**HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming out. Sorry for being a little bit late coming in. After reviewing the game, it was a good, solid team win. All three phases played well. There are a number of things that we can do better in each area. We have a process, really, no matter how the game goes result-wise. We try to look at the things we did well and build on those things and [look at] the things we didn't do well and improve on those things and just try to become as much better as we can from one week to the next. So, we'll just continue along that line, even with a victory. [There were] a lot of really great individual performances. A number of guys stepped up and played really, really well in this game, and it showed up in big plays and big hits and game-changing plays. Sometimes that accounts for that score, and some of those things that happened, guys make plays. So, that was a real positive. A lot of those guys were young guys. A number of young guys have stepped in – with some of the injuries that we've had – and have really grown as players the last couple of weeks. You make your biggest progress when some of your young players get better. Those are the guys that have the most room to get better and to improve, and we have a number of guys doing that. That accounts for some of our improvement the last few weeks. So, that's kind of where we are with that.
"As far as the injuries, I really don't have anything new to report on that until Wednesday. We don't have any new information. We don't have anything major coming out of the game. Haloti [Ngata], obviously, and Jimmy [Smith] – resting should be a plus for us. We'll just have to see how those guys look on Wednesday."
**The first month of the season, you had a couple of national TV games and the schedules were kind of irregular. You have been on a good Sunday-to-Sunday roll now. Has that helped in any way? *(Joe Platania) *"It probably has. It probably has been a good thing to get on a routine. We like routine, and we like to have that process, that seven-day process between games. And the players getting that rest is a big thing, and having a chance to recover is good for the players."
Ed Reed was tough on himself yesterday; he didn't feel like he had a good game. What did you see from that game? We saw the one missed tackle on the touchdown, but were there other things? Or, was it just him being hard on himself? (Aaron Wilson)"That's the thing about Ed – he is a great player. He is definitely his own worst critic, his own strongest critic. He has a really high standard for how he is going to play, and I'm sure that's reflected in those comments. I thought he played well. Ed sets a high bar, and he usually reaches it."
[Reed] indicated after the game that it was his decision to pull himself out of the game because he felt like he didn't play up to his standard … (Jerry Coleman)"That's a conversation that we had. I had a tough time getting Terrell [Suggs] out of the game at one point. We were finally able to accomplish that. These guys have a lot of pride. These are some of the most competitive men, or athletes, in the world, and that's how that conversation goes sometimes in a game like that. But, that's the way that one went."
Coach, we've all played sports where the coach says, 'Hands up on defense.' Was that all that was yesterday, or was it something that [defensive coordinator] Dean Pees and the coaches saw? (Stan Charles)"It was more an emphasis. We've been trying to get that for a while. There [are] a lot of things that build into it – a lot of assignment things and technique things. And to see that happen as a coach [is rewarding]. Whenever things start to fall in place that way with a technique, and when you get the results with production like we did with the batted balls, that's a pretty rewarding feeling. I thought our guys did a great job with that."
Speaking of Dean Pees, there were a lot of different fronts he was using in the sub packages. Does that just speak to his knowledge of the game and that sort of thing? (Jason Butt)"No question. His creativity [is amazing]. He's had a lot of [experience] –all the coaches have – and the players are a part of that process. A lot of those players go up and meet with Dean every Tuesday about the game plan. But, they've been very creative. They've been very creative to find pressure. They've been very creative to change up the coverages. [Secondary coach] Teryl Austin does a great job in the back end, [LBs coach] Ted [Monachino] and [defensive line coach] Clarence [Brooks] on the front end and [inside linebackers coach] Don [Martindale] with the linebackers. They've done a really good job of mixing some fronts up and putting some guys in different spots to account for some of our personnel issues. Obviously, we didn't have the yardage result we probably wanted. If you watch Oakland, they've put up tons of yards this year. They've put up tons of yards in the second half – tons of yards in the fourth quarter especially. We were very aware of that going into this game. We're a little disappointed with some of the yardage things. We didn't want to give up those yards, and it was really five plays that accounted for most of their yards. But, I thought our guys did a great job creatively coming up with ideas to get them stopped."
