STEELERS vs. CHARGERS
DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 11, 2009 AT HEINZ FIELD KICKOFF 4:45 P.M. Steelers Player Quotes - Wednesday, Jan. 7
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
How excited are you?
It's the playoffs; there are only eight teams left. That's what we fight all year and in the offseason for, just the opportunity to get here and have a chance to have a run at the postseason and see what you can do.
How would you have been if you had to play last week and are you happy you didn't have to?
It's a chance for us all to get rested and let our bodies heal. It's an extra week of preparation. Even though we didn't know who we were playing, preparation can mean getting treatment, resting and relaxing. I think that's good for us.
Is this the official start of the post-season for you – all the media coverage?
That's the way it goes. We are kind of used to it. I have had it a couple of times since I started here. We like it. I would rather deal with this and be in the post-season than not have to see you guys and not make the post-season.
How did you feel after practicing on Monday?
Good. I had a little bit of a headache from putting the helmet on because it's so tight. We'll deal with it and move on. We'll see how today feels.
Last game against San Diego you moved the ball but couldn't score. How do you change that?
Our red-zone efficiency has to improve. We know it's a great defense. We moved the ball last time. We converted on third down. We had some success in the no-huddle. The key is getting down there and scoring six points rather than three.
How much pressure did they bring the first game and how much do you expect this time?
They brought quite a bit of pressure. We expect the same thing. That's kind of been there M.O. recently. Bringing people and using their athletes in the secondary to cover. We have to be on our P's and Q's and be ready for it as a line and a unit. We are going to have to be ready for everything.
Does it get your attention what they did to Peyton Manning?
Absolutely. Because it's Peyton and he is so good at what he does. They looked like a different football team out there. We're hoping that the home field will be to our advantage as it was to theirs when they played the Colts. We know our fans will be loud when they have the ball and quiet when we have the ball. It's going to be a good one. Hopefully we will get some snow and cold weather.
That weather doesn't help you?
As a quarterback you don't like it, but if it helps the team that's all that matters. I don't care how my stats are as long as we win.
What do you need to do in the red zone to get into the end zone?
We just have to find ways to get in the end zone. We left some things out there last time we played. Some of the credit goes to them; some of it is our fault. There is no magic solution. I can't tell you we have to do this. It's just take care of the ball and find ways to get in the end zone.
The Chargers punter had a big impact on field position. Can you talk about that?
That's huge. He won that game for them. I don't care what you say. He was the MVP of that game. That's enormous, especially when you have a team backed up and their punting and you think you are going to get field position and all of a sudden they put it inside the 10-yard line. He had one of those when we had our safety. I think he knocked us back deep again. That's big. Field position game is huge, especially in the playoffs. We will have to hope he has a bad day.
Teams that have had success have gotten pressure on you. Does the put extra burden on you to get rid of the ball faster?
Everything is faster in the post-season. We have to get the ball out. Guys have to identify. We have to block. It's just that time of year when mistakes have to be limited. You have to be careful because you can't play with that tentativeness where you are scared to doing anything because you don't want to make a mistake. It's a fine line I walk every time I go out and play. We'll find ways to make it happen.
Has there been more of a burden on you this year?
We've had a lot of people talk about our offense because we have the number one ranked defense in the world and that is awesome. They're going to shine over us and we don't mind that. We know when the time comes and when it matters we will step up and deliver like we have a couple of times this year and we'll continue to hopefully do it in the post-season.
Are you still improving every day?
We are going to keep improving all the way until Sunday.
Mike Tomlin always talks about January football. How important is it for a quarterback to play well in January?
It's huge. Every turnover, every mistake is magnified. You watch someone like Chad Pennington who had very few interceptions in the regular season and had three or four in the post-season. I have had those games. The AFC Championship game; last year against the Jaguars. When you can limit the turnovers you give your team a better chance to win. That's why you have to play great football. But you still have to be careful not to be too cautious.
Talk about the offensive line improvement?
They have come a long way. I still remind people that you have to remember that Max Starks and Darnell Stapleton are fill-ins. They came in and filled in for Kendall (Simmons) and Marvel (Smith). They have gotten so much better. They have played against some phenomenal defenses. I wish people would understand what kind of defenses they played against and how good they are, their pass rush. They have done a great job. I am fine. I am up walking around. I will always have their back and I know they will always have mine.
What is the biggest difference you see in the Chargers defense?
They like to blitz a lot. They are moving guys around, taking chances and gambling. They have been playing playoff football for the last month or two and that's what you have to do in this situation, especially they were in. They had to do it.
*How does it change the second time with the winner going home?
A lot has happened since the last time that we played them. The Chargers are playing a lot better football. They won their last five games in a row. They are not the same team that we saw the last time. We are well aware of how they are playing right now and we know that we are going to have to step our game up.
Will you change the way that you approach this game?
No, we are doing the same job that we do. We go out and we play hard every play. Nothing is going to change with us.
Where do you think the running game is right now?
It all depends from week to week. We would like to think that we can run the ball when we need to. Hopefully our coaches believe in us and we can do that. We definitely have our highs and our lows running the ball, but this is the time that we have to step up and get it done; when we are called on.
*Do you think that Philip Rivers was a little antsy against you?
We are the type of team that likes to bring the heat. We are the type of team that will go in there and hit quarterbacks. Each and every week we like to get in there and hit quarterbacks. When we go after quarterbacks, hopefully they make a few mistakes and we get a few turnovers to put our offense in good field position.
Does it give you confidence knowing that you shut them down when they came in a hot team?
We have to do a better job. We can't allow them to put any points on the board. By giving them 10 points; it was a close game and it was our job to keep them out of the end zone. That is what we are going to try to do this week.
