DAILY INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS
QB Joe Flacco
On being aware of where Pittsburgh S Troy Polamalu is on the field: "I think there's certain plays where you look and know exactly where he is, so you can go away from him and do certain things with him. All the other plays, you really just have to know where he is and know how to protect against him if he's bringing pressure or if he's defending versus a route. He's so good at reacting to certain things and playing tendencies and taking chances on things, because he knows that the up-front guys are going to get some sort of pressure. So, you have to have your eye on him, and I think as long as you do, you can keep control of him. But, I was just saying to somebody else, you have to take away… You have to play sound football, so you can take away his chances of making plays. Because if you give him enough chances to make a big play, more times than not, he's going to make it. So, the big thing with him is just playing sound football and limiting his chances."
On whether practicing against S Ed Reed helps prepare for Polamalu: "Well, we don't really practice against Ed. We practice against Ed in training camp. I would say yeah, it probably would help us if we did, but I very rarely go against Ed."
On whether Polamalu's sack-fumble in the last game was something he did or something the Ravens missed: "I think when you look back on it, we could have handled it a little bit differently. If that same situation comes up this game, I'm pretty sure that we're going to handle it, and we're going to be disappointed if we don't. Yeah, great play by him, but at the same time, it's something that we probably should have handled."
On how much TE Todd Heap going out early last game impacted the outcome: "Anytime you lose out on a guy like Todd, it's going to hurt you. But, I think our young guys stepped up pretty decently. Yeah, like I said, anytime you lose out on a guy of Todd Heap's caliber – especially when he is playing the way he has this year – yeah, that can definitely hurt you as an offense."
On whether this is a familiar preparation week: "Yeah, it's definitely familiar. They have the same defensive coordinator. They have pretty much the same personnel, and they're doing a lot of the same things. They'll have a mix-up for us and something for us to look out for, but we know what kind of football game it is. And we know what the important things are about going out there and playing, and that's playing physical, and like I said, playing fundamentally-sound football."
On how much better prepared he is as a quarterback to face the Steelers in the playoffs than he was two years ago: "I have 32 more regular season games under my belt, a couple more playoff games under my belt. I think anytime you have game experience, you become more prepared for any team you're playing. We've played the Steelers a lot of times since I've been here, so the more game experience you get against that defense, then the more you can prepare yourself for it. Like I said – I always say it – once the ball is snapped, it's not going to make a difference that this is a playoff game against the Steelers. These games are always intense. It's always a rivalry game, and both sides are always giving it their all for 60 minutes. So, it's going to be just another Steelers-Ravens game, and we'll be ready for it."
On whether he had been in any environment like the 2008 AFC Championship Game: "Yeah, every time you go into Pittsburgh, you're in that environment. I think what's on the line is a little bit different, but I think anytime you go into Pittsburgh, it's a pretty hostile crowd. I don't think it really matters if it's a playoff game or not. When we went into Tennessee that year, it was pretty hostile. Everywhere you go, the crowds get pretty into it. When the playoffs are on the line, I think every game gets ramped up a little bit more because what the result is is a little bit different than just a regular season win or loss."
On how the fans' excitement and support during the playoffs, by doing things such as painting the town purple and growing beards like his, affects him: "It's pretty cool to hear you guys say that. I don't see much of that, just because I don't get to see too much of the news or anything like that. I try not to pay attention to it just because I don't want to see anybody talking about us. But, it is pretty cool when you hear about that kind of thing. Growing up, wherever we all grew up, you saw that when your home city made the playoffs. It's pretty cool that Baltimore is able to do that, and believe me, when we hear about things like that, it gets us going, and we know that they have our backs."
On whether anyone has shown him the Jesus cartoon of him: "No." Reporter interjects: "OK, I'll get that to you."
