WEDNESDAY AVAILABILITY: Week 5 at PITTSBURGH
Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "We had a couple transactions: Josh Bynes has been added. Everybody probably knows Josh. He was here in the past and has been around since then and played very good football throughout his career. [He] gives us an inside 'backer that knows how to fit schemes. [He is] a very physical player, tackle-to-tackle player. [He] also will help us on special teams. He's a leader. So, we're very excited about that. Jeremiah Ledbetter, a young defensive end, outside 'backer, was added to the practice squad. And of course, we released Tim Williams."
What was the impetus for releasing OLB Tim Williams now, at this point in the year? (Aaron Kasinitz)"We're just trying to do what we can do to become as strong as we can be. You have to build your team, your roster, into the roles that you have, and that you actually need, to go win games. That's the formula that we came up with with the players that were available, and that's the move that we made."
This is your 26*th* game against the Steelers. Can you talk about what that rivalry means and how it's evolved? (Todd Karpovich) "It's been that many? Wow. It means a lot. There was a time when they were saying it wasn't a rivalry, as I recall. Some of my favorite players, guys like Ryan Clark and some of those guys, would say, 'It's not a rivalry until you beat them.' We beat them the second year [in 2009]. So, it's a rivalry. I've always felt that way. We have the utmost respect for them, and it's an important game. We're looking forward to playing it."
That's two inside linebackers signed in the last three days. What's been missing from that group, and what are you looking to find to bolster that group, specifically? (Bo Smolka)"You have to play the run. Just downhill run fits, a little more physicality, a little more experience is what we're looking for."
Along with that run, do you look at, "This play, this is why it didn't work. Let's fix that," and go through it? Or is it, "This is our identity. This is who we are. We don't, as Ravens, allow big running days," or is it a combination? How do you approach that? (Pete Gilbert)"It's both those things. That's a great point. You have to look at the technicalities of it. That's what coaching is – understanding that there's a reason that that stuff happens. Those are big plays. We've been there before. We've had these moments before. Every defense will go through this at some point in time. It's the National Football League. People scheme you up. People block. People can run. There are fast players out there with the ball in their hands, and you take a couple steps in the wrong direction, or three or four guys … There's a series of events in a play, and that's what happens. It's happened for our offense this year, too. So, that's this football [level]. That's any football level, especially at this level, where everything is so high-level. So, that's part of it. But the other part of it is we take a lot of pride in our defense around here. We've been playing great defense around here for quite a long time. The guy that's standing behind there [Ed Reed, who visited practice] can vouch for that. He was a big part of that all those years. So, we expect to be at the top of the heap in the defensive world, and we'll do everything we can to get back there. Our guys are very determined to do that. The World Champs did it last year, as I recall. And that's our ambition. That's our goal."
There's still a lot of talk out there about the CB Marlon Humphrey and WR Odell Beckham Jr. thing. Is the team stance that Marlon did not choke Odell Beckham? (Jamison Hensley)"We talked about this on Monday. I don't have a stance. There is no stance. We're not in a court of law here. There's really nothing more to talk about. I don't know why it's still being talked about by anybody, really, to be honest with you."
Now that you've gotten to watch Pittsburgh for a few days, are they doing anything different, conceptually, on offense with QB Mason Rudolph in for QB Ben Roethlisberger, or are they pretty much the same ideas? (Childs Walker) "It's the same offense. It's within the structure of their offense. The Steelers have a big playbook, so they have a lot of different directions they can go. They went to the Wildcat this last week, so they're going to come up with ideas. Whatever they need to do to move the ball to try to score points to try to win a game is what they'll do. That's what anybody does in a gameplan. He [Mason Rudolph] is a young quarterback. He has a lot of talent. They have players around him. They'll try to utilize those guys as best they can, and I'm sure we'll see some things that we haven't seen. That's really not the concern, as much as it is us doing our job, playing our defense the way we're supposed to play it, everybody doing their assignments with physicality and speed and effort and great tackling, and play the ball well. That's what we're focused on."
