STEELERS vs. CHARGERS
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 11, 2009 AT HEINZ FIELD KICKOFF 4:45 P.M. Steelers Player Quotes - Monday, Jan. 5
*How do you feel?
I feel good.
Are you 100%?
I am close.
Can you talk about the Chargers?
They are a good football team that is playing great football right now. They are bringing it. They have been playing playoff-caliber football for the past month or two. We just want to give it our best shot. The last time that we played them, we squeaked out a baseball-score victory. It is still going to take our best.
How many tests have you gone through in the past week?
I went through 3-4 tests last week and one this morning.
Was that your last test?
Yes, I passed it this morning so I am good.
What do you have to do with those tests?
I took a test with the doctor and then you get on the computer and you take a concussion test.
Had you not passed the previous tests?
I don't know; I forget.
What is the computer test?
They show you a bunch of words and you have to remember what they were. You also have to remember shapes and colors and things like that.
Why might playing this game after a concussion be different from the last time that you played a game following a concussion?
It is nice that we had the week off; that was a big help. We are taking every precaution necessary – the doctors and everybody. It is going well so we will go out today and see how it is; it is an extra day today. We will see how I feel and go from there.
Was your head clear that day in Oakland?
That was so long ago that I cannot remember.
What concerns do you have going forward after that hit?
None; you can't afford to. It is just like when a player comes off of a knee surgery or some kind of injury, you can't go out there scared or afraid to get hurt because that is when you get hurt. I am going to go out there and play normal football, and if I get hit, I get hit.
What do you see with their defense that you might not have seen last time around?
The last time that we played them, it was their defensive coordinators' first or second game; it was relatively early for him. I think that they have gotten more comfortable. I think they showed a lot of different blitzes and packages. We are really going to have to be prepared and be on our "p's" and "q's" and watch a lot of film.
Was that hit scary or did you know that you were going to be alright?
It was scary, especially when you can't feel your arms. When they scooped me up to put me on that pan, I couldn't feel it. When you see the doctor look at the trainer with that kind of look, it scares you a little bit.
Is there any doubt in your mind that you will play on Sunday?
No, not unless Coach (Tomlin) doesn't let me. I plan on being out there at 100% ready to go.
How long did you have a headache?
I just got rid of it a couple days ago.
Will you wear a different helmet on Sunday?
No. We will stay with the same and we will proceed as if it was a normal game. We are putting all of that in the past and moving on.
Was the helmet-to-helmet hit worse than hitting your head on the ground?
I just got done talking to our trainer and I said that I was glad that we were not playing on field turf or else that would have hurt a little bit more. The grass on Heinz Field helped a little bit. Whiplash is always a pain; if you talk to any position player, when they hit that ground with whiplash; it is going to hurt like crazy.
The television crew kept referring to the play before when you got hit. Do you think that might have caused the concussion as well?
That was like the left jab before the upper cut in a boxing match. That hit didn't feel good either.
Do you have to take any more tests or are you done?
The next test that I am going to have to face is Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
What are you going to need to do to score touchdowns this time?
We did well offensively; efficiency-wise, we moved the ball but we stuttered in the red zone. We cannot afford to do that; we can't turn the ball over. We can drive the ball up and down the field, but the big thing is that we have to be able to put it in when we get down there. Three points is great when Jeff (Reed) gets them, but we would rather have seven.
Were they playing a Cover-Two or Cover-Three that day?
Sometimes; they did a lot of different things. They are a great defense and they throw a lot of different things at you. Their personnel is unbelievable. We are going to have to match their intensity and match the fire that they are going to bring.
Can you talk about the field position game?
Field position is going to be big for us. When we get backed up, we are going to have to try to go the length of the field. Any time that we get the ball, we are going to have to try to let our defense rest. We like, as an offense, to hold the ball and possess it, and let our defense rest so that when they get out there, they can play with the fire and the intensity that they do.
**Is the running game clicking and ready to go for the playoffs?
I think so. I think that offensively, we are beginning to click on all cylinders; we have to. It is that time of year where you can't afford to make mistakes. You can't turn the ball over; you have to move the ball by running and passing. Now is the time to see if we are on all cylinders.
*Is this an honor that you ever expected or thought about?
It wasn't something that I was really thinking about. I felt like I had a chance at getting it. It is a tremendous honor to get it.
If you go back a couple of years, was this something that you could even dream of?
My goal was just to make the team. I wasn't looking as far ahead as we are right now.
Your teammates said that they had no doubt that you would win:
I am glad that they have that much confidence in me. Sometimes guys that should win, win, and sometimes they don't.
Did you think in your mind that you had the potential in you to do something like this?
To sit here and tell you that I could have been Defensive MVP, a Pro Bowler two times in a row and two-time (team) MVP, I would be lying to you. I felt like I could contribute to the team and be a decent starter in this league. What I have done now, I have grown to be something a little better than that right now.
Do you ever compare yourself to anybody else in the league?
No, I don't. I only compare myself to anybody but James Harrison.
Do you think that teams will start to look at smaller linebackers now?
This is the new prototype – six-foot tall and 255 pounds; that is the new prototype outside linebacker.
