PHOTO GALLERY: Ravens Week Practice Photos *
Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Baltimore Ravens:*
Q. No Ray Lewis, no Ed Reed, no Jameel McClain. How much has the Ravens defense changed?
A. The faces may change but the spirit is the same, and I believe the same can be said for our defense. We have a lot of young guys playing, guys like Vince Williams and Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas. But the approach to ball, the mentality, the collective mentality is unchanged. And the Ravens are very similar in that way, and that's why we have so much respect for them, and that's why there are always fireworks when we play them.
Q. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have 12 of the Ravens' 22 sacks. Does that become a situation of, pick your poison?
A. Not only that, but those two guys are versatile guys. They swap sides, so not only does a tackle have to be ready to block Suggs but he also has to be ready to block Dumervil. They do a nice job of making you prepare for multiple people.
Q. Daryl Smith is a new face on that Ravens defense, and he has two of the team's four interceptions, and he also leads the unit in passes defensed and tackles. What kind of player is he?
A. Smith might be new to the Ravens, but he's not new to the National Football League. He's a savvy, veteran football player who is good for all situations, run or pass, and that's why the Ravens acquired him.
Q. Joe Flacco doesn't have gaudy statistics this year. What have you seen from him on tape?
A. That he's Joe Flacco. He's had some changes in the offensive line, they've shuffled some chairs there, guys like Eugene Monroe. Jah Reid was in the lineup last year, and he's not this year. Kelechi Osemele is playing guard this year. They've had some people moving around, and there is an adjustment associated with that. But Joe Flacco is Joe Flacco.
Q. Torrey Smith is averaging over 20 yards per catch. Will Ike Taylor draw that assignment?
A. He will, but it won't be a one-man job because that would be a tough assignment to give anyone. Ike will have some safety help at times, and the best cornerback I ever knew was a good pass rush.
Q. The running game didn't put up big numbers vs. the Jets, but was it still effective to some degree in your mind?
A. Part of it is a function of the needed growth and development in the direction in which we're moving. We have all of the critical components in place now, and we have to continue to come together and improve in what we're doing collectively. But also you have to tip your cap to the Jets. They've been one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL against the run this year, and they proved that.
Q. Was the game's only touchdown – the 55-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders – the definitive example of the effect of play-action?
A. We had runs on first and second downs that put us in a third-and-1, and we were able to get a good, hardcore play-pass in and slip Emmanuel Sanders behind the secondary for the touchdown. A very significant play in the football game.
Q. Did the win make a palpable difference for your team as it was preparing to face the Ravens today?
A. I don't have the answer to that. I do know that it confirmed some of the axioms of football, in that if you maintain possession of the ball on offense and get the ball on defense you increase your chances of winning. That was a certainty watching that game unfold.
Q. Against the Jets, the defense put together its best performance of this regular season. What was the difference?
A. Just timely plays in critical moments. Not only the red zone interceptions – those stand out and speak for themselves – but the wins in situational football: sacks on third down, a significant third-and-1 stop by Cam Heyward in the red zone early in the game was a 4-point stop when you look at it because the Jets settled for a field goal. That's what the game of football is about, and not only defensively but in all three phases – delivering timely plays in key moments.
Q. Against the Jets, did Kelvin Beachum turn in his best performance of his young career?
A. He did, but hopefully it's only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what he's capable of, and as he moves forward and gets stability at the position we look for him to continue to improve.
Q. Did Ramon Foster playing despite being less than 100 percent physically strike you as a guy showing leadership?
A. Not only is Ramon battle-tested, but he's mentally tough and always has been, even as a young guy. His glass is always half-full, and I believe that allows someone to be able to play in less than ideal circumstances.
Q. Is it fair to say that Jason Worilds had one of his better games last week vs. the Jets?
A. It is, and to go along with that he has had some of his best practices over the last several weeks. It's good to see that be reinforced with his play inside stadiums.
Q. Have you gotten the impression that your young players understand the full ramification of this being Ravens week?
A. They have no idea, but they will in a few hours.
Q. What are the keys to this game for the Steelers?
A. We really just need to focus on being a tough team to beat. Doing that is within our control. We had pre-snap penalties on offense last week against the Jets – false starts and things of that nature. We have to minimize the penalties that destroy drives on offense, and we have to be able to operate defensively and communicate and have assignment execution in the middle of a hostile environment. I love playing at Heinz Field. I love playing in front of our fans. That makes it a hostile environment for the opposing offense, but we as defenders who are on the field at the same time have to do a good job of communicating in the midst of that as well.