STEELERS vs. RAVENSAFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2009KICKOFF IS AT 6:30 P.M.HEINZ FIELD
POST-GAME QUOTESSteelers Quotes - BelowRavens Quotes - Click on the link
Coach Mike Tomlin:There is a great deal of emotion (in the locker room) right now; a sense of accomplishment. We have a special group in there; guys that play for each other and don't want to let one another down. It was a tough battle today, just like it always is when the Steelers play the Ravens. I tip my hat off to that group; their players, coaches and administrators. They bring the best out in us. It is a legitimate rivalry. We respect those guys. It is always like that. That is part of the reason that we are who we are; iron makes iron sharper; that is a tough group. We are happy to represent the AFC in Tampa, Florida in the Super Bowl. We respect this process. I just told this group that we have miles to go until we sleep. We are excited about trying to meet those challenges and we will prepare like we always do because we have something to do that we intended to address.
Can you talk about injuries?
We have a bunch of people with nicks and injuries. Hines Ward hurt his knee and wasn't able to go. We will see where he is in the morning after an MRI. I think that Ryan Clark is going to be fine after that collision with (Willis) McGahee. Patrick Bailey, tweaked his ankle and he is going to be fine. The rest are bumps and bruises; I will have more information at the Tuesday press conference.
What are your thoughts on going back to Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl?
It is not my story; it is our story – the story of the 2008 Steelers. Game location does not matter. We are excited about being in the Super Bowl; we look forward to getting down there and pursuing our ultimate goals.
Can you talk about Ben Roethlisberger's big game?
Ben is a special guy; he is at his best in the midst of the most difficult adversity; in other years and in this year. Such was the case today. He recognized the magnitude of the game, and he did what his team needed him to do. He was very efficient and made great decisions. He was a special guy for us.
How fitting was it to have the defense end this game with big plays?
It had to come from somewhere; that is the nature of these things when you play these guys. They just happened to be the unit that was out on the field. We have 53 men who are willing and able to deliver a play for us. That is why I think that this group is so special.
Did you see something different in Troy Polamalu's eyes in the second half?
Certain guys are built for those moments. There is no question that he is a guy who is built for those moments. That is why he is who he is as a player and as a person. It is not too big for him. He relishes to deliver for his team under those circumstances. He will tell you that it is an 11-man job. The 11 on the field have to get it done together. I thought that we did that.
Have you ever seen a game as physical as this one?
Pick any one of the other Ravens' games that we have played this year. It was pretty similar to all of those. You know going that in, but you give in anyway. That is why we have such a great deal of respect for those guys.
What is it like living up to the Rooney's expectations?
Their expectations are a little bit higher than that, we get an opportunity to pursue that. For me, I am just happy for all parties involved. I see the personal sacrifice that people from our team make on a daily basis for that to happen. That is not just the players, the players are special, but the support staff, training, equipment, medical team, etc. It is a lot of sacrifice by a lot of people. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that this is the Steelers' story and not my story.
Can you talk about the pass coverage in the first half?
Dick (LeBeau) did a nice job calling plays early on. I think that they anticipated us loading up to stop the run, we played two high safeties. They were passing. I think at one point they had six passes to one run. The guys did a nice job of covering down the field. There really wasn't anywhere to go with the football. It was a little cat and mouse, if you will. That is all part of the rivalry. They know us and we know them. Sometimes you get those kinds of chess matches.
What are your thoughts on the Arizona coaches knowing your players well?
I will have more thoughts on Tuesday. I am just enjoying the moment right now, you won't let me though. We played those guys last year. They are a well-coached outfit. It is obvious that they have a great deal of belief in what they are doing. They are playing great football. You don't get to this game unless you are. We respect them, we also respect the process that we believe will get us ready for combat. We tend to focus on the things that we can control. That is our preparation, and ultimately our play, in respect to those guys.
What are your thoughts on the third-and-one where you passed the ball in the fourth quarter?
Momentum had started to swing at that point anyway. I think we had a poor punt just prior to that point. It was a long one, we hadn't had a great deal of success against these guys in the other games under those situations and circumstances. We have had success in those circumstances in empty (formation). You go back to the first time that we played them here on Monday Night Football. We converted a key third-and-one to kick a field goal there in overtime. It was the matchup and understanding our strengths versus their strengths.
Can you talk about Santonio Holmes' touchdown reception?
Ben was Ben; he created an opportunity and found Santonio. Santonio cut across the field and made a big-time football play. That play didn't happen in a timely manner. We had some men fighting down in the trenches to buy time for the play to develop. Santonio had great ball security as he cut across the field. That is something that I am always aware of when you play these guys because they get the football. It was a nice play by all parties involved.
