How much more important will the running game be due to the weather?
"The key when you go play back East on a tough field like we're going to be on is like you said, running the football is critical, stopping the run is critical. After that, field position and special teams are such a big part of it. Our guys are getting primed, our punt team particularly. Mike (Scifres) is on a role and punting so well and that should help us in the football game. Then, when you have opportunities to make some big plays you just have to take advantage of it."
Did you guys exercise your East Coast demons when you beat Tampa?
"It's a late game. We're playing an awfully good team. When I went back and looked at the first Pittsburgh game, we were on the East Coast and there were a lot of good things that we did in that game. It was an 11-10 game and it was a very, very physical game, it was a hard-fought game. They're just an outstanding football team. I'm not sure (it would matter) if we played them on the East Coast or the West Coast. We know how difficult it's going to be."
Has being in the playoffs the last few years seasoned these guys?
"Playing in them and understanding, to me, it's not about the game as much as the preparation. You have to prepare to do all of the same things you do in a regular season game. Sometimes I think younger players forget about that the bigger the game gets, and they start thinking about all the other things that are involved. We've tried to keep a pretty even keel in terms of our preparation. Winning games in the post-season and having won games helps, but I think probably the thing that helps most is the guys that have been here long enough to go through those two tough defeats. I don't know that you ever lose that feeling and I have reminded them a couple times of what feels like to be involved in a game like that and I think that is a great motivator."
How was LT today?
"LT is sore. He's in doing his treatment and those things. I don't know that he's a lot different than he was earlier in the week."
If someone told you five weeks ago that Darren Sproles was going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, what would you have thought?
"Five weeks ago. That was a long time ago. Nothing that happens for Darren or that he does would ever surprise me."
Is Darren preparing differently this week because he will probably get more carries?
"No. Darren has always gotten a good percentage of the practice at running back because he plays a lot at running back. He's played a lot through out the year at running back. LT couldn't practice today so we're giving his share to Michael Bennett, so I don't think that part of it is a whole lot different."
HC Norv Turner
"It's a big change. We're fortunate that we practice against it on a regular basis but we've had a series of games now against a 4-3, so it's a change. These guys are the best at it, Pittsburgh is the best at the 3-4, and they give you a lot of different looks. They've got two really, really fine pass rushers on the outside, obviously the defensive MVP of the National Football League and they're very creative with what they do. It's not like last week where you line up and the guy is rushing every single time and you have to block him. They do a lot of different things and it's demanding in terms of our preparation."
What kinds of things set Ben Roethlisberger apart from other quarterbacks?
"He's just a great, great competitor. We were fortunate enough to coach him and coach the AFC in the Pro Bowl, and he is uncanny at throwing the ball into tight spaces. He can put the ball anywhere he wants it on a receiver's body, so if you have one side of him covered he can throw it to the other side. He's got great vision, but the thing that obviously sets him apart or that he is especially gifted at is that he can move in that pocket and slide in the pocket and he can throw the ball to anybody anywhere on the field. Once he starts moving, you can't worry about him running. From a coverage standpoint you have to cover the closest guy to you because he is liable to throw it to him."
What is your reaction to Vincent Jackson making the news for something other than football?
"We've handled that with the release. Obviously I'm disappointed. It's something that is a league matter now in terms of evaluating his situation and what the ramifications are."
Do you talk to your team about things like this before games of this magnitude?
"We spend a lot of time from the beginning of the season all the way through. The thing that I think that the league has done is that the league has programs and has done a great job of educating young player and veterans. They come in two or three times a year and talk to our players. We have in-house people that set up programs for our players, and being a father and having kids you'd like to think that you would never have to deal with something where a guy makes a mistake. As I say, we'll handle it the way we need to handle it."
Will his playing time be effected?
Did you have a meeting with Vincent individually?
"I spent some time with Vincent, yes."
Quarterback Philip Rivers
With Ben Roethlisberger coming from the same draft class as you, does that add anything to this weekend?
