DAILY INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
On the Steelers' defensive scheme under coordinator Dick LeBeau:"They have a base defense, and you have an idea about that base defense. We play them a lot, so we understand it. But, it seems like every time we play them, Coach LeBeau throws a good change in there, a good twist, to make you think a little bit."
On LeBeau being one of the best defensive schemers in the league:"Well, Dick LeBeau is one of the most, if not the most, respected, defensive innovators in football. He had a lot to do with the 'fire zone' package, and they still run it as well as anybody. He is just a great coach – a good guy, obviously. His players really respond to and like him. He is a guy that personally, I've always had tremendous respect for. He's always been gracious. He's just a really good person. He's a Hall of Famer. He's a Hall of Fame coach, player, and he's highly-respected."
On WR Hines Ward's comments that he feels Coach Harbaugh doesn't like him because he didn't make eye contact when shaking his hand before the game in Pittsburgh this season:"That I don't like him? I wouldn't look at him when I shook his hand? [He said] I gave him a fake handshake, really? I didn't know there was a barometer for the pre-game handshake. That's good to know. There's a meter, a scale. I need some work on that. That will be good. I'll just take it as constructive criticism. It's an opportunity to improve my pre-game decorum and courteousness with players. I've got a lot of respect for Hines Ward, obviously. I'll be looking forward to seeing him before the game then. I'll try to be better, Hines. I'll try to be better."
On if it's awkward to be shaking hands with your opponent after you've fought so hard against him to win the game:"Yeah, it probably is a little bit. I don't get involved with that too much; I'm on the sidelines watching it. But, he's a physical player. It's an intense game. After the game, guys are pretty good about shaking hands. Before the game, obviously, we don't do as good a job."
On the status of FB Le'Ron McClain and the signing of FB Jason McKie:"Jason gives us some more depth at fullback, and we'll see what he can pick up and learn. He's a guy who has a real good history in the league and knows what he is doing. Le'Ron is a guy who is going to be day-to-day. We think he has a chance. I don't know what the percentages are. It's a tough ankle sprain. But, he's played with those kinds of things before. So, we'll just have to see."
On the reasons Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has had so much success against the Ravens:"He plays well. He makes a play or two. And that's what he's done – he's made a play or two to win games."
On anything in particular the Ravens' defense struggles with facing Roethlisberger:"Not that anyone else doesn't struggle with in this league. He's a good player. He's got a pretty good track record."
On what he sees on film with the Steelers' pass protection that allows opponents to sack the quarterback:"I guess that's probably it. One thing about Ben is he makes plays holding the ball. So, you're going to probably have a few more sacks from time to time. Gosh, how many times has he thrown a guy off his back and made a guy miss and avoided a sack and made a big play? So, I just think it's really more about his style and how he plays. And, I think they're OK with that. They just want to try to create a way to get the ball downfield and then hand it to their playmakers."
On his favorite memories and moments from the Ravens-Steelers rivalry during his time as head coach:"The two wins. Those were great. And I get to see Hines Ward before the game. I don't really have any anecdotes. I just don't have anything in my mind right now."
On Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall's great season this year being an indication of the ability he demonstrated in college:"Rashard is the kind of back he was all along. You saw him in college, and he had the potential to be a premier back. He's become a premier back. He got hurt for one year, I guess, and that probably held him back. But, he's really good. He's the key to their running game. They have a very physical offensive line, and he just picks his way through that next play."
On being confident that S Tom Zbikowski will be ready to play and waiving Ken Hamlin:"We're confident 'Zibby' can go. Obviously, until you see him at full speed practice, you're not sure. But he was out there last week and did a good job. [We] didn't feel like he was quite ready, but we're expecting him to go."
On the chance to secure the division title and home-field advantage in the playoffs making the stakes for Sunday's game higher than others:"It seems like after the game, it's a huge game. The last game, if you look back at it, was a huge game, because obviously, it put us in the position to be tied at 8-3 with a win over [Tampa Bay]. So, they're all so critical. Every one of those wins is critical. If we had won one of the games we lost, we'd be ahead a game. So at this time, against these guys, there's no denying what's at stake. It's an opportunity to put yourself in position for the last four games to have the real edge. It doesn't guarantee anything, but it does give you an edge."
