Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley**
How much do things change with Byron Leftwich starting as opposed to Ben Roethlisberger?
I think in the big picture they don't change much at all. With that being said, Byron is not Ben, and I think it's very important that we and he understand that. He can't go out there and try to be Ben. He needs to go out there and be Byron and we need to, just like I say every week and this is why I make the point every time you all say "Haley offense," it's not my offense. We're going to do things that cater to the strengths of our players and obviously that will be critical when you talk about the quarterback position. We're going to do our best to cater to Byron's strengths, as opposed to trying to force square pegs in round holes, so to speak.**
What do you like about Leftwich and what does he give you guys?
I think there's a lot to like about him. First of all, he's a backup here but he's obviously shown that he can start in this league and be productive. But first and foremost, when you're around Byron for a very short time, you understand that he's just got that "It" factor. Everybody remembers when he was coming out and his team was carrying him down the field with his leg dangling from the knee joint. That isn't something that everybody has but he has it. When things occurred in the game last week, there was a look in his eye. There was never a moment that you didn't really think he was a cool customer, because he's done it and he's just got that moxie that good quarterbacks seem to have.
Is Leftwich becoming more comfortable as he is getting more days of practice under his belt?
I think when he went into the game, and that's what made it a little difficult for me as a play-caller, that you haven't seen him running the plays that we're running and you're trying to figure out on the fly. He always checks the game plan and marks the things he likes and feels good about and we try to get to those as much as possible. But the fact that he's been able to come out here and have to full individual practices just throwing routes to the skill guys and by the end of the week he'll have three, and running through the practice and taking all the reps, you can see each day that he's getting more comfortable and that comfort has nothing to do with him knowing where or what to do. It's more just developing timing and rapport with guys catching the ball.
Do you anticipate having a full running back crew?
Rashard Mendenhall has been moving around pretty good but he's done that for the last couple weeks. When we get there, we'll line up the guys we have. Like I've said before, having him would be a great thing if he's available.
What do you appreciate about Roethlisberger's game and what are you going to miss by not having him?
You're obviously going to miss him because he's, in my opinion, an elite quarterback in this league. He gives you a legitimate chance to win every time you line up because of his skill set and his ability to make the right reads in those situations and make plays when things don't go exactly as planned. That's a big piece of the puzzle that you're missing. With that being said, again, I think Byron is here for a reason, as is Charlie [Batch], and those guys work hard and prepare mentally every week to go, and this week he gets to prepare mentally and physically. I think we all feel good, and I speak for everyone, when I say we feel good about going into this game with Byron playing and Charlie as the backup.
Do you involve yourself in the timetable on Roethlisberger's return or are you just going to wait until he comes back?
I'm the offensive coordinator so I get to focus on the guys that are out here practicing and getting ready to go. Obviously, every night when I go to bed, I'll say a little prayer that Ben's a fast healer.
Re: Beliefs that Batch's skill-set may be a better fit for this offense:
Were you just here a second ago? [Laughs] I just said it's not this offense. Byron's the guy. Byron's in there and we're going to cater to Byron's strengths, no different than we cater to Emmanuel Sanders' and [Maurkice] Pouncey's and all the guys that are out there. Really, when I say that it's not a system, it's not a system. I think it's a way that I've been brought up to coach and a way you maximize the player's you have. You better play to their strengths. When Byron's in there, we're going to do our best to cater to his strengths and he has a lot of them. It's the same with Charlie. Charlie has a lot of great strengths also.
Is it imperative to keep Leftwich from getting hit?
I think it's always going to be at the top of the list of keeping people off our quarterback. As you saw in the game last week, really when you went through that game, our quarterbacks took very few hits and the one that Ben took, unfortunately, was one of the few times this year. He started backwards, got in trouble, as opposed to just running or throwing it away and it caused an issue. We had a couple mental breakdowns that caused a couple hits on Byron. Other than that, I thought up front we did a terrific job of protecting, and the quarterbacks did a great job of getting rid of the football, all but one play. This week it will be no different. We don't want hits on our quarterback. We don't want sacks. We don't want minus plays. We've done a better job of that as the year has gone on and the less minus plays you have, whether it comes through a sack, a minus run or a penalty, the less yardage you have to make up. That's always at the top of the list.
