STEELERS at RAVENS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2008 KICKOFF -- 4:15 P.M. **STEELERS CONFERENCE CALLS VS RAVENS
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
On the differences he sees in the Ravens he faced earlier in the season and the team the Steelers will face this Sunday:"They've got the experience of winning seven out of the last eight, so they're playing with a great deal of confidence. Not that they lacked confidence the first time we played them, but they're a cohesive unit that's playing in sync in all three phases."
On how much he is talking to his team about the big picture or is he just focusing on this week's game:"We very rarely talk about the big picture or look at the big picture. We follow the premise that if you focus on what's in front of you, the big picture will take care of itself. And from that standpoint, this week is no different."
On the development of rookie QB Joe Flacco and the Ravens' offense this season:"He's doing like most players would do – he's getting better and more comfortable the more he plays. No question, he's a talent. Shoot, he showed what he was capable of when he drove them the length of the field in the fourth quarter to tie that game up against us. I think he's used that experience and just continued to move forward. It looks like they're just as comfortable with him as he is playing."
On what the mindset of his team is that allowed them to be outplayed by Dallas for most of last Sunday's game and then come back and win:"Dallas is a good team. Games don't always unfold the way we envision them. The big thing is that we're mentally tough and we're a team, and that's what's required to come from behind and close out football games. We were in a less than advantageous position when we played the Ravens the first time. I think we were down 13-3 at the half. We've been in several situations where we haven't played as well as we'd like and found ways to win football games, and I think that's what good teams do. And of course, that's what we're trying to be."
On how his offensive line is holding up and what they will face against the Ravens' defense this Sunday:"We're continuing to try to find cohesion and move the ball and find ways to win. We're not always as successful as we'd like, but that's life. These guys are going to work their tales off and prepare, and I think everybody is aware that we need to be at our best in order to have success on Sunday."
On if he sees any similarities between his defense and the Ravens' defense:"Here's the thing. They've got great continuity in players and coaches, and they've been playing at a high level for a long time. I think that's something that all great defenses share. I think in order to be really great you need headline players – great football players – players that have played together, players that understand the system. [A team needs] coaches, great coaches – guys that have been together for a while. And I think that those are the things that make the two units very similar."
On what he thinks sets the Steelers' defense apart and why they have played so well this year:"I don't know that we've set ourselves apart. I think we're still writing that story. We get a bunch of headlines for being No. 1 and all that, but we're a work in progress. I'm sure the Ravens feel like they've got a great defense over there – and rightfully so. That's what these games are about. We've still got games to play, in particular we've got one in front of us this week. We're not all caught up in what's being said. We realize that every time we step out on the field we're writing our story."
On what he credits the development of LB James Harrison over the past two years:"Just opportunity. He's a very talented guy. He has great work ethic, both on the field and off. He's got great football character. And when you put those things together with a guy being given an opportunity, it just warms your heart to see a guy take advantage of it and get the kind of recognition that he's getting and rightfully deserves."
On why he thinks James Harrison has his best success against the Ravens:"I don't have the answer to that. I watch him week in and week out, and he does pretty much the same things every week. It might appear that way to you guys because that's the only time you guys follow us, but he's been very consistent in his play."
On why he feels that rookie coaches like himself last year and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh have been able to gain the respect of veteran players so quickly:"I don't think people give professional players enough credit. These guys know when faced with a new coach that the coach's sole intentions are to win and to put them in position to win. I think there's mutual respect between players and coaches across this league and in this game. I think a lot of times people expect the worse when, more times than not, players give you the benefit of the doubt and are ready to follow."
On if he ever has to keep his team from being distracted from the heated rivalry between the Ravens and the Steelers:"No, not at all. These guys are professionals. The things that I'm preaching this week are the things that I've been preaching all year – that we need to focus on things that we can control, how we prepare and how we play. Our guys know that there's no room for shenanigans."
*LB James Harrison
*On if he could have ever envisioned having the type of season that he's had this year: *"I don't know. I guess somewhat, but not to the extent that it has been."
*On if he is surprised or if he expects it of himself: *"I expected to do better. I wouldn't say I'm just absolutely surprised or didn't think I had it in me."
*On what more he thinks he could have done this season: *"I want to be better than last year. Just like whatever this year turns out to be, I want to try to come in and do better than this year. If you come into each year and your approach is not to do better than what you did last year, then you might as well stop coming."
*On how much confidence he has after how he played against the Ravens in their first matchup of the season: *"It's a different game. Last game was last game. This is a totally different game. It really just depends on what they do and what our counters are to whatever it is that they do."
*On what it is about the Ravens that allows him to have so much success when he plays against them: *"Honestly, I couldn't tell you. I guess Coach [Dick] LeBeau calls a great defensive game when we play against them, I guess."
