WEDNESDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 4 at Pittsburgh
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Ok, good to see everybody. Appreciate you all being here. Beautiful day – it looks like we're going to avoid the thunderstorms, hopefully, and get a great practice in. We've had a good morning, and we're looking forward to practice. What do you have?"
Stopping QB Ben Roethlisberger is obviously the No. 1 priority. Looking back, does it seem like he'll do whatever it takes to win, whether he throws 66 times or hands it off? _(David Ginsburg) _"Ben is a great player. Obviously, he's capable of taking the game over, throwing the ball every play if he has to. They're going to want to run the ball. They always do, and they have a very good run game. So, we just have to be prepared for anything. You can get any personnel group, you can get any type of a play from these guys. They do what they do, but they do a lot. We just have to be prepared for whatever we get."
I'm going to preface this by saying I know you have never thought about this or contemplated this, but just off the cuff, do you wonder why always these games seem like they're always, for the most part, it always goes down to the final plays? (Jamison Hensley) _"No, I really don't. I don't think about it, confirming your thesis." _(laughter)
You mentioned the run game. Without RB Le'Veon Bell, and with RB James Conner in there, how are they different? _(Bo Smolka) _"They really don't change the scheme. It's the same scheme. It's the same offensive line – big, strong guys. They grab hold of you and don't let you get away. That's kind of what they do. I think they have a couple good backs in there, obviously, doing a great job. Conner, from Pitt right there, is capable of breaking tackles and those kinds of things and really is a good make-you-miss guy, and he has some size. They have two very good backs, and different guys, but the same run game."
The Steelers have had some success this year rushing the passer without a big name like Denver OLB Von Miller. How is their pass rush a little different than the Broncos? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"Their pass rush has been really good. They've had a bunch of sacks. They have good pass rushers. They have really good pass rushers. They can win one-on-one battles. They're very good inside, obviously, with [Stephon] Tuitt and [Cameron] Heyward pushing the pocket inside. But, they also have good edge rushers. They run a good blitz package. [Vince] Williams does a great job of blitzing, so does [Jon] Bostic. They'll bring safeties off the edge, they'll bring their nickel, so they have a nice little pressure package. They'll bring four from the field, four from the boundary. Sometimes, it's a five-man pressure. Sometimes, it's a four-man pressure with zone coverage behind it. They always add a wrinkle. They kind of have their system they've been running for years, but they'll add a wrinkle, especially against us. They added a couple wrinkles last Monday night that were new, so they're very creative as well."
How has CB Marlon Humphrey evolved since he made his first-career start against Pittsburgh last year? _(Jordan Schatz) _"Marlon is just playing really well. His technique is good, very fundamentally sound, attention to detail. He can run, plays the ball very well – all the things a corner does – he'll tackle. I just think he's growing as a player."
I have one question about C Hroniss Grasu. What do you think he offers to the team in terms of interior offensive line, and can he also play guard, too? _(Kyle Andrews) _"Yes, the second part of it, he can play guard. Most of the centers and guard guys, they can do both. They have both, but he's really more of a center. That was our thought. He gives us some depth inside there. He brings experience to the table. He's a guy that's started a number of games in this league. understands the calls, has been out here before, and we didn't really have that. Bradley Bozeman has done a nice job, but he's still a rookie. The opportunity to get a guy like Hroniss in here, who has that kind of experience, I thought we were pretty blessed to have that kind of opportunity, and we took advantage of it, and it should make us better up front."
I think you guys have something like 17, 18 guys who have never played in a Ravens/Steelers game. Is that something that, the level of rivalry, the physicality of it, is that something that you have to talk to rookies about, from the veterans they get it, or is it just pretty much Ravens/Steelers and everyone knows? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"It would be a good question for them. We're not going to sit there and spend a bunch of time talking about stuff like that. You get ready for the game. You prepare for an NFL game. Every game is very physical. Obviously, you get their best crowd. It's a primetime game. It always is when we go there, and it will be rocking, so you just have to deal with that. It's 120 yards long, it's 53 and 1/3 yards wide. Block out the noise, play the football game, and do things right and play hard and try to find a way to win the game. That's really what you talk to them about."
You mentioned it's always a primetime game there. Do you wonder why you guys haven't gotten the primetime game? _(Ed Lee) _"No, I don't think about it at all. Never given it a thought. Can't do anything about it. They don't ask my opinion on it. Never one time have they asked me what I think they should do with the scheduling, so why think about it, right?"
