As it turns out, neither player involved in the major confrontation that marred the end of the last meeting between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns will be on the field for the rematch on Sunday. Head coach Mike Tomlin just announced yesterday that rookie Devlin Hodges, not Mason Rudolph, will start at quarterback for his squad.
Myles Garrett, meanwhile, remains indefinitely suspended, for at least the duration of the 2019 season, and the Steelers locker room—both sides of the ball—couldn’t be more pleased to see him off the field. That’s not a comment about what he can do with a helmet, but rather what he has done inside of one.
“Let’s be real, Garrett not playing is great”, said outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who has a career-high seven sacks and three forced fumbles on the season. As he told Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “throw away everything that happened between him and Mason. Garrett is a special-type player. When he’s not on the field, it’s a big difference. We have to capitalize on that”.
Garrett only registered one tackle against the Steelers, but he also had three quarterback hits, and was a frequent presence in the backfield. He induced Alejandro Villanueva into two holding penalties. On the season, he was up to 10 sacks through 10 games, which is still top five in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Browns are still looking to get back their other starting defensive end, Olivier Vernon, who has missed the past few games, including the last one against the Steelers, due to injury. Earlier this week, head coach Freddie Kitchens described the veteran as day to day.
Despite those issues, the Browns are continuing the win. They have scored victories in each of their past three games to climb out of a four-game losing streak, now on the precipice of a .500 record and potentially postseason relevance.
They have put themselves in the position whereby, if they are able to defeat the Steelers at Heinz Field on Sunday, they will move ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings, drawing even with a 6-6 record but owning the head-to-head tiebreaker with a season sweep.
Pittsburgh, however, could all but end the Browns’ season with a victory, giving them a two-game separation with four games left to play. Neither team has an overly difficult remaining schedule, though both still have to play the Baltimore Ravens again.
At least this time, Pittsburgh doesn’t have to worry about Garrett, which is wonderful news in more ways than one, especially as Cleveland’s offense looks to finally be putting it all together. Their Pro Bowl wide receiver duo went off last game, combining for over 230 yards and three touchdowns on 16 receptions.