JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Great to see everybody. Obviously, it was a late night last night, and we've been grinding it out here today. And you guys look like you've been grinding it a little, too. Welcome back, Mark [Zinno, from his military service in Iraq]. Good to have you back. Thank you for your service. It was a great win. It was hard fought, as you guys know. It was emotional. I think, [it was] very meaningful, even beyond the ramifications of what it means in the division and all those kinds of things – those are very important – just because of the opponent we were up against. The Steelers are a tremendous football team. They're led by a great quarterback, [they have] a tremendous defense, skill players everywhere on offense, and they played a heck of a game as well. So, that's part of what makes it such a great win."
It's obvious to all of us that you are very passionate about what you do and you get very euphoric after every win. Was this the most euphoria you've ever felt? (Joe Platania) "That would be comparing it to other levels of euphoria. It was a great win, and it was one to be excited about. It was something that we all felt great about after the game. You go in there and you win in that environment, against that team, who we have so much respect for, in that manner… That's going to be something that everybody should be excited about. And I know the fans were, too. So yeah, it was up there – way up there."
Ben Grubbs appeared to play well coming back from his injury. He stated after the game that he didn't feel he aggravated the toe. Is that still the feeling today? (Aaron Wilson) "So far, so good as far as that. No negative report on the toe. And, I think he played well. It looks like he was very solid. And you'd like to think that he's only going to continue to improve as he gets healthier and healthier and gets back into game shape."
Brendon Ayanbadejo's concussion seemed to be mild. While no brain injury is mild, does it appear his concussion was not severe? (Aaron Wilson) "I'm sure we'll do all the testing, as far as Brendon's issue, but it doesn't appear that there is anything serious there."
How much do you think fatigue played a role for the Steelers' defense down the stretch? Do you feel you wore them down as the game went on? (Drew Forrester) "Well, that would probably be a little bit of a strong way to say it. They were still strong at the end. I think we made some plays. Anytime you can have a fast tempo on offense against them and then move the chains, that's the key. You've got to move the chains, get first downs. It's not too often that they play that many plays on defense. That's something they excel at – getting off the field. And then staying on the field on offense, obviously, because they are a high-rate-of-conversion-on-third-down-type of team. So, to flip that a little bit was big for us. The more you're on the field on offense, the better chance you have."
Can you talk about the Ravens' conversion on third down percentage last night? (Garrett Downing) "I think we were 14-of-21, then if you count the fourth down, 15-of-22. That was key. You've got to move the chains against any football team, but especially against the Steelers. You've got to keep any good defense out there if you can. You're not going to have too many explosive plays, you're not going to gash them by any stretch, but if you can move the chains, I think you have a chance."
It may not be a factor down the road, but is there a psychological advantage to having the tie-breaker advantage over the team that usually is neck-and-neck with you down the stretch? (Dave Ginsburg) "I haven't thought about the psychological implications of it, but it might be a plus. But, the mathematical implications are definitely there. But, it doesn't mean much if you don't go out and win your next game – and then your next game and your next game – because at the end, it's how many wins you have compared to how many wins somebody else has, and then the tiebreakers come in at that point. So, you just have to keep stacking wins. And that's why you talk about one week at a time. In the National Football League, every week your season is on the line. Every single week the season is on the line just for that reason. So, that's why we try to point to this Sunday and make that the most important thing we're doing."
Talk about your emotions after you watched the pass go off of Torrey Smith's fingertips and then to watch Joe Flacco go back to him again a few plays later to win the game? (Mark Zinno) "I don't know if there was emotion as much as there was just tension. You know, you just feel tension for each play. You're hanging on every play, every play call, every defensive call they make, trying to anticipate along with your coaches what might be coming next. I thought Cam [Cameron] did a great job of calling plays [and] attacking the end zone. Joe did a great job of making the reads and attacking the end zone. We had a crossing route we just missed on. We had the deep ball, obviously, we missed on. But in that situation, you've got to score a touchdown. I thought Cam and Joe, along with the receivers, did a nice job. Plus, the offensive line, as far as the protection part of it, they were running some good twists at us, a couple of pressures. And our pass protection in the fourth quarter – with the exception, obviously, of the one sack/fumble play – especially on that last drive, was the best it was the whole game."
