Transcript - John Harbaugh Press Conference


Opening statement: "Good to see everybody here. Obviously, we're playing Pittsburgh this week. Didn't know if you guys were aware of that or not. (laughing) The message is, obviously, that we are in position. We are playing meaningful games in December, and it's not easy to do, and I'm proud of the guys for getting us here to this point. We're playing a game that's going to go a long way in determining the division championship, which is our No. 1 goal – our first goal – on our way to some other goals. So, that's what's at stake."

Because of the importance of the Pittsburgh game, did you work on any preparations during the week of the Tampa Bay game?"No. We didn't have the time to do it. It was a one-week type of situation. Tampa got our full attention last week, obviously, as did Carolina the week before. And now Pittsburgh, that's what we will be looking at this week."

Can you update the injuries from yesterday, specifically T Michael Oher, FB Le'Ron McClain and S Dawan Landry?"We'll see. We'll just take a look at them and see how they respond over the next two days and see where we are. That's all you're getting."

With only one fullback on the roster, what personnel adjustments will you need to make if McClain is unable to play?"It's just what we did during the game, basically. Those guys have worked the fullback position. The 'F' position is a lot of positions. It's fullback, it's a wing, it's a balanced two-by-two formation, it's 'trips,' it's a movement position. Le'Ron does all those things. Obviously, you do the things with the position that the guy does best. Two of our other running backs can play fullback, so we've got some other options. When you've got a week to prepare for that possibility, we'll have more things up this week."

Was the reason you did not return RB Matt Lawrence to the active roster because his knee was not fully recovered or because it was difficult to make a roster move?"It was more the knee. We didn't really get to the point of who you take off the roster, because he got in a situation where he couldn't bend to a certain degree and load on it with any power. So, he's going to have to go back and talk to Dr. [James] Andrews and go back to work on that thing. He's not where he could play."

Can you talk about your process for making a player like CB Fabian Washington inactive for a game, and is it difficult to approach him and tell him?"You mean the inactive? We do it like we always do it. You need to tell the guy when you make the decision. It's not anything complicated. We're not worried about anybody's feelings. These guys are grown men. They're pros. You know how it works. We communicate throughout the week the possibilities, pretty much. They see it with reps. But the idea was to get an extra defensive lineman up. We were going against a team that was more a two-wide receiver, three-wide receiver set type of a team. We felt like if we got jammed up, we could play Cary [Williams], and Cary is a special teams guy, where Fabian is not as much of a special teams guy, and we just really wanted the extra defensive lineman for the running game. We didn't want to come up short with the big guys, and that was what precipitated it."

Do you think there is a possibility that TE Ed Dickson will be able to return to play this week?"We might. It's a hamstring. So, you just have to wait and see how it goes. I thought we had a chance to get him Sunday. So, there should be a good chance to get him back this week."

Do you have an update on G/C Chris Chester, and is there a chance he could return to practice this week?"There's a chance. We'll see Wednesday if he can go. Like we said before, it's nothing inside with the infection. That's fine. It's just the healing of the stitches and all that."

Can you comment on the performances of T Oniel Cousins and G Tony Moll?"Tony played solid football. Tony gives you value because he can do a lot of things. He plays all five positions across the front. I thought he did a solid job at right guard. Oniel came in and was physical – especially in the run game. He held up pretty well in pass protection, too. The [play] he's going to want back is the false start. That's the one that really hurt us in putting us back to first-and-15. But, I thought they both played solidly."

Did you see anything on the film that looked like a cheap shot to CB Chris Carr by Corey Lynch?"I didn't see that on the film. I'll have to go back and look at that. I'm not sure which one he's talking about."

Was the decision not to return Oher to the game a precautionary or medically-necessary move?"It was medical. They came back and told us that he wasn't going to be up to the rest of the game. I don't know what the conversation was, but Bill [Tessendorf, vice president of medical services/head certified athletic trainer] just said he was done. The same with Dawan Landry. He told us he was done."

Did you see any of the players today that left yesterday's game and do you have any indicators as to the extent of their injuries?"No, no indication."