"I'm scared." (laughter)
TE Todd Heap
On whether practicing against S Ed Reed helps him prepare for playing against Steelers S Troy Polamalu:"No question. Obviously, right now at this time in the season, we don't line up against each other. But offseason, during training camp [we do]. Those are two of the best safeties in the game right now, let alone probably to ever play the game. They're similar in some respects, and then they're different in some respects. But, at the same time, you're going against great players, so it helps a little."
On how Reed and Polamalu are similar:"I think just in their ability to read what's happening to them so quickly. When you see Polamalu out there, he'll come out of coverage sometimes just to make a play – something that he feels, something that he sees. You think sometimes all of that is undisciplined, but most of the time he's right."
On how much motivation it is to have been on the team for both playoff losses at Pittsburgh in the 2001 and 2008 seasons:"I can't really look at past playoff experiences as motivation for this one. This is a new team and a new group of guys. We're motivated for this year right now – for this season right now. You only get so many of these opportunities, and that's kind of what we look at, especially as older guys. As veteran guys on this team, you try to impart that on the young guys that these things don't happen often. You've got to make sure that you take advantage of these opportunities when they arise."
On how he is feeling after being back from an injury that kept him out of the Week 13 game against the Steelers:"I feel great. Last couple weeks, I've really felt really good coming into these last couple games. Obviously, with the few weeks that I had off, I was able to rest some of the other things that were ailing me. Right now, there's nobody in the NFL that's playing 100-percent. You go through the season, you pick up bumps and bruises along the way, and that's kind of… Everybody's playing with those things right now. For me, to be able to get… I didn't want those three weeks off, but to be able to take the time to heal my hamstring, in that process, I was able to heal some other things as well."
On whether he has thought about how much his absence affected that Pittsburgh game:"I thought about it at the time. Obviously, in my mind, I felt like I could've made a difference in that game. I was very frustrated sitting back and watching the game on the TV in the locker room. I'm just excited that I'll be out there and be a part of this one, let alone with so much on the line."
On whether he anticipates that the Steelers will pay more attention to him on Saturday, based on his performance in Kansas City:"I think they'll be paying attention to me, but we've got some other guys that they need to be paying attention to as well. You look across the board, the threats that we have on offense – receivers [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh, Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin, and then all of our backs – we've got some guys that can make plays, so you can't key in on one guy. That's kind of what we've been trying to build to as an offense this whole year."
LB Ray Lewis
On anything he can say about Pittsburgh week that we don't already know:"No, not really. I think the only thing is, on both sides, is it is a very calm resolve, on both sides. There's nothing really to talk about. Both sides know that when the whistle blows you're going to get what we got and we're going to get what they got. So, once again – I love to use this – here we go again."
On this game being more intense because of the Ravens' past losses in Pittsburgh:"I think most of the times when we were there it was always something on the line. I've been in this business long enough. I don't like certain things. That's just the way it is. So, from that standpoint, I'm always going to be pissed off anytime we walk off that field and we're not a winner. So, hopefully we can change that this time."
On this year's win and loss against Pittsburgh being defining moments in this season:"I think one of the reasons they were pretty big was we learned a lot from [those games]. We learned how to, first of all, go into Pittsburgh and win and have the offense really show up. And then when coming back here, we learned what not to do. Really, just finish the game off. And if you've got the game won – win it – and don't leave anybody around. That last game, we left them around. And with the great players that they do have over there, Troy [Polamalu] comes off and makes a heck of a play, and they win that one. If they don't win that one, then we're playing this game at home. But, we're not. So, I think for our team we've just got to go in and do what we do. And that is, go in and try to do what we did in Week 3, Week 4, whenever that was."
On the similarities between safeties Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed:"I don't know if there's that much of a difference. They both play the game with great instincts. They both prepare incredibly [well] and they just love the game. They love the game. And those are the two few safeties that actually turn the game into an offensive possession when they do have the ball in their hands. And, I think that's what makes both of those guys who they are – Ed and Troy. It's an honor watching both of them play. It's not really [an honor] watching him play when he's playing against us, but it's a real honor to sit back and watch, probably, two of the best safeties to ever play this game go at it."
