By Danny Cox
Bill Cowher, Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach and current analyst for CBS Sports’ The NFL Today, is one of the most iconic names in the history of the NFL and he always will be. You don’t spend time as a player in the NFL and then as one of the greatest coaches of all time without being remembered by everyone. There were many reasons he was the Coach of the Year in his rookie season as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his expertise is just one of them.
Coach Cowher took a little time to discuss three of the upcoming games in Week 4 of the NFL season, and touched on one of the best defensive players the league has seen in a long time.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens – CBS, Oct. 1st at 8:25p ET
The loss of Ben Roethlisberger is huge for the Steelers…can Pittsburgh rely on Michael Vick or will they look at free agent quarterbacks for the month and a half that Ben is out?
Bill Cowher: “No, no…that’s why they went out and got Vick in the first place. It is why he is a part of the team. Michael Vick is certainly not Ben Roethlisberger, but the Steelers don’t want to turn it over to a rookie or a young quarterback who isn’t as experienced. As long as he stays healthy, Vick will be the man that’s in there.”
One week, the Ravens defense is excellent and the offense is off. The next week, it’s the opposite…how can they form some sense of balance?
BC: “John Harbaugh is asking the same thing right now. There is no easy answer. No easy fix. They have not been able to hold leads and they’ve had the chance to win a couple games, but can’t finish. The schedule simply hasn’t been favorable to them with the traveling all around. The Ravens’ backs are against the wall and they will be scary to play on Thursday against a perennial playoff team in the Steelers.
The thing is…the Ravens do not want to go 0-4 and now there is an extreme sense of urgency. They have great pride, but every single player needs to look in the mirror and know they can do a little more.”
Other than Michael Vick, who needs to step up offensively for the Steelers to compensate for Big Ben’s absence?
BC: “The biggest thing is for Todd Haley to come up with a game plan – one that he and Mike Tomlin will work on – that will allow Michael Vick to be a part of the offense. Yes, they have Le’Veon Bell, who becomes a focal point, and Antonio Brown is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL…Heath Miller, an amazing tight end. The thing is letting Vick come in and feel what it’s like to be part of a winning team.”
Houston Texans vs. Atlanta Falcons – CBS, Oct. 4th at 1p ET
With so many injuries to the offensive front seven, how do the Texans protect Ryan Mallett?
BC: “Houston needs to rely on the running game. If you have an inexperienced line, the best thing to do is run the ball and run it well. Alfred Blue ran it well last week and Ryan Mallett has some mobility as well. Injuries are a journey for every team in a season, but how you handle it isn’t just the next man up. It’s the coordinators catering game plans to the new players that may be in there week to week.”
Julio Jones is on pace to destroy the NFL receiving record in a season; how possible is it?
BC: “He has been a one-man wrecking crew in the first three games of the season. The biggest thing is his health, and he’s playing at such a high level. Can Julio Jones put together a full 16-game season? He really may not be able to continue at this pace, but he has been pretty impressive thus far. Others like Roddy White need to step up and take some pressure off of Jones, because a record is good, but the Falcons want him healthy for a potential playoff run.”
Is J.J. Watt the best defensive player in the NFL today, and how can Matt Ryan avoid being chased by him all day on Sunday?
BC: (Laughs) “With a guy like J.J. Watt, you need to have more than one person blocking him and you always have to have more than one person knowing where he is. The Texans move him around a lot. Again, the running game is important and the Falcons need to get it going. It will help Matt Ryan and help the play-action game, which will slow the rush down. It’s not easy to slow J.J. Watt down from simply doing what he wants, but the Falcons need to try.”
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals – CBS, Oct. 4th at 1p ET
What has the Bengals off to such a hot start this season?
BC: “Oh, it’s a number of things…I think Andy Dalton has the best set of offensive talent around him that he has ever had. Marvin Jones, A.J. Green, Jeremy Hill, Giovanni Bernard…there are a lot of weapons around him. Defensively, Geno Atkins is playing at a high level and Karlos Dunlap is now getting sacks. The Bengals are rushing the quarterback and that’s something they couldn’t do a year ago.
It was a huge win for them last week and that was a big confidence builder for Andy Dalton. He’s a guy that has been consistent, and with those weapons and defense, the Bengals may be the most balanced team in the AFC North right now.”
Will the Chiefs be able to contain A.J. Green, and who do they put on him?
BC: “Any team needs to have safety help with a player like that. If you don’t, you’ll have a lead and the next thing you know, Green gets behind your secondary and scores the winning touchdown. You just can’t cover him one-on-one and Kansas City needs to realize that now. They need to make the Bengals beat them with someone other than Green. For the Chiefs…it’s going to be safety help all the time.”
If you had to choose one to quarterback your team, would you choose Andy Dalton or Alex Smith?
BC: “They both have different strengths and good qualities. I couldn’t necessarily pick one over the other because they are in different offensive systems. Dalton has so many weapons. The Chiefs now have Jeremy Maclin and a lot of other weapons. Jamaal Charles is a great running back…it’s just always hard to say who is better since they have different offensive systems.
Both Andy Dalton and Alex Smith are playoff quarterbacks right now. Now…if they’re championship Super Bowl quarterbacks is something that remains to be seen and needs to be proven.”
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.