Ravens Thursday Transcripts: Week 18 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers


Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman

Opening statement: "We're really looking forward to finishing off the year strong. I have a lot of respect for this Steelers team. It's been quite a season; we could probably write a book about it. It's like a Larry David episode. But regardless of that, our total focus is on this last game and getting ready for that. I'm really proud of the effort and focus of our players and coaches. We're working tirelessly, and we're looking forward to getting out there on Sunday against a really good Pittsburgh Steelers defense. I think everybody saw them on display Monday night [and] what they're capable of doing. I felt like in the first game, they had a good plan. They mixed some things up on us schematically. They're always a tough opponent, but [they're] a division opponent. We know them; they always have a new wrinkle for you every game. Obviously, it all starts with their front with [Cameron] Heyward and [T.J.] Watt. The rest of those guys are playing hard and [have been] very productive at this point. I see they'll get their linebacking crew back, and the secondary is really, really playing tight coverage. So, we're excited about the challenge. I'm really excited about how our guys are fighting and competing. The roster, I think we've played over 32 people on offense this year, and nobody blinks. So, it's a real credit to the players and coaches. Any questions?"

You kind of mentioned a little bit about the season in general. Have you ever been part of a season like this with the challenges that it seems like even up to gametime, you don't know what could be happening? (Jamison Hensley) "I thought last year was a strange season, especially with what happened around Thanksgiving. This year has just been unprecedented with the challenges and unfortunate injuries that have taken place. We hope all those guys get better and get back to form. The guys in and out, availability, et cetera, it's unprecedented. I have not experienced anything quite like this before. But I'm really proud of how everybody just doesn't blink, keeps putting one foot in front of the other [and] keeps competing. I love our effort. We just have to clean up some details and we're where we want to be."

It seems like you guys have had some issues with trying to create big plays while you're moving the ball. Is it more a reflection of what defenses have done, specifically with WR Marquise Brown and taking away that deep pass? How do you go about combatting that going forward? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, I mean … I think halfway through the season, we were No. 1 in big plays, and they've dropped off dramatically. It's not what we're … We want to always be able to try to create big plays, or at least threaten the defense with big plays. A huge component of that is how defenses have played us. Really since that mid-point of the year, you could basically book us as running the ball and trying to hit big plays. We were very successful at it. A lot of teams changed their strategies against us. This last team that came in, we've never seen that kind of approach against us before, where they basically said, 'Go ahead and run it every play if you want.' So, that's part of it, and part of it is being able to execute those plays on the field. You can call those plays where you're throwing the ball deep, but the ball is not always going to get thrown deep if they're defending the deep part of the field. You have to bring that ball down to your No. 2, No. 3, [or] sometimes No. 4 option. Then there's catch-and-run – the ability to catch and run to create a big play. That's something we constantly work at. I like how we're doing some of that, [but] we always want to continue to improve. Then explosive runs - we've, I think, led the league in explosive runs for several years, and we need more productivity there. So, there are a lot of ways to create big plays. If the defense is defending the deep part of the field, we probably won't be throwing it deep as much. We shouldn't be, unless we have a particular matchup on a 50-50-type of ball. We're always looking for big plays or point producing plays – something we have to continue to work at."

I'm sure you're aware that LB T.J. Watt is a sack away from tying the single season sack record. Do you have any special plans to try to prevent him from getting that in this game? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, that's a challenge. I think everybody has had special plans for him going into the game. That's a fact, really. And you better, because if you don't, he's really going to eat you up. I think, what, he had four sacks the other night? So, we're definitely going to pay special attention to him. He's a very, very productive player. He plays hard, knows how to play the game, knows angles [and] knows how to create angles. He has a really good move set with his hands, really good head fakes, et cetera. He's just a really talented, good football player that is having an amazing season. So, I think we'll be up to the challenge. It will be a challenge; it always is with him. And then [No.] 56 [Alex Highsmith], on the other edge, he's really improving as a pass rusher, and Cam Heyward is always a force to be reckoned with. We have our work cut out for us, but we're definitely going to pay some special attention to him."

What were some of the issues and challenges QB Tyler Huntley had in the red zone last week? What can you do to sort of hit those touchdowns instead of settling for field goals? (Todd Karpovich) "I think we had a few opportunities there. I think it's just part of being a young quarterback. The red zone is generally the last place where a quarterback reaches his peak, just because time and space are a huge factor there. He's doing some really good things down there. The whole offense, though, has to operate better down there to get in the end zone. We definitely had a couple opportunities there that we could have capitalized on and need to."

