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Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 24

On if LS Matt Katula is OK to play: "We'll just have to wait and see what happens this weekend. We have a guy [Nick Sundberg] that can practice [as part of the practice squad] since Matt's been out of practice the last couple of days. So, he helped us during practice, and if there does come a situation where Matt can't play, we've got one close that can."

On how CB/RS Lardarius Webb's injury and CB/RS Chris Carr's increased role on defense will affect the return game: "One of the things that we've talked about all year is that we have a number of guys on our team that can be returners. These things happen, but it turns into an advantage because these guys have practiced it over and over. When we get to the game on Sunday, we'll have a guy out there catching the ball in each phase. Chris is in that mix, and we have other guys in that mix as well."

On if they want a starter returning kicks: "Well, what you try to do is balance all of the players. You try to balance the starters' reps in various phases. You try to get your guys that are not starters, but are playing a lot in sub-defenses perhaps, or third down packages for the offense, and you try to balance their reps, too. If the guys are not playing in any of that, then they need to do everything. That's really the case. So, we've got some guys that are playing a lot on offense and a lot on defense, and we'll scale it back a little bit on what their special teams role is. That's going to be no different this week. It's really been the same all year long. A guy like Kelley Washington, for example, has played a lot on third down, and we use him on kickoff return and sit him on punt return. So, Kelley is a good example of how we try to balance the reps for everybody because we need guys out there that are going full speed. It's a full-speed game, and if they're playing a lot and they have to go cover a kick, then it's not to your advantage to have someone that's fatigued out there. If you try to balance it in all the phases, returner is no different in that regard."

On his thoughts about RB Jalen Parmele as a kick returner: "Well, Jalen has been one of those guys that's been practicing all year long. The thing about Jalen is, you've probably noticed, he just got an opportunity to play special teams in a real game just recently. He's been one of those guys that, all year long in practice, when he wasn't dressing for the game, he was in there practicing and getting ready for opportunities, which came a couple of weeks ago when Matt Lawrence went down. So, it was to our advantage that Jalen was practicing so well because we didn't really miss out. We didn't have to train someone because Jalen had been training all this season, and that is certainly true for a number of our players. Justin Harper is another example – a guy that was on the practice squad, doing the same things, and now suddenly, he's not only on the 53 [-man roster], but he's up. So, he's got to go in there on punt team and punt return team. He's got to go in there on kickoff coverage team and play. So, the advantage of practicing those guys in the roles that they may be using, I think it becomes to our advantage at this time of the year. You need a lot of players in the NFL in December, and it may not be the guys that you're thinking are going to be playing in August, but it turns out that they are."

On what CB Cary Williams has done on special teams thus far: "He's done a very good job for us and has been very productive. When we saw his tape when he was with Tennessee in the preseason, we saw that same kind of play. He plays very fast. He's a long-limbed guy and can hold blockers off, and that comes to a real advantage when you're playing gunner. When you put him in positions that he's familiar with and you've seen him be productive on another team, he's come in here and has done exactly that. He plays very fast. We like him a lot."

On if Williams could be a candidate for kickoff returner: "Well, there are a number of guys that have done it in college and other places, but the thing we're trying to do with Cary are things that he's familiar with in our system. Playing gunner at Tennessee is not that much different that playing gunner for us. So, it's fairly easy for him to transition. I know he's learning all new terminology, new alignment rules and learning all new techniques from Marwan [Maalouf] on the outside. He's coaching him on some things that he hasn't been taught in Tennessee. The same thing is true if he's playing No. 2 on kickoff coverage. There are different things, but at least it's a familiar spot for him and we don't have to start from scratch."

On if he is looking for an onside kick in this game: "Well, you know what? We've been looking for onside kicks all year long, and the fact that they pulled one last week just reinforces you better be looking for it this week because they weren't shy about it, certainly, in the situation they used it in. At any point in time those things can come up. So, to answer your question in a word, yes."

