WEDNESDAY PODIUM AVAILABILITY: WEEK 13 AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, I appreciate you guys coming out. [It's] a beautiful day for football, and we're excited to continue the preparation for the big game on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. What questions do you have?"
Over the past three or four games, the defense has really found consistency and probably played its best. When you're watching tape, is there something that jumps out at you that they're doing better or something that's led to that consistency? (Jamison Hensley) "It's always a number of things, and we're doing a lot of things better. We're in the right spots more often. We're playing technique better, more often. Our eyes are in the right spot. Our angles are better. Obviously, the tackling has been a lot better. Coverage has been tight. We're getting pressure on the quarterback better. So, it's always a number of things that lead to, generally, better play. It's a complicated game; there are a lot of guys out there, a lot of techniques [and] a lot of chess pieces moving around. It has to be a combination of factors."
This is your 30th meeting between you and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Only two other coaches in the history of the NFL have met that many times. Have you developed sort of a friendship with him over the years? Or is it more of a rivalry? (Todd Karpovich) "We have a great relationship. I have a lot of respect for [Pittsburgh Steelers head coach] Coach [Mike] Tomlin and for the whole organization over there. I have other friends in the organization over there. Their players, everything about the Steelers you have to respect. I always was an admirer of [former Steelers head coach] Chuck Noll. I went back and used to … I still study a lot of the things that he said. Yes, Coach Tomlin and I get along really well, I feel like. We're certainly rivals, because the Ravens and the Steelers are rivals. So, we're going to be rivals, and each of us are going to do everything we can to help our team win."
It's an old, tired cliché, but it may apply here. When these two teams get together, do you just toss out the record with Pittsburgh? (Jerry Coleman) "OK." (Reporter: "That's a question.") "It's a question? I'm not following the question part of it." (Reporter: "Does it matter what their record is when you're going there?") "It's not the way I would even think about it. That's a really good football team we're playing. This is a football team that's had a ton of success this year. When you look at a team and you consider what you're up against, you look at every facet of what they've done – the body of work, who they've played, how they played, how they played you in the past [and] what they're capable of doing. That's what you take into consideration. The other part of it, it's really never a factor."
There have been criticisms of the Steelers lately by their former players about their physicality or their lack thereof. Is that something you see on tape of them compared to previous seasons or anything of that sort? (Kyle Barber) "I don't really pay attention to too much criticism, or too much [of] what's said in the media. So, I'm not sure what's all being said."
Any update on DE Calais Campbell in the concussion protocol? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he's in the concussion protocol. We'll just see where it goes." (Reporter: "But as of today, he's still in it?") "Yes, I believe so."
What did you see out of DT Brandon Williams after having some games off? It looked like he was clogging some things up. (Kirk McEwen) "He played well. Yes, Brandon [Williams] played really well. The whole defensive line played really well in that game. So, just going back to that game, if that's what you want to do, I thought they were square. They played with their hands. They got off blocks. They had knockbacks. We set the edges really well. Brandon was probably the leader of that, for sure, but all of those guys played well."
You're facing another good running back in RB Najee Harris. What have you seen from him as far as his ability to catch the ball in the backfield and also run? (Todd Karpovich) "[He's a] multi-talented faceted running back. He's big, strong [and] fast. He has great vision. As you said, he runs routes out of the backfield. He lines up out there and runs routes. He can catch it. He's just an elusive … For such a big [running] back, he's very elusive. [He's] a tackle breaker-type guy."
You guys announced DB Kevon Seymour [being placed on the COVID Reserve list] yesterday, or Monday, I forgot. Was that isolated at this point? Is he the lone guy at this point? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's the only person that's tested positive, correct."
What kind of influence has Steelers' offensive coordinator Matt Canada had on the Pittsburgh offense? (Jonas Shaffer) "He's the offensive coordinator. He's running the offense, it's a big influence."