I know a lot of fans are wondering about QB Lamar Jackson. In previous weeks, you guys have characterized him as day-to-day. Is he still day-to-day? How are you kind of approaching the season finale in regard to your quarterback situation? I guess as a follow-up already, just your thoughts on how QB Tyler Huntley is approaching this must-win game? (Shawn Stepner) "There is no update on Lamar [Jackson]. He is day-to-day. I think it's improving, but for me to speak on that really bears no weight and carries no weight. So, day-to-day there. Tyler [Huntley] is preparing very hard. I think he has a really good focus, week-in and week-out. The things that happen, he's seeing a lot of things for the first time. You're talking about a guy who went to Chicago, didn't know he was playing until a couple hours before the game and led a two-minute drive to win that game on the road. [He] went toe to toe with Aaron Rodgers, that was one play away, and toe to toe with another veteran quarterback last week. I think he's affording himself really well. That's a reflection of his preparation. I really like how focused he is. There are high standards that he's really pushing to improve all the time. So, I really love his work ethic."

When you look at WR Rashod Bateman's season, obviously it was slow out of the gate given the injury, but what stands out to you about the season the rookie first-round pick has had this year? (Garrett Downing) "It's funny; I was sitting in my office working on red zone today, and I started thinking about Rashod [Bateman] and thinking about his journey this year. I'm really pleased with where he's at. I think he's trending in the right direction. Obviously, missing training camp and the beginning portion of the season was a tough break, but he basically had his training camp through the middle of the season. I think he's really picking things up. I really think he's going to be a really good player in this league. I like his approach a lot, and he's doing really good with his opportunities. He's a guy that's a sponge; he wants to learn. There's a play that happened in last week's game that he really wishes he had back, and he was talking about the different techniques he could use yesterday to finalize that play. So, I really like where he's at. I love his approach. [He's] a very talented guy. We just have to keep him out there working, because when he works at it, he just continues to improve."

What's the best part of coaching TE Mark Andrews, on a personal level and just schematically with what you're able to do with him and what you can create with him? (Aditi Kinkhabwala) "That's a great question. Alright, so Mark [Andrews] is a supremely competitive guy, and I don't throw those words out loosely. The word 'great' gets used a lot, but 'good' and 'great' are very different. We're seeing him grow into being 'great' right in front of our eyes. I think he's always been a good player, but I think he's really confronted some things that he really wanted to work on as a player to become a better, more consistent, clutch player, and we're seeing that happen right in front of our eyes. I really don't want to get too into the schematics of things, but with Mark, we can do some things that I wouldn't do with other people and wouldn't even try to do with other people. I think he's … Really, as you see, [with] the different quarterbacks that have played this year, he's been productive. You know what I mean? So, it goes beyond chemistry with Lamar [Jackson]. [With] everybody that goes in there, he's playing great, is very productive and continues to get better. So, I can't really pinpoint one thing, but I just love watching him compete, day-in and day-out, practice-in and practice-out. He's an intense guy – a nice guy, but a really intense guy between the lines."

Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale

Opening statement:"To start off with, I wanted to compliment the players on how we played last weekend going against a very tough offense. And much respect to [Rams head coach] Sean McVay and [Rams offensive coordinator] Kevin O'Connell and that crew, because they've got a lot of skill. We had a lot of fight in that game, and I was really proud of the way the guys played. It's one of those things – this is that type of year – where we're trying to give ourselves the chance to win at the end of the game, and I think we've done that for the most part of the season. But now we're on to Pittsburgh. I think it's the greatest rivalry in professional sports. It brings excitement to the building, it brings excitement to the players on both sides, and coaches, as well. [These are] two organizations that respect each other and two head coaches that respect each other, and both of them are warriors, and they continue to put out a team that are a bunch of warriors themselves, and you can see that, and that's why it's such an exciting game. With that, I'll open it up to questions."

This is possibly QB Ben Roethlisberger's final game. What's it going to be like going against him, maybe, for one final time? (Jamison Hensley)"We all know with Ben [Roethlisberger], I'm not sure it's going to be his final time. Who knows with Ben, because he's – and let me expand on that, too, now – he's like 'The Terminator.' You think about in the history of this game, of this rivalry, how many times he's been hit, and you can picture him – his fans, his writers, his coaches. What they don't show is him getting up and playing the next play or playing the next series. Like, I really think … That's why I said, I think he's like 'The Terminator.' It's unbelievable – his resiliency and his toughness. If there's a Ring of Fame for this game, he's definitely on it, and people … It's a credit to him, with all the great players they've had there in the past, that he's going to be mentioned, probably, first or in that Top 5 of players that they've had there throughout all these years. So, he's a great competitor. [I've got] nothing but respect for him. Even this year, supposedly, his last year, they're No. 2 in the NFL in scoring points in the fourth quarter. I think [in] the Minnesota game, if the tight end holds onto the ball, that would have been 35 points in the fourth quarter alone. So, it's crazy how well he's played for all these years and how tough he is. And like I said, there's nothing but respect for Ben."