Billy Cundiff shrugged off the early missed field goal and came back with some big field goals. How clutch was his performance, especially in a tough place to kick? (Garrett Downing) "The one at the end of the half was probably the biggest one. That was huge for us, because it was a 51-yarder, and I think there's only been four 50-yarders kicked there in history at Heinz Field. That tells you how tough it is. The footing was really tough. The first kick, I think, his dry foot slipped a little bit, and that contributed to the push. But, it was obviously huge."
Coach, for years there has been a blueprint for emulating the Steelers' success here with this team. Anquan [Boldin] has mentioned how he was brought in, Ozzie [Newsome] has mentioned, sometimes, how we want to be like them, even [owner] Steve [Bisciotti]. Was last night's game like a quantum leap towards one day being like them or even better? (Stan Saunders) "No way. You have never heard me say that. I would never say that. We are going to be like us. That whole premise is just… With all respect to the question, that premise I would reject. We are going to be like us."
Is there any consideration at the end of squibbing that final kickoff, just to run a little bit of the clock with eight seconds left? (Mark Suchy) "Yes, there was consideration. We talked about doing that, and Billy [Cundiff] felt very strongly that he could hit the touchback there, which on that footing, was tough to do. But he had been doing it throughout the game. We had a little bit of wind at our back, so that's what we decided to do."
With the benefit of seeing the video now, how tough is it for guys to avoid some of the helmet hits, like in Ray's [Lewis] instance and with their guy [Ryan] Clark on the breakup on Ed Dickson? (Aaron Wilson) "How tough it is to avoid those? (Reporter: "Sort of the split-second things. They want to keep these guys safe, but at the same time, when you are bringing with your shoulder, the helmet is very close to the shoulder as well.") I am probably not going to get into that conversation right now. It's tough. There is no doubt about it – it's tough. It's fast, and it's physical and all that. But, the rules are in place for a reason, so that's the way it works."
All five of Dennis Pitta's receptions converted third downs into first downs. Could you just talk about how critical he was in the passing offense? (Ed Lee) "Right, we just talked about third down being so important. Dennis [Pitta] has a knack for getting open. I think he and Joe [Flacco] have really built a chemistry with timing and anticipation, because some of those routes are routes that you have to kind of run on the fly based on what the defense gives you. For those two guys to be on the same page like that, it says a lot, and it bodes well for our offense going forward."
If I could just ask a follow up, how are he [Pitta] and Ed Dickson, how are they sort of finding a rhythm, being more comfortable and just being tight ends? (Ed Lee) "I think they are doing great. Both those two tight ends – Ed and Dennis – are really making progress. [We] couldn't be more pleased with them. I think it validates drafting those two guys, obviously. They are big targets. They are athletic guys, and they are going to be a big part of what we are doing going forward."
I know we talked a lot about Joe Flacco last night, but in this game, when the running game was kind of having some trouble against their defense, for Joe to step up the way he did and really get the offense going kind of on his shoulders, what does that say about Joe to you? (Ryan Mink) "It says the same thing I have been saying every week about him. You guys have been here every week, you have heard what I have said about him – I haven't changed. As far as the running game, obviously, the numbers would have been a lot better if the first one hadn't been called back, which was very well blocked by everybody on the play. (laughing) I think we stuck with the running game. Give Cam [Cameron] credit, and the offensive line, and the offense – because they wanted to stick with it – for sticking with it. Even though it wasn't as productive as you would like it to be, it was important, against a defense like that, to neutralize that pass rush a little bit. That's what the run game does for you."
What was your overall assessment of the pass protection yesterday, especially comparing it to the previous couple of weeks? (Brett Hollander) "Well, I think it was a lot better at times, and at other times it wasn't quite as good. Sometimes, though, it was coverage also. I think more of the pressure came from the fact that they covered us really well out there, which they will do. They change their coverages up, they mix their defenses, they give you pressure with zone and man behind it, they play two-high versions of both of those, they play one-high versions of both of those. They will cover you sometimes, and the quarterback has to do a good job of minimizing the negative play. They are going to get some pressure, because they have really good pass rushers one-on-one. But, all in all, I thought it was good."