John, not that the players' personal gratification with the schemes is the goal, but they seem to enjoy playing different spots. Courtney Upshaw, in particular, was playing as a down lineman and using his speed edge. How much did players doing something different seem to help them? (Aaron Wilson)"No question. It's a big credit to those guys. We've got guys [playing different roles], and Courtney is a great example of that. Here's our top pick – our defensive player that we picked as our first pick – and he's played a number of different positions. Obviously, he's been getting better every single week. He's a smart football player. He's a physical football player. To me, he's a reflection [of that]. He's kind of the guy you look to. But, it wasn't just him. We played a lot of guys in different positions in this game. So, for them to know their assignments and to execute them the way they did was a real positive for us."
Even though you guys gave up a lot of yards yesterday, and we've seen that at other points of the season, it seems like when you are able to create turnovers. The defense kind of feeds off it, and the yards don't affect them as much. Is that what you see?* (J. Michael)*"No doubt. Turnovers are really the name of the game – turnovers and red zone defense. Those are two areas that we did very well with yesterday and we've really done well with all year. Combine that with 70 rushing yards, so you've got a little more control of the run game, it's probably a good defense outing. It could have been a six-point-kind of an outing, but they had the big plays, and that was the points because of the two long touchdown passes, and that was the yardage accounted for in those five plays."
What do you think has made you so good in red zone defense? (Ryan Mink)"We've got guys that understand how to play it. We've got really creative packages. We do a lot of different things down there. It's hard to figure out what we're in, what coverage we're going to be in. I think it causes quarterbacks to hold the ball a little bit and gives us a chance to get some pressure. We're a lot better now than we were early in the year of giving up runs in the low red area. We had a couple of runs on us in the low red zone early. We seem to have controlled that lately. Those are probably the keys."
John, what did you see from Jah Reid's performance yesterday looking back at the tape? (Brett Hollander)"A lot of good things and some other things that he can get better at. But, he's a very physical player. He is really athletic. He can bend, he can get his pads down, and that's not easy to do for a guy his size. He played well. There were some pass-protection-technique issues that he had. He has some pass-set things that he has to continue to work on that he knows about and he can work on. But all in all, he played pretty well."
Do you anticipate Jah Reid playing again next week, or do you think that Bobbie Williams will get the bulk of it? (Aaron Wilson)"I don't know who will get the bulk of it, but I anticipate both of those guys playing in there. Jah has some versatility in some other positions, too. Of course, Bobbie can play the right guard as well, so it's good to have some flexibility there."
Coach, in terms of Jacoby Jones, he now has two 105-plus-yard kickoff returns. Does he have the green light no matter how deep in the end zone he is now? (Jerry Coleman)"I would say no. Jacoby would probably tell you yes. (laughter) That's probably where we're at with it right now. It depends on hang time. We don't really have a depth issue. The whole dynamic of the kickoff return rules have changed. What's happened is when you bring them out that deep, the geometry of the play has changed a little bit, so you see more big plays for some reason. But, when it's a high kick deep like that, then we try to keep them in there."
What do you think of Jacoby Jones' dance moves? (Garrett Downing)"I was impressed. His mom and his family were right in that corner [of the field]. Did you know that? He tossed the ball to his mom, and he and his mom had that little dance thing going. We did show it to the team today in our team meeting." (laughing)
Do you remember "The Cabbage Patch?" That's an old one. (Aaron Wilson)"I remember 'The Cabbage Patch,' the name of it, but I don't remember the dance itself. You want to demonstrate it for us up here? Everybody is like, 'Please, no!'" (laughter)
John, there was a lot of talk entering the season about how the Steelers' defense is getting old, something that you guys had to put up with as well. Does it look like the demise of the Steelers' defense was kind of exaggerated when they are still playing well, even without Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, who have missed some games? (Matt Vensel)"Absolutely. Very well put. It was greatly exaggerated, no doubt. Isn't that the term, that their demise is greatly exaggerated? Something like that. Is that [Winston] Churchill? *(Reporter: "It was Mark Twain, I thought.") *Look it up. Mark Twain, that's the consensus. You guys should know that. They look great. They are playing great. They are the No. 1 defense in the league – run, pass, big plays, sacks; they are still getting sacks. It's just a premier defense, no doubt."
