Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, great to see everybody. I appreciate you being here with us. [It's] mid-week, [we're] preparing for our game, and we're excited, and we're working hard. What questions do you have?"
You've gone head-to-head with Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin for over 20 meetings now. When you go into a game against a Tomlin-coached team, what are you preparing for, and what is that like? (Jamison Hensley) "We've all seen it. I don't know if it needs to be described very much. We have great respect for them and their program. Coach [Mike] Tomlin does a great job. The coaching staff has been intact – pretty much – for the most part for many, many years. They have a very good understanding of who they want to be, how they want to play. Their style; they don't vary from it very often at all. They stay true to themselves, and that's what they're all about. So, that's a mark of a heck of a coach, and obviously Coach Tomlin is one of the best, and we have great respect for everything they do."
The other day, we asked you about WR Dez Bryant, and you couldn't talk about him because the signing hadn't happened, and now it has. In a general sense, what are your plans for him? (Bo Smolka) "General sense – to play for the Ravens. We'll see. He's going to be on the practice squad right now, and we'll see how it progresses from there."
When you look at the Steelers' run defense, they're second in the league, allowing an average of just under 70-yards per game, and they did a really good job on Titans RB Derrick Henry last week. Is this the kind of game where you just keep going at them to kind of loosen them up and keep that balance on offense? What do you see from their run defense? (Todd Karpovich) "I think their defense – just generally – is very good; run defense, pass defense. They turn you over. They rush the quarterback extremely well; I think they're No. 1 in the league in many of the quarterback-pressure stats. So, what part of the defense do you want to talk about? The whole defense is playing very well. So, you take them as a whole, attack them whatever way you can. We have very good players. We have very good schemes. It's not like we're sitting there with nothing … It's not like we don't have anything we can go to. We have options, and we'll be trying to execute those as best we can. That's what it's going to come down to – execution, blocking, tackling, making the plays. That's what we're working hard [at] to make sure that we're at our best on Sunday."
What do you need to see from WR Dez Bryant in practice to have him up on gamedays and contributing on Sundays? (Shawn Stepner) "Right, it's very simple; we'll just see where he's at. He hasn't played for how many years? So, we'll see where he's at. There's a lot to learn. He looked good in the workout. I don't think you need to make too much more of it than that. He's on our practice squad roster, which means he's available to us. So, when and if he's ready to go, he'll be out there. So, it's just really that simple."
The Steelers are not coming off their Bye Week and the Ravens are. Do you consider this an advantage for the Ravens? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "I don't really think about it like that. You have Bye's, you don't have Bye's, you play on Monday night, you play on Thursday night. The schedule is what it is. That's how we look at it."
We talked earlier about the Steelers' defense, and virtually everything you described could also be said about your defense. Do you get the feeling that your defense goes into this game wanting to prove a little bit something about how good they are compared to the No. 1-ranked unit in the league? (David Ginsburg) "There are a lot of motivators in life. Everybody has their own things that motivate them. So, our guys take a lot of pride in the way they play. I don't know how much we really compare ourselves to other teams or other defenses or offenses or whatever. We just try to be our best, play at the highest level we can, and win the game. So, that's what we're looking to try to do."
Coach Mike Tomlin recently said, "We're just doing enough to get out of stadiums." Has that been talked about with the Ravens and them having trouble closing teams out? (Kirk McEwen) "No, we haven't talked about that."
You've seen QB Ben Roethlisberger an awful lot over the years. When you watch him on film this year, do you see a concerted effort to get the ball out quicker? Some feel like he's throwing it quicker than ever before. And how challenging does that make it to stop their offense? (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's a good point. When you look at the analytics on it, it's a fact – the ball is coming out quicker than ever. He's getting the ball out the quickest in the league right now, and he's doing a great job. That offense has really always been built that way. They've always had the ability to do that. Their receivers are doing a great job of getting open quickly. [Offensive coordinator] Coach [Randy] Fichtner and Coach [Mike] Tomlin and the coaches on offense, they're doing a great job of organizing the offense around the players that they have. So, they've done a nice job of that. [Ben Roethlisberger] does a really good job of finding the open receiver in terms of what coverage you're playing and what route they're running. He's been around a long time. He's run that offense for many years, and it's his offense. I call it the 'Big Ben offense.' It's built for him, around him, and I'm sure he has a big hand in building it and organizing it, as well. So, that's the way they're built right now, and we just have to defend it as we find it and do the best we can against it."
