On if he relishes the fact that Sunday's game could be a defensive battle for both teams:"I think it will be. When you look at it, they've [Pittsburgh] got the No. 1-rated defense, and I think we are pretty close to them. So, we're expecting to hold up our end, and whatever that takes, that's what we are going to give up – one point less than we get. That's what our mission is this week."
On if he feels Baltimore's defense has been the NFL's best this year, especially in the playoffs:"I don't know if you can say that right now because I think they [Pittsburgh] had an unbelievable year when you give up 230 yards or whatever they gave up [per game]. They certainly deserve their rankings and all that. But right now, it comes down to one game. So if we're the best defense, we'll win."
On the injuries to the Ravens' defense:"We're saving them [injured players] for OTAs [laughing]. Obviously, right now this time of year, if a guy can go then he is going to jump right in there and go. But shoot, if he can't and he thinks he is hurting the team, then you have to pull them out."
On why Baltimore's defense has done so well producing takeaways in the playoffs:"I think we led the league in the regular season as well, so it's not surprising that we would get some takeaways. Hopefully, that trend continues and we can get some more this week. We know they [the Steelers] are an outstanding defense, so we need to get some takeaways."
On Steelers RB Willie Parker not getting a lot of yards against the Ravens in the regular season:"I guess he got a lot of yards against San Diego and stuff like that, and I read all the experts say we would have given up 150 yards to the running back [Chris Johnson] from Tennessee. But remember, he never finished the game for some reason. Whatever that reason is, they can cry all they want. Who cares? We're here. We're still playing, and they can watch us."
On OLB Terrell Suggs' health:"Terrell is an outstanding player. I don't know if it's his best year — he's had a lot of great ones – but certainly, if he's close to being healthy, being 100 percent – and that might be 50 [percent] – we'll take him."
On the fact that Suggs has never missed a game for his NFL career:"It's funny because you see his personality, the kind of young man he is, and maybe you don't think there is a serious side to him. But certainly on Sundays, he is all business. He is durable. In the NFL, durability is probably as important as athletic ability. He's got both of those traits."
On how much smarter LB Ray Lewis makes him appear as a coach:"Trust me, it's a heck of a lot more about Ray [Lewis] than it is about me. I can promise you that. He's such a student of the game. The practices, the meeting times that we have, that's only part of it. If you really want to be great, you'll study the tapes and all that yourself. Ray probably puts in as many hours as most coaches do."
On how much he trusts the defensive players to make calls at the line of scrimmage:"That very rarely happens. We have a system that's flexible in our calls and things like that. We trust them to make the audibles and correct things like that. But there is flexibility in who blitzes and who doesn't blitz. We'll change things up and all that stuff, but as far as changing the call and all that, they occasionally will do that once a game or something like that, and that generally gets me to the middle of the field. But for the most part, with our guys, we're all on the same accord. They know when they change a call that, No. 1, it better work, and then I'll say, 'Give me the credit for it.' But realistically, it's a partnership that we've had for a long time now. When we put a game plan together, we explain our calls and explain why we are doing them. Our guys pick up on why we are making those calls and what they can expect as well."
On trusting his defensive players to make decisions:"The trust part, it's there just executing the defense. Again, it could be multiple [options] and things like that within the calls, but we know they are going to make them. We think ours is an easy defense to learn, and I think we have had probably as few as many mistakes than any team in the league."
On how well his interview with the Jets went on Sunday:"I'm excited about the interviews and things like that. But again, I'm excited about coaching right now. Hopefully, if the thing goes on, if there is another day to interview or whatever next week, that would be great. But, I just want to get to a Super Bowl and help coach this team."
On what the most difficult part of preparing to defend Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is:"It's hard to simulate a guy that big and strong and all that kind of stuff and the things he does. You're not going full speed on your practice quarterbacks, either. That's the thing – he's made some great plays against us. You have to give him all the credit in the world. That's what their offense does – you can have a free run at the quarterback, but you have to get him down. At times, he's thrown somebody and he'll scramble and make plays. His receivers do a great job of recognizing that their quarterback is getting out of the pocket, and they do a great job of trying to get open."