On the defense being ranked in the top 10 and allowing the third-fewest points in the NFL this season:"The thing is, when you start listening to all that outside hoopla, it don't mean nothing. The only thing that matters is what's inside your locker room. And for people to say this and that… For you to end up 12-4, for you to end up scoring on defense again and in the top 10… That's why you play the game. And when it all goes out the window, which stats do in the playoffs, it's all done. All that's over. So, that part of the season we've done what we were supposed to do. But, none of that matters now. What matters now is us trying to go get a win in Pittsburgh."
On what RB Ray Rice's leadership and production means to the team:"He's our starter. He gets everything going on the offensive side of the ball. And then, that's just a snowball effect because when Ray gets going, our defense gets going. And he has that type of ability. He can take over a game anytime he gets ready – just by letting him touch the ball a certain number of times. He has those types of skills, and there are just so many mismatch problems when people do try to man him up, or whatever you try to do against him. And that's what he does for our offense. I think he opens up a lot of different other areas when you do get him started."
On being aware that a Baltimore team has never beaten a Pittsburgh team in postseason play:"No. Some stats you can keep up with; some stats you don't care about. I don't care. None of it matters. You can't take a bag with 40 years on it and say, 'Hey guys, look what we haven't done in 40 years.' Forget it. The only thing that matters, man, is we pack our team. And I said this last week and I said it this whole year: I like the bus that I ride on into the stadium. I like my team. I like the way we approach the game. I like the way we study and prepare for people. And when we get off the bus and when we get there at the hotel, I like where our mindset goes. And as a team, that's all you can ask for. Win, lose or draw – no matter what happens – if you go in there as a team, you're going to walk out as a team. And that's why I like the team that we're going in there with."
On WR Hines Ward's comment that he doesn't like the Ravens, and if Lewis likes the Steelers:"Listen, I like pizza. I like a lot of things. And then there's a lot of things I don't like. It's OK to use that word, 'like.' But, it's always good when you don't get that other word. And that is, when you don't respect somebody. He gives us the same respect that we give them. Once the whistle blows, you buckle up your chin straps, and all over again, let's finish this and let's do it the way we do it and let's see what happens at the end of the day."
On if he likes or doesn't like the Steelers:"Are the Steelers in the 'like' or 'don't like' category? Well, since I'm a Baltimore person, I'm going to say 'don't like.' Can I use that word?"
On his critique of his Old Spice ads vs. Troy Polamalu's Head and Shoulders ads:"Now this has got to be the funniest question I have ever heard in my life. I don't know. I like Troy's commercial. I even like the next one that just came out with the multiple heads going everywhere. I just think they're all in fun. If you know Troy, you know his personality. When you get on commercial sets, it's amazing the things they can ask you to do, and then you know the heat that you're going to take for it all year. I've been taking this heat all year, so I'm going to keep riding it out, and hopefully, I can get away with it at the end of the year."
On helping S Ed Reed deal with the loss of his brother:"What I saw the most – probably not more so in Ed – but what I saw more so in our team and more so in what it did for us was it brought us back. It brought us back to understand that, yeah, this is a true game. It's a true game that we play with all of our hearts. But, realistically, nine times out of 10, the reason why we are with each other is to help brothers go through things like that. And when you look at the men around our locker room and see how close that drew us… You've heard this cliché many times: 'Through adversity you really find character.' You find out who's who. And for our team, man, what they did for Ed this week, what I did for Ed this week, what all of us did for Ed, that shows a true brotherhood and it shows what a team is all about."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On the defense being under criticism all season, but when it came down to it, being ranked No. 3 in points allowed:"Who were the first two? *(Reporter responds: "No idea.") *Well, San Diego is up there, right? Well, I mean, it's not where you start, it's where you finish. You know, you all gave us some grief early in the year, and yet we finished 12-4. We didn't win the division, but we're still in the playoffs [and] won our first playoff game. So, that's what we've kind of been saying all along: It's not where you start, it's where you finish. And here we are."