Do you have to do anything to get the belief in the rest team this week?
No, I think Coach [Tomlin] spelled it out at the beginning of the week. This is what we're doing and this is how we're doing it. It gives everybody a chance, the entire team, staff, coaches, all of us, to kind of plan accordingly and say, "This is what we're doing." I think that's been a great thing by him and I think these guys will respond. Like I said, Byron doesn't have to be Ben or more than what he is. It goes the same for everybody else. Everyone just has to do their job the way that we're coaching it. We need to execute, protect the football and we'll make good things happen.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeauHow has QB Joe Flacco changed over the years?He has just gotten better. He's always been good. He has a tremendously strong arm, is a plenty good enough athlete and strong enough to get out of pressure and scramble for a first down. He can keep the drive going. I have a lot of respect for him and their offense. He just matured as you would expect a good quarterback to do.What has he been doing differently to avoid getting sacked?I think he just has a good feel of what we call pocket presence. He can adjust in the pocket, and if he has to, he can get out and scramble. He had a big scramble against Cleveland on a big third-and-12 or 15. He got out of it and made the first down. It was a very key play late in the game. We hope that sack number is up at least one or two after this game.Since Troy Polamalu is out, is Lawrence Timmons the guy you can use to do different things?|Yeah, he actually plays Troy's old position on third downs. He has done that for several years now. He is a versatile player. He can play in the middle of the defense and on the edge. Last year he probably started six games for us at outside linebacker. He did a great job for us. He can play coverage on the tight end in third-down situations. He is a tremendously talented athlete and we are lucky to have him.Even though Timmons has been in the league for six years he is still young. Do you see him still growing?I think so. He told me that he was one of the top offensive prospects coming out of high school. I used to deny that. But after that run he made on Monday night, I think he has a point.Re: Coach Keith Butler saying Timmons plays at a Pro Bowl level:I agree with Coach Butler. I think he has been playing at a Pro Bowl level for several years now. Fortunately for us, he's had some pretty good competition at linebacker on this team. I think he can step out there in any combative situation and compete and play well, whether it is with All-Pros, as he has to do every Sunday against the best in the NFL.Re: Flacco being better at home than on the road, for instance he beat Pittsburgh here last season:He sure did. It was close. He has beaten us several times at the end and we've been fortunate to beat them a few times at the end. That's the kind of games we play. I don't put much stock in home and away from home. If you have a good quarterback and a good offense, it's going to come down to what we do on defense. We have to contain him and not let him make the big plays and fight it out.If healthy, is Ryan Clark a big key to doing that?He is a big key for us every week, especially without Troy back there. Ryan is the communicator and really knows the defense and the players around him. He almost assures that we are never lined up improperly.Re: Recent success on defense:We had some players that missed all of training camp and all the coaching sessions. We had quite a few younger players that were taking on a larger role. I think they are growing and some of the guys that are coming back in are getting better reactions to the football. The only way you can get ready to play football is to play football. But a team should get better as they go through the year. We hope to have a lot of improvement. We sure need to get better and we are working on it.Where is Ray Rice the most dangerous?Up until this year, the last two years, he's led the team in rushing and receiving yards. He's been a two-edged sword. He is still doubly dangerous. He is not leading them in receiving yards this year but he is in rushing. He is one of those rare players that can take over a game in one or two snaps. You must be aware of him every time he is in there.Which Ravens' offense do you think will show up this weekend?This is the NFL. Nobody is going to be great every Sunday, but if you look at their record it will tell you that they are playing at a high caliber week-in and week-out. I expect them to have a really strong offense that we are going to have to defend to give our defense a good chance to win.How does this rivalry match up in NFL history?**It's one of the all-time best rivalries. It really is. The games that we play, there is always something riding on the games for the most part, whether it's in the regular season or the playoffs. It's a great rivalry. I think it will be a great game.