On how tough it is for a team to beat another team three times in the same season:"I hope it's real hard, but this is a separate game. Those things are all out… They don't add up the points and start from there like the CFL did one year. This is a one-game deal, and we have to be the best team that day."
Opening statement:"This is a new season, it's a one-game season and, obviously, offensively we've got a heck of a challenge against this defense. But I know our guys are excited to play, and we'd like to think we're going to be even better this week. I think we need to more than last week."
On whether he feels Ravens QB Joe Flacco and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger are more similar or different:"It's a good question. Obviously, there's some size similarities, some arm strength similarities. They are both competitive guys. Obviously, one's a lot younger, but one has a similar opportunity that another guy had. [They are] two outstanding quarterbacks. Obviously, one's a little further along than the other."
On if the improved ball security in the playoffs is due to a heightened focus or concentration:"It really isn't. We don't try to have any levels that we teach and coach ball security. It's always going to be our No. 1 priority. I just think it's another case of some guys that are growing in our offense. You can see it. I know you guys see it. We've got a lot of players that are still growing as players. You could see the growth last week. You could see the growth throughout the course of that game, and it will always be our No. 1 priority."
On what the team is doing to prepare for the cold weather in Pittsburgh:"That started way back in the spring when we practiced outside in the rain. We go outside when it's cold. We come in here when John [Harbaugh] feels like we need to. We try to simulate certain things, even when we're indoors. We're trying – it doesn't always work – but we're trying to build an offense that is weatherproof and condition-proof."
On if Coach Harbaugh is as calm and steady as he is in public when he is with just the coaches and players:"He's pretty consistent. We all have our moments. But, what you're seeing in John is who he is. I guess that's the best way to answer that. He's the real deal. He's not afraid in any circumstance – as you guys know, I'm not telling you anything you don't know – to be who he is. And that's why, I speak for myself as well as everybody in this building, we all respond to him so well."
On the way the Ravens were able to box LB James Harrison in the second game against Pittsburgh and if that was a result of adjustments in the game plan or the team playing better than the first game:"I don't know that we did anything earth shattering. Obviously, we've got to play better than we played last time. That's our focus. You have to focus on their defense as a whole. There is no way you can go focus on him and ignore all these other guys. It's a collective effort. Scheme-wise, everything you have to do against these guys is collective, and we'll have to do a better job in this game than we did before. Period."
On the added dimension a player like RB Ray Rice brings to the offense:"We haven't seen him in a while because he hasn't been healthy. But, we think he's an outstanding football player. He's smart. He's tough. He probably [has] a little different style. [He has] a little more quickness in some areas than some guys. We're going to need him in this game. There's no doubt about it. He's probably the healthiest guy we have."
On if he had any questions or concerns about the way Ravens rookie QB Joe Flacco would perform in the playoffs:"I'm not really wired that way in terms of concerns or [questions]. You just go into the game prepared. My thinking was that he's going to be who he is and do the best job he can do and not really try to create any uncertainty in his mind. We have a lot – and I speak for myself as well as the [rest of the team] – we all have a lot of confidence in him. I think he senses that. I know for me personally, I know for Hue Jackson, we're not going to start wondering if Joe [can do it]. That's just not us, and at this point we really don't think that's him."
On his thoughts on safeties Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed:"There's going to be a lot of great players on the field in this game. Obviously, those are two of them. As coaches, we're all looking for those types of guys. Again, I have stated this probably since our first practice, one of the advantages we have – and I think for us offensively the greatest advantages we have – is going against our defense on a year-round basis. We haven't come up against any defenses yet that can create more problems than the one we see every day."
