Whether or not the Cleveland Browns are going to even present themselves as a legitimate contender to win the AFC North this year is something that will be determined relatively early on, as they play each of their divisional opponents in three of the first four weeks of the season, and that begins today with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The quarterback position on either side could not be more different, with the Steelers starting Ben Roethlisberger going into his 14th season. He has won 10 games in his career in Cleveland, and could become the winningest quarterback in the city later today since the Browns returned to the league in 1999. That, by the way, includes all quarterbacks who played for the Browns during that time.
As for Cleveland, they are just looking for a win, as they only had one of them last season. And their quarterback is hoping to do that in his first game. Rookie DeShone Kizer was drafted in the second round and earned the starting job over Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler to face Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh in the opener.
He’s already done much to familiarize himself with his first opponent. He described the Steelers’ defense as “star-studded”, that “every position out there is one you recognize the name. From the defensive linemen, to the linebackers, to the DBs, everyone who is out there is a guy who has earned some respect in this league”.
Now to some that might sound a bit like how, perhaps, Mike Tomlin might describe the Browns. But it’s certainly not a bad thing if your rookie quarterback is not taking your upcoming opponent lightly and respecting what they can do.
“In order to beat a team like that, you’ve got to understand they’re experienced. You’ve got to take what’s given. You can’t force anything through”, Kizer continued. “You’ve got to be able to adapt to the looks they give you because with the talent they have, if you try to force something, they’re going to capitalize on it. The best thing you can do as a quarterback is limit the amount of balls that are in harm’s way”.
Coincidentally enough, he will be throwing to Sammie Coates today, who just a short time ago was with the Steelers for the past two years. And he could well be covered by Joe Haden, who spent all of his career up to a short time ago with the Browns.
But he is entering his first season with confidence. “When you’re 4-0 in the preseason and you’re showing what we’ve been able to put on film, I think everyone’s very confident”, he said. “There’s a lot that’s happened since the offseason, from us bringing in new guys to the mentality change. Obviously this rookie class has been showing some good things on film. I think our confidence is exactly where it needs to be to go out and get wins”.