Joe Haden spent the first seven years of his career playing for the Cleveland Browns. He had no intentions of doing anything differently before they chose to release him in late August of 2017, after which he ended up signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers on the same day.
Now in his second year with the Steelers, he enters the final week of the 2018 season probably having never wanted the Browns to win a game more than he does at this moment. Because Pittsburgh’s postseason fate almost entirely depends upon the Browns’ ability to at least draw even with the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
Haden, who received The Chief Award yesterday, admitted that he spoke to some of his former teammates in Cleveland, “giving them some motivation”. The Browns have won five of their past six games, though, and are playing for the opportunity to secure a winning record for the first time since 2007, even though they are already eliminated from the postseason themselves.
Even Alejandro Villanueva joked that he wanted to help motivate the Browns, suggesting that he would call linebacker Joe Schobert and fire him up by telling him that he isn’t as good as Luke Kuechly. “This morning I thought I was going to be the funny guy and call out Browns players, but I don’t want to win in that way”.
Whenever anybody on the team has been asked about the situation that they face, in which they need help from another team in order to reach the postseason, they’ve offered the corporate line of focusing only on what they can control, which is the game being played in their own stadium.
But the answers eventually reveal themselves. Even David DeCastro admitted that you can’t help but scoreboard watch when you know that your season is on the line. The Steelers and Browns both play their games at the same time, so there’s a good chance they might not have any clear idea about the likelihood of their chances of advancing to the postseason until their game finishes.
Perhaps nobody is pushing for Cleveland more than is Antonio Brown, whose 14 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday went to waste against the New Orleans Saints when the defense couldn’t come up with a stop late and the offense fumbled on their final drive.
He posted an image on social media featuring three of his jerseys, all with the letter ‘S’ added to the end of his name on the nameplate. “Who else has their #84 Browns jersey ready for Sunday?”, he wrote.
— Antonio Brown (@AB84) December 27, 2018
It’s not as though Cleveland should need any added motivation, of course. They have plenty to play for internally even though the playoffs are not a possibility. There is also the fact that the Ravens are the old Browns and have been overshadowing the new Browns for the past two decades. They can play spoiler for Baltimore if the Steelers also win.