I think we are a good team. We're a better team than our record shows. But we've lost a lot of games that we shouldn't lose. We've lost to a lot of teams that we shouldn't lose to. The great teams don't do that. The great teams play week-in, week-out. They don't play to the level of their competition, and they win games they should win. They don't lose at Tampa Bay. They don't lose many home games. And we're not at that stage yet. We're not that type of team.
Q: This team won the division last year. Shouldn't you be that kind of team?CP:
I think so. There are a number of reasons. It's something that's frustrating, and it's something that needs to be changed and fixed. Hopefully it will be. But right now, we're just focused on one game at a time. We can't worry about where we should be and where we shouldn't be. We just need to worry about beating Pittsburgh and seeing what happens at the end of the year.
Q: Do you still think you can make the playoffs?CP:
Definitely. Watching that New York Jets game the other night, they struggled and they got a couple of big plays that won the game. I think Oakland's coming to them. They might struggle with Oakland, because that defense is phenomenal and they struggle offensively. So if they struggle offensively and a couple of those guys get their hands on balls, or they get into the pocket and knock the quarterback down and get the ball out, they can generate some points defensively. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope that happens.
Q: If you win Sunday but don't make the playoffs, do you see this as a disappointing season?CP:
I don't want to get too far ahead of my self and evaluate this season until it's over, because there's nothing that says we can't get into the playoffs and end up playing in Miami and win a Super Bowl ring. That's still not out of the question. We're at a point right now where we have a chance to win one game. We have a chance to get to the playoffs and we have a chance to be 5-1 in our division. There's something to be said for that because this is one of the toughest divisions in this game. Hopefully we'll get to that point and then I can comment on exactly what type of season we had and where we are.
Q: How frustrating has your play been the last two weeks?CP:
Extremely frustrating. Those were two games that we can win. Looking back, if we go out and play our best football, I think we can win both of those games. If I play my best football, I can put us in position to win those games, and I didn't do that. It's frustrating and disappointing. It's been tough to get over and tough to get past, but now I'm focused and ready to play against the Steelers. The best thing about this league and about playing this position is you can kind of wipe that bad taste out of your mouth with one game and one win.
Q: Marvin says the team played tight in Denver and maybe Indianapolis as well. Do you concur?CP:
I think so. I said after the game that we focus so much on it being a big game, and I said every game's a big game. Every game in this league is important. Every game is a must win, and it sounds crazy to say that early in the year. I said that after the game, too. That Tampa Bay game was a must-win. We win that game and we're in a completely different situation. That's a game we should win. We just need to play football. We can't think about how big the game is and what all the ramifications are if you win, if you lose, or if somebody else wins or loses. You need to take care of your games one game at a time, and not worry about how big every little play is. You just have to go out and play.
Q: Have you guys advanced in maturity since last year?CP:
I think so. I think something that gets you over that hump is playing in big games; and I mean, as in AFC championships, as in Super Bowls, as in big-time playoff atmosphere games. We've only been in one of those and didn't win it. Just because you're on Monday Night Football, even though it seems like a big game to us at the time, that's nothing compared to playing for the AFC title at an away stadium. Being a younger team, you need to play in those games. You need to be in that situation and see how you handle yourselves. You need to overcome diversity in those types of situations in order to get over that hump and be a team that plays well in big games.
Q: Your wide receivers are high-maintenance guys. How do you manage that side of them?CP:
I'd much rather have guys that are superior athletically, to a lot of guys in the league that have trouble running routes and have trouble catching balls or that are guys that will do whatever you tell them to do. But we do have some guys that are different from most guys in the league, and I wouldn't trade any one of them for anybody else in this league. I wouldn't trade T.J. Houshmandzadeh for Randy Moss or Chris Henry for Reggie Wayne. I wouldn't trade them for anybody because they make tons of plays. They can make plays on anybody but more importantly, they want to make plays. They're not scared in big games and they're not worried. Their confidence doesn't shake. They're guys that want to win the game on every play and want to score touchdowns on every play. Being a quarterback, I've played with both types of players and both types of receivers, and I'd much rather have the guys we've got.
Q: We all know what happened the last time the Steelers came in here. What does this game mean to you?CP:
It's just a game to me, whether it's Pittsburgh and no matter what happened last time. It's just a game we need to win. I'd say the same thing if we were playing the Chargers or the Ravens, whoever it was. It's a game we need to win. It's a game at home in front of our fans, and it's a game that can get us to the playoffs. That's all that matters to me.
