STEELERS vs. RAVENS AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2009 KICKOFF IS AT 6:30 P.M. HEINZ FIELD
STEELERS QUARTERBACK BEN ROETHLISBERGER
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
* Can you talk about the confidence that builds with all of the fourth-quarter comebacks the team has made this year?*
We don't like to have to do it. Normally you have to do it when you are struggling early on in the games. It comes from the heart. A lot of guys have to step up and not make mistakes and do it when it counts.
Ravens WR Derrick Mason said this is the storybook match-up, that there is no team they would rather be playing than you in the AFC Championship game. What are your thoughts on that?
It's going to be a good game. It's always hard to play a team twice and beat them twice. We have to do it three times. They are a great football team. Offensively for us it's not going to be easy because of how good they are on defense.
You are division rivals. Is this perceived hate or do you two teams really not like each other?
It's the rivalry. It's two great football teams going at it and it's going to be a classic matchup.
Have they showed you a different wrinkle each time they played you on defense?
Every play. We are watching tape again and we are putting new things in for practice that we have never seen before. I really think that every week that they put not just one new thing in, they put a whole new package in, that's why it's such a big challenge playing these guys.
Is Terrell Suggs the key for their flexibility on defense?
Their whole defense is something you have to be alert for, from up front all the way to the secondary. You can't just key on one guy. You have so many guys to worry about. If you watch one guy another one is going to make a play. We are going to have to have good communication, identification, Justin (Hartwig) and myself and the rest of the line trying to figure out if it's three down, four down, five down, two down. Who knows?
Can you have success running the ball outside?
We are going to go into the game trying to pound the ball like we do and hopefully open up some of the passing game. You just have to be alert in the passing game because you have that secondary, Ed Reed always seems to be around the ball and the rest of their guys. We are going to put the game plan together. We are not done with it yet. Once we get it together we will have an idea of what we are going to do.
Coach (Tomlin) said your arm looked lively against San Diego. Did the week off help get your arm strength back?
I had the receivers tell me the same thing. I guess it did. It just felt good out there. We missed a couple of deep balls. We probably left about 150 yards of passing out there. We are close and hopefully it stays alive.
Do you have to be alert about Reed in the middle there?
You always have to know where he is at because he is never just in the middle. You watch some of the games that they played, especially in the post-season. There was one time he is a Cover-2 safety to the right side and he picks off an under route to the left. He is always all over the field. He is a ball hawk.
What kind of advantage is it playing in your third AFC Championship Game?
I just hope it's not as bad as the first one I had here. We just have to make sure we know we have to take care of the ball. That has been the key to everyone's success or failure in the post-season so far is if you can take care of the ball. For me I just need to make sure I take care of it and let our offense and defense take care of the rest.
What kind of impact does having a healthy Willie Parker have?
Anytime Willie is healthy it helps in the run game. We have a lot of great running backs and the line does a great job of opening it up for whoever is back there. Whatever running back is back there and healthy it's always good for us.
The late game pressure we talked about before, is that something that you like?
You either like having the ball in your hands at the end or you don't. I'm one that does. Usually it means that you struggled early, that you are behind. But if it's there, it's there.
Two teams so evenly matched, what is it going to come down to?
I honestly think it's going to come down to who scores more points.
How does the level of trash talking in this game compare to others?
I'm sure there will be a lot, there always is. Whether it's a preseason game or this game there is going to be a lot. You know what, talk is cheap.
Talking about turnovers, do they create them from being physical or force them in schemes?
Both. They are very opportunistic. If the ball is in there air where some DBs might drop it, they don't seem to drop very many. The linebackers as well. In that sense I think their players make plays. They also are so good, Coach (Rex) Ryan and the rest of that defensive staff are so good at making you make the mistakes of throwing it where you don't think a guy is, but he is there. You just have to be aware of all of them.
This time of year it usually comes down to the team that is playing the best football. Do you feel you are that team right now?
I feel like we are playing good football right now, as is Baltimore. That is why it is going to be such a great match-up, because both teams are playing very good football right now and that's what you want for a championship game.
Can you imagine not having had a week off since Week 2?
It'd be tough. It's a credit to them. It's very tough to deal with and to do. They've done it and done a great job with it.
There was a report you had a spinal concussion. Was it a spinal concussion?
I'm not going to comment on that.
Do you notice a difference with the defenses when Willie is running the ball?
Willie is a great running back, a guy that deserves attention. When you've got a great running back that's running the way he's running, it does open up the passing game. It opens up the play-action passes. I think it's a big help when he's running the way he is.
Your offensive line has been a hot topic the last few weeks. Are they playing their best football now?
They're playing great football. You'd have to ask them what their best is. But I've had a lot of confidence in them from day one. I always will. They've done such a great job each week, even through the criticism and the sacks. That doesn't matter because it doesn't faze them. It's shouldn't. It's not all on them. They're playing great football and they've just got to keep it up.
Ed Reed gets a lot of attention, but Jim Leonhard has come on recently. What have you noticed about him on tape?
He's a phenomenal football player. He's always making plays. He's always around the ball. I think because of the way he plays and how good he is, it allows Ed to just do his thing. It's kind of the way it is when we joke with Troy (Polamalu) when he'll say, 'Cover me, I see something.' I'm sure it's kind of the same way they are.
So you think his play has allowed Reed to have the year he's had?
I think so, I really do.