HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH
Opening Statement: "I appreciate you guys being here. First, I just want to say that I appreciate, as this closes the regular season, kind of the final chapter has been written on the story of the regular season, and now we have an opportunity to write the next chapter. At least we'll get a chance to write two [in] the next two weeks, and then we'll go from there. So, hopefully we'll earn the opportunity to write more than that. But I'm proud of the team, coaches, players [and] everybody in the organization for what's been accomplished up until this point in the regular season, and now we have an opportunity and a challenge to take it in to the postseason and play the best football we possibly can. I'm excited for our guys to do that, and I know they're going to work hard to prepare to do that. Also, I want to mention the fans. The fans that showed up for this game out there – was that a Nor'easter – it sure felt like it standing out there. The fans were great. They were really loud, and they were into it, and I really just appreciate our fans. So, with that, what questions do you have?"
How did you get through this game health-wise with S Geno Stone and LB Del'Shawn Phillips and a few other guys?*_(Shawn Stepner)_* "I think it looks we got through [the game] OK. Some of them looked a little tough. Right now, it looks like we would have all those guys back for the playoff week for the Divisional game."
Did OLB Odafe Oweh get hurt early because we didn't see him come back?*_ (Luke Jones)_* "Yes. He had an ankle [injury] early on. So, again same outcome."
During the season, there are mandated days off for the bye week. Now you have a bye week, what's your plan in terms of the team this week?*_(Bo Smolka)_* "Our plan is to practice Wednesday, Thursday, Friday [and] Saturday. We'll organize those practices in the next few days. It'll be preparation for the postseason, and that will be what we'll do. We'll try to push it back a little bit to have some sort of a rhythm, as if we're playing a game, say on Saturday, kind of that idea. Then we'll have our normal game week going into the Divisional game."
You lost by one score, but can you talk about the team's depth where they played a Steelers team who was ready to beat them for the playoffs. Can you talk about how well you played against them tonight?*_(Todd Karpovich) _*"Right. I thought we played really hard. I thought we played tough. We didn't play great by any stretch. We can certainly stop the run better, [and] we gave up the big pass play. I thought the pass rush was really good, and the coverage was good for the most part except for one play. Offensively, I thought we fought. I thought 'Snoop' [Tyler Huntley] out there fought and played hard and the circumstances – the rain and the stuff like that and the wind – I thought he made some really good throws. We ran the ball OK. But when you turn the ball over, that's basically what it was. We turned the ball over a couple of times and just gave them opportunities to score points, that was it. We take that into the playoffs. We already know that, and we understand how to win, but it's a nice little reminder that you have to protect the football to win games."
DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Kyle Van Noy both had sacks today and they have kind of been pulling some rope for the defensive line all year. What has their influence met just from a season-long perspective?*_(Kyle Goon)_* "No question [that] we wouldn't be where we're at without [Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy]. Those two guys have had ... We knew they were great players, [but] you don't exactly how it's going to go for sure. But talking to both of those guys when we signed them, they said the right things, and I would say that they followed through with everything they said they wanted to do and more."
What did you think of the way ILB Trenton Simpson played out there?*_ (Ryan Mink)_* "He played really well. He flew around, made tackles [and] played a very good football game. [I'm] very excited for the way he played. Yes, Trenton [Simpson]. Absolutely."
Shortly before this game, a couple of days ago, the team signed RB Dalvin Cook to the practice squad. What can you say about him?*_(Bo Smolka) _*"It was just kind of an opportunity that [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] was ... Once he was released, Eric was in contact with the agent, and Dalvin [Cook] wanted to come here. He wanted to be here. So, we'll figure that one out. We'll be in the process of figuring out how all that fits, but you sure [do] appreciate having another really good player on your football team."
WR NELSON AGHOLOR
On the mindset of the team after wrapping up regular season action:"We understand the importance of the playoffs. We've worked hard enough to buy ourselves a bonus week to prepare, so it's important that we take that very seriously and that we focus and try to iron out all the things that need to be ironed out."
On how proud he is of the guys who stepped in and stepped up today:"It's important, because, always, we're trying to develop the roster. We have a next-man-up mentality. I think it's great that 'Snoop' [Tyler Huntley] got all the reps he got and that all the receivers – myself – and all the other guys played; we mixed and matched some groups. And defensively, you saw different guys out there. It's important; you want to elevate your roster, and you want to make sure that you've got strengths everywhere."
On the benefit of having an upcoming bye week:"It's very important. I'm grateful that we have it. We'll rest, work on our bodies and get ourselves ready to go."
On how the veteran group can help guide the younger guys about what to expect in the playoffs:"I think it's very important. One of the most important things we have to do is show how we prepare, because there is a certain way you need to prepare as you get ready for this situation."