But it would be nice to have it here in prime time against the Steelers next year, right? (Shawn Stepner) _"Is that a question?" _(Reporter: "Yes.")"Sure, it would be great. I think it would be great for our fans. Our fans would sure appreciate it, so would our players, but that's not our concern. Really, it's … Right now, it's the last thing we think about. We really couldn't care less. We can't wait to go there and play. We like playing there. It's not like we're afraid to up there and play in primetime, so we're excited about it and looking forward to it."
The Ravens are famous for getting after the passer. Roughing the passer is a huge issue. What do you say to a guy like OLB Za'Darius Smith who's always around the passer? Or, do you just let him do his thing and let the chips fall? _(Kirk McEwen) _"We're coaching the technique as best we can. We're trying to follow the league's coaching points on it as best we can. It's obviously … It's hard. We're trying to figure it out, just like everybody else is. We want to get the quarterback down. You have a guy like Ben Roethlisberger, he doesn't just go down easily. You have to bring some force to get [him down]. He's a big man, and he's strong and does not want to go down, so you have to wrap him up and tackle him to the ground. Now, you have to do that without landing on him or a number of other certain things that you can't do, and we just have to be conscious of that."
In the second half, you guys have been pretty stingy defensively. Is it a product of getting a better feel for it, halftime adjustments, conditioning, coincidence? _(Cliff Brown) _"Just call it coincidence. That probably will do for now. That'd be good. I'll take that option."
We just had a chance to talk to QB Ben Roethlisberger just about the rivalry and everything, and he talked a lot about OLB Terrell Suggs and the respect he has for that, going head-to-head. What have your takeaways been of them over the years? _(Matt Perison) _"A great rivalry. Other than that, whatever they say, I'll be interested to read. I look forward to reading about it. It's been fun to be in those games, I can tell you that, and see those two iconic players go at it, that's for sure. Other than that, whatever they say, it will be interesting to read."
QB Joe Flacco
On what's different about the week leading up to the Steelers' game: "I should've prepared answers for some of these questions for Pittsburgh week. You know they're coming. Listen – it's a division game, division opponent. It's a lot of fun, especially going up there to Heinz Field and playing. It's one of the few times, I think, during the year that you actually step on the field and say to yourself, 'Man, I'm an NFL football player and this is exactly what it should feel like.' It's just a division opponent, really important game like always, should be a physical one as always, and that's the kind of stuff you have to expect."
On what he likes about the environment at Heinz Field: "I actually like playing there during the day, but I've only done it, like, once or twice. (laughter) It always happens to be a Sunday night or something like that. It's just a lot of fun. You can smell the grass. I feel like it's usually cold. It's probably not going to be cold this week, so it'll be a little bit different, in that respect. But the fans – they love football and they love to get on all of their opponents. We've had a lot of tight games up there – some that we've won, some that we've lost. It's a lot of fun to go into those environments with your teammates and have a good game. So, that's what we expect to do."
On why they're are so many tight games with the Steelers:"We've been teams that have at least been fighting to be in the playoffs for as long as I've been here. We've been two teams that have always been in it for the most part. So, I think when you have teams that have had decent success throughout the last 10, 11, 12 [seasons] and beyond that, it just makes itself for a good matchup. We see each other a lot, so we know what we do, and that probably plays into it also."
On if the Steelers' off-field issues is on his radar: "No, not me – especially [because] it has nothing to do with my side of the ball. Maybe the defensive guys are aware of it a little, just because it's a new [running] back back there. But for me, it really doesn't make any difference."
On if he enjoys the personal rivalry between OLB Terrell Suggs and QB Ben Roethlisberger:"I enjoy it when Terrell is picking off wide receiver screens and things like that, for sure, strip-sacking. Hey – it's tough to be a fan, but when those little things happen, it's definitely cool to be a part of and be out there. I've been able to be a part of it for … This'll be my 11th year. It's been other guys besides Terrell, too, but lately it's been him. I know that he enjoys playing against him, so it'll probably be a really fun week for him."
On if he enjoys playing against QB Ben Roethlisberger:"Well yeah, especially the last few times we've played up there, [when] they've turned into little mini-shootouts, and they've been a lot of fun to be a part of. We just haven't come out on the right end of it. Honestly, Ben's one of those guys … When I was out at the University of Pittsburgh, I think his rookie year was either my freshman or redshirt freshman year there. I had my eye on him for a while, so it's just cool to go into that stadium and play against those guys and play against him. It definitely is a little bit of a neat experience for me."