Speaking of Pittsburgh, Cary Williams said after the game, "They don't like us, we don't like them. It's going to be hell out there." From your experience, is it like that in these games? (Jason Butt)"To me, if you love football, there is no greater place to be. Playing there, in that great stadium, against that great organization, those games have always been great games. We've always felt like it's a rivalry. We'll continue to consider it to be a great rivalry. We're excited to go play it – we always are. We respect them, and we love playing against them. I suspect they feel the same way."
John, do you remember your reaction when you looked at the schedule and saw you had the Steelers twice in three weeks? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I was kind of like, 'Interesting.' Really, there are always quirks in the schedule – there really are – and every team has them. That's kind of a quirk for us; we play them [twice in three weeks] and then sandwiched around a trip to San Diego. So, that'll be a big challenge for us, but everybody has those challenges this year. That's ours, and we'll just have to deal with it and make it good."
John, the fake field goal yesterday, getting beyond the criticisms or applauding of it, can that type of play set up something else down the road? (Stan Charles)"There's always a chess game that way, season-long. It's good for people to know that we've got the ability to run that, but that's not a play that you only run once. That's more of a numbers-count play. So, they are in a situation, defensively, where they are trying to win the game. They are throwing the ball down the field. There are still 20 minutes left in the game. They've scored a couple of touchdowns in the first five minutes of the second half, and they're a dangerous offense. They are trying to win the game, so part of that was to line up eight guys on one side and try to block our kick there. They have a chance to block the kick. When you overload to that extent, you have a chance to block the kick. It's a risk for us to go out and kick that. If we get it blocked, and they pick it up and run it for a touchdown, that's a different ball game. We basically decided not to take that risk. We'd rather take our chances running over to the three-man side, and we feel like we've got good numbers over there, and we've got a great chance to be successful. If we kick the field goal – not that we can't block that look – but they have an advantage, so we'd rather take that advantage away by running that play that we have in our arsenal anyway."
Some of the people that I've talked to today have said, "They just shouldn't have run it in a game like that. They should save it for another time." (Stan Charles) "It's not a one-time type of a thing. We've run that before. It's the same thing that we did against Pittsburgh last year. There were 29 minutes left in that game, and they gave us the same kind of look, and we ran it in there and got the extra point there. It's really no different thinking than it was in that game."
Is there anything that can be said for momentum or the confidence that you guys got from yesterday's game bringing you into this week's game, or is there no carryover whatsoever? (David Ginsburg) "That's a great question – a great dilemma. I can see it both ways. I'm kind of a confidence guy; I like confidence. Confidence is born of success. You do things well, it's a positive thing. It doesn't guarantee anything. Just like if you struggle the week before, it doesn't guarantee that you can't do something. Every week does stand on its own. Playing well is a good thing. We like to build on that."
