Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield will start Sunday at Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers and he’ll be looking to accomplish what only two other rookie quarterbacks have managed to do since the stadium opened and that’s win.
Mayfield, according to Pro Football Reference, will become just the 18th rookie quarterback to make a start at Heinz Field against the Steelers on Sunday and probably not surprisingly, the fifth one the Browns have had start for them. Mayfield will also become the eighth different Browns quarterback to start in Pittsburgh against the Steelers in the last eight seasons on Sunday at Heinz Field.
On Thursday, Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley was asked during his weekly press conference if he thinks Mayfield is ready for his first career start at Heinz Field against the Steelers.
“He has to be ready for it,” Haley said. “That is the situation that we are in. The ironic thing for me – it is a good little note – in my 23 years, I have never played a game at Heinz Field as a visiting team. My first-time coaching at Heinz Field was as part of their coaching staff. This will be my first visit to Heinz Field as a visitor, and I grew up there, so it is a neat thing to me. He has to be ready.
“The name of the game, and what I just said – I have been on teams that have started slow and have not done the things necessary to win enough games –you keep doing what you are doing, and you keep getting better. The teams that do that and that continue to progress week in and week out and just get better have a chance to play in bigger games at the end of the year.”
Of the previous 18 rookie quarterbacks to make a start at Heinz Field against the Steelers, only two of them have come away with wins and they were Dak Prescott for the Dallas Cowboys in 2016 and David Carr of the Houston Texans in 2002.
In that 2002 24-6 win by the Texans over the Steelers, Carr completed just 3 of his 10 total pass attempts in the contest for 33 yards. Collectively, rookie quarterbacks have thrown just 14 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in their first starts against the Steelers at Heinz Field and only twice has one thrown for more than 300 yards in a game.
Mayfield enters Sunday’s game against the Steelers at Heinz Field with a 1-3 record as their starter. He’s completed 108 of his 187 total pass attempts for 1,291 yards to date and has thrown 6 touchdown passes versus 5 interceptions. He’s also already been sacked 18 times in total with 15 coming in the Browns last 3 games.
The Browns will also field several inexperienced and unproductive wide receivers on Sunday against the Steelers as only veteran Jarvis Landry brings an impressive resume to Pittsburgh with him. With fellow Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins expected to be sidelined Sunday with a knee injury, that leaves Cleveland with three rookies Antonio Callaway, Damion Ratley, and Da’Mari Scott, in addition to newcomer Breshad Perriman, a former first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens, who was signed off the streets less than two weeks ago. Combined, those four wide receivers without the last name of Landry have caught 22 passes from Baker so far this season.
“It is a young group,” Haley said of the Browns wide receivers on Thursday. “There are some new guys, new faces. All you can do is continue to coach those guys. I know I beat it like a dead horse, but it is a process. It is a process to get these young guys to do what they are supposed to do. That is part of the trust process with quarterback of trusting that they are going to do what they are going to do.
“It is a young group. We have a lot of young guys that are playing critical positions. All you can do is coach those guys and coach them hard, make sure that they know that you care, make sure that they know you believe in them and make sure that they know that you are putting in the best possible position to succeed.”
Should Mayfield and the Browns succeed at beating the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field then Haley should get a lot of credit for that. Additionally, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Keith Butler will deserve every ounce of criticism they will both likely get next week should the Browns leave Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon with a tie or win.