A Wednesday at the Castle

Every Wednesday the media is allowed to speak to a few selected players from the Ravens and John Harbaugh usually speaks as well. Here are some highlights from each of the interviews:

John Harbaugh

On what they saw from Ken Hamlin that they decided to bring him back: “We said before we wanted him back. He’s part of our team. He was a big part of it the first few weeks. He figures into our plans the rest of the year. We said before, it was just a roster move. We just have to work the numbers.”

On the respect he has for Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin: “We go back a long way. Mike’s a guy... He was a little bit younger, but we kind of took the same path in coaching. And I always just admired him, watching him come up through the ranks. He’s a defensive guy, a secondary guy. He always did a great job. He has the ability to relate to his players and motivate really well. None of us that have followed Mike’s career are at all surprised at what he’s accomplished. So, now we are rivals and we get to compete against each other.”

On what makes Steelers’ James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley so good: “The first is that they’ve got two guys. At times we’ve done well against one guy, but then the other guy has hurt us. You’ve got both guys on both sides. It’s pretty hard to provide help on both sides of your pass protection and get anybody out. That’s the biggest thing. They are very powerful rushers - that’s the No. 1 thing. They really bring it and you’re not sure where they’re coming from, and they bring it with a lot of power.”

On Steelers backup Charlie Batch: “He’s very experienced, like you said. He’s a guy who’s won a lot of games, started a lot games [and] has had so much success. He really understands offensive football and fits into their package really well.”

On what Troy Polamalu adds to the Steelers’ defensive backfield: “He kind of ties the front and the secondary together in a way, because sometimes he’s back deep, sometimes he’s in the middle, sometimes he’s up on the line of scrimmage, sometimes he’s on the right side, [and] sometimes he’s on the left side. It’s a little bit unpredictable. A lot of it is just his instincts for the game. He’s like Ed Reed in that way. Those two guys are very unique in football.”

On what causes the intense rivalry between the Ravens and the Steelers: “I guess it’s probably two really good teams over the last couple of years that play similar style of football and have a lot of respect for each other. And there’s always a lot at stake. So, that’s the way it’s worked out. [Both teams have] good defenses, obviously.”

Joe Flacco

On whether he sees similarities between Ravens Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu: “Yeah, well they’re definitely guys [who] when they play, they make a little bit of a difference in their defense. We didn’t really play against Troy last year. When he’s in there, they’re a pretty good defense, and when he’s not in there, they’re a good defense. So, it’ll be fun to have that challenge and go against him this week.”

On whether preparation is easier or difficult since the Ravens play the Steelers twice a year: “I don’t know. We played Cleveland last week. We play Cleveland just as much as Pittsburgh, so it’s the same. You look at the film, and you don’t really treat any week different in preparation. You get on your schedule, and that’s what you follow.”

On whether going 0-3 at Pittsburgh in his career wears on him: “We’ve played up there three times, and we’ve played pretty good. Besides the playoff game, we’ve played really good up there. We just haven’t come out with wins. We’ve got to finish games - and this is going to be another good game - and we’ll have to finish it in the fourth quarter when it comes down to the time to do that.”

Jarret Johnson

On Steelers Rashard Mendenhall: “He’s a good back. He’s a typical NFL back - a big guy. He can make all the cuts. He gets physical with you, and he can also run on the perimeter. So, he’s a really good back.”

On whether there’s a part of him that wishes he could play the Steelers every week and what makes the rivalry so great: “Absolutely. It’s just a rivalry. You know what they are going to bring to the table, and we’re very similar teams. They have a lot of big, physical guys. They usually run the ball a lot when they play us. So, it’s a fun game.”

On the Steelers’ James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley: “I think they are two of the best outside linebackers in the league. Those guys have been extremely productive the last couple of years, and they are both really physical, and I’ve got a lot of respect for them.”

On what Steelers backup Charlie Batch brings to the team and how is he different from Ben Roethlisberger: “It’s different when you’re going against a backup that might be a young guy or a rookie, like most backups. The fact he’s been in the league for a long time, he’s a veteran guy, he’s got a lot of starts under his belt. So, you can’t look at him the same as you would a guy out of college or something like that.”

