Opening Statement: "Congratulations to Domonique Foxworth. He was Defensive Player of the Week. Matter of fact, Kevin [Byrne] just told me that, so that's exciting, well deserved. We've had a couple of roster moves. As you know, we brought in Corey Ivy to replace [Lardarius Webb] on the roster. [Webb] is going to have to go on IR. And, [there is] Keith Fitzhugh, a safety we signed off the Jets' practice squad. Marcus Paschal was waived; we hope to bring him back as soon as possible. He'll still be in our mix as we go forward, if we are able to do that, unless he gets claimed, and it will bolster our secondary up with those moves."
On CB Chris Carr's improvement over the course of the season and if he feels Carr is playing good football now and ready to play a lot against the Steelers:"Yes. One thing about Chris Carr is he's very versatile, and he's played well all year. You're in the slot and you battle and you have some good ones and some not so good ones against the guys we play against. But I think Chris has shown over his career that he can play. He played outside quite a bit last year for Tennessee. He had seven or eight straight games where he was a starter for the Titans last year. They had a pretty good defense. He's played well when he's had his chances for us."
On what it means to be able to bring in a player this late in the season like Ivy who is familiar with the Ravens' system:"That's really big for us – the fact that he understands how to play in the slot as a nickel in our defense, knows the calls, knows the structure, knows how we pattern reads. [The fact that Ivy] knows how to play all those defenses without really even having to learn any of it new is probably the key factor. Plus, he's in great shape. We worked him out yesterday. We ran him in a 40, which you usually don't do that to the veteran guys. But our scouts, led by Ozzie [Newsome], they do that. They really challenge these guys in workouts, and he's in great shape. So, he should be able to help us right away."
On reports that S Ed Reed is getting a second opinion on his hip today in Florida and if there is concern that he may miss an extended period of time due to his injury:"I'm concerned about all of our guys and their health and what puts them in the best position to play as early as they can, but more importantly about their well being. And, we just want to exhaust every precaution to make sure that our guys are healthy and they're ready to go. Ed has confidence in Dr. Uribe down there in Miami, and we just want to take a look at it and see where it is. We feel like he is making progress and know there's a chance he'll play. We'll just have to see how it shakes out. We'll know more though when he gets back."
On whether CB Lardarius Webb will be ready to come back for training camp next year or if his rehab might carry over into next season a little bit:"We don't know right now. There's a chance because he's young, he's a little bit lighter and you don't carry as much weight around, that he could be back practicing in training camp. I'd say that's probably the best case scenario. Maybe, even at the end of OTAs he gets a little bit of work, would be the very best case scenario. The worst case scenario would be we'd have to put him on PUP and we'd see him seven weeks into the season. So, that's probably the timeframe right now."
On if Webb's injury is just a straight ACL injury:"Yes. Clean ACL."
On if Carr's extended playing time on defense will cut into his time as a returner on kickoffs:"Well, we'll have some other options we'll be building, and we'll just have to see how that plays out. He's still our primary guy, but we have some other options there."
On playing at Heinz Field and if there are certain places, just like teams, where it is more difficult to win:"I don't know. Probably certain teams have had trouble winning in certain places. It usually has to do more with who you're playing than the place – you know, the quality of the team. And the Steelers have been a good team for a long time, so they've been tough to beat in Heinz Field. But, they've been tough to beat everywhere. We're pretty comfortable there because we've been there a lot. So, it's not like we don't know where the locker room is. It's a pretty normal place for us to be."
On the bad snap last Sunday by LS Matt Katula being just an unusual mistake and not a problem with his elbow:"Well, he's had some elbow issues throughout the course of the year – just a little tendinitis or something there. I don't think that's it, because I see him snap time and time again good ones. So, I think he just got a little juiced up a little bit and fired the thing high. It happened one other time. He's very capable of being on the money. He's a quality snapper, and I know Billy [Cundiff] has got a lot of confidence in him."
On the possibility of getting into the playoffs by taking care of business the next two weeks and what it means in light of the ups and downs this season: "It means if we take care of business, we're in the playoffs. Yeah, that's what it means. It's a fight in this league. It's week to week. Very few teams just breeze through, and even the undefeated team, they've had a lot of ups and downs, too. They've been in a lot of battles – one being against us right here. So, that's just the great thing about this league. We're very proud to be in the position that we're in, and we're going to do our best to make the most of it on Sunday. And, that's really all we can do."
