Our helpful friends at CBS have sent along the thoughts of Bill Cowher and Phil Simms on Sunday's Ravens-Steelers game. Here's what they have to say:
On the defenses: "I don't think there is any question that the defenses are going to be the story line of this game. It may come down to which defense can score the most points. They are obviously two defenses that have the same mantra of stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. Nobody does it better than these two defenses."
On Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu: "Not taking anything away from Bob Sanders, but this game features two of the best safeties in the game today in Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu in terms of playmaking and playing the defender run and the play-to-pass. These two excel in that. Ed Reed is a guy that Pittsburgh will certainly have to be aware of. You have to make sure that you are moving him with your eyes. If he can get a jump on the ball, he's as good as anybody in the league in anticipating things. Based on what Pittsburgh does, you're going to find Troy Polamalu up near the line of scrimmage a lot. The thing that Pittsburgh wants to do is make Joe Flacco become the guy that beats them. A lot of the run defense that Pittsburgh will employ will have Troy very close to the line of scrimmage. He's going to be a lot closer to the line of scrimmage than Ed Reed."
On the Steelers' keys to the game: "The bottom line for the Pittsburgh offense is third down. That is going to be a big key for them. They can't get involved in third-and-long situations. If they can keep it at third-and-short, it will nullify the Baltimore blitz."
On the Ravens' keys to the game: "They have to get their running game going. It's going to be very important for them to be patient with their running game because they don't want to put it all on the rookie quarterback in this type of game with this type of magnitude. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if they came out and threw on some of the running situations, but ultimately it's going to be important that they establish the run and be patient."
On the importance of the game in the AFC North: "Even if Pittsburgh loses, they will still be able to control their destiny to a degree. A Pittsburgh loss just makes it tougher because they still have to go down to Tennessee. Obviously, a Pittsburgh win locks it up. If Baltimore wins this game, it puts the pressure back on Pittsburgh's shoulders, but they will still control their own destiny."
On the matchup: "They have a lot in common. Both teams play 3-4 defenses that rely on confusion as much as anything – moving around the lot trying to confuse the quarterback and offensive linemen. Who's going to block who? No matter how much you prepare and work on it, the offense is going to lose some of those battles. When you think of it that way, the question is which quarterback handles it better."
On the quarterbacks: "Regardless of what numbers, numbers don't always tell the story with the quarterbacks. The last four or five weeks Ben Roethlisberger has been very, very good at just seeing the big picture for his football team and playing accordingly. Joe Flacco 's numbers have been tremendous. But this is a rookie going against a guy who's played a lot of games now. So can the Baltimore Ravens overcome the lack of experience of quarterback when they play against a team that's every bit the equal to them physically?"
On motivation: "This is for the division. You're hoping you end up with the bye, the No. 2 seed – there's a lot going on in this game. The motivation for both teams and where they're at for the season is the same. That is big and that's why we're going to see the best team win this game.
On John Harbaugh: "The one thing that I’ve noticed about the Baltimore Ravens this year when people talk about them is that you hear more about the team. You don’t just hear about the defense and then the offense like separate teams. John Harbaugh has been one of the great stories this year in the NFL. He has combined both sides and made them a football team. For the first time in eight years I’m not listening to the Baltimore Ravens' defense like it’s a whole different company away from the Baltimore Ravens."