AFC PLAYOFFS Steelers seek redemption
Pittsburgh lost to the Titans in their first meeting on Nov. 17.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Play, adjust and believe.
They are three instructions Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher is giving his team as it moves deeper into the NFL playoffs.
"I don't know how it's going to end," Cowher said Tuesday during his weekly press conference, "but that's all you can do."
The Steelers (11-5-1) will take that philosophy into Nashville, Tenn., Saturday to face the Tennessee Titans in an AFC divisional playoff showdown at The Coliseum.
If Cowher's team is to continue its run toward Super Bowl XXXVII, it must conquer a Titans team that beat the Steelers in their first meeting Nov. 17, won the AFC South with an 11-5 record and gained a first-round bye.
And it must do so on the road.
"You have to take an [us vs. them] approach," Cowher said. "We're going into a pit, so to speak. You're against that football team and 60,000 people. You have to generate your own energy, and it must come from within."
Unlike last week's emotional victory over the Cleveland Browns, in which they overcame a 24-7 deficit to win 36-33, the Steelers won't have the hometown support at Heinz Field.
They won't have the deafening, towel-waving fans that Cowher raved about Tuesday. Instead, the Titans will have that advantage.
"Dealing with the noise will be the biggest difference," Cowher said of going on the road. "Your focus has got to be greater, you have to play smarter and you don't want to give up the big plays that get the crowd into it."
In other words, the Steelers must start fast -- Cowher said the no-huddle offense will be used when needed -- and avoid falling into a rut like last week against the Browns.
Cowher admitted that, had the Steelers fallen behind in Cleveland, they wouldn't have won the game.
That was the mistake Pittsburgh made in its first trip to Tennessee, trailing 28-7 after three quarters and losing 31-23.
Cowher remembers how much the Steelers were dominated that day.
"They physically beat us last time in every phase," the coach said. "They manhandled us. There's no way to sugarcoat that."
Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox can attest to that. He was knocked out of the game with a head and spinal concussion and missed the next two weeks.
"He's physically fine," said Cowher, downplaying Maddox's return to the field on which the quarterback lay injured. "I don't think there will be any concerns.
"The only concern now is making sure we do the things that give us the best chance to win."
That includes slowing Titans quarterback Steve McNair, dangerous as a thrower and runner, and the team's running game with Eddie George.
"They'll test us on the outside, as a lot of people have," said Cowher, referring to quarterbacks attacking the Steelers' ailing secondary. "We'll have to stop the running game and try to contain McNair."
Steelers cornerback Chad Scott, who has missed the last two games, is listed as questionable with a broken thumb.
Defensive back Mike Logan was placed on injured reserve (knee) and was replaced on the active roster by safety Eric Totten.
The Steelers also listed linebacker Kendrell Bell (ankle) as questionable for Saturday's game.