On his suspicions regarding the status of T Jared Gaither:"Gaither is getting some good work in this week, and we'll kind of let things continue to play out. But, Oniel Cousins has done a nice job the last couple of weeks. Obviously, Michael Oher going back and forth has done as fine a job as I've seen for a young guy, and I think regardless of who your tackles are, these guys [James] Harrison and [LaMarr] Woodley, their entire defensive unit, can create matchup challenges. And you know, we had a good week of practice, and we're going to have to continue to do that."

On whether it's fair to say that T Michael Oher won't be awed playing against the reigning NFL Defensive Player of The Year in LB James Harrison: "Well, you know he's had tough challenges every week. It's kind of a standard statement, I know, but I think everybody's coming ready to play. And we know this is a good team. It's a good defense, but we try to protect collectively. It's not just tackles; it's guards with tackles, tackles with tight ends, tight ends with fullbacks, and our running and protection is all going to be done as a unit. And we're trying to minimize some of the one-on-one matchups."

On whether he feels good about T Oniel Cousins' chances against the Steelers' pass rushers: "These [guys] are what, second in the league in sacks? Again, it goes back to a collective [effort] – receivers getting separation so the ball can come out fast, Joe [Flacco] getting his feet up underneath of him so the ball can come out fast, making great decisions, mixing up the running game. I think the running game plays huge in the pass protection in a variety of ways. It's going to be a collective effort and a collective game-plan effort, because these guys create one of – if not the – toughest challenges in the league, especially around the edge."

On how confident he is that the same successful offense of the past few weeks will carry over into Pittsburgh:"Well, one thing we all know, the challenges are different every week, and this is another great challenge. We are getting better. I mean, that's the one thing… We've talked about just trying to execute better. Execute the running game better, execute the passing game better, and even when we maybe weren't scoring as many points as we all would have liked, there were some positives. Going all the way back to the Cleveland game, where we started to see some positives, there really aren't things that are written about a lot. And we've got to keep getting better, especially against this defense. But the good news is, we are getting better."

On whether he saw this offensive production coming even if the numbers didn't always back it up: "Yeah, it's hard. Look, it's hard to sustain that 30 points – it's hard. People really put a bull's-eye on you, and people get better, they get more familiar with you. And then, there is kind of an ebb and flow of most offenses over the course of the year, and we'd like to think that now we're hitting the stride again. And we need to. This is the time of the year that you need to be at your best, and it's going to be a great test for us."

On how healthy the WRs are and on how many he will have active Sunday:"Good question. You know, it's still a few more days of practice, but the one thing is we've got tough guys, guys that can play banged up. Mark Clayton will give us everything he's got. Kelley [Washington], everything he's got. It was nice getting Justin Harper in there. I thought he did some good things, and we're building some depth at the receiver position right at the right time. And, any number of guys could show up out there in this game."

On whether he is anticipating that Clayton and Washington will play: "We're anticipating those guys… You know, a decision hasn't been made yet, but we'd sure like to have them."

On the progression of FB Le'Ron McClain as a lead blocker and his attitude toward a reduced role in the running game this year:"A fullback is a fullback, and the fullback's one responsibility is to block. However, when he's also a good runner, a good receiver… I think he's an unselfish person to start with. I'm not going to take any credit, or we don't take any credit for making some guys unselfish. This guy is a team player, and a lot of things he's doing this year [are] helping us that don't show up on the stat sheet. So, he's improving in all areas. And you've got to remind yourself, too, just how young of a player he is. He's still a young player, and I think a great player. I've noticed there are some fullbacks coming around in this league. We were all thinking that the fullback position was pretty much almost extinct, but I see some good fullbacks out there, and it's nice that we've got one of the best ones."