How awesome is it to get MLB Josh Bynes back on the defense? (Ed Reed) "That's a real question right there!" (Reed: "He's been going since the Super Bowl [XLVII], and he was actually the guy who made the last tackle, so it's good to see him back over here.")"Man, you're right. It's great to have Josh Bynes back, in answering Ed Reed's question, media member Ed Reed, (laughter) because it ties us to that season. It ties us to, a little more with one more guy, to that historic moment when we all came together and made it happen. [That is] something we're trying to do again, and we're fully capable of doing it. So, to have another guy here that knows that, that understands that, that's going to be in with the guys every day – young guys that weren't a part of that, that have never been a part of that, but yet, they're a part of the Raven tradition – [is special]. They're becoming Ravens. One of the things that was said in the meeting today is, 'You're not a Raven until you beat the Steelers.' Well, we have some young guys that still need to beat the Steelers. And I'm hoping that Ed Reed is going to talk to the team today at some point in time and have a word for them about that and help them understand that. The ties to the tradition and what it means and how you do it and how you play is probably one of the most important parts of the whole deal."
You were pretty consistent all offseason in your belief in C Matt Skura. It seems like he's had a pretty good start to the season. Where have you seen him improve, and how have those improvements helped what you guys want to do offensively, as a runner and a passer? (Jonas Shaffer)"Matt [Skura] has earned the job. To your point, he's the starting center, and he's playing like a starting center. He's establishing himself as a starter in there, and he's done a good job of it. And yet, as well as he's playing, he can certainly play better, whether it's a little footwork thing here or there. That's the type of stuff that he's chasing perfection [with]. Those linemen, it's a fine-tune deal with the footwork and the hand placement and the coordination of all their movements on those blocks. They have to chase perfection every single day. [It's] a little bit like the secondary, the same kind of thing. The secondary is more in space; they [the offensive line players] are more in a tight area. So, he's working on those things. But Matt has done a good job. He makes all our calls, and I'm very proud of how he's been playing."
Steelers QB Mason Rudolph throws a lot of his throws at the line of scrimmage or within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. What do you have to do to take away those routes and force him into uncomfortable situations? (Andrew Gillis) "You have to play your defense the right way. There are all three levels. There's quick game, there are screens, there are the intermediate level passes, and there are different versions of those. There's high-low, there are horizontal passes, there are crossing routes and mesh routes that you have to deal with, and then there are deep throws in all parts of the field. They come off the dropback in play-action. So, they're going to throw elements of all that. They're going to try to figure out where we're going to be vulnerable, and we can't be vulnerable. We just have to play our coverages the way they're supposed to be played – aggressively, with confidence – and stop them."
How do you go about scouting a quarterback who is as young and as fresh as QB Mason Rudolph? There is not a ton of tape out there on him. (Andrew Gillis) "You watch the tape that you have. He is what he is. The tape says it. I don't care if it's one game or 10 games or 100 games. You are what you are as a player. You are what the tape says you are."
TE Mark Andrews
On the offense needing to make adjustments:"I think, at the end of the day, it's just about playing Raven football, doing the stuff we do well. I think we kind of hurt ourselves [last Sunday vs. Cleveland]. There were a couple things last week that didn't go our way, and if they had, it would have been a different story right now. But, we've just got to get back to playing our football. I don't think it's [opponent] adjustments or anything like that that have really been hurting us. It's just playing our ball."
On the importance of this Pittsburgh game as a rivalry and as it relates to the AFC North standings:"It's a big game. There's no doubt about it. We know what this game entails. It's a rivalry. We know it's going to be a hostile environment. We have a bunch of fighters in this locker room, a bunch of resilient guys, and I trust these guys in this locker room. So, I'm excited to go out there, excited to play this team and get going."
On what stood out to him last year in his first game at Pittsburgh in that environment:"Honestly, it was probably the fourth quarter; it was the start of the fourth quarter. It was 'Renegade.' That was the first time I had heard it, so that was probably the biggest thing. It was pretty loud, so I'm excited for it."