On if this week's preparations will include the possibility of the Steelers inserting QB Dennis Dixon into the mix even though Ben Roethlisberger will be the starting QB:"No, no. We've got our reps against him, so if he gets in the game, we'll be fine. Ben is the guy we're preparing for."
On whether there will be any gratification for the Ravens players if they hurt the Steelers' chances of getting into the playoffs:"I don't know. I wouldn't get into that. We've got enough issues of our own to take care of that relate to us."
On Roethlisberger's strength being the key to getting away from the pass rush as much as his athleticism and his ability to move well for his size:"It's a combination of his size, strength, athleticism, balance. [It is] the fact that he's so accurate on the run, so accurate when defenders are draped on him. He's probably the best playmaker out of the pocket as a thrower in the league. They've built the offense around that."
On if he feels after watching the tape of Roethlisberger's winning TD pass against Green Bay on Sunday was his only option:"I didn't look at it from that perspective, as far as what his reads were or anything like that. We were looking at it more from the perspective of defensively [of] how you would defend the play. So, they could probably answer that for you."
On whether the play could have been defended better than the Green Bay cornerback played it:"Sure. Absolutely. Any time they throw a touchdown pass, [the defense could be better]. You say, 'We've got to defend it better than that.' Every play is defendable, and that's the challenge that you have."
On what the mentality is with all the bumps and bruises at this point of the season: "I think you've got to have that mentality from Day One, from the day you walk into training camp. You have to know that, no matter what you go through, that you will never be as healthy as you are going to be from the day you come into training camp. So, December has got to be kind of the same thought process – nurture and take care of your injuries the way you're supposed to take care of them. Just make sure you stay on them, not just at the facility, but at home, too. You've got to stay on top of your body, and if you do, you can pretty much last throughout, whether it's ankles, sprains, hamstrings, whatever it may be. Once you develop a nice pattern, it kind of just flows."
On if he finds that most guys play with more pain because they have to: "Yeah, I don't think it's even a question. Definitely, a lot of the vet guys, it's not a question of how the pain is. You deal with the pain during the week, but once the game comes, there is no more pain. You're just going to deal with what you're going to deal with, and however you've got to get through it, you've got to get through it, unless it's something that actually sidelines you. You're going to play through whatever pain it is."
On if it's fitting to play the Steelers with so much on the line: "I don't know what 'fit' means. I just think it's the next team on the schedule, and it just so happens that it's Pittsburgh. We knew, coming into the season once you see the schedule, we knew where this game was going to be at the end of the year. So, here we go again. Nothing has changed. I just think it's the same format."
On if this playoff situation puts more meaning on the game for him: "I just think, overall, I don't over-dress it. I just think it's football. It's just football, man. They're coming off a big win, a very emotional win. We're coming off doing some things right, so here we go again – AFC North. The battle is going to remain the way it is, bottom line. So, you just go play football, and that's going to take care of itself nine times out of 10. Add anything else on top of it, that's too much. Just go have fun playing."
On what kind of atmosphere he expects in Pittsburgh this weekend:"I'll always go back to speaking about their history. They have a strong, strong back, diehard people that have been around for years, way before I was born. So, you've got to understand what you're going to get coming into Pittsburgh – cold, snowy, the field conditions, that crowd is going to be crazy. But I'll tell you, that's probably one of the best stages to be in, in December. To actually get that type of football in against this caliber of a team, it comes down to the same things. We've been battling some close and tight games for the last decade now, so it's going to come down to that type of game again. Here we go Pittsburgh."
On if there is hatred or a mutual respect between the two teams: "I think it's kind of a little bit of both. We know who we play against. It's just like the same way with the Bengals, or whoever else is in your division. It's just the way it is. It's going to be personal. You see each other twice a year. Whether you're friends or not – even when you were in the schoolyard – winning is winning. Beating somebody is beating somebody. A lot of the times, you'd still lose the game, but you'd still brag about how you would just beat somebody, or hit somebody, things like that. So, it's going to come down to that same thing again. I just think, even to my young guys, the words I keep using are, 'Here we go again.' You can't do anything else but appreciate these type of moments."
