STEELERS VS. JAGUARSAFC WILD CARD PLAYOFFSaturday, January 5, 2008at Heinz FieldKickoff 8 p.m. on NBC
Quarterback Ben RoethlisbergerTalk about mounting injuries:
It's that time of year. Guys are going to dig deep. If they can go they are going to be out there. Anybody you see out there that might have an injury they are digging deep and playing through it. We have to give everybody a lot of credit who is out there playing through injury.
Any concerns about the injuries to the offensive line?Not at all. I have all of the confidence in the world in the line. I know Trai (Essex) is going to do a great job of filling in for Max (Starks) who is filling in for Marvel (Smith). He has done it before and I have confidence in him.
Would you like to see them just put it on your right arm and just say throw it?
It would be nice. We'll see what happens. We have a great running game and we need to be physical. I don't think we're going to just abandon the run game. As a matter of fact I know we won't.
Is your passing game underrated because you don't throw as much as other teams?
I don't know. It's hard to say. We throw the ball when we need to. We have proven that we can win the game when we have to throw it.
Are you tired of hearing about what they did to you the last time?It's okay. It doesn't bother me. When you get beat you get beat and you should be able to take it because they beat us pretty good.
Can you talk about what playoff experience means to a quarterback now that you have some?It feels a lot better. The first time I went through this you didn't know what to expect. It was almost another game. You don't realize it's not just another game. Every mistake you make is magnified. Everything you do has to be precise. Therefore you have to be on your P's and Q's. It's good to have that experience.
How does the experience show up?It shows when you know how much faster the post-season is, how much faster everybody is moving and the decisions you have to make. I am putting in extra film work and study time this week and hopefully it shows on the field.
Do you feel differently going into this playoff game with your role expanded more than in the past?
You feel more comfortable. I feel more comfortable like I have in every game. You feel comfortable with the offense, the plan and me calling the no-huddle play.
Is it different for David Garrard since this is his first playoff start but he is older?When you are a veteran like that it's easier than a rookie trying to do it. Still it's the post-season and it will be different. I expect because he is a veteran he will be able to adjust quicker than most.
Was the Jets playoff game that you played a few years back unsettling as it played out?I had no idea what was going on. I probably still don't know what was going on. I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off.
That's the way you kind of did it as a rookie?
For the most part, but that time it didn't work.
Are you encouraged by the way Trai played against Baltimore?
He did a great job. Trai was awesome out there. He did a phenomenal job against a speed rush team. Trai is going to have his hands full this week because they are a power team and they're going to try to run through him. Trai has been working really hard and getting ready. I am encouraged he will be ready to go as will the rest of the guys.
You really have to trust that side of the line.
It's your blind side so you always have to have faith in them. Before every game I would tell Marvel and Red (Alan Faneca) do you have my back and they always tell me yeah. We'll see if Trai says yeah.
Did they do anything special last time?Not really. They beat us in a lot of different ways. They didn't do a lot of blitzing, didn't do a lot of things. They just flat out beat us.
What was the difference in the fourth quarter when you got in a rhythm?We just started making plays. We started throwing the ball down the field and guys got open and we got the ball to them. We made plays. We got off to a slow start. We have been doing that sometimes recently. We have to make sure that we go back to St. Louis and start fast.
How is the ankle?Good. I feel great. 100 percent.
Do you like the opportunity to face the team that beat you at home?
It's intriguing. It reminds me of a couple of years ago against Indianapolis. I hope it turns out that way. It's good to be able to play a home game. That's big in the playoffs. I know the crowd will be into it, we will be into it and hopefully it will be in our favor.
Do you expect your defense to show up big on Saturday after the way it was handled against Jacksonville last time?Oh yeah, I do. We're standing there watching and you are like holy cow we've never seen a team run on us or beat us at home. I don't expect that to happen again. I expect our defense to come out firing. That motivates us as an offense. They give us the ball in good field position and they are fun to watch.
Safety Anthony Smith
Are they simple in a good way, in what they do?They're going to do what they do. They're going to run the ball and they're going to stop the run. They're a 'we're going to do what we do' kind of team and they are not going to change up for anybody.
Why did they run so well against you last time?We had a lot of missed tackles. Guys weren't filling their gaps like we were supposed to. This time around we've got to be a better tackling team and a better gap-sound team and we'll be good.
How much does Aaron Smith's absence impact that?He is a big factor. People don't realize how much you miss until we get hit in a lot of areas where we really don't get hit in. The guys behind him just got to come in and step up and we have to rally together. One guy doesn't stop the show. Whoever comes in for him has to pick up where he left off.