When you say that there are a number of young guys that have grown the last couple of weeks, can you identify who you have in mind when you are saying that? (John Eisenberg) "I'm probably going to forget somebody, and somebody's going to feel bad. Jah [Reid] is a good example. He's kind of come from nowhere with the injury. Courtney [Upshaw] is a good example. You can help me out here with some other young guys. Bernard Pierce comes to mind; he's running the ball very well. I'm always excited when he takes the field and gets a chance to run the ball. (Reporter: "[Paul] Kruger still a young guy?") Yes, let's put him that category. Paul Kruger really had a great game. The tight ends stepping up – you want to talk about those guys as young guys. I thought Ed Dickson, seeing him play the way he did was big for us. He has so much talent, and he really stepped up and played well. Cary Williams – you consider him a young guy. He gets better and better every single week. He's really playing well for us out there, especially with some of the injuries at corner. For him to be an anchor for us is a positive thing. Bernard Pollard played well. He's not a young guy, but he certainly played well. DeAngelo Tyson – he played very well – got a couple of batted balls. Bryan Hall got in there and played real well. That's his first opportunity really to play with what we were doing with the defensive line. The young linebackers played well. Josh Bynes continues to do well on special teams. Chykie Brown on special teams … Chykie played corner quite a bit – played really well. Help me out. Anybody else? That's quite a few guys. Tandon Doss with the punt return, too. He made a play, even though it got called back; he showed some skill and made the great catch over the middle."
Before Corey Graham signed here, he wanted to play more DB, and then that was probably the most he's been other than the nickel. What did he do out there? How did he grade? Did he do well? (Aaron Wilson)"Corey Graham graded out really well; he graded out really well. He'll be very critical of some plays. I just talked to him today, and all he wanted to talk about were the plays he could do better on, but he made a number of plays. He can play man coverages. He has very good ball skills. He's still learning our defense, and he's still learning the nuances of it, and he's done a great … He's a really smart guy. [He] combines that with his special teams duties. He's doing really well."
There have been more close games this year than lopsided games. How much can that help you going forward into this Steelers game, which are typically tight, not only for the players, but for the coaches? When you go back and think about a third-and-2 call that failed earlier in the year and you go back to in a game like this? (Mark Zinno)"That's a great point. Just a chance to learn from those experiences having been in that … From one year to the next, it helps you. We can draw things from last year, but when this team as a group experiences those things together, that's the best learning. Some of the close losses we've had, too, help us. It will be a plus."
In terms of the distribution that you had with the football to the receiving corps, is this the most comprehensive play among your receivers? Was this the ideal way you'd like to see the passing game? (J. Michael)"That's a tough question to answer. It's good to see it get spread around like that, and the fact that … Their plan was to take away Torrey [Smith] and Anquan [Boldin]. Anquan still got some balls, especially early. He made a huge play for us coming off the goal line to get the first down. Torrey had the big plays. When they're going to take away two of your top guys, for Joe [Flacco] to find those guys, that's big for us. But, there could be other games where the ball goes to one of those guys 10, 12, 14 times – that could be just as productive for us. I don't know if one is better than the other, but I know that everyone has a lot more fun when they're involved, so that's a plus."
The offense scored on six of their first seven drives. What was the big difference that you saw from this game that you take away from it vs. what happened in Cleveland where they started off strong and stalled? (Kris Jones) "We probably made fewer mistakes. We converted third down a lot better. We had some third-and-longs in this game and some third-and-mediums, so we had probably less third-and-longs than we did in the Cleveland game. We made fewer mistakes on first down. We blocked a little better on first down than we did in the Cleveland game. I would say we just executed a little bit better during that stretch."
You mentioned some of the young defensive players stepping up here in the last couple of weeks, but I can't help but notice Terrell Suggs has been on the field the last few weeks. How much has his presence alone, even if it doesn't show up in sacks and numbers, help the younger players, even from the mindset that they don't have to do too much? They can just go out there and play.* (Luke Jones)*"Maybe it does help them the fact that they know that they don't have to do too much because Terrell is on the field, also the fact that he draws a lot of attention. He gets a lot of blocking attention, so that helps other guys who are singled out more than they would have been otherwise. His presence is felt – whether he's putting up the big production or whether he's not. He's a factor out there."
John, you said you're a "confidence" guy. How much confidence can your team take away from what you were able to do when you went into Pittsburgh last year to win a game in that fashion? (Matt Vensel)"It's a plus. It's something that we know we're capable of doing. It's something that our guys have done before, the guys who were here. It can't be anything other than a positive."