On if there is any need to be reminded of the AFC Championship loss last season: "I don't think you bring it up at all. I mean, you're talking about a whole year ago, and you're talking about 15 games, 14 games already into the season. For you to go back and remember things like that, it's a long time ago. You can keep those feelings in your mouth. I've kept that taste in my mouth the whole time losing the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh. But do you remind people about it? Absolutely not. You move on, and we understand where we're trying to go as a team and where they're trying to go as a team."
On if a win there would remove a little bit of that taste from last year: "I think a win removes a taste that we didn't go to the Super Bowl, bottom line. That's what a win does. Whether it's this week in Pittsburgh, or next week in Oakland, the bottom line is we've got to win to get in, to get a chance to do that. So, I don't think it's about them, per se. It's about the next team on our schedule. Just strap them up and here we go again."
On how big it is to have CB Corey Ivy back with the fact that he knows the defense: "It doesn't get any better when you bring a veteran presence back to you. He knows our mentality, he knows our defense, he knows… It's not like you're bringing somebody in to learn something new. Lardarius Webb, you're heart goes out to a young guy like that who loses the season so quickly. I tell him that all the time: 'You're so young,' and you're running around and then, pop, it's over. You comfort him, but having a C.I. is saying, 'OK, I know I lost a young guy, but I've got another vet guy.'"
On how different the Steelers' secondary is without S Troy Polamalu:"Obviously, they can disguise things a little bit better because of… Not taking anything away from Tyrone Carter, but Troy's been in that spot for a while, and his range as far as sideline to sideline is probably better than anybody, with the exception of Ed Reed. When he's back there, you're able to disguise your defense a little bit more and a little bit longer, because he can line up in the box, and then at the snap of the ball, and as the quarterback's taking his drop, he's in the secondary somewhere. It's a big difference when he's out there. If he's out there playing, then we've just got to continue to do what we've been doing the last couple of weeks. If he's not, then so be it, too."
On if the offense has gained more confidence from the way it has been playing the last couple of weeks:"We've gotten into a rhythm, I think. I think in this league, as you build a rhythm, you build confidence. Not to say that we lacked any as an offense, but once you start to get on a roll and you start scoring points… It's just like with anything – with a hitter or a golfer or a guy at the free-throw line or shooting jump shots – once you get into that rhythm, you feel that there's nothing that you can't make or hit or what-not. Right now, that's the way we kind of feel in that we're on a roll now, and we kind of feel that there's not a play that we can't make as an offense."
On if the team has thought about the fact that a win against the Steelers would knock the Steelers out of the playoffs:"We're not thinking about Pittsburgh in that aspect, winning to knock them out of playoffs. We've got to win to get ourselves in the playoffs. It's just like every other week. The two wins that we've had, they were great wins, but it means nothing if we can't go down to Pittsburgh and win. It goes for the next following week. If we have that opportunity to beat Pittsburgh, it means nothing if we can't go to Oakland and win. We're not worried about knocking Pittsburgh out of the playoffs or the playoff picture. We're worried about getting ourselves in the playoffs."
On if he thinks the Steelers have a "backs against the wall" mentality:"I think we've both got our backs… I think we're both playing for the same thing. We've both got our backs against the wall, and we're fighting for our lives, our playoff lives, right now. We're both playing for the same goal. Obviously, we're in a little bit better seat than they are, but they have to win out, and we have to win out to even have an opportunity to go to the playoffs. We're both fighting for the same thing right now."
On if losing Polamalu has been the biggest difference in the Steelers' defense or if something else has made them more vulnerable:"They don't seem vulnerable to me. They seem like the same vaunted Pittsburgh defense. They've just had their share of miscues on the defensive side of the ball. Everybody goes through their highs and their lows, and they went through their lows as a defense. Taking Troy out is a big loss, but yet, still you've got 10 other guys that have been playing in that same spot for a long time, and then you throw Tyrone Carter… It's not like he's a first-year player. This guy's been in the league 10 years and knows how to play. Granted, he's not a Troy, but he knows how to play. They're still out there, and they're playing hard. One guy changes it a little bit, but not what they do defensively as a team."