On how important it is to continually work on the run game: "We want to get our yards per carry up, to be honest with you. That's what it's all about in the running game and the passing game. In order to have success in this league, it's about being efficient when you do whatever you're doing. Having said that, it's nice to be in games where we can grind it out and [are] afforded the luxury of wearing on people a little bit. Where maybe a little early in the games, it doesn't quite matter as much – the yards per carry. But a lot of times in these types of games, if you're able to keep at it, your yards per carry just multiplies at the end of the game when you've been beating them up throughout the course of 45 minutes. I think this is definitely one of those games [that] if you can keep these guys on the field and grind on them early, even if you're not getting a ton of yards in the game, maybe in the fourth quarter it'll start to press its way through." (Reporter: "Like on Sunday, did it set stuff up for you that you got the ball to Alex Collins seven times in the first quarter, even though it wasn't for a lot of yards?")"It's tough to see. It's really tough to know that. I just know it's a big part of what we do as an offense. It's even a bigger part of what we do when we can get it going successfully. "
On why he thinks RB Javorius "Buck" Allen has a knack for getting in the end zone:"Buck is a big part of our passing game. He does such a good job of protection, so to scout him out sometimes works really well. Then we've had some good schemes, and he's done a good job of putting the ball in when we're inside the 5-yard-line. I don't know exactly what it is, but he did a great job, obviously, leaning towards that pylon on Sunday, with Von Miller on him, and a corner coming over. I don't know exactly what it is; you can probably ask him a little bit more. He's an experienced back at this point. He's been on our team for a few years, and he's comfortable with the ball in his hands, and you can see that more and more each year."
On what effect balance in the passing game has and what he attributes that to:"I think all of our backs have the ability to – whether it's catch checkdowns or be a part of the primary passing game – at some level, have the ability to do some of those things. I think we have a good receiving corps, a strong receiving corps that is multiple in what they're able to do. Then, we have some tight ends that are really good in run game stuff, but are undervalued, underrated in some of the stuff with the passing game. I think when we can get our play-action going, it doesn't really matter which one of those guys is in there at tight end – whether it's Mark [Andrews] or whether it's Maxx [Williams] or Nick [Boyle]. I think those guys all have the ability to catch the ball and get open when you need to. We just have a lot of guys right now, and our offensive line is holding up, allowing those guys to get touches."
On what he would tell a rookie if they asked him what to expect in a Ravens-Steelers game: "I'd expect a physical game – a hard hitting, what people think of as an old-fashioned football game. I'd also let them know that these guys are going to fight. There may be ups and downs. I think the way the Denver game started, maybe is not a perfect example, but there's going to be times like that where we might have to deal with some things and respond. Be ready to play a full 60 minutes of tough, physical football."
On playing in some high-scoring games with the Steelers the last few years:"I think they're still physical. It doesn't matter. We've been able to do a few things on them, and they have too. But no matter how you cut it, it doesn't matter if it's high-scoring or if it's a 9-6-type game. The [physicality] can still be there in either of those games."
On if he walks off the field feeling the effects of the Ravens-Steelers game: "The next [few] days can be tough, but for quarterbacks, it's really week-to-week and that type of thing. These guys have traditionally had really good pass rushers. They still have the same kind of guys on the inside, they have guys on the outside that never stop – their motors just keep on going. So yeah, when you're going against guys like that, you know you're going to be put on the ground a few times and roughed up a little bit. It's just part of the game. It's getting to the point where Mondays and Tuesdays, yes, you'll probably be feeling it a little bit. But that's what football is all about; that's why we enjoy playing a physical game against these guys. We have to make sure they feel like that, because it's more than just winning and losing a game. It's beating a division opponent up a little bit, so they still have to feel the effects the next week."
On if he ever wondered why more night games are played in Pittsburgh:"I don't know. I guess I'd probably thought about it, but not too much. It just is what it is. We've played some night games here, too. I feel like there [are] probably more day games against them here, than they are there. Who knows? I'm not the one that sets the schedule. You have to talk to those guys."
CB Marlon Humphrey
On what he learned about the Ravens-Steelers rivalry after his first start last season:"The main thing I learned is that it's definitely a rivalry game. It's definitely two teams that really want to win and, I feel like, two fan bases that really want to beat the other fan base. It's a really good game. It's definitely going to be intense, so I'm excited."