On any one thing he sees with Roethlisberger this year that is different than what he's done in past seasons:"No, I see the same guy. We see the exact same guy making the exact same plays – just a really, really good player. He's got a unique style. Miami of Ohio guys are proud of that. But, he's a tremendous player."
On having a sense that all games versus the Steelers will be close and one big drive or play will be what determines the winner:"Someone told me this week [the combined scores have been] 77-76 over the six games we've played. So, that's about as close as it can get. I've got you guys taking some notes on that. Don't take my word for it, then. It should be a tight game – but we're hoping that it's not – in our favor. And, we are just going to play as well as we can. But, it will be a hard-fought game."
On Steelers S Troy Polamalu being strong against the run but also his play-making ability in the back end:"That's the thing, he shows up everywhere. He's got a great feel for the game. Troy just seems like when it's a critical situation… Like last week, he came up with the interception. He's one of the premier players."
On OLB Terrell Suggs stepping up his game with three sacks in the last four games:"He's been rushing the passer really well all the way through. Sometimes you come up with some sacks. We didn't get the sacks in the last game, and yet we got a lot of pressure, and he was a big part of that as far as getting Josh Freeman off the spot and making him move around and throw the ball. So, I'm hoping more of those come. Sometimes it's just being in the right place at the right time. But, he's been rushing [the quarterback well]."
On if he senses more emotion from his players this week in preparing to play Pittsburgh:"I don't know. I'm sure that they feel it because it's Pittsburgh week. You'd rather play Pittsburgh every week in that sense. But they were fired up last week and in high spirits, and the week before that. So, I hate to categorize it, but I'm sure they're really looking forward to the game."
On any possible plans to re-sign S Ken Hamlin later this season:"Could be. A lot of those shake out. We really like Ken a lot. My guess is he will be picked up right away – he's a really good player. The numbers have just gotten us. We just haven't been able to hold on to some guys in some situations. You get injuries at other spots. I was disappointed to lose him. He's done a good job; he did a good job for us."
On gaining confidence from being able to run the ball so well in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay:"I wish past success guaranteed future success. We try to point out all the time that past struggles don't guarantee future struggles. It's going to be a new game, and if we can run the ball, it's going to be big for us."
On having S Ed Reed back for the second game against Pittsburgh:"Well, I guess we knew that Ben would be back, too. So maybe it evened out. It's good to have Ed Reed back. Ed Reed, obviously, is a guy who can make interceptions. He's my favorite guy. You talk about all these other premiere players in the league… I like our guys. I'm partial to our guys, and I'll take Ed Reed any day of the week. He's a great player and he's a great leader. He's going to be big for us."
QB Joe Flacco
On whether beating QB Ben Roethlisberger would be a big accomplishment for him: "We've played them pretty well, I think, and Ben – each time we've beaten them – he hasn't played. I think they played Dennis Dixon last year against us here, and we beat Charlie Batch. But, I think no matter what, when you beat the Steelers, it's a good feeling. That's all we're focused on. I don't really think it's going to be any different if we beat Ben."
On his relationship with WR Anquan Boldin and whether Boldin is the type to get in his ear about certain coverages: "I think there's a little bit of both with Anquan. He definitely sees things out there and wants to let the coordinator, wants to let me know when they're playing certain things. But, for the most part, he's going to let us play the game, and if he really feels strongly about something, then that's when he's going to come let you know."
On Boldin not being the type to complain: "No, I think you can tell when everybody's a little bit upset, but he's not going to come up and complain to you, not as of yet." (laughter)
On whether there is a different feeling this week in preparing for Pittsburgh: "No, not really. We prepare each week the same. We go through the same schedule each day, and we don't really change too much from it. So, it's kind of tough to have it feel different. I said it before: Probably Sunday when we take the field might feel a little differently just because that will be our first interaction with the fans, and they definitely take it to a whole another level when they come in town."
On whether he understands the Ravens-Steelers rivalry better now that he's been around it for a couple years: "Yeah, before I got here, I didn't pay attention to Steelers-Ravens, really. They weren't games that we saw regularly, so it's tough to kind of get an understanding for what the rivalry is. But it's a tough, hard-nosed game, and the fans are really involved when it comes to these guys, so it can definitely heat up a little bit more than any other regular season game."
