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Transcript - John Harbaugh Press Conference


Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. Obviously, it was a very exciting game. Kevin [Byrne, senior vice president of public and community relations] told me that there were people calling this the game of the year, last night, in the National Football League. It doesn't feel that way for us. It's just a tough pill to swallow for us. It's probably the toughest loss that I've experienced here and that this team has experienced here since we've been here. Our guys really took it hard. I don't think anybody slept too well last night or for very long. And it was just one of those football games. It was a hard-nosed football game. It was a hard-fought football game. I give the Steelers credit for finding a way to win the football game. It's disappointing for us because it was such an opportunity that we've probably lost in terms of putting ourselves in a position to control our density for that seed. But those goals are still out there for us. We still have an opportunity to achieve those things – everything from a division championship to the Wild Card and whatever. And it starts with Houston this week. The thing I was really pleased with more than anything – if you think back and you get the emotions and you brush them aside a little bit – was the effort involved. The effort of our players… Our players played so hard and so physical. That was a physical, physical football game on both sides of the ball, and our guys were dishing it out and taking it and getting after it. I'm proud of our team. I was really proud of the fans. For the fans to come out [in that weather]… Driving to the stadium and seeing the fans out there and the way they were dressed and as cold as it was and the enthusiasm that we had in the stadium and how much it mattered to the fans and to the city… That's something you really do feel good about as a coach or a player or anybody in this organization. And, I feel bad that we let them down. I feel bad that we couldn't send them away feeling about that game the way we should have. And that's the tough thing about it. But that's the thing we have to bounce back from, and we've got just the men for the job. We'll bounce back. We're getting ready to play Houston and we're getting ready to go to work for the next four weeks and see what we can accomplish."

Is there a concern that TE Todd Heap's injury could be a long-term thing?"Todd is probably the one that we really are concerned about. I don't want to rule him out yet, but it doesn't look good for next week. It's one of those hamstring pulls that's going to be tough. So, the young guys are going to have to step up."

Is there a potential that Heap's injury could be season-ending?"I don't think so. That's not something Bill [Tessendorf, vice president of medical services and head certified athletic trainer] told me today. But we'll just have to see. We'll know in probably three to four days. We'll just see how it responds the next couple of days."

Are you concerned that several players – specifically Terrell Suggs – expressed frustration with the offense and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron after last night's game?"That's a good question. I read [Suggs'] quote. I may not have gotten all of it, but I saw part of it. Basically what he said was you've got to pick up No. 43 when he's blitzing. When he's up on the line of scrimmage in that situation, and he's exactly right, we all know that he's coming. And that's pretty obvious. We all feel that way. Offensive coaches, offensive linemen, running backs, everybody; we busted a protection, flat out. We just busted a protection. Like we did in Carolina a couple of weeks ago – we busted a coverage and gave up a touchdown. We busted a protection and gave up basically a sack/fumble that basically cost us the game. And that's what happens, and we've got to get better. That should never have happened, and it's on all of us to figure out a way to get better. So, I don't have a problem with Terrell pointing it out. He'd be the first one to tell you that we've screwed up on defense before, and it's hurt us, too, and cost us games. So that goes with it. It doesn't bother me. As long as guys put a stop to it right away and respect each other and go to work and try to make each other better, and that's what he'll do."

Why do you think the offense has not been as consistent as you'd like this season?"That's a good point. I don't' think we are consistent. Right now we're not good at all on third down as a rule. A lot of that is because we're in third-and-longs a lot. So, there are a lot of things that go into that. We're not good in the red zone in terms of putting the ball in the end zone like we should. And, therefore, we don't score enough points. We should be an offense that's scoring a heck of a lot more than 10 points in any particular football game. We had an opportunity to go down there and at least kick a field goal on one occasion and we got ourselves sacked out of the fringe. That's where we are right now. We've got to get better. We're not good enough on offense, there's no question about it. I don't think we're good enough in all phases, but that particular area, we should be doing better and we need to."

