Thanks in no small part to the work of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the AFC North has a reputation for being one of the most physical divisions in all of the National Football League. Party due to the regional climate, there is also a greater emphasis on running the football, especially deeper into the season, which helps to make larger-bodied interior defensive linemen more en vogue.
Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter, who signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent last year from the Green Bay Packers, seems to have become aware of this after playing one season against the likes of Brandon Williams, Danny Shelton, Geno Atkins, and Javon Hargrave.
The sixth-year center told reporters yesterday that he added about 10 pounds this season, saying that the size of the interior defensive players that he found he had to go up against six times a year among his divisional opponents, “had a big effect” on his decision to do this.
Hargrave is certainly not the biggest of the players that I mentioned, but he had his way with Tretter all the same last year, enough that it caught my eye and inspired me to write up a film session article specifically about that.
As you can see from the plays covered in the article above, it wasn’t only the Steelers nose tackle’s handwork that gave Tretter problems. He also beat the center on multiple bull rushes (as on the third play covered in the article) and worked him down the line on running plays (play two). When losing to the outside, he also struggled to box the defender out to prevent pressure (play four).
Still, when you hear that an AFC North center is adding bulk because of the players he has to face, you think about Brandon Williams of the Baltimore Ravens, who is one of the few true prototype space-eaters still playing a starring role in a 3-4 defense today. it’s also worth noting that the Browns traded Shelton…though of course Tretter didn’t have to play against him in games, since they were teammates.
Cleveland spent good money trying to rebuild their offensive line last season, but the results were underwhelming between the additions of Tretter and Kevin Zeitler. They are hoping that further reinforcements and growth from within will finally see that group solidified again.
As has become an annual tradition, the Steelers will face the Browns in the season opener this year, so Tretter won’t have to wait long to get his first shot at Hargrave while playing at a heavier weight. The last time these two teams played, the nose tackle was limited with a back injury.