On how he would describe the intense rivalry between the Steelers and Ravens now that he has seen it up close:"It's a great rivalry. In looking at it from a distance, you could sense it. But, it's great to be a part of. If you've been fortunate to be a part of rivalries in college or in the NFL, in my mind, this is as good as there is."
On how difficult it is for kickers and punters at Heinz Field:"I think over the years, the toughest part of the field has been the playing surface itself. I'm not sure the winds are that unusual this time of the year in any of the northern stadiums. My understanding is that they've re-soded the field, and we are expecting a good surface. It looked like it held up well last week."
On if he thinks Heinz Field is one of the NFL's top-three toughest stadiums to kick in:"The playing surface has been the biggest issue. I was in Cleveland for a long time, and I thought that the winds were tougher in Cleveland than they are in Pittsburgh. It just depends on when you play there [in Pittsburgh] during the year and how much use it [Heinz Field] has had."
On how dangerous Steelers WR/PR Santonio Holmes is as a returner:"Obviously, last week he demonstrated how dangerous he is. He is a big-play guy, and they are using him more and more in that role because he has had success, and he has jump-started a few drives for them. He's someone you're going to have to deal with."
On the play of S Tom Zbikowski on special teams:"He's evolving, I guess is the best way to describe it. He's learning more about what we are doing. He's been playing tackle all year long, and so each practice rep that he gets I think he improves."
On what has been the most impressive part of P Sam Koch's year:"I think he's really developing a touch in the pooch area. He's becoming a weapon for us, and last week we had another [punt] inside the 5 that helped us with the gunners. It's always a good feeling when you start the opponent inside the 10-yard line. I think what's happened over the course of the season is that he's starting to aim deeper and deeper. He is able to gain more control of the ball. Now, inside the 20 turns to inside the 10 for him."
On if he relishes the fact that a special teams play could decide Sunday's game:"Absolutely. This is a whole new year for the special teams. We start out as a one-game season every week, and that's exciting. Nobody is really caring about the stats pack and all that stuff. Everybody just wants to make a play that makes a difference, and this week is no different for us."
On how important it is to get low and maintain leverage to keep DT Casey Hampton from pushing the pocket:"Definitely. Casey is a great player. Of course, he definitely has a low center of gravity, but I feel that I'm built well for the job as well. I'm one of the shortest centers in the league, so hopefully I'll do a great job getting underneath."
On the advantages and disadvantages of an unstable playing surface like Heinz Field in the trenches:"You definitely have to make sure you have great footing underneath yourself, making sure you get your second step down. It's not going to be one of those crazy, out-of-control games because you do have that field surface. It will just have to come down to good, fundamentally sound football."
On if Pittsburgh is a tough place to play compared to other stadiums around the league:"When it's loud, it's loud. Really, that's all you can chalk it up to. After that, everything else is white noise. You just drain everything else out."
On if he feels that home field advantage really means anything in the playoffs:"It definitely does. Coming this far, we definitely feel as though we owe it to our home town fans. I'm sure they would love for us to play another game at M&T Bank Stadium. But, I'm sure they don't mind traveling as well. I'm sure they won't mind traveling down to Tampa."
On being a free agent at the end of this season and if he's thought about this possibly being his last game as a Raven or if he hopes to play for the team for many years:"My stock with the Ravens – the best way that I can keep my stock up – is playing well out there on the football field. And, that's all I'm focused on right now."
On how his ankle is feeling:"The ankle is doing good. I got a little bit more work today, so I'll see how it feels in the morning. I'll see how many reps I get tomorrow."
On if this is a game where the team best able to run the football will win:"Oh yeah. We just feel as an offense we've just got to go out and execute. In the last game we left plays out on the field. [We] got in the red zone three or four times and came out with field goals. Our main goal this time is to just do what we've been doing all season, but even better. Turn it up a little bit, and when we get in the red zone think touchdown not field goal."