On if his first game against Pittsburgh holds any special meaning, as it was his first career start:"I don't want to say it really held much meaning, but I think if you can kind of play there, you can kind of play anywhere. [It's a] very loud stadium, a lot of energy in there. I guess [there's] a lot of negative energy towards the Ravens, so it's definitely a tense place. I definitely enjoy away stadiums as opposed to home stadiums, so I'm definitely excited to go back there and hopefully get a win."
On covering WR Antonio Brown: "Going up against 'A.B.,' he's arguably the best in the game. A guy like that, he doesn't really get tired. You watch him on film, he'll run his route. 'Big Ben' [Roethlisberger] starts scrambling, he just turns upfield, runs around, and he is just a guy that you can tell,is in probably some of the best shape out of any receivers you play against. He doesn't seem to get tired. He's on one side of the field, on the other side of the field, going in motion, going on a sweep, getting a screen, so he does so much. He's a guy that you have to be aware of. It's guys like that, along with A.J. [Green], the guys we've seen in our division, it's kind of a guy that down the line, you'll look back and say that you were going against some of the best, and you can only know how good you are when you go against the best."
On the Steelers offense without RB Le'Veon Bell: "Bell is a guy you can't really replace. I feel like [James] Conner has done a pretty good job. But, I think not only could Bell get the ball in the backfield and run it, it's just his ability to catch a little dunk pass and take it 20, take it 30 yards. That was something that I felt is something that they're maybe missing a little bit. But Conner has done a really good job. He's a tough runner, hard, north-south guy, so we'll definitely have to be alert for him also."
On combating QB Ben Roethlisberger's ability to extend plays: "The main key with 'Big Ben' is even … If you ever get your eyes in the backfield, what looks like a sack oftentimes isn't a sack with 'Big Ben.' He's just so strong. A lot of times, he can complete passes holding a guy off with the other arm. With that, the main thing is, you can't ever really relax until you hear the whistle. That was one of the things I wrote down in my notes. You just can't ever relax until you hear the whistle, even if the receiver kind of slows up a little bit. Watching that game on Monday night, Tampa Bay maybe could have gotten the ball back, and it seemed like the DB kind of slowed up a little bit and thought, I guess, that it was a sack or whatever. Then JuJu [Smith-Schuster] caught that pass. You just can't ever really relax, and you have to keep covering until the whistle blows."
On not giving up any touchdowns in the second half this season:"We like to say that we're a second-half team. You want to be a full-game team, but that second half is where games are won and lost. We try to come out and make the halftime adjustments, hear what 'Wink' [Don Martindale] has to say, what he's seeing, what the guys in the press box are seeing. We try to go out and execute what they've done well against us and what we think they're going to do in the second half."
On if defensive coordinator 'Wink' Martindale makes changes at halftime: "We definitely make some changes. Wink says what he needs to say, and then he'll tell us to get with our position coaches. Our position coaches will say specifically what we need to work on, what they're doing to us and what we have to do better."
On TE Vance McDonald's stiff arm on Tampa Bay S Chris Conte: "I remember seeing that. I remember last year, I tried to hit him or '81' [Jesse James], and it seemed like I hit a brick wall. Those are some strong guys, but we have to hit those guys in the knee area. We can't try to grab them up top. I know those guys are strong, but that was really impressive, what he did to that guy."
On what WR Antonio Brown is like on the field:"He doesn't really chirp that much. The first time I played him, I thought he would chirp a lot, but he doesn't really chirp a lot. He's kind of a guy who just knows his skill set, knows what he can do. He tries to go out there and just beat you one-on-one. He's a great player, but he doesn't do much of the extra stuff. He just goes out there and tries to beat you the same way I try to beat guys. You don't really have to do much of the talking. You just go out there, use your skill set, your God-given talent, and try to execute."
On WR JuJu Smith Schuster:"JuJu, it's crazy that he's kind of putting up some better numbers than 'A.B.' [Antonio Brown], so, he's definitely a guy you have to be alert of. Last year, he had a really good year as a rookie, and I think he turned some heads. Even though you have to be aware of 'A.B.,' you also have to be aware of JuJu, He's been a guy that's been given a lot of catches, a lot of yards per game, so we definitely have to be alert for him."