We've seen QB Lamar Jackson make a lot of plays on the run, under duress and things like that. It's sort of written off as he's just adlibbing and he's really good at it. What parts of that, though, are still coached, as to what players should do in those situations? (Mark Viviano) "That's a really broad question; it depends on what play you're talking about. If you're talking about quarterback draws, there's timing to that, there are reads he has to that, [and] there's the offensive line, obviously. There's 'check with me's' that go with that, sometimes, in terms of whether we're running the play or not. There are some that are built with pass-run options, where he might throw, or he might run, he has to make decisions there. Once he starts running, if that's what you're asking, I think that's more gift [and] that's more talent. I don't think anybody compares him, not to say ... Who teaches Tom Brady? Yes, he has reads, but who teaches the brilliance of his talent? Or O.J. Simpson? Or whoever the great players are over the years? There's just certain innate gifts that Lamar [Jackson] has that are unique to him that you really don't coach, and you kind of see those things on the field when you watch him."
Steelers WR Chase Claypool mentioned that he thought the Steelers should play music during practice — apparently, they don't. It's not like stadiums play music when you're running plays. What benefit do you get out of it? (Kirk McEwen) "We like to have noise at practice. When we're playing on the road, we do it for the offense. When we're playing at home, we do it for the defense. That's just our method to try to distract [and] to try to have to cut through the noise with our communication. Communicating is tough in the loud environments, so you just try to create noise in different ways. We do it different ways. Sometimes, it's crowd noise, [and] sometimes, it's music. It's whatever it is, whatever you choose to have that day."
You guys have really succeeded offensively down the stretch the past couple of years. Do you feel like the structure is in place for the same kind of improvement? (Jonas Shaffer) "I do. I'm really hopeful. That's the plan. That's the idea, that's what you keep chasing. Kind of the question [ESPN.com reporter] Jamison [Hensley] had about the defense applies to your question about the offense; we're trying to just coach everything all the time, and hopefully it all clicks in a great way, and you have a great game on that next Sunday. That's all you really hope for. We're not trying to paint the narrative about the end of the season and all that. We know that football in December is the most valuable football of the regular season, and that's where we want to play our best. That's what we're striving to do. You just keep chasing that and try to get that done on Sunday."
You know Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is going to throw the ball quickly, we've seen it the last few seasons. Does that force your edge guys to have a different plan and focus on different things than they would in a typical week? (Childs Walker) "What did you say?" (Reporter: "[Ben] Roethlisberger gets the ball off more quickly than any other quarterback in the league. Are they going to have to sort of adjust what they do to that?") "You have to adjust every week, no doubt about it. In terms of the quarterback, you're right. The timing of when the ball comes out, do they hold it, do they scramble, do they not hold it, where are their eyes, where's the release point – there's a lot of things that our coaches and our players do a great job of studying. So, sure; there will be some adjustments for Ben [Roethlisberger], just like there is for any quarterback. He is getting it out quick, and he is very accurate. He's very big. We've played him more than anybody else, probably, over the years. He's made plays that were just jaw-dropping plays against us. You guys have seen them; the throws he's made, the scramble plays he's made, the red zone plays he's made going out to his left and finding somebody – those are all indelibly marked in my brain, as you can probably tell. So, he's unique." (laughter)
When you watch his tape though, does he not extend plays as much as he did in his heyday, or whatever you would call it? (Childs Walker) "Yes, he's not doing it as much. It's different. He has a little different style than he had, but it's effective, and it's the way he's playing right now. I still don't preclude that he could do it, either. You don't assume he can't, that's for sure. Maybe that's what I'm saying." (laughter)
Steelers WR Diontae Johnson, at times, can get an absurd amount of targets in a game. What are the challenges in going up against a guy like him, but at the same time, still have to worry about a guy like WR Chase Claypool possibly taking the top off? (Cordell Woodland) "No question, and [Pat] Freiermuth is getting the ball a lot, we talked about Najee Harris getting the ball a lot. So, there's always players to defend with, but I know one thing – you better know where [No.] 18 [Diontae Johnson] is at all times, because he's going to be getting the ball. Not just covering him, but tackling him after he makes the catch. His run after catch has been one of the best in the league. Ben [Roethlisberger] does a great job, we talked about the accuracy, hitting him on the run, and he goes. So, that's a big part of it for us, along with Chase [Claypool], along with [Pat] Freiermuth, along with [Najee] Harris and the other guys."