On if the environment in Pittsburgh compares to the college-rivalry scene:"Yes, it's close. It's close. Obviously, OU-Texas is a big one, as well, and there's a lot of culture in that one. But, it definitely lives up to that. These are two teams that don't like each other, and there's nothing wrong with that."
On if the Steelers' defense looked different in its performance on Monday night against the Bengals:"Honestly, I had my family in town, so I didn't see this last game. I have, obviously, started watching film and stuff like that, so I'm going to get to that one. But again, they've got a lot of good pieces, a lot of guys that can fly around, so this is no easy task. But again, we've got the guys in this locker room that are going to be ready to go, and we're going to be ready to bounce back."
On the tight ends' mustaches only lasting one week: "Yes, that's not going to happen again, for right now."
CB Marlon Humphrey
On his thoughts going into the Pittsburgh game: "This is our biggest rival. Being a Raven, this game is a lot of excitement. [There is] a long history of the Ravens and Steelers going together. So, [it's a] really big game for us to get back in the 'W' column."
On what kind of heart-to-heart talks there have been over the last few days amongst the defense:"I think the biggest thing that we've come to is just, every man has to play better. The past two weeks, no one can … 'Wink' [defensive coordinator Don Martindale] asked, 'Who feels like they played good?' No one can raise their hand and say they felt like they played good. That's concerning. The biggest thing is, everyone just … You have to all play a little bit better. It's some little things that we have to get fixed."
On if the recent personnel changes get the attention of players on the defense:"I think it does. It shows that the guys that were here, they're not getting it done. For the guys who are still standing here, you better get it done or fix something, or else you could be with a new team or whatever. It's like, 'Woah.' That happened kind of quick, and you didn't see that coming, so I think it opens everybody's eyes."
On his stance on if he choked WR Odell Beckham Jr. last Sunday: "We play the Pittsburgh Steelers this week. That's my stance on it."
QB Lamar Jackson
On his first start in Pittsburgh: "I know it's going to be crazy. You know the Steelers Nation is going to be pumped for the game. We're going to have our Flock Nation in the building. It's going to be a good rival game. I'm ready."
On if it feels like the Ravens are starting a new chapter with a different set of characters in the Steelers rivalry:"I haven't looked at it like that, but since you said it, yeah, it's going to be pretty crazy. No Ben [Roethlisberger], a whole new team, a new era. We just have to get ready for it."
On the team message that, "You're not a Raven until you beat the Steelers": "I'm not paying attention to that, then. (laughter)Well, actually, last year we did [win]. [Joe] Flacco was the quarterback, but I was part of the team, so definitely. We did it last year. So, I say I beat the Steelers already. (laughter)I'd say that."
On how he sums up the rivalry:"It's physical – physical game, everyone is after each other. I don't know, man, I just can't wait to perform in it."
On if he got up for rivalry games in college more than other games: "No, not really. We had a Kentucky thing going on at Louisville. At first, I didn't really have any animosity against those guys until they beat me. Then, I was ticked off. I was like, 'Yeah, that's not happening again.'"
On realizing how big the Steelers-Ravens rivalry is on the bus ride into Pittsburgh: "It wasn't the bus ride. It was actually, for me, just being on the sideline and watching it. They play that little song, and they wave their little flags and stuff, with the little towels around. It was pretty dope. I enjoyed it. I did, I really did."
On how he feels he played against the Browns and what he feels he needs to improve on: "Everything. I did well [in] some parts of the game, but I could have done a lot better. I could have helped my team out a lot more, put points on the board. We got stopped, I would say, like, five times. The game would have been totally different. We just have to do better, and it starts out here."
On if he senses that teams are defending the Ravens differently after the first few weeks of the season, and if the Ravens have adjusted to the different defenses:"Like I said, it was just us being ourselves. When they adjusted, we still had big plays and stuff like that. [With] blown coverages, we just had miscommunications going on. We just have to stay focused, be hungry during the game, and just continue to build as the games go on."
