Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Baltimore Ravens.Q. If you were asked to describe this series in one word, what would the word be?A. Intense. If you limit me to one word, intensity is what separates this matchup from the others.
Q. What makes it so intense?A. That both teams are quality teams and have great players and great leadership, but also, both teams are singularly committed to the same thing, which is AFC North dominance and what that produces in the chase for the Lombardi. You have two veteran teams that are very talented and singularly committed to the same goal, so you're going to have these kinds of fireworks when the teams come together for a game.
Q. What does the return of right tackle Willie Colon mean for the Steelers offense?A. Not only in terms of what he's capable of, his return is very important because he sets the tempo for the group, he is the leader of that offensive line group. He is a veteran player and we like his playing demeanor, which I believe is contagious for all parties involved.
Q. Do you see Ben Roethlisberger picking up right where he left off last season?A. He's doing a very nice job of leading the troops. I think it's finally hitting home to him that he's the second-oldest player on offense, and he's comfortable in those shoes. He's displaying it on a daily basis and is taking on more responsibilities. He understands all the facets of this offense and the things at his disposal, and he's been doing a nice job of utilizing them.
Q. During the preseason, the Steelers offense ran the football 115 times and attempted 109 passes. Does this indicate the offense is still weighted a little bit toward the run?A. We're capable of beating you in a lot of ways, and that's what we desire to do. We recognize that when we step into stadiums the script is never the same, that we're going to have to be capable of winning games in a variety of ways. If you have that kind of balance, that puts you in position to secure wins.
Q. Even though he's in his fourth NFL season, is Rashard Mendenhall still capable of taking a big leap forward in terms of his play?A. I think he is, and we've seen him grow quite a bit here, not only in this training camp but over the last season. Run instincts and running the football are things that come naturally, but we like his growth and development in all areas – what he's doing when the ball is not in his hands, how he includes himself in the route combinations in the passing game, and of course he's been outstanding in the blitz-pickup area.
Q. How concerned are you about your starting cornerbacks – Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden – based on the fact they didn't play very much in the preseason?A. I'm not. And I mean that. There always are unanswered questions at this time of the year, and the only way you answer them is by playing. You can say that about our cornerback position, you can say that about our right guard position, or some of the other positions on our offensive line. You can say that about the Baltimore Ravens' offensive line or their cornerback shuffle. Those are things you deal with every year. Sometimes they're overblown. I'm excited to see what those guys are capable of doing today.
Q. With Taylor and McFadden missing so many snaps, did you see the backups on the depth chart raise themselves a little bit?A. A right-minded individual is capable of taking advantage of the opportunity that injury provides. Keenan Lewis has done a nice job of that. He logged a considerable number of snaps this preseason and has gotten an opportunity play with the varsity, and he has taken advantage of it. We have a great deal of comfort in what he's capable of, as we do with some others.
Q. Do you get the feeling, as some in the media do, that the people in Baltimore find this game a lot more important than the people in Pittsburgh?A. I hope they do, and I hope it remains that way. That's the awesome thing about rivalries and division opponents and people you see quite a bit – you have an opportunity for subplots and things of that nature. I think it makes the matchup more interesting. It has no bearing on what is going to transpire inside the white lines. If we can keep our thumb on them and create a little misery, that means we're doing our job.
Q. Most discussions about the Ravens defense usually start with Ray Lewis. But how do you slow down Haloti Ngata?A. I don't think Ngata has been in the role of sidekick for a number of years now. He's a dangerous man. He's on that first line of defense, and he's the big guy in the middle. We have big-time respect for him. You're not going to stop a guy like him. You hope to neutralize the damage he creates, and we have a pretty good plan in place to neutralize him.
Q. The Ravens acquired wide receiver Lee Evans in a trade. Does he give their offense a more vertical threat?A. They are aware of the plan they have for Lee Evans, and we recognize that he is a quality veteran receiver, a front-liner, a guy who has the reputation of being able to take the top off the coverage. We've seen him in the past, and we've seen him recently so we're not concerned from that standpoint. But we are interested to see the new and different ways they plan to utilize him, as opposed to how they used Derrick Mason.
Q. The recent history of this series has been of close games. Do see another one of those types this time around?A. This game doesn't have to be close, and that's something we talked to our guys about. History is one thing. We're writing history today, and we need to put our best foot forward.