HEAD COACH JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. A couple of things: I thought that we played very hard yesterday. Our guys competed exceptionally well. We came up short at the end, which is disappointing. We really lost the fourth quarter. That was the difference in the game. [The Steelers] did a very nice job – especially at the end of the game, especially in the fourth quarter – and they earned the victory, so we are disappointed with the loss. We are disappointed with losing to them at home after beating them at their place. We were excited about the opportunity to beat them at both places, and we didn't get that done. We're disappointed about our first loss here at home in two years. That's tough. That's not something that you want to see happen. We were proud of that streak. So, it will be our job to start a new streak, and that will be our goal going forward. But, we still think M&T [Bank Stadium] is a great place to play.
"As far as the way we are approaching the game, I'm sure you will have questions along these lines, but the bottom line is everything we do is to gear the program toward December. We feel like we are built for December football. That's our goal: to be at our best in December. We are excited about the fact that we are in that phase of the season right now, and we are excited about the fact that we are in the position to do something [and] that it is meaningful football in December. So, we are looking forward to that opportunity, and we are going to do our job to make the most of it.
"As far as injuries, the things that we have had lingering: Dannell Ellerbe is continuing to work, and we anticipate he's got a chance to get back this week. We were hopeful for this past game, but it just didn't work out. We took him right to gameday, and he was unable to go. Ed Dickson did some running today, so we are just going to see how that knee continues to develop. There is no injury in there; it was kind of a hyperextension deal, so he has a chance [to play]. Jimmy Smith continues to get better, so he will be moving around a little this week. We'll see how that goes. Ray [Lewis] is here rehabbing, so we'll see how that goes this week going forward. [There is] nothing to report there. When there is, we'll let you know. We'll just see how that goes this week, and we'll let you know. Terrell Suggs is the one injury from the game. He has an injury in his upper arm area. That is being evaluated further today. We don't know the extent of it. We've got an idea of what it is. It needs to be evaluated as far as coming back and possibly playing this week or not going forward. We'll just have to see where that is, and we should know something by tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest."
When it comes to the upcoming opponent, I know you have to focus on one opponent at a time, but with the impact Robert Griffin III has had on this league, have you kind of kept an eye on him as this season has gone on? (Joe Platania)"You kind of keep an eye on him. You get so focused on your opponent, and you really don't know – other than from the little news that we see – how he is doing. Being here in the area, of course, you get a little more of that. We've been following him from afar a little bit, and [we're] very impressed. [I've] always been impressed with him. I knew of him because my brother recruited him four years ago to Stanford. He had recruited both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III – both out of Houston, both 4.0 [GPA] students, by the way, so they were Stanford guys. Andrew ended up going there, and obviously, RG III went to Baylor. I've known him for a little while, and I've got a lot of respect for him."
John, in terms of Terrell Suggs, it looked like he was in a lot of pain immediately, and then after the game it seemed to settle down, and he didn't seem to be as bad off. Are you guys encouraged that this might not be a long-term injury? (Aaron Wilson)"I think we are. We are encouraged that it may not be, and we'll just have to see. If I knew that for sure or could say it for sure, I would. I just can't right now. But, we have some encouragement there."
Despite the loss, many of the players spoke that you could still accomplish everything you set out to do. You are now two games behind Houston, but do you feel like the loss took you off track or are you still on course to accomplish what you want to do by the end of the season? (Dave Ginsburg)"Sure. We still are on course, and that's the thing. It's a tough league. You have wins and you have losses. You win tight games [and] you lose tight games when you're a good team. We have an opportunity to accomplish our first and foremost objective – I wouldn't say our most important objective – but the first objective on the agenda, which is to win the division. That's something that we need to do. We need to get to 11 wins to do that. So, it would have been 11 either way with Cincinnati having won, so that hasn't changed. The idea of the highest seeding that we can get in the playoffs is still in front of us, too, so we're going to be working hard to get those things done."
There was something made of your handshake – just like with your brother a year ago – with Mike Tomlin yesterday. Can you add to the speculation that there were some uncomfortable moments there at the end? (Jerry Coleman)"No, I really I don't know anything about the speculation. I haven't seen any of that. [It was] nothing uncomfortable at all. I thought Mike did a terrific job preparing his team. Obviously, they played very well, and I made a point to congratulate him on that. Hopefully he accepted that, and it was all good."
When it comes to those things, is it sometimes that one guy wants to talk and the other guy just wants to get right off the field and there are different agendas when you have those quick handshakes? (Aaron Wilson)"I really don't know about the handshake agendas. I felt fine about it. It was fine. I just wanted to make sure he knew that we congratulated him and that was it."
John, you said earlier that you lost the fourth quarter. Any connection at all to a tough week the week before, overtime, a flight back, a tough game on Sunday night the week before with Pittsburgh? (Drew Forrester)"That's something that's probably interesting to look at, but not something that we're probably going to have too much time to address. We just feel like we could have coached better, played better. We had our opportunities for sure. Pittsburgh made the most of their opportunities there, and they ended up winning the game. That's the way these games go in this league. That's what makes it such a great league. We're disappointed, but we're ready to roll."
