Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Baltimore Ravens.
Q. You've said many times that all you have to say to your players is, "It's Ravens week." Was that the case for this playoff game?
A. It's been a big help to us this week, because we have some young players who have contributed greatly to our success this year but don't really have an understanding about what playoff participation is about. But you can tell them that we're playing Baltimore, and they understand what that's about. They have prepared appropriately because of that.
Q. Is Aaron Smith going to be able to play?
A. He's just going to be on the outside looking in. He's improved greatly. His presence has been awesome for us on the practice field. Hopefully we get the job done against the Ravens, and we can have that conversation again next week.
Q. On the other end of the defensive line, Brett Keisel battled some injuries to have a very productive season. Is he as tough as he looks?
A. And then some. Not only is he tough, but he's arguably the best athlete in the locker room. If you polled our football team and asked, pound for pound, who is the best athlete on our team, I imagine Brett Keisel would go deep into the discussion. It's freakish the way he's able to move and re-direct his body, the body control that he has for an enormous man.
Q. The 2010 Steelers allowed opponents to rush for an average of 62.8 yards a game, 27 yards per game better than 2009. Is that attitude?
A. There is some attitude, but there's also some substance to it. The reality is that we didn't give up big runs. We were no more dominant from a consistency standpoint than we have been in recent years. We just minimized the big runs. The longest run against us all year was 24 yards by Michael Bush from Oakland, and there were only two others of 15-plus yards the whole season. Sometimes you break down in your front and you give up 8, or 10 or 12-yard runs. Our secondary, particularly our safeties, have done a nice job of making sure that those 8-to-12-yard runs don't become 20-to-40-yard runs, and that's the recipe for a good run defense.
Q. The last player to rush for over 100 yards vs. the Steelers in the past 50-plus games is Ray Rice. What makes him so good?
A. He's got ridiculous lateral quickness. He can stick his foot in the ground and change direction at full speed. Not only is he a talented runner, but he has 60-plus catches over the course of the season. We have to do a good job defending him in the check-down game, the screen game, and he also does a real nice job running the wheel-route out of the backfield.
Q. Do you expect Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to rely on the quick-passing game?
A. I expect him to use that to have a non-rhythmic delivery so that our rush potentially gets frustrated. There are several ways to neutralize a rush – you block them, or you get the ball out of your hand quickly, and I expect the Ravens to employ both.
Q. Terrell Suggs has had a lot of things to say this week, and he also was photographed wearing a T-shirt with some interesting sentiments about Pittsburgh. But he's also somebody who backs it up on the field, is he not?
A. I'm less concerned about his T-shirts and more concerned about his rush-the-passer capability. Some of this is entertainment, and Terrell is an entertainer. But more than that there is substance to his game. He's a talented player, who has had an enormous year, and we're going to have to contend with him.
Q. Will you have to double-team him more than you want to?
A. That sounds like a novel idea, but they move him around quite a bit, which makes it tough to anticipate where he's going to be, which makes the double-team increasingly difficult. That's one of the reasons they do what they do, both with Suggs and Haloti Ngata. They do a nice job of moving those guys around, and schematically you can be prepared to double-team them, but you're not always going to get what you want.
Q. Are you of the opinion that the Ravens' secondary is underrated?
A. I am. I think they've improved over the course of the season, similarly to our offensive line. Sometimes when you get a rap it's tough to shake. They've gotten that rap, but I think they've played better than that.
Q. What are the keys for the Steelers in the game against the Ravens?
A. I think it's important that we come out of the locker room. They played last week, and we didn't. That's advantage – Ravens. We need to come out of the locker room. We need to do a good job of taking care of the football and protecting our quarterback, and we need to go get their football and get after their quarterback.