During the final timeout of the game, did K Billy Cundiff express confidence in his ability to make the field goal on the fourth-down play?"He didn't really express confidence, but he gave me, 'Hey, let's try it.' Billy's going to feel that way as a kicker, and then since I called timeout, I had a chance to think about it, and you know, we hadn't made a kick in pre-game over 48 yards. The wind, I thought, was a little stronger towards the end of the game than it was earlier in the game, and it was colder than it was in pre-game. And like I said last night, I really felt that we had a better chance to get the first down on a fourth-and-2 than we had of kicking that field goal. And if we complete the pass, obviously, you've got a shorter field goal, you've got a catch-and-run opportunity. So, I feel like that was the right decision. You always look back and question yourself, but that would have been a very tough kick to make."

Had you made that fourth-and-2 conversion, how would you have played out the final 30 seconds of the game?"I think it would have depended on how much we gained. If we'd have caught the fly route and ran up the sideline and got the thing down there out of bounds around the 15- or 10-yard line or something like that, then I think you try to score a touchdown. But you've got to be smart with the ball; you don't have a timeout. It's one of those situations where you don't take a sack, [but] you take a quick look and you throw the ball away. We'd have tried to do that. I think you want to be aggressive if you can and try to win a game. But, you try to do it at the expense of not losing the field goal. So, we'd have probably had what, 20 seconds, maybe 30 seconds left? Something in that range. And you've probably got time for one or two plays if you handle it right and then you kick the field goal."

Did LB Jameel McClain's hit on Steelers TE Heath Miller look like a clean hit on film?"Well, I think the big issue from our perspective is what Jameel is capable of doing and what he's not capable of doing. I mean, Jameel tried to go low. He tried to go low to make the tackle, and Heath Miller fell. So, he's going down, and as Jameel is trying to go low to make the tackle in that strike zone area, his head ends up in that area. So, there's nothing Jameel could have done that was humanly possible to avoid that kind of contact. Now if they're going to call that a penalty because they can't tell if it's a duck-and-hit type of situation, that's up to them. But from a fine perspective, to me, it's clear that Jameel was trying to go low."

What makes this loss so devastating?"Maybe it's just because it's so close. Maybe it's because you feel it right now, and [the AFC Championship] was a few years ago, and maybe time heals that wound a little bit. Maybe that's what it is. I really don't know. But I think we had a great opportunity. We understood the opportunity, and for me, it's because the guys, coaches, everybody, the fans put so much into it. All of us, we just fought so hard and to come up short like that. It really stings. But you know what? We've bounced back before, and I really believe we are and we have just the men for the job. And we'll find a way; that's what we do. That's what our guys have done. That's what we've got to do, but that doesn't make it hurt any less."

Is it easier said than done that everyone will bounce back from this loss going into the Houston game next Monday night?"No, it's not. It's really, it's easier done than said, I think, because the guys have put so much into it. I mean, when you commit, when you sacrifice, when you work for a common cause, and you've got a bunch of guys that you've been shoulder to shoulder with, and you've been in battle with, so to speak, then you have no other choice. Then you're going to bounce back, and that's what our guys are going to do."

Is it a concern that the offense doesn't seem to be totally together at this point, going into the final month of the season?"We've got to find a way to run the ball better, for one thing. I think that's something that's really important. I'm disappointed in the fact that we haven't run the ball for a better yard-per-carry-type average. I think we're capable of doing better than that, and I think that establishes a lot of other things. And that's the kind of football team that we believe in being, and we just haven't been able to get on track there. That would take a lot of pressure off a lot of the other elements, so that's important. Protection is important; we've got far too many sacks, far too many pressures, and it goes on everybody. It's coaches, it's Joe [Flacco], it's the backs, it's the offensive line, it's all of us. But, that's got to be really dramatically reduced. To me, that leads to the other areas."