G/T James Hurst
On what the offensive line has to do to jumpstart the run game:"I think the biggest thing right now is it just seems that one guy is missing their block, and that [opposing defender] is making the tackle. You're not getting any breaks, not busting any big, long runs like that. We just have to stay to our assignment, know who we're blocking and get the job done, and we'll have someone pop through there. We know our backs are great at reading and seeing the hole. So [we need to] just keep working at it, plugging away, watch film, become familiar with the defense, so we can be our best on Sunday."
On if his mindset is to stay focused and plugging away at the run game, even if it means not getting a lot of yards each time: "Definitely. Last game is a pretty good example. Our average wasn't very good, but we stuck with it. It's physicality, it's a mindset out there. We know we have to be better. We relish that opportunity to run the ball and impose your will on the defense. We know he have to do a better job of that, but it helps our offense, obviously. Our receivers are doing a great job right now of getting open, making plays down the field, but we want to help a little bit more on the run game."
On his "welcome to the rivalry" moment against the Steelers:"Every time we play them. I don't know if that counts. But my rookie year , we played in the playoffs there, and it was a big road win. I think it was the Wild Card round. But a moment like that – I'll never forget that win, never could forget that feeling. So just going there, it's a great environment to play in. Their fans hate us, obviously. It's fun to run out and get booed, but it's a four-quarter game. It's the greatest game in football, so we're excited to go down there and play."
On if you throw out what either team has been doing leading up to the contest: "Definitely. It doesn't matter. It's going to be a three-point game – something like that. We know that going in. We know it's probably going to come down to a two-minute drill at the end of the game. It seems like the last four or five that's what it's been. So, just play four quarters, move on from the bad plays, stack the good plays and build the confidence."
On Steelers LB T.J. Watt and LB Bud Dupree:"They're good players. They play really hard. You can't stop blocking them. As soon as you stop, that's when they're going to turn the corner and get a sack. They have [Stephon] Tuitt and [Cameron] Heyward in the middle – two huge, strong guys that are going to really push the pocket. Everyone's got to be on their game. It's definitely a group effort. You can't just have a couple guys doing well in pass protection, because the other guys are going to feast on that. We know that, and Ronnie [Stanley] and I both know that those guys are going to be coming hard off the edge in a variety of looks. They're really good players, so it's a challenge for us, for sure."
On how does going up against OLB Von Miller last week, help prepare for LB T.J. Watt:"Yes, it's definitely a confidence boost just knowing that we played against a good player and played well. So, we're just taking that and building on it and seeing the things that didn't go so well in the Broncos game and building on that and coming out here [and] working on it. But it's a confidence boost, and we're looking forward to being even better."
On if he has noticed the defense adjust or react to having QB Lamar Jackson on the field: "We haven't seen it yet, but obviously when you put a guy out there that's that explosive, you know the defense is aware of him. Someone is tracking him, someone has eyes on him. If we can keep doing that, eventually one of these will pop. But right now, it's been hard to see, but we know we're going to stick with it, and trust that one of these will pop and just keep working." (Reporter: "Do you feel like there is something to be said that even if the play only goes for a couple yards, at least the next time he's on the field, you know it's going to be a chess match of sorts?") "Definitely, it definitely is. It's just a different look, and it's something the defense has to prepare for. They can't just not prepare for Lamar, because if he gets the ball in open space – you saw it in college all the time – he's going to make a big play. It's another look that they have to ready for and look out for."
On how tough of a runner RB Javorius "Buck" Allen is:"He's a really tough runner. He's a really tough guy. You see him show up in special teams, and he really sets the tone for us. We love blocking for him. I have no idea what his touchdown celebration is. I think this is like Year Three [of him doing it], but I still have no clue what he's doing, but it's very violent. (laughter) That's kind of how he runs. We love Buck, and if you give him the ball down there, you know he's going to get in the end zone."
On if the offensive line takes pride in the team being 12-for-12 on scoring a touchdown in the red zone this season: "It's a huge amount of pride for us. I mean, that's a lot of times wins and losses in the NFL is [due to] scoring seven as opposed to three. We know that, and every time we get down there, we all kind of look at each other and say, 'Hey, man, we have to get seven right here.' We know that ends up in a game being a huge, huge difference – a two-possession difference, really, when it comes down to it. But we relish that opportunity. We know that if we get seven, it's going to be huge momentum for our team, for our defense, when they go back out there. They have a bigger lead. So, it's been great so far. We have to keep it up and keep performing like that."
