It will be Steelers-Ravens round two on Sunday night in Baltimore, a matchup of two AFC North teams that always bring out the best in each other.
The Steelers lost the last meeting, just three weeks ago at Acrisure Stadium, when the Ravens were able to run against them, amassing over 200 yards on the ground. Since then, the run defense has been in shutdown mode and Ravens Coach John Harbaugh expects the Steelers defense to bring it this week.
"It's just one of those games," said Harbaugh of the Week 14 performance by the Steelers run defense. "They've played really good run defense the past couple weeks, throughout the course of the season. A very physical front, downhill linebackers, a lot of really good schemes to stop the run. So, we definitely have our work cut out for us."
Two players who are key to that run defense are linebacker Alex Highsmith and Cameron Heyward, who were among who the Ravens were talking about this week.
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Coach John Harbaugh on his relationship with Coach Mike Tomlin:
"We see each other. There's a lot of NFL functions and things like that, so you see all the coaches. Mike and I have a really good relationship. Known each other for quite a while. When I left the University of Cincinnati, he came in. He kind of replaced my spot there, which is crazy to think about. He was younger, but I don't know. He's a heck of a coach and (I) have so much respect for him and what they do."
Harbaugh on if he gets up against coaching against someone like Tomlin:
"We respect the program; we respect everything they do. Mike was a receiver; I was a defensive back. I don't know what kind of a receiver he was back in the day. I might not have been the best defensive back ever, but as I look at him right now, I feel like I'd have a chance to stay with him, I really do. So, I don't know what that means, but is that something that you think anybody would pay to see?"
Linebacker Roquan Smith on the physicality of the Steelers-Ravens game in Week 14:
"It's definitely a physical game, playing those guys. I even remember being a kid watching the games – the Ravens-Pittsburgh game – and seeing then. And I always knew it was a very physical game, and just being out there…I think it's just like any other game, but you definitely feel like there are some slobber-knockers, guys want to run right at you, test your manhood in a sense. But I love that. I live for that."
Center Tyler Linderbaum on what it takes to be successful against the Steelers' defensive front:
"It's a physical front. Out of all the teams we've gone against this year, it's one of the more physical fronts. The things they throw at you, the style they play, and the guys they have makes it a difficult front to go against. But at the end of the day, you've got to focus on the Ravens, focus on what we can control, and I think we did a good job of that the first game; we've just got to carry it over to this next game."
Harbaugh on linebacker Alex Highsmith:
"What a year he's had. He's become one of the premier pass rushers. He has a high number of sacks. They have a lot of great players, but those three pass rushers – they have the two edge players and they've got the defensive end – everyone knows who I'm talking about here. So, those three guys are just elite players in the National Football League. I think for Highsmith to put himself in the category with a T.J. Watt and a Cam Heyward, that's high praise – and he has done that."
Smith on how quarterback Kenny Pickett has matured since they played them:
"If I'm not mistaken, I think he has only played one – last game – since the last time we played him. So, it will be nice to get out there and really get to see him for a full game. I'm excited about the challenge, and what he'll bring to the table. I know he likes to pull it down a little bit. So, we'll see."
Linderbaum on lining up against defensive tackle Cameron Heyward:
"He is a very good player. He's Pro Bowl, All-Pro for a reason. I definitely noticed that when I was going against him. But at the end of the day, I need to focus on my technique – being in the right position, trusting my teammates – and at the end of the day, just play as hard as I can. He'll certainly give you a heck of a challenge, so that's what makes it fun playing the Steelers. They've got guys like him over there and a leader like him over there, so that's why we're going to have to come ready to play on Sunday."
Smith on playing the Steelers in primetime:
"Yes, it will just be another awesome opportunity. It's this week's challenge. We'll welcome those guys here, and we have to do what it takes to get the job done."