STEELERS AT BUCCANEERSSUNDAY, SEPT. 26KICKOFF - 1 P.M.
Coach Raheem MorrisCan you talk about your relationship with Coach Tomlin and playing against him this week?
Me and Mike are really good friends and we go way back since 2002 when we won a championship together. He was fortunate enough to go on to be the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings and then the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and win a championship, which I was able to watch in our stadium the year I became head coach. I couldn't be more proud of where he's going and how much he has helped me I can't explain in a short interview. We're very close and our relationship is great. This week we're competitors and we can't wait to go at it.
Did Coach Tomlin put the idea in your head to become a head coach?
We always used to talk about competing against each other and we always talked about being defensive coordinators. His aspirations of becoming a head coach were a little more than mine. I wanted to be the best defensive coordinator in the world, in the country. And I wanted to do all that stuff. As you grow up you get older, you get wiser. And I had the opportunity to become a head coach here and it's great. We have the opportunity to go out there and compete on a top-stage and there's nothing better than that. We've always talked about it; we've always dreamed about it and now it is reality.
How are you two coaches similar and different?
We're from different areas and different backgrounds. We got a lot of similar love-to-dos and want-to-dos and a lot of similar ideas. But we're different people. I'm not him, he's not me and we just go out there and be ourselves.
Is it safe to say you guys won't be calling each other this week?
I don't know about that. We might have a phone call or two, but it's safe to say we won't be exchanging information. We're definitely friends and the thing we both do well is relate to players and we will be able to do that.
RE: Byron Leftwich's last season performance at Tampa Bay:
Byron came down here and did a great job competing. He did a great job with team camaraderie, becoming a leader. He really became a captain of our football team. He took it in a great direction in the beginning. He taught Josh Freeman how to become a quarterback and how to lead as a quarterback, how to have the mentality and how to prepare. Those are some great things. It just so happened that the success of the team didn't happen right away. As far as his leadership and being under his control, a lot of things played into that. They are always the first person to be blamed being the quarterback and the head coach is next. In order to make that decision, to move on to our young, uprising guy here now in Josh Freeman, he lost his job but he was still around and very supportive. He did a lot of great things during a short period of time here, and he got a lot of respect here from us down in Tampa.
Did Byron still stick around after being placed on the Reserve/Injured list?
He's a great guy. He was here in the building a lot. He popped into those meeting rooms and was into communicating with me. He talked to me and he's got that Magic Johnson-like smile that everybody loves and he lights up the room. He was a pleasure to be around for a year for me.* *
How is this season's start compared to last year?
The difference is we're 2-and-0. But you can't look at it that way. We're hungry, we're humble, and it's one game at a time. We got a great challenge coming here this weekend with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a physical team, a team with a mentality that we are searching for, a team that we know can go out there and win on any given Sunday. We look forward to the competitive age and competitive nature of going out there and winning on Sunday.
What color jerseys will you wear Sunday?
We'll be out there in our white jerseys. We'll be ready to go.
Is that a psychological thing when guests come in and wear their normal jerseys like the Steelers will?
I don't know if you can use psychological warfare on a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers. We're talking about a mentally-tough team that's out there with their head coach who is also mentally tough and who won't let things like that affect him. We'll play our best game and we got to be our best self.
Do southern teams have an advantage in September like northern teams think they do in December?
It's the mentality and makeup of your team. The mentality and makeup of the Pittsburgh Steelers are grunt-workers and they'll come down here ready to play. They'll come down here and play through the heat; they'll play through whatever they have to play through. It's about going out there and searching for a win and how to get it.
Do you expect the Steelers to blitz Josh Freeman more because of his youth?
It wouldn't matter if Josh wasn't young. That's what they do, create confusion. They got great players in James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley, you could name a bunch of them, Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton. Those guys are all physical; all bring a certain demeanor to the game. They are going to come out there. Josh needs to stand up, identify protections and get the ball out of his hand.
Who do you expect to see at QB Sunday?
You don't expect anyone; you just prepare for anyone you could potentially get. And that's what we are doing right now. We know Byron Leftwich. We've seen him a little bit. He's came in here and played against us a couple times; he's played with us. We also know Charlie Batch down here in Lions' uniform and had a great day on us in 1997. We had the same type of deal last week in getting ready for the game against Carolina. They had Matt Moore with injury problems and the young kid, Jimmy Clausen. It's no different this week. We just have to come out and prepare every week for whom we may potentially get. At the end of the day no one cares if you were ready to play whoever.
Do you expect to see a lot of Steelers' fans?
That happens everywhere. Steeler Nation is big, it's popular. One day when you guys won that championship I was a Steelers fan as well. We'll deal with the terrible towels and whatever your guests might bring, and it's going to be a lot of fun. We got a lot of pride in our Buccaneers fans, and they'll be ready to come out.
Is it hard to prepare and offensive game plan with Troy Polamalu on defense?
You certainly better know where he is, he's like the Where's Waldo. You got to know where he is on the field. He does a bunch of different, dynamic things. He can blitz; he can play man-to-man, he can shut down a guy, he can be used in certain situations to do different things. You better know where he is. You better account for him, and you better know what you need to do to deal with him.
QUATERBACK JOSH FREEMAN
What did Byron Leftwich teach you last year?
He taught me a lot about the mental approach, the game. Also about being a leader in the locker room as well as on the field.
After he lost his job, was he still supportive for you?
Definitely. Byron is a great guy, a great team guy. Even when he wasn't starting and going through his injury phase he was still right there helping me out.
Would you like to see him start for the Steelers on Sunday?
I know the kind of player Byron is and yeah, I'd love to see him start. That would be great for him.
What did you see after watching tape of the Steelers defense, how do you beat them?
They aren't like any other defense we have seen. They do a great job of mixing it up, getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing turnovers and we realize that it is going to be a big challenge, but we are not really changing anything. Obviously there are game plans we are changing but we are sticking to our core principals, keeping the balls secure and just taking what they give us.
Do you guys enjoy playing in the kind of heat you have down there in September?
I don't know if enjoy is the right word, but we definitely embrace the heat. It's hot but it gives us an advantage. When the heat index is over 100 and it is a smoldering day, we are use to it so I think it gives us a bit of an advantage. Definitely look forward to the second half of the season games.
When you played Cleveland, did you see that advantage?
Actually the first half was really hot and in the second have we got a lot of cloud cover and a nice breeze and a little rain so it cooled down substantially.
When you go north late in the season, do you think the northern teams have that advantage?
Maybe. There might be a little advantage but I have never really seen it affect the game that much.
What is the difference between the Bucs today and how you started off last season?
We are a completely different team. We have a lot of new faces, but the main thing is the mentality in the locker room, it is really a family attitude. No one take anything for granted, we are all working for each other, trying to go out and win and almost expecting to win.
Experts said that you were one of the worst teams in the NFL, have you used that as motivation?
I'm sure some guys use it as motivation but honestly we don't pay a whole lot of attention to what people say about us outside of the building. We know that our job is to come in, put in a good week of work and then play our best football on Sundays. Our mentality is to go out and win a game every week, so people outside aren't really affecting us at all.
How tough was it going through a season when you won only three games?
It was really frustrating but I feel like towards the end of the year last year we started to get in a rhythm and started to turn things around. We are picking up on that now and to go back to your earlier question, are we surprised to be 2-0, no, nobody is surprised. We expect to go out and do well, whether it is offense, defense or special teams. We expect to win these games.