View Full Version : Cowher considers lineup moves

11-08-2006, 07:34 AM
Cowher considers lineup moves

By Mike Prisuta
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Steelers coach Bill Cowher would neither commit to nor rule out any lineup changes Tuesday, and he made it clear any alterations would be strategic rather than symbolic.
"I don't send messages; I deliver them," Cowher said yesterday during his weekly press conference.

"I really try to talk to the team very openly, and it's about accountability. It's about doing what I may perceive to think is in the best interest of this football team to win a game. If changes are made, it's for that reason only."

The Steelers host the New Orleans Saints (6-2) on Sunday.

Cowher has said changes could be coming following Sunday's 31-20 loss to Denver, a game in which Cowher yanked rookie wide receiver Santonio Holmes from the punt and kickoff return teams because of Holmes' inability to hold onto the ball.

The loss to the Broncos dropped the Steelers to 2-6 for just the second time in the 15-season Cowher era.

In 2003, the Steelers opened 2-6 on the way to a 6-10 finish, a detail Cowher apparently lost track of after going 15-1 and then winning a Super Bowl in the two seasons that followed.

"I've not been here in this position at this point in the season, but certainly the challenges have been there in the past," he said.

The present challenge is to put a stop to an avalanche of turnovers that has dropped the Steelers to 32nd in the NFL in takeaway-giveaway differential at minus-11.

They've already given the ball away 24 times at the 2006 season's midpoint, after surrendering 23 turnovers in 2005.

The Steelers' 13 takeaways are less than half of the 30 they collected a year ago.

"There's so much speculation about why this and that," Cowher said. "The bottom line is you cannot turn the football over like we've turned the football over. You've got to get off the field when you get people in situations as we did (against the Broncos) at third-and-10. We gotta find ways to take the football away.

"Those are the facts, and right now you have to deal with the facts and not get concerned with speculation."

The Steelers remain in possession of a top-10 offense and top-10 defense (one of four such teams in the NFL to make that claim). Yet, they have won just two of eight games after winning their final eight in succession, counting the playoffs, a year ago.


Best of both worlds

Here's a look at the teams ranked in the top 10 in both total offense and total defense in 2006:

Team Offense Defense Record
Dallas 5 4 4-4
New Orleans 7 10 6-2
Steelers 6 8 2-6
San Diego 3 2 6-2


Their repeated inability to convert statistical dominance into success on the scoreboard has the frustration level threatening to boil over, as evidenced by linebacker James Farrior and safety Anthony Smith drawing unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Denver.

Cowher's message to his team this week was one of patience and perspective.

He stressed the need for players to play to their capabilities, but not over their heads.

"I don't want people to play scared, and I don't want people to try to win the game by themselves," Cowher said.

"I think right now we're out of sync because we have some guys who are probably afraid to make a mistake and some other guys who are trying to win the game by themselves. There's that fine line of getting people back in balance and that's where we're at. We're out of whack from that standpoint."

Cowher also intends to "monitor" his players' commitment to competing at 2-6.

"It's something we talk about, and I will continue to talk about," he said. "And if I have any sense, whether it be through body language, whether it be through things that they're saying, then certainly I'm going to put the players out there that give us the best chance of winning, and that's the bottom line.

"Everyone's going to be held accountable."