Was there anything in this game, because it was another close game that you guys were involved in that stood out to you, that didn't happen in the fourth quarter where you weren't able to close that did happen in other games that you were able to finish? (Mark Zinno)"Sure, we got some stops in other games, and we got some first downs in other games. We converted some third downs in some other games – just look at the week before like you're saying. We didn't do that in this game. That's the biggest thing. We needed to get something going there. We were unable to do it. Two times we had 10-point leads in the game, and we lost them. We got ahead, but we didn't stay ahead. You get ahead, you stay ahead, you win the game. We were unable to do that, and obviously, they tied us, and they took the lead with two seconds left."
I asked you last week about third-and-long situations, and you guys were 50 percent against San Diego. In this game, you weren't as good on third downs. You had a lot of shorts, I think third-and-2, -3, -4 and -5 that you weren't able to convert. Any rhyme or reason for why the short yardage is becoming so difficult to move the sticks? (J. Michael)"Third-and-3, -4 and -5 is considered third-and-medium more; third-and-1 and -2 is third-and-short. I don't know how many third-and-2's we had – maybe one third-and-2. It's just a matter of converting on third down. All those different scenarios are different. From a game-planning standpoint, play-calling standpoint, defenses you get – they are all different. The bottom line is without going into each different phase and what you try to accomplish is we just didn't execute well enough to get into the right situation to beat their defense or whatever it might be. We all take responsibility for that. There are no excuses. We just need to continue to be better on third down. We didn't think we had the problem solved last week. It's always week to week. You have to be good converting on third down. You have to get first downs. You have to move the ball to get your offense in rhythm to score points."
I know you were asked about Ray [Rice] and the lack of carries, but when you go back and look at the tape, you see that he didn't carry the ball in the fourth quarter. Is that something that you look to avoid in the future, or is that the way the game was dictated? (Jerry Coleman)"I think it was dictated in our mind. We are going to do whatever we can – use the players we can. We are going to try to use all of our guys – all hands on deck. It's real easy to look at the stat sheet and say, 'Hey, this guy should get the ball more. That guy should get the ball more.' You're trying to use all of your guys and move the ball. When it's successful, we are happy about it. When it's not successful, you look at it. We have two really good running backs. To me, it's important to use both of them. We have confidence in both of them in all situations. If we would have gotten a couple of first downs there in the fourth quarter – if we would have gotten one first down in the fourth quarter – I'm quite certain Ray [Rice] would have carried the ball quite a bit. But, we didn't. We didn't get started. That's the way that went."
With a guy like Bernard Pierce, when he's starting to have a couple of nice runs, do you ride that hot hand a little bit? (Garrett Downing)"No, we like guys playing certain a number of plays. They may be in there for back-to-back plays; they may not. Sometimes a guy busts one for a long gain. You pull him out to get him a rest, too. It's not quite that simple. It's just playing both. Ray [Rice] is our running back – just to be sure. He is our guy. Ray's the guy that we want to have the ball. He's the one who's going to have the most carries. We want Bernard [Pierce] to be a complement to Ray – a very good complement. They have different running styles. We think that helps us. It's always good to put more guys out on the field. I don't know what argument you can make for not playing good players. We aren't going to stand up here and make that case. We want to play our good guys, and we have two good backs. But, Ray's our guy; he's our workhorse. We want to get him the ball as many ways as we can, as often as can, but there are other guys, too. There's only one ball."
It seemed like the middle of the field was open a lot yesterday on some of those throws. Is that a byproduct of you guys missing Dannell Ellerbe? Over the last six weeks, he's done a nice job for you. (Drew Forrester)"He has done a nice job for us, but those plays weren't a byproduct of that. Those plays were a byproduct of basically, screen looks that got us running away from our man-coverage and a guy popping open on man-coverage. We just need to do a little better job of keeping our eyes on our man and covering our guy."
What did you think of Albert McClellan primarily playing the middle yesterday? (Kris Jones)"Played solid. We had more tackles for loss in the running game than we've had here in a long time. And the runs that they did get on us were runs that got stuffed up, except for one, that popped through the middle for a few yards. That got stuffed up and then popped outside when guys got a little overanxious on the edge; I think that was two times. So, I thought the run defense was really good. Obviously, Albert and Jameel [McClain] – the linebackers – Josh Bynes did a nice job as well."
John, was it miscommunication in the secondary that led them to pick up some deeper throws in the passing game? (Aaron Wilson)"I just answered that. It was more just keeping our eyes on our guy as opposed to jumping a screen-fake or another kind of a fake to another guy. We got a little overanxious. I would say it was over-aggressiveness more than it was a miscommunication in those instances."
How would you assess Joe Flacco 12 games into the season? (Matt Zenitz)"I would assess him as our quarterback. He's had some really good moments, and like any quarterback, you look around the league, and that's pretty much what you get. There are a few guys playing at a Hall of Fame level week-in and week-out. We're striving for that. That's what we're always striving for with all of our guys. But, Joe's playing good football, he's playing winning football, but he knows he can get better. All of our guys can get better, and Joe is fighting and working to be the best player he can be. And we're going to need him to be at his best now. This is the time when all of our guys need to step up and play their best."