"No. We're in the playoffs. It's about us trying to advance. Really nothing more than that. Tough opponent, tough team at home with an outstanding defense. We'll have our work cut out for us. We'll need to play our best game of the year to win. I think we're preparing right now so we can do that."
Are you guys doing anything special to prepare for the cold?
"There's really not much you can do to simulate it. I think obviously we can get a lot of good work done with the weather like this. We've always handled the cold just fine. Obviously if there's any precipitation, that's when the weather can become a factor. Cold, once you get out there you deal with it and you go play. I don't see that it will be a problem."
Would it affect the game plan?
"No, based on so far I don't see that it will have an affect on it at all."
Does the fact that you played the Steelers so close a few weeks ago give you confidence?
"I don't know if it gives you more confidence. Obviously I think what it does say is two teams that went at it in Week 11, now there's even more at stake. I think it'll be a heck of a game as it was then. We don't think we played our best game then. They probably feel the same. It'll be another close game I can imagine."
How do you balance protecting the ball versus being aggressive?
"You just go play. I think both turnovers really from a mentality standpoint were not the issue, just a throw that got away from me and then really a good play in the end zone where maybe I held onto it a little long. You've still got to be aggressive. You understand as the game goes when to be more aggressive and when not to depending on what type of game it is. There are two good defenses right now. Our defense finished the season as hot as any ‘D' and Pittsburgh ranks right up there at one in every category. That's what you expect in the playoffs. We saw last week what the field position game meant to us with Mike punting and Darren with some returns. Certainly we know that's a factor, protecting the football and getting some points on the board. Again it will come down to the fourth quarter like most of them do."
QB Philip Rivers
"I don't see that as being an issue. For whatever reason we did struggle. The fact that we are playing later on, it being at 4:45, it'll be similar to what a 1:00 kick is here for us, which is normal. I don't see that being an issue."
What do you personally do to deal with cold temperatures?
"Really nothing. Just mentally you prepare to be cold. That's about it. I'd probably have on a long sleeve shirt. Other than that you just go out and bare it and play. When you're out there playing you don't give much thought to it. We've all played in cold games before. You think back over the years we've played in cold games that are probably colder than this one. We all grew up in different parts of the country. Some of us grew up in cold weather and are used to it, some of us didn't as some of the Steelers players. It's not like everybody on that team grew up in Pittsburgh . It is what it is for both teams. You go out and play."
If five weeks ago someone had told you Darren Sproles would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated the first week in January, what would have been your reaction?
"I certainly believe Darren Sproles could do something spectacular to deserve being on there. I probably wouldn't have expected it to be in a Chargers uniform based on where we were five weeks ago. It's been an impressive run this far and an exciting one. Obviously I know where the expectations were for us coming in, for our fans coming in. They were that we'd be at this point. Now we're here and we want to capitalize and make the best of it, not just be excited that we finished the season strong."
Have you protected the ball better since the last trip to Pittsburgh?
"In Pittsburgh it wasn't really out of the pocket when they got me. I always try to be conscience when you're moving around of somebody coming behind you or getting it. Really the first Colts game when (Robert) Mathis got me from behind was one that…it's that you never take it for granted or relax. It's turnovers like that that kill you, that put it more and more ingrained in your mind. There's no quarterback that wants to fumble or throw a pick so it's not that I'm trying harder not to do that, but certainly the fact that we have stayed away from a lot of turnovers lately has certainly helped us go on the run that we have."
How important is it going to be this weekend to establish the run?
"I think we need to be able to run the football. I think if you look at the last…since we've gone on the five-game winning streak we've ran the football. I think it is key because it helps us in our play-action game and again we want to be as balanced as we can, especially when you're playing against a defense like the Steelers. You look and they're almost number one in every category. If you are able to put a drive together, you get down in the red zone and they're one there too. They don't let people get in the end zone. It's going to be a challenge each and every possession. We're going to work like crazy all week and on Sunday to get in the end zone."
Do the Steelers have an advantage because of the amount of film they have on Sproles now?