In that regard, is it frustrating, the fact that it's hard to land that knockout punch against QB Ben Roethlisberger? (Ryan Mink)"I don't think that it's frustrating. I think his record is … Help me out, [senior vice president of communications] Chad [Steele] … What is it, 15-10 or something against [us]? … 16-[9] against us. So, if you're talking about winning and losing, there's no frustration unless you lose. But you're not looking and taking [to] make a knockout punch. To me, a knockout punch would be like back in '18 when [Anthony] Levine [Sr.] had a pick to secure the game, really – back in '18. That's like a knockout punch in my mind, so you're looking for those. But you just respect the competitor, and you just know that it's not over until that clock strikes zeros. To have him on that sideline, they always have a chance to win the game."

This could be the last time we talk to you for a couple months. Just looking big-picture at this season – I know it's not over – what has it been like for you to preside over all this? I know you mentioned the 'Squid Game' aspect, but I guess, in the long run, what do you think this is going to mean for the guys that you've coached and have been through these wars with? (Jonas Shaffer)"I think that we'll have a time to reflect at the end of the year – like you said, I won't have a chance to talk to you – but the resiliency of all these players, the toughness, the fight. It hasn't always been easy. We've changed up different things that we haven't done in the past, because of the players that we've had, and the resiliency and fight that every one of them has … Now, let's [not] put this season to bed yet, because if we win this game, we just need a three-game parlay, now, to hit. I don't want to sound like Pete Rose up here, but we just need a three-game parlay to hit; a lot of people bet five and six – not that I'm a gambler. (laughter) But that's all we need to hit, and we'll be continuing in the playoffs, and I'm sure our fanbase feels the same way, as well. It's been overused that the fans are the 12th man in this league, but our fans are No. 1. They're the first guy on defense. We play well in front of our fans, and we continue to take great pride in that, and I hope that that's returned by them, as well."

You mentioned that fourth quarter. The Steelers scored 17 points in the fourth quarter the last time you played them. When you go back and look at that tape, was it adjustments they were making, were you guys tired, or was it sort of both? (Todd Karpovich)"To pinpoint it, I think it's plays that they made and plays that we didn't. I think we really need to amp up, just because I told you the stat of the fourth quarter of Ben [Roethlisberger] and the entire offense against the NFL [and] where they're at. Like I said, they're No. 2 in scoring offense in the fourth quarter, and that's a great challenge, and that's a credit to Ben. I think Ben takes the game over in the fourth quarter, and he sees what he sees, and he attacks it, and it's a great challenge."

I'm going to actually go in a little different direction because of what you said about QB Ben Roethlisberger. Is there any one favorite memory? Twenty years from now, when someone says Ben Roethlisberger, what's the one thing that you'll remember or think of? (Aditi Kinkhabwala)"I wish you could peg that one memory, but there's just so many. Like I already mentioned, [Anthony] Levine [Sr.] intercepting the pass against him [Ben Roethlisberger]. I mean, you think about all the hits, and I know everybody has … They remember the Bart Scott hit way back when and [the] Courtney Upshaw hit – my goodness. That's why I said, the guy [Ben Roethlisberger] is like 'The Terminator;' he just keeps getting up and keeps attacking. But my good memories are going to be a lot different than his good memories of this game, of the rivalry, obviously.

"But it's an honor to go against a guy like that for as long as we have, and he has that 'it' factor. Defensively, speaking defensively, I was with Charles Woodson, I was with Champ Bailey, I was with Warren Sapp, I was with, obviously, Ray [Lewis] and Ed [Reed] and 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs], and all those great ones have that 'it' factor, and he has that 'it' factor when he hits the field, and that's part of the excitement of this rivalry. And with all the guys, like I said, if there was a Ring of Fame, there would be a lot of guys that are wearing Gold Jackets, too – yeah, I brought that back up – of people that play in this game. So, it's impressive, and like I said, it's exciting. It makes you young again, and there's a lot going on for this game, too. There's a lot at stake, and I'm looking forward to it. We're looking forward to it."

OLB Tyus Bowser

On what he remembers in his head-to-head battles against QB Ben Roethlisberger: "I can go back to my very first game against the Steelers, my rookie year. That was the first time I got my sack against him, and that was a very memorable year, just with the fact of being on the same field as him. So, that's probably my most precious moment. But just any time you're out on the field against a guy like that, you appreciate it, because growing up, I had the chance to see him play, especially [in] this rivalry. It's just been an honor to be on the same field as him."