*On if he ever thinks about his time with the Ravens and that they may not have given him the opportunity to prove himself like the Steelers did: *"Somewhat, but in the same sense, Pittsburgh cut me three times, too. So not really, but somewhat."
*On the fact that Pittsburgh gave him more than the 10 days that the Ravens did to prove himself: *"Yeah, they kept me for a year on the practice squad and then I made the actual roster for two days, and then they cut me."
*On whether he feels the Steelers were fairer in their treatment of him than the Ravens: *"I don't feel anybody was unfair [in the way] they treated me, and everybody makes decisions on what they have and what they have to do. The reason they said they let me go was that they needed a tight end. The tight end they picked up was Daniel Wilcox. We played NFL Europe together, and [Wilcox] is still there. They obviously needed a tight end. I don't point fault at anybody, but that's just part of the game. Just like the Steelers cut me three times, and here I am now."
*On what makes the Steelers' defense so great year after year: *"I really couldn't tell you. I guess it's just an all-around build-up defense and the players that are in it. [It is] just really taking care of your job and helping out your friends after you do your part."
*On how much of the Steelers' defensive greatness is mindset: *"I don't know. I guess if you feel good, you play good."
*On being compared to Greg Lloyd by Ravens T Willie Anderson and if he patterns his play after Lloyd: *"No, I don't really pattern myself after anybody. I try and go out there and try things that I may have seen somebody else do and see how it fits into my game. If I feel like I can do it well, then I'll keep it. If not, then I'll throw it away. But I try and just do my own thing – whatever feels good to me."
*On if the Steelers' defense feels like it needs to make a lot of plays each week since their offense has been struggling: *"We don't really feel like we have to do anything because our offense isn't or is doing something. We go out and we do what it is that a defense is supposed to do – we try and stop the other team from scoring. And if we are able to do that, it doesn't matter what our offense does because you can't win if nobody scores points."
*On the rarity that both the Ravens and Steelers have defenses with a strong ability to score: *"You've got two of the top defenses in the NFL that are about to get a chance to get at each other's offenses come Sunday. The defense, I believe, that outplays the other one will be the defense and the team that wins this game. You're not going to have a shootout. It's not going to be a 30, 40-point game."
*On DT Trevor's Pryce comment after the November 2007 Ravens/Steelers game that not much would be heard from James Harrison again and whether that bothered him: *"Not really. Actually, stuff like that motivates me. It makes me want to prove somebody wrong. When I hear what somebody tells me I can't do, it drives me to want to do it even more to prove them wrong."
*On whether he still feels he has something to prove to the Ravens: *"I don't feel like I have anything to prove to anybody but myself. If somebody wants to say I can't do something, like I said, I want to prove them wrong. But, as far as trying to prove something to the Ravens, just the Ravens, it's not my point, I guess. I'm just trying to do the best that I can do and prove anybody that thinks I couldn't do it wrong, that's all."
*On if he gets satisfaction that he has played very well against the Ravens: *"I don't get any more satisfaction out of that then I do if played well against any other team. I could play like dirt garbage and I really wouldn't care as long as we won the game."
*On if he feels that having a low sense of gravity helps him get leverage on offensive lineman: *"I don't know. For some guys it may be hard for them, for other guys it may not be. I guess you can call it a strength and a weakness at the same time, depending on who I'm going against."
*On if he feels that because he's only 6-2 that it took teams a while to figure out what an outstanding player he was: *"I think that it goes along with the fact that with most guys that come in as undrafted free agents you don't get the same opportunities that a first-, second-, or third-round guy would get. Where a first-round guy could come into camp and do absolutely nothing, and he's going to stay around for at least a year or two because they paid him money. With a free-agent guy, they [only] gave him a little bit of change. They don't really care if they lose their signing bonus money that they gave him because [it is] nowhere near in comparison to what they gave their first-, second- and third-rounders – and they'll cut him. But, they'll keep him if he does something spectacular. So, I think that's what had a lot to do with it, considering the fact that I wasn't a draft pick. Oh well, life goes on."
*On how good he thinks S Troy Polamalu is: *"Listen here, Troy is amazing. He's really unbelievable. Things that I've seen him do on tape where he'll be all the way down in the box, down by the D-lineman and he'll have deep pass, and he'll still get out there. To have Troy in there disguising the look for coverages is really helpful."
*On how much the Steelers want to break their losing streak of the five last games in Baltimore: *"I want to break that for the simple fact that I want to win the game. It doesn't matter that we have lost there five times. Like I said, this is a new year. We don't play five games tomorrow, we play one game tomorrow. So, the previous five I really couldn't care less about."