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
On this team and this afternoon's game: "No team better than this one, that I've been on, and we prepared that way this week. We knew what we had coming in here this week, Pittsburgh, and we sacked some guys, but guys showed up and played and just came up a little short. It's hard to win with turnovers in this league. But we are looking forward to what is next. We will have a good week of practice coming up. We'll watch football this weekend and see who our opponent is, and we'll be ready.
On getting ready for this game: "Well, it wasn't difficult for me. For one, I had incentives in my contract that I was chasing. And two, it was the next team on the schedule, Pittsburgh. It didn't matter to us that we didn't need the game. It's a team in our division and we have already lost to them once. So, I wanted to win this one. I wanted to compete and play as hard as I could for this team."
QB TYLER HUNTLEY
On how challenging the elements of the game were: "The elements – as everybody could see, it was raining from start to finish, and it was cold. We just tried to battle through it, and that's how it went."
On how hard it was to guide the offense in the rainy conditions and throwing the football: "It starts with [your] feet in. [It was] slippery out there. [From] throwing to catching, the ball is wet. You have a lot of elements to work through just to complete passes out there."
On if it will be easy for the team to turn the page to the postseason after this loss:"Definitely. We're on the right path. [We] had a lot of starters that sat out this game just getting ready for the postseason. We're on the right path."
On his touchdown pass to TE Isaiah Likely and the plays he has been making over the last month:"[Isaiah Likely's] a great player. You just try to get the ball to him and see what he can do. He made a couple of guys miss [and] got off of him, and he scored. It's nice to have an element like that on the team."
TE ISAIAH LIKELY
On today's game:"You never want to lose at home, even if it doesn't mean anything in the standings. We just need to get back in the groove and get ready for the playoffs."
On his touchdown today:"It feels good to get in the end zone, but at the end of the day, you want to win. The main goal is to win every game. We just need to be the best that we can possibly be going into the playoffs."
On shifting his focus quickly to the playoffs:"God has blessed us with our team; we have a first round bye. So, next week, we will just refocus and get ready for what we need to do."
On entering the playoffs with such a big role in this offense:"My main thing is to be on the same page with Lamar [Jackson] and just make sure we are together."
On his stiff-arm during today's game:"I'm just trying to not get tackled. I'm trying to fight for any extra yards I can get. I'm just trying to get in the end zone and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there. I stiff-armed him because I knew I was close."
CB ARTHUR MAULET
On his mindset going into the game and playing against his former team:"Every time I put on the helmet, no matter who it is against, I just want to win. I want to compete at the highest level, and I want to make plays and help the team win. That's really my mindset in life, in general. My job is to do the best I can and have a positive effect on the team."
On how fortunate he feels to be in Baltimore:"Every day when I wake up and I'm a part of this, I am blessed. I never take a day for granted; I never take a practice for granted. I never really take anything for granted because it can all be taken away with a snap of a finger. I'm grateful for every opportunity that I have and I am blessed to be a part of a great team. I try to take everything humbly and gratefully and try to live my life like that in general."
On the team's depth in the secondary:"We have lofty veterans and lofty expectations. We have guys who have played in a lot of big games, so there shouldn't be any drop-off. We're all very accountable and football should be played one way – hard, tough and physical. If you can't play that way, you won't be on the field here. So, everyone that is on the field knows that."
On what is next for the team for the upcoming bye week: "Get healthy, practice our butt off, and get ready for our first playoff game. Focus."
NT MICHAEL PIERCE
On why it was important to stay here in Baltimore and how he's feeling after his contract extension: "It's very important for me to stay here. I didn't know that was a possibility at the beginning of the year. I just kind of prayed and let God thank me. [I'm] thankful that I've been healthy, and I'm super grateful [that] they wanted me back, so I'm just working and trying to put myself in the best position to be able to play."
On if he feels this organization is successful because they are always thinking about the business side and re-signing players:"Yes, definitely. I've been a part of a lot of teams with great vets, so obviously Marshal Yanda [and] Eric Weddle. They had guys like Albert McClellan [and] Anthony Levine – those kind of guys, those glue guys who do the dirty work. Those kinds of guys took a liking to me when I was undrafted and kind of showed me the way. So [it's an] honor to them that I'm still playing, and I kind of know what's going on. I just try to follow that kind of mold."
On what it was like to get his extension wrapped up before the end of the regular season:"It was awesome. Like I said, I didn't expect it, but I'm super grateful that they want me back. I'm just happy to be here."
On if his contract extension was a prolonged situation:"No. Like I said, I've played for two organizations. I've played here the longest; it feels like home to me, so for me to be able to wrap my career up here, it's a dream come true."
On what this team can take away from this performance and how it will help them as they ramp up for the next game:"We have a lot of young guys that [were] able to play today. Like I said, if we made any technical errors or [missed assignments] or any of those things, we have to clean that up. We wanted to win, obviously, but we have a lot of guys who don't normally get those reps [and got] a lot of game experience, so that will play, obviously, a big role going forward with injuries happening or anything like that. We came up short today, but we have some lessons to be learned."