On whether the defense came on strong at the end of the season:"We're definitely a better defense with [Ed Reed], and once we got Ed back, we started getting a lot of turnovers, we started playing, and it's just always good. And we always consider ourselves a December- and January-type team, and we just started playing really good."
On whether he can model the T-shirt he is wearing and if there is a significant message behind it:"No, there isn't any message. This is just… Like I always say, I put on for my city. They rep their city, and I'm repping mine. So, here we go."
On what he knows about the Baltimore and Pittsburgh rivalry:"I know it's… To me, it's definitely the best rivalry in sports. And when it comes to football, it's the most physical game of the year. So, that's just what it is. It's going to be a physical gang fight – just like the first two games were."
On whether he has a sense of how much the fans don't like each other:"I think so. I think so, especially like when we go down there, they always hit us with the 'No. 1's.' So, you know… I don't know how they act here, because I'll be in the locker room by the time all the fans get here, but I'm pretty sure we hit them with the 'No. 1's.' So, it's whatever, man. It's whatever. We're just going to go play a football game."
On what has been the difference in this team since the last loss to Pittsburgh, given that they haven't lost since:"I think definitely our preparation. Like you said, it did hurt, but we moved on. You don't want to lose to your division rivals, and we just went and played. And we won some really big games down the stretch, and we're just trying to see how many more we can continue to win."
On whether that game was somewhat defining:"No, there's only one thing that can define you and justify you, and you all know what that is – it's holding up the Lombardi [Trophy] in Dallas, you know, feeling the confetti. So, that's the only way that can define anything else. Nobody likes a loser; nobody wants to be second place."
On whether there is something about the postseason that has allowed him to have such success, especially in the sacks category:"Well, you want your players to play best, especially in games that count – especially the playoffs. I just want to win, and that goes for the rest of the 53 men on this team. We just want to win."
On whether winning in Pittsburgh earlier this season gives him confidence that they can go and do it again:"That really has nothing to do with it, because what happened earlier in the year is what happened. This is a whole new season; it's a whole new ball game. This is a whole new game. A lot more is on the line now than it was in Week 4, and both teams are different teams than they were in Week 4, and both teams are better. You know, they didn't have [Ben Roethlisberger], we didn't have Ed Reed, but now everybody's healthy for this game. You know, we didn't have Todd Heap in the second game, or Le'Ron [McClain], and I think they ended up losing Heath Miller and they had a few guys out. So, it's a different ball game. It's safe to say whoever wins this game has a promising future, so we're just banking on that."
On whether he likes playing in Pittsburgh:"I like playing anywhere. I like playing football, and I like being a villain. We like playing on the road, so I'll be the bad guy." (laughter)
On what he likes about being the villain:"Because nobody wants the villain to win. So, when you're the underdog, you just can kind of go out there and play. And that's all right though. I'll be the good guy to the City of Baltimore, and I'll be the bad guy to everywhere else."
On whether he's worried at all that the shirt he's wearing could give Pittsburgh more motivation:"Do I seem worried? (laughter) *This game is going to be what it is, regardless. It's a physical dogfight, so I'm not expecting anything different. And this is the shirt I wore this morning. This is just the shirt I chose." *(laughter)
On whether the fans in Pittsburgh are worse to him than other Ravens:"I don't know. I don't care. I don't play for them. I think they hate all of us just the same. So, if I get a little bit more, hey, that's good."
On whether he likes the Steelers, based on his shirt:"I love them. No, I don't have any more animosity or any more beef to any one team in the NFL. It's just this is a rivalry game, championship game, and let's go."
On what the emotions have been in the locker room trying to help S Ed Reed through his situation over the last week or so:"Man, we all love Ed. And it just hurts to see your teammate going through something like that, dealing with something like that. So, we just try to lift him up, make him smile a little bit and just let him know we're here for him. You know, if he ever needs a shoulder to lean on or just somebody to talk to, we're here for him."