"I think it can work both ways. Obviously they've seen him more now as an every-down back, getting some more conventional runs from the I-back position. At the same time, when LT's healthy, (Sproles) comes in in more of a third-down role and all you hear is ‘Draw and screen!' from the opposing team. I think it can work both ways. He touched it 35 times last week including the special teams and I think he showed you've got to be ready for anything. This is the same offense with him in there scheme wise. He can do a lot of things with the football so I don't think there really is an advantage either way as far as what they've seen on tape."
With this being your sixth playoff game, how is it different for you than it was two years ago?
"I think there is something to be said about having some experience in the playoffs. Just the type of atmosphere it brings, managing the week, managing these types of deals is something certainly to get used to. It's always easier when you look back, but when I look back to the 14-2 season when we had the home playoff game and got beat, you wonder if it was a little too big for us. I don't know. It's always easier after you lose a game to say that. We did some things that were uncharacteristic of us in that game and there were a lot of guys on the field that had never been in that big of a game. I think the fact that we've been in these types of games now, this is my sixth but there are a lot of guys that have played in a lot of big ones. You think of last year in Indy, last year in New England, going to Pittsburgh will be right up there, a similar type deal. I think from a hype standpoint, playoff game standpoint we'll be just fine."
Do you ever study Roethlisberger to see what he does well?
"I don't specifically go find other quarterbacks to watch them. As you're watching the Colts defense or you watch whoever you're playing, when quarterbacks pop up you do watch them and see throws they've made against the defense you're about to play. Just from seeing him on TV and coming out the same year, he does a lot of things well. Most importantly he finds a way to help his team win games. That's the ultimate deal for quarterbacks, you see him up there in double-digit wins every year and right there in the thick of things as they are this year."
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson
How important is it to establish the running game in the Pittsburgh weather?
"I think it's important to establish the running game in any weather really, just cause a team can't particularly worry about one thing, whether it's run or pass. They've got to prepare for both of them."
What's your status for Sunday?
For lack of a better term, how much does it suck to be in the playoffs and not be able to play?
"Pretty much what you said, that's how much it sucks."
You think you'll be able to push it Sunday, test it?
"I don't know. All this time I've been taking it day by day. I think, depending on the training staff and where they think I am, if they think I should, obviously that's when I'll try to push it. We've talked about it. That's why they have me listed as doubtful is because the thing that I did last week, it wasn't really… I couldn't do much. Obviously, it's not feeling much better this week, it kind of puts you in a position where you have to be listed as doubtful."
RB LaDainian Tomlinson
"I've had doctors say I may need surgery and I've had some that have said don't do surgery. Of course I would want to get through this without having surgery and that's why I'm going to take my time and wait and see if I'm actually going to need it, before I do anything stupid."
Have they given you an estimate on the time required to heal?
"No, not really to be honest with you. Different people say different things. Obviously when you talk to doctors, anywhere from 4-6 weeks is typical, you know, I don't know. I just always wait and see. Miracles do happen and I think we'll just have to wait and see."
Last year you had to come out against New England . You're injured again this postseason. Do you feel a little bit cursed?
"You know, it's been a tough year, 2008, I mean, it has. The whole year, you look back at the playoff game against New England and got hurt there and this whole year I've pretty much been banged up. So it's been a tough year. But at the same time, to me, I always carry it as a fluke just because I've played so many years and haven't been banged up, haven't really missed any time. But here I am the last year, it's been hurt more than I ever have. Now I can say that I'm getting old and maybe that has something to do with it or I can say it's been a fluke, which I still think I'm in great shape. I think I'm just going to have to wait and see what happens next year and the year after that and see if indeed it's because of my age and I'm getting older."
Is there one play that you hurt it?
"No, I don't. Looking at the tape, it may have been that touchdown run, the last touchdown run where it kind of slipped a little bit going into the endzone. But throughout that process, after the touchdown I really didn't feel it at all. Maybe it was because of the excitement, the adrenaline. But that next play I definitely felt it when I tried to burst."
When you took that first carry in that last game, in the long gain, it looked like it was almost dragging?
