STEELERS vs. RAVENS AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2009 KICKOFF IS AT 6:30 P.M. HEINZ FIELD
LAMARR WOODLEY NATIONAL CONFERENCE CALL
How do the Steelers and Ravens linebackers compare?
"Both teams are pretty much built around their linebackers. The linebackers are the ones that are going to make all the plays. While the defensive linemen do all the dirty work the inside linebackers and outside linebackers will come in on the blitzes."
Where do you fit in the Steelers linebacking core and what do you have to do for the defense to succeed?
"My role is to put pressure on the quarterback, going in and getting sacks from time to time. I'm able to get them, but definitely putting pressure on the quarterback and also helping stop the run by staying in my rush lanes, watching out for any kind of reverses or boots. That's kind of my main factor on this defense."
When you joined the Steelers, did you appreciate the tradition of linebackers?
"You know a little about that growing up about the tradition of the Pittsburgh defense and definitely the linebackers. That's what their defense has always been built on -- the linebackers. You hear about some of the great names, Kevin Greene, Jason Gildon, Greg Lloyd, Jack Ham, you hear about those names. If you're here playing on this team, you know one thing, you would like to be mentioned as one of those top linebackers like they're still remembered."
Was there somebody around the Steelers that mentioned the linebackers to you?
"You hear it all the time. You hear different guys around the locker room talking about the linebackers, you hear the coaches talk about the linebackers. You can see fans in the street and they tell you about the tradition of the linebackers."
Who are the three hardest hitters on the Steelers defense and why?
"I'm going to have to go with Troy (Polamalu), James Farrior and James Harrison. Those guys go out there each week and they play with a chip on their shoulder. They always play at high speeds. They are always making the big-time plays. That's the intensity they have. They don't mind coming up and taking on blockers, destroying blockers and also making big-time plays."
Can you describe the animosity between these two teams?
"There's been a lot. This year we both have one of the top rated defenses. We're both in the same division. It's a big time rival game. There's a lot on the line right now. We've been able to beat them twice in the regular season, but all that really doesn't count now. Now we're in the playoffs and it's win or you go home and the winner advances to the Super Bowl."
After beating Baltimore twice what makes them dangerous to you?
"You look at both games and they were both close games. One game came to overtime and the second game came down to a last-second catch by Santonio Holmes. Our games with them are always close, but the thing that is the difference in deciding which team comes out on top is turnovers. It's about which offense doesn't turn over the ball and which defense can cause the other team to turn over the ball and be in good field position."
Is there animosity or mutual respect between these teams?
"I definitely respect their defense. We both have a similar defense, that's why I appreciate their defense. I like watching them play defense. If you watch them play defense and you watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play defense, I feel that's how teams across the league should play defense."
What do you think of the Ravens offense?
"They have a good offense, but their team is built on their defense. Their offense is well-respected and definitely coming around. (Le'Ron) McClain is doing a heck of a job running the ball. (Joe) Flacco has been coming around since the beginning of the season and he's getting better each and every week."
Do you consider the Steelers and Ravens throwbacks teams?
"I guess you can say that. Going in, the main thing is to stop the run. If there is anyone who plays football and goes in there and stops the run and forces a team to go to their passing game, then if you have a good rush you're going to put pressure on their quarterback. That can cause havoc and force them to throw some bad passes and maybe causing some fumbles here and there."
*The Ravens ran the ball effectively the first two times. What will make this time different?
"Doing our job. Staying in our rush lanes. Not over-pursuing the ball. When I go back and watch the last game, we didn't do a good job of wrapping up and tackling. We had one or two guys with him, but the guy was still moving forward to get two or three extra yards when we shouldn't have allowed that. We have to do a better job of tackling."
*How important is will in this game?
"The team that comes out most physical is usually the team that will win the game. The team that makes the fewest mistakes can win. The team that takes the opportunity when it's there. The least-penalized team usually goes out and wins. There are a lot of key factors to this game. You control your own destiny."
The Steelers offense did not have a typical year running the ball, did that put more pressure on the defense?
"One thing as a defense, we don't really worry about our offense. We feel like if we can stop a team from putting more points on the board than our offense then we can go out and win the game. If our offense goes out and puts up three points, our job is to not let the other team go and put any points up at all. That's what we control at the end."
What do you know about bounties the Ravens put out on Steelers players?
"I don't know anything about that. I heard on TV, that there was a bounty on Hines Ward, but each week he just continues to go out and do what he does. Every week people are going after Hines Ward just by the way he plays. Every week he just shows up and ends up hurting them, because they're so focused on trying to get him and he ends up getting them."
If you played on the Ravens defense, who is the one Steelers offensive player that would scare you and why?
"I would have to say Willie Colon, our right tackle. He plays so physical each and every day. How he plays is how he practices. He's one of those guys that constantly gets after you and works hard every day. That would be the guy I think that would be the challenge."
Do you expect the winner of this game to win the Super Bowl?
"Yes, I would have to say that, because of the way both teams' defenses play. Usually games are won on defense. If you've got a good defense, you go out there and not allow many points, then that's usually the team that wins Super Bowls."
If you had a vote for defensive player of the year, would you have voted for James Harrison?
"Definitely, definitely. Not only is James Harrison playing good defense, the guy is also on special teams. He runs down on kickoffs, he's on the punt team and he's making big-time plays there. He plays the whole game when he's out there on defense. He's doing everything -- getting interceptions, getting sacks, forced fumbles, recovering fumbles, he does everything. The thing about our linebackers here is that we don't rush every play. It's not like James is out there rushing every play; he is dropping off in coverage as well, so he would have definitely have my vote."
Did you expect these teams to meet again in the AFC Championship game?
"I really didn't expect that at all. I didn't really expect that. We thought we might have to play Tennessee, just because of the way they had been playing the whole year and that they beat Baltimore the first time around. I was thinking Tennessee would be the team in the AFC Championship."
Are you surprised the Ravens made it?
"I'm not surprised; I'm not surprised at all. They've been playing good all year round. It was just the way Tennessee had been playing that I was thinking it would be Tennessee."
Can you appreciate that people are looking forward to a low scoring game?
"It's one of those games that people are going to watch and not be bored. A lot of people like games that come down to the wire because it keeps them on the edge of their seats. Sometimes when it's a blowout, it's not really exciting, you don't really have people watching and there's not much to talk about. When it's a close game, you give people a lot to talk about. It keeps the intensity level up."
With Willie Parker healthy, what does he bring to the Steelers offense?
"He just brings excitement and explosive plays. When Willie Parker gets into a gap and he's healthy the way he is, he takes off and gets 10 yards, or he's going in there to score. He did a good job of that last week against San Diego, constantly moving the ball downfield and not losing yards, but gaining yards. When you see that, the offense wants to do more and more as they give him the ball."