Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 21

"Good to see everybody, and obviously, we're happy to be coming off two home victories. Compliments to the crowd, the stadium people, the people around the community that got the streets cleared, the parking lots cleared, the fans for getting there. You know, I think there was a lot of speculation that the fans maybe wouldn't show up, wouldn't brave the elements. It seems like they took it as a challenge, and they were there in full force. It was loud, and it made a difference in the game. So, we're pleased that we won. We're excited to be playing meaningful games in December, and we're just trying to get better every week."

How do you feel about the philosophy of "peaking" in performance?

"I think there's probably something to it, generally speaking, probably. You obviously want to be playing well when it's most important, but the thing about this league you find is, it's pretty much important every week because those games that you win or lose early end up being so important right now. You know, if you add one win or take one win off any of these teams' records, what a huge difference it makes in the standings and where they stand. So, I think you just try to be as good as you can be every single week. You try to build a team maybe that is at its best in December and January. That's what you hope to target throughout the course of the year. Other than that, I think you just do your best every week."

Can you give us an update on rookie CB/RS Lardarius Webb and what you'll have to do going forward?

"Lardarius has got an ACL, so he's going to be out. That's obviously disappointing. He played so well. He's such a likable guy, and you guys know what kind of a guy he is. I think he's made a big impact on our team, and the guys really respect him and like him. So, we're going to miss him. As far as going forward, we're going to have to see. You know, if it's guys bumping up that are already here, obviously, that are going to play more… You look at some of the guys that we have here; they'll play more as we go, and those guys have played a little bit already to different extents. And, it'll be possibly somebody coming in from the outside. So, we're going through that right now, that process, and we're looking at all the possible options. We want to bring someone in that can help us this week against Pittsburgh. That's our priority. If we can get that done, we will. If we can't, we won't. But that's what we're going to try to do."

If you went outside the team, would you be open to bringing back CB Chris McAlister?

"We're open to bringing anybody back – anybody back that can play, anybody that can help us. Obviously, he would be an option, and there are other options out there as well."

Did you get a chance to look at any of the games McAlister played a few weeks ago with New Orleans?

"Yeah, we've looked at that. We've looked at… All the guys we're looking at, we've looked at all their most-recent games to see where they stand."

Are you looking for a guy that could help you as much as a nickel, or possibly a starter as well?

"Well, I think that's what we have to determine. What's the best fit? So, you've got to look at the roster right now as it stands, what guys do well where they play right now, and where we need the most help. Is that inside, is it outside? What specific packages they'd be a part of, that's all going to be important."

As the old saying goes, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. With the recent losses of Pittsburgh and the Ravens' recent success, what is your take on the way things happen in the NFL?

"Right, that's great. You always put a great spin on it. It's a good story, and we wouldn't have it any other way. It really doesn't matter. We'd be playing this team at this time with something at stake, no matter what. Obviously, when the season started, you looked at the schedule – and we talked to our guys in the beginning – this game was going to be meaningful. This game was going to be a game that was going to have a huge impact at the end of the year when it counted the most. And, here we are. Maybe it's not the path that we all would have anticipated, as you said, but it's the path that got us here and here we are."

Do you ever think how far or how thin a team can be stretched with the many injuries the Ravens have sustained this season?

"I don't know. I guess we went through it last year and we saw how thin we could be stretched. And we were doing really well there for quite a long time. I think we were staying pretty healthy for quite a while. The good news is we're going to get some guys back, hopefully. Guys have been working hard to get back, and we're hopeful that those guys will get back, and there's a good chance they will. And then you lose some guys. I'm disappointed in the number of knee injuries, obviously. The so-called 'catastrophic knee injuries' have taken their toll on three or four of our guys. So, that's been disappointing."

Is this week's game against the Steelers the game that S Ed Reed has focused on as the date he would return from his injury?

"I don't know. You'd have to ask him. He may have, he may not have. He's worked hard every week to try to get back. It's been my understanding he's tried to get back every single week. He tried hard to get back this week, and he just couldn't pull it off. So, he's going to try hard to get back as well [for this game]."

Several weeks ago, people were asking what had happened to QB Joe Flacco and what was wrong with him. Now that he has played well in back-to-back games, how would you answer the question of what's right with him?

"You've seen the games. He's played well, obviously, and guys have played well around him. It makes a big difference. It's a team sport. It's offense, defense and special teams. It's nice to have a lead for the defense. It's nice for the offense when guys make catches for you and you're the quarterback. Pass protection means everything. Special teams establishing field position [is important]. So, all those things have helped our quarterback probably play better the last two weeks. But, then again… You know what? He's probably played better the last two weeks. He's made good decisions as far as protecting the football. He's especially done that in the red zone, which is most important. We've got to keep playing well around him and coaching well around him, and he keeps, hopefully, getting better through the course of the next few weeks."

Does it say something about the Ravens offense' that even without Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington, two of the team's top wide receivers, they were still be able to move the ball well and put up a lot of points in the game yesterday?

"Yes, it does. It's a statement. The offensive line played really well. We're always going to find a way to put 11 guys out there, and they're going to have Ravens helmets on and Ravens jerseys, and it's their job to play like Ravens. And, I think guys did that. Yeah, the injuries are tough, but we've got guys on this team that have been working hard that are part of what we do, that are out there every single day, who just can't wait to get their opportunity to play. And then they get their opportunity, and you really hope that they play well. And for the most part, guys have."

Have you noticed any changes in WR Demetrius Williams from the beginning of the season until now?

