STEELERS vs. RAVENSAFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2009KICKOFF IS AT 6:30 P.M.HEINZ FIELD
RAVENS QUOTES - Monday, Jan. 12Player Quotes - click on link
Head Coach John Harbaugh
"Good to see everybody, thanks for coming. We had a little of meetings today, and guys are obviously beginning to get prepared for the Steelers, and we're excited to play. I want to give our, really everybody in the organization, a lot of credit for the opportunity to play in this game. I think it's a lot of work by a lot of people, top to bottom, sideways, all throughout the organization. People who work here in the building, in the cafeteria, we just have a special group here and I think they've done a great job – coaches, players, trainers, equipment guys, up and down in the building – just a lot of thanks and congratulations to them for the opportunity to play in this game, and I know we carry their hopes in there with us."
Is there, for lack of a better term, any comfort level in playing a familiar opponent like Pittsburgh, when the alternative was a San Diego team that you don't see that often?
"I don't know if you'd ever say playing the Pittsburgh Steelers is comfortable, and I know you're not saying that. So no, in that sense. But we do know them; they know us. We've had a chance to get on the film study, and they're the Steelers that we know and love, and we're getting ready to play them."
Over the years, teams have used different situations or stories as motivation. Can you elaborate on O.J. Brigance and the impact he's had on all of you, and how maybe you're using that story for motivation?
"I think if we framed it just the way you framed it, it wouldn't have as much meaning. It's not something we're using, and I don't think it's motivating per se. It just is. O.J. Brigance has been in this organization for many years, won a championship here obviously, carried on the player development role, has been widely acclaimed as the best in the league for many years, is continuing in that role. Our guys have real close relations with him. Obviously, he's in a battle right now [fighting ALS]. And in many ways, it's a spiritual battle, it's a battle of faith, and that's something that's resonated with our whole building – players especially, coaches especially, and everybody else in the building. It's just a powerful thing. It's something that means so much to us, and he's practical about it. He's on the front lines, leading us and leading our guys every single day."
What about your injury situation? How are guys healing?
"They are. They're healing. They're getting ready to go."
Do you expect everyone to be able to play?
Is there a concern that CB Samari Rolle might not be able to go?
"We're concerned about a lot of guys, and Samari is one of them. Samari has a chance to get back there, and we'll see what happens as the week goes on."
Can you talk about the job that Ozzie Newsome did during the offseason to improve the depth of the team?
"Ozzie Newsome has obviously had a lot of success in the NFL in about every way you can have success in the NFL. Maybe this is one of the finest jobs he's done. You guys can look at that and evaluate that for yourselves. Not just from the player personnel acquirement part of it – that's been a big part – but obviously we built depth underneath our football team through the draft, through the Jimmy Leonhards of the world, the Fabian Washingtons, and all the different methods – Willie Anderson, all the things that have been talked about and documented. But, just being able to work with him, and him working with me and working with our coaches, and being the leader he is, and working with our player, he's… I don't know if there can be a better one. He's got to be the best in the league, and I've seen it first hand."
How much of the extra aggression, and even hostility, towards the Steelers is perceived and how much is real?
"It's two football teams that play a certain brand of football. It's physical football, it's fundamental, it's a very disciplined style of football, and we respect it. I believe they respect us. It's the AFC North. We take a lot of pride in that the two teams from the AFC North are playing in the championship game. I feel, I think that's the way our guys feel about."
Can you respect them and still be hostile?
"Of course. Of course. I don't know if hostile is the right word. They're playing in a championship game. That's football. It's going to be a physical match, just like we had last week. So that's the beauty of the NFL."
Is there a challenge in facing a team for the third time? How many new wrinkles do you put in and how much do you keep?
"Well that'd be tactical, right? I'm sure there will be new wrinkles on both sides, and I'm sure there will be a lot of the same on both sides. That's just anytime. When we played the Titans for the second time there were new wrinkles, there was a lot of the same. So, it's going to be a football game. Whoever plays the best, makes the important plays, is going to be the team that wins."
To try to finish up on the injury situation, can you tell us about LB Terrell Suggs at all?