Offensive Tackle Willie Colon
What makes Jacksonville's defense so effective?
Not even size, they just play with their four. They added a lot of pressure to us; they sit back in their coverages. They also bring the heat. There are a lot of dimensions to the game but we are going to be prepared for it.
You gave up a lot of sacks in the first game. What do you have to do differently?Don't give up so many sacks.
Is it a technical thing?It's the ball getting out on time, us giving Ben a lot more time, the receivers getting open. It's a unit thing.
Talk about injuries
Everybody is going through it. Everybody is feeling the pain. But it's playoff time – suck it up or go home. We're not trying to go home.
How much did they do with the four-man rush the first time?They did a lot of it. They sat back there and were able to blanket us and add a lot of pressure with their line. We've got to step up. Their offensive line outplayed our offensive line. Everybody knows that. We took it on the chin.
Do you expect them to stick with that or mix it up?I don't know. We have to prepare for whatever they bring at us. We have to run the table. We can't sit on our heels and let them bring the game to us. We have to bring the game to them.
Does the trust factor between the quarterback and line come into play more when there are injures this time of year?I think Ben has faith in us. We have faith in him that he is going to get the job done. I don't think we ever question each other. We're all professionals and we're all going to play hard.
Cornerback Ike Taylor
How different is it preparing for a playoff game?It's totally different. It's one and done. It's a tournament with single-game elimination. There is no next week.
Does the loss to Jacksonville still sting?No question. Make no mistake about it. But we have another opportunity.
What are your thoughts about putting eight in the box to stop the run and let you win the game in the secondary?
It's whatever Coach (Dick) LeBeau wants. I am not the genius. Coach LeBeau is the genius so whatever his game plan is that's what we are going to go out and execute.
You have to shut the run down though:That is going to be our first objective.
What do you see in Garrard?He is very efficient, 102 quarterback rating. He just gets the job done.
Is he underrated?He is very underrated.
Does playoff experience make a different?There is no next week. You win you stay in, you lose you go home. That's the mentality guys are going to have to come out and play with.
Are there more butterflies when it's your first time?No, not at all. We have been playing this game since we were small. The stage gets bigger every time you play. Every week, every win, the stage gets bigger and people tend to critique you more so you have to go out and play football.
Back in 2005 it was like a revenge tour for you. Is that similar with Jacksonville?We just have to come out and play football.
Guard Alan Faneca
Are you hoping you don't have to switch positions?
Whatever happens, happens. If I need to go out there if something happens I am going to just go out there and play ball.
How badly do you want to run the ball?It always helps when we get the run going. We ran the ball okay later out of the no-huddle. We might be able to get the running game going out of our regular base run.
Like having a second chance at them?There aren't too many times in life where you get to right a wrong, especially in this game.
Would you be okay if they went with Ben throwing the ball?I think he has proven he is capable of doing that. There is no problem with doing that from the way he has performed and what he has shown he can do this year.
Did you practice at left tackle this summer?I don't know if I did last year. If I did it was brief.
Easy to pick up?The first time I went in the first year in 2003 I don't think they told me until halfway through practice Thursday. I did okay then picking it up quick.
You played next to Trai when he was at LT his rookie year. How did he do?He did good. Coming in as a rookie and playing your first game against Dwight Freeney he did a good job.
Confident he can do it again?Definitely. He had a great game last week. He proved he is capable of handling the job and that's why they gave it to him.
Do you expect to see the same thing from them rushing the four guys?I think they feel good with those guys. They have taken care of their defensive front, especially their front four, and put a lot of trust and faith in what they are able to accomplish.
Defensive End Brett Keisel
How fresh is that last meeting with the Jaguars for you?
It is fresh. I don't know if I still have a bad taste in my mouth, but they were successful in their game plan and they beat us.
Do you need to do something different or do you need to do what you do better?
Probably a little bit of both. We will probably throw in a few new wrinkles and we definitely have to be better tacklers and more gap-sound.
What do you think about Fred Taylor hating the grass at Heinz Field?
It doesn't matter to me. We love our field. If he slips and falls, it is good for us.
Did you get to David Garrard?
We got to him a little bit, but we didn't sack him. Now we need to get to him more and in order to do that we have to shut the running game down. That is going to be our main concern; stopping (Maurice) Jones-Drew and (Fred) Taylor and making them throw the ball.
Would you agree with putting eight in the box and letting David Garrard beat you?
We might do that. Who knows? We'll see.
What runs did it seem like they liked best?
Power offense, leads and some stretch plays. They like to smash mouth and come right at you. They have done a good job of that this year.
Does being an underdog at home give you added incentive?
