HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY ZOOM PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "OK, [it's] good to see everybody. I appreciate you guys being here. We obviously are moving into this game against Pittsburgh, our last game of the season, and we need to win it. So, that's going to be our focus, 100% – everything we can do to play our best football this game coming up. It's been a crazy stretch. It's been a tough five-game stretch here without a win. So, we want to win. That's what we're going to try to do, everything we can do to get that done. I appreciate the way the guys played yesterday. I thought, like all season, they played extremely hard, and they were physical. I appreciate our physicality. I thought we stepped up a little notch yesterday, which we were aiming to do, but we came up a little short in terms of the score at the end of the game. So, we're disappointed with that part of it, but all eyes are going forward to our next game. That's what we're going to have to do. What questions do you have?"
Going back to yesterday's game a little bit, how difficult were the timeout decisions there when they had the ball? It looked like you ran towards the ref after first down and you were considering taking a timeout. You did take one after second down and ahead of their fourth down. What went into the thought process there with how to use them? How close were you on first down? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I wasn't going to use it on first down. I don't really remember if I ran to the ref or what, but I wasn't going to use it there. On second down, we were going to use it. Some of it is to wait and see if they [would] use theirs. I didn't want to … There was once or twice in there I gave it a second, or two, or three, to see if he [Rams head coach Sean McVay] was going to use his or not, which I thought he might. Then I think one time when he didn't, then I called timeout. So, we played it out the way we wanted to. It went the way we thought it would with the timeouts, and I thought we did a good job with that."
There's kind of a … You've probably seen the scenario for the Ravens to reach the playoffs. Is that something that you even address to the players, as far as saying, "This is what needs to happen for us to get into the playoffs?" (Jamison Hensley) "We're not going to sit there and talk about who we need to root for; I think our guys pretty much know who that is. So, our focus is going to be on our game – winning our game. So, nothing matters if we don't win. That's really the focus every week, and that's what we're going to focus on."
This is probably not on the forefront of your mind, but this could be QB Ben Roethlisberger's last game in the NFL, according to what he said. I don't think you've probably faced anybody more in your career. What comes to mind when you think about all those matchups? (Childs Walker) "I have a lot of respect for Ben [Roethlisberger] as a player. I can think of a lot of plays over the years. We're both Miami guys – Miami University guys. So, I've kind of enjoyed those conversations when I'm able to have them with Ben and all of that. That's about it; I really am not thinking about anything else along those lines right now. It's not my focus."
CB Jimmy Smith played every snap defensively yesterday. It looked like he gave it a really good effort. I'm just wondering what you saw from him on tape? (Ryan Mink) "I thought he played well. He was physical. He was moving well, the best he's moved all year since training camp, and we needed him to. He played a good football game. He did well. So, I'm happy for him."
I was wondering how much of a role CB Marcus Peters played yesterday? I know he was obviously sidelined, but he seemed like he was super engaged. I know it was his former team. I also know defensive coordinator Don Martindale shared with us last season that he allowed CB Marcus Peters to call defensive plays for a half. What did he bring to you yesterday, if you even noticed it? (Bobby Trosset) "Yes, he was out there. It's always great having Marcus [Peters] on the sideline [and] all of our guys when they're able to be there that are in rehab or whatever. They're not all allowed to be down there; it depends on the stage of the rehab sometimes. But Marcus is great with the guys and great with the 'DBs' [defensive backs]. He has a great understanding of the game. He had been studying the gameplan. He knows the offense there, and I thought he had some really good insight for the guys. His energy is always great. It's always a joy to be around him."
It looked like there were a little bit of play clock issues, just getting the ball snapped on time. I was wondering if you could go over what is the procedure for this part of the game and how things go from the play-caller to the field, and the challenges that are involved in getting things in on time? (Kyle Barber) "The play-caller makes the play-call. Sometimes it's done verbally, sometimes it's done through the wristband, as you see how we do it. That's how we do it. The quarterback makes the call. Within that process, those who are involved or are responsible for getting the personnel group on or off the field do that on the sideline. The guys who make the substitution run in. We don't generally signal substitutions, because we don't want to signal to the defense what the substitution is going to be and make it easy for them to make their substitution as much. We try to do it verbally, and that was smooth throughout the course of the game – it has been most of the season. We've had a couple issues with running guys on and off, but for the most part that's been good. It was good in the game yesterday. So, that's the procedure for it. The couple [delay of game penalties] that we had were basically ones that we should have gotten off. It wasn't like we were running late; those were plays that we could have gotten off and we should have gotten off, but we didn't. So, we're disappointed with those two situations there."
We didn't get a chance to ask you about OLB Odafe Oweh with the foot injury last week. How is he progressing? Does he have a chance this week? On the flip side, because of some injuries, OLB Jaylon Ferguson the last couple of weeks has played way more than he had really all year. What has he shown you with the opportunity the last couple of weeks with him playing on defense? (Luke Jones)"Odafe [Oweh] has a chance for this game, and Jaylon [Ferguson] has played well. I thought this was his best, best game, probably. He played very physical [and] knew what he was doing. Of course, he always knows what he's doing, but he was probably his most physical. He was in the right spots and had an impact on the game. I thought he played well."