"Yeah it was. It was. And that's why I said earlier that that game was just all pure determination of trying to just push it and trying to do as much as I I could and go. But it was clear from the first carry that I couldn't pick my leg up and explode and it did feel like it was dragging."
Do you compare your situation to Shawne Merriman's attempt to play in the first game?
"Well, not really. I mean, it's kind of similar of trying to play, but that's what guys, that's what football players do though. You're going to always try to play. Most of the time when you get hurt, that next week after you're going to always try to test it, and try to see if you can play with it. Then from that point on, you'll pretty much know where you are. That was the same way with my toe. That next game against Denver , I was trying to see where I was. I knew at that point that I could possibly play with it, but it was going to take more time. I was going to need the help of the other guys. But with this, this is something that's a lot more serious."
What do you do during the game if you can't play?
"I help coach. I try to motivate the guys and help Sproles and Michael Bennett out with some of the things that they may be seeing out there and just try to encourage them."
What emotions are involved with suffering an injury this late?
"I don't think anybody can know the frustration, to be honest with you. It's tough dealing with it. I really sometimes just want to go home and just stay at home and lock myself up and not even go into public, just cause all my life all I've ever wanted to do is play football. That's all I've ever wanted to do and you know, win a championship. And to feel so helpless, to be at this point where we have a chance to do it and again, I can't do anything about it, I can't play, it's like I'm being punished for something. It's tough to deal with."
Does it make it worse knowing that you're not going to have that many more chances?
"Well, I mean, that does have something to do with it because you know that these chances don't come around that often. But what do you do? You just hope that you get another shot at it."
Should the Chargers win this week and you don't play, do you still take as much pride in the win?
"Absolutely, because, you know, it's a different point where I've been here all year and been a part of this and helped them get to this position. For them to win a game, two games without me, you have to take pride in that because you still feel as much as part of this team as anybody else. If it was where I went all season and didn't really play, that'd be different. Then I can say, ‘Well, I wasn't really part of the team. They did it without me.' But this is different. You know, I'm in the meeting rooms everyday, with the guys everyday."
If someone told you five weeks ago that Darren Sproles would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, would you have thought they were crazy?
"No, no, not at all because he's always been making plays for us, but it's been in special teams. You never know when somebody's opportunity is going to come. They're going to take advantage of it and they're going to get exposure and people are going to recognize the things that they're able to do. So, you never say never. You never say that a guy can't do something."
In practice, what's it like trying to catch one of Mike Scifers' punts?
"(Chuckles) It's pretty difficult because he can do so many things when he's punting the ball. I remember when (Darren) Bennett was here and I always knew how tough it was, catching Bennett's punts. But Bennett taught Mike, so that should tell you how difficult it is when he does the different spins on the ball and the different punts that he's able to do."
Does Mike surpass his teacher?
"That's tough, I don't know. You'll have to ask him. I don't want to get into that."
What's your reaction when a player like Vincent Jackson makes the news for something other than football?
"Obviously we're all behind him. Vincent says he's innocent. We're his teammates and we're going to stand behind him. It's a tough situation to be in and I hope that he can get past it."
When a player makes that kind of news at a critical time like this, what does it do to a team? Does it do anything?
"Well, not really. It doesn't really do anything. If anything, it really kind of makes you focus in and really understand that you've got to be on your toes at all times, that you can't put yourself in those positions. You just start to realize things like that, so it brings you a little bit closer. Guys rally behind him, you know, rally around him and talk to him and make sure that he's going to get past this."
Have you guys met as a group to talk about this?
"We have. Earlier in the season, the NFL has a program where we talk about the different things that may happen off the field, the different situations you may be put in as an NFL player, and we have group time and we have sessions where we all talk about that type of stuff."
How about this week?
"No, we haven't really had the time to really talk about it as a group. But guys are talking about it individually, together and making sure that we're always on our toes and doing the right thing."
Tight end Antonio Gates
Have you been in a boot this week?
"I had to wear the boot the first couple of days because of the soreness, but for the most part I'm able to walk. I struggle with cutting and jumping with the high ankle sprain, but walking is not a big problem."
