STEELERS vs. CHARGERS
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 11, 2009 AT HEINZ FIELD KICKOFF 4:45 P.M. Steelers Player Quotes - Thursday, Jan. 8
*Can you talk about Darren Sproles?
He is a very good player; very versatile; very fast; very quick. He is a tough guy to see sometimes because of his size. He does all of the things that LaDainian (Tomlinson) does.
Can you talk about him being not being small, but short, as Coach Tomlin said?
He is just short; he is tough to find. He is just sitting back there behind those big boys and coming through the hole he is tough to find. We have been having a lot of good work in practice and we need to continue that today.
Do you think Tomlinson is calling himself doubtful to make you prepare for both him and Darren Sproles?
Probably; we are still going to. He is one of those great champions that plays hurt. This is a huge game; I am sure that he wants to play and that he will do everything in his power to play. We are planning for him and Sproles; Sunday we will take whoever we get.
Can you talk about their screen game and how tough it can be on defensive linemen?
It is tough because they run the screen all the way down the field. They do it when they are backed up; they will do it in the red zone; they will do it everywhere. We just have to continue to practice it. It is tough for the defensive line because we are trying to get to the quarterback, and that is when they have had so much success. Their offensive line does a good job of shedding guys and getting out into the secondary. We just have to be on our feet.
*Do you feel like you are getting a break facing Sproles instead of Tomlinson?
L.T., he might play and he might not, but they have a great backup in Darren Sproles. He proved that last week. We definitely have to be prepared for what he is going to try to do against us.
What kind of problems does a small back like that present?
I think that the main thing is finding him because he is so small and short that you can't really find him when he is behind those big, tall linemen. I think the key for us is to stay in our gaps and playing gap-sound defense and locating him.
The screen game has become a big play for them:
That is probably the best play that they have out of all of their weapons. They use it very effectively at the right times and we are definitely going to have to pay attention when they try to run those screens.
If you can read the screen, you can stop it. That is the challenge, right?
Yeah, the problem is reading it. They have a lot of different disguises with the screen; they have become creative with getting people the ball so we definitely have to read them.
How hot is their offense right now?
They are hot right now and they are playing very well. I think that Philip Rivers is playing with a lot of confidence right now.
*What did you do so well against Rivers last time?
We just tried to do our normal thing; show a team a lot of different looks and try to disguise our pressures as much as we could. I think that we did a good job of that. We are just going to have to do some of the same things that we did in the first game to try to confuse him in this game.
*Can you talk about their screen game?
They have a great screen game. We have to try to keep Sproles contained and get some pressure on Rivers.
How do you plan on doing those things?
Play the game.
Do they change much with Sproles as their feature back?
They do the same thing; it doesn't matter if it is Tomlinson or Sproles.
Is Sproles difficult to pick up coming out of the backfield?
Yeah, because you have guys that are a foot taller than him; and you have to try to find him.
Can you talk about having to spy on Antonio Gates?
They have a few guys that we are going to have to spy on; just like a lot of other teams.
*Can you talk about defending their screen game with Darren Sproles?
If you watch them, their linemen do a very good job of getting out in front. Their center, (Nick) Hardwick, does a really nice job of leading because he is usually uncovered. Then, you throw in that you cannot see him because he is hiding behind those guys. When he sees those holes or creases, he is usually going at full-speed so we have been practicing this week just running to the ball when they throw a screen. It is going to be a team effort to stop him and to force him inside so that we can just make plays.
Is he tough to bring down as well?
Yeah; a lot of his big plays for touchdowns, there are guys right there that could tackle him. There are a lot of guys that get opportunities to tackle him and get hands on him, but you never really see him take a flush hit. He is elusive and he is strong. Coach says that he isn't small, he is just short. He is short and he still runs hard so it is going to be a challenge for us.
What is the excitement for you to be playing in this game?
I am always happy to be playing, whether it is practice; well, not so much practice anymore; in camp, practice. It is just exciting because having to watch what happened against Jacksonville last year, and not being a part of it, and then hear all offseason about what happened during that game, it was tough. We worked hard all offseason, Troy (Polamalu) and I, so that we can be in this game and enjoy it together. There is a lot of hoopla before the game because it is the playoffs and there are only eight games left; but it is still going to be football when we go out there on Sunday.
*Why did Rivers have such a low passer rating against you the first game?
I don't know. Hopefully it snows again; supposedly it is going to be cold again. It is hard to throw and catch the ball down the field the way that they do deep down the field in some difficult weather conditions. When you have bad weather conditions and James Harrison; he is going to be coming off the side; you have to block LaMarr (Woodley). I think that when you get pressure the way that we do, teams have to change up. You can't run your schemes; you can't run Gates down the field and (Vincent) Jackson and (Chris) Chambers down the field because somebody has to stay in to block. I think that was the big thing; we were able to get them into some max-protect situations where they were able to only run two receivers down the field, and we were able to cover them up.
How is your shoulder?
My percentage is that I can either play or I cannot. Last week, I couldn't; this week I can. I am going to be the same old cat; I going to try to hit people in the mouth and have a good time; until it falls off. If it falls off, then I guess I am at zero (percent). Until then, I am at 100.
*Can you talk about how much more confidence they are playing with now?
I haven't noticed that. We are just trying to get ready; they are playing their best ball of the year right now. Hopefully we can execute and match their intensity.
Do they tend to leave the middle of the field open a little bit?
Sometimes that is part of their plan. I think that last week they did a nice job of getting after the quarterback and giving a lot of different looks.
Are they susceptible to delays where you come off of a defensive lineman and come over the middle?
Yes, Matt (Spaeth) caught a few passes like that. That was early on with the defensive coordinator that they have now. I think that he has established what he wants to do now, and it is a good mix of things.
Were you able to get a sense of what they do by not playing in the last game?
It would have been nice to have played against them the first time. Like any other team, you prepare for them and you have to be ready whenever the game starts.
What is a playoff atmosphere like?
Everybody knows that you get it done now or you go home; nobody wants to go home.