Absolutely, it is the last chance we get to prove what type of team we have in front of our fans. It is the only playoff game we are going to have at home, so there is definitely some added incentive there.
Offensive Tackle Trai Essex
How do you think you did against Baltimore?
I thought I did pretty good, coming in like I did; Max (Starks) being hurt and having all of that in my face. I thought I handled it pretty well.
Is this the right time for you?
Any time is the right time for me. I am just looking for the opportunity to perform and show everybody what I can do. Any time there is an opportunity for me.
Do you think you are prepared for the physicality of a live game?
Coach (Tomlin) does a good job of getting us acclimated for situations like this. We haven't been without pads for the whole year. Football is football.
Are you fresh?
Yes, I have fresh legs. A couple of our linemen, obviously with our situation, have gotten banged up and the season tends to have that wear and tear on the body, so I am pretty fresh.
What is the toughest thing to get used to?
They have a good front four. That is what they are known for, as well as their physical play. Getting used to the game speed once again, because I haven't really been in the mix since my rookie year, unless you count preseason and that little bit of work I got against Baltimore helped out a lot.
Do they have good preparation for what they are going to see?
Terrell Suggs is one of the best in the league. I have Paul Spicer, another good defensive end. They also have Bobby McCray and they have another really good player, number 57. I have my work cut out for me.
Are you pumped up?
I'm pretty excited. Can you tell by the face? I am smiling and I am ready to go.
Were you told you were going to start or did they say they would tell you later in the week?
As far as I know, I was the third tackle. Max (Starks) and Marvel (Smith) went down, so I'm it.
Do you expect help from tight ends and backs early in the game?
Maybe, I don't know. No more than usual. We have great backs with Najeh (Davenport), Verron (Haynes) and Gary (Russell), who are all good at chipping defensive ends as they come up the field. I'm sure we will be fine.
Does Jacksonville do a great job at bringing pressure on the edges?
They really aren't a big pressure team. Their front four does a lot for them, so they can afford not to blitz at all, because they have such a good, stout defensive line. They may blitz if they need to, but their front four is pretty good.
Does Marvel Smith's play against Jacksonville make you appreciate how talented they are?
I have my work cut out for me. They have a great front. I have to concentrate on my technique and fundamentals, because it has been so long since I have been in the mix and seen the game speed. Getting used to the speed of the game is it.
Does it help that you had a couple big games during the Super Bowl year?
I think that does help. My rookie year, we had to win those few games at the end in order to make it into the playoffs and start our run. That does help my experience. I think I will be okay. I went against Alex Brown and all of those guys. Minnesota had a pretty good defensive line at the time.
Safety Tyrone Carter
How do you feel about facing a team that beat you a few weeks ago?
They played well and we didn't. That is the part we are looking forward to. We didn't play well and they beat us, but we still had an opportunity to win the game. With that in mind, it is still another opportunity to go out and prove that we belong here and that we are the number one defense. We have to go out there and do it again. We can't talk anymore. We have to go out there and let our performance do it for us.
Do you find yourself cheating up when someone runs the ball so effectively?
Yes, sometimes it is tough on the safety. You don't want to have a hard tackle, because there is a lot of room and here he is coming full speed and you have to go at him. You try to close the gaps down a little bit and you start anticipating more and not worrying about the pass, because they keep breaking loose on you while you were playing deep. Then you shorten your drops up a little bit. This is football and you can't get caught up in that. That was in the past game. Now it is a new game and a new opportunity to go out there and prove ourselves again. We are looking forward to the challenge.
Will you do anything differently or better?
We have to do things better. The thing about that game is that we gave them everything. Not to take anything away from them, because those guys are great. They are good at what they do and that is running the ball. They have two good running backs, but when you give a running back that big of a hole or gap to run in, it is easy. Anybody can go in there and do that. Again, not taking anything from those guys, they are great running backs, but you can't give them anything. You have to make them earn every yard and everything they get. We went back into film work and saw some of the things we did wrong. Now we have to correct them. Not only that, we have to go out there and perform it, because those guys are great backs.
Does the playoff experience from 2005 help you?
No doubt. Experience can help in a lot of ways. You get the "been there, done that." You know what it takes to get to that level. We played against top offenses when we won the Super Bowl. We had to go into their house and do the same thing. With that in mind, that experience does help, because you know what it is you have to do to win. We have a lot of veterans on this team and we look forward to it. You can't hold your hat on 2005. It is 2008 now and you look forward to making your mark in 2008.
Can you just throw a switch?
No, you can't just show up. You can't think that other teams look at you as Super Bowl champions.