STEELERS VS RAVENS MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2008 AT HEINZ FIELD - KICKOFF 8:30 P.M**
STEELERS CONFERENCE CALLS
HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN
On the success the Ravens have had this season:"I think, more than anything, is that they're 2-0 and they're playing to their strengths. They're dominating time of possession, 37 minutes to 23 on average, over the first two games. They've run the ball 90 times in two games. That's more than we've run it in three games, and we run it more than most. The punter [Sam Koch] is doing a nice job; he's a 44-yard dead average. And they're playing great defense. They've got the No. 1 defense in the world. So, you put those things together, and they're playing their brand of football, and they're 2-0."
On if the biggest rivalry the Steelers have is with the Ravens:"Well, you know we've got some big rivalries in this division. We think the Cleveland one is pretty big, too, but I'd be hard-pressed to pick one over the other."
On what makes it a great rivalry:"I think it's the people involved. That's a dynamic group over there, led by some strong-willed people. I believe that we have the same here, and I think it creates for an interesting matchup."
On if the war of words between players is good or bad for the game:"I think more than anything, people pay attention to the war of words and they miss the game. The people that you're talking about [Bart Scott and Hines Ward] play the game with great passion, they play it the way it's supposed to be played, and they're great competitors. I tend to focus on that, whether I'm talking about Hines or Bart Scott, or whoever else is involved in it. I mean, these guys play, and they play with great emotion, and I appreciate that element of it."
On the Steelers' offensive line play against the Eagles:"I think to say anything other than the fact that Philly did a nice job would be a discredit to them. That needs to be said first, but from our standpoint there were a lot of things we could have done better, both players and coaches, and we acknowledge that. We're about the business of making those corrections this week, and all we can do is swallow it whole and prepare for our next opportunity to perform, which is Monday night."
On Steelers rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall:"He's a very talented guy. You know, that's a daunting task, getting your first opportunity for significant playing time versus that defense. Everybody knows what they're capable of. But no question, he's capable and ready. If you look around the league, there's a lot of his peers getting their opportunities, and he hadn't gotten his primarily because he plays behind a guy like Willie Parker. So he gets his this week, and we're looking forward to him hopefully taking advantage of it."
On if Mendenhall starting changes his game plan:"No, it does not."
WIDE RECEIVER HINES WARD
On if the Ravens' defense looks more rejuvenated than it did last season:"Yes, they do. They're healthy. The two starting corners [Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle] are playing, and they're playing well. All around, everybody's just swarming to the ball. That's why they're ranked pretty high in total defense, just because all the guys are out there are healthy and out on the field."
On if the Ravens are the Steelers' biggest rival:"Yes. There's no question about it. I mean, for the past couple of years it's either been Baltimore or Pittsburgh winning the division, and it's just been that natural respect for one another. But there's no love lost between each other. The rivalry itself is just based off of the way we play against each other. It's always been a physical game, and regardless of records or whatnot, we know going into the game it's always going to be a tough one."
On rookie RB Rashard Mendenhall:"He's a promising rookie. Just like any rookie, he's excited to get his opportunity. And yes, that's unfortunate what happened to Willie [Parker], but in this business when one guy goes down, the next man has to go in there. We can't lose a beat, so the expectation level is going to stay the same with Rashard in there. We've just got to go out and make sure we execute better than we did last week."
On if their game plan will change this week:"No, not necessarily. Our offense is not built predicated on one guy. We're going to run what we run and what we do best. We're going to try to run and set up play action, and see if that works. And if not, we're going to make plays in the passing game."
On if the "bad blood" between the teams is exaggerated or real:"Every game film I watch, you can just see… When Baltimore played Cleveland last week, they were just more physical than Cleveland, from the whole, from top to the bottom. The secondary was being physical with their receivers. The D-line and the linebackers were being physical. Ray Lewis was still going out there knocking people's heads off. All in all, we know it's going to be a physical game. We're not going out there to try to hurt each other, you know, end somebody's career. But, at the same time we know you've got to strap up your helmet and get ready to put on a physical game."
On if he remembers the threat he received from LB Bart Scott last season:"Yeah, he threatened to kill me after the game. I got a big laugh out of it."
On if he's excited to see Scott in Monday's game:"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. He's a great ballplayer, and any time you get competitive, it's always great to go out there and compete. I'll go out there and smile at him a couple of times on the field."
On if it's hard to not take what Scott says personally:"No, not really. I mean, out on the field you're going to have a war of words. Guys are going to talk about your mother, talk about anything to try to get up under your skin. We played with one of the best of them in the league – Joey Porter. It's just words: 'Words don't hurt me,' or whatever. I'm pretty sure if I see Bart out in the street, outside of football, I'm pretty sure he's not going to kill me."
On if he has any special message for Scott:"Tell him I said, 'Hello.'"
On the difficulty of a quarterback making his first road start at Heinz Field:"It's going to be very difficult. Between the two teams, we're similar in many ways. We try to run the ball, we have great defense, Baltimore has a great defense [and] special teams is about the same. The difference is in the quarterback play. Ben [Roethlisberger] has proven that he's been a winner, and the young quarterback in Baltimore [Joe Flacco], he's 2-0 right now. So, this is going to be his first challenge coming into hostile territory on primetime. I'm pretty sure, defensively, we're going to try to contain him, and try to put it in his hands to try to win the ball game. We've just got to go out there and execute. If we go out there and execute, and not turn the ball over, then it's going to be a great game to watch."