On if he thrives on playing in the tough cold weather conditions in Pittsburgh this Sunday:"I don't [mind]. I love it, man – the cold, the field. The field is not that good – but it's a perfect field for me because the running style that I have is north-south, going downhill. That 's my game. Hopefully, by the fourth quarter, I can be wearing the guys through the first, second and third [quarters] and they won't want to tackle me in the fourth. So, I'm looking forward to it."
On the physicality of the Steelers' defense:"[Those] guys are great. That front seven that they have is probably the best. Like in Tennessee where we played last week, they're a big range of guys that love to hit. They're going to box everything in and make plays. They want to stop the run. They hate when people run on them. They'd rather have somebody pass on them than run. So, we've just got to go in and do our job. [Our job is] to run the football, and that's what we're going to do, and I'm looking forward to it."
On if his good performance in the first game against Pittsburgh was a confidence booster for him:"I felt like that was the game that really got me going. When Willis [McGahee] went down with the injury, I stepped in and just made some plays and have carried on since. I watched the second game last night at home, and after watching some of the plays I had I felt like I left plays out there. As an offense, we feel like we left plays out there. So, there's something to correct. It's going to be a big game Sunday."
On if he has extra motivation to play this week because it is such a big game, despite his ankle injury:"Oh, yeah. I've never played in a championship game. I got close a few times. This is the game – something I've been looking forward to. When we left the field against them on the [December] 14th, I said, 'We're going to see you all again.' And here it goes. Our goal is to get to Tampa, and Pittsburgh is on the schedule next week, so we've got to go in and handle business once again on the road."
On the team being at a disadvantage because all of the playoff games have been on the road:"I don't think so. You can see our season. We were on the road for five, four games straight. I think we did a great job, and the coaches prepared us for it. They prepared us for the crowd noise and everything. [Our] defense is going to be fine because it will be quiet while they're playing. So, that's a plus. And special teams [will be fine]. And, as an offense, when Joe [Flacco] has to throw, he will handle it with his poise and lead the offense. I think we'll be OK."
On if Pittsburgh is different than any place he's played before:"It was pretty loud last week in Tennessee. But, we got the job done. It will be even louder on Sunday, with the Terrible Towels waving and everything. We'll just go out there and make plays and quiet them down a little bit."
On what the game plan will be to win the turnover battle against Pittsburgh:"Don't turn the ball over. We've just got to play our game on defense. It's going to be a very intense game, a very emotional, physical game. We've just got to take care of our business, execute our game plan, and hopefully, we'll come out on top."
On if QB Ben Roethlisberger is the type of quarterback who can be forced into turnovers:"No, no. Ben is a quarterback who is very cautious with what he [does] out there. He's always aware of the situation, where guys are at and easy-to-read coverages. So, it's going to be a challenge. It always is against these guys."
On how important it is for the secondary to stay with their guys given Roethlisberger's ability to make plays out of the pocket:"Huge, man. It's like Michael Vick. It's no different. When he breaks the pocket, he's also a threat when he's throwing the ball – as well as running it. You've just got to contain him and see your guys before he does make a throw or something."
On his thoughts on Steelers S Troy Polamalu and how well he knows him from seeing him over the years at the Pro Bowl:"Troy is a great safety, a great player, a great competitor. You know that from watching him. Of course, I watch him on tape a lot, and he's a playmaker. So, just as much as guys are aware of me, they've got to be aware of him – where he is on the field. Troy is another guy who's right there knocking on the door of the Hall of Fame."
On what it is like to play in Pittsburgh and what it is like to hear their crowd go quiet:"They can be making noise, silent, whatever – it doesn't matter. It's always a pleasure and a dream come true to play in that stadium against those guys and being able to compete against your conference at this time and at these stakes."
On what he's told the younger safeties to get them up to speed for the playoffs:"We just communicate everything. Every intricate part about our game plan, we talk about it. That's been the biggest key to what we do. We have a form of communication between us that we can tell each other anything. When we see something wrong, we help each other out on the field, and vice-versa."
