HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
How do you prepare for the Steelers differently if Ben (Roethlisberger) is in or not?
I think the main thing you do is you try to prepare for their offense. They essentially run the same offense and they just kind of lean it in certain directions, like you would for any player that plays in any position if they were to replace someone else that was in there. It was obviously tough last year because we prepared for Ben all week and then we got Dennis (Dixon). That was different and he got us on a couple but we are prepared for Ben. We assume he is going to be in there. Everything I have read, mainly from your media, is that it looks like he is going to play and we are just going to take it that way. That's what we expect.
What does this rivalry mean to your team and your city?
I think it is great for our team and great for our city. Two great football towns, two pro football towns with a lot of history and tradition. The two franchises go back even more years if you look at the old Browns so there is tremendous tradition here. From a perspective of now, I think our players just really appreciate playing those guys. It is a team we follow, obviously. We know them, they know us. It is a team that we really like to play because we think so much of them and there is just so much to say.
Best rivalry in the NFL?
Without question, I am probably biased but I don't think you need to be biased to think that. I don't think there is another one that is in the ball park.
Ben's record against Baltimore is 7-2 as a starter and the Steelers are 0-5 without him. What does that say about him?
I would guess that his record is probably better against all teams then their record without him. That means a lot to him. He is a play-maker. He is one of the premier quarterbacks in the league. He has very unique style. I think they do a great job of building their offense around his style. The players he plays with understand him very well. They know how to make plays around him. I think they are built well together.
Will the game be dulled at all with concerns of avoiding big hits?
No, I've never looked at it that way. I don't think it will be any fewer big hits, it will just be lower hits. I am in support of players' safety and I think I have heard Mike (Tomlin) say the same thing. So no, I don't think it will be any less physical by any stretch.
Re: Ed Reed and how you got by without him and how good you are with him:
We played good pass defense the first few weeks. I think we played disciplined football back there and that really doesn't change with who we have back there but Ed brings an element that very few players bring to the table. He has tremendous athletic ability. He has really really special hands and body control so he can make plays that most guys can't make, he covers more ground, but really more than any he really understands the game, understands the defenses and understands the scheme he is up against. He is a future Hall of Famer and that makes a big difference.
What do you think about the crack down on hits and did you have a hard time with the transition?
No, we were dealing with it last year because we got hit with a couple last year. I think we understand the rule. The thing that I am for is consistency. That is the main thing, consistency of the calls. There is no question that they will be consistent in the fine system because they have a chance to go back and look at the tape and they make those determinations. But on the field I have seen a lot of inconsistency and obviously it is tough because it happens fast, but that is the main thing you hope for as a coach or a player.
Are you satisfied with (Joe) Flacco's development to this point?
I don't think we are ever satisfied with anything. We are content, we are pleased and excited about him as a player and he makes a big difference for us. He is our quarterback and we need him to play well and he has played well but obviously he knows that he can play better and better and that is what we are striving for.
Do you hope be becomes the leader of the team even with his low-key guy?
Yeah, he is a leader with his personality. If you talk to our guys they really respect him and Joe runs our offense. He is a young guy, but he is a smart guy, a hard working guy and they respect him and he leads within his own personality.
(Terrell) Suggs said that James Harrison is being red-flagged by the refs and do you feel like any of your guys have been marked or red flagged in any way?
Well you know if I did I sure wouldn't say so and I don't think consciously that happens. I really don't believe that. I think everybody does the best they can, including the officials. I guess that is just the way it's got to be and I don't know how much better you can do than that.
The thoughts on how well your brother (Jim Harbaugh) has done at Stanford and do you think there will be a day where both of you are coaching in the NFL?
Wow, I hope so. I am excited. I am so proud of Jim and what he has done at Stanford. Really to look at what he has done there is absolutely incredible. Nobody would have predicted it. Not just the fact that they are number four in the country, but hey, they may be the best team in the country and if we had a playoff we may find out. So I am an advocate of the playoff system. Whether he is in the NFL or stays at Stanford, I am proud of him. I know one thing, it would be a heck of a game. We wouldn't be playing against each other, thank God, it would be some real players playing against each other. He's got a little better playing career than I ever had so I would probably be in trouble if that was the case.
Re: College playoff system and will we ever see one and how do you go about it:
I don't know, it's like they talk about opening the books and the CBA and these others things or whatever, and I want to open the books and they keep talking well it's money, money, well I want to know who is getting the money. I am sure a playoff system would generate huge revenues for college athletic programs. It wouldn't be cutting the men's wrestling team and the women's swimming team, we would have a great advantage and the money would be going where it belongs. It would be going to the colleges and not to whoever is running these bowl games. Let's do that, let's file the money and find out what the heck is going on because it is a joke. It is hypocritical. The fact that they are going to talk about the student athlete and yet we have basketball players taking a week and going to Alaska or playing at 3 o'clock in the morning, come on. A football team plays on the weekend. I just think it is comical that they don't have a playoff in college football.
Is it worth your brother pursuing?
