STEELERS vs. CHARGERS AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 11, 2009 AT HEINZ FIELD KICKOFF 4:45 P.M. CONFERENCE CALLS**
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
(not made available yet)
Safety Troy Polamalu
What are some of the unique challenges that come with facing a team outside your division for a second time in the same season?
"It's always a chess match playing these playoff games. I've been in the playoffs four times in my career and throughout the playoffs every play seems to mean so much more so the chess match, you're more aware of. We've played San Diego quiet a bit throughout my career here. We're pretty familiar with each other personnel wise. Obviously they've had some coaching changes."
Do the Chargers look different to you than they did two months ago?
"We always knew that they had a big-play offense. We always knew that they were capable of scoring. We always knew that Philip was very efficient as a quarterback so it doesn't really surprise us that they're on this winning streak. We don't really see too much difference other than the fact that they're winning. They're playing more together as a team as far as special teams and defense and their offense cohesively working together."
What is your favorite thing about playing for Dick LeBeau?
"There are a lot of great things about him. Football-wise, it's the fact that he's been battle tested in everything that he's done. He's been a head coach, he's been a position coach, he's been a defensive coordinator but he's also been a player. Nobody has that kind of resume probably ever in this sport. Whenever he tells you something it's always a first-hand experience and it's a very broad point of view as well."
What does he tell you about himself as a player?
"One of the funniest things is in the offseason he up a tape together and said, 'I want to show you guys how we play defense around here.' It was actually a highlight reel of himself. That's what gets guys going is his sense of humor. Sometimes he'll just walk around and say, 'Deshea (Townsend), how many picks do you have in your career? Troy how many do you have? Ryan (Clark), Anthony (Smith)? He names all the DB's and says, 'Oh man, you guys aren't even halfway towards me.' He's not shy about sharing things about his career but he does so in a very amusing manner."
When a team plays your defense a couple times in a year, do they benefit from it more or do you? Who benefits most from a second view of you guys?
"I don't know. The only way to view that would be to see the teams that we've played against more than once in a year and see what our record is against them. I think we've done a pretty good job in our division. Obviously we're very familiar with each other. I guess our past win-loss record against teams we've played twice would tell the story."
Is there one thing more than another that your defense prides itself on?
"Our style is different. We're not an Indianapolis-style defense where we're going to give up a certain amount of yardage and be satisfied giving up three points in the red zone, things like that. Our style of defense is to try to choke out offenses and really not give them any sense of life, not even give them check downs, screens and all those types of things. I think that's more the personality of our defense and the personality of our division and the way that we play defense."
What kind of unique challenges does Darren Sproles present?
"It doesn't seem like they've run anything different when he's been in there. It seems like they run the same plays, they have the same expectations for him. When he's in there he's made a lot of huge plays. It's actually quite amazing. The first time that we played them our coach made a big point that Sproles has made more big plays than LT has this year and we had to be very aware of him when he comes in. We don't see any different challenge when he's in there."
Is Sproles hard to find behind the linemen?
"I played against him in college as well and he juked me and used our defense in college at SC. I don't think it's any different challenge. We've played against Maurice Jones-Drew, obviously who has a little more…he's probably a little heavier than (Sproles)."
How much of your defensive success is what you do and how much of it is how you do it?
"I think they're kind of one in the same for us. Pittsburgh has always had the mentality of just kind of a hardcore defense and choke-'em-out style of defense. That's been the personality of our players, our leaders, our linebackers in particular. We have fun with each other off the field. Our team is very close. Our defense in particular is close. I think what you see on the field is just natural to us. We really trust each other in how we play and how we trust each other off the field. It's just the natural outcome of what you see."
Coming from Los Angeles, what was the translation to Pittsburgh like for you?
"It took time. Coming from LA, you can't actually get any more opposite in culture and weather and every aspect of everything. From white collar to blue collar, from Hollywood to blue collar, from a fur coat in 60 degree weather to below zero weather here. I think that's really unique about this atmosphere is football is such a big part of the Pittsburgh environment that the personality of the team takes on the personality of the city. We're a very blue collar team. Our defense is a very blue collar defense. We approach football and practice with that very same attitude."
Did you get your fingers all the way under the ball on your first quarter interception in Week 11?
"I don't know (laughing)."