DB Brandon Stephens, he's played quite a bit this year considering everything going on, on the defense. What have you seen from him throughout his rookie year – from start to finish – and his growth there? (Cordell Woodland)"Right, he's been a starting safety most of the year, so, yes, you're right, he's played a lot. And he's grown – as you said – throughout the course of the season. He's really improved. There's no teacher like experience, especially in football and especially in the defensive secondary. So, there's a lot to that position; there's a lot of communication; there's a lot to see, a lot to anticipate. I promise you, just getting lined up and having an idea where the next motion is coming from is a big challenge. And then you equate that to the defense called. There [are] some coverage adjustments that have to be made in there. And then once the route unfolds, getting yourself in the right landmark and leverage relationship based on the routes, those are challenging things. Oh, they might be running the ball, too, so I've got to come downhill and make a tackle, make a play on the ball – whatever it might be. And this is not a player that played safety before. Brandon [Stephens] was a running back in college, and then he was a corner, and then we brought him in here, now he's playing safety for us. So, I think it's pretty remarkable – what he's done, what he's accomplished, how far he's come. He's playing very solid football back there, and I think his upside is ahead of him. He's only going to get better from here. But there's a lot to be said for how he's played this year – in a really positive way."
With the Rams driving yesterday, did you ever think about letting them score to have more time for your offense to drive down to kick a field goal and possibly win the game? (Kevin Richardson)"Yes, there are times for that. … Are you asking me if this was a time for it, in this game? Is that the follow-up question?" (Reporter: "Yes.")"No. No way. There was a good chance we were going to keep them out of the end zone there. That was what we were trying to do in that case. Those situations are when they get inside, say, the low red zone area or field goal range, and maybe you're up by one and they're going to kick the game-winning field goal. That's when you might let them score, so you can get a chance to get the ball back, go down there and score a touchdown and get two or win the game with a touchdown or whatever it might be. It depends on what the numbers of the score are. But if you need to get the ball back there, you might let them score. And usually, if an offense is well-coached, it's not going to oblige you in that; it's going to get down inside the 5-yard line before they score. We've even seen teams carry ball-carriers into the end zone to try to make sure they get the ball back. But yesterday was not one of those games, and we still had about a minute left [for] a chance to go down and get the field goal. So, that wouldn't have been a consideration at all yesterday."
What do you think the chances are of QB Lamar Jackson playing on Sunday? And how much has he been trying to maybe push to try to come back and play in practice? (Jamison Hensley)"He's been pushing to try to come back and play in practice, and there is a chance that he'll play on Sunday."
Was that just a legal pick play that got WR Odell Beckham Jr. free? Did you have any problems with how that was executed or called? (Jonas Shaffer)"Are you asking me if it was a pick? I don't think it was a pick – no. I think it was a route that our guy got hung up in, so I don't think it was an illegal pick. You could look at it that way. I could look at it in a way that if we had done that, maybe we would have gotten called for a pick; is that what you're saying? I mean, I've thought that sometimes, to be honest with you, if I was just being blunt. But no, I don't think that was an illegal pick on that play."
Was WR James Proche II just a victim, kind of, of a numbers game and needing numbers on special teams or on defense, or did something physical come up with him late in the week? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Correct, it was numbers. We only had a spot for five receivers yesterday."
When it came down to goal-line series with about five minutes to go in the game, was that to you the turning point there – not being able to punch it in? (Jerry Coleman)"We needed the touchdown. We wanted a touchdown there. I don't really see it as a turning point, but the fact that we were unable to score there and make it a nine-point difference, that was huge for us. We really wanted that touchdown there, and I was really disappointed. I think we're all not very happy about the fact that we weren't able to score there. Not just that; let's be honest, we had opportunities to score touchdowns, and we got field goals, on offense. So, we did move the ball, we made plays on offense, we did some good things, but you've got to score touchdowns. And our offensive players, our offensive coaches, myself, all of us, we're disappointed in not scoring touchdowns yesterday. We score touchdowns, we win the game – it's that simple. So, that's something we really work hard to do, and we didn't get that done yesterday, so that was disappointing."
Talking about WR Rashod Bateman, how important is it for this young wide receiver to have this good chemistry with QB Tyler Huntley, knowing that he missed the whole training camp? He's having good snaps and good plays and getting ready for what is coming in the future for the young wide receiver. (David Andrade)"Right, yes. He's done a really good job. We're really happy with Rashod [Bateman]. To miss training camp the way he did, and not just that, [but also] early in the season, games, and to come on and start playing the way he is, I guess we expected that; we picked him in the first round. We thought he was going to be a really good player, and he hasn't disappointed us. So, again, [he's] another guy with a really bright future. I'm just looking forward to Sunday. Him and Brandon [Stephens] and all these young guys; I just want to see them play Sunday. So, we'll talk about down the road, down the road. I think these guys are going to be really good players for us for a long time, but right now, I want to get them ready to play on Sunday and try to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers."
On the interception QB Tyler Huntley threw before the half, when you went back and evaluated that play, do you chalk it up to miscommunication? Was it WR Marquise "Hollywood" Brown's route? What do you chalk that up to? (Bobby Trosset)"Tyler [Huntley] will tell you, it's just an ill-advised throw. That was not a throw we needed to make. He'll tell you; check that one right down. That's a check-down throw right there, and he has Mark [Andrews] on the check down, and he'll hit Mark, and Mark will run, and we'll be in good shape. So, that's one to learn from right there."