S Eric Weddle
On to what he attributes the Ravens' stingy second-half defense: "I think it's been adjustments and great coaching and putting ourselves, as a defense, in the best position possible to be successful in the second half. Teams come out, and a lot of times offenses do things differently against us than what they show against previous teams. For whatever reason, they like to attack us in different ways or show things that they don't show against other teams. Once we get our bearings right, make some adjustments and figure out what they're trying to do to attack us, we can show off our defense and its show. We have to continue that this week and the rest of the season."
On if the last two losses add anything to the upcoming matchup against the Steelers: "I look at it as it's been a great learning experience for us as players and coaches and this organization. As bad as we wanted to win those games, things have come up in those situations and throughout those games that we've gotten better from. We've grown as a defense in the way our philosophy is. And the way we've grown defensively and schematically of our defense, I feel like we're prepared for any situation. It wouldn't have happened without those things occurring to us. As bad as it hurt us to go through it, I think it's molded us – the character and the toughness for the season – if it hadn't occurred."
On if he enjoys watching the rivalry between OLB Terrell Suggs and QB Ben Roethlisberger:"Yes. I just think the outside looking … I don't get too much caught up into it in the game atmosphere because there's so much going on. I don't really know the dynamics between those two. I know they've had hundreds of games it seems like against each other – good ones and bad ones and pluses and minuses. I just know the respect they have for each other, and how much they look forward to going against our defense, and our defense going against a great quarterback like that. It's just an amazing game to be in. I've won one time in Pittsburgh, and it was one of the funnest games to get out of there with a win. So, I'm hoping to experience that this week."
On what he would tell a rookie about the rivalry:"Expect the unknown. The craziness of how games go between these two teams … We've talked about this. 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] and I got up there, and I said a few words. It's just about keeping your composure and just [staying] cool, calm and collected when pressure gets up there. The energy, the momentum tends to swing one way or another, that's when you have to refocus in and just keep your composure. Just do what your job is told to do. Don't go crazy and try to make your play across the field when you're not supposed to; that's when you get beat. Keeping your composure will be key to go into this place and try to get the win."
STEELERS CONFERENCE CALL
(with Baltimore media)
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
You addressed this yesterday, but you guys have certainly been hearing a lot of questions about off-field stuff this year, and you seemed to kind of say yesterday that you're done talking about it. Is that kind of where you are with it, that it's not that relevant to what you're doing day-to-day, so you're just kind of over it? Or, what's kind of the mood of the team with that stuff? _(Childs Walker) _"No, yesterday's question was regarding Le'Veon Bell. That's what I was referring specifically to yesterday. It wasn't a general request regarding off-field things."
How about that, though? Beyond RB Le'Veon Bell, you have the WR Antonio Brown story. This stuff seems to keep coming up. Has it affected the mood of the team at all? _(Childs Walker) _"No, we're focused on Baltimore, man. We have a short week. We're just coming off a Monday night game. It hasn't been on our radar at all, really. We're singularly and professionally focused on preparation for this game."
I'm curious, you've coached in the same division a long time with Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and head coach John Harbaugh. I think all of you guys have been around for over a decade now. What's the relationship like when you have the same rival coach and you see them 20 times? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"There's a professional relationship, and those things are based on the here and now. The matchups, the strategies, some of the assistant coaches and things change, core players have changed, so it's changed elements of the matchup. On a personal level, I just think there's a level of respect there between men who have competed for the same things for an extended period of time, and I think we're all capable of separating the two."
Are there any commonalities that you and head coach John Harbaugh share, maybe as to why you've had success and longevity? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"I'm sure there are. I'm sure there are common ties and bonds that all of us in this space that have been able to be somewhere for an extended period of time share. I doubt that he or I have spent a lot of time thinking about it, though."
In talking to the players, they all seem to say that they sort of throw out how either team has played in the last few weeks before these games. Is that kind of how you look at it as well? _(Childs Walker) _"I generally do that week-in and week-out anyway. It's preparation and play, and it's week-to-week.
L ast year, CB Marlon Humphrey made his first-career start in Pittsburgh, and he played relatively well against WR Antonio Brown. What do you see when you see Marlon Humphrey on film and everything like that? _(Jordan Schatz) _"Man, he's a top-notch athlete and really good player. Scouted him a lot when he came out, had a lot respect for his talents, and he appears to be off to a great start in his career."