Can you talk about clock management at the end of the first half?
I screwed it up, that is the bottom line. We had 16 seconds; we wanted to take a chance at the end zone, if possible. They did a nice job, we weren't able to get a shot into the end zone. We checked the ball down. When you check the ball down in the field of play with 16 seconds, you are done. You need 17 seconds. I accept responsibility for that.
What was the mood like in the locker room at halftime?
We don't have a crew that blinks too much. It was like it always is; 30 minutes down and 30 minutes to go. We could be going to Tampa and we could be going home. We live one snap at a time. The mood was pretty crisp. Guys were communicating. We realized that we had some critical work in front of us.
Did Mewelde Moore get hurt?
I am sorry about Mewelde. He rolled his ankle or his knee. I am not certain. I will have to get more information on that situation on Tuesday.
Will you be calling Tony Dungy?
I would imagine that he will call me. I hope that he does because I look forward to receiving that call. If not I am going to call him. What he has contributed to the game, and to me personally, is not measurable.
Did Limas Sweed respond after that dropped pass?
I would like to respond that I wish he would just catch the football so that I don't have to respond. That is all a part of growing up. He is a young player that wants to deliver for this team; sometimes he comes up short. Hats off to the guys for sticking with him and allowing him to be a part of this. That is the nature of this thing, everybody is going to have to anti-up and kick in like they have done all year through the good and the bad. Thankfully he was able to come back and provide a play or two for us.
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER
How tough is it to beat this defense three times in one year?
Really tough. You've got to give them a lot of credit. They're a great defense. They show us a lot of different looks. I like the way our offensive line responded when we had to in identify, pick things up and make plays when we needed to.
You took a shot in the first half. Did you know all along you'd be able to come back?
It hurt. It still does, but winning always takes away a little bit of the pain. I always say it's going to take a cart to get me off the field.
Can you talk about the physicality of this game?
It's always that way. This is a 12-round slug-fest. It's always these two teams and we always go at it and it's always violent from start to finish. I was ready when I was taking a knee at the end. You never know when somebody's going to fire off the ball.
How did you motivate your receivers to keep going?
I'm proud of the way guys like Nate Washington stepped up to fill Hines's spot. He's playing a position that he doesn't practice, so to step up and know the plays – you've got to compliment him on that. Limas (Sweed) obviously is going to talk about the drop. I told him, just trust yourself. Know you're going to make the play next time. I'm going to come right back to you if I have to. So I think he got his confidence back, but we'll keep working.
It seems like you're at your best when plays break down. How much is improvised and how much is planned?
That's not planned, I promise you. The credit there goes to the linemen being able to block so long. That's not easy. And the receivers get open. That happened on Santonio's touchdown tonight. Guys did a good job of picking things up. I was almost getting ready to throw it away and Santonio flashed open, I threw him the ball, and he does the rest.
Do you think you could be an effective quarterback if you had a coach who told you to stay in the pocket?
Yeah, I could be, but why put the reins on it?
What did you do to avoid Ed Reed tonight?
I tell Ed every time we play them that I wish he'd go to the NFC so badly. He's such a phenomenal football player. He's all over the field. I just tried to do the best I could of looking him off and keeping my eyes away from the receiver I was planning on going to as long as I could, and even that sometimes doesn't help because he's all over. Even though he didn't get any picks tonight, he influenced a lot of my throws – a couple of the throwaways and a couple of the times I had to pull the ball back down – because he's coming flying out of center field, and sometimes left and right field, to make plays.
Did you have a feeling that the missed plays at the end of the half were going to come back to haunt you?
No. It's one of those things. The big play to Limas – he'll make that play. He'll be ok. With 16 seconds we gave the ball to Mewelde [Moore] and he's a competitor. I told him afterwards, I'll never question you or second-guess you or anything, but just get down and let us spike the ball. He wanted to score and that's his heart, and that's what makes Mewelde special.
What were your emotions after Troy returned the interception for a touchdown?
That's Troy. He comes out of nowhere. I actually thought that he overran the ball. Even if he batted it down, it would have been great. He just reaches back and makes a play. When Troy starts running with the ball you never know what's going to happen, and I was just so happy that he scored.
What makes this team so successful?
We're a team. There's no offense, there's no defense, there's no special teams. We're one. We've been saying for a couple of weeks now that we're a band of brothers. We want to fight for each other. We let nothing come between us. No adversity, nothing.
Do you have any advice for Joe Flacco on how to bounce back after this game?