As a Detroit native, how do you handle cold weather?
"You learn to deal with it. You go out and you play and you try to block that out. Obviously with the experience of playing in the cold, we played there earlier this year and the AFC Championship Game last year we played in New England , we have experience playing in the cold. You go out and try to win a football game."
Is it worse on the sideline when you stiffen up?
"Because they have the heaters over there and you tend to get the heat. Then you try to go out and you're basically numb by the time you get to the line of scrimmage. It gets cold. It's really mind over matter at that point. When you know first go out there, you know it's going to be cold and you get your mind prepared to play with the expectations that it's going to be cold and there's nothing you're going to be able to do that."
TE Antonio Gates
"No sleeves. It's mind over matter. It doesn't mean I'm not cold with no sleeves. I don't want anybody to know that."
Getting eight catches with a high ankle sprain, how proud are you of that?
"I think I was most proud of our will to win on Saturday. Guys were asked to make plays and were able to step up. Defensively we just did a tremendous job against Peyton Manning. Special teams were huge. We just wanted to maintain field position. I was asked to go out there and do a job. I didn't try to do more or less than I was asked to do."
On the first-quarter catch where you got behind the defense, what were you thinking there?
"I felt him coming. Sometimes you tend to harp on your injury when you're playing in the game. Even though you feel okay, you try to protect it as much as possible. That was just the perfect case where I was trying to protect my right ankle. I knew they were coming up behind me."
What's your status for this week?
"It's always the same for me. I'm trying to do as much as I can to feel as close as I can to feel 100 percent on Sunday. (Head Athletic Trainer) James Collins and his staff do a tremendous job of helping me rehab and getting me prepared to play the game."
Will you feel better this week than you did last week?
"I was a little sore coming off the game. Obviously that was my expectations and I kind of had to plan that if I was going to play I was going to feel a certain way. That's exactly what happened. I felt really, really sore on Sunday. I felt really, really sore on Monday and Tuesday and I'm able to walk around pretty decent (today), kind of normal to where it was last week."
Do you feel a little ahead this year because you know how to handle it after what you went through last January?
"Absolutely. Just dealing with my past injuries gives me an advantage on how to deal with this injury. I just remember trying to come back and run and do those different things on my past injuries and actually setting myself back so when Sunday was to come, I was sore. Now I just take a different approach where I try to rehab as much as possible and try to get myself close to 100 percent on Sunday."
When you look at LT, do you see the pain and frustration he's dealing with?
"Yeah, we talked after it first occurred and it's kind of like déjà vu for us. Putting yourself in position to advance in the postseason and then suffering injuries which (keep) you from playing at the level you're capable of playing. It's especially detrimental to him because he, if anybody, wants to win a Super Bowl. He's put so much into this organization. He's put so much into the National Football League itself. It's just unfortunate that these types of injuries occur."
How will Vincent Jackson's situation affect the team this week?
"It won't really affect us. Obviously it's over with. It's in the past. It's something we have to be aware of. Needless to say, Vince is a very intelligent person. We just move on from that. We are a high character team. We pride ourselves on character. Unfortunately mistakes do happen regardless of who you are."
Tackle Marcus McNeill
Do you have confidence in playing this team knowing that they only won by one point?
"It has motivated us to go out there and compete because we really felt like we had a chance against them in the first game. We had a couple mishaps but we played them real tough. We plan on going up there and competing at a high level this week too."
How do you feel going up against James Harrison?
"He speaks for himself…AP Defensive Player of the Year. He's a great defensive player regardless. He can cover. He can rush the passer. I might have my hands full the whole time, but I think the game is going to come down to which offense can handle the other team's defense better."
What was your experience against Harrison earlier in the season?
"Everything you see. He's good at rushing the passer. He's good on blitzes. He's strong. He can drop in the coverage too. I even had to tackle him one time last game. I really don't want to do that again."
OT Marcus McNeill
"I'm actually from Georgia so I really don't like cold weather that much. It's not really true for me. I'm going to try to keep my sleeves off this week. You kind of get a little more jacked up when you're playing without sleeves and man-(up) through that weather."