For many years, the defense has carried the torch around here, and sometimes the offense wouldn't necessarily play as well. But this time, a lot of the defensive guys were praising the offense for kind of bailing them out. Just your thoughts on how that can kind of grow and build the team with both sides playing real well. (Aaron Wilson) "To me, it's not the first time that has happened in the last three-and-a-half years. The offense has done that a number of times. But, to me, it just goes back to: 'We win as a team, we lose as a team, we do everything together as a team.' Our guys believe that and buy it. I think every player on each side of the ball wants to do their part and really wants to uphold their end of it. For the offense to be able to do that this game in that way is very valuable, and it means a lot to them. I think it means a lot to all of the guys."
In your post-game conference, you mentioned the fans jumping off their sofas excited. Are you and, more importantly, your players aware of how important a game like this is for the fans? (Bruce Raffel) "I don't know. I think we are. I think we know it's very important and really meaningful to the city and to the people. I've heard… Some of our wives have called in and said, 'It's going crazy out there. Everyone is going crazy out there in town.' We're kind of isolated and insulated in here. We're already working on Seattle, so we don't get maybe to enjoy that as much. But our families tell us. I know it's a much better day for our kids in school today, I guarantee that. They're not fighting as much today as maybe they are some other games, but that's the life of the business. I'm really happy for the fans of Baltimore, because I think they deserve it. They're the best fans in the world; they are the best. For them to be able to be a part of this it's really… It's a big deal."
Halfway point, 6-2. Obviously, any coach would say they prefer to be 8-0. But how do you like the way things have gone thus far and would you have taken it differently? (Dave Ginsburg) "Prefer to be 8-0, just like any coach would say. You just kind of look at it and take it for what it is. The record could be better; it could be worse in the end. We've won some big games against some good teams, especially some AFC teams. And we've let some slip away that we shouldn't have. What you just try to do is continue to improve, because the next challenge is going to be the toughest challenge. That's just the way it is. So, I think you look at it from that perspective."
You talk about the season being a series of sprints. With a night like the game last night, do you carry anything forward to the next game? Or, do you just tell everybody, "Put it in the rearview mirror and let's focus on Seattle?" (Mark Zinno) "Well, mostly I think you put it in the rearview mirror. That's something we have to deal with today, because it was such an emotional win. That's a little tougher than maybe some other games, as far as the growth part of it. We have to build from it. We have to learn from it. There's still plenty of mistakes. So, I think we've said before, you get smart by… If you're smart, you learn from your mistakes. That's how you become a smart team and all that kind of stuff. We played as a smart team yesterday. All the emotional smarts were out there. We weren't penalized very much. I thought we kept cool with our emotions very well – under fire, so to speak. That was something that was really important for our guys to do. So, that's something we can also build off of."
Had three targets for LaQuan Williams on that last drive. I know Torrey Smith had the big catch, obviously. Can you talk about Williams' development and Joe Flacco's confidence in him at this point? (Mark Suchy) "You know, Joe's an interesting guy. Just talking about Joe, he'll throw to anybody. He'll throw to whoever goes out there. He's got trust in those guys. That's just who Joe is; that's just his personality. If the route calls for the ball to go there, he doesn't hesitate, and LaQuan came through. What he's done… His story, obviously that's kind of where you're going, it's a pretty amazing thing. But I don't think LaQuan looks at it that way. LaQuan looks at it as he's a part of this team. He's going out there, and he's making plays and he's doing that. That's how we look at him too. He climbed the ladder for two of those catches on the sideline. Those were big-time catches that big-time receivers make. So, there it is. You are what you do in this league, and he's proven it."
On that same note, in general, how pleased are you with the infusion of youth mixed with the veteran leadership? It's producing dividends as they merge. (Stan Saunders) "No doubt about it. That's kind of… I think that's the value of having a team that's… We've got great veteran leadership. And then we've got some young guys who are the right kind of guys. And our veteran guys do a great job of teaching, and our younger guys do a great job of learning, and of course, along with the coaches being a part of that mix. So, that's what you hope for. Hopefully we can keep building on that."
What is the preliminary look on Seattle? (Stan Saunders) "It's early yet. They're very talented, obviously. The defense is playing well. Offensively, they're dangerous. Give me a couple days, a couple hours, to take a look at them, and I'll have better information for you."