Are you guys preparing as if LB T.J. Watt will be available Sunday? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes."
Are you kind of amazed at all the money being thrown around in college football? Does that mean you're due for a raise? (Jerry Coleman) (laughter) (ESPN.com reporter Jamison Hensley: "That was a question.") (105.7 The Fan reporter Jerry Coleman: "The first one was, too. … Two non-answers?") "I only answer the good questions." (laughter)
QB Lamar Jackson
On what stood out to him watching his film from the Cleveland game: "Bad passes and inaccurate, underthrown passes – that's all I've seen. Bad reads. I looked like a rookie. I looked like a rookie."
On what it means to go back into the lab for him: "Well, starting with watching film, like I did yesterday. I watched film. I watched the game, and, like I said, it was a horrible game. It starts when I get back out here in practice, getting with my guys, getting my chemistry back and just hit the ground running like I'm supposed to."
On if he felt like he was still physically recovering from being sick: "There aren't any excuses. There aren't any excuses. I'm supposed to do what I'm supposed to do and play 'Lamar-ball', and I didn't. But we still got the 'W,' so that's what really matters."
On if he lets go of performances like he had against Cleveland instantly, or if he lets it fester: "I let it fester. I need to feel it. I need to feel that pain. That's pain right there. The defense is making great stops, and I'm putting my defense back out there right away. It was happening right away, and I'm looking at film ... It was like, they stopped them, we get back out on the field, and interception. I'm like, 'What the?' I'm watching the film like it's fate. So, yes; I let it fester for a couple days, and then I let it go and get prepared for the Steelers, for my next game, whoever it is."
On if the current records matter in the Ravens-Steelers matchups: "To me, records don't really mean anything in the League. It's any given Sunday. You can't look at an opponent, look at their record and be like, 'Oh, yes. It's going to be one of those types of games.' You can't do that. If you're doing that, you have the wrong mindset playing football in the League, period. For sure, it's a rival game. We know it's going to be an intense game, like it always is, and a very physical game, like it always is. I'm ready."
On what he's expecting from the atmosphere at Heinz Field: "Like it always is. I've played there twice – my rookie year and 2019, but last year, I had COVID. So, I know it's going to be loud, loud as ever. I know some of our fans are going to be there, too. I know 'Flock Nation' is going to be at Heinz Field, but I just can't wait to hear the noise, hear the atmosphere, smell it, feel it [and] all of that."
On if he gets a sense of people's personalities, based on the way Browns DE Myles Garrett and Browns DE Jadeveon Clowney reacted to his touchdown pass to TE Mark Andrews: "No, because [Jadeveon] Clowney said, 'I love you,' right after he hit me one play. (laughter) I don't really … You all got that part with me and Myles [Garrett], but he [Jadeveon Clowney] told me he wasn't trying to do that. It's football; guys are going to do what they do. But at the end of the day, off the field and stuff like that, you never know how guys may feel about you. But it is what it is."
On what it's going to take to start playing more consistently down the stretch: "I'm sorry to cut you off, but I don't really have an answer for that. We just need to do what we need to do and just play football. Whatever call is called, we just need to do us. It'll start back soon; it needs to right away. Hopefully, this week it'll start."
On his ability to make plays that head coach John Harbaugh said can't be coached and where he learned it from: "That's a good question. I think my [skill] comes from playing tag, not wanting to get touched and stuff like that. It just transitioned over to football. It can probably be taught, I don't know. Coach Harbaugh should know, he's the coach. (laughter) I don't know if he could try to teach someone something that was not done before and stuff like that. I don't really know. It's God-given, it's all of that."
On if he was ever caught when playing tag as a child: "I don't think so. (laughter) Not [by] one person, not one-on-one. No. No. No." (laughter)
On if he feels like he's 100% this week after being sick a couple weeks ago: "Yes, I feel good this week. [There are] no excuses, that was just a bad performance. Four interceptions, I hope that never, ever happens again – not ever. That was a poor performance."
