Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bill Cowher Press Conference: November 21, 2006

I've made it a habit to watch Bill Cowher's press conference on Tuesday morning and offer a recap of the more important points here on Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic. Unfortunately the press conference was not available via the internet today, so I am reduced to posting the transcript created by NFL for PittsburghSteelers.com.

"Opening Statement: I'll give you the injury update for the game against Baltimore. One player is doubtful, that's Willie Reid. He is getting better but it's been a very slow process. He is doubtful for this week. Two players are questionable, Najeh Davenport with a groin and Hines (Ward) with a knee. All the preliminary tests were done. He basically has a hyperextension of his knee. We'll see how he progresses as the week goes on. We have four players that are probable: Jeff Hartings with a knee, Deshea Townsend with an ankle, Clark Haggans with a quad and James Harrison with an ankle.

Last week's game was a big win considering how it unfolded and how we were able to finish it for two consecutive weeks, coming from behind. I will say this, we have to play better than we have these last two weeks if we are going to compete against Baltimore. This is one of the premier teams in the AFC. They have no weaknesses. They're solid from top to bottom. They're playing with a lot of confidence. They're playing very well. We're going to have to play at a very high level and play our best game to even have a chance to compete with this team. They're playing that good. Those are the facts. It will be a big challenge for us going there, and we'll see what happens.

Q: How much of a difference has Steve McNair made to the Ravens?

A: That's something you would have to ask them. Last year they had a lot of injuries. They came back this year with Steve McNair. Just the confidence they have, you can see some of the comeback wins early in the season. Those are big. You come to a new team do what you've been known to do, what Steve has done throughout his career. It just strengthens the confidence that they have in you. They're a confident football team. They've had some comeback wins. They were down by almost 20 points to Tennessee a couple weeks ago. They came back and got that win. They're a confident football team that's playing well right now.

Q: Have you noticed a difference with the play-calling since coach Billick took over?

A: Quite honestly, I haven't looked at all the games. We've looked at the last four and I think they're averaging 28 points a game these last four games. That's hard to say. I haven't studied it to that extent. They are who they are now, and right now they're a productive team.

Q: Can you evaluate B.J. Sams and the Ravens' special teams?

A: He's a Pro Bowl returner, as a punt returner and kickoff returner. They have created outstanding field position. Where we are right now, we're going to have a big challenge because our coverage team has not been very good. That's going to play a big part. He's a guy that makes people miss. He has outstanding vision. He has strength. He has everything you're looking for. They have a very good kicking game. I think Matt Stover missed his first field goal in the decade this last week. They're very sound in all the things they're doing right now. They're not turning the football over. They lead the league in the turnover/takeaway ratio, plus-12, second in the league in defense, good kicking game with a solid kicker and premier returner. We're going to have to be at our best to even have a chance to compete.

Q: Will you consider using starters in the kicking game?

A: I'm considering anything and everything. Something has to change somewhere and somehow. The results right now are not where they need to be. It's disappointing. I understand this time of the year, with the kicking game outside. Unless you have two or three guys in this league that are just kickoff guys, you're going to have to deal with the field position being higher. But you can't give up the returns that we gave up the other day. You go back to New Orleans we gave up a 50-yard return there. Denver was the best kickoff coverage that we've had all year. It seems like there has been those one or two returns every game and that's not acceptable at this point.

Q: Have the problems in coverage been consistent?

A: It's different. We've consistently had breakdowns. That's been consistent. If it was one thing you'd be able to pinpoint it. It just takes one guy out of the lane and them hitting the right return and then you have what you have.

Q: How much of a big return is the returner vs. the blocking scheme?

A: It's hard to say. It varies. When you look at some returns, B.J. Sams had one last week where he made six or seven people miss. The other day, (Joshua) Cribbs returned it and it looked like he was running on air. Sometimes it's the scheme and people get the right timing and execution. Other times it's just a great effort.

Q: Will you change the return guys?

A: I'm very pleased with the kickoff return. That is the only phase that I feel that we've made progress. Sean (Morey) made a big return the other day. We had a big return called back because of a penalty. That's been the one phase that I've been comfortable with. We've gotten nothing out of our punt return. I don't know how many true opportunities we've had. Where we are at this point, we haven't gotten much out of it.