On whether he has any bad associations to the "Terrible Towel": "No. Do I not like the Terrible Towel? I don't really care. We're not going to be Tennessee, stomping on it when we beat them. I have no interest in doing that. All it is is a towel that the fans like."
On whether the protection in the previous Pittsburgh game was the best he's received all year: "I don't know if it was the best we've had all year, but it was up there with all the other ones that we've had that are pretty good. They did a great job, and this is a tough pass rush to do that against. Our guys went up there and fought really hard, and that's why we were pretty successful during that game, is because it started up front and those guys did a good job pushing them off the ball and keeping them away from me."
On Steelers OLB James Harrison's repeated fines and whether he will think about that during the game since Harrison says he won't change his style: "No, I won't think about that either. I'm not worried about guys getting fines and hitting me illegally. I usually don't even notice them until I go back and watch them on film. Hopefully, if he does hit us a little bit illegally, we get the penalty for it. I don't care if he gets fined or not. We want to get the penalty and have it help us out a little bit. If that happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't."
On his opinion of Harrison's hits: "They're usually pretty good football plays. He's a good football player. He's a vicious football player, and that's what this game is about. It's about being mean and getting after people, and that's what he does."
LB Ray Lewis
On whether he gets tired of the talk about Pittsburgh:"You're going to play anyway. Whether you say whatever you're going to say or you don't say it, the game is still going to go on. This kind of approach is just wait until the whistle blows, and whatever's going to happen is going to happen."
On whether talking is part of the game:"I think both sides know each other very well, and I think if you do get into all of that [talking] it's because there's a common respect from both sides. We respect them because we know what type of game they're going to bring, and they respect us because they know what type of game we're going to bring. So here we go again. Here we go again – one of those classic battles where everything is on the line. [We're] both 8-3; both fighting to win the AFC North. So, Sunday will tell a whole lot."
On which team has the bigger advantage: Ravens for getting S Ed Reed back or Steelers for getting QB Ben Roethlisberger back:"I think both teams feel that they have the advantage. Ed [Reed] is our captain of back there with what he does with our defense. Ben is definitely their captain of what he does with their offense. I just think now, sometimes you listen to that, 'They didn't have Roethlisberger' [talk]. But, their defense is their defense. There is no, 'If they didn't have this, I they didn't have that.' We didn't have our pieces, either. I think it all weighs out. And now that everybody [has] everybody, let's see how it goes down."
On whether he thinks OLB Terrell Suggs has elevated his game this season, and specifically in the last month:"I just think 'Sizzle' [Terrell Suggs] has always been 'Sizzle.' Whether you try to count him off sacks or not, that's somebody that no matter how many sacks he's got, he's going to give you everything he has, regardless. A lot of times I think sacks are kind of misleading because what he does for us in the run game is unbelievable. The way he plays the run and really just gets after people… With saying that, I never see his play go up and down because I'm always the one to try to keep him up. If you rate him off sacks, then it might go up and down. But if you just rate him off being a complete football player, he comes to play every game."
On how much better the Steelers are with Roethlisberger:"Ben is the ultimate competitor. That's what you get out of him. That's why they made him their franchise quarterback. He is that guy. He is the guy that keeps plays moving when you think plays [should] be dead. That's the energy that he brings to that ball club. He brings a great confidence to that ball club that [he] can keep plays going when they're not supposed to be going. I just think they are who they are with Ben Roethlisberger. And when they don't have him, you're going to see a lot that they don't like to do when they don't have him in there."
On what it is like to text Roethlisberger in the offseason and then be rivals on the field:"We do play a 'Gladiator' sport, don't get me wrong. But, we're men. We're human. When a brother of yours is going through something, the greatest thing you can do for them is to reach out to them. And we've always texted each other. We've always reached out to each other. Even when the game comes up Sunday, we always respect each other in a certain way – the way I salute him and he salutes me. It's the highest respect you can ever play with somebody. But when you find somebody dealing with something off the field, that's… Football, you don't even think about it. It never comes across your mind: 'I'm not going to talk to him because I play against him.' Heck no. Heck no. Anytime a brother is in need and really needs somebody to reach out to him… That's what I basically told him: 'No matter what, if you want an ear, if you want to talk, whatever it is, I'm here for you.'"
