The Ravens and Steelers will square off for the third time this season on Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh (6:30pm ET). The winner will earn a trip to Super Bowl XLIII. Two members of the enemy team answered a few questions about their squad this week.
BR.com gives you head coach Mike Tomlin and linebacker LaMarr Woodley.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
Is there a level of concern trying to beat the Ravens for the third time in a year?
Mike Tomlin:"I don't know. I really don't. Not that it's not a daunting task playing this team, but I've always been one to take the approach that each individual performance stands on its own. Whether or not we win this game will be based on how we prepare and how we play this game and not really what's happened in the past."
Have you anything seen that Baltimore does to help create a good turnover margin?
MT:"It's not that they do things that are drastically different than other people. They're just more successful at it. I think that everybody that's playing here in the playoffs recognizes that ball security is a big part of staying alive. They've found a way to maintain possession of the ball, and, probably more importantly, they've taken the ball away from people who generally don't turn it over. I think that that's been as impressive as anything."
Do you have more confidence in the offense since they are coming off a great performance last Sunday?
MT:"No. No. Last week's performance is last week's performance. It'd make that previous statement I made untrue. We're just preparing for this one. We had success last week. It was a good performance, but it has no bearing on how we're going to play or prepare this week. We've got to respect that element of it as we prepare."
What makes Joe Flacco efficient at not turning the ball over and do you have something special planned for Flacco?
MT:"You know, I don't know what necessarily makes him special at doing that. That's just who he is. I hear what they say about him and that he has a calm demeanor. I think that works to his favor. But I knew that this guy was going to be a guy… When we played these guys the first time this year, we were up on them, and he took them down the field and sent that game into overtime. I think at that point I realized that we were going to have to deal with this guy for a long time."
Do you look at this as though it was meant to be for these two teams to be fighting it out for the AFC title?
MT:"I don't necessarily get into, 'It was meant to be this way.' I appreciate it. I like the matchup. I like the way these teams play. If you appreciate football, you like that element of it. But it's not destiny or anything of that nature."
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley
After beating Baltimore twice what makes them dangerous to you?
LaMarr Woodley:"You look at both games and they were both close games. One game came to overtime and the second game came down to a last-second catch by Santonio Holmes. Our games with them are always close, but the thing that is the difference in deciding which team comes out on top is turnovers. It's about which offense doesn't turn over the ball and which defense can cause the other team to turn over the ball and be in good field position."
Is there animosity or mutual respect between these teams?
LW:"I definitely respect their defense. We both have a similar defense, that's why I appreciate their defense. I like watching them play defense. If you watch them play defense and you watch the Pittsburgh Steelers play defense, I feel that's how teams across the league should play defense."
What do you think of the Ravens offense?
LW:"They have a good offense, but their team is built on their defense. Their offense is well-respected and definitely coming around. **[Le’Ron] McClain** is doing a heck of a job running the ball. Flacco has been coming around since the beginning of the season and he's getting better each and every week."
Do you consider the Steelers and Ravens throwback teams?
LW:"I guess you can say that. Going in, the main thing is to stop the run. If there is anyone who plays football and goes in there and stops the run and forces a team to go to their passing game, then if you have a good rush you're going to put pressure on their quarterback. That can cause havoc and force them to throw some bad passes and maybe causing some fumbles here and there."
The Ravens ran the ball effectively the first two times. What will make this time different?
LW:"Doing our job. Staying in our rush lanes. Not over-pursuing the ball. When I go back and watch the last game, we didn't do a good job of wrapping up and tackling. We had one or two guys with him, but the guy was still moving forward to get two or three extra yards when we shouldn't have allowed that. We have to do a better job of tackling."