Browns transcripts -- Monday, Jan. 4, 2021

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Rob McBurnett

Director, Community & Corporate Communications

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“On the injury front, (WR) Donovan Peoples-Jones has a concussion so we will work through the protocols on that. (DE) Olivier Vernon ruptured his Achilles so we will be without him. He is going to get surgery, which obviously I am very disappointed for OV. He was playing at a high level, and we are going to miss his leadership.

“Recapping the game, kind of feel how I felt last night. Proud of the guys for fighting. I just know we have a ton that we can clean up, and we have to do that. Working very hard already on these calls to just identify with the guys things that we have to clean up. Common opponent, obviously, right back versus them next weekend so there is plenty that we know that we will face and I am sure they know that they are going to face. We just have to clean up some things from a technical standpoint.”

On what Vernon meant to the team and how Vernon stepped up when DE Myles Garrett was out: 

“He did [step up]. He stepped up his game. A bunch of guys have done that this season. OV is a great example of that. We were counting on him, we needed him and he stepped up. He is a leader for the football team in how he plays. OV does not say much, but when he talks, I think the guys listen. Just goes about his business. Certainly, hard to replace – I do not know if you replace any player – but we need guys to step up.”

On an update on Browns players on reserve/COVID-19 and if it is possible that CB Denzel Ward can play on Sunday: 

“With all of those guys on that COVID list, I can’t really get into specifics. I will just tell you that we will work through all of that, we will follow the protocols and see where they lead.”

On if it is a possibility that Ward could play Sunday: 

“I am not going to get into the hypotheticals. I promise you, we are going to follow the protocols to a T and then see where it goes.”

On when the Browns will have more information on what players will be able to return from reserve/COVID-19: 

“I really do not know just because every situation is so different. I will just wait until (Senior Vice President of Player Health and Development) Joe Sheehan tells me they are available.”

On playing without Ward and CB Kevin Johnson on Sunday and CB Robert Jackson’s performance: 

“There have been so many instances this year of playing without our starters. That happens every year due to injury and then this year being unique with all things COVID-related. We have been navigating it throughout the year. Guys have stepped up, like we just talked about. Put Robert out there and he had a couple of tough matchups, but by and large, he was in position. A couple of things that we can clean up, but all of those guys, I am proud of them for stepping up to the challenge.”

On the false starts yesterday: 

“That is not clean football. We work really hard to play clean ball. All of those pre-snap things are so correctable. Really, they should never happen is the way I look at it pre-snap.”

On RB Nick Chubb getting off to a fast start yesterday and decisions of when to use Chubb and RB Kareem Hunt: 

“We work both those guys in. We are mindful of workload and mindful of getting that win and also understanding that we have another hopefully a few games coming up here. Try to make sure it is the right balance of keeping both those guys fresh and getting the guy in there to get some work done.”

On if the experience playing on the road this season is ‘way different’: 

“I would say it is way different. We have not installed the silent count this year, which is crazy. We have not needed it. That is very, very different. I love playing in our building and obviously in front of 12,000. It is just hard to duplicate when that is 60,000 and that noise so that is very different.”

On if there was a common factor with sacks allowed yesterday: 

“We could clean up some technique. I thought a couple of play calls were not very good, and I put those guys in a tough spot. Clean up some technique. It is a good front.”

On the absence of offensive line coach Bill Callahan and assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters played a factor in the false start penalties: 

“No, it is just lack of concentration in those moments. Those guys know that they can’t do that. I do not see that happening moving forward.”

On reports that C JC Tretter helped with some OL coaching duties yesterday: 

“We had (coaching assistant) Ryan Cordell down there working with the offensive line. Ryan works with those guys every single day so that was natural. JC, you guys know he is very, very smart. There is not much he has not seen so I am just very comfortable with how those guys work together. JC was not Bill Russell player-coach, but the way he is on the sideline in a lot of ways, that is how he has always been.”