*Coach said that the team likes to give you some grief about being a one-trick pony that always likes to run downhill:
That is all that they say; that I run downhill. It gets yards so I am going to stick with it.
Do you hope that one yard is an end zone yard?
Whatever it is; if it is third-and-one; I have to go and get it.
*You have to try to avoid the 13 penalties this time around?
We definitely have to avoid that. We have to play mistake-free football. We are going to be alright; we have to keep plugging. I think that it is about time for our offense to explode.
How are you feeling at this point?
I am feeling great. I can look in your eyes and say that I am feeling a lot better. It is playoff time; it is another season; it is also a great time to get your body back.
Can you think back to last year versus Jacksonville and know that you don't want to have that feeling again?
I didn't play in that game, but I was definitely heartbroken. There was a feeling of; we worked so hard to get to that point and then it was all over. We have that in the back of our minds; we have to go out there and stay away from that feeling.
What have you seen from Darren Sproles?
You always teach a running back to stay low. When he goes through the holes, he is already short so it is really hard to hit him and to locate where he is at. He can make moves and do everything that a running back is supposed to do so he is definitely a good tailback.
*How are you guys with the running game?
We feel good about the running game.
Did you think that you had good carry-over into practice this week after the Cleveland game?
I would like to think so; I mean practice just started for this week. Last week we didn't know who we were going to play so it was hard to judge. We were looking at some four and three-down stuff. For us, after today, we will get a pretty good indication. I feel pretty confident because we had a pretty good running game the last time that we played San Diego.
Do you like using the I-formation?
Yeah, as always; you always relish the opportunity to get into the I-formation because it is pretty much like saying 'we are going to run and you guys have to stop it.' We take pride in that because it is always better to be the attacker than the one responding.
What impresses you the most about their defense?
The versatility of their athletes; they have a great core of guys. They have great rushers on the edge; plus you have a big, stout nose tackle and two really man-to-man cornerbacks who are not afraid to jam you on the line of scrimmage. They have a good front and they work well together, so it is a good defense.
*Are they different with Sproles in there?
I don't think so. I don't think that they call the plays any differently. You still have to go out there and try to tackle him. He brings a different element.
Is there anything about this team that makes ball-control that much more important?
I think that it is important for us to get off the field on third down. When you do that, you get your offense the ball.
*Last game, lots of players statistically had a big game, but no touchdowns. How do you change that?
We need to work on our red-zone efficiency. We went down there and we couldn't pick up touchdowns. We got the result through a lot of field goals. They stopped us on fourth and one. So we definitely have to work on putting more emphasis on the red zone and getting touchdowns rather than field goals.
*But do you have a bit of confidence knowing that you can't lose against them? *
Yeah we can. There's no question that we feel good about the first time about moving the ball, but you know against a great team like San Diego you definitely got to put up touch downs rather than field goals. If we can do that than not too many teams will score a lot of points on our defense. It's all about who executes the red-zone game plan. If we can do that then we will be fine. They're pretty solid in the corners too. They are a tough matchup. They are. They are solid defensively all the way around. They have great linebackers, great defense front who will cause a lot of pressure and that gives their cornerbacks a lot of opportunities to make plays in the passing lanes. For us, we got to protect the ball. The offensive line has to give Ben enough time to throw it. When we do get opportunities we have to make plays.
*You've got to figure that you won't get called for 13 penalties again? *
You know they got me for two holding calls, but that's something you just got to work on. You don't know who the refs are going be. Each crew calls the game a little differently. We definitely can avoid to negate big plays on penalties. That is something we also got to look at and make sure we don't do.
*Is this the first time that the playoffs are really here? *
This room is packed. Yeah, I mean this game gets magnified. Every mistake is looked at and criticized. This is why we play football. It's what we love about it. We are one game away and it starts with San Diego. We get a chance to win this game then we are in the AFC Championship game. I don't think you need a lot of pep talk in the championship game. So this is a big game for us. Like I said, they are playing with a lot of confidence, winning their last game to get into the playoffs and beating Indianapolis Colts, who was a hot team coming into the playoffs. So for us it's our first game back. We had an off week last week. It feels good because we played them already. You know the personnel and what not. So basically what it comes down to whatever team executes the game plan and doesn't turn the ball over.
*Is there change in the air in the locker room and on the field in practice?
Yeah, guys are happy to get back. You sit back and you watch all the teams play this past weekend and you kind of miss football a little bit. You come back with a great practice on Monday and guys were running around, happy to be back. It's exciting for some of the young guys. A lot of guys never even got this opportunity. So it's our job as leaders to make sure that everybody don't get tight. It's still football. But you have to turn it up a notch in playoffs.
How do you make sure that you appear rested as opposed to rusty? Is there a fine line?
It is. I think we had a great week last week going against ones on ones, going against our great defense. Any time you play for the number one defense it gives you that competitive edge. We can go out there and practice and make plays on a number one defense then it makes our job offensively a little easier on Sunday.
You were talking about watching the Chargers play. Did they look like a different team?
Yeah they did. They were playing with a lot more energy than the Colts were. When your back is against the wall. In '05 that's kind of the round that we went on. We had to win the game the last four games to get in. I think that's what the Chargers did. They are playing with a lot of confidence now. You know it was a 10 to 11 game last time. You know I think they are real comfortable about coming in to Heinz Field and playing here. You know we feel good about the first time we played them because we drove the ball up and down the field. We just didn't execute in the red zone. That is just something we got to put more energy on this week. If we do get a chance to get down there, then we have to be able to put up touch downs rather than field goals.