On if he believes the offensive line is going to continue to get better as they continue to be together more consistently: "Yes, for sure. They played an outstanding game. I didn't really get to give them their credit during the podium [session] after the game, but they played a tremendous game. There were a lot of opportunities that we had that I just missed with the [offensive] line with perfect protection. Hopefully, the season keeps going on and they keep getting better and better – all of us. Not just them, all of us."
On if too much is being made on the impact pressure and blitzing is having on the offense: "Yes, it's just … It's the NFL. Some games it might be this way, some games it might be that way. Every team in the NFL is going to have their type of problem with blitzes and stuff like that. It's just talk to me, because we're going to get it fixed regardless."
On his relationship with Browns QB Baker Mayfield: "We're good. Me and Baker [Mayfield] go back to the Heisman [Trophy], the first year of the Heisman and stuff like that. He's a good guy. [He's] a great guy off the field as well. But when we're playing against each other, we're trying to win. We're trying to win at the end of the day."
On if TE Mark Andrews' one-handed catch and touchdown is innate to their relationship: "That's just Mark [Andrews]. That's Mark being Mark – 'Money Mark.' (laughter) It wasn't on the money, but he made it look like it was. The one-handed grab right off the grass, and then the one he came back to in the red zone. He's just 'Money Mark,' making things happen and being the playmaker that he is."
OLB Tyus Bowser
On if re-signing with the Ravens this offseason boosted his confidence:"Not necessarily. I feel like the confidence just comes in your players, the teammates, coaches, upstairs – just having those guys believe in you. They know what you're capable of, and I just go out there and play my game. Just having those guys around me, they help me each and every day out there in practice. They motivate me during the game. And that's what gives me the confidence."
On why the defense has been playing better the past few games:"I just feel like we've come to the understanding of just having each other's back and just playing for each other, and that's just been the main thing – just knowing that you have 11 guys out there – 10 [other] guys out there – that are going to have each other's back. I just feel like that's what's been helping us play together, been helping us play harder. When you have each other's back, that just lets you go out there with confidence to go out there and play your game."
On how he would explain the Ravens-Steelers rivalry to a rookie like OLB Odafe Oweh:"I would tell them, 'It's going to be a brawl.' The Steelers are a great team, especially when we play them, and they've always been that way, and it always will be that way. For him [Odafe Oweh] going into Pittsburgh, especially with fans coming back this year, it's going to be a whole new experience compared to last year. So, for the young guy, it's going to be exciting for him, and I know he's going to be ready for it."
On if it's hard to figure out what is a roughing the passer penalty and what's not: "It is, because the quarterback is always going to have the right of way, and you have to adjust based off of how he reacts to you coming to hit him. You've just got to make sure you're in the right spot and in the right place, and if you're not, any little detail, any little change in the head movement or anything, is going to be called, because we have to protect the quarterbacks. That's what makes our money in this league, so they're going to continue that. And just us as defensive guys, we have to pay attention to that, and we have to continue to work on our aiming points and making sure that we don't get those penalties."
On what his path has been like: "It's definitely been a journey. Like you said, those crucial years where you've got to go out there and make a play, you've got to go out there and show upstairs, the teammates, coaches, what you're capable of. My main thing is just going out there and keeping my head down and being confident in myself, knowing what I'm capable of doing. Whenever my name is called, I go out there and play my hardest, I go out there and run to the ball. I go out there and take care of my job, and the rest will take care of itself. Like I said, I know what I'm capable of, I know what I can do, so whenever I have the opportunity, I just go out there and take it. Whatever plays come to me, I go and take advantage of it."5
On how QB Ben Roethlisberger's game has changed through the years: "Not too many changes. He's still Ben Roethlisberger. He's still that Hall of Fame, great guy, and you have to respect that. Regardless of what people say, of how he's been playing, whether it's good or bad, he's still Ben Roethlisberger, and he can still go out there and make plays. So, we respect that guy, and we're not going to look at him any other type of way [than] besides who he is. We're going to go out there and make sure that we're going to put our best gameplan against him, because we know the type of guy he is."