Q: Will you use Ike Taylor on kickoff return if Davenport is hurt?

A: At this point.

Q: How good is the Ravens' secondary?

A: They're excellent. When you look at their defense on a whole, they do a good job of disguising things. They're always moving around. They've gotten Adalius Thomas and (Terrell) Suggs are two good edge rushers. Kelly Gregg is stout in the middle. Bart Scott has been all over the field. They'll probably get Ray Lewis back. He's their emotional leader on the field. But their secondary, Ed Reed is one of the top safeties in the National Football League. Samari Rolle and (Chris) McAlister tackle well, play the ball well. They have a lot of playmakers on that team. They've been there week-in and week-out. You're going to have to be very careful and patient against this defense because they thrive on taking the ball away, create field position, scoring touchdowns. We had two returns against us the other week. It's been well documented. You give up a return for a touchdown since 2000 you win about two out of every 10 games. You can't give up returns for touchdowns. You can't give up points like that, even field position in the kicking game. Those are some of the things that we've been doing that we can't afford to do against this football team.

Q: Do they use Reed the way you use Troy Polamalu?

A: There are some similarities. You'll see Ed come up and move around a lot. They'll bring him. He blitzes, I wouldn't say frequently but enough. He's just got a great feel for the ball. He's a true center fielder. You'll see Troy more around the line of scrimmage than Ed Reed, if you go through a series of games. One thing about both of these players, they're both very instinctive. They have great instincts and a great feel for the game. That's what separates them from other safeties.

Q: What is Baltimore doing to stop the run?

A: They've got (Haloti) Ngata, he's a big guy inside that they picked up, their No. 1 draft choice. They have Kelly Gregg and linebackers that can move. (Trevor) Pryce is in there from Denver. They are very sound in what they do. They create a lot of havoc. They bring eight-man fronts. They have some corners that they aren't afraid to leave out in one-on-one. It's just a case that they try to stuff the line of scrimmage and force you into a one-dimensional game. Once they can do that and get some negative plays, they get you into third down, and they've been creating a lot of turnovers that way. They have some good run defenders, coupled with some guys that can make plays and that's a good combination to have.

Q: What are the negatives to using the no-huddle all the time?

A: You're limited to what you can run. We'll try to use it as a change of pace as we did the other day. It's nice to know that it's something that you can use at some point. It's not something that we want to live by. We're not the Indianapolis Colts. We feel good with our offense in how we have it designed. There are different ways to do different things. It is a nice option to have. (Ben Roethlisberger) did a good job the other day, which was used more out of necessity because of the time frame that we had to work with in that fourth quarter. It certainly is good to have the success that we've had so you know that when you get behind you know that you've been there before.

Q: Did the team remain poised despite the deficit in Cleveland?

A: It's been good. The past two weeks we've dealt with the whole ebb and flow deal. They have done a very good job. If you look at the other day, in the fourth quarter, we didn't covert a third down. We were zero-for-six in the first three quarters and we were six-for-six in the fourth quarter,twenty-one points in the fourth quarter and we came up with some big stops on defense. There were a lot of positives from that standpoint. Again, the team we will play this week we can't dig ourselves in a hole like we did last week and expect to get out of it. It will take a complete game in all three phases to have a chance to compete against this team. There was a lot to be said for what took place the other day.

Q: What about Ben Roethlisberger allows him to come back from a bad half?

A: I think it's a confidence that you have to have, number one. You have to be able to not lose confidence in yourself, and more importantly, the people around you and stay within yourself. Sometimes there is a tendency to do too much. I know a couple times he got out of the pocket and threw the ball away. I thought those were some of the better throws he had. He wasn't trying to force it. He hit some check-downs and I think that's what I like about where he's at. He's seeing the field and at times, he's not forcing the ball. If you look at the three interceptions the other day, the first one was a high throw to Santonio (Holmes) that got tipped. The one hit off of Cedrick (Wilson's) face-mask and the other one, and the guy comes in an knocks it from behind. He's decisions have been good. He had a couple throws that got away from him, but I like his decision making. I think, at times, that's what has gotten him in trouble at the beginning of the year. He's going to have to be careful this week because they have some good ball hawks and Ed Reed is a guy that if he stares someone down, he will get there before the ball gets there.