On whether he thinks QB Joe Flacco will have one of his last throws in Pittsburgh – an INT-TD in the AFC Championship – on his mind when he takes the field Sunday: "It seems like 10 years ago. The thing that's interesting, I think… I go back to that game, and we've got four new starting offensive lineman compared to that game. We've come a long way offensively. We've got new people, it's a new offense, it's a new group, and I think we've tried to learn from all of those experiences. But we're in the moment at this point. We know what we're all playing for. We're looking forward to the game, and hopefully, if we've learned anything, it's that it's in the rearview mirror."

On whether he anticipates the Steelers will change much defensively this time around: "They have such a wide-range package. They've got a lot of things that they can go to that we've seen over the last however many years, and it's just which one they'll choose to use the most. They've got a handful that they really like, and they're really good at. They always have a little something. They'll tweak a little something in there, so you have to be ready for a lot of things. But obviously, you've got to match the speed and intensity and athletic ability because it's – as we all know – one of, if not the, most talented defenses in the league."

On the challenge of stopping Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger after his 500-yard passing game: "I look at him as the same guy all the time. He's a winner. He's a guy that can make plays. He's a guy that, if you allow him to get out of the pocket and you allow him to freelance and see the whole field, he can really hurt you. We have to do a great job of pressuring him, but at the same time, not let him get out and run around."

On his thoughts on CB/RS Chris Carr as he prepares to make the start at CB: "I think Chris, all along, has been a guy that, again, comes out every day, works to get better, and that's a great example of what we've talked about earlier. When somebody goes down, the next guy has got to step up. If that happens, then you have a good team. Nobody really cares, other than us probably, about who gets injured or anything like that. That's part of the game. You hate to have that happen, but the bottom line is you've got to put a team on that field that's got to produce, and everybody knows that when they're practicing."

On if the volume of plays that Roethlisberger makes signifies a change in Pittsburgh's offense:"The thing that you have to be careful of… If you look at who they've played, and what he does against those games, and then compare it to what his track record has been playing against the Ravens, sometimes those change. Sometimes it's a little bit different personality on what he has to do. You have to get into the game and find out, is it the tendencies that he's showed against everybody else, or is it the tendencies that he shows playing against the Ravens over maybe the last five or six games?"

On if the Steelers have a more consistent style of play against the Ravens than other teams:"They're similar against us and the other teams, but at times, like the last five games, they appear to run the ball a little bit more. Whereas against other teams, they kind of freelance it, and they kind of throw it. I don't know if that's because of what they give him, or if it's what his philosophy is against us. We'll find that out in the first series."

On if Pittsburgh has tried to get back to the run more:"Yeah, they have. They have tried to run the football, and at times they have been successful with it. That's what you can't do against a team like this. You can't give them two options. You have to make sure that you take that run and you stop that run, and now you've got to be able to play the pass. But, if you give them both of them, now they're really dangerous. He's very dangerous then."

On if there are any other quarterbacks besides Roethlisberger who will consistently beat you if you give them one more chance:"No. I don't know if I've ever seen a quarterback that shrugs guys off, or like you say, gets second opportunities. You think he's dead in the sights of somebody, and then all of a sudden he gets open. He gets off of the guy. He finds a way. His lower body strength is so strong, and I think that's what it is, that he can take the hit and then just keeps going. That's when he's very dangerous."

On how important it is to get OLB Terrell Suggs near Roethlisberger so he can try to make the plays:"Terrell is very, very important to us in this game. I think your top players have to really play at their top in games like this, and I know Terrell has worked all week with that in mind, and he's worked all year that way. He's just been nicked up. I think he's getting back healthy now, and we're really looking for him to play great football."

On how much of adding CB Corey Ivy had to do with his previous familiarity with the Ravens:"I think that figured into it. The first thing you always look for is who can help you win, and Corey Ivy has proved in the past that he can help us win. I think what he brings to that locker room, what he brings to the meeting room, and him knowing the defenses... He's a very competitive, tough guy. All those things when you pick up a guy late are really, really important."

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