When you're going to play a team that you know so well, but you're also going to play them again pretty soon thereafter, do you have in mind that you're going to see them again very soon? Is it a two-game strategy, or are you just focused on this Sunday alone? (Pete Gilbert) "Right, it is a one-game [strategy]. We're just looking at Sunday. Yes, that's a good question, a fair question, and that's the answer."
It's kind of interesting that just the way the schedule has fallen, QB Lamar Jackson has only played against the Steelers one time. What did you learn from that game, and what do you hope he learned from that one start he had against Pittsburgh last year? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I really don't have that list with me right now, per se. You try to learn from everything. So, we watched that game, certainly. We've broken that game down, and it's in our packet, for sure, and we've watched it closely. But not just that game; we've watched all their games, [and] we've watched all of our games. It's bigger than one game, so you just try to look at everything as a whole and get yourself ready to play on Sunday."
QB Lamar Jackson
Last year when you played the Steelers, they sacked you five times – the most you've ever been sacked. What makes them so good on defense, and is that something you're aware of and, certainly, want to avoid? (David Ginsburg) "Their defensive line is great. Their front four, those guys get off the ball, they get after the quarterback. [They force] a lot of strip-sacks. T.J. [Watt] and Bud [Dupree], they do a great job of getting to the quarterback, harassing the run game. I feel like our offensive line is going to be ready, and we're just going to go out there and play football."
What are your thoughts on adding WR Dez Bryant? (Shawn Stepner) "Oh man, it's tremendous. We just have to see what he's capable of. I see him on 'IG' [Instagram] a lot doing his thing. He's grinding [and] getting after it. [Executive vice president] Mr. Ozzie [Newsome] and [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta], those guys did a great job upstairs bringing him in. We just have to see if he's ready, see what he's capable of and go from there."
Have you had any conversations with WR Dez Bryant to try to figure out where he's at and what he might be able to bring? (Pete Gilbert) "No, not yet. He had to go through the protocols and stuff like that, so I wasn't able to see him yet. Today was my first day seeing him."
Besides the Steelers' front seven, their secondary is really good – a lot of playmakers. Is S Minkah Fitzpatrick a guy who you have to know where he's at, at all times, on the field? And can you talk about the challenge they pose in forcing turnovers with all their interceptions? (Ryan Mink) "Oh, for sure. Minkah [Fitzpatrick], he's a ballhawk. He's great at doing his thing; coming down, making tackles, catching picks, scoring pick-sixes – stuff like that. I feel like our receivers and our offense are going to be ready. We're just going to have to see when the game comes on."
What have you learned about what the Ravens-Steelers rivalry means? (Garrett Downing) "Oh, man. I'll say, it's the teams going out there battling, but it's the cities, too. I feel like our fans, our city, they get the most out of it – more than we do sometimes, just because … I don't know. I can't even imagine being in the stands watching us perform against them or them perform against us. It's going to be a lights-out game." (laughter)
I know he's on the other side of the ball, but what does it mean for executive vice president and general manager Eric DeCosta to trade for a guy like DE Yannick Ngakoue, who can get to the quarterback, so defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale doesn't have to send the blitz package, giving you a better chance of getting past Kansas City – and I know that's what you want to do – and getting to a Super Bowl? (Kirk McEwen) "I want to get past everyone, not just Kansas City. But Yannick [Ngakoue] … Our defensive line is just going to do a great job at helping our secondary out, because they do a great job at covering receivers well. And with those guys being on the front line and just doing their job, getting after the quarterback, it'll be a great thing for our defense, and our guys in the secondary will take a break."