Q: Are the pass attempts a function of the game, or are you getting away from the run?

A: A little bit of both. I don't think it's a blanket statement that I can say. I feel like we are running the football when we have a chance, maybe not as efficiently as you'd like. I know the numbers are really getting swayed from home and I don't really have an answer for that. Going into the games, we are trying to stay balanced early in the game and try to keep a team on their toes and back from their heels more than less. As the game unfolds, the passing game certainly the circumstances were more dictating of the ratio than anything.

Q: Do you think you have some momentum?

A: Well you have to get momentum this time of year. Right now, we have no margin of error. This is a big game for us, as I know it is for Baltimore. We are playing one of the elite teams right now in the AFC and maybe in the National Football league with the way they are playing. This will be a measuring stick for us to see where we are. We're going to their place and I don't think we've won there for three years and there are a lot of challenges ahead of us. We're going to have to have a good week of work and we're going to have to go out there and play our best football game. That's where we are this time of year. There are a lot of teams clumped right now and the next month will have a way of separating a lot of teams.

Q: Evaluate Bryant McFadden?

A: Bryant did some good things. He did a nice job of playing the ball. I thought he played a very solid game.

Q: Did any of the Browns wide receivers step out of bounds on the Hail Mary pass at the end of the game?

A: Braylon Edwards did step out of bounds so if he would have caught it or not it would have been irrelevant.

Q: Can he re-establish himself?

A: Once you step out of bounds you are an ineligible receiver.

Q: Is Santonio Holmes pushing for more playing time?

A: He's embraced the role he has right now. I think he's getting comfortable. Ben's getting comfortable with him. I just like the mix we have. Ced(rick) Wilson has done a great job. Hines and Nate Washington, those are four pretty solid receivers for us. I'm comfortable with where we are and we'll see how the game unfolds.

Q: What is the rule when a receiver steps out of bounds?

A: On a kick you can't be (the first to touch the ball) but once you're out of bounds you are no longer an eligible receiver.

Q: Regardless of if it's touched by someone else?

A: Correct.

Q: Can you evaluate Jamal Lewis?

A: No, he's running well. He's running with great balance. The line is doing a great job of coming off (the ball). They're doing a great job with McNair. Look at their receivers, between (Mark) Clayton, (Derrick) Mason and (Todd) Heap there are four receptions that separate those guys. They're spreading the ball around, running the ball efficiently. They're not turning the football over. You're not seeing a lot of sacks against them. They're offense is eighth in the National Football League in third-down efficiency. It would probably be higher than that if they don't shut down the offense late in some of their wins. They're playing very solid, very sound football.

Q: Are you considering wearing a suit?

A: No, not me. I don't even wear one to church. I'm not a trend setter with fashion statements. I just wear what they put in my locker. It really doesn't matter to me. If it's cold I'll put layers on. I'm not looking into the process. I'm not interested with all due respect.

Q: What are your thoughts on McNair as an athlete and a competitor?

A: He's a leader. Steve McNair is a football player. He is a leader. He has a presence on the field. There's no question the people around him have confidence in him. He's got the arm, which everyone sees. He's got mobility. He'll do it when he has to. You see all the comebacks he has through the years. He's a leader. He's a guy that gets on the field and inspires the people around him. His productivity and what he's done speaks volumes for who he is. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. I always have from Tennessee. I thought we lost him when we went to the new (divisional) alignment and then he came back into our division again. He's a good football player. I have a lot of respect for him, a class guy.

Q: Baltimore is playing without turnovers and winning?

A: We know that and we understand that. You can't control what has taken place to this point. The one thing that we can control is what we have ahead of us. We have an opportunity. Is it a challenge? You're darn right it is. At this time of year it's something you have to embrace. We have to show an ability to sustain plays. We have to up the level of play in certain areas. We have to do it against good football teams. It's a really big challenge for us. This will be a measuring stick and we'll find out where we are



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