What has been the difference with your team between this year and last year with regards to having much fewer penalties now?"I think there are a lot of things that go into it. It's not just as simple as saying you're playing smarter. I think there are a lot of factors that go into it. Our guys have done a very good job, and I think our coaches have done a really good job of emphasizing technique when it comes to the major penalties – holding and defensive pass interference and personal fouls – as it comes to player safety. Those are the big ones. We would like to have a lot of pre-snap penalties cleaned up on offense. I mean, that's been our biggest issue that's put our offense in first-and-15 or second-and-longer than they should have been situations. But, I think we play good technique in the back end; we don't grab people, we don't arm-bar people. We cover them and we run the route. When we sack people, we hit them in the strike zone and we keep our eyes up. You know what I mean? Same thing with the defenseless receiver. That's not to say that there are times there's unavoidable contact made, but we've just done a good job of that for whatever reason, and I'm kind of proud of that. Same thing with holding. If you move your feet in the offensive line and you get in front of people, you don't have to hold people as much."

Does your defense have a clear understanding of the expectations with regards to roughing the passer and pass interference penalties?"I think we do. We've had two [roughing the passer penalties] called on us that came back that shouldn't have probably been called, that, we felt, we were legal on. So, you just coach and just say, 'Hey, we think we're OK with that.' But sometimes in the heat of battle, I think the speed of the game is tough on the officials, too. And you just try to coach back and say, 'OK, this is what we got back from the league, this is what they said about this penalty, and as we go forward let's try to respect that.'"

Do you think LB Jarret Johnson is as healthy as he's been in the past few seasons?"He's probably the healthiest here that he's been in the three years [I've been here] at this stage of the season. And you're right, probably the healthiest he's been so far this year. We've done a good job of kind of cutting back some of those reps in practice. We've gotten some other guys on the field that have been able to play, and I thought [defensive coordinator] Greg [Mattison] did a nice job of putting him in position where they had to account for him in pass protection and find him a little bit more, balancing he and [Terrell Suggs] up a little bit that way. But, Jarret is a high-motor guy. He's all over the field [and] he plays 100 miles per hour. As well as he played [against Tampa Bay], he's going to be mad at two plays that he thinks he can do better at. That's just what you love about him."

Based on the relationship between Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris and Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin, did the Buccaneers show you anything similar to what Pittsburgh might game plan for against you?"Well, they run a different scheme, but they had some defensive looks in there that are similar to what Pittsburgh does. I think the basic structure of their defense is different, because it's a [Steelers' defensive coordinator] Dick LeBeau scheme versus the Tampa scheme. But still, there's some carry-over between what Raheem probably learned with Mike Tomlin, and then what Mike has brought to the Steelers as well. So, there were a couple of things that looked similar. I'm sure they talked quite a bit, and we kind of anticipated that. So, you'd expect that."

What make's Pittsburgh's pass rush so successful? Is it more the players or more the scheme?"I think it's the players that fit the scheme really well. That's what I think coach LeBeau does such a great job of, because he doesn't run the same defense all the time. He's got the same basic structure, but every year changes a little bit, [and] it'll be different from what it was earlier in the year. He's got some injuries, so he's evolved a little bit from what he was even earlier in the year. So, he does a really good job of setting up the defense around the players he has. He's got some very unique players – those two outside [linebackers], the two inside [linebackers], the defensive ends. Now he's got some injuries at defensive end, so that's tweaked him a little bit. But they've got guys that play that particular structure really, really well. And to me, that's what makes them unique."

What impressed you about the last drive when the offense got two first downs to finish the game?"That was really important. I think we all would like to have seen [that] a little more through the third quarter and even through the fourth quarter. But, for the guys to step up when they had to, not to put our defense back on the field, which was something that I think our offense really wanted to do… Sometimes this year, we hadn't done that. They went out and did that in that game. That was probably the most gratifying part of the whole game to see the offense go out there and finish it off like that."

Given that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger didn't play in your first meeting, how much of the game plan, from a defensive standpoint, are you able to carry over?"I think you carry pretty much all of it in there as far as a game-plan situation, because they ran their offense. It was just Charlie Batch's version of their offense. They still ran the same plays. They may lean one direction or another more with one quarterback versus another. We know Ben. We know how he applies the offense; we've seen it now since he's been back. But we'll look at that game."

Does the game against Pittsburgh feel like a playoff game?"You guys may roll your eyes at it, but I think every week feels like a playoff week right now in the National Football League. It just seems like if you stub your toe, you're not out obviously, so that's different, and you can always recover. But, it just seems like the stakes go up every single week – this week more than ever. There is a lot at stake. Whoever wins this game does take control of the division. The other team will have to catch up with them in some form or fashion. It gives you an opportunity to use some things in the playoffs. We understand all that, and we know how big of a game this is. Plus, it's Pittsburgh, and it's at our place, and we'll have our fans fired up for the game. We're hoping they get there early and they're very loud."