On how QB Ben Roethlisberger's ability to get the ball out quickly affects him as a defender: "Just continue to rush, continue to dial in to what type of routes that they run. Just reacting, honestly. You can't control that. He's going to get the ball out. All you can do is see the ball, get the ball, and if you are there to where he's able to hold the ball, you've got to make sure that you get there, because if not, you're not going to get there at all."
On if he always envisioned himself as a versatile player who can rush the passer and drop back in coverage: "I feel like, in a way, I knew I was capable of that, because I did it in college [and] I did it in high school. Through my whole entire career playing football, I've always been that guy to be able to rush the passer, drop in coverage. 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] has done a great job at using those tools that I have to help this defense thrive, and I enjoy it. I enjoy being out there and being able to play different positions. But like I said, my most important thing is just going out there and winning, and whatever I've got to do to help this team win, I'm willing to do it."
On if he knows he's a step faster than certain guys in front of him, and if he looks at his numbers after games: "Honestly, I don't know. I don't really look at too many numbers. I'm just going out there and just playing. I'm just playing hard. I enjoy going out there on the field and playing with my guys, and any opportunity I have, I'm going to go out there and take it. So, I'm just embracing the moment, embracing being around these guys, being out there in front of thousands of fans. And whatever the numbers say, the numbers say, but I'm just going out there and playing football."
On if he turned his head on his roughing the passer penalty: "I did. I believe I did. I mean, I'm running at him, and I see he's throwing the ball, so I kind of lean over to the left side to kind of show the shoulder. I normally start with a grab, so he doesn't see that I'm aiming with my head first. But I asked him [the referee] what he saw on that, and he just said that he kind of saw the neck and head area kind of move, so I was like, 'OK.'"
On Pittsburgh's fans at Heinz Field: "Oh, probably the best in the NFL, besides us. But I enjoy playing in Pittsburgh. Coach 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] mentioned earlier today [that] if he was able to play two games in Pittsburgh, he would, and I definitely believed him. The first time I went out there, in my first year in the league, it was just a crazy energy like no other, and just being out there gives you that different type of energy. So, I enjoy playing in Pittsburgh."
On if that energy at Heinz Field actually helps him: "Yes, man. Honestly, any time you're out there playing in front of a whole bunch of fans, it just excites you, because it just shows you the [intensity]. It helps you enjoy and embrace the game of football. That's what it's all about. It's all about the fans and having them come out there and support their team, and they're coming at you all crazy and stuff – you just love that. It just gives you a different type of energy to go out there and shut them up, so I enjoy it."
On if using his power and leverage has helped him this season: "Yes, definitely. I'm out here working with Justin [Houston] and Odafe [Oweh] during and after practice, and we just go into film-work learning about tackles and what works against them, what doesn't. At the end of the day, it's just going out there and playing your game, knowing what you're good at and what they're bad at, and trying to find a way to win."
On how different it is to be an outside linebacker in Baltimore than in some other places that focus more on just rushing the passer, given the success of former Ravens in other places: "'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale], his defense is a lot different than every other defenses, and their job … Whether that's [Matthew] Judon or anybody else, their job is going to be different than what it is here, and my job is different than their job, and our defense is different than their defense. So, what I do is what I do, what they do is what they do, and I just take advantage of it – simple as that."
T Alejandro Villanueva
On how it will feel to be on the other sideline at Heinz Field this Sunday:"I don't know. We'll see. We'll see when I cross that bridge."
On what he remembers about last year's game at Heinz Field between the Ravens and Steelers:"It was an awesome game for us [the Steelers], because the roster was completely decimated. But it was also very tough, because then we had to play, I think, three games in 14 days, and I don't think that's ever been done in the NFL before. So, that was physically very difficult, from what I remember."
On his perspective of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry:"My perspective on the rivalry … I think it's really interesting to look at big picture of how the NFL works. Usually, you have one team doing very good in a [division], and usually, all the rest of the quarterbacks and head coaches get fired after a certain amount of time. Look at the AFC East, for example: Bill Belichick has been punishing that [division]. But I think in the AFC North, you've got Coach [Mike] Tomlin, and you've got Coach [John] Harbaugh that are just resisting to give in to each other. So, that's how I feel that the rivalry has been sort of developing the past 20 years."