On if there are players on reserve/COVID-19 that the Browns can rule out for Sunday: 

“Again, I am just not going to get into specifics on that.”

On if Callahan and pass game coordinator/wide receivers coach Chad O’Shea coaches will be able to work from home this week, given reports that they had experienced symptoms: 

“All of these guys, you are hoping everybody is feeling good and getting better. We do a lot of work virtually already. That has kind of been the name of the game. Feel confident that we can continue to work remotely, if you will, with the coaches.”

On the impact if Callahan is not able to attend practice this week: 

“We will have to pivot if that is the case. We had Ryan Cordell down there yesterday. Again, he is in the individual drills all week with those guys so confident that we can get our work done.”

On giving QB Baker Mayfield the ball on the third-down play to seal the game and if there were more designed QB runs this week: 

“That was really the only designed quarterback run. I do not believe there were others. He has the option at times in certain plays, but just felt that was the right call for the right moment because it worked. Really well blocked. (TE) Austin Hooper did a great job at the point of attack. (T) Jack Conklin did a great job on his pull. (RB) Kareem (Hunt) brought a ton of force with his lead block. The guys did a nice job of executing there.”

On rotating the Browns RBs series to series yesterday: 

“That is really what we do every game – we go series to series. Kareem gets a ton of reps on third down. There are certain plays that we want Nick in there for and there are certain plays that we want Kareem in there for, but once we get into the flow of it, just have some dialogue with (run game coordinator/running backs coach) Stump (Mitchell) and then feel comfortable with who we have out there. Again, we feel like we want to make sure we have some fresh guys starting this week.”

On the emphasis on blocking with Browns skill players and what that says about those players hustling to make blocks: 

“It says a lot about those guys being great teammates. I also think it says a lot about how they are being coached. You better block if you are a wide receiver. Coach O’Shea demands it. It is really twofold: it is the players that we have believing in each other and being great teammates and being selfless and then making sure you coach effort.”

On if the team tracks skill players blocking and reinforces it during the week: 

“Yes, definitely. When you watch the tape together as a group, you are always pointing those things out. The offensive line in particular loves to see the wide receivers blocking downfield and getting guys on the ground. It is great for the entire unit.”

On if he has previously faced the same team in back-to-back weeks in his career and the challenges it presents: 

“Yeah, I did go through something similar in 2012 with the Vikings. We beat the Packers in the last game and then went to the Packers the next week. The quarterback got hurt in the previous game. It is unique. A lot of the presentations we are going to give the players will be very fresh. They will have seen a lot of these plays already so you coach them off of your previous game a lot, and they are doing the same. Neither of our teams are going to wholesale change their schemes here in the Wild Card playoffs. Obviously, they are going to have players playing in this one that they did not have in the last one so we will see how that adjusts their plan. It is a very different feeling when you come in and you want to put on the tape of your previous opponent and you are watching the game from yesterday.”

On if the prospect of playing the Steelers in the Wild Card round was in the back of his mind at all yesterday: 

“I knew that was a distinct possibility.”

On his first playoff appearance with the Vikings: 

“We went 10-6 in 2008 and played the Eagles. I was fortunate being with the Vikings for all of those years, I had a bunch of opportunities to go into the playoffs and get to the championship game a couple of times. I have guys on the staff that have won Super Bowls. We have players that have won Super Bowls. Guys have been there, and they understand once you get here, you have a chance. I reminded the players of that today. There are 14 teams in this thing so you have a chance. Now, we are just going to make sure we focus on what we have to do this week to sharpen our game up.”

On if the preparation and everything else feel different this week: 

“I hope it is not too different. I hope Wednesday feels like Wednesday. I hope we are on the field, having the normal rhythm of our week and getting the preparations in. That is what we are going try and double down on is making sure we stick to what got us here from a preparation standpoint.”

