STEELERS AT BROWNS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2008 AT CLEVELAND BROWNS STADIUM - KICKOFF 8:15 P.M. CONFERENCE CALLS
HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN
(On his appreciation of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry)- "It probably doesn't take a second go-around to appreciate it, it's one of the unique rivalries in this league. I was just saying to somebody the other day it's special for a lot of reasons, but probably one of the most unique things about it is the close proximity of the two cities and the fact that this is a bus trip. I can't tell you I've been involved with too many bus trips in the NFL."
(On the Steelers' 3-4 defense)- "It's both (schemes and personnel) and on top of that, we've got great continuity in the defensive coaching staff and among the core players that make it work. When you look at guys like Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, James Farrior and Larry Foote, those guys on the front who have been a part of that front for many years, anytime you have that kind of continuity, you have a chance to be pretty good."
(On Ben Roethlisberger's health)- "I am (concerned) but no more concerned than I would be with anybody that played the quarterback position on any team that I've been involved with. It kind of comes with territory. You look around the National Football League and it is sobering. That's what this game is about and it reminds you of the nature of this game. This guy plays and plays to win, he's a competitor and some of the things that allow him to make splash plays also put him in harms way. But that's who he is and I'm sure, to a degree, some of the great ones have had characteristics in their playing personalities that has put them in harms way, guys like Brett Favre and so forth. It comes with the territory, we do the best we can in terms of keeping him clean but the protection of our quarterback is an eleven-man job for our offense."
(On the Browns being the team to beat in the AFC North)- "They were a 10-6 team, they won 10 games last year and they had some impressive free agent acquisitions in the offseason. You've got to acknowledge that. I think that one thing that permeates throughout this building is that we've got a great deal of respect for those guys over there, players and coaches, and we know what they're capable of. It's going to be a tall task to go in there on Sunday night and perform well enough to win."
(On the Steelers getting into the Browns' heads)- "This is a 'what have you done for me lately' league. Reputation and resume is a dangerous thing. I wasn't a part of those nine straight victories, I'm sure a lot of guys over on that side weren't a part of those nine straight defeats. That's old news as far as we're concerned, we're worried about the present and what lies ahead."
(On if losing Sean Jones is comparable to him losing Troy Polamalu)- "I guess they're better equipped to answer what he means to them than I am. I know that he's a quality player, but injury is a part of this game, particularly at this level. The philosophy that we subscribe to is that the level of expectation doesn't change and I know Romeo Crennel and I'm sure he subscribes to the same approach. They'll put eleven on the field and that standard expectation won't change for them."
(On James Harrison)- "Part of what makes James James is that he is a ridiculous worker. He's a guy that's got great work ethic, both on the field and off, and how he prepares himself mentally, what he does and takes his body through physically, all those things point to him being a guy on the rise. I know that he's applying pressure to himself to be better than he was a year ago and I think he's capable of it."
(On special teams preparation for containing Josh Cribbs)- "We had our issues in kick coverage and those two returns (last year) were a part of it. We're just looking to get better and we're always going to be doing that, not necessarily in reaction to specific plays but just our general feeling about where we are as a team. That was a phase of our football that needs improvement. Josh Cribbs is a special player and his resume speaks for itself and we know what he's capable of and we expect to see him on Sunday night."
(On Anthony Smith)- "Anthony is doing well since he got back from his injury. He missed quite a bit of training camp and some preseason games due to injury. Since that time, he's done some nice things and he's really coming along pretty well."
(On Nick Eason and Orpheus Roye)- "Nick has really done some nice things, I think when you talk about continuity earlier, you see it in his play. He's going into year two and he's got a level of understanding about what we expect from him, about the techniques that we teach. I think he's in better shape than he was a year ago and he's earned an opportunity to contribute. I think that he's a valued member of this team and he's taken advantage of those opportunities. Orpheus is practicing extremely hard for us, biding his time and waiting for his opportunity to contribute, we believe that he's a guy that can. I know that he makes Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays tough on our offense at this point because they're getting a quality look from a veteran professional football player."
(On the challenges of playing a varied schedule)- "We try to make it a non-issue to be quite honest with you. Those are things that we can't control. We can't control what time we play, the league does that, so we make it a non-issue and we tend to focus on the things that we can, and that's our level of preparation. When we do take the field, we'll be ready to play."
(On Ben Roethlisberger's toughness)- "It's tough to talk about his toughness without talking about his competitive spirit and I think they're on in the same. He's a top-flight competitor, he plays to win, he's big, strong and mobile. He has a bunch of physical talents but his mental approach to the game and competing I think is what makes him who he is."
QUARTERBACK BEN ROETHLISBERGER
(On if he has any doubts about playing Sunday)- "Today is going to be a good mental day for me, watching and learning about the blitzes and how the new plays will be put in. That will be a very above the shoulders productive day today. We take it one day at a time."
(On having the Browns number)- "It doesn't mean anything to us. It's a new year, new team and we're coming out trying to get this win. I think both teams know how important this win is and this game, it's going to be a good one. It always is, every time we play each other and I expect nothing different this time."
(On the Steelers' offensive line)- "It's great. I know they loved, I loved, we all loved that people were talking bad about them because that just fuels their fire and makes them work that much harder. I was hoping that people would say that because I knew how talented, athletic and determined they were. They've done a heck of a job so far in game one and I know they look forward to continuing to try and play well. It's a big challenge this week, they know it, we all know it because of how good and big the Browns defensive front seven is."
(On how he has grown as a quarterback)- "I feel a lot more comfortable out there, I feel like I'm a better quarterback all around. I think that I understand this offense, even though it is a little bit different of an offense, I understand this offense better than I ever understood the last one. I have more input, more understanding what defense they're doing and I really feel that I've grown a lot and matured as a quarterback, especially in this offensive system."
(On being conscious of Kamerion Wimbley on the field)- "He's not the only one, but it always seems like he's right there in my face and I see his number a lot, but that's a credit to how good he is as a player. We have to be aware of all the players on defense for the Browns. Everyone talks about how good their front seven is, but they're bringing blitzes from the secondary with safeties and corners, so we have to be aware of where everybody is and the size and athleticism that they bring. It's going to be good."
(On the Browns receiving a lot of preseason hype)- "I think it's a statement game because it's a divisional game and it's the first one for both teams and I think that's important and both teams view it as such. You look at them and I believe they have six or seven Pro-Bowlers on the Browns, plus all the additions that they made in free agency and in the draft and it's a very powerful team. They are the head of the class in the AFC North right now and since no one has played, they still are. So we're going to come out and go take our best shot."
(On him being the most sacked quarterback in the NFL the past two years)- "People make such a big deal about last year with the sacks and to tell you the truth, I've felt better this offseason than I ever have, injury-wise. I didn't have any lingering injuries, my knees felt good, shoulders, elbows, ankles, everything felt good. I don't think it really took too much of a toll on my body, thank goodness."
(On facing a 3-4 defense in practice)- "It definitely helps. As a quarterback, I'd rather play against a 4-3 because it's a little bit easier to see everything but going against our defense every day and seeing them and all their blitzes really helps to see what other defenses are going to do. Hopefully, no matter what the Browns throw, we've already seen it at least once at some point, but you never know. It definitely helps a little bit though."
(On playing well in Ohio)- "I think all my friends wouldn't let me live it down if I didn't. You do a few extra steps to win in your home state."