On if there are any extra emotions going into this game:"If Maurkice Pouncey was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, that game is not happening, that game would turn into blows between me and him. (laughter) I'd probably line up at nose, and he'll line up at D-end, and it's going to be unsportsmanlike conduct the whole game. (laughter) But right now, obviously, me being on a new team and a new system, with new teammates, and in this journey that we have, we have to be really at our best week in and week out. And we're going against a very good football team and amazing defense that I know is preparing to the best of their ability. So, for me, it does feel like we're going against a very good defense that knows us very well, and that's just more motivation to prepare harder, to go hard at practice and to try to fight this very good team."
On if there are extra emotions and how hard it will be to not allow the extra emotions to creep up:"No, I think the game of football is almost auto-pilot. A lot of times, they say, 'You're going to play harder or easier.' No, you play to the best of your abilities regardless of who you're playing against, whether you're playing against the Lions, whether you're playing against the best team in the NFL. As a player, me personally, I think you always try to do your best. It's not like you're going to re-invent yourself for a game. Otherwise, what have you been doing the past few games? But there is truly an emotional component of going back to Pittsburgh. It's a city that I've lived the longest in my life; I had all four of my kids there; I went to school in Pittsburgh. I think Carnegie Mellon [University] was one of the biggest influences in my life. Obviously, [I'll be] seeing a lot of people like Coach [Mike] Tomlin, [head athletic trainer] John Norwig – the head trainer – [senior conditioning coordinator] Garrett Giemont – people that have had a significant impact on my life as I transitioned out of the military and tried to start a career in the NFL."
On the Ravens being more conventional than in year's past in terms of run-pass ratio, and if that's mattered to him:"Yeah, what's up with that? (laughter) No, no, no. I think the cool thing about what I've experienced my whole life is that when you go into a new group, a new culture, you start seeing who the leaders are, and they almost carry the team. For us and the Baltimore Ravens, being close to Lamar Jackson – my locker is right next to his – and being able to play with him has been phenomenal. Whether I have to play right tackle or any other position on the field, it's been really awesome. And whatever highlights his talents and his abilities and whatever wins us games, it's what we're willing to do."
On how QB Lamar Jackson reacted after his performance last week: "I don't worry and I don't focus about Lamar [Jackson]. I enjoy his presence, I love the way he acts with the teammates [and] how he brings the whole team together, but I worry about myself and my job. It wasn't perfect. It hasn't been clean. So, I've just got to worry about protecting him. And as it comes to him, he's a talented kid from Broward County – the football mecca of the United States – so he plays with a different demeanor. I can't recognize it; I just can be inspired by it and try to match it, obviously."
On adjusting to protecting QB Lamar Jackson, who has the ability to extend plays: "Yes, it's a challenge. Where is he in the pocket? There are just a lot of things that are different. But again, when you're in the huddle with Lamar Jackson, he does inspire greatness in all of us, regardless of who we are or our abilities and whatnot, and that definitely compensates for the other minutia that comes with the game. My job is to try to do my job to the best of my abilities, and that's just my focus."
On the Ravens-Steelers rivalry: "I think the media loves this rivalry. Obviously, the ratings go up, tickets go up. Again, none of these teams want to bend a knee to the other, so they're always going to be competing for No. 1, No. 2, but to me, it's just that. I come from a country where there's a true rivalry between two giants, in Real Madrid and Barcelona – I think I was asked [about] that in my initial press conference – and so, to me, that's a rivalry. That's a rivalry that's tearing the country apart. This is just two good teams that happen to play each other twice a year, usually in the cold, from working towns, so everybody just wants to be the most 'blue-collar,' if you will. But I always saw the Brazilian players on Real Madrid and Barcelona just completely ignoring everything else that came with the rivalry, and I feel somewhat like that. This rivalry, to me, is a tough game. It's a tremendous defense. They both want to run the ball and play defense, so it's always going to be low-scoring points. Fans are going to get into it. But unfortunately, I cannot provide any further hype to the rivalry." (laughter)
On if he thinks it matters that Pittsburgh has struggled heading into this rivalry matchup on Sunday: "No, no. Listen, Coach [Mike] Tomlin is one of the greatest minds in the National Football League, and I have an incredible amount of respect for him. Cam Heyward is probably one of the best, if not the best, defensive player. T.J. [Watt], obviously is a game-wrecker. Alex Highsmith is an unbelievable football player. Devin Bush, [Joe] Schobert, the secondary, Minkah [Fitzpatrick]. Joe Haden is an incredibly intelligent player. Records, statistics, they're awesome to write articles and to hype up and bring down football teams, but for us as players and us as teams, we understand that we're going against a very, very good defense – one of the best in the NFL – and so it's going to be a tremendous challenge for us, regardless of what they've done in the past."