On all of the Browns consistently echoing the same message that the team has not yet achieved its goals for the season: 

“The guys get it. Again, those 14 teams that are in it want to win a Super Bowl. In order to do that, you have to get in the tournament first. That is what yesterday was – they punched their ticket, and now, we are going to focus on this game. It is a one-game season, and we have to do everything we can to prepare to play a really good football team again.”

On if he has to block out the Browns’ history against the Steelers and give the message that ‘anybody can beat anybody’: 

“Yeah, and I think that is the truth. We have a lot of guys here, myself included, that can’t really speak to some of those stats you just named. I know it is boring, but we are going to focus on going 1-0 this week.”

On if yesterday’s game had a playoff feel and if there is any carryover with that mentality and focus this week: 

“I think so. The urgency definitely was there last week because win or you are not playing anymore. A similar situation this week. When you are in the playoffs, you have to win or you are going home. They get that. That started last week, but I do not think I need to remind them of what is at stake.”

On if the Steelers offense looked different yesterday and how he discerns what may carry over this week with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger back: 

“I think we expected it to look different with the change in quarterback, and we expect it to look different again this week. That is part of their job is to play to their players’ strengths. We understand that may change. It is our job to put ourselves in their building, think like them and try and get a feel for what they may do this week. That is what we are going to work hard on. Like you mentioned, they had wrinkles yesterday with (Steelers QB Josh) Dobbs coming in there to run it. They absolutely could do that again this week or not. That is part of the preparation. There is the game theory in trying to understand what they are doing and how it informs your decisions and game planning.”

On speaking with Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin before yesterday’s game, which Tomlin is not typically prone to doing: 

“Coach Tomlin and I were together for a year in 2006, as well as (defensive coordinator) Joe Woods, Chad O’Shea and (senior offensive assistant) Kevin Rogers, and (Steelers defensive line coach) Carl Dunbar is on their staff. Listen, it is a rivalry. He wants to beat our butts and we want to beat their butts, but he is a friend so excited to just catch up with him for a couple of minutes there.”

On the challenge the Browns face playing at Pittsburgh, given the number of years it has been since the team has won there: 

“The challenge is playing a really well-coached team with a bunch of good players. That is the challenge. Again, I understand the statistics are out there, but really not too concerned with the past.”

On Mayfield’s celebration after his third-down run to secure the win and how infectious Mayfield’s excitement is within the building: 

“I did not get a good look at that one, but I will go check it out. You know Baker’s personality. He brings people along. He is the guy who everybody looks to. His leadership is on display at all times. He is a fiery player. He is a fiery person. I think you just see a player who really wants it. That is evident in how he plays and it is evident and how he prepares, and I think it is a great message to our team that we have a bunch of guys that are fighting and scrapping and clawing for everything they can get.”

On if DE Adrian Clayborn is the next man up at DE with Vernon out, given Clayborn received the most snaps of DEs outside of Garrett and Vernon: 

“Yeah, that would be the case throughout the season. Adrian has in that guy going in there. (DE) Porter Gustin is another guy who was in there yesterday and would have his role increase, as well.”

On how valuable Clayborn’s experience is as one of the Browns players who has won a Super Bowl and made several deep runs in the playoffs: 

“Those guys are important in January. Adrian is again a leader of his football team, and he does not have to say much, just how he prepares and how he goes about his business. You are right, he has been there and he has done that. It is great for our players to see a guy who even though he has that experience, he comes in every day ready to work.”

On his reaction to Garrett speaking with Steelers QB Mason Rudolph after the game: 

“No real reaction. Myles has been a tremendous leader for us. Always counting on him. Good for him to do that, but ultimately, I know his focus is on this game.”

On the Browns starting CB Robert Jackson at CB and if Jackson played well enough to start again this week, if needed: 

“We will see how it goes and see how this week goes. You are right, we do have options and you talk through all of those options and make sure you are putting a plan together that you think makes sense. We will do that again this week. As it pertains to Robert, he stepped up in a tough spot, just like a bunch of guys have stepped up in a tough spot. That is the name of the game right now. You have to be ready to go in at a moment’s notice.”