Do you think that maybe you might cause some scouts to change what they look for?
I don't know. I guess that since one person has done it, somebody else can do it too.
How did you feel getting back out there today?
It felt good; it felt real good, especially since I hadn't been out there in about two weeks.
You are low-keying it, but you must be sky-high with this news?
It is a tremendous honor and it feels really good. I don't know if I have the words to express it or I am not going to show you the emotions that I am really feeling, but it feels very good.
Could you have done this without Larry Foote?
I could not have done this without Larry Foote; without my defensive line; without my inside linebackers and my defensive backs. It takes 11 guys out there so if the other 10 guys out there don't do their job, then I can't do mine. This is a really a great for them as well because without them I wouldn't get this.
What kind of standard do you hold yourself to?
I don't hold myself any higher standards than any body else holds themselves to. Everybody just goes out there and tries to do their job. That is how we have done it all year and it seems to work for us.
Did football ever cease being fun for you as you were getting cut and playing in Europe?
It is always fun. You get to go out there and play a game, and get paid for it. It is not that much to get paid for NFL Europe, though.
Who are some of the players that you think deserved consideration for this award?
I think Troy (Polamalu) deserved this award. Guys like Ed Reed and so on and so forth did as well.
What do you think about Darren Sproles?
He is fast and he is a lot stronger than everybody thinks that he is. He is also hard to find.
Would you rank the last San Diego game as one of your better games?
To be honest, I really couldn't tell you what happened in that game. I guess it was a good game.
Was that the only safety of your career?
I believe so.
Are you aware of the other Steelers who have won this award?
Do you belong in that company with Mel Blount, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert and Rod Woodson?
No I do not because they did it for a long time at a high level. I have done pretty well for the last two years. That doesn't compare to what they have done.
Will this change anything for you?
No, it won't change anything.
Were you ever in awe of the players around you?
I was a little in awe, but not really once I got here and started practicing with the guys. It just felt like you were out there with regular guys.
Is Clark Haggans somebody that you should thank?
Definitely, because if he doesn't break his hand, I am not here.
*You get to see San Diego again.
They are a good team. We beat a really good team. It should be a big challenge to face them at home again. They have a really good offensive line. A lot of weapons, so it is going to be a classic match-up.
*What do you think about Phillip Rivers?
He played very well this year and had a Pro-Bowl performance. He's got a team and a line that takes care of him and a bunch of guys that he can throw to. He made good decisions and that is why they are in the position they are in.
Can you talk about (Darren) Sproles?
You can see what happened Sunday. He is just a guy that is quick and fast. A lot of times you don't see him come through the line. He isn't a big guy, but he runs hard, he finishes runs and he is a big reason they are in the position they are in.
Looks like a much different team.
Not too much. They took care of the ball, played good defense. They looked pretty similar. The only thing missing was LaDainian Tomlinson. I know he is not full strength, but we will see if he is this week.
*What do you remember most about when you played them?
It was a physical game and we won by one point. It was a close game, it came down to the fourth quarter and I am sure that is the type of game it will be this week.
*Is that one of the reasons the linebackers are getting pressure without blitzing as much?
Well, I am definitely not blitzing as often, but we are using a lot of different packages.
Re: James Harrison's ability to defend the run and the pass.
Definitely, when they run and when they pass. He is so balanced.
*How difficult is it to come back from a concussion?
It is a tough question because it depends on the severity of the concussion. You can come back sometimes that very same play. Obviously depending on how severe it is.
*What were some of the things you had to go through to come back?
No different than any other concussion. You just kind of have to deal with it. There is nothing you can rehab, it just takes time. You are dealing with the mind and the brain and I think that is why you have to be really cautious with things like that.
*Do you have to make a conscious effort to get back up to the speed of the game?
Yeah. Everything gets turned up a notch especially because it is playoff week. That is really what we tried to do last week with going against our first team defense because we really didn't know what team we were going to be playing. Today we are going to go out and get some extra work in. We get an extra day today to go out and prepare.
*What do you recall about these guys?
They have a lot of confidence. They had to win the last couple games. They went on a streak and played with a lot of confidence especially after beating the Indianapolis Colts the way they did. In the playoffs, with the hard schedule we had, we knew that we were going to play somebody that we had already played.
What do you think is the difference from when you played them?
It's the playoffs. You win or you go home. They are going to bring their A-game and we know that and we are going to bring our A-game and may the best team win.
*How were they able to keep you out of the end-zone last time?
We just weren't making plays when it counted, fourth-and-one. We just weren't making plays. We never made the plays, we always left plays on the field. We have to make those big plays, fourth-and-one; we have to try to connect. We have to get in that end-zone or at least get three.
Does it give you more confidence heading into this game knowing that you have had success moving the ball?
We know it is going to be a different match-up. We know it's playoffs and we know they are definitely going to bring their A-game and it is going to be a whole different defense.
How confident are you about Ben's (Roethlisberger) ability to bounce back?
We definitely don't know what the circumstances are with Ben, but with Byron (Leftwich) in, we know what he is going to give us also. So I think it will be a game-time decision, I'm pretty sure.