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John Harbaugh Friday Press Conference

Posted Dec 23, 2016

Opening statement: “Great to see everybody, and as Jamison Hensley just said, Merry Christmas. I would also like to wish everybody a Happy Jim Harbaugh’s Birthday Day.” (Reporter asks: “Did you call him?”) “Not yet. We have to wait to get the whole family together. When we do it in our family, we call and we sing happy birthday over the phone. I have to get my family ready to do that. But, Happy Birthday to Jim and Merry Christmas. Jim was one of those guys who always thought he was getting shortchanged because he had Christmas [and his birthday]. Can’t imagine that, can you, that he would think that? (laughter) Very proud of him, and I wish him luck in the Orange Bowl.”

Did you only get him one present between his birthday and Christmas when you were growing up? (Ryan Mink) “I don’t recall that we ever bought each other a present ever, [not] one time. (laughter) My mom took care of all of that. (laughter) At that stage of our lives, we were more into the getting than we were in the giving, I have to acknowledge.”

Were you guys in the same room? (Senior VP of Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne) “Yes we were. Pretty much makes the point that there was no mine or his. As most brothers understand, each other’s toys belonged to both.” (Reporter responds: “You have to buy the brother what you want.”) That would be a good strategy. In fact, I think that tactic was used to buy the other person what you really want.”

Did it kind of feel like Heinz field with “Renegade” playing in practice today? (Jamison Hensley) “I thought we had an excellent music selection today. We had some great songs. We had some Ozzie Osbourne and ‘Crazy Train.’ We had ‘Bloody Sunday.’ We had some great music out there today.”

Was that the Pittsburgh playlist? (Jamison Hensley) “It might be. [Facilities assistant] Marlon [McLean] does a great job out here. He’s a super DJ. Get his name out there for parties and banquets and weddings. (laughter) He’s the Ravens’ DJ. He does a great job.”

John, is it just unplayable to practice outdoors? (Jerry Coleman) “The fields just stay frozen, because we go in the morning. The fields are too hard and a little too slick.”

When facing a quarterback as big as QB Ben Roethlisberger, what do you tell your guys in terms of where to target him? (Ed Lee) “We target in the target zone. The strike zone is below the neck and shoulder area and above the knee. With any quarterback, it’s no different. Ben’s the same. The thing with Ben is he’s so good at dealing with pass rush. I think he’s just one of the best ever at handling pass rush. You really have to do a good job. You really have to focus on him. It’s tough enough to get to him with their offensive line, and they get the ball out quick and the screens and checkdowns. If you do get there, you want to wrap him up and hang on.”

You guys have done pretty well against WR Antonio Brown, compared to other teams. What stands out about him that makes it so difficult to cover? (Jamison Hensley) “The thing about Antonio Brown, besides all the intangibles, which I have great respect for, especially as a Mid-American Conference guy … I was a one-time corner in that league, and you see the kind of talent we had to cover in the MAC. (laughter) He’s just very elusive. He’s a great route runner. He’s very explosive [with] phenomenal body control and hands. He and Ben have a chemistry that is really special.”

With CB Jimmy Smith’s situation, does it help that you guys tend to keep your corners on the same side and play WR Antonio Brown more straight up as opposed to traveling with him? (Luke Jones) “Traveling with corners … I think [defensive coordinator] Dean [Pees] has explained this before. If you play all man coverage, it makes perfect sense, and the next thing would be, do you have the matchup that makes sense? Jimmy is a different kind of mover than Antonio Brown, so it wouldn’t necessarily be the guy that you would match up with Antonio Brown. You could in certain places and wherever you run certain routes, you would have to be really diligent about the details of that. We play a lot of zone coverage and man coverage. We mix our coverages up, so whether we did that or not would depend on the call and the situation.”

Not many teams have fullbacks nowadays. How valuable has FB Kyle Juszczyk been? (Ed Lee) “He’s been extremely valuable. He plays the fullback position, but he’s also a very multiple-type of a player. You can give him the ball. He’s great in pass protection. He can line up outside and then run routes as an outside receiver. Not to minimize, he’s one of our best special teams players. He’s just a core special teams player. He’s excellent at that. I think his value is very high.”

Stopping the run is always important, but with RB Le’Veon Bell and his style, is it amplified because it’s like he almost waits for you to make a mistake? (Cliff Brown) “He’s a very patient runner. It’s a very patient run – very physical run – offense. They do, they look for you to make a mistake. Their kind of a counter-punch-type of a blocking scheme. They run every scheme there is, so you have to be on top of your reactions to the schemes. He’s got great vision, as well, so really, everybody is at the point of attack. Every gap is at the point of attack. You have to defend all the gaps.”

It seems like their defense has been getting in the backfield pretty consistently recently. What’s been working for them? (Coley Harvey) “They’re a very aggressive defense, you’re right. They’ve done a good job of playing an opposing offense’s backfield. They’ve had negative yardage plays in the run. They’ve had a lot of sacks. That’s been a big part of what they’ve done. That goes to the talent; it goes to the scheme. It goes to the fact that we have to avoid that. We can’t really tolerate them in our backfield. We have to do a great job of limiting the negative plays, especially in Pittsburgh. That’s something I think they’ve thrived on over the years as a defense. All the way back – take it as far back as you want – all the way back to coach Chuck Noll. That’s what they are all about. It’s really important for us to minimize that.”

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