On the height of the Steelers WRs and the challenge it presents: 

“Those balls that are up in the air and they are 50/50 balls, you have to go compete. Some of those big body wide receivers do a great job of trying to box people out. It is a challenge, and we totally understand that and have to work real hard to go get those balls.”

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RB Kareem Hunt:

On his block to help QB Baker Mayfield’s run that sealed the game and how important blocking is to him:

“That is the thing about me is whatever I can do to help the team win, I am going to do it. I knew we had to get a yard, and I knew Bake was going to be behind me so I was going to make sure my man was taken good care of so he could get the first down. It is just who wants it more at that point. I really wanted to win that game.”

On what makes playing at Heinz Field so challenging and how it will be different with limited or no fans:

“Honestly, I am really not sure. They just come ready to play in their hometown. They are defending their stadium. That is a good football team. Every team who is home, you try to make it tough for anybody to play there.”

On if playing on Sunday Night Football adds any additional excitement to the playoff game:

“Yeah, most definitely. I am very excited. It is a big game. It is Sunday Night Football so you have to come ready to play.”

On what Browns skill players being willing blockers says about the team:

“It is just guys playing for the man next to them. I feel like everybody is playing for one another and playing hard. That is what we have to do to continue winning and success.”

On the feeling of reaching the playoffs with his hometown team and if that is a different feeling than his previous playoff experience:

“It is amazing. It is definitely a different feeling. Being from here and knowing the struggles in the past that we have been through, I can’t even describe how I feel. I have had close family members and friends crying and calling me and a lot of people just sending me pictures of people tearing up and stuff like that because they are just so happy to see us doing well.”

On how fresh he feels at this point after sharing the workload with RB Nick Chubb during a 16-game season:

“Definitely feeling pretty good going into Week 17 after 16 games. My body is feeling good. Nick has been doing a great job of taking the load off of me, and I have been trying to take the load off of him just as much. It is great.”

On the key to having success running the ball against the Steelers’ front seven:

“Just being physical. That is the key. Guys finishing their blocks and extra effort. Everybody has to have those extra effort plays and playing through the whistle.”

On if the Steelers’ defensive scheme causes the offense to adjust:

“They have a lot of different fronts. They line up very different. I would say so. It is a good defense.”

On if he and Chubb splitting drives during yesterday’s game was partly to ‘keep things vanilla’ heading into this week:

“I guess so. Whenever my number is called, I am going to go in the game, try to make plays and go all out.”

On his mindset playing at Pittsburgh and the challenges this week, given the Browns’ recent record against the Steelers: 

“The mindset is really win or go home. I know a lot of guys on this team are trying to keep playing football. That is the goal. We have to go in there, take it play by play, series by series and find a way to win this ball game. A lot of things are up against us. It is a great football team that we are about to play. We have to just continue doing what we do.”

On if he breaks down film of Mayfield’s runs with Mayfield in the Browns RB room: 

“No, but I should (laughter).”

On how Mayfield chooses when to scramble now compared to earlier in the season: 

“He is doing a great job of using his athletic abilities. Baker can run a little bit, get outside the pocket and still make plays. He is very dangerous that way. Now, he is just taking advantage of the open yards or green grass in front of him if he breaks the pocket or something.”

On if the Browns can still surprise the Steelers and have wrinkles for this week’s game: 

“Most definitely, yeah. We definitely still have some things. We are going to go in, work and get better. We will figure some stuff out this week with the gameplan coming up.”

On if there was a phone call with a friend or family member after the game that stood out to him most: 

“My cousins. I got a funny call from them, and they were all crying in the living room around the TV just happy.”

On if he was able to see all of his cousins during the call: 

“Yeah, I could see them all. They were just happy and cheering us on.”