"Well, it's a good question. If you take it all the way back, I think he's worked hard from the beginning. He's re-made himself, a little bit, as a player. He's become bigger and stronger, and from way back when – whenever that was – when we first got here, he had a long way to go, physically. He's gotten in the weight room. He's stacked some muscle mass on himself, and he's a bigger, stronger kind of guy. Then he had the injury setback. So, I think he's worked through that. He's still learning the offense. He'll tell you, there were times he lined up incorrectly in this game, and those are things he's got to continue to work on – be more precise, understanding every part of the offense – and yet, he goes up and makes plays. That's the thing that you look for. He's probably… The biggest thing I would say is he's stronger to the ball now than he's ever been, since we got here. That's what a big, tall receiver needs to be for you."

Has there been any talk with WR Mark Clayton about going on IR?

"[There's] no talk about putting Mark on IR. He doesn't have that kind of an injury right now. Unless something changes with that, which I definitely don't anticipate, he's going to be back playing for us, hopefully this week. He's pushing hard to make that happen. He's just got some tendonitis issues in there that are very painful, but that stuff is starting to even out for him."

Is this the week where pressure on the QB is emphasized more than ever?

"I don't know if we can even emphasize it anymore than we ever have. Pressure on the quarterback is always critical. It was really important last week, and I think we did a decent job of getting to [Jay] Cutler. But with Ben Roethlisberger – he's a guy who handles pressure probably better than any quarterback in the league. He can make pressure miss, he can shrug pressure off, he can throw with four guys draped on him, and throw accurately. He can scramble out of the pocket. So, it just can't be pressure. It's got to be very accurate pressure. It's got to be disciplined rush lanes, and we've got to tackle, not just him, [but] when the ball gets thrown out, their receivers do a great job of running after the catch. They catch and run, and they get up the field fast. So, we've got to be strong tacklers, treat the short passing game as the run game and make sure we tackle."

What are your thoughts on still possibly winning the division?

"My thoughts are that winning the division is out of our control, except for the fact that we have to win all our games. So, whether [we] make the playoffs or win the division, we have to win all our games. If that happens, we'd be very proud of that."

Is it gratifying to know that you control your own playoff destiny?

"I think our guys approach the fact that we control our own destiny as a challenge. It's well deserved. We have fought through a lot of adversity. We've lost some tough games that we would have liked to have won, and yet we bounced back. Our players have bounced back, and our coaches too, have bounced back the next week. They have not gotten bogged down in any disappointment with anything that's happened through the course of the season, and that's what's important in this league. People say it's a marathon. Maybe it's a marathon, but I'm starting to think it's a series of sprints. It's a long series of sprints. It's one sprint after another every single week. You take a little breather, and then, bam, you're back at the starting line. You've got to start over again. So, we've got to find a way to get back on that starting line this week and win another game against a great opponent – an opponent that, obviously for us, is a huge challenge. It's our archrival. But that fact that we can do that is something that we take pride in, but it's an opportunity more than anything, and a challenge."

Do you expect to have a new defensive back on the team by Wednesday?

"Do I expect to? Yeah, I do, probably. Realistically, we'll probably have another defensive back on this team by Wednesday. But if that doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. It's not like they're out there everywhere. There are certain, probably, specific qualifications that we're going to need in a guy to help us this Sunday win the game. If we can't find that guy, then what you have to do is, you've got to bring in a long-term roster improver, I guess you could say. I can't say it any better than that. I'm sure there's a better way to say it, but somebody who bolsters up your roster for the long run."

More of a developmental guy?

"Yeah, thank you. Where was that when I needed it? (laughter) That's it right there. But, the priority, I guess I'm trying to say is, let's get a guy for this Sunday if we can."

What have you learned about your team's depth now that maybe you didn't know early on in the season?

"I don't know. That's probably a great question for after the season. Right now, it's just focus on the next game, really and truly. There's no time to think about that kind of stuff. I already knew our guys had great heart. I knew they were courageous. I knew that they were confident, that they would bounce back and they would find a way to get better. [I knew] that they weren't going to back down – all those things that you've seen. We already knew that, so I don't know if there's anything new there. It just probably confirms what we already knew about our guys."

How much respect do you have for Pittsburgh's running game? What do you think of RB Rashard Mendenhall?

"I think [Rashard] Mendenhall's a great player, and he's not the only great back they have back there. Obviously, Willie Parker's a great back. Their offensive line is big and physical, and you really don't realize it until you see them in person out there, 25 yards away from you. They get on you, and they stay on you, and they get after you. I don't know what the stats are, and it really doesn't matter. We know they can run the ball. We know they're committed to running the ball, and they're balanced, and they can run it, and they can throw it, and they've got the bootleg stuff. So, they just present you with all kinds of challenges on offense."

S Troy Polamalu has been out for a while. Do you have any expectations for him to play in this game, and if so, how does that change your offensive scheme?

"No expectations. I'll be eagerly reading everything that comes out of there and everything they say, so hopefully they give us an indication if he's going to play. *(laughter) *We'll see. He changes everything. The other guys back there… They have a good secondary, and I think that their guys play well together in the back end. But, Troy Polamalu's a wild card, because he's capable of lining up in that in-between area and playing it either way. He can line up in that in-between area and play down on the run and be in your backfield when the ball's snapped or line up in the in-between area and be 20 yards deep when the throw is made and actually catch the ball and make the big play. He's just a wild card, and he makes deciphering defenses very difficult."

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