I think he loves college football and he wants what is best. I don't know. You will have to ask him. I am pretty sure he goes for the playoff. We haven't had that conversation lately. But line it up. Can you imagine Stanford playing Boise State in the first round? It would be great.
Is he planning on staying at Stanford for a long time?
I really don't know. I don't think he knows, but you aren't going to get me to comment on that.
LINEBACKER TERRELL SUGGS
Re: Facing the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger playing versus not playing:
When he's playing they are definitely one of the best teams in the NFL, the things he's capable of doing, his knowledge of the game. The guy has won two Super Bowls. He is a great quarterback. When he's not in there they tend to shorten their tactics. When you're preparing for him you are going to get certain things and you're not going to get certain things. If it was up to me on whether he sits this one out, just let his boys handle this one.
Re: Playing the Steelers last year with Dennis Dixon as quarterback:
I didn't play that game. I was hurt. But I do remember the mindset. We knew he was capable of making plays with his feet. We knew he was a faster quarterback than Ben. He broke a long one on us last year. That's what the big difference is between Dixon and Ben. But both of those guys can play quarterback.
Re: The way the league is handling the personal foul penalties:
I think they are treating some quarterbacks different than others. Some quarterbacks get the call right away. Some quarterbacks, they don't care. Carson Palmer got hit in his knee in 2005 by you guys. It was an accidental hit. But there was no rule made. Then Tom Brady got hit in 2008. All of a sudden there is a rule and possible suspensions and excessive fines. It is just getting ridiculous. You got this guy, number 92 over there. I think he's kind of red-flagged. Referees are kind of looking for him to see if he breathes on the quarterback wrong. He might get a flag. I think there is definitely some injustice and I think that's where the game has went.
Do you feel sorry for James Harrison?
I don't feel sorry for anybody. I do know they are looking at him more closely than they are looking at anybody else in the league. I think in the referee world they kind of red-flagged him.
Can you band together with your defense and say this is getting out of hand?
Definitely, me as a defender, if you ever played this game you know this game goes 200 miles an hour. You're not thinking about, oh, I can't hit a guy here. I better not lead with my helmet then. You're just playing football. In playing football there is two things, getting it done and there's not getting it done. Great defensive guys get the job done by any means necessary. I really don't care about the fines. I think they're stupid and I think there is injustice and it's fairing to the offensive side of the ball, but I don't care. I'm always going to play my way.
Re: Playing against Hines Ward:
I remember, I think it was last year or two years ago he caught me switching, and he hit me. I was running to the ball. So I think I owe him one, but as far as this game goes, people can say these two teams hate each other. I think it's just a strong respect, kind of a dislike. We respect that this is the most physical game of the year. We are the two most physical teams in the NFL. And we are the only two that play this style of football. So that's why the stakes are so high. We really love to go and get after each other.
Is this Steelers' offensive line as good as ones in the past?
I am not sure. That's something for you all to assess. I don't really like getting into all of that. I just know you guys are a great team. You can whatever you want. You're 8-3. Their personnel, when I line up I see black and gold, Pittsburgh Steelers. I know it's that pack-a-lunch type thing.
Re: Max Starks:
I think he's solid. I think he is a premier left tackle in this league. I think he gets overlooked. I think he's a really strong and solid left tackle. He won two Super Bowls, so you can't take anything from that.
Re: The hard hits being less likely this week because the NFL is cracking down on hits:
It's going to be 200 miles an hour. It's December football, and it's Ravens versus Steelers. It doesn't matter what the two teams' record was in the past. It is always a bar fight. It was always a gang fight. I think the two teams love that especially when you got a receiver that does all the fighting and all the scrapping. That says a lot. You don't see a lot of that out of receivers today.
Re: Ben and Ed Reed being out for the first matchup:
Any time you lose your starting quarterback, had it been different if they lost Ben and we lost Joe Flacco or they lost Troy Polamalu, who knows? They play two different positions. You can't really account for Ben Roethlisberger. He's a great quarterback. He's won two Super Bowls. He's capable of making plays when a play can't be made. Regardless of what happens he's going to be in there on Sunday and I am looking forward to seeing him. And we are both going to play some football.
Where does Ben fit in the quarterbacks that get calls and those that don't?
I don't know. I hope he doesn't get the calls. You know the league has their favorites. One being in Indianapolis, one being up north. I think besides those two anybody is fair game.
Do you think because of Ben's size he is less inclined to get the calls?
Maybe because he is so big and it takes a little bit more to get him down, maybe.
Re: Steelers and Ravens rivalry:
This could be the biggest rivalry in sports. I think in a couple years we passed the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in baseball. It's definitely the biggest rivalry in sports because this is football at its best. It's December and it's going to be cold with two great teams, two teams with great defenses. This rivalry is what everybody is looking for. Then you have it on primetime T.V. so the world can see. And everybody is going to be looking forward to it.
Does the winner of this game win the division?
I think so. I think so because both of us are going to handle our business. It's fair to say the winner of this game is going to win the division.