From your perspective, is there any chance that Roethlisberger will not play on Sunday because of a sprained foot?"What's my perspective? *(laughter) *How would I possibly know if Ben Roethlisberger is going to play or not?"

Going into the game against Pittsburgh, will you game-plan for Roethlisberger not being in there?"We'll game-plan for Ben being in there. But, if all of a sudden Charlie Batch is the quarterback, or Byron Leftwich, we'll have to adapt. We've seen those guys, so I don't think we'll have a problem doing that. We'll prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense and prepare for the possibilities at quarterback, but I'm assuming Ben will be there."

Is it a sign of growth that QB Joe Flacco held his own against WR Derrick Mason after they had a sideline spat at Carolina?"Yeah, I guess. It's a great observation. In terms of 'held [his] own,' I don't know if he held his own against another guy so much as he held his own against the situation and circumstance, kind of what you're saying. Joe, I'm not surprised the way he responded and the way he reacted, because you see it every day. To me, you look at the football stuff. He did a great job of reading out the coverages, and the ball ended up going to Derrick a number of times. There were a couple of other times, three or four times, that he's going to say, 'You know what? I missed that read. I could've gone to Anquan [Boldin]. I could've gone to T.J. [Houshmandzadeh]. I could've gone to Todd [Heap]. I should've checked it down.' Whatever. 'I should've run instead of pass.' Whatever. To me, that's what we're in the process of seeing him do. You're never going to be a finished product as a quarterback. You look around the league, [and] all the top guys have tough days. But, you really see Joe moving in the direction that we want him to move in. And maybe we'll look back someday and say, 'Hey, that was another little one of those defining moments.'"

Yesterday you guys had your best outing stopping the run. Do you think that is something that will carry over for the rest of the season?"Yeah, it needs to. I think that's something that we pride ourselves on. I've never been overly concerned about our run defense as much as some other people have. You know, you watch the tape, I feel good about our run defense. I have all year. There's a couple games where we gave up some more yards than we wanted to, but I don't think it's been an issue with the run defense, per se. Now, bad weather – December, January football – huge, huge factor. If we're going to win the games and become the team that we want to become, we have to make teams one-dimensional. We have to stuff the run. It's got to start with Pittsburgh. They want to run the ball. It's going to be very important."

You know the gravity of this game and this rivalry. Is there a way that you can describe your appreciation for it in the time that you've been here in terms of the intensity with the players, the focus of the players, and maybe even some of the fan interest? "Yeah, I know the fans I come across, they talk about this game all the time. It seems like it's the most important game to the Ravens fans. They're our archrival, and I don't know what more you need to say than that. It's a very intense game. It's a very physical game. It's a little bit different than the other games we play. We love playing them. We look forward to it. We can't wait to line up."

Is there anything from when you've been out in public, even when you beat them up there earlier in the season? "Like any anecdotes? I'm not in public enough to have any anecdotes right now. We're around the building here and everything is fine. It was a very meaningful win. Coming off the field after the game, it was emotional. I felt it. [It was the] first time, personally – with a Ravens' football team – [that] this program has ever won up there. It meant a lot."

Is this as healthy as any of your teams have been going into December? "I would say just my feeling is yes. [If] you go back and look at the numbers, probably a pretty dramatic, 'yes.'"

Any particular reason? "I don't know. Our guys do a good job of training, and we've probably been fortunate. I wish I had a better answer."

How was the holiday for your family and your team? "Family holiday was great. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was great. We did a lot of good stuff and some different things than we'd done before. And the team, it was good to get rested. Thanksgiving always makes you reflective. We live in a great country. We have a job. We work in a great organization. Most of us, I think, really feel good about our family situation. I know I do."

How pleased are you with WR Anquan Boldin's attitude? Yesterday he got a lot of attention from Tampa Bay and said afterwards the most important thing is that you got the win. "I think that goes without saying. I just think the question gets asked so many times [that] you just start kind of rolling your eyes at it. It's like, 'How many times do the guys have to answer this question?' Guys want to win. Guys want to contribute. Guys want to be a big part of it. They want to catch passes. They want to block. They want to do all the things that help you win. So, you just keep asking the question and guys just keep answering it. It's very simple to me."

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