You've certainly talked about QB Tom Brady and some of the other quarterbacks that you grew up watching. Was QB Ben Roethlisberger another one of those guys you maybe looked forward to matching up with one day? (Childs Walker) "Oh, for sure. I definitely watched him put up big numbers in Super Bowls – the two Super Bowls I watched him play against the Cardinals and Seahawks. So, definitely."
We were talking to TE Mark Andrews on Monday, and he said that the passing game is not as bad as everyone thinks it is, and you guys are ready to break out in the second half of the season. Do you feel confident that you guys are ready to roll? (Todd Karpovich) "I'm with Mark [Andrews]. The second half of the season … We were talking about it all at the beginning of the season; the second half is here. We're just going to see coming off the Bye Week. We had great preparation, so we're going to see."
What did you do during the Bye Week? Obviously, you can't really go anywhere. Did you do anything to get mentally away from the game or take a break? How did you approach it? (Pete Gilbert) "You can't really get away from the game when … I know it's a Bye Week, but you can't get away from the game when the season's here. My guys and I, we got together. Some of the receivers and I, we got together with some of the other quarterbacks, as well, and we threw, just to get our chemistry down pat. And that's what it was for our Bye Week."
Did you do that at the facility, or did you go to a local park? (Jeff Zrebiec) "We threw at the facility – in the indoor."
The way the schedule has fallen, you've only had one start against the Steelers. Are you eager to make your mark on that rivalry a little bit more? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I'm just ready to play football – play the game that I love to do – [and] get this 'dub.'"
OLB Pernell McPhee
When you think of facing Pittsburgh, what first comes to mind? (Pete Gilbert) "Ravens versus the Steelers; all the history that plays a part, great defense, great coaches going at each other, great organizations, a lot of things play a part. It's going to be a physical game from play one to play 60- [or] 70-whatever."
How do you get the rookies and free agents to know that it's Pittsburgh week and that it's a little bit different? Does is just happen on the field, or is there conversation leading up to the game? (Kirk McEwen) "There's definitely conversation leading up to the game, but it also happens on the field too, just talking to them in practice. When we're on the practice field, like today, just bring energy like it's Sunday. Be physical like it's Sunday. Play with great eyes and technique like it's Sunday; especially on Wednesday, when you get the one padded practice. Definitely today, just go out there with an attitude and the mindset that it's Sunday. And if we can win a game Wednesday, we definitely can have a big shot of winning it Sunday."
You've been a part of two great NFL rivalries with the Ravens/Steelers and Bears/Packers. Which one do you feel is the … Everyone says it's one or the other – which one do you think is the fiercest rivalry? (Jamison Hensley) "That's funny … I was just telling D.J. Fluker about that, about the different rivalries. I definitely would say the Ravens and the Steelers is the best rivalry game I've played in in the NFL. [It's] the most physical game. I think what makes it better than the Bears and Green Bay is that they're not physical; that conference isn't physical like the AFC North. They haven't had the history with defensive players like the AFC North. It's just two great organizations, like I said, going against each other. It's going to be a fistfight from play one to the last play."
You've obviously had your battles with QB Ben Roethlisberger. When you watch him on film from this year, is he doing anything different than he did when he was in his quote-unquote, physical prime? Or do you see basically the same guy you've always seen? (Childs Walker) "Basically seeing the same guy. He gets the ball out a tad faster, but he's still 'Big Ben.' He's still standing in the pocket. He still can take hits. He still can push defenders off of him and make great throws and be that Hall of Fame quarterback that he's going to be in the future. I think he's still 'Big Ben.' I think he still has the arm. I still think he has the power to stand in the pocket and brush guys off and make big plays down the field. It's going to be very exciting going against him Sunday."
You talked about the physicality of this game. How key was it for you guys to have that Bye Week and sort of rest up a little bit? Does that give you an advantage going into this game? (Todd Karpovich) "It gives you an advantage as far as fresh legs, but as far as hitting … Like I said, today, Wednesday's practice is going to be the biggest day, because we're going to be in pads. It's the first time we've been in pads since a week ago. And then not only that, it's going to be the first time and last time until Sunday. So, the best thing that we can do today is come out with an attitude and a mindset of being very physical, because it's going to be a physical game, and just go from there."