What do you make of their defense overall now that it's being run by defensive coordinator Don Martindale as opposed to Dean Pees? _(Childs Walker) _"I hadn't looked at it from a differences standpoint. There are so many things that are very similar, and I'm sure the same thing is said about us, even though we've had some coordinator changes over the years. I hadn't really been looking for the hardcore differences in structure and some of the key components, and obviously, when you're talking about guys like [Terrell] Suggs and [Eric] Weddle, key components are very much the same.""
We talked to QB Ben Roethlisberger a little bit earlier just about his perspective on OLB Terrell Suggs and him going head to head over the years. Just curious what your vantage point has been on the sideline of those two specifically when we talk about this rivalry? (Matt Perison) "Man, two legendary competitors battling. It's been entertaining just from that standpoint, but it's been also fun to watch their mutual respect and competitive spirit even grow over the course of their careers. I'm sure their stories are a shared one involving each other, which is one of the unique things that a series such as this and careers such as theirs provide all of us."
I know one thing that's hurt you guys this year has been the penalty yardage. Has there been any sort of pattern to that, that you've seen, or is it just different in every game? Are you guys taking any particular approach to counteract that? _(Childs Walker) _"Yes, we have to play more disciplined. We take responsibility for the penalties that we have. We have to play smarter. The guys are playing hard. They're working, but they have to play smarter, and oftentimes that's the case at the earlier part of the season. But, we better smooth it out and smooth that out rather quickly. It's cost us a bunch of field position and other things, and we're working hard daily to improve our technique and awareness, and I think that those are the two critical things that have produced the penalties for us. Poor technique and lack of situational awareness has hurt us repeatedly in those instances – awareness on the sideline in terms of whether the runner is in bounds or out of bounds and so forth. We've picked up a lot of penalties that are definitely avoidable if we continue to improve in those areas."
You got to play two games last year without the Ravens having G Marshal Yanda. He's back. What makes him a perennial Pro Bowler in your eyes? _(David Ginsburg) _"Í just have a lot of respect for him and his body of work and how he plays. I always have. It's obvious that he's the heartbeat of that unit and has been for a long time. I'll leave the evaluation of his play up to those guys."
Have you been pleased with the way that RB James Conner has played as your feature back? _(Childs Walker) _"I have. He's done a heck of a job, but not that any of us are surprised by. He's had a heck of an offseason and preseason and training camp, and we expect our second-year guys to take a significant step. They've been a lap around the track, they've been a part of the program and understand how it goes, so the year that he's having, the year that's JuJu [Smith-Schuster] is off to, and T.J. Watt, second-year players like that, we expect those players to be core contributors."
The Ravens' offense has been particularly balanced in the passing game. I believe they have eight players with over 60 yards. How does that affect how you guys defend their passing attack? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"I don't know that that affects us more so than just us getting familiar with the new key components. [Michael] Crabtree is new, John Brown is new, Snead [Willie Snead IV] is new, so getting a feel for those players, the division of labor and how they work and work together and how we can work to minimize it – things that you can kind of be familiar with in the series like this – is somewhat new for us. So, I think that's probably more of a focus than them spreading the ball around."
How much do we have to look forward to TE Vance McDonald's stiff arm coming this week? Is that going to be a feature part of your playbook after what he did to Tampa Bay S Chris Conte? _(Matt Perison) _"It is one of those unique plays. It is good to be in this game, this game of professional football. I could think of plays on Monday Night Football when I was a kid that are etched in my mind forever, and it's cool to be a part of it. Somewhere, there's a 12-year-old kid that … He'll be talking about that play for the rest of his life, man. And, I think that's the point that I made to the team, that is, when we step in the stadiums, we get the opportunity to provide that layer of fabric to sports fans, and so it's really a cool thing."
Do you think QB Ben Roethlisberger is playing at as high of a level now as he ever has? _(Childs Walker) _"We're just trying to win week-in and week-out. We're not evaluating, painting with a broad brush. He's playing good football. We have some big-time challenges ahead. We have a big-time challenge this week in [Joe] Flacco and Co. coming in here, and so that's where we're at."
QB Ben Roethlisberger
On why he feels it's always a close game against the Ravens:"I think it's familiarity. I think it's AFC North. It's two teams that are very like-minded – defense, tough; offense, you're just trying to get points when you're playing against each other. So, I just think it's a lot of that."