On what he expects the atmosphere at M&T Bank Stadium to be like on Sunday:"Crazy. Crazy. You're at that part of the season... I talked about it all year: Weathering the storm, getting to this part of the season, this is when the games really mean something [in] November and December. Now you get the two teams at the top of the AFC North Division. For us to be home, our fans are going to be crazy. That's just the way it is in Baltimore. Baltimore has always been like that. And Pittsburgh's city is going to be going crazy. It's one of those games that you have to be a part of; you want to be a part of. When your legacy is done, you look back at these games right here."
On why he thinks the Ravens have committed fewer penalties this year than last year:"I don't know. You went all the way back to last year. Last year is way too far when you're in the 12th week of the season. I just think you play the game the same way. You just play the game the same way, and if the refs call it, they call it. If they don't, they don't. You just can't get caught up in it. The day you get caught up in it is the day you're going to find yourself not really respecting the game and not enjoying it anymore because you're going to be worrying about flags here and there. I think you just play the game, and whatever happens, happens."
RB Ray Rice
On whether the rivalry with the Steelers can be described by hate or respect:"You hit it right on the dot. I didn't mean to cut you off. I learned from my own leader on this team – and that's Ray Lewis – the power of respect is to never disrespect. That's first and foremost about playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. We respect them. That's what the rivalry has all been about. I've learned that this rivalry really has less talk involved with it; it's more with your pads, because if you look at them from the last time we played them, they have not changed. One of the things that great teams do is they do the things that they do really well, and they just keep doing it over and over and over and over again. Obviously, we've had our slips and falls. If you look at the games they've lost and look at the games we've lost, they've all been by a short margin. It's all about execution, and that's what I've learned about this rivalry. It's just a big week. The focus amps up. For me, [when] the focus amps up, the talk kind of goes down a little bit because I know what Sunday's going to be all about. And all of you [in the media] who've been around, you all know what it's going to be about as well. There's going to be some hard hitting out there. It's going to be cold. It's a night game. You can see the smoke coming from people's mouths, a little spit flying – but that's not spit at somebody. (laughter) It's just when it's cold, you see a lot of things, especially at nighttime with the lights and everything."
On whether he has been a victim of hard, illegal hits against the Steelers:"No. I've been a part of jawing and talking, [but] I've never been a part of any illegal hits. I haven't experienced that. I respect my opponents. I'm not going at it with anybody on the other side. They see the way I play the game – I talk with my pads. A little words back and forth is not going to hurt nobody. But I have not been a part of somebody trying to go low on the knee or bend me up at the end of a pile. No, I haven't been a part of that, and I don't really want to be a part of it."
On whether he enjoys being a part of these rivalry games:"Yeah, you have to enjoy it. These are moments that you live for. Not to reflect back on it, but I remember walking on the field last year at a night game here with Pittsburgh, and it was victorious. It was a moment that I can relive in my career because not only was it won, but I made a few plays in that game that [were] big and crucial. These are the plays that [set] the great players aside from others. They say big players show up in big games. So, I'm just hoping that I'm able to go out there and do my job; and doing my job is making plays in a big-time, primetime performance."
On how glad he is to have the second game against the Steelers at home:"The first win there was great. I actually was a little nicked up then. I still played, but I didn't play a lot. To see the way our team came and won that game… Even with guys being up and down, the Pittsburgh-Ravens rivalry, it doesn't matter who you throw in there because the personnel is not going to change. That's the way our teams are built – it's the next guy up. To see the way our team overcame that first win was great. Anybody who comes here [knows] the way we play at home with our fans and [the way] we feed off our fans, it's tough to win here. So, we're definitely looking forward to our fans helping us out on defense, getting the crowd involved and into it. We're looking forward to just going out there and making plays on our home turf."
On whether he likes the idea of a "purple-out" using purple towels:"For me, I wouldn't care if they did a white-out, black-out, purple-out. I just think that as long as our fans are into the game, I'm all for it. I'm all for the rivalry. I'm all for everything that the rivalry's about. But at the end of the day, it's all about Sunday night at 8:20 when you put on the pads. And Sunday will be here soon enough. But obviously, you've got to get things done during the week – practice, execute, guys [have] to get treatment, get themselves ready to play. There's a lot that goes into being ready for Sunday night."