Can you talk about FB Le'Ron McClain's absence last night? It seemed like you really missed him. "I thought we missed him, too. He's a guy that helps you, having him in there. I know as a player that you feel like you can play through anything, and that you can fight your way through anything. I've seen it with these ankles before. He's got a pretty tough ankle sprain, and he made almost a miraculous recovery. And yet, [if] you go out there and you tweak it the first play, and now you're out. And that was my fear. We had the three tight end stuff ready. We practiced it. I didn't want to put Le'Ron up, put somebody else down, then all of a sudden Le'Ron is down, and we're short. It turned out Todd [Heap] pulls his hamstring on the very first play. Then, we would have had one tight end, instead of two. But, obviously not having Le'Ron, it would have helped us to have him. You only get 45 guys. It was a tough choice, and that's the way we decided to go. But, I think it's valid to say it didn't help us not having him."

Is there a chance with an upcoming Monday game that the extra day might help Le'Ron get back? "Well I think now… You know, he was close Sunday, and maybe he's right. Maybe he could have gotten through it healthy. We don't know that, but he'll be back for sure this week."

Are penalties becoming a concern with the offensive line? It seemed like T Michael Oher struggled last night. "I think that's a big part of it. He had a tough night with the false starts and the holding penalty. That was something that hurt us."

You usually focus on the positives. Today you've pointed out things specifically where you need to get better and things that you haven't done as well as you'd like. Is that a product of the emotion of this loss? This is typically not the way you come in here. "Really? I'll have to analyze my press conferences. I don't know. I'll have to do a psychological evaluation. I just feel like it's pretty specific. It's even more specific than that. The thing I try to get across in other press conferences is that it's very specific. It's specific to plays. It's specific to protections. You know, why, in that situation, do we not pick up that guy coming off the edge? Now that's something that we delve into as coaches and players real deep. To get into the specifics of all that here, it's impossible to do it. But, to share the fact that we obviously know we have to get that done… And I'm disappointed in the fact that at this point in time in the season we can cross wires like that and not get that done. Maybe it's December. Maybe that's why."

With that being said, are you happy with the adjustments that you make from a coaching standpoint in the game? From the outside looking in, it doesn't look like adjustments are being made. "I think that's pretty general. [If] you look at the Atlanta game, we made some pretty good adjustments on offense to come back in the second half and score a bunch of points and kind of dismantled their defense a little bit. And yet, on defense, we weren't able to get off the field in two-minute. Now, there were some penalty situations there that hurt us, too. There's a lot of factors that go into it. Generally, I think our coaches do a fabulous job in all ways, and yet, not good enough – not good enough to win that one yesterday. And that's how we've all got to look at it."

You said yesterday that you don't publicly criticize play-calling. Did you like being aggressive and throwing the ball in a situation where some people thought you should have run the ball to run some clock? "I just think it's so predictable. If things don't go well, that's where it goes. So, the play-calling conversation runs way deeper than running the ball and throwing the ball. It runs deeper than whether it worked or whether it didn't work. There are certain plays in there that I didn't particularly like, and Cam [Cameron] didn't particularly like when he looked back at it, and he's the first one to criticize himself. But, when you've got guys wide open on plays that can seal the game for you, [it's] pretty hard to say it's a bad play call. So, I think we all step up and we all can do better, players and coaches. But, any of those play calls, the goal-line play calls, throwing the ball in that situation… No, I have no problem with that because they're in an all-out, zero blitz on the first-down and the second-down calls. It's pretty hard to run the ball into that. You're pretty much beating your head against the wall. So, those are situations where we've gotten into that pressure and people threw it. We were in an all-out pressure on the last play when [Roethlisberger] kind of tossed that ball in there to [No.] 33 [Isaac Redman], and he found a way to run it in the end zone. They threw the ball in that situation, too. So, to me, if you look at the specific situations there, I do not have a problem with those calls at all."

