Steelers AFC Championship Game Conference Calls

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STEELERS vs. RAVENS AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2009 KICKOFF IS AT 6:30 P.M. HEINZ FIELD

STEELERS CONFERENCE CALLS

Head Coach Mike Tomlin

On whether the two teams' linebackers are similar to each other:"In terms of their production and the way they play the game, absolutely. They're a group that takes a great deal of pride in how they play the game. They play it with great energy, emotion and enthusiasm. In those ways, I think they're very similar."

On if they are the best two groups of linebackers in football:"Well, I'm not ready to get into that argument. I think there are a lot of people that have got arguments for groups. No doubt, they're in the argument because we're still playing. But that's a legitimate group they've got up there in New England with [Jerod] Mayo, [Tedy] Bruschi, [Mike] Vrabel and [Adalius] Thomas."

On whether there is a level of concern trying to beat the Ravens for the third time in a year:"I don't know. I really don't. Not that it's not a daunting task playing this team, but I've always been one to take the approach that each individual performance stands on its own. Whether or not we win this game will be based on how we prepare and how we play this game and not really what's happened in the past."

On if there is anything he has seen that Baltimore does to help create a good turnover margin:"It's not that they do things that are drastically different that other people. They're just more successful at it. I think that everybody that's playing here in the playoffs recognizes that ball security is a big part of staying alive. They've found a way to maintain possession of the ball, and, probably more importantly, they've taken the ball away from people who generally don't turn it over. I think that that's been as impressive as anything."

On whether he has more confidence in the offense since they are coming off a great performance last Sunday:"No. No. Last week's performance is last week's performance. It'd make that previous statement I made untrue. We're just preparing for this one. We had success last week. It was a good performance, but it has no bearing on how we're going to play or prepare this week. We've got to respect that element of it as we prepare."

On if the offense played as well last week as it has all season:"No, I thought we played great in the opener at Houston. I thought that was a spectacular performance."

On what happened after that, if it was injuries or inconsistency:"No, we don't make excuses. The injuries are part of the game. We were able to step into the stadium and execute a plan. The plan put the guys in position to perform, and they delivered."

On how S Troy Polamalu is coming along and if he will be a game-time decision:"No, I don't think it's going to come down to that. He's going to play in the football game. We're just going to monitor him here, particularly here early in the week, to make sure we put him in the best position we can in terms of being at his best on Sunday."

On what makes his defense unique or special compared to other defenses:"I'd probably say the level of consistency. It's not necessarily your ceiling that defines you as a player, as a unit, as a football team. It's your floor. What I mean by that is we're very consistent week in and week out with how we play, very little ups and downs in terms of that. We've had a few great games, but for the most part, we're solid every week. To me, that's as important as what you're capable of being."

On how he tempers the players' enthusiasm throughout the week given that they have an entire week to prepare:"The week is what it is. To temper the enthusiasm is to go against human nature, you know. We acknowledge that that is part of it. It can't consume us as we prepare. Really, we're just going about what we normally do with the understanding that the stakes are high."

On how the offensive line has done this year:"They've been a work in progress. They've, of course, come under some fire, but that comes with this profession. I like the way they work on a daily basis. They don't listen to the elevator music. They believe in one another. They've just continued to grow, and this will be a big game for them here this week."

On what makes Ravens QB Joe Flacco efficient at not turning the ball over and if he has something special planned for Flacco:"You know, I don't know what necessarily makes him special at doing that. That's just who he is. I hear what they say about him and that he has a calm demeanor. I think that works to his favor. But I knew that this guy was going to be a guy… When we played these guys the first time this year, we were up on them, and he took them down the field and sent that game into overtime. I think at that point I realized that we were going to have to deal with this guy for a long time."

On how it will impact the Ravens' defense if they play without CB Samari Rolle and LB Terrell Suggs:"Based on what they've done this far, I would say it's not going to impact them that much at all. I mean that sincerely. They've played without Kelly Gregg. They've played without Chris McAlister, [Dawan] Landry. They just keep rolling guys out, and guys keep playing at a high level."

On whether he looks at this as though it was meant to be for these two teams to be fighting it out for the AFC title:"I don't necessarily get into, 'It was meant to be this way.' I appreciate it. I like the matchup. I like the way these teams play. If you appreciate football, you like that element of it. But it's not destiny or anything of that nature."

On how much he, as someone who has always worked with defense, appreciates what it means to be a Steelers linebacker: "I'm not one."

On the tradition of success at the position that the Steelers linebackers have to uphold:"That'd be true. But I think anytime you have an organization that has the kind of tradition that this organization has, you could say it about a lot of positions – wide receiver, Lynn Swann, [John] Stallworth, Louis Lipps, Hines Ward. I think that's the awesome thing about being in an organization that's had success spanning a lot of years. There have been special players, and there are people that you can compare yourself to and standards that you can hold yourself to that are pretty lofty. I know that our team embraces that."

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