You used a quote from, I believe, Teddy Roosevelt when talking about Joe Flacco. Is that something you learned in school? (Ed Lee) "Somebody set you up to ask that question. (laughter) It's Not the Critic Who Counts. I memorized that in sixth grade. What are you saying? Do you want a recitation of it? Is that how you pronounce that, recitation? (Reporter: "I do.") Ok, I'll try it. I'll try not to fumble it: 'It's not the critic who counts. It's not the man who points out where the strong man stumbles or the doer of deeds could have done them better. It is the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with blood and sweat and dust, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again…' Not bad. (Reporter: "That's good enough.") No, I'm going to get it for you. You can clip this out right? (laughter) 'Because there is no great effort without err and shortcoming. But who does strive to accomplish the deed, he knows the great enthusiasms – the great devotions. He spends himself on a worthy cause, because at best, in the end, he knows the triumph of high achievement, and at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place will never be with those cold and timid soles who neither know victory nor defeat.' (applause) Just a little moment there. You guys are much more forgiving than the team. (laughter) If I had that pause with the team, it would have been over. (laughter) Thanks for your patience."
Did you use that on the team in the locker room post-game? (Mark Suchy)"No, I gave it to them in our iPad. I was planning on, at the right moment, breaking it out. But they're a less forgiving audience than you guys."
I know you're a big history buff. How often do you go back and use that kind of stuff? (Ryan Mink) "Oh, about once every other day. (laughter) No, whenever it comes up. We get stuff all the time. There are a lot of really neat people that are associated with the program now that have gotten to know the players and the coaches, and they'll send letters and we'll read that to the guys. Our guys will come up with stuff – stories, quotes, just anything that seems to resonate – you like to use. We use humor more than anything – a lot of jokes, videos. We've got a bunch of clowns; we've got a bunch of guys that like to have fun. Being a part of a team, it's a special thing. And you guys all know that and have been a part of teams before. It's a very special thing to be a part of a team."
John, you referenced the iPad. I know you're one of the few teams right now using it. Can you talk about that a little bit and give any observations you've made about how it's helped you guys? (Drew Forrester) "Well, I think it's helped us… Probably the biggest thing is that the players really relate to it. The players nowadays, they're younger than most of us in this room right now, and that's what they were brought up with. So, they flip through that and they want to turn that thing on and go to work on it. Then you can include so much more into it than you can on a notebook, things like that. Just motivational stuff, stories, e-mail-type stuff, you can throw it in there. We merged the video with the notebook stuff that you normally would have on paper, so that stuff is all merged together, it's tied together in one place. And I think our guys get a lot more work done as a result of it, both here and at home. We'll get them the game plan tomorrow night. By Tuesday night, they'll have the game plan, and we'll send it to them and they'll have it on their book. And we expect them to be prepared on Wednesday morning when they come in to work with the game plan already having looked at it. Plus, we've saved a lot of trees, so we feel good about that."
In the past, you wouldn't have given them the book until Wednesday morning? Is that right? (Drew Forrester) "Yeah, [it's] just they would have had to come in to pick it up. So, it would have been tougher for them to do it on their day off. Some would – the quarterbacks usually did – but now everybody gets it, so it's a big plus. Now, who looks at it? All the guys that want to be great. That's the ones that look at it early."
Are there any quick Kodak moments from last night that really exemplify team and unity to you? (Stan Saunders) "That's just a broad question. I think the celebration probably right after the touchdown pass when we all realized Torrey [Smith] caught it, that had to be the best moment probably. And [senior vice president of public and community relations] Kevin [Byrne] knows, he was standing back there giving me the old thumbs up with eight seconds left and we were kicking off. It was a neat point in time, because we had really accomplished something with that drive and it looked like we were going to be OK. And I, of course, told him, 'It's not over yet.' He's like, 'I know it's not over yet.' And then we were both nervous about… I think all of us [thought that] we've got to cover a kick and we've got to defend a play. So, that's how you think during the game. It's just kind of the next play."
Coach, you don't want to give too much, I know, into injuries, but can you update us on Ozzie Newsome and his hip after your celebratory jump into his arms? (Brent Harris) (laughter) "The man's a Hall of Fame tight end, you know? He can catch, right? He's supposed to… When you jump into somebody's arms, you expect to be hoisted! (laughter) I was dropped! (laughter) But it was later explained to me that I was covered with Gatorade, and you know, Ozzie's got a nice suit; he didn't want to have to get the extra dry cleaning, I think. A lot of people were like pushing away, and I finally realized it was sticky." (laughter)
Are you listed on the injury report with a chin this week? (Mark Suchy) "Oh, man. That's great. It was great. It was a great locker room. You guys were in there. It was a great locker room. But we're moving on. Seattle is up."