On the sack-fumble caused by Steelers S Troy Polamalu in the fourth quarter, was the offense thrown off when Steelers LB James Harrison moved inside?"I asked that same question of the players involved and the coach involved, and [the answer was] no. They saw him slide inside. They saw Troy walk down in there. They knew it. They kind of got our wires crossed on how we were adjusting to that. We crossed wires on two different protection calls that we have."

Does Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger do anything that surprises you?"I'd say no at this point. I have a lot of respect for him; he's a heck of a player. I thought our guys did a very good job of defending him. We only had one situation where we really let him get out on us when we had him hemmed in, and he made the throw down to the two [-yard line]. We had a guy get knocked down in a coverage-type of situation; therefore, the receiver got open. That was the one play that he made that I was disappointed with. The rest of them, we were draped on him, hanging on him, fighting to get him down and all that. And that's just kind of what he does as far as throwing the ball away and all that. But, he's a very good player – big, strong guy – nd you've got to respect him."

Was WR Donte' Stallworth's involvement a sign of more touches for him in the future?"Yeah, you do want to get him more touches. And, everybody – we want to give them as many touches as we can – but Donte' does bring the speed element. He's a guy that can get downfield, over the top, across the field, all those things with his speed. So, sure."

Since Heap's injury is a concern, how much will it help that the two rookie TEs Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson have played a lot this season?"They both played well last night, and it wasn't just in the pass game with Ed. Ed will be feeling bad about the first drop when he should have caught that ball in that wheel-route, obviously, and [about] not being able to keep his feet on those two throws, [through] no fault of his own. And, Dennis played well. Both of them blocked well for young guys. I'm glad we've got them."

What have you seen improve in the return game?"I think mainly the blocking is better, for one thing. We're doing a pretty good job of blocking in both phases right now. I think the returners are getting a little bit more comfortable, a little more confident, maybe a little more aggressive with the way they're running. [Lardarius Webb and David Reed] both hit it up in there really hard, and they both got hit a couple times but held onto the ball. Hopefully, we're seeing the development of those two guys."

Are you concerned that LB Jameel McClain's hit could result in a suspension?"Absolutely not. My understanding of that rule in many conversations with the NFL is that when there is – it's like Ray [Lewis' hit] last year – when a tackler commits to making the tackle low and the receiver moves down into the strike zone where he's already committed to make the tackle, there's nothing humanly possible the tackler can do to change course at that point. So, I don't think it should be a fine based on the way it's been explained to me time and time again by [the NFL's executive VP of football operations] Ray Anderson and others in the league. And I'm not afraid to go on record to say that because that's the way it's been explained. Now, they may say differently, and I may learn something from it, but to take it to the next level, there would be absolutely no chance of that."

Are you ever surprised that a play that doesn't get flagged during the game can receive a much worse penalty after the league reviews it? "No, because you see it happen so often. It's tough to officiate in this league, obviously."

CB Fabian Washington has had an up-and-down season. After his play last night, can you talk about his resiliency as a veteran?"Fabian gets disappointed sometimes, but he never gets down on himself. He's got that confidence of a corner, and you make a good point: He came back and played well. He covered well, and he played well on special teams. He had a couple great blocks on some of those punt returns. I was pretty impressed with the way he played and how he's handled himself the last few weeks. It says a lot about Fabian."

Did you see something that caused you to call a fake punt so deep in your own territory, or were you going to do it no matter where you were on the field?"It's basically certain areas where teams give you certain things that you can run stuff against, so you have to be willing to take some chances. We felt like we had it. And if you look at the tape, we did have it. It's just a shame that we couldn't get it done as far as starting too early – false start."

What is your reaction to people who say that the Ravens can't close out games?"I think you just look to the next game. We didn't close games out against good teams at times. We've closed out some games this year, but we've also not closed out some games. I think if you look at all of our games, we don't ever get blown out by anybody, do we? We've got a bunch of guys that know how to fight, and so when we do lose, and we lose close ones. That's not closing out. So, I'm disappointed in the four games we lost that we didn't close them out. We've got to find a way to get that done in the next four weeks."

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