Q: You're going to Pittsburgh in mid-November to play for first place in the division. I presume that's what you would have wanted:CP: "Definitely. You want to be here and you expect to be here, but you're never sure what the season has for you. Fortunately we've stayed healthy and played well enough in a number of games. It all comes down to a showdown in Pittsburgh, and we'll be ready. They'll be ready. It's going to be a great game."
Q: Given the way you'd have the tiebreakers in your favor if you win this one, you could basically say that this game is for the division championship.CP: "Whether guys know it or not, I don't think guys have thought of it that way. It's a game. We're not going to look too far ahead of who's on the schedule, who's left, worry about playoff implications, worry about home-field advantage. We don't need to be thinking about any of those things. They're not. They're in a must-win situation. We feel we're in a must-win situation. It's the two best teams in this division playing in a big game. We know it's a big game, but we're not worried about anything else that's on the horizon. We're worried about this week."
Q: How are the Steelers different with Troy Polamalu back in the lineup?CP: "They can do some different things. They have some packages for Troy. But it's a good defense when he's on the field and when he's not on the field. To me, he's one of the best players in this game, and when you add that guy you're only going to get better. We didn't have a chance to play against him last time, but he'll be ready to play this one. I know he'll be looking forward to this game, as will their entire defense. There's always a couple of wrinkles with him, and then just worrying about him and seeing him on every play, because he makes a lot of plays and is all over the place and runs the fastest guy on the field down from all over the place. They're a great defense, and with him it's even better."
Q: Are you and Troy Polamalu still close? Do you talk often?CP: "We don't talk often. When we do, it's like old times. He's a busy man. He's got a lot going on, we've got a lot going on here. But I respect him as much, if not more than, anybody in this league. Love watching him play. Hate playing against him."
Q: What do you think about his commercial?CP: "He's a good actor. He might have had some acting classes back at SC, back in the day. It looks like if he took some, it definitely paid off because he looks good."
Q: How important is it to find somebody to replace Chris Henry?CP: "I don't know if we're going to try to replace him. He had a number of special packages and a number of special plays for him. And there's only one Chris Henry, just like there's only one Chad Johnson (Ochocinco) and one Laveranues Coles. We're not going to fill in a new guy and say you're going to do everything Chris did. We're going to take the strengths and weaknesses of the next guy that's in line and find a way to make some stuff in the game plan for him. Just got to find a way to fill in those shoes. We're not specifically looking for a 6-foot-5 guy that runs 4.3. There's not another guy around like that. So we're going to find the young guys and figure out which guy works the best for us and helps us win, and kind of filter him in and give him some stuff."
Q: How are Jerome Simpson and Maurice Purify coming along? How are they different?CP: "One guy (Purify) is a big, powerful, run-blocking guy, and one guy is a smaller, slighter, faster guy. Two completely different builds. Very good players. All the potential in the world, they just need to get on the field and do it."
Q: Were you pleased to see Laveranues Coles emerge a little more last week?CP: "It was great. He had a great game. We're going to be leaning on him more, especially now that Chris (Henry) is down. But we knew we'd be leaning on him as the season went on, just because he's a veteran player and a guy who has made a lot of plays in big games. And as the games get bigger, we're going to count on him more. To see him do what he did last week, he just hadn't had the opportunity to make a number of those plays and run those plays. It didn't surprise anybody in our locker room that's been watching him practice and prepare – he does that stuff in practice all the time. But his role will definitely expand with the absence of Chris."
Q: Is Pittsburgh the toughest place to play?CP: "No. It's definitely a tough place, but there are a lot of tough places. A lot of really good fans who really understand the game and know when to be loud, and stadiums that are built to be loud. It's definitely one of the toughest, but it's not the toughest."
Q: How much does noise factor in? Can you still communicate effectively when it's noisy?CP: "It changes. At home, you don't have to use hand signals, and you don't rely on eye contact. You really just say what you say, and you expect guys to hear it. On the road, it changes. It hasn't been a drop-off or a lack of communication on the road. It's just the way you communicate changes."
Q: Generally, do guys feel pretty confident no matter how loud it gets?CP: "Yeah, we're halfway through the season, we've played a handful of games on the road and there's nowhere you go where it's nice and quiet and easy to hear. Even in preseason, we played in sold-out games where the fans were into it and it was loud. It hasn't been an issue so far. There have been a couple mistakes here and there. The last one I can think of was in Baltimore. But we've done some things to iron that out and we'll be all right."
