guess it depends on who you asked, me or Mr. Rooney. I guess the answer to you question – and I'll answer it like I did two years ago – it becomes a competitive issue. Sometimes on a 53-man roster, you always have injuries. They took surveys, you don't want one team to dress 46 players and the other to dress 53. You don't want to get a number that both teams can't field. That has been the number. There have been attempts to get it to 47 or 48 because nobody has ever had eight guys hurt at one time. You have built into a lot of contracts that factor in the amount of starts, game day actives, so it would affect the cap. It's been discussed every year. Coaches want more players, but they've wanted more players ever since I've been doing this. I stopped fighting that fight about six years ago. It is what it is. I understand it more from a competitive standpoint that anything else. Whatever the rules are, you tend to work within that and find a way to get things done.

Have you ever had to throw somebody in you didn't feel was ready?

Oh yeah. Injuries happen in a game. You get two injuries at one position and you're scrambling. The other night, we had 75 players and we were running out of backs. Duce and Verron had to retaped up. Duce had to come in in the fourth quarter until Cedric (Humes) got back. It happens a lot. That's also part of the, I don't know if it's strategy, but it's part of the game. Sometimes you keep an extra lineman if someone's playing nicked up. Sometimes you keep an extra defensive back because they're going to play a lot of four wides as opposed to three wides. The matchups are based on injuries. Those decisions are not easy because then you have to factor in special teams. Sometimes guys are not inactive because they're the 46th best player on your team. Sometimes they're inactive because of special teams, matchups or injury.

Jerome Bettis getting any inside information or did he burn too many bridges?

I don't know about the burning, but he's getting no inside information from me.

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