With the Ravens traveling to Pittsburgh this weekend for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger met with Baltimore media to discuss the game.
Issues covered were how Todd Heap jump-starts the Ravens' offense, Roethlisberger's aversion to playing his AFC North rival and how Tomlin thinks the Ravens are still a running team, despite their recent success with the pass.
Here are some highlights:
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
What do you think about the different offensive style the Ravens used in Kansas City?
Mike Tomlin: "I don't know how different it is. They handed the ball off 40 times. That's Raven football. The defense provided them short fields. They ran the football 40 times. They dominated time of possession. That's the animal I'm familiar with."
Are you excited, nervous or nonchalant about this matchup?
MT: "It's bigger than that for me. I'm just excited about the playoffs and being in the Divisional Round, being one of the last eight remaining teams and fighting to hopefully be one of the four remaining teams. I think that's what this weekend is about. No question, this rivalry is well-documented and rightfully so. The games are always exciting, but I'm not going to lose the fact that this is a playoff game and the reason why we're here."
Was Troy Polamalu's sack/strip of Joe Flacco in Week 13 a season-defining play?
MT: "We had a bunch of them: The opening kickoff return in Week 2 at Tennessee… I think when you look in your rearview mirror – of course that's always 20/20 – there are always a bunch of 'defining plays,' if you will, or reasons why you win and reasons why you lose. No doubt that play is among them."
Were you surprised by Todd Heap's performance in Kansas City last Sunday?
MT:"No, I wasn't. He's a talented guy. He's done similar things to us since I've been here. He got after us pretty good at our place a year ago [with] red zone fades and things of that nature, unique things that he's capable of doing from the tight end position. He's just a special player. He's a tough, physical matchup, and they take advantage of it."
Are there any similarities between Ed Reed and Polamalu?
MT: "They're defensive players who are capable of taking over a football game, and I think that puts them in a unique category. To me, that's where the similarities begin and end. One guy is a free safety; another guy is a strong safety. So, they're really different animals from that standpoint. The things that they're asked to do – their job requirements – are different, but they are both defensive players who are capable of taking over a football game, and there's not many of those guys around."
QB Ben Roethlisberger
Do you enjoy playing the Ravens?
Ben Roethlisberger: "As a competitor, yes, you love it. But, heck no, I hate playing the Ravens because they're so good. On defense, every single person and every scheme and everything they do, it just challenges you. I guess, like I said, as a competitor, you like that challenge and you like the competitiveness, but man, they're good."
Did you feel like you could be seeing the Ravens again this year after winning in Baltimore in December?
BR: "I didn't feel anything except for my broken nose. (laughter) You know what? This is… I don't know, was it two years ago we played them three times? Man, playing them two times is enough. It's always hard-fought, it's always a good game. So, I guess we're giving the NFL and the fans what they want."
Did breaking your nose affect your play?
BR: "I have to apologize to Kelly Gregg. I blamed him for it during the game, [so] I'll have to apologize when I see him on the field. I was giving him a hard time. But you know what? Anytime that these two teams play, the winner walks off feeling pretty good about themselves. I know that because I know some of the guys over there and I know what this rivalry means. So, like I said, it's always a big-time game."
Do you have to look for where Reed is lined up before every play?
BR: "Yeah, you've just to know where he is at. You've got to find out if he's coming down for the run game; you've got to find out if he's back in the middle of the field, what side he's shaded to [and] who he is helping on. But the thing about it is you can't get so caught up on Ed because then you forget about [Kelly] Gregg or [Haloti] Ngata or Ray Lewis or [Terrell] Suggs – their whole defense. You can't get caught up on one guy because they're all so good."
How have you stayed sharp following a bye week?
BR:"Well, we only got two days off. We practiced last week. We practiced on Sunday. We were out there really trying to stay mentally sharp and getting some work in without overdoing it too much. So, I think Coach [Tomlin] put in a good plan for the rest compared to practice time."