He'll be just fine. He's a great quarterback and great player. He faced the number one defense in the world tonight, and they're ranked that way for a reason, so you have to give him a lot of credit. I thought he played well. He hung in there and made throws when he had to. And you know what – we won. I'm happy.
Are you feeling more comfortable outside of the pocket?
I've always enjoyed getting out of the pocket, rolling out, making plays. It's hard for guys to cover for a long time as you saw tonight. We play backyard football sometimes.
Talk about the first touchdown – the 65 yard touchdown completion to Holmes. What went on in that play?
I don't even remember what play was called. I remember scrambling left and looking back to see if anyone was coming and no one was. I stepped up and was really getting ready to throw it away. I knew Santonio was over there, I was going to throw it over his head and at the last minute the guy's back was turned and I just threw it where he could make a play. When you get him the ball, he'll do the rest.
Did Jeff Reed's FG at the end of the first half did that give you an uplift?
Anytime that Jeff goes on the field we count is as three points or one point if it is an extra point. We know he's automatic. It helps you as an offense and makes you feel confident
How would you describe the personality of your defense?
There's a lot of words. Crazy, relentless, confusing and a lot of heart. That defense is something special. They really are.
What did that title game as a rookie teach you?
Don't turn the ball over. In the playoffs that is the big key. Especially in a game like this – just don't turn the ball over.
What do you think of the international exposure of this game?
We love it. We know we have Steeler fans all over the world and we are happy to win this one for them.
It's 16-7 in the 4th Q, 3rd and one. You guys are in an empty backfield and didn't get it. It triggered the Ravens to get back in the game. Did you want to be in an empty backfield?
It was actually a great call. That was one of those spots where we had Nate in where he's never played before. Nate and I talked about it after the play in case we ever have to do it again. It's one of those things where you get a guy in a new position and we weren't quite on the same page with it, but it was a great call by Coach Arians. I'm used to Hines (Ward) running that little quick pop down and out and Nate ran it straight out. It's just getting familiar with a new guy in a new position.
Was this the most physical match-up with the Ravens?
It's always this way when you play the Ravens. You have to give them credit. They are a hard hitting football team. They play smash mouth. We couldn't get the run going and we just had to persevere.
Two weeks from now you play a team whose coaches know you and your personnel very well. Do you have any thoughts on that right now?
I'm proud and happy for Coach Whisenhunt, Coach Grimm and Coach Spencer. It is going to be fun to play them again. They beat us last time we played them at their place last year. It's going to be a fun match-up, I'm sure.
Where does the resiliency of this team come from?
Our heart. That is what this team is about – our heart. Never quitting and never letting up and giving it our all, all the time.
S Troy Polamalu
Re: Regarding interception and return for a touchdown
It was man to man with Todd Heap and he was in the backfield. He was blocking. We anticipated him staying in to block LaMarr (Woodley) and James Harrison so it allowed me to free up and just kind of read the quarterback's eyes.
What kinds of things did you try to force (Joe) Flacco to do?
Some of the calls surprised me with Coach LeBeau. We play a lot of cover two which I think a lot of people didn't want to play against Baltimore because they have such an awesome run offense. On the other hand they did come out and try to pass a lot.
Re: Regarding the Ravens first possession in the second half
We all have a role. All eleven guys on defense have a role and I was just doing my responsibility the best that I could. There wasn't any tendency that I was reading into or anything. I was just playing my position.
How confident do you feel with Ben?
A rookie can never replace experience. He has a lot of big game experience. As far as our defense and the rest of our team, I think when we get in these tough situations and close games throughout the season. Most of our victories were these type of close games. We have a lot of confidence in those situations.
Is this defense better than the 2005 defense?
Without a doubt this is the best defense that I've ever played on, but we'll see what happens in next game. I think that's going to solidify how good we are. This team had to rely more on the defense. We had to make a lot more big plays. We caused and forced a lot more turnovers than in the past. In 2005 we were winning games, quite a bit throughout the playoffs, but everything seemed to be good that it's at home. It's not the end of the road here. Next week we can forget about everything that happened today.
Re: Regarding the use of more coverage play today
We played a lot more coverage here than we anticipated because we were aware of how awesome they were on offense. Ryan Clark played awesome. He's been making plays all year and today he just did it on a national stage.
Re: Regarding Troy's ability to read the quarterback's eyes
When you have a great pass rush then the defense allows you to freelance in a way. A lot of times it doesn't work. I can tell you a lot of times during the season where I messed up plays.
Joe Flacco couldn't find open players. What was the key?
Coach LeBeau did a great job calling the game. It came in a lot of mass protection type routes that we could sit back and cover.
Has the defense focused on not only forcing turnovers but also scoring as well?