On if he was choked up on the call with his cousins: 

“Definitely. It touched me, especially being born and raised in Cleveland. I experienced a lot here. To be a part of the team and help contribute to taking us to the playoffs is big. It is really a dream come true, especially being from the City of Cleveland.”

On how he has seen Mayfield improve during the second half of the season: 

“I have seen Baker just be a leader and go out there and just always keep his head down and keep working and trying to get better. He has been doing a great job of moving around in the pocket, making and extending plays and not trying to give up on plays. He definitely is a guy who wants to win.”

On his thoughts on Mayfield’s reaction after picking up the first down at the end of the game: 

“Just juice. It is great to see. He is pumping us up. We want to keep winning. It is a great feeling. We want to feel that again this week so we have to keep the momentum.”

On RB Nick Chubb reaching 1,000 rushing yards: 

“I am definitely happy for Nick. Before the game I told him, ‘Go get it. You deserve it for sure.’ He went right ahead and did it. Nick is a heck of a back and talented. I love working with him because he has the drive to win just like I do so it is a lot of fun seeing him run the ball and make big plays and stuff like that.”

On if he is bothered that he was not also able to reach 1,000 rushing yards this season: 

“It does not bother me. At the end of the day, the biggest thing to me is the wins and losses. Now, we have a chance in the second season right now. We have a lot of football left to play, and that is bigger than getting 1,000 yards. As long as I can continue making plays and helping our team win and find a way to win, I am good with it.”

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T Jack Conklin:

On his message to Browns players about the playoffs with his experience:

“It is just that we are back to a clean slate. The records do not matter anymore. It is win or lose and you go home, and anybody has a chance to go as far as they can. It is going to be extra physical. It is another step up from regular season games and from division games. It is do or die. Everybody sort of has the feeling like, ‘Hey, we can be the team to make it.’ It is going to be a hard-fought battle, but we are excited to be a part of it for sure.”

On how much the lack of practice time impacted the Browns OL yesterday:

“It is definitely hard when you are not able to get into the building and then go over stuff. Luckily, it was Week 17 and we have been playing together for quite a while now. We are able to figure quite a few things out, and we were able to get the win. That is all that mattered at that point in time. We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us to play these guys again and have more film to see what we can learn from and see what we can do better.”

On playing against Steelers DTs Cameron Heyward and Steelers LB T.J. Watt this week:

“They are two really great guys, really good players. That is another challenge with how good they are at getting after the passer. It is going to be something that is obviously right in front of me with T.J. and having to go do that and then having Cam come in. It is another challenge, but we are up for the task. It is going to take a lot of studying and getting things ready this week to prepare for it, but it is playoff football. Anything can happen, and we are excited for the opportunity to play these guys, get the Steelers at full strength and show them what we can do.”

On the challenge with offensive line coach Bill Callahan and assistant out yesterday:

“It was a little less weird this week because we still can virtually talk to everybody. It will obviously be different this week not having them at practice. Like you said, we have some guys in (LG) Joel (Bitonio) and (C) JC (Tretter) who really have a grasp of everything and can help lead everybody, help lead the offense and help us understand what we have to do this week. I do not think any of us are too worried about not having him there just because we are virtual everything now besides practice so we are still going to get a whole lot of their technique and talking to us about the gameplan and everything.”

On how difficult it was to win on the road in last year’s postseason with Tennessee and comparing it to this season on the road with no fans:

“It is definitely a grind on the road last year going into those hostile places. The thing that we were really focused on and what every team really focuses on in playoff football is running the ball. Last year, the Titans were about to do it the first two games. Really, it was run the ball, take leads early and dictate how the game went. That shut down the crowd and made that aspect go away. It has definitely been interesting this year because such a smaller amount of fans. I believe Pittsburgh still has fans as they did earlier in the year, but still obviously not at a full capacity. It is just playoff football. It is going to be cold football. It is AFC North football. It is pounding. It is grind. It is the team that can control the clock and control the way the game is going against is the team that is going to win.”

