The 2018 Cleveland Browns regular season is here. The first goal is very simple.
“We gotta win some (expletive) football games.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio may not have intended to swear in front of the media this week, but it’s clear losing is wearing on the team.
There is no better opponent for the Browns to start a winning streak against than their hated rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sunday afternoon the orange and brown hosts the black and gold to kick off the season for a second straight season. Cleveland is in search of their first win against Pittsburgh since 2014.
“It is about winning,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “It is not about anything else. The last two years are over and behind us. It is about this year, starting this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
“Every game means something to me,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. “I know how important this is, especially this being in our division. This counts as two games, really. For us, the expectation level is high. Obviously, we want to go in with a good mindset. Hopefully, we will win this one.”
The six-game losing streak to the Steelers isn’t the only streak the Browns want to snap on Sunday. Cleveland has not won a season opener since 2004 against the Baltimore Ravens. Cleveland is 0-13 since on opening day and 1-18 to start the season since 1999.
So what areas should fans focus on once the ball is kicked off at FirstEnergy Stadium?
“Just happy. Blessed,” Harrison said. “I expected it – that is what I have bene working to, to win a starting job. I will just be ready to get out there with my guys first play and get it in.”
The Browns defense catches a break on Sunday. The Steelers will be without its top running back Le’Veon Bell. Second year running back James Conner will get the start.
“I think Connor has really done well in the preseason,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. Having taken a look at that and you take a look at the other times that they had their other backs coming in there. It may be a two-headed or three-headed monster where whoever the backs dress instead of Le’Veon just taking all of them. We are used to doing that. We are used to seeing that so just got to adapt to wherever they play.”
Myles Garrett finally gets a chance to face Ben Roethlisberger. Garrett said he would sack Roethlisberger is his first game. That never happened because Myles missed the game. Roethlisberger sat out the second meeting last year. Sunday the two will finally meet one another.
“Mindset is the same as it would be any other week,” Garrett said. “I want to get to the passer. I want to make plays, I want to be dominant. He is a multiple-time Super Bowl champion. You have to be able to respect greatness when you see it. I just have to seize the opportunity. You have to be able to respect it, but do not be afraid of it and do not be afraid of that moment.”
“To be honest, it will mean everything to the city and to us to get this first game, this first win out-of-the-way and just keep stacking them after that,” Hubbard said. “That is what we are here for, and that is what we are here to do, win games. We are not here to lose.”
“Every week is the biggest game of the year,” Haley said. This just so happens to be against the team I worked for the last six years. If every week is not the biggest game of the year to us as coaches and to the players, then it is probably not going to go the way that we want it to go week in and week out. We are just trying to make sure that every guy who has an opportunity to compete is at his best.”
Tyrod Taylor makes his Cleveland regular season debut at quarterback. Taylor becomes quarterback number 29 to start for the Browns since 1999. At some point, number one overall pick Baker Mayfield will be number 30. The Browns and Taylor hope that doesn’t take place until 2019. Taylor just wants to do his part in getting the Browns wins in 2018.
“Very pleased with how the team is coming along,” Taylor said. “The next step is winning together and taking on the challenges of the season. We have battled the dog days of camp as we go into the regular season understanding that there are going to be ups and downs through the season. How we weather those ups and downs is definitely going to bring us together even more. Looking forward to seeing how guys respond and react to the different circumstances that we face each week.”
Running backs Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson and second round pick Nick Chubb expect to see plenty of work against the Steelers defense. Rain is in the forecast due to remnants of Hurricane Gordon. The ground game has to control the line of scrimmage and keep the offense on the field.
“It has looked really good in the preseason,” Jackