STEELERS VS. RAVENSSUNDAY, OCTOBER 3AT HEINZ FIELDRAVENS CONFERENCE CALLSHEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
RE: Coach Tomlin calling the Steelers vs. Ravens rivalry the best in football:
I agree. I think it is. Maybe he and I are biased because we are in it all of the time, but I don't see a better one out there. It's a great rivalry and it is an honor to be a part of it.
What makes it unique?
I think it's two teams that know each other very well, play very similar style. It always means a lot every game we play and we always play great games.
Re: the offense without Santonio Holmes:
I really haven't seen much difference. They have Mike Wallace in there. They drafted him a couple of years ago from Ole Miss. We liked him as well. He has been even better than advertised. He fits that role a little bit. They still have Hines Ward and Heath Miller. They just have a lot of good players that make plays for them.
Do you think teams might be questioning your run defense after the Cleveland game?
Are you questioning your run defense?
You just have to play every week. We will find out, it's based on what you do week to week. It is a week to week league.
Re: the challenges of defending Rashard Mendenhall?
Big challenge. Rashard is obviously very gifted, very patient, great vision, great burst. I think he compliments their offensive line very well. I think they have crafted their run game around their offensive line and Rashard. It's a good match and that is why they have had success.
How is Ray Lewis able to play at such a high level after all of these years?
I think you probably have a good example in James Farrior. It's too linebackers that have probably done it longer than any two guys have that I am aware of at that level. Ray is a guy that we are very proud of. He is very talented and he works very hard at it in all ways, physically, intellectually and he is very passionate about football.
Is it his preparation?
He studies the game. You can put James (Farrior) in the same category, knowing the position so well, it doesn't take him a lot to know what he is looking for week to week because he has been doing it for so long. He does a great job, breaking down the points and he has seen most schemes and most of the players before.
Re: Joe Flacco's ability to bounce back last week:
That was encouraging, he's done that before, it's nothing that has surprised us. I think Joe is in the earlier stages of his career, but you got a glimpse of what his character is, what his competiveness is like, what kind of quarterback he is going to be down the road. He is not going to get down on himself and he is not going to let one tough outing dictate another tough outing.
How close are Joe and the new wide receivers getting into a rhythm coaches like to see?
We'll see. We are on the way there. It's not like they have been together for years and years. With Anquan Boldin, he had an offseason which was really helpful. Obviously Joe and (Derrick) Mason have been together for a long time. Bringing T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) into the mix, kind of tying the whole thing together is something you have to work to do, but those guys are veteran receivers and I think that helps.
Re: Ray Rice's health:
Process is he is going, he is working at it. There is no way to predict how guys are going to heal from any of these things so we will just have to see.
What's going on with Stanford?
They are kicking butt and taking names. They are kicking so much butt I don't know if they have time to take names. I am proud of them, they could play in this rivalry too, I think with the football they are playing.
Why was Ray Rice so good last year against Pittsburgh?
He was really good against pretty much anybody. There weren't too many games where he didn't have good games and even in the games where he struggled at times, he was a heart beat away from breaking some things. So I think he is just a good player, playing well. Obviously not too many guys have great success against Pittsburgh and I don't think he had any great amount of success but it's just Ray being Ray I think.
Because he is so good at what he does, does your offense change without him in there or do you have capable backs that can do the same thing?
You guys know the backs and you know who we play with and you know what those guys can do and there isn't really anything they aren't capable of doing, they can catch the ball, they can block and run. They are different style guys obviously, everyone has their own unique way of doing it, just like Pittsburgh's backs. But yeah, we run our offense.
What is it like seeing the Steelers 3-0 and this game being a big game as usually only four weeks in?
I don't know what it is like, if you are looking for a metaphor, I don't have one. We knew they were going to be a good team. I half joked with our guys on Monday, I was kind of serious because they can forge these things sometimes, but they asked us in the summer we thought and we said they were going to be a very good team whoever plays quarterback for them. That's been proven, it was proven last year and I don't think anyone in football is too surprised by it. I think the fans maybe sometimes get caught up with a guy or two, but that is a good team and that is why they are doing well.
Your take on Flacco's development now and having Coach Zorn as your quarterbacks coach?
Well Jim (Zorn) is a valuable addition and he brings a wealth of experience both playing and coaching to the position. New ideas, obviously for Joe and for Cam (Cameron), so he has been really helpful with Joe. We are just trying to go week from week and do the best we can to win a game with Joe.
LINEBACKER RAY LEWIS
RE: Coach Tomlin calling the Steelers vs. Ravens rivalry the best in football:
I think it's the best in the way both teams play football. You look around the league and look around at everything that's going on. They know what they can do, and we know what we can do. It's one thing to just talk about each other, but it's another thing to talk about what we do against other people. It's not an argument, it's just the way both of us feel that this is the best rivalry in football.
Have you played in any games against other teams that are as violent as the ones you play against the Steelers?
I couldn't think of one, but if I did it would be against Tennessee. When they were in our division we always would go back-and-forth. Two times a year, I don't think there's been a more aggressive rivalry than this one.
Are you surprised the way the offense has played without Ben Roethlisberger?
No, I'm really not. Ben is a huge part but at the same time, but if there's one thing they've always done, and this is 15 years I've played against them, they've always stuck to their identity. That's the thing that makes them a very difficult team to beat. They're not going to change who they are. They're going to play hard-nosed defense. They are going to run the ball very well. They're always going to do the things to be very successful.
Is the rivalry based on how similar the two teams are?
I think that's most of it, outside of being in the same division. We're so similar, definitely defensively as far as the way we play football. We just like to get after people, and we play the same way. They play with a chip on their shoulder; we play with a chip on our shoulder. There are many similarities.
Can two teams dislike each other yet respect one another?
I think that's what it comes down to. I think it comes from the level of respect. This is not like any other game. When you play somebody else you get yourselves up a different way. When you play this team you don't need no extra motivation. That's why over the years you've seen it one way, strap it up and get ready to go.
RE: Rashard Mendenhall and how he has progressed:
What I've seen of him now, he's running the ball very well. He's very patient and he's really making people miss. If you watch him he's kind of showing glimpses of what he did in college. Pittsburgh's been looking for that back since they lost "The Bus" years ago. He's a complete back now, and they're really getting him involved in that package.
Will these two defenses be illegal in about four or five years?
We're almost illegal now the way we play. That goes to the respect the way both defenses carry their jobs and how important we make it. If you watch the way they play and the way we play, they don't worry about and we don't worry about all the extra stuff. It comes, but the bottom line is we are going to make you play a physical football game and they'll pretty much do the same thing.
How are you and James Farrior able to still play at a high level after all these years?
I talk to James Farrior. When you still love the game and you take care of your body, and you understand the business a certain way. I think that playing for a long time, it then starts to become, I don't want to say easy because the game is always changing, but it becomes more defined on you understanding how to take care of yourself, how to feel good week in and week out. Not wasting energy and time, you have to give credit to guys who can go that long like James Farrior because we play a very, very physical position. They ask how you can keep coming back. I take that as a credit the way he and me take care of ourselves.
What do you like to think you bring to the defense?
The greatest thing I bring is total leadership, just being who I am, going out there and getting my players lined up, making sure we are communicating and seeing everything. Getting that mentality a certain way, understanding that there is no I, there's only we. Everything just transcends into what the game is really formed upon is brotherhood. It's just a strong brotherhood. And I am the big brother for this brotherhood.
Will there be rivalries like this one ten years from now even though offense is taking over the game?
I just think the game is always going to be the game. But I think there's not always going to be those legendary physical-type teams because everybody wants to see the scoreboard lit up.
RE: Stopping the run this week:
Any coach who watches the tape and sees what happened, they are talking about one or two easy adjustments one or two of our players have to make. We did make more emphasis on whether there was a scheme or there was one or two players here or there. Just make that play, don't come backside, just stay outside and make that play. We corrected it as soon as we saw the tape. We definitely adjusted properly.
What's it like playing at Heinz Field where everyone is completely against you?
I think the fans carry their own swagger. It's just a legendary myth of Pittsburgh. I was a kid watching the Steelers and saw that stuff going on. Every time I step on the field the legends live. I know that mystery you always thought about. You feel that when you go out there. If you are playing the linebacker position and you go out there and you don't feel that, then you haven't kept up with football. I kept up with football. The Steelers have always had a great tradition since the beginning of time.
How much longer can you play?
I don't know man. I don't want to be rude saying that I am tired of answering that question, but I don't know. I just want to keep playing football. As long as I am playing at a high level, nothing else matters. I don't worry about anything else except trying to help my team week-to-week and trying to get back to the Super Bowl.
RE: What Ben Roethlisberger is going through since you faced a similar transition back to the NFL:
Our situations were totally different. The advice that I give him, I text him and he texts me, and things like that. It's a respect for each other, but more importantly it's a respect for yourself. You're not trying to please the world. If you try to please the world you are going to confuse yourself. If you're going to worry about what people say about you, you're going to confuse yourself. All you got to do is move on, live on. Whatever he put behind him as a man and what he put behind him for what he's going through leave it there. Don't let nobody pull you back into it. Don't let nobody keep talking about it. Once it's done it's done.
Did he text you or did you text him?
He hit me up last night. We always hit each other up like many people out here. It's just simple stuff. He wishes he was out there. It's a respect thing that we have playing against each other. It's a rivalry but it goes back to the level of respect. This is not the first time he texted me. We texted each other every time when he was going through what he was going through. I told him I was there for him. It's more of a brotherhood. The game always takes care of himself on the field. But off the field, if we don't look out for each other nobody else will.
RE: The relationship between the two franchises and between you and Ben:
If we both get it, we both get it. Every time we line up from across each other he touches his heart and I touch my heart. It's a pure level of respect even with Hines Ward, LaMarr Woodley, even when we see each other meeting at the Pro Bowl. The first thing we talk about is that rivalry. There's nothing like it. There's nothing like when they come here and we go there. We know what we're going to get and neither side is going to disappoint each other.
RE: Bounties on this game:
I don't even know what bounties represent. If you are looking for one person to place a bounty on someone you are in trouble. It's a whole swarm of Steelers coming to play football come Sunday and a whole swarm of Ravens. There are no personal bounties on nobody.
How is Ray Rice doing?
I don't know what his knee feels like so I can't even speak on that.