Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward said during the week entering Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns that the defense would be looking to ‘inflict good punishment’ on quarterback Baker Mayfield. The third-year man entered the game already nursing bruised ribs that he suffered last week, and was limited in practice during the week.
It’s fair to say that the Steelers were indeed successful in inflicting some good punishment on their division rival, and he played like it as well. In fact, many wondered if they would pull Mayfield at half time, especially after taking a big shot by Heyward on the final drive of the first.
They didn’t, and they paid quickly, as Mayfield was sacked on the second play of the half by Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt, forcing a quick three and out, though unfortunately, due to penalties, the Steelers were not able to capitalize on the good field position that it provided.
Still, that was their fourth sack of Mayfield of the game, even if one of them was him just running out of bounds, and plenty more hits. That big shot that Heyward gave him at the end of the first was not a sack, but it may have been the most impactful on the afternoon.
As shouldn’t be surprising, Mayfield would not finish the game, as after Chase Claypool’s three-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter, the Browns put Case Keenum into the game. Cleveland was down by 23 points at that point and Mayfield was not even playing like somebody who could muster a comeback with the state of his ribs.
This is now the second quarterback of the season that the Steelers have knocked out of a game, the first being Drew Lock early in their week two game against the Denver Broncos. Lock suffered an upper body injury while being strip sacked by Bud Dupree earlier in that contest.
With the Browns sitting at 4-1 heading into the game, on a four-game winning streak and putting up plenty of points, Mayfield’s injury threatens to seriously derail their season until he can get himself healthy.
While their offense primarily goes through their running game, the threat of the pass still has to be there, and that would obviously be lessened with an injured Mayfield or with Keenum in the lineup. Add Nick Chubb still on injured reserve, and you have to wonder if the Browns might not experience a slide.
That is not something that they can afford to do in the most competitive division in football right now, as both the Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens now have five wins on the season. They can only hope that their rivals experience a similar slide. Pittsburgh and Baltimore square off in two weeks, so that will be at least one loss for a division rival.