Usually when you lose, afterwards the media and fans dissect it and it always gets back to Ray Rice and the numbers he puts up. What does it say about your offense that you scored 55 points and his numbers yesterday were like they are in those losses a lot of times? (Stan Charles)"It says it's probably not the crux of the issue all the time. So many times it's [that] you're trying to attack where they're giving you an opportunity to attack, and in some ways they took away Ray. They ran some two-high coverages, but a lot of it was two-man, where they were getting an extra safety down in the box. But Ray really contributed in some other ways. This is something that is completely an unsung type of a thing that most people didn't notice, but he had some tremendous blocks in pass blocking. Linebackers were running through there when they were pressuring us with zone pressures, and he stepped up and hit him right square up in the chest and did a great job with that. So, it's not always about the numbers, it's not always about the touches. He did have some touches in the pass game, too. Sometimes it's just about being a ballplayer, and Ray was just excited. That's the kind of guy Ray is – he's more excited about that stuff. Hey man, he wants numbers, too, but the fact that he could step up there and help some other guys make some plays seemed like that got him more fired up than himself making plays."
How is the Steelers offense different this year? They have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley. And what are you seeing from Ben Roethlisberger? (Matt Vensel)"I'll probably have to reserve that for later. We haven't looked at them that much in all honesty. Our focus has been on the Raiders and looking back on this game. From what I've seen from afar, they look pretty much like they've done a good job, I would say, and Todd has done a good job of playing to his players' strengths. Ben looks the same to me. He throws on time and guys catch-and-run. They get behind people and he zings it in there down the field, and he still makes the extended play – scramble plays like he's always done. So, Todd has done a good job of building around the strengths of his players. The nuances of it, we'll see as we study them the next couple of days."
I know you said yesterday that this game against Pittsburgh was one that you circled when the schedule came out. How much has this upcoming stretch been one that you guys have been looking forward to? (Matt Zenitz)"It has been. We wanted to put ourselves in position for this stretch if we could, understanding when the schedule first came out – as you guys mentioned – we knew it was going to be an important stretch for us, and here it is. And fortunately, we've been good enough to put ourselves in position to make it meaningful, and now it's our job to make the most of it."
John, I know you hate comparison questions, but how different is Steelers week? Not in terms of preparation, but how different is Steelers week for you in terms of the buzz generated by media and the fans? What is Steelers week like for you? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I think it's the best week of the year, because it's where we feel our most comfortable probably. It's where I feel the most comfortable. I think our players and coaches feel the same way, because that's a team that you know it's a defining-type of a rivalry. It means so much to both teams. So, we like being in this week. We love playing these guys. We love the preparation for these guys. So, I'd say it's the best week of the year – both of them."
The Steelers play on Monday Night Football tonight and will be coming off a six-day week to play against you. Does that one day make a difference? (Joe Platania)"I don't know. We'll see. I don't know. One thing about those guys [is] I don't think it's going to make that big of a difference for them, because they do such a great job of preparing. They've got a veteran team – they're the most veteran team in the league – and there is nothing that is going to faze them that way. They're not going to be worried about something like that. We've played them off a short week in the playoffs, so we've had that experience before. We just go play the game."
Will you be able to watch the game tonight? And if so, do you watch it as a fan of football or do you watch it with a coach's eye? (Garrett Downing)"With a coach's eye. Do I have a rooting interest? *(laughter) *Sure. No, but you really do; you watch it and you see what they're doing. But, it's a little more relaxing than watching tape. I'm going to try to get home tonight to watch it. Normally Monday Night Football is watched out of the corner [of your eye], you listen to it while you're watching your opponent. But, since we're playing them, it'll be a little more fun to watch."
Is it easier for you to coach this week if they win or lose tonight? (Stan Charles)"I have no idea. No idea. It's going to be tough either way. It's going to be a great game either way. There's nothing like it. It's a great venue; they've got great fans. I know a bunch of Ravens fans will be there as well. It'll be fun running out of that tunnel."