On if he gets a sense that the Browns offense will run the ball more on Sunday:

“That is what we have done when we have had success all year. It has been running the ball, and I do not think we change that now. It is always the goal, and I think that is what really the offensive linemen want to do. When you can run the ball, it helps you in all of the other aspects of the game. When you are running the ball well, the play action works well and drop backs. Some teams are more worried the run, and that leads to open passers and it really just takes the fight out of a lot of guys when you are running them over in the run game.”

On if he is ever surprised when he sees Browns skill players making key blocks in the run game:

“It is really exciting. They kind of spring those runs that go from 15-20 yards into those explosive runs. Sometimes you see them run over guys, and you are like, ‘Oh, gees, I did not know these guys had it in them to do that.’ It definitely gets the whole O line going. It just brings more energy to the offense.”

On if the big blocks on QB Baker Mayfield’s last run were the key to getting the first down to seal with win: 

“Yeah, definitely. We called a play where there are a lot of solo blocks on the edge, and those are tough blocks. Those guys stepped up in a time that mattered. It was huge. If those guys do not make those blocks, we do not get the first out. Even if you go back and watch (RB) Nick (Chubb)’s long run in the first quarter, you see (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones) downfield finishing off a guy just to get him in the end zone. When you see stuff like that, those are the blocks that are going to come down in the playoffs. Those are the ones that are going to be the ones that win games. If you can spring those explosive runs, those are really the difference makers.”

On if the Steelers’ defensive scheme makes the offense do anything differently to have success running the ball: 

“With their scheme, we have to just look at it in a little bit different way. They are a very stout group. We obviously try to find ways to get them off the ball and get as many double teams and different things as we can just to move that line of scrimmage. Like you said, they are a good front. They create a lot of obstacles. Right now, we are going through it and trying to figure out ways to attack those obstacles.”

On if the Steelers make it tougher to get outside in the wide zone running scheme than other opponents: 

“They can. With the ends with how they play up the field a lot, they try to shut that down. That is one of their goals is to shut that down and stop us from doing it out there. It is also our goal to beat them at their own game. It is really on us to do that.”

On what makes Steelers LB T.J. Watt tough to block: 

“It just really comes down to his speed. He does a really good job – it is impressive to see – of studying the teams and the tape. He does a really good job of timing up the cadence, getting off and getting up the field. You really have to be at the top of your game getting off of the ball, as well because, he is going to get full steam going and you have to beat him to that point.”

On how Mayfield has evolved this season: 

“I think just understanding that you do not have to extend plays all of the time. Sometimes extending plays is the wrong thing to do. If there is not somebody open or the pocket collapses, it is OK just to throw the ball out of bounds or go for a run. You do not always have to try to make the big play. He has done a really good job of that. I think you can see – I do not want to jinx anything – with his touchdown to interception ratio the last few weeks, it has been drastic. It just goes to his decision making and understanding we will live to fight another down. Sometimes that is better than trying to force something.”

On how Mayfield’s personality has evolved: 

“Sort of on the funnier side, I never him expected to accept that he has ‘little man syndrome’ (laughter).”

On if Mayfield has accepted that he has ‘little man syndrome’: 

“Oh yeah, you can’t even make the joke to him because he just says, ‘Yeah, I do. I have it.’”

On if Mayfield will concede that to the media if asked about it on Wednesday: 

“I think so. He conceded to me so we will see where his pride is (laughter).”

On if this season with the Browns is similar to his last year with the Titans and the Titans getting hot late to make a postseason run: 

“Yeah, definitely. We run pretty much the same offense. Again, I think it just comes down to running the ball. If you can run the ball and take control of that game, it just changes the whole thing. When you get up on teams running the ball, it opens up your playbook, it allows the defense to get after the other team’s offense and it is just more exciting. You just see the life coming out of other teams when you just can run the ball and just take hold of that game and the physicality as you are beating up the other teams and you are not really taking as much. I think if we can drive that point home, it is just doing everything we can to take that fight out every team, that is really what is going to take you a long way in playoffs.”