Q: Is Troy Polamalu the focal point for you?CP:
I think so. Any time you play against Troy, you've always got to worry about where he is. You've got to try to figure out what they're trying to do with him. They've always got different game plans and use him differently. But he's the best player they have on that defense, and probably the best player they have on that team. Offensively, going into this game, you always worry about where he is and try to get yourself in situations where you can take advantage of the defense.
Q: You got your contract extension a year ago. What has this last year been like for you with all that's happened?CP:
It's been fun. I'm doing what I love to do. I feel fortunate and blessed to be able to play in this league and play for this team and this organization. It's been tough, wins-and-losses-wise. being in the situation we're in, but it hasn't been an issue. It's been great. I'm living out my dream playing pro football.
Q: But does it seem like more than a year with all that's happened?CP:
It seems like it's been 10 years. It definitely seems like it's been a long time. It's weird, though. It seems like it's been 10 years, but it seems l like we played Pittsburgh here in the playoffs three weeks ago to me. But when you look back on that time and think about the process to get to that week one opener, going through the rehab seems like it's been 10 years and might have taken 10 years off my life. But like I said, I couldn't be more blessed to be in the situation I'm in and happy to be playing the game I'm playing.
Q: What have you learned about yourself during that process?CP:
I think something I learned right away is that you can't let other people put limits or bounds on you. The first thing I heard right when I woke up from the surgery was everybody was telling me what situation I was in: how hurt I was, how I was never going to play again, how it was going to take me 12 months, how I won't be ready until after the bye, and he won't be the same player. You hear all these different things. When you come out of a situation you've never been in, like knee surgery for me, you're unsure of yourself. You're not quite sure how you're going to react. You kind of listen to some things and you block some things out, even some things you think might be true. I played a lot earlier than everybody expected and was ready to play. I think something I learned was that you just can't let other people put bounds on you. You can't let other people tell you how it's going to be or how you're going to be. I think that's the main lesson I learned.
Q: If Richie Braham decides to retire after Sunday, what would your reaction be?CP:
I told Richie I wish he was born eight years later and I was born eight years earlier because we would have had a heck of a run together. I've always thought that Richie's as good as it gets at his position. He's a great person, a great guy, an unbelievable teammate, and a very unselfish teammate. But athletically and physically, he's as good as it gets at that position. To be a quarterback and to be able to play a couple of years with him, and learn from him was very beneficial. I wish I could have had 10 years with him because we would have had a heck of a run. It hurts losing him. It hurts losing him this year. This organization is at a loss because he was a heck of a person and a great player for a lot of years.
Q: What intangibles can this team take from this season to help it in the future?CP:
I think one main lesson is you can't take any game for granted. You can't think because you're going in playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that you're going to win every time. This league is too good, teams are too good, and coaching is too good. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day. You look at Indianapolis and Houston last week. It's so easy to take teams for granted, because you look at their record and you look at their stats. You look at Oakland averaging 150 yards a game and you think it's an easy win. You can't. This league is too good. And I think that nipped us in the bud a little bit this year. This league is too good to go into games expecting to win and thinking we were going to be able to win without playing great football because our opponent wasn't ranked very good offensively or defensively. You've got to play your best football week-in and week-out to get wins.
Q: Thoughts on Bill Cowher quitting:CP:
He's too good of a coach to hang it up forever. I'm sure he'll be back. Whether he's back with Pittsburgh next year or not, he'll be back in this league at some point.
Q: In terms of things needing to be fixed, are they big things or small things?CP:
There are some big fixes and small fixes.
Q: Like what?CP:
I'm not going to go into that. But there are definitely some things that need to change.
Q: How big a deal would it be to go 9-7 and miss the playoffs as opposed to 8-8 and missing the playoffs?CP:
It's huge. If you can go 5-1 in our division, you should be in the playoffs. Your overall record should be a lot better than it is. When you go into certain games and you think you're going to win without playing your best football, you end up 9-7 as opposed to 13-3 or 14-2, which is where we should be and where this team can be. But until we figure out some things, figure out how to win games, finish games, play up to par, and play as good as we should be week-in and week-out, then we're going to be 9-7.
Q: How would you grade yourself this year?CP:
I'd say a B-minus. It's tough to grade, but B-minus is pretty average. Grade-wise, B-minus is average and I feel like I played average. I feel I played good in games and bad in some, but throughout the year pretty average.