How does your team compare to the '08 team?
We feel good about where we are, especially along the defensive line. Tony Brown and Jason Jones return. Kevin Vickerson also returns. We picked up Jovan Haye who has had a great offseason and a good preseason thus far. We are optimistic about Sen'Derrick Marks, our second-round pick out of Auburn.
How does Nate Washington fit in with your offense?
Nate has done a terrific job since his arrival. He is very enthusiastic as you guys know. He is energetic and loves the game. It is important to him; he works on the details. He was really having a great offseason and a good camp, but then had the setback a couple of weeks ago with the hamstring. We are hopeful we will have him on the field this week.
You seem to be embracing this game on Thursday – why?
It is a privilege for us. We have really a good last four or fives weeks and to be able to finish this process – playing in the Hall of Fame Game and then to open the season against the defending champions is, for our organization, a privilege. We welcome the challenge and opportunity.
Can you talk about the stability of the Steelers?
I think even beyond that they return most of their starters. That's the Pittsburgh way. You keep things intact and you quietly go about your business; you stay competitive. Every year, you do the right things and stay healthy – the Steelers have a chance to win a championship. I think it is certainly a compliment to the superstars at the top. The Rooney family has done a terrific job over the years.
Will Nate practice today?
We will be out there in an hour and a half. He is going to run around, I don't know to what extent or how much he is going to do. We will give you the report after.
What has Chris Hope meant to your defense?
He carries the torch in the secondary room. He has done so since he walked in the door. He is the first one here and the last one to leave. He has really been a great influence on the younger players. He has really been great with Griff (Michael Griffin). The two of them really work well together and communicate well together. They are good friends and are real close, they are a lot alike. He has had a significant impact on Cortland's (Finnegan) development and taught him how to be a pro.
Has anything been said about the players stomping on the Terrible Towel after you guys beat the Steelers last year?
I don't know what effect it has. We addressed it after the ballgame here last year. It hasn't really come up since. I was anticipating it coming up. It is something that happened in the past. It was something that took place in an emotional moment. The players now understand the significance of the towel and the tradition behind the towel and the organization. They certainly aren't going to carry their own towels out there and stomp on them before kickoff. I just think it was something that happened after the ballgame. We got on a roll and won games last year, then the guys got excited about winning. It was certainly not a personal thing that the players directed towards the tradition and the history of the organization or to the fans.
What did you say to the players about it?
I told them that those kinds of things aren't necessary. Win the game and go on. I also wanted them to know (about the history). Young players who come into the league, and even veteran players, don't necessarily have a sense for history and tradition. I just wanted them to realize that is part of Pittsburgh's tradition. We had towels in Memphis when we were playing there.
What does the Wildcat formation do and do you expect it to be used a lot this year?
The success of the Wildcat deals strictly with the element of surprise. When you sub from the sideline, you put your Wildcat personnel into the game and the defense has time to adjust and make whatever calls. I'm sure everybody has worked on it during the offseason. It's the element of surprise that makes the Wildcat significant. You make a huddle-call on defense, you break the huddle and all of a sudden the quarterback is lined up at receiver and somebody else is in the shotgun position, all of a sudden guys are running around. There's an adjustment level you don't get time to do. I believe a lot of clubs, us included, and the Steelers, and everybody else have worked on it and prepared in case it comes up.
How do you keep going?
Every day I wake up I can't wait to get to work. Every season is a new challenge; every team is a new team. I have to give Mr. (Bud) Adams all of the credit. The stability of the organization has helped. We have fun doing what we are doing. Our business is still unfinished.
Are you surprised your team is not mentioned more as a team to beat in the AFC?
No, I am not. I don't pay attention to it, nor am I concerned by it. This is not the first time and it won't be the last time. That is the National Football League. We are a smaller market and we just go about our business down here.
Do you miss your battles with Bill Cowher?
Yeah. We were reminiscing over the past couple days. It's interesting, Eddie George does our color (commentary) for the preseason games. We were reminiscing prior to the game Thursday night about the great matchups and all the things association with the games. It really shaped and formed this organization – those great battles in the late 90s.