On if the memories from losing the AFC Championship game come up at all when returning to Heinz Field:"No. You don't think about it. You think about the game at hand and the task at hand. This year is this year, last year was last year. We can't pull anything from last year. We can't dwell on last year. They can't pull anything from last year, and they can't dwell on last year. Going back into that stadium for us is just another opportunity to get closer to the playoffs. We're not looking at it from a standpoint of what happened last year. That was last year. What we're doing now is looking forward and trying to get into the playoffs."
On if it's fitting that the Ravens and Steelers would play at this point in the season with what's on the line:"I guess so. I guess so. It is what it is. Obviously, Ray [Lewis]… Listen… This guy has been on the telephone over there for 30 minutes now [doing the Pittsburgh media conference call], and he's long-winded. Now he wants to rush me. [Lewis interjects: "You were supposed to be last."]
"How should I have been last? Wow. OK…" [Mason makes his exit.]
On the offense's confidence the last few weeks: "I think the confidence we have is… Obviously, when you score points, it builds confidence. We're scoring points in that area where we were struggling. We're finding ways to score, whether it's running or passing. Guys have stepped up, made plays, and one thing we know [is] if Joe [Flacco] is confident back there, and our offensive line is confident and our receivers are confident, we know we can score points. It's been proven. We started the year off smoking hot, and then we hit a halt. But right now, in December, we're playing good football."
On if he thinks QB Joe Flacco is playing better now than he did earlier in the season: "Joe is right where he needs to be in terms of this is the time of year where he's really become smarter with the football. He knows when to throw the ball away now, and the great part with me and Joe [is] we're just still learning. We're still scratching the surface, but with the experience we have now playing in these games, playing in the tough losses, you learn from them. The one thing we try not to do is make the same mistake over and over. So, I think we're both right where we need to be in terms of still learning and gradually playing good football right now."
On how long the AFC Championship loss last year has stayed with him: "For me, I learned about the rivalry. I learned about December football. I learned a lot, obviously, because I was coming back from injury. It was a feeling that you never want to forget, especially when you're that close to almost being where you want to be, in the big dance. It was the first year for me. You can't just take back that feeling, but it's a new year. We've hit our stride, and we're going to this game with an opportunity to really control our own destiny. The one thing we know now is that it really doesn't matter who the Steelers or anyone face. The Ravens have to go out there, and we have to go out there and take care of our business, and everything else will take care of itself."
On what his challenge is now that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin says he is the go-to guy for the Ravens:"For him to give me some kind of respect like that, obviously, I must be doing something right. It's coming from the World Champs. Like you said, we know what kind of game this is going to be. I can't say I'm going to do anything different in terms of my preparation, but to just go out there and prepare for a physical game, and whenever I get a chance to get in space, try to make a play or two without forcing anything. If they're going to isolate me, then other guys are going to have to step up and make plays. That's what this league is all about, and this is what I've expected. A team… From the way I've been playing, you don't expect them to just go out there and see me as another player. I've always wanted it this way. I want them to see me as a dual threat out of the pass and the run. I want teams to respect me when I'm out there. [It's] just a credit to our team pushing me along, but another guy has to step up if they plan to take me out of the game."
On if they spied him at all last game: "I don't think they spied me. They played their defense."
On if he anticipates that happening now: "You anticipate little stuff. The one thing you do with a defense that's that aggressive and that physical, when you get the ball, they're going to rally to you. They want to… With a physical defense like that, sometimes there might not be an adjustment; it might just be to hit the guy until he can't take any more hits. That's what they do. They play physical football, and they scheme things up. They did some things last game where they caught us with a couple of blitzes that we have to prepare for, but we're looking forward to the opportunity. They're not going to be the same Pittsburgh Steelers team we've seen. They have their leader back in Ben Roethlisberger, so we have to expect the unexpected from him. Their record doesn't show how good of a team they are. They are the defending World Champs."
On how he feels physically: "I'm good. You've got to remember, I was in college. I took 300, almost 400 carries in one year, so this is less carries for me. But the way I'm doing it… Coach [John Harbaugh] is being smart. Preparation during the week helps out. We know we have to play on Sunday, so a lot of stuff we do now is just going out there preparing for a game. We have to take care of ourselves during the week to go out there and play on Sunday."