On how the team can make use of the next few weeks: "From what I understand, we'll be doing the stadium practice and just being more mindful of not coming out slow. I remember we came out really, really slow in that Titans game. Derrick Henry ran for Jesus knows how many yards. We have a good plan, and Coach 'Harbs' [head coach John Harbaugh] has a good plan. We'll be working mostly through the break and obviously getting guys healthy, but we'll be working, and we're definitely mindful [of] what happened last time."
On if everyone was aware of DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney's incentive:"Certainly. So, [Jadeveon Clowney]'s been talking about that for like the past two weeks. This was not a ... That was a very long celebration. That might have been a record for the longest celebration. No, we're happy for 'J.D.' He's having a career year. [He's] kind of like me, so [he's] kind of like 33 or 30 [years old]. For him to be able to prove that he can stay healthy and play a whole season is big. 'K.V.' [Kyle Van Noy] as well. He's having a career year, as well, in sacks. We're super happy for both of them."
On what he, OLBs Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney have provided to this defense overall: "We just have a whole bunch of guys who ... Obviously, 'K.V.' [Kyle Van Noy] is a two-time Super Bowl champion. Myself, I've been in a lot of different situations as well as 'J.D.,' so I don't think – between any of us, 'Urb' [Brent Urban] as well – probably any situation we can be in, somebody has been in it. Some of the higher-stakes games that 'K.V.' has been in, he's been giving a lot, a lot of good advice, just keeping guys mentally focused throughout the whole season, [and] obviously, today as well. We came up short, again, but he's served us really, really well. We have a good group. Like I told everybody before the year, we don't have the super, super big names – 'Beeks' [Justin Madubuike] is turning into that – but we do it by committee, and that's something we're proud of. It's really truly a [good] group, and I'm happy to be a part of [it]."
ILB PATRICK QUEEN
On his emotions after the game with the loss but also a focus of achieving something bigger in the postseason: "[I] can't dwell on it, even though you wanted to go out there and send [the Pittsburgh Steelers] home. Now, they have a chance to be in the playoffs, so it definitely stings a little bit. At the end of the day, we've written a lot of pages in our book right now that settles up pretty good right now. We have a week to prepare. Then, [we] find out who we have to play [in the playoffs], and then we go into that. So, nobody is hanging their head or anything. If we see those guys again, we'll be ready."
On if there was a sense of whiplash having to go back into the game after ILB Del'Shawn Phillips exited the game with an injury:"No. I'm cool with it. It's just football, at the end of the day. [We're] going out there [and] having fun against [the] Pittsburgh [Steelers]. I'm ready any time, whenever it may be. Whenever they need me, I'm ready."
On how big it is to have the team get out of the game pretty good health-wise: "It's huge, because we really want to be swinging full throttle when we get into the playoffs. So, with that extra week of preparation that we get, [we'll] get everybody healthy and go in there full swinging."
On if the game was another example of the defense not letting up: "Even with all that good stuff, there were still plays out there to be made that we didn't make. At the end of the day, you just have to tip your hat off to [the Pittsburgh Steelers] on the execution that they had on their part. From a standpoint of us on defense, we were making plays, but we didn't make enough plays. That's what happened today."
On the impact the weather had on the game:"I think it had a good impact, but at the end of the day, [the Pittsburgh Steelers] are playing in the same conditions, so why couldn't we do what they did? You can play that side of both, 'It could've went that way or this way,' but we had the same opportunities they had."
On what stood out about ILB Trenton Simpson's play and the growth he has seen in Simpson:"[It's] incredible. [I'm] proud of [Trenton Simpson]. [I] couldn't be happier for him. [He's a] great dude. He had me nervous; we were going over all the calls and stuff, and he was just asking [a lot of] questions trying to figure out everything. But that's why you're seeing the way he's played. He's just on top of all his stuff. [He's] dynamic [and] might be faster than me." (laughter)"I just love the guy. [He's a] great player."
On if watching ILB Trenton Simpson play takes him back to his early career and what it is like to fight for your way:"I think my situation was just a little bit different, because I was thrown into the fire immediately. With [Trenton Simpson], I didn't even ask questions the way he asks questions right now. So, I mean, I just have to give him all the praise right now. He's a terrific player right now; We finally got to see that, [and] everybody finally got to see that. So, his name is definitely going to be hot for the rest of his time [in Baltimore]."
On the impact OLB Jadeveon Clowney had today and throughout the season:"All the time [and] every play, [Jadeveon Clowney] is a different beast. I can't even find words to just describe him. It's like every play is just a train wreck, and he's making a play. Even if he doesn't make the play, he made the play. I love having him on our team. I love having him, most of the time, on my side, especially. So, I can't wait to see what he does the rest of the season."