You've played with DE Calais Campbell now for about half a season. He's a big guy. How does he use his size to his advantage instead of the other way around? (Jonas Shaffer) "He's just like a twin tower. He'll just be plugging up and just be … It's more of just pushing people out of the way, as you can see on film. It's just being in the way. When you've got a guy like Calais [Campbell] who's very dominant on the inside, where he doesn't have to just dominate to beat the rush … He can dominate and spy the quarterback and bat down balls – that's great. Even when he rushes, he's great and just big. Sometimes, when I get inside in between the guard and the center with Calais, he makes my job easier, because he freed me up on one-on-ones."
You guys have given up the fewest points in the league. Pittsburgh comes in with the No. 1-ranked defense. Is there any talk in the locker room, or even in your mind, about proving which team has the better defense? (David Ginsburg) "Of course, that's always a battle. That's not only in this game with me, but it's more excited for this game for me, because they are the No. 1 defense and that's where we want to be at. So, it's definitely a defensive game for me. I tell my guys every week – the outside linebackers – that in order for us to be what we want to be [and] get a win, our outside linebackers have to play their edge guys and our defense has to outplay their defense. So, most definitely; they're coming in our hometown and they're the No. 1 defense – why not outplay them and try to move towards our goals of being the No. 1 defense?"
What was your reaction last week when you found out that the Ravens acquired DE Yannick Ngakoue? How do you feel like he can help? (Jeff Zrebiec) (laughter) "Man, it was all smiles. It was all smiles. I think he's going to really help complete this defense. He's definitely a guy who can win an edge rush one-on-one. He definitely is a guy who can cause havoc. I'm just excited to have him on my team and be my teammate. He's a guy who is bringing in [five] sacks already on the year. [Shoot], I can't even wait to get to practice today to even just be 'crunk' with him a little bit and just try to get some juice."
Going back to QB Ben Roethlisberger for a second, you mentioned he's getting the ball out quicker this year. As a pass rusher, how difficult does it make it to gameplan when he's getting the ball out on quick drops and he's throwing the ball within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage? (Andrew Gillis) "It's very difficult. But just throughout my 10 years and knowing as long as you keep playing and stay after your opponent, those quick passes are going to get taken away as the game goes [on]. So, just keep pressing, just keep trying to find a way to beat your one-one-ones, find a way to get to the quarterback and most definitely stop the run, because it's all part of the run game. So, just keep pressing, and then once it gets to the third or fourth quarter when the quick passes aren't quick and he has to hold onto the ball, just go out and make a play."
You guys have a turnover in 19-straight games. How much pride do you take in that streak? It's certainly the longest one going in the NFL right now. (David Ginsburg) "It's a blessing to get those turnovers every game and stay focused and stay locked in [on] generating turnovers every game. Hopefully, we can continue it this week. We have some great playmakers and adding 'Yan' [Yannick Ngakoue], maybe he comes around the corner and gets us another turnover this game. So, it's just been great. It's been great for the defense. It's been great for the offense, special teams [and] for the whole team putting us in good field position. Hopefully, that will continue. Stay positive, test negative [and] stay corona free."
CB Jimmy Smith
You've played a lot in a lot of these games [Ravens vs. Steelers]. It usually comes down to defense – even though this league is built on offense. Is it important for you to show everyone that this defense is better than the No. 1-ranked unit [Pittsburgh] in the league – and to win, of course? (David Ginsburg) "It's a big deal. This game has always come down to defense – both defenses. Not saying they … You know who they have over there at quarterback and what they do on offense. But this is one of those physical, heavyweight fights. And it does usually come down to the defensive plays, and they have one of the best ones [defenses] in the NFL right now. It's definitely going to come down to defensive plays made on Sunday."