On if he gives the younger players pep talks:"There's a little bit of pep talk. A rookie probably pep talks me more than I do to him. It's funny. But me and Jimmy [Leonhard], it's kind of like an eye-to-eye thing. The same way Dawan [Landry and I] are. It's just total communication – nothing that we couldn't tell each other."
On if he feels that the Ravens were prepared by the number of games they played on the road this season to play all of their playoff games on the road:"If it didn't, something's wrong. To play all of those road games and not be in front of your home crowd is always something [difficult]. We got used to it. It's kind of been an all-odds-against-us sort of thing this whole season. We strap on our helmet just like everybody else, and we come to play the game."
On how he would describe his emotions going into this game, despite his calm exterior:"Calm. You just said it. It's just aware of what's going on, soaking this time in, because not everybody is fortunate enough [to get this far]. I haven't been fortunate enough to get to this point in my career, so it's just being aware of what's going on."
On if he expects LB Terrell Suggs to play this Sunday:"Yeah, oh yeah, of course. You'd have to strap him down. Just like they're saying about Troy's [Polamalu] calf. I know the competitor he has in him, and you're going to have to strap those guys down for them not to play in this game some type of way."
On how much respect there is between the Steelers and the Ravens even with their bitter rivalry:"Hate is a strong word. I think it is more a respect thing. They know we play hard, and we know they play hard. It would be something if one of those guys or one of us said we didn't respect them, because it would be a lie. At the end of the day, I believe that both teams are true fans of football and know that in our conference, though, we're going to play football regardless of anything."
On how much confidence is required between the defensive unit and Rex Ryan to execute the audibles coming up to the line:"It's got to be 100 percent trust for everybody to do their job. If everybody is doing their job, it's hard for anybody to execute against us. At the same time, they're trying to execute their game plan. So, we've got to concentrate on what we can do."
On a defense's flexibility that allows it to cover each other:"Yeah, but at the same time you don't want a guy making mistakes in there and somebody has to come out of position. You want to make sure that you're doing your job and that the next person [doesn't] have to worry about your mistake and come out of position to help you. Because then, we're vulnerable at another spot."
On how big of a loss it would be if Ravens CB Samari Rolle is unable to play Sunday:"Huge. From experience to knowing the game plan, to making plays, we definitely will miss Samari. That's also one thing that's been huge this year, that guys step up. We expect them to attack guys that haven't been in there. I would if I was playing against it. It happens, but that's why other guys get paid."
On what it is about Steelers WR Hines Ward that gets to players in the mental game:"It's [not so] much in the mental game. I think he's a hard player. He plays full-speed, 60-minutes football."
On if he will play in Sunday's game against the Steelers:"I don't know. We'll have to wait and see Sunday. I'm being optimistic about it, I hope so. But, as of right now, I really can't honestly answer the question for you. We'll just have to wait and see. All I can do is work hard to try to get it back healthy. We'll just have to wait and see."
On if when he sustained the injury, did his shoulder pop out and then pop back in:"I don't know. It's the freakiest thing I've ever seen. I looked at the play, and it didn't look like anything tragic happened. I just knew I couldn't do anything with it. I missed that game, but hopefully, I can play for this one."
On if the shoulder is painful:"Yeah, it is really painful. But you know, sometimes you've got to play through pain. But, it is what it is. It is playing football. Like I said, I've just got to work hard and get the thing back healthy as soon as I can."
On if it's getting better at all:"Yeah. I mean, I guess when I do different things, it feels like it's getting better. But you never know until the first initial hit with it. Like I said, I'm just going to work hard and try to help my team."
On if the stakes of this game make it more likely that he will play:"Yeah, I mean, I'm doing whatever I can. I [haven't] ever missed a game here, and I definitely don't want to start with the AFC Championship. Like I said, I'm rehabbing four or five times a day. Come Sunday, we'll see."