On if he has spoken to OLB Terrell Suggs recently: "I've talked to him a few times, but I just let him be who he is, and I give him his space. But overall, he's just a great guy with a ton of energy to him that's positive. Just getting the chance to talk to him or just being around him has always been great. I definitely learned a lot from him, even [from] watching his film throughout the year, just trying to figure out different rush moves and different plays that he sees out there on the field, and just trying to pick different parts of his game and try to add it to mine. Overall, [he's] a great guy and a great person that I love watching. It's going to be great to have him on the field Sunday."

On how relieved he feels to have been able to play in all 17 games this season, and if he thinks that players may feel pressured to play through injuries regarding the WR Antonio Brown situation in Tampa: "Man, it's an honor. Anytime I'm able to get out on the field with those guys is truly an honor. I appreciate it, and you never take these moments for granted, just being with those guys, because each and every year, the roster gets different. You're not going to see the same guys on the field each and every year. So, anytime that I'm out there with that group of guys, just being out on the field, I never take it for granted. I embrace every single moment. It's just enjoyable being out on the field in general, being able to get on the field and play with those guys [and] just being able to show my talent and what I can do on the field. With that, man, I just appreciate every moment, regardless of what week it is. Whether it's [game] 17 … We can go another 17 games, man. I just appreciate being out on the field and having the opportunity to play the game that I love.

"Just with the Antonio Brown situation, I haven't really looked at it like that. But you know, as a man, you want to go out there and play hard. You want to be out there regardless of whatever nicks and bruises you have and some things you want to fight through. You're a human at the end of the day. If something is bothering you, you just have to think for yourself and understand that you have to put yourself first, because that's your body, that's your temple, that's what is getting you paid. If you're not out there to give your 100%, man, to me, personally, I think that's just selfish, because you're not putting your best effort out there, and that's not helping the team win. So, just with that situation, whatever it is, whatever the case may be, that's his decision, and he just has to live with it."

On what the vibe has been like in the facility knowing what the results on Sunday could mean for the season: "The vibe has been great. Just being around the guys, you can just see the energy in practice and meetings. It's all been awesome. You wouldn't expect that being that it's the last game [of the regular season] and just with what's being going on this entire year with injuries and the tough losses. But compared to a lot of other teams who are packing up, who already calling up people to come in and ship their cars or whatever else, these guys have been locked in from the jump, and that's motivating. That's awesome to see. That just shows you the type of tradition that the team that we have, regardless of the situation, we're going to come out each and every week with the mindset of going out and winning the game. Whether that is making the playoffs or not, we take every week seriously. Especially with this being the Steelers, you can't ask for anything better. The energy in the facility with the team has been awesome so far."

On how important or significant it is to him that he played every defensive snap last week:"I love it. Like I say, any time I'm on the field with those guys, I enjoy it, and I'm going to make sure that I bring my best effort each and every snap, whether that's one snap, six snaps or – whatever – 70 snaps that I took this past game. I just love being out there on the field. I didn't really get the chance starting out my first couple years in this league, so now I embrace every single snap that I'm out there, and I just enjoy putting great stuff on film, looking at myself and figuring out ways that I can get better. But, just most of all, being around the guys and just being able to play with them, feed off their energy and just help this team win. So, regardless of the snaps, I just enjoy being out there."

On how he will ultimately look back on this season:"I'll just look back at this year as just a mental, tough battle. Just being able to get past the situations that we've been through – whether that's being behind and coming back for a big-time comeback win or just going through this rough time with losing so many games, and even just losing players for the whole entire year. It's really been a mental battle, just being able to stay focused and just go out there and put your best effort, regardless of the situation. So, just looking at this year and seeing how guys are responding, it just shows you the perseverance that we have as a team, the mindset that we have as a team and just what we're capable of, regardless of if we have all 11 starters out there or we have four or five starters that's left out on this defense. It goes back to this [front] office, the offense, defense, special teams coordinators [with] just what we're able to do scheme-wise to put ourselves in great positions to win, and like I said, the [front] office bringing in players to not let us take a downfall with guys being out, but to still keep that same intensity, keep that same drive, that motivation to go out there and play hard and to put ourselves in positions to win. That's all that matters, and that's what I'm most proud of about this team – is what we've been able to do this entire year, of just staying together and just finding out ways to keep each other motivated and just embracing each moment with each player, because you just never know. All it takes is one snap, one play and someone can be out. So, all of us, we embrace each other, we love each other, and that's what I appreciate the most."

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