On his favorite moment in the Ravens/Steelers rivalry: “Probably in ‘06. We got after them pretty good - 15 sacks in two games. It was a good year for us.”

Ray Lewis

On whether the Ravens and Steelers form the most physical matchup in football: “I think so. You look at the way both defenses [play] - style and mentality, the way we play football, they get after people, we get after people - so here we go again. That’s what I say. Anytime you play somebody twice in your division, it’s always one of those things that you already know about. We know them; they know us. I just think it comes from a total respect factor, but here we go.”

On Hines Ward: “Hines Ward is one of the true professionals. He plays the game with a smile most of the time - pisses most people off. (laughter) But, anytime that you can play the game with that type of emotion and control, intensity, then do it. Then do it. That’s why he’s been around so long. He came from Georgia playing like that, and he’s still playing like that now. You have to tip your hat off to a guy like that. When he’s not playing, that’s when you tip your hat off to him. When you’re playing him, you’re looking for him.”

On how much of a challenge Rashard Mendenhall presents: “I think the challenge is their whole run team, period. They have a real big offensive line, and they like to get on people and clear holes for him. You watch a couple of games... He made a couple of big runs in overtime against Atlanta. You kind of see things that could have been corrected very easily, but they do a good job running the ball.”

On what is a better measure of a defense - how many yards they allow or how many points they allow: “I don’t know. I don’t know. At the end of the day, some people worry about yards and this and that. I think it’s always about points at the end of the day. If nobody doesn’t score, they can’t win. And that’s kind of the philosophy that all defenses should have. If you don’t have that philosophy... If you’re worried about yardage, you might be in a little trouble. But if you’re worrying about that scoreboard, yardage comes after that. If you get the win, then you say, ‘OK, let me look at my yardage,’ but if you don’t get the win, you don’t care about nothing.”

On why this rivalry is personal and different than others: “I think because we’re two similar teams. I think it’s personal because they don’t have to talk and we don’t have to talk. We know. The switch is on. Every other team might have to get up extra to play us or get up extra to play Pittsburgh. There is no getting up extra to play each other. It’s flat out, ‘Who we got this week?’ Pittsburgh. ‘Who ya’ll got this week?’ Ravens. OK, we know. Get your treatment, and get well, here we go again.”

Terrell Suggs

On what the Ravens-Steelers rivalry means to him: “I’d be lying if I told you it was just another game. It’s a little bit more than that. We definitely want to win. This is the game on the schedule that we circle and we definitely look forward to. This one has a little bit more importance than all the other division games.”

On whether Steelers Ben Roethlisberger not playing will affect the game: “Well, they’re 3-0, so they’re obviously still a very deadly team, even with him not under the center. Whoever their guy is going to be, they’re going to come in to knock us out. They’re going to come in to win, and we’ve just got to be tenacious. We’ve got... I don’t even know the words right now to describe how we’ve got to play in order to win this game on their field.”

On how much of a conscious effort is it to stay calm when playing the Steelers: “Sometimes you’ve got to let your emotions fly. Sometimes a penalty like that can rally your team. It all depends on the situation of the game. If it’s early in the game, a good personal foul might be exactly what a team needs. If your coach kind of Chop-sueys a ref, it might be what your team needs. (laughter) It all depends on the game, but if it’s in a pivotal point in the game - if it’s third-down... It’s third-down, and if you’ve got a clear shot at the quarterback, and it’s one of those iffy things, you probably don’t take the shot just to make sure you don’t put it in the hands of the ref. You definitely... Your mind - you’ve got to be really into this game. It’s more mental more than physical.”

On whether the Steelers have a history of trying to lure the Ravens out of their comfort zone: “Bait us in? Why would you think that? Of course not. They’ve got nice guys over there. (laughter) Of course they don’t do that. We’re not little boys; we’re men, and we should know when we’re getting baited into something. We’ve just got to get them in between the whistles.”

On his favorite moment of the Pittsburgh rivalry: “Anytime we won. Every time we beat them, it gets better than the last. I do have a favorite moment, but I’m not going to tell you guys. So, I guess you’ll just have to wait and ask me after the game what my favorite moment is.”