The Ravens are heading up to Pittsburgh to renew their physical rivalry with the Steelers, and it is obvious that there is no love lost between these two teams every year.
This week, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin and running back Rashard Mendenhall talked about what that rivalry means, in addition to addressing several other issues with their team.
Here are some highlights:
**Head Coach Mike Tomlin
Did you ever feel disrespected that there was a perception the Steelers couldn't win without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback?MT: "It's a coaching-ploy.I'll use whatever means necessary to get us wired in our opportunities.** That's what this journey that is the football season is about. I think the guys kind of have an understanding of that. They kind of see me coming, but it doesn't stop me from doing it."
Do you think this rivalry is fun?MT:"Absolutely it's fun. If you're a competitor, it's fun. I know that the Ravens bring the best out in us. I know every time you play the Ravens, or a team like the Ravens, you come off the field knowing a little bit more about yourself regardless of the outcome. That's one of the beautiful things about this rivalry, in my opinion."
Will you prepare for all running backs because Ray Rice's status is uncertain?MT:"In my opinion, their personality doesn't change very much in terms of how they attack us, whether or not he's in there or not. That's been my experience in competing with those guys. Whether it's [Le'Ron] McClain as their feature runner – which we've seen, or I've seen – whether it's [Willis] McGahee – I've seen that – or it's Ray Rice. They have a form of fashion in terms of how they attack us, and really that's what we're prepared for."
What does Troy Polamalu do for the defense?MT:"We don't really change what we do whether or not he's in or he's out. But obviously, of course, we do it better when he's in, because he's got a unique skill set. He covers a lot of ground [and] he's got innate ability that you can't coach. That's part of what makes him who he is. It's probably very similar to when Ed Reed is back there with Baltimore. They're still the Baltimore Ravens secondary, they're still No. 1 in the NFL in pass defense here in 2010, but if you ask them, I'm sure they'd prefer to have Ed Reed back there."
Do you see a different offensive identity from Baltimore than in previous years? MT: "Not necessarily so. I think that all teams this time of year are forging their identity, or are meshing old players with new players. I think that's the natural process that all offenses and teams go through at the initial part of the season. I really think that when the dust settles that the Ravens' offense will be their offense. They've got some new and exciting weapons at their disposal that we have to deal with, but they're going to play ball in the fashion in which they play it."
RB Rashard Mendenhall
Do you think about when Ray Lewis broke your shoulder with a hard hit in 2008?RM:"No, not at all. I don't really think about stuff like that. That was two years ago at the time, and right now I'm showing up to play. It's always a tough game and a tough rivalry versus Baltimore and we're just getting prepared."
Will there be any conversation with Ray in this game?RM:"No, I don't think so. Ray's talking all the time, in general, so probably just within the normal confines of the game"
What are the chances of having a good running game against Baltimore's defense?RM:"I feel like every week and every game is different, and with that defense – they're a great defense – I think they're No. 1 in the league in a lot of categories right now. So, we really don't try and take that over into this week. We're just preparing our attack and looking forward to get some success on Sunday."
How difficult has it been with so many different quarterbacks for your offense? RM:"It's a little bit different, having different guys and everybody, the quarterbacks like to do different things. But when we get some consistency with Charlie [Batch] and him being here. We've been able to see him for a while. The guy's a veteran and has done it for a long time, been around for a while. We kind of know what he thinks he wants to do, and what we're trying to do, and we're kind of getting comfortable in that."
How much confidence does your team have in Batch? RM:"I think they have a lot of confidence in Charlie, and for a long time, too. There's been a lot of times – even before I've been here – when Ben hasn't been there and Charlie has had to step in [and] he's always performed. He's a smart guy and he's a great player, so we've got a lot of confidence in him."