On how gratifying it is to be a part of a playoff berth with the Browns, given it was one of his goals when signing with the team: 

“It has been awesome. The most exciting thing is really just for the City of Cleveland. To have such good fans here and to be able to come through and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, it is extremely gratifying. That is not where we want to stop. This team is very goal-oriented and committed to what we want to do. We want to win a Super Bowl and bring that to Cleveland. This was the first step and we have a whole lot more to do, and we are excited for the opportunity that we have put ourselves in here.”

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DT Larry Ogunjobi:

On his emotions making it to the playoffs, especially after experiencing a 0-16 season: 

“Great. It is a surreal feeling. It is a blessing. I am just glad to see this thing through. It is a long time coming. I am just very blessed. Very blessed. A lot of hard work and dedication went into this. The job is not done yet. Excited for another opportunity to go out there and play.”

On playing the Steelers in back-to-back weeks and what he expects from the matchup facing Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger: 

“That is a difference playing Ben, but like I said, just another amazing opportunity. Just kind of how the cards fell. It is just another opportunity to go out there and play Browns football. We are just excited for the opportunity. Like I said, the job is not done. The focus is just once again on the going 1-0 this week, focusing on what we have to do, the corrections from the past game last night and just figuring out what we can do to win.”

On losing DE Olivier Vernon to injury and how Vernon stepped up this season: 

“I am hurting for my dawg right now. That is big brother. Hurting extremely for him. Praying for him. It is tough. It is the nature of the game. He is in high spirits. He has been a major, major contributor to what we have done this season and helped us win a lot of big games. I can attest to how important his pieces were for this. I am just praying for him. I hope he gets better soon. It is just really tough. It is hard, but we have that next man up mentality. We have had it all season, especially with know everything that happened from COVID to injuries. The next guy has to step up.”

On how much the team will lean on the Browns players with playoff experience this week, including DE Adrian Clayborn: 

“It is good. Experience is a major factor. We have a lot of good guys and older guys who have been there before and can talk us through it and kind of just tell us what to expect. Everybody understands that kind of yesterday was a playoff game – you win or you go home. Kind of understanding that mentality that now you do not get a next week if you do not win. The guys understand that. The guys understand what is at stake and are ready to take on the challenge.”

On balancing the excitement of finally reaching the playoffs and knowing there is more that the team wants to accomplish: 

“It is just kinds of the mentality that we have had all season. I feel like the difference this year is just we do not get super hyped off of one win. I feel like going through the years, sometimes we would win games and you would feel like, ‘Oh we just won like you a playoff game or something,’ but it was just one win. What we have done a very good job of this year is just staying focused on the task at hand and knowing that there is a bigger goal ahead of us, just taking it week by week and understanding that you have to go 1-0 every week and it not given, it is earned. You have to put in the work, you have to handle stuff in the film room and you have to handle stuff on Zoom calls, these meetings and in practice just to give yourself an opportunity to have a chance to win.”

On if he reflected on the 0-16 season after the win at all last night: 

“Yeah, after the time expired, I prayed. I thanked God. I thought about my parents being in the stands and just their excitement and just being able to see my mom extremely happy and my pops was surreal for me because I know that they were right by my side when I went through that 0-16 season. Like I said, it is a blessing to be a part of something special to turn this thing around. It is just amazing. I am excited.”

On the Steelers’ two-point conversion attempt and if he helped affect Steelers QB Mason Rudolph’s throw: 

“I am always happy to be a part. I know AC (Clayborn) jumped up and tried to use his ups to knock the ball away. Once again, it is just everybody doing their job, playing to the best of your ability, doing your role and just finding a way to win. It takes all 11 and then 22.”