"He's got a shoulder injury, and he's working on getting back. He had an MRI. You know, I'm not going to sit here and say that it's positive and we're happy about it, and we're just going to have to see how it goes. It's going to be close. He's going to work real hard to try to get back, and that's all we know."
Did Rex Ryan say how he felt about his interviews yesterday?
"I think he felt good about the opportunity to do it, and obviously felt good about the job he did in the interview. But we knew that. And Rex, I don't think he prepared for it at all. I think he just went in there and was himself, presented a program. Rex will be a tremendous head coach in the National Football League for whoever is smart enough to hire him right now. We're hoping he stays. We're hoping he's our defensive coordinator next year. But, that's a great opportunity for him, either one of those spots. We'll just have to see what happens."
We saw RB Ray Rice on Saturday. Are we going to see more of him this Sunday?
"We'll see. Ray will be ready to go. He's healthy, he'll practice, and we're looking forward to seeing how much he plays as well."
The Steelers and the Ravens might have the best linebackers in the league. What differentiates your linebackers from the Steelers'?
"I think these two teams, maybe they do have the two best. You know, we hate to make comparisons. But I think that they're both very effective, they're both very physical, and they play probably for the two best defenses in the NFL. Maybe that's what makes them, maybe that's the backbone of any defense. What else can you say?"
How do you explain the success teams are having on the road in the postseason? What are the differences for you, when you were in Philly and you had home playoff games, vs. now where you're playing them all on the road?
"Well, you know, over the years we've had home playoff games and road playoff games, and championship games and all that other stuff. And really, in the end it doesn't end up mattering. What ends up mattering is what happens between the lines. The crowd has an impact to what extent? They can't play the game, and that's what we're looking forward to, and that's what's happened. The teams that have played the best, have made the critical plays at the critical moments, have been the teams that have won the games. To explain it beyond that, we wouldn't have an explanation for it."
Why does the slogan "What's Our Name?" resonate with the players?
"I think you could ask those guys that more. I'd rather not get into that. But, it's something that's been special to me my whole life, because it's something that our dad taught us when we were growing up. The story, obviously, is about Muhammad Ali and what he stood for. Our guys could probably explain that to you."
You've been hearing it your whole life?
The team hasn't had many personal foul calls lately, but this will be an intense game. What do they need to do to keep their emotions in check?
"Well, we're not going to keep our emotions in check, but our emotions are going to be focused, and they're going to be directed. They're going to be directed at what needs to be done to win a football game. We did a nice job of that this past week, and our guys have done a nice job of that, really, for most of the season. Our guys are smart. They're disciplined. They understand what it takes to win a football game, and I'm sure they'll do that again on Sunday."
With all the hoopla, do you turn the players loose on that as a positive and embrace it, or is it just another football game?
"It's both. I think our guys will be excited about the attention and all the media attention that you see, and that'll be around all week. Our guys can handle that. They're mature guys. But it's just a football game, at the same time, and it'll be played for 60 minutes on a field that's 100 yards long. We've got to get ready starting Wednesday for the game, and that's really what it boils down to."
What was the team's level of confidence that they would be here at this time?
"We always thought we'd be here. I think our guys feel that way. It's not something we want to back away from. Our guys have a lot of confidence. We think we've been a good football team. When you win on the road, you take a good football team. When you win at home, you have a good football team. That's what gives you a chance to be successful."
How much different are the Steelers with RB Willie Parker back and healthy?
"Well, I don't know how much different they are. They run the same plays, but obviously he's an effective running back and a dangerous running back. He's a slasher. He hits the hole quickly. Obviously, we're going to have to be at our best to defend the running game. Their offensive line is playing really well, so it'll be a big challenge for us."
How impressed were you with the Steelers' third quarter yesterday when they limited the Chargers' time of possession?
"Seventeen seconds? Is that what it was? That's pretty impressive. I think San Diego might've had a return or something in there, and then obviously they kept the ball. Has it ever been done before? The Steelers are very good. They took control of that football game, and they dominated the football game in the second half."
Are you glad you have a shot to make up for the WR Santonio Holmes touchdown at the end of the last Steelers game?
"No, we don't think we have anything to make up for. We're proud of the way we played in those two games. Obviously, if we'd have won one or two of those games, we'd have been the team with the division championship. We didn't. They did. Therefore, we're going to Pittsburgh, so we're looking forward to it."