On what he believes has allowed head coaches John Harbaugh and Mike Tomlin to have sustained success: "I can't tell you that, unless you offer me a coffee and a cigarette. (laughter) I can't just … I can't ruin it for everybody else. But it's been an amazing experience for me to watch the two cultures. Obviously, I've spent a lot more time with Coach [Mike] Tomlin. He's like a father-figure to me. I miss speaking like him, because I used to listen to him talk all the time, and he's an amazing speaker, and I would talk to my kids and sound just like Coach Tomlin. (laughter) But now, it's really interesting to see Coach [John] Harbaugh, and how he's countered the Steelers and that culture to remain a very good team in the AFC and in the AFC North. So, amazing experience, but I cannot say any further than that, because … Especially during this week, things can get taken out of context – maybe not here, but definitely in the other city." (laughter)
On offensive coordinator Matt Canada's fingerprints on the Steelers' offense: "Yes, there's a lot of misdirection, trying to stretch the field, simplify it for the offensive line so they can come off the ball and not really overthink the blocking schemes. I don't study the offense, but I know he [offensive coordinator Matt Canada] is a very good coach and very diligent, so he'll have the offense ready, for sure."
On if T Ronnie Stanley lent him his sandals: "No, I took them from him, as well." (laughter)
PITTSBURGH STEELERS HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN
(Conference Call with Baltimore Media)
Could you talk about your new offensive coordinator, Matt Canada? Has your team totally adjusted to him, especially QB Ben Roethlisberger? (Mike Preston) "The transition has been an adjustment because it's new. That's to be understood, but I think it's also coupled with the fact that we have some guys that are not only new to him and new to us, but new to the NFL. Guys who play a significant role, guys like [Kendrick] Green, Dan Moore [Jr.], [Pat] Freiermuth and Najee [Harris]. So, we're proceeding with that understanding. We know that transition requires some bumps along the way, but we're being hypersensitive, because there's an added component in terms of guys that are also new to the National Football League."
This rivalry, has a little bit of it been taken away since the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals have gotten better? Or is it still special? What makes it special? (Mike Preston) "I just think how the games unfold and the significance of the games over the years make it what it is and has been. I don't think that that is reduced at all by what's going on around us. I think it's about the positioning of the two teams involved, what they're willing to do in pursuit of victory, the intensity of the games and just how close the games have been over the years."
Can you give me an update on LB T.J. Watt and what's going on with him? (Mike Preston) "I don't have an update. I don't provide any color to the COVID protocol, just like I don't provide any color to the concussion protocol. It is what it is, man. When I receive information, I give it."
Do you expect to see more players, because of the holidays, getting COVID, connected with the protocols itself? (Mike Preston) "I don't know what to think. I don't think any of us know exactly what to think. We have vaccinations and boosters and things of that nature, but there still seems to be an uptick. I think we all are just doing our due diligence and exercising as much reasonable caution as we can, because of the unknown element of it all."
The Ravens offense, have you seen it evolve over the years with offensive coordinator Greg Roman and QB Lamar Jackson? What about it [have you seen evolve]? (Mike Preston) "I think that's a reasonable expectation. Any time you have continuity in the offensive coordinator, in the quarterback, in key components of the offense like [Mark] Andrews, [Marquise] 'Hollywood' Brown and others, it's reasonable to expect it to grow, to gain cohesion [and] to grow in terms of depth and understanding. I see all of those things."