Why does it jack you up?
"You feel like you've got a mental edge. Whether they think it's a mental edge or we think it's a mental edge, nobody knows, but I think it's just a dumbfounded fact. We just think it makes us stronger."
It's always cold for the playoffs?
"It seems like it always is cold like that, but I got a couple extra layers on me anyway so I'm going to be all right."
Last year was cold in New England. Did you do anything to compensate for that?
"I defrosted three days after the game. That's about all you can do. You gotta man-up through that cold weather and when I get finished I'm going to jump into that hot tub some where."
Is the worst part when the defense is on the field and you're waiting to get back on the field?
"That's definitely the worst part. For some reason every time we go somewhere that's cold our heaters never work. I don't know it they do that on purpose to freeze us or not. I mean that's the worst part being off the field on the sideline."
Why are the Steelers so hard to run against?
"You can see their front. They have a lot of good people. They have Harrison . (Lamar) Woodley on the outside. They've got experience on the linebacker's corps. They've got (Troy) Polamalu who covers and stops the run. They're all around a good defense. They're good against the run and the pass. I think they're number one in both. We're going to have our hands full on offense this week."
How important is it to establish the run game?
"It's definitely important. If we establish a running game I think that will establish our offense a lot. We want to actually take control of the clock. When we have a running game going we can control the clock, keep them off the field and keep them from making big plays. That's what our offense wants to do help out our defense and keep them off the field. I keep my defense off the field and I stay warm. They stay cold and we all seem to like each other real well."
On Darren Sproles being on the cover of Sports Illustrated:
"I actually set it up for him. I knew that was going to happen for him. I wasn't worried about that. I had my people call a few of his people. I know how that works."
How many zone blitzes did you get last time?
"I'm thinking 16 maybe? I tell you what, the Steelers are a tough team regardless. They really play off their abilities for everybody to play around the field. You'll see their nose dropping into coverage. You see Harrison dropping into coverage. That allows them to bring a guy like Polamalu off the edge."
Ever since the Atlanta game the O-line has played better. Was there anything said or done?
"It's just the fact that all these guys, everybody on the offensive line, continued to push. We knew we had the ability the whole year. We just wanted to continue to come together. Our cohesiveness on the offensive line really helps out our run game."
Did it take for all of you to be back in the line up to come together?
"Yes, definitely. We play as a group definitely as the offensive line. It's all five of us taking care of the line of scrimmage. I was out early. Nick was out early. LJ ( Shelton ) did a great job filling in. (Jeremy) Newberry did a great job filling in. But you know we also miss a lot of tempo and things like that. We came back and it took us a little time to get our rhythm back, but now I feel like we got it going and it's really helping out our offense."
What makes East Coast teams so tough?
"It's not really that East Coast games are that tough. We have them every year. I think we just had a couple bad breaks. We went over there and competed but we didn't come out with a lot of victories that we should've have had. That's in the past. Everything is going better now. We have to focus on the positive."
What else do you think Darren has to do to prove he can be any every down back?
"I think he's proven that week in and week out. Every year everybody acts like they don't know him and then all of sudden he blows up and he does things he always does. He's been around doing that for a long time. He just does it at the right time when it seems all the press is on him he just continues to be himself. He's short so he's going to continue to answer the doubters. That's just a part of him. He's a little guy but he plays like a big man on the field."
On the Chargers not losing to the Steelers in the postseason:
"I saw that stat I think on bottom line some where. I don't want to mess up that stat, so we're going to continue to play hard."
Does playing against the No. 1 defense motivate an offensive line more?
"Going against the number-one-ranked defense doesn't bring out more on the whole team. We have to come out and play at a high level. We plan on competing. You don't just play the No. 1 defense by not playing that hard week in and week out. We're going to have to compete like we never competed before."
What's it like playing football in January?
"It means a lot to us. We always plan on playing in January. For a while there, it didn't look like we were going to make it. We've been in playoff mode for about a month. We just want to continue that rolling because it's really helping us play at a high level.