On if wearing a harness will help him to play:"I don't know. I don't know what kind of device they can have for me. At this point, this late in the playoffs, like I said, I don't know. I'm not a doctor. If they've got something that can magically stop me from using my shoulder to tackle somebody then… But up until then, I don't know."
On if adrenaline will him through:"I don't know. I don't know. It's not like food poisoning or [anything] like that. It's my shoulder. Definitely don't want to mess it up any worse than it already is. Like I said, it'd be really unfair for me to tell y'all one thing right now and then do another on Sunday. Let's just wait until Sunday. That's just the best thing I can say. That'd be the earliest I'd know is Sunday."
On what the minimum amount is that he would have to do on his shoulder to be able to go against Pittsburgh:"I don't know. The fact of the matter, that I know, is it's going to hurt. Just, the amount of pain that is there, whether or not I'll be able to play… I'm just trying to get it better."
On if the problem is pain or range of movement:"It's all of that. It's an injury, it's an injury. Like I said, I'm just going to work hard. I'm going to get it back to where I can help my team win. If I feel that me being out there will hinder us, that we'll be playing with 10, then the decision is obvious, I can't go. But, I have all the faith in the world in E.J. [Edgar Jones] and all the faith in the world in [Jameel] McClain and 'Doug' [Marques Douglas]. I mean, I was out there telling them the other day, 'Looks like you got it.' At the end of the day, what decides? Me and the team, and the coach will decide whether I go or not."
On if the injury could potentially get worse if he plays through it:"There is a big chance that it could get worse, especially in a smash-mouth game. We're not playing [Indianapolis], we're not playing a finesse team here. We're playing a team that's got the exact identity as us. So, it's going to be a physical game, and they [the training staff] said, 'There's a chance you could aggravate it more than it already is.' But, like I said, we'll just have to wait and see on Monday."
On if he would even consider playing this week if it was a regular season game:"I don't know. I don't know, because it's not a regular season game. All we've got is what's here and what's now. I don't know."
On how the stakes being so high this weekend factors into his decision:"I know. I think that factors in a lot. Like I said, I can possibly hurt my team by playing. If I'm not ready, then don't throw me out there."
On if his shoulder has been hurt like this before:"No. No, never. In the past, I'm known to be pretty durable, so it was a kind of shock. And I thought it was just something that happened for the moment, and I'd be able to go in the second half. Then that didn't happen. And then at the end of the game, before I saw the MRI, I was very optimistic about it. I was like, 'Oh yeah, it's just a little bruise, it's not going to hurt come Wednesday.' Then we got the MRI, and it said something different. I just, like I said, I think we have the best trainers in the world, so I'm going to do whatever in my power to get back."
On what he would call the injury:"I don't know. I'm not a doctor. Y'all have got to ask the doctors. I messed it up. It was freak… I wanted to say something else, but I didn't want y'all to have to edit [anything]. They just said, they've never seen anything like it."
On if the MRI showed a tear:"I can't remember. I was just so distraught when they told me. It's not good, it's not good. It could be major ligament damage. We just have to wait and see."
On how his personality seems very down because of this:"Yeah, I didn't even want to come talk to you guys, to be totally honest with you. But, this is the first time I've really been injured. Usually, everybody plays hurt. Anybody can play hurt. But, there's a good chance that I possibly won't get to line up and play for the championship with my team. And, not ever missing a game in the past, to make this my first one, is not really something I'm going to be happy about. But, it is what it is. You've just got to do everything that's in your power to get better and to get healthy."
On if he'll need surgery in the offseason:"God, I hope not. But I can only speak for what I know. Possibly. But who knows?"
On if he would rather be talking about Steelers WR Hines Ward:"I kind of would rather talk about that stuff. But, it is what it is. This game is bigger than all that nonsense. It's 10 times bigger than cheap shots or playing with injury, not playing with an injury. This game is that important. It's so important that I would actually consider sitting out to win it."