On if Rudolph was able to keep the Browns’ pressure at bay with more quick throws: 

“Yeah, a lot of quick passes and then some deep shots.”

On how LB Jacob Phillips performed as the defense’s signal caller yesterday with LB B.J. Goodson out: 

“He did amazingly well. Of course, you are going to have your rookie hiccups, but to step in a role in a big game like that and play as well as he did is a testament to how much he wants it and just how much he has been learning from B.J. and from the coaches. He is just a baller. I am excited for him, and he is going to continue to play well.”

On how unflappable the Browns defense has been this season with multiple players stepping up with others out due to injury or the reserve/COVID-19 list: 

“I just think it is the mentality of the team. Like I said, when you go through things it is all about… Life is going to throw you curveballs all of the time, but I feel like the biggest way and the testament to the man you are and the resolve you have is just how you respond. The guys are doing a great job just responding. Guys that step up are hungry, they want to play and they want to help the team win. This is a special opportunity. There are guys who played in the league for years who have not been to the playoffs. When you are playing for something, you are playing for something special and you have the opportunity to do something that has not been done in a long time in your personal career, I feel like guys understand that, we are playing for each other and we just know how much it means to everybody.”

On facing Roethlisberger, given how he has played against the Browns in the past: 

“The biggest thing for us is just focusing on what we have to do. A lot of times, you can get caught up in everything else that is going on. We have respect for them. Like you just said, it has been kind of a one-sided battle for a long time, but this is a different team. That is it, it is just a different team. I think that you see it on the film and you see on the field on Sundays. You just see the energy that the players, the coaches and just Cleveland in general has. Like I said, it is just a different team. Once again, we are looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity.”

On his reaction to DE Myles Garrett speaking with Rudolph after the game: 

“It is big. It speaks to his maturity and his character as a person. Never one time throughout the whole situation did I doubt the person Myles was. For him to kind of extend that arm out and kind of just squash it was big for everybody.”

On being named the local PFGWA’s ‘Good Guy Award’ winner for cooperation and professionalism with the media and Garrett being named the ‘Joe Thomas Award’ Most Valuable Player of the Year: 

“It is always cool to share an award with your boy.”

On how many times his parents have seen him play: 

“More than I can count. It was a big deal for them coming to this one. I just had a feeling it was going to be special, and I just wanted them to be there when it happened. I am glad they were able to come.”

On where his parents live now: 

“Greensboro, North Carolina.”

On if his parents being at the game will be what he remembers most from yesterday: 

“Yeah, just my parents smiling and seeing them. A lot of times when you go through things, like I said, it is all about how you respond. The moments I can imagine when we went through the 0-16 season, it was kind of difficult to kind of see, but you always trust the process. My parents always told me, ‘Just keep working. Keep trusting. It is going to turn around.’ I am glad they were able to see it when it happened.”

On the appreciation he has for Head Coach Kevin Stefanski staying so even-keel throughout the adversity this season: 

“I like it. I am pretty even-keel. I try to stay cool about everything. He just does a great job of keeping everybody focused and locked in on the task at hand. Like I said, this is not one of those things where you tear the city down, start lighting fires and all of that kind of stuff. Like (WR) Jarvis (Landry) has said and so many players have said on the team, the job is not done. We still have work to do. We still have to go and have a great week of work, a great week of film and a great week of preparation and go out and find a way to win on Sunday. That is the main focus. We are happy and we are excited to have this opportunity to be in this space, but the goal is not to just go to the dance; it is to find a way to win it.”

On if the Steelers OL played differently with Rudolph than with Roethlisberger and if the Browns defense will study more film from yesterday’s game or the first matchup against the Steelers: 

“We are just going to study everything. We have to be prepared. It is a playoff game. It is win or go home. We are going to look at everything and find a way.”

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