On what it will take to get WR Marquise Brown more involved: "It's the NFL, so they're going to be trying to key on him and stuff like that, trying to double-guard him, have two people guarding him, stuff like that. We're just going to play football. He's a great receiver. He had two catches, or whatever, during the game, but we're going to definitely get him a lot more."
OLB Pernell McPhee
On what he remembers about the rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers from his first stint with Baltimore:"We hate each other. I know for sure we hate them. We hate them. We respect them as men, but we really hate him."
On why the Ravens hate the Steelers:"That's just how it is. That's the blood between the teams. It's like God versus the Devil. _(laughter) I don't know, but it's just the taste [of it]. We respect them as men, but as a team, as an organization, me personally, I don't really care too much for them."
On if the rivalry has sustained with the absence of QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and other guys that have been a big part of this rivalry:"Yes, it always will, because it's the Baltimore Ravens versus the Pittsburgh Steelers,and both have been based off great defenses over the years. They don't have 'Big Ben' [Roethlisberger], but they still have guys that can come in and get the job done. I know they have a veteran O-line, pretty solid. They still have some good receivers. Their back [James Conner] is pretty good, so I don't think with 'Big Ben' being out that it will make the rivalry even bigger or better. I mean, we have legends that aren't playing who played over the years, and it's still the same rivalry."
On how he sees his role as a leader on this defense:"I just have to be me. I just have to keep evaluating myself and go out and make more plays for my teammates – just keep putting it on the young guys about watching film and staying connected in the game, and as we go out there on the practice field, visualize the practice as games, because practices are games. It's just when Sundays come, we get to tackle each other and slam them to the ground and be really, really violent."
On how frustrating it is to see some of the big plays against the Ravens' defense as a guy who's not used to seeing that:"It's very disappointing. Just standing here right now, I can't get that taste out of my mouth. It's like a throw-up taste that's stuck in my mouth. So, I'm trying to get that taste out of there now. I don't think there will be a better week than going into Pittsburgh and beating them."
On what's different about the Steelers this season:"They're the same ol' Pittsburgh. They're still going to come in with the run game. They've got Mike Tomlin. He's a physical coach, so he's going to come in with a physical team, and they're going to try to be physical and probably run the ball down our throat. So, that's a challenge for me and a lot of guys in the front seven to slow down the run and just plug up the leak that we've got right now."
On if the leaks in the defense are easily fixable:"Definitely, definitely, definitely. We've just got to get back to playing technique and fundamental football and being very, very physical and violent. I don't think we've been [as] physical and violent as we could be, and I just think it was probably one or two scheme runs that got us, that if you watch the film and you know what you're watching, you'll understand the leaks. But as we keep going over the film and we're seeing teams repeatedly do the same run, I don't think they're going keep ... It's a copy-cat league. We'll be alright, though. We'll fix it. We get 'Big Baby' [Brandon Williams] back this week. We brought in some old guys, so I know at practice today we'll have good communication. And we're going to study film together this afternoon, and we're going to try to fix it."
On ILB Josh Bynes returning:"That's my boy. He's a Raven. He's a true Raven. He's a dog. Glad to see him back in."
On if he feels the need to say something to the young guys before they face the Steelers for the first time:"I wouldn't say they have to figure it out for themselves. I know when I came in as a young guy, there wasn't much to be said when it came time to play them. It was kind of said on the practice field. So, I'm going to go out there today and practice and try to be very physical and very violent and try to lead them by my action and not just talk, because sometimes we get caught up in talking, and that doesn't solve anything."
T Ronnie Stanley
On where his nastiness comes from: "It's just a mindset, really, just going out there and telling yourself you're going to put it all out there."
On if something flipped for him this year to take his game to a different level:"Starting this offseason, I made a decision in my head, knowing the type of player I can be and knowing the potential I have. I wanted to make sure I got everything out of myself this year."
