On Ben Roethlisberger's first four weeks versus the last four weeks:

"Well, we've thrown the ball in the last few ballgames so obviously that's going to increase [his numbers], but you know a little better protection. The offensive line's had a little continuity two games in a row. Everybody's growing a little bit and knowing their roles. A couple of those games we felt we could come out and run the ball very, very well and it wasn't need that much. Each one is a little bit different but he did have a nice four game stretch."

On Ben's NFL MVP chances:

"I think that always comes with your team winning. If your team's winning and your numbers are big enough, they've got a chance. It's not something I think we dream about or talk about, that's just an accolade that would come with a team winning."

How motivational is showing the last game versus the Ravens?

"None really. You just turn on the tape and it speaks for itself, it was that bad. We moved the ball OK we just kept turning it over. It can be good for you, it can be bad for you. We haven't spent much time talking about it, other than the things they did. We're both [teams] a little bit different, we're hopefully a little bit better now. They're a little bit better also. Every time we play it's a little bit of a chess match. There was a game here we had 'em 35-0, and down there they had us that way. Every one else is down to the end. Everybody here, the young kids are learning about it. They're not used to Ravens week. It's a little different. They get a feel from the veterans, and our veterans know what to expect. Getting tight isn't one of the things you need to do."

How have Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert been playing?

"Extremely well. I think that's one of the things that has been most impressive is how well they have played. Especially Max coming off the couch. But we knew Marcus had a chance. He kept injuring that shoulder. Fairly healthy now. But they've made a big difference in our protection and you'd be remiss in not saying they did."

How important has Max been to the O-Line in general?

"Can't give him enough kudos. Now he's got a heck of a challenge on his hands this week. He and Suggs have a pretty good history. And the young fellow [Gilbert] is going to have his hands full, too."

Did your gameplan change once you found out Leigh Bodden was gone last week?


You planned on going at 'em like you did the whole time?

"We ran it more than I thought we would."

On the team's running game in the first meeting with Baltimore:

"We had to leave it. I was like, dang, that the first time we've ever played them that we're running the ball this good, and we had the miscommunication coming out at halftime (Haloti Ngata forced fumble). The play we ran is the same play we gained like 8 or 9-yards early, and we turned the biggest 'Cat' they got loose and got a fumble and the game's over. Those are the kind of errors you just can't have. Hopefully playing at home the noise and the communication is much better [and] we won't have those kind of errors."

Is the running game more important in a game like this?

"I think balance is. When you play a defense as good as these guys you can't get one-dimensional in either phase. If you're going to try and run it, they're going to stuff you. If you're going to try and throw it every down, they'll get you. They pride themselves, as we do, they're a great third down defense. Because they play good first and second down defense they keep you behind the chains. It's the only [year-long opponent's] tape you turn on and there's twenty-two snaps of 3rd-and-seven to ten. Everybody else might have ten or twelve [snaps]. And there's only three completions on there. They are number one in the league on third down, and we're number three [on offense], so it should be a good matchup. It's a great challenge for us, they always are. But third down will be a very critical area in this game for us to maintain possession of the football."

How does Terrell Suggs compare with some of the tough pass rushers you've faced?

"Suggs, that's my man. He's the best. We don't play anybody quite like him. He's got great up-and-under move, he's a relentless pass rusher, he's got great passion. I love watching him play. I always talk to him before and after the games because I really respect the guy. He's a threat."

He's the best you've faced?

"Yes, indeed."

Is identification the key with him, where he lines up?

"Well, he usually plays their open side-end. It's not too much hard finding him. Every now and then he'll be up the middle, in a couple of their different blitzes. But you've got to find Terrell and know where he's at."

How close are you to being able to pick a new identity every week?

"I think we've been able to do that for the last month. There are certain games we had the running game going and stuck with it. Had a great half against Jacksonville and then the second half we just didn't convert our third downs, we ran it really good just didn't convert our third downs. No matter which way you decide to go, you've got to hit third down. Our goal is to be over 50% and then we know we're going to have time of possession whether we're running or throwing. Time of possession is not what you're doing, it's converting third downs."

How versatile are your receivers becoming?

"Each guy can play inside and outside. They're multi-dimensional. As is Heath [Miller]. And our backs, MeWelde split out and caught the slant for the TD [last week]. When you have that kind of flexibility, it's fun. It's easy to coach, because you can't just zero in on defense, 'this guy's going to be here and there, we can bracket this guy and we can double team this guy because they might be on the same side.' It makes it difficult when you have guys who can play inside and outside."

What do you expect from Emmanuel Sanders this week?

"It's hard, when you lose your mother at such a very young age, to be able to come back and play. Even if he makes it back [to the team] in time, I mean this is something that we're not expecting. Our prayers and hearts just go out to him and his family. We don't know [when he's due back], it's just up to him."

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