On when OLB Jadeveon Clowney got a sack and hit his contract incentive: "Finally, finally. That's the stuff that you want to see – [with] all the opportunities that [Jadeveon Clowney] had previously [to hit his contract incentive] and missed. I was getting on him like, 'Bro, just finish it, just finish it, just finish it. You can dance – just finish.' He was getting down on himself, but he still knew that he had a chance. I'm just happy for the guy, honestly."
On how OLB Kyle Van Noy did with the pre-game speech to the team in place of ILB Roquan Smith: "[Kyle Van Noy] did alright. He did alright." (laughter) "He's kind of like on the more calm side. He doesn't curse. He doesn't get extremely hype. He was trying to do the little bouncing and that stuff, like we're in high school. [On a scale] out of 10, I would probably say a three out of 10." (laughter)
On what OLB Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Kyle Van Noy's experience has given to this defense: "That's a great question, honestly. I think [Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy bring] just a lot of calmness in the situations of knowing what your opponent is about to do and just going to capitalize. When you're playing a defense like ours, everybody has to do their job. When you have guys like that, that know the game so well, that have been in the game for a long time, they find ways to still do their job but try to weave their way through and do something else on their own. Those guys help every single person in our [defensive] room. Hats off to those guys for being the guys that they are, because they didn't have to come in trying to help anybody, but they did."
On what the next two weeks will be like mentally as they gear up for the postseason:"This next week, [we'll] rest up, practice, get sharp, do what we have to do to get healthy, find out who we play [in the postseason] and then go up there and kick their [butt]. [It's as] simple as that."
On gaining the responsibility of wearing the green dot, calling the defense and braving the elements:"I was just hearing the coach say the play and just giving the play to the rest of the defense. I've always wanted to wear the green dot, and I never had the opportunity. But when I do have an opportunity like today, I just take advantage of it and just make those plays and those calls. Wind, rain, noise – whatever it is – you can't let that affect you when you have the mic, so I tried my best to get those guys the call."
ILB TRENTON SIMPSON
On his first-career sack:"It just opened up for me, and I was like, 'I've got to go make a play.' I'm just so blessed with the opportunity to go out there and be able to showcase my talents today – just staying patient and trusting the process. And just knowing God has a plan for me was my main message to myself, personally, all through the season. So, to go out there today and make a couple plays for the team, I feel like I'm headed in the right direction, for sure."
On playing alongside ILB Patrick Queen:"It was super cool. We're great friends off the field, but to be on the field with a guy of that caliber ... The communication [between] us out there ... Just communicating and being on the same page was a blessing. I'm excited to just keep going – keep going."
On what he feels like he displayed on the field today:"I'd say just being able to come out and make tackles, just playing relentlessly. I feel like that's why they drafted me here – just the way I play. So, [I'm going to] just keep continuing to get better every day, improve, trust my coaches and just listen to Roquan [Smith] and 'PQ' [Patrick Queen] and [everyone in] the linebacker room. I feel like things are continuing to grow for my career."
On if anyone on the sideline gave him feedback or insight during the game:"Every time I came to the sideline, Roquan [Smith] was giving me new tips to what to look for, formation tendencies and what to know, what to expect. So, it's great having a guy like that, a great leader, and he definitely played a huge role in my success today – getting ready for the game and also out there [during] the game today."
On if ILB Roquan Smith spoke to him before the game:"Yes, [Roquan Smith] was just like, 'You've got an opportunity; you've got to make the most of it.' And I mean, like he says, 'Just go out there and play.' It's just football, at the end of the day, and they brought me here for a reason, so just go out there and display my God-given talent and just make the most of my opportunity. I feel like, today, I'm satisfied with my performance and have just got to continue to keep getting better on defense and special teams."
On ending the regular season the way he did:"Personally, it's a blessing, because that gives me the confidence to know that going into the playoffs, I'm headed in the right direction, and also, as a team – whoever we play next – I'm excited to see where our team can continue to grow. [We'll] just work hard and get ready for the next game."
On who else got a bigger opportunity and showed out today:"I'd say [Jeremiah] Moon being out there ... Moon is a second-year guy, and he was out there with me. Just having a relationship with the guys, off the field, and then being able to go out on the field, the communication and that bond is just so special. So, just seeing him out there [and] being able to talk to him, him setting the fronts .... It's amazing to see, [from] us being on scout team and then being able to get in on defense together, that communication from scout team carrying over to actually playing defense. It means a lot."
On if any coaches spoke to him after his performance today:"Yes, they just said they were proud of me. I took advantage of my opportunity, and I'm blessed. Like they say, I'll just continue to keep getting better, stay humble, keep my head down and just keep grinding."