On whether preparation is any different this week:"I don't think it's any different. I think the level of focus goes up, but the way you prepare for the game is the same."
On whether he expects the run game to take off during the game:"If you look at what they bring, you have to do different things. You can't just say we're going to run the ball at the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's not smart, and Cam Cameron does a great job of [recognizing] that. Looking late into the season, we see ourselves as not being one-dimensional. We have to be able to pass it. We have to be able to run it. We have to be able to run screens. We have to be able to do different things to offset what they do. They've got a guy like we've got a guy. They've got [Troy] Polamalu who lurks around [and] does different things. We've got Ed Reed. There are a lot of similarities. You've got to pick and choose when you decide to run the ball and when you decide to play with them in the pass game."
On whether he saw the fight between Titans CB Cortland Finnegan and Texans WR Andre Johnson:"I'm just being real: That [has] nothing to do with the Ravens and Steelers right now. But, I'm all for it. See you Sunday."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On whether he feels different this week: "A little bit, just a little bit. The hairs on your back grow when you get a Baltimore-Steelers-type game. It's December – so December football – whoever [is] the best in November [and] December usually gets the candy."
On whether he wants to see QB Ben Roethlisberger play Sunday night: "Well, if he plays, he plays. We're going to line up against whoever shows up. They're definitely a better team when he's under center. We know he's going to play because this is championship football. We're expecting to see [No.] 7 up under there, so don't feed into that [he won't play]. Remember, I came out with the sleeve and the shoulder [sling before the AFC Championship] and I'm like, 'I'm not sure if I'm going to play…'" (laughter)
On why he has played some of his best games against the Steelers: "Rivalry. That's it. Like you said, this is definitely hands down the most physical game in the National Football League. That's why everybody is so crazy about it. [These] two teams don't like each other, but there is a mutual respect. And with that respect, we know they're going to come try to get a win up in here. And they know that we're going to come and we're going to be ready to play, so it is what it is."
On whether this game feels different than the others: "Not really. This goes along the line with every Baltimore-Steelers game. It's going to be physical. It's going to be exciting. I just expect M&T [Bank Stadium] to be rocking come Sunday night. To keep it totally honest with you, when we took their fans out of it, you all know what happened after that. If our fans aren't full of energy and rocking and going crazy, it's going to be a tough win for us to get. So, that's kind of a challenge right out there to all our Baltimore Ravens fans to, 'Let's go,' and get your blood hot."
On whether he has a purple towel: "I'm probably going to get one. I'm going to have one on the sidelines. [I'll] probably wear it like a bandana like Deion [Sanders], but we'll have to see come Sunday night. We'll have to see."
On not being labeled as just a pass rusher: "You know, when I first got here, that's all I wanted, was sacks. And then a certain defensive coordinator and a couple of guys were like, 'No, you don't want to just be labeled as a pass rusher. You want to do everything. You want to stop the run. You want to drop. You want to have all that on your résumé.' So, I guess that's a fair assessment that I can do all things. I sound like a Bible verse."
On the impact S Ed Reed brings to this game after missing the previous meeting in Pittsburgh: "Huge. Do you see how they play when they don't have their safety? It's two different teams, isn't it? It's kind of the same way with us. It's always good to have your All-Pro safety with you, a guy that can cover both sides of the field, and he's making plays even when he's not supposed to be somewhere. So, when you've got a guy like that, he's like American Express: He's everywhere you want to be. *(laughter) *I love having Ed Reed back, and I just can't wait to see [No.] 20 out there doing his thing."
On whether the level of gamesmanship is bigger in this series: "Oh yeah. The game has already started. The chess match is already being played, kind of trying to feel your opponent out, what they're going to do. But we love it. It's all part of the game. That's why this is the biggest rivalry in sports, Baltimore-Pittsburgh. It's just going to be fun. We're definitely going to make it entertaining, and hopefully, we come out with a win."
On not beating Roethlisberger since 2006: "Is that right? That's a horrible stat. What'd I tell you about numbers? (laughter) Geez, we haven't beaten Ben since 2006? What'd we do in 2007? He didn't play? Oh. Well, there's no game better than this one to break that streak. Geez, I'm going to have to have a talk with you. Oh my god. I'm going to be thinking about that all week now." (laughter)