So much of our focus in recent days has been on the Baltimore Ravens, understandably and for obvious reasons, that we have been neglecting to acknowledge the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rivals in the division. That is especially a snafu when you consider that it is actually the Cleveland Browns who are arguably their greater threat, as they have a better record than Baltimore.
So let’s pause from the Ravens for a moment and catch up with what has been going on in Cleveland. They are 7-3 and preparing to face a beat up Jacksonville Jaguars team that the Steelers just dismantled. Remember, Jacksonville had several players go down with injuries in that game.
The Browns, however, will be without a number of players, as well. It has already been ruled that Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett, who remains on the Reserve/Covid-19 List, will not be eligible to be cleared for the game in time.
He will be joined, albeit without being put on a list, in being sidelined alongside another key defensive starter, in Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward. The fourth-year veteran suffered a calf injury last week and has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.
Ward has been the lone point of stability in the secondary for Cleveland this year. He has two interceptions and an NFL-high 15 passes defensed. It is unclear if the calf injury might extend beyond just one game, but they did not place him on the Reserve/Injured List, an indication that they believe it will be a one- to two-week injury.
To make matters worse, the Browns have been without their other starting cornerback for the entirety of the season, in second-year Greedy Williams, who suffered nerve damage in his shoulder during a tackling drill back in training camp.
Although they only placed him on the Reserve/Injured List in mid-October, it was clear all along that he would be out for a while. In light of the news about Ward, head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked about Williams’ status. “I don’t have an update”, was all that he could offer. “He continues to rehab like crazy”.
Journeyman Terrance Mitchell has started in place of him. Slot cornerback Kevin Johnson will have to be prepared to move to the outside if necessary as they explore their options, namely M.J. Stewart and Tavierre Thomas. The former has played 63 snaps the year, the former 173, but none since week four.
The Browns’ next game after Jacksonville is against the Tennessee Titans, who are coming off of a big victory over the Ravens, so they are certainly hoping to get as healthy as they can before then. Garrett, presumably, should be able to return by then. Whether or not Ward’s calf will be fine remains to be seen. A critical rematch with Baltimore follows on Monday night the next week.