On if it still feels like Ravens-Steelers rivalry week despite the changing faces on the Steelers' and the Ravens' rosters: "Oh yeah, I don't think that's ever going to change. No matter who's playing for these colors, this rivalry is going to be one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports."
On what he sees from the Steelers' defensive front: "I'm just focusing on our game and what we need to improve. I know they had a good game last week, but that's against a different team."
On if he is proud of the stability that the offensive line has had so far this season:"Yes, I'm definitely proud of my teammates along the offensive line, and I'm happy with our progression. We still know we have a long way to go, and we have a lot of things to do to get better."
On how pleased he is with how he is playing this season: "I'm happy with the way I've been playing so far, but that being said, I still know there are a lot of things I can do better, and I'm just trying to focus on those and getting better."
On if he is playing at his best so far in the first quarter of this season:"I wouldn't say I've been able to play at my best just yet. I'm playing at a high level, but I know I can get better, and I know the capability I have."
On if he made a mental change to take more of a finisher's attitude into this season:"It was a complete mindset change, just focusing on finishing the play, from that aspect, and being as physical as possible, both run and pass, and just being a leader out there that you can see clearly on film for our team."
On if he wanted to establish himself as "one of those guys" in the league: "Exactly. I knew I was capable of doing it, and I need to put it out there week-in and week-out."
On if offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris' opinion of the offensive line's performance has changed: "Yes, I think he's definitely more pleased with the way we've been performing, as of lately."
STEELERS HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN
(Conference Call with Baltimore Media)
With it being Ravens-Steelers week, there's a lot of old faces that aren't around anymore. Does it feel a little bit different? And what's the message been to your team? (Daniel Oyefusi)"I don't know that it feels any different. It's AFC North football. That always makes this a significant matchup. They've got some familiar faces, as well. I just left a special teams walk-through, and I think about [Justin] Tucker and [Sam] Koch being consistent, standout contributors for those guys. So, there's some familiar faces, as well. We aren't wasting a lot of time worrying about the similarities or the differences. We better just focus ourselves on this group and preparing ourselves for this matchup."
With this being QB Mason Rudolph's third start coming up, what have you seen from him? How has the team rallied around him? And specifically, from your young receivers, what have you seen that you've liked so far? (Daniel Oyefusi)"I think we're all growing, and such is life, particularly at this stage of the season and the journey. Guys are getting opportunities to step up. Mason [Rudolph] is included in that. Guys expect him to play winning football, and they, in turn, are required to give their all. And so, we really don't overreact to guys ascending within the ranks and having an opportunity to be positive contributors to our offense. I think that's why we all work hard day-to-day knowing that one time or another everyone is going to have to ante up and kick in and kick in in a big way. Mason, obviously, has his turn the rest of the way."
In the Monday night game against the Bengals, you broke out Wildcat-type formations with RB James Conner and RB Jaylen Samuels. Where did that come from? And what did you like about that? (Daniel Oyefusi)"We pull it out from time to time. I'm sure most people in today's game have it within the framework of their offense. We're missing some offensive contributors, particularly at the tight end position, so we thought it was a way of getting some experienced guys on the field and getting the ball in their hands and playing 30 [James Conner] and 38 [Jaylen Samuels] together. That's really what created the conversation, and thus, the package."
On the defensive side, how have you been preparing for QB Lamar Jackson and an offense that's kind of stylistically different from past Ravens offenses? (Daniel Oyefusi)"We just don't believe that that's something that you can prepare for in a week. We think that it's fundamental. I think you always have to stress leverage and responsibility football, and when you face the type of quarterback mobility that he has, it really stresses it or exposes it if it's not up to snuff. So, I'd like to think that we've been preparing for Lamar [Jackson] since Day One, because we're fundamentalists in our approach to teaching, in terms of responsibility."
Are there any injury updates on RB James Conner or DT Cameron Heyward?_ (Daniel Oyefusi)_"No, we haven't practiced yet."