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Steelers

Cowher takes responsibility for loss

| Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005

Bill Cowher would have needed a soundproof room and a pair of blinders to avoid the avalanche of criticism heaped on him after Sunday's overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He had neither -- which is why he quickly revisited the topic at his weekly news conference Tuesday on the South Side.

High on his docket was embattled quarterback Tommy Maddox, whom Cowher refused to bench despite his four turnovers, two of which gave the game away in overtime.

There also was frustrated tailback Jerome Bettis, whom Cowher failed to use on what might have been the game-winning, opening possession of overtime.

Cowher led up to those subjects by shouldering most of the blame.

"It's probably one of the most frustrating losses that I've experienced in my 14 years here," he said. "Certainly, like all head coaches probably do, you reflect back. A lot of the decisions that were made, the choices that you had, you're ultimately responsible for all of them. And I'm certainly the first to tell you that I accept that responsibility; and I am responsible."

Cowher turned his attention to Maddox.

"Did you think about pulling Tommy and why didn't you?" he said. "All I can say is that two of the first three series did end in interceptions (the second leading to a touchdown). I did feel as though he had settled down as the game went on, did a good job with the no-huddle-offense element of it as we began the fourth quarter. And so, as we got into the fourth quarter, it was late in the game and I did not think about (using backup) Charlie (Batch), and really did not ever think about using (injured starter) Ben (Roethlisberger) at that point, outside of an injury."

Maddox, whose passer rating was 30.1 Sunday, fumbled away a field-goal opportunity on the first possession of overtime, then threw an interception that was returned 41 yards for a touchdown the next time the Steelers had the ball.

Despite it all, Cowher did not second-guess himself in his use of Maddox, or his refusal to insert Batch or Roethlisberger.

He did, however, display culpability on the subject of Bettis, who carried four times for 4 yards and was not on the field in the second half or overtime.

Bettis might have been a better option than Willie Parker in overtime, when the Steelers had first-and-10 from the Jaguars 26.

A game earlier, in a 24-22 victory at San Diego, Bettis ran three consecutive times late in the game before Jeff Reed hit a 40-yard field goal.

"Why was he not in the game in the last series; was that not similar to San Diego?" Cowher said of Bettis. "I will say that's a legitimate question, and the only thing I have to say is, as the second half unfolded, unfortunately, we did not have Jerome in the game. I wish I would have gotten him into the game in the second half. That's a decision I'm responsible for. I'm not going to dwell on it anymore."

The Steelers (3-2) open their AFC North division slate at first-place Cincinnati (5-1). A loss to the Bengals would push the Steelers 2 1/2 games out of first with 10 to go. It would boost the Bengals' growing confidence.

That's why Cowher wants to focus on a Bengals team, ranked second in the NFL in offense, that looks to wrest away the AFC North crown from the Steelers.

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