Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Baltimore Ravens.
Q. What single factor makes the Ravens defense the best in the NFL?A. It's their ability to produce splash plays, and I'm not only talking about turnovers, but touchdowns. I believe they distinguish themselves on the field with that alone.
Q. Fifteen of their 25 sacks have come from three guys – Terrell Suggs has nine, and Paul Kruger and Haloti Ngata have three apiece. Is the Ravens pass rush a three-headed monster?
A. It is. They're very good at what they do. They supplement those men with other guys who are capable of rushing and showing up in your backfield, but no question, those three lead the charge in terms of applying pressure on the quarterback.
Q. Has Ray Lewis' role changed now that he is being perceived as having lost a step?A. It really hasn't changed at all. This guy is still doing the same things he has always done. He's very good in coverage, he's good in their blitzes, he's a sideline-to-sideline pursuer of the football, and he's an emotional spark-plug for these guys. I don't see that much has changed in terms of his play or his production.Q. One of their significant additions has been Bernard Pollard. What has he brought to the Ravens defense?A. Physicality. He is a ridiculous physical presence in the run game, in the pass game. He's a guy they really rally around from an emotional standpoint, and he provides them with splash plays from a hitting standpoint to do it.Q. If you look at Joe Flacco over the course of the season, he has had his ups and downs. What does he do well when he has the ups and what has been lacking when he has the downs?A. It's easy to see what he does well. He has ridiculous arm strength and can make all of the throws on the field, whether it's the field come-backs or the go-balls. He can throw it over the top of people with Torrey Smith, and he throws the back-shoulder to Anquan Boldin. His deep ball accuracy is stellar. The instances when he has fallen below the line, or had struggles, it's usually because of movement – pockets breaking down and him having to make throws and decisions on the move.Q. How did a running back of Ray Rice's caliber slip into the second round of the NFL Draft?A. There are a lot of great backs who maybe don't fit the height-weight-speed requirement and maybe slide into the second round and the third round. There's a guy in Jacksonville – Maurice Jones-Drew – who also fits that description. There are quality football players in the second rounds of NFL Drafts, and those are just two examples of what you can get.Q. The Ravens seemed to have circled the date of the 2011 regular season opener and lived with it all summer. Since then, have the Steelers circled this date and this game?A. No, we're not going to let them be the center of our universe. It's about us and what we're doing and what we're chasing. No question the Ravens are a big-time obstacle, but we had some other obstacles along the way. Now, this is the one in front of us and needless to say we're excited about it.
Q. Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said this week that Antonio Brown is better than Mike Wallace. Your reaction?A. You know, if I got run by on third-and-19 I'd probably say the same thing.Q. It's Ravens week, and so you don't have to say much else to the players in that regard?A. It's a good thing. I think they know where the bone is buried with regard to this matchup and its significance. It's always exciting. If we're going to be the team we desire to be, we have to be in significant games vs. really good football teams over the second half of the season, and we're moving in that direction. We had a big one last week, and of course this is a big one. If we continue to win, the ones that follow will continue to be big.
Q. With no Emmanuel Sanders in the lineup today, does that increase Jerricho Cotchery's role?A. When you look at Jerricho, you're talking about a guy who is starter-capable, a guy who went up to New England and helped his team win in the playoffs last year as a big part of the New York Jets offense. We're tickled pink that he's been a part of our unit all year, and hopefully the fans get an opportunity to see why. We're excited about this guy getting an opportunity to contribute. He's a very capable guy, a great teammate, and we're excited to see what he can do for us.
Q. Was the most significant statistic to come out of the New England game that the Steelers only punted once, and it came in the last minute of the game?A. Third-down football was a big element of that game, and we converted our first five third downs and that got us off to a great start and allowed us to control the ball. On the other side of it, defensively we made sure New England got off the field. They converted 3-of-10 of their third-down opportunities. Such will be the case in this football game as well. We've talked about it openly all week. Offensively, we're No. 3 in the league in converting third downs at a little over 50 percent, and the Ravens defense is clearly No. 1 at getting off the field on third downs. Two trains on the track. Let's see how this evening unfolds.