Denzel Ward is one of the better draft picks the Cleveland Browns have made in recent years, a Pro Bowl cornerback who has been one of the few consistent bright spots for the team since they drafted him in the first round in 2018.
The first game in which he ever played was against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he recorded two interceptions in the game, primarily playing against Antonio Brown in coverage. Knowing that this may well be the last game that he ever plays against quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he’s looking to send him off in the right way.
“Yeah, my first rookie game, I remember going against Antonio Brown and getting two interceptions on Ben so that would definitely be nice to repeat that next game”, the fourth-year veteran told reporters yesterday about his team’s upcoming game against Pittsburgh. “The main focus is going in, doing our job and trying to get a win”.
The Browns do have bigger concerns. They’re sitting at 7-8 on the season and have lost two games in a row, as well as four of their last six. Their hopes of reaching the postseason for the second year in a row—after having made it last season for the first time since 2002—are slim, but must involve winning both of their final two games.
Recording some turnovers would certainly help, especially with the way the Steelers have played this year. They are not a team that can afford to give away possessions, on either side of the ball, but perhaps especially on offense. They needed four turnovers just to squeak by the Tennessee Titans two weeks ago.
Both AFC North teams are in must-win mode, of course, as the Steelers are little better, sitting at 7-7-1. Any realistic playoff scenario for either team involves their winning both of their final two games, so whoever loses this Monday night matchup can for all intents and purposes consider themselves eliminated—perhaps even matter of factly, depending on the week’s results in the other games.
Either way, though, it should be an exciting game, almost surely the final home game of Roethlisberger’s career, unless the Steelers somehow manage to win the AFC North, which would require some serious help from the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I think it is going to be a playoff atmosphere. That is the type of game that it is”, Ward said. “We need to go in there and focus all on Pittsburgh, and we have to go in there and find a way to get a win. I know it is going to be a crazy atmosphere, though”.
Will Roethlisberger rise to the occasion and deliver one last ‘vintage’ performance? Will the offensive line even give him enough time to have a shot at delivering the kinds of throws that would be necessary to do that? Tune in Monday night to find out. It should be appointment viewing, given the scenario at play.