How many times did you watch that touchdown catch and how many times will you show it to the team this week?
"You mean whether he crossed the line or whatever? We don't even care about that. We'll watch the game. We'll watch both games. We'll watch all their recent games. We've broken down every one of their games just like they've broken down all our games. But, as far as whether the ball hit the plane or not, we couldn't care less. That's ancient history."
How proud of the team are you for winning the turnover battle the past two weeks? Could you see one turnover being the difference in the game this week?
"It doesn't matter whether you're playing in the AFC Championship Game or the first game of the season or preseason – turnovers are important. Our guys have done a nice job of protecting the football, obviously, and getting turnovers on defense. We've done that all year. When we do well with that, we tend to win, and that could be said probably for any football team. So it's going to be important."
Were you jealous of Pittsburgh watching them get to play fresh after a week off?
"No, we don't care. We couldn't care less. That doesn't go through any of our minds. We've got plenty of time to rest. We had a whole day off yesterday. [Laughter] They played and we didn't."
Are there extra emotions or nerves going into this game?
"You feel really pleased for and proud of the people in the building – our players and our coaches and everyone else – that you have a chance to compete in a game like this, really. As a head coach, you feel like, 'You know what? We have a chance to do something and compete in a real special football game.' Other than that, it is the next football game up, and that's the one we're getting ready to play."
How did you plan your schedule after losing your bye?
"Right after it happened, we talked a little bit about it. The idea was that we were going to need to do something when the time came. We felt good about the fact that we had an opportunity to prepare for a week and practice for a week to improve our football team because we had a good week of practice that week. But we knew we were going to have to do something later. So when the time came, we just decided how we wanted to set it up."
Did those changes accomplish what they needed to?
"Yeah, as it came, we shortened up some practices, or we changed up some drills, or gave them an extra meeting off or two. But it wasn't anything dramatic."
What did you think about seeing fans welcome the team home at the airport?
"You know, it was interesting. [We're] talking about getting off the plane. We were coming down the ramp. We go through the tunnel, and we're coming down the ramp. We couldn't see the main concourse there, but all of a sudden we heard a roar, and it was like being in a stadium. It was like being in M&T Bank Stadium. It was loud. It was echoing through the halls, was it not? Our guys were just like, 'What is that?' Because you expect to see maybe 30, 40 fans out there. There were thousands of fans in there ramped on all the different levels. I thought our guys did a real nice job of going over and high-fiving them and signing some autographs and just being a part of it. It was great feeling. It was neat to see the connection to the team and the fans."
Sometimes players can get jaded, but does something like that really get to the players?
"It was emotional, you know? The fans really touched us. They really did. That's something I'll never forget, and I don't think our players will, either."
Do you have a plan in place as to who you would hire if Rex Ryan leaves? Would you hire from within?
"That's way ahead of our thinking right now. As a head coach, you're always formulating possibilities. I'll give you this: Rex's total focus and my total focus and our team's total focus is going to be on the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that's it. Everything else can take care of itself when the time comes."
How will weather conditions play a part in the game plan?
"Well, we think we're built for that. The team we're playing probably feels like they're built for it, too. So it'll be two teams pretty comfortable in those conditions on that field. We think we can play in those conditions pretty well."
What are your thoughts on Colts coach Tony Dungy's retirement and his accomplishments?
"He doesn't know this, but I feel like I've known him ever since I was in high school and he was in high school. He played at Jackson Parkside High School, and I was about five or six years behind him at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. So he was a big star in our league. We were in the same league. Then, he went on to be a star at Minnesota, and then you just kind of watch a guy come up through the ranks. He was gracious enough over the years, whenever we might cross paths at some kind of function, to have a conversation with a young coach. Then, when we got the job, the next day he called. We had a chance to talk on the phone. We've talked somewhat regularly ever since. We'd consider him somewhat of an advisor and a friend. I think his impact on the league has been something transforming. He's changed the way sometimes coaches view the position and how they relate to the players and the type of values they put in place for the football team. I think he's changed the face of the league in some ways, and it's ever-changing that way right now for the good because of Tony Dungy."