I know you haven't seen WR Dez Bryant out there on the practice field or competed against him, but you've competed against him in the past. Potentially, how much help do you think a healthy Dez Bryant can help the Ravens? (Jamison Hensley) "A healthy Dez Bryant … Dez is the 'X-Factor.' (forms an 'X' with his arms) I've been playing against him since college, so you know what's he's capable of. A big body – when he's covered, he still catches the ball. Just bringing in an element of that type of player, kind of like when we had Anquan Boldin back in the day. Just makes those great contested catches and has that attitude – that dog attitude – that you want on your offense. He's only going to help us."
Have you seen the rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers change over the years? Does it basically stay the same? It feels like there's less animosity than back in 2011-2012. (Pete Gilbert) "Maybe – just because of the hits and the way people have played the game has kind of changed – just due to the rules and all of that. But this is still the most physical game we play on both sides of the ball every year – no matter what the records say. But I don't think it's lost any type of passion towards this game. I think it's still the No. 1 circled, red-dot game for us."
Seems like the Pittsburgh Steelers never miss on wide receivers; WR Chase Claypool having a coming out party a few weeks ago. I'm wondering what you see out of Chase Claypool and that unit as a whole? (Kirk McEwen) "I'll start with the unit. The unit together – I think they have a lot of playmakers, obviously. They've got some shifty guys who do well in space. I think they're getting the job done for Ben [Roethlisberger]. Ben is throwing the ball quickly to them and letting them do damage. Claypool is a huge dude; I think like 6-[foot]-5-[inches] or 6-[foot]-4-[inches] – something like that – 240 [pounds] and can run. So, we're going to have our hands full with him. Like I said, overall, as a group, we know what we have to do to try to stop them and slow their offense down, and I think we've got the guys for the job."
You know this rivalry probably as well as, if not better, than anyone else on this team. Whether it's new players or friends or family, when they ask you about what it's like to play in this game, what do you tell them? (Garrett Downing) "I just tell them I think it's like our biggest … We all just kind of say the same, but it's that high school rivalry – that team that you want so badly to beat. I can't even really explain the feeling of being in that game. It was explained to me my rookie year. Until you really actually get into the game and play it and feel it and feel the environment … It kind of sucks because [not] as many fans are going to be around. But the environment, the way that game always goes. It's always a close game. It's always a dog fight. That's the best way I can explain it – just the high school, classic rivalry."
You mentioned Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball quickly. But I guess, overall, when you watch him on film now – [is it] basically the same style you saw from him eight or nine year ago? Or has he evolved over that time? (Childs Walker) "He's definitely evolved over the years. Like I said, he's getting the ball out quicker this year, but he's still Ben [Roethlisberger]. He still can have four or five dudes try to tackle him and he'd shake them off and then go throw the ball 60 yards down field right on target. So, we know what he's always been capable of, what he's doing. He's just switched it up a little bit, I think, by getting the ball out faster this year – it seems like that at least. But you still see him making those scramble plays on film and still getting the ball down field."
You talked about the game, and you know it's big and the physicality. I'm just curious – this week and day-to-day, do you see a change of what this rivalry and what this game brings just from today and moving on through practice? (Morgan Adsit) "No, I can't say I do. Like I said, I feel it's the same every time we play them. It feels the same way. It feels like you're about to go into what you know as a championship fight – regardless of, like I said, of records or anything like that. You're going into a dog fight and you're going to be beat up at the end of this game."
You've played under [defensive coordinator] Don 'Wink' Martindale for a couple of years now. We've talked about whether this addition of DE Yannick Ngakoue is going to make you guys rely less on the blitz. From your perspective as a guy who just has to cover wide receivers [and] tight ends, does it matter to you whether it's a four-man rush versus a six-man, seven-man blitz package? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, you have more people in coverage. If you have six guys out in coverage, compared to just having everybody in 'zero blitz' or 'manned up' [man-to-man coverage], it just gives you an opportunity more to defend the pass. But if you can get pressure generated out of a front-four, there's a lot more you can do back there on the backend."