Q: Is the play-action something you've had to work on? CP: "We've worked on it a ton. It's something I've needed to work on and continue to work on. The main reason we've done so much of it is because we've been so effective running the ball."
Q: Is the fake something you have to work on in order for it to be effective?CP: "It's just something you have to work on. You have to make it look real. It's easy to do it halfway and not put all your effort into it. But you have to put all your effort into it and work on it over and over."
Q: You have to sell the fake, right? And how much practice does it take to get a proper fake?CP: "A ton, we work on it every day. We have special periods where we designate a certain amount of time to work on the action. It's something that's never perfect. It can never be done, where you can say, 'We've got this.' It's something we work on every day in practice."
Q: Was that something that was new to you? Did you do it a lot in high school and college? CP: "No, I did it a ton in college and high school. We haven't had a ton of play-action stuff in our previous game plans before this year, but we've changed that. That's a big part of the offense that's been changed from years past. The running game's also changed."
Q: The better Cedric Benson does, the more you can sell the play action, right?CP: "Absolutely, when you're running the ball effectively, it only opens up the play-action game, obviously."
Q: Are there any quarterbacks whose play action fakes you study? CP: "Yeah, we study a number of different offenses who do similar things that we do."
Q: Is there anyone really good at it?CP: "There's a lot of guys really good at it. Every team has gotten better at it. It looks like it's more of an emphasis this year, but I can't think of a guy that's not good at it."
Q: As you look at film, have you noticed any schematic difference in the Steelers defense with or without Troy Polamalu?CP: "They've won two Super Bowls in the last however many years and have been in the top two or three in the league in defense, total defense. So they really don't need to change what works. Troy has been in and out of the lineup a number of times and they go about their business. They've been so good at filling guys in. Joey Porter leaves, they fill in a new guy. They lose cornerbacks from year-to-year and they bring in another guy. It comes down to them having a great coaching staff on defense. They run their system and plug guys in here and there. One guy goes down, they fill in somebody else. They always rely on their guys up front to put pressure on the quarterback, and like I said a minute ago, it's a great defense with or without Troy. With Troy on the field, it's even better."
Q: In terms of maturity, how have winning those close games early in the season helped this team?CP: "I think confidence. When you play in a series of close games and you keep finding a way to win, it doesn't need to be talked about, but everyone gets more confident in themselves and each other. We had a string of games that were close, and we found ways to win. And we had a game against Houston where we just didn't play well and realized it's OK to be confident, but you've still got to put the work in, you've still got to execute. You can't just show up and expect to win it in the fourth quarter every time you get the ball on the last possession. It's not going to work that way. You've got to put the work in one-through-three quarters and put the effort in for those first three quarters, and I think that's something we learned that Houston game. The other thing you get is a quiet confidence that, if it comes down to it and it's the last play of the game or the last drive of the game, we've done it a number of times, we can do it again."
Q: Do you have more depth this year than years past?CP: "I think so. I hadn't thought of it, but we're deep at the offensive line spot, too. If, God forbid, you lose another guy, there's some guys we can put in that have experience and we have confidence in. Defensively, we're pretty thin at a couple of positions, but for the most part we've got guys who can filter in and be great backups."
Q: Does that help the team's confidence, knowing you have that kind of depth?CP: "Just knowing that we've got guys. We're not only 22-men deep. We've got guys that back up a number of spots, we have guys who play both guard positions, both tackle positions, guys who can play inside and outside linebacker, guys who can play any spot on the D-line. Everyone's been on teams where you say, 'If we lose this guy, were in trouble.' But we've got a number of guys who can filter in and take a number of spots that may not be their key position, but they can play that position, also."
Q: You scored on the first three drives of the game last week, and then were shut out the rest of the game. Why is that? CP: "I think the main thing was a couple of communication errors, a couple lack of execution (errors), and then there's a play or two where they did a great job and they got on us. We've got to find a way to make a play. Even when we had those situations, we didn't out-execute the defense, which is what you have to do to move the ball, especially on third down. Looking at it in the grand scheme of things, it came down to execution."