On if he enjoys the rivalry:"Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that it's just … Man, I remember the days, and even now still going against that guy – [No.] 55 [Terrell Suggs] over there … Ray Lewis, [Haloti] Ngata, Ed Reed – the list goes on and on over there of guys that I just have the utmost respect for that are Hall of Fame players, that you enjoy just playing football and going against these guys. It's fun in that sense. It's not fun, because typically after this you feel like you've been in about five or six car wrecks. So, it takes a toll on your body. So, in a sense, it's not fun, but in a sense of just being a purist and loving football – this is a great rivalry."
On his mindset about the off-field issues surrounding the team:"I think the noise is more outside the locker room than it is in it. Your guys' job is to report these things and sometimes make a bigger deal of it than it really is, or that it is in the locker room and it appears bigger. For us, there's nothing to it. We're fine; we're moving and grooving and moving on to the next week. Our mindset is just about football, so we don't worry too much about that other stuff."
On if he will do whatever it takes to win, even if it means throwing 66 times:"Absolutely. Last year, I think the first time we played in Baltimore, we ran the ball a lot, then the second time we had to throw it. I've said before, if the final score is 2-0 – that's fine. If you have to score in the 60s, then so be it. I think either team just wants to take a win home after this game."
On if there's familiarity having Ravens-Steelers being in primetime:"Absolutely. I got asked the same question earlier by our [media members]. 'Why?' and 'Do you feel like it's any kind of…' It feels like it's always this way. It feels like it's always a primetime game, and that's because that's what the fans want to see. It's what the NFL wants to see. This game is always something special. It is kind of is par for the course, if you will."
On if his comments about having too many roughing the passer calls applies to OLB Terrell Suggs this weekend: "Absolutely. If he gets close to me, I'm asking for flag."(laughter)
On the differences between defensive coordinator Don Martindale's defense and former defensive coordinator Dean Pees' defense:"You know what, to me, it's about the players. You can talk about scheme and different kinds of things, but to me the players make the team and make the defense. You have [Eric] Weddle back there, a guy who I respect. He's calling the defense. That's crazy to think about a safety wearing the green dot on the helmet and calling the defense. Not sure if C.J. [Mosley] is coming back or not this week, but that's huge. You have [Terrell] Suggs and guys who make plays. So for me, it's just about knowing where those guys are and trying to find a way to block them."
On if it doesn't matter how either team has been performing coming into the game:"Oh yeah, there's no such thing as a record going into this game. When I mean 'record,' I don't mean your season record or the series record. You know what I'm saying? It's all out. This game, or this series, is kind of a … It's one game at a time. It's kind of its own deal. I don't care how teams are playing. You could be having your worst season of your life, but this game – for some reason – means something different."
On how the Ravens' defense changes with ILB C.J. Mosley on the field:"He's one of the best linebackers in the game. In terms of playmaking, obviously, when he's your signal caller, getting guys set up, his experience … He's just a phenomenal football player, maybe even better guy. I just think that when he's out there, he's a difference-maker."
On if he has seen opposing defenses cover WR Antonio Brown differently this year compared to previous years: "What we've been seeing for the past couple years [is]a lot of double-teaming, a lot of holding, a lot of grabbing, just trying to disrupt his route running. So, nothing really new. I think the biggest change is we've had other guys step up, and I haven't had to force it to 'A.B.'"
On if OLB Terrell Suggs is at the top of his list for personal rivalries: "I think where I would go up … We've played so many years against each other. I was blessed – I say 'blessed' because he's a Hall of Famer – to play against Ray Lewis, and I know Ed Reed is going to get in the Hall of Fame, too, for a good amount of years. I've been going on 14 years [playing] against Suggs, and he's a first-ballot guy for me. I'm not just trying to pump him up because we're about to play him. I truly feel that way. I would think … I know he does a lot of talking about me, too, but I think there's a lot of mutual respect there between each other. There's a little bit of talking on the field – I wouldn't call it trash talking – but there's some mutual respect trash talking, if you will, that goes on. It's a special rivalry he and I have." (Reporter: "Is there anything that you can specifically remember on the field?") "When it comes from him, it's probably not family-friendly, so I'm not going to say anything like that." (laughter)
On if it's different this year with all of the off-field issues surrounding the team:"It seems like that doesn't it? But honestly, we truly are moving on. The Le'Veon [Bell] thing – to us, it feels like it was forever ago. We're not sitting here wondering when he's coming back or worrying about him, because we can't. We have to worry about the guys that are here in the building. 'A.B.' [Antonio Brown's] thing was last week, and a lot of that is just frustration in not winning football games. So for us, it's truly is a normal thing, or maybe we're used to it – I don't know."