Any opportunity that you have to score, of course you want to score. The turnovers are the difference that we've had in the past. We've had a lot of opportunities in the past where we've dropped a lot of interceptions.
How well does Coach Whisenhunt know your defense and will that be a factor?
Only time will tell that quite honestly.
Mr. Dan Rooney
Re: Five and one in the Super Bowl.
If you win six, nobody else has ever won six. We're going to play it how we see it. We're going into Tampa with the idea of playing well and having fun.
Re: Competing every year.
Our schedule was tough. We played and kept coming back. They did a great job.
Did this AFC Championship make up for some of the ones you didn't get?
You look at every year by itself. This was a great year and everything worked out just splendidly. Coach did a marvelous job, the players did, and the fans did. You can't say enough about our fans.
Deshea Townsend CB
Re: Playing eleven years in the league, getting back to the Super Bowl.
I've played with a lot of players that have never made it to an AFC Championship game. You can't let an opportunity slip away, that's what I told the guys before the game. You have to seize the moment, make it happen.
Re: Forcing Joe Flacco to make mistakes.
We're the number one defense, there's a reason. If we can make you one dimensional and make you rely on passing the ball we can be successful. Coach LeBeau has a lot up his sleeve. He can draw up things to make veteran quarterbacks confused.
Re: People talking about Baltimore forcing turnovers all post-season.
We don't get much of the hype. Our defense has been doing it all year. Almost sixteen weeks we had done something no team in NFL history had done, by being number one in all three categories.
Lamarr Woodley LB
Did this game compare to the first two games?
The first two games they kind of had a chip on their shoulder because of that last play that Santonio (Holmes) had. They came in with a chip on their, but we did too.
How long do you think it will take to sink in?
It's sinking in now, but tomorrow we got to get back to work. We still got one more game. This is not the ultimate goal. We're going to the Super Bowl. I have confidence in this team. We have been playing hard all year long. We lost a few games in there, but we bounced back. We had one of the hardest schedules in the NFL this year, a lot of people didn't think we were going to do anything with it, but we proved a lot of people wrong.
WR Santonio Holmes
Was your touchdown a matter of you and Ben Roethlisberger knowing what each other were doing on that play?
"No. I kind of felt like he was throwing the ball away. He felt like he was throwing the ball away. I got lazy and let the defender feel like the ball was going to be thrown out of bounds. When I saw it short, I reacted to the ball quicker than he did, and I had a group of guys that were running with me."
Do you feel like they took one away from you?
"I definitely feel like they took that touchdown away from me. I had total control of the ball, I extended across the goal line and scored a touchdown. But, at the same time, you have to play through those calls from the referees."
Are you the ultimate team? The defense picks up the offen and vice versa.
"That's what team football is all about. That's what Steelers football is all about. It's just been a wonderful ride right now. We really have to also heal right now, take our time, and go down to Tampa and do what we're supposed to do."
Did you have to pick it up without Hines Ward?
"No doubt. I told him when we came into the locker room at halftime that I had his back. If there was going to be a play to be made, I was going to be the guy to make the play."
LB James Harrison
How does it feel to be going back to the Super Bowl?
"I don't really think its hit me yet, but it feels good to go back again. Most people are lucky to get to go there once, and, now, this will be our second time. I'm happy to be going back."
With all the accolades that you've gotten this year, you wanted to win the Super Bowl again.
"Exactly. You get all the accolades that you're going to get. The ultimate goal when you are playing professional football is to win the Super Bowl. And right now we have the opportunity to do that. So we're going to take full advantage of everything."
Re: play of secondary
"The secondary did a great job. Even the plays that Baltimore did have – that we gave to them – we did have some pass interference penalties that put them at the goal line and accounted for their points. We weren't really too rattled by it. We played defense aggressively and, eventually, [with] the pressure that we were getting on Flacco, we felt like things were going to turn around for us. And they did."
OT Max Starks
How do you feel about playing a Super Bowl against [Ken Whisenhunt] and [Russ] Grimm since they were here for so long?
"It's going to be emotional for us. Those are the coaches I won my last Super Bowl with. But, it's going to be old school versus new school. I think it's going to be a challenge. I'm glad we're doing it in Tampa and not in Pittsburgh any more, because it's getting a little bit cold up here. It's going to be a good test. They have a good team and are clicking on all cylinders just like we are. So it's going to be a great ball game."
How motivated are you guys to be the first organization to win six Super Bowls?
"Very. It's one of those things that you don't realize the magnitude of it until you look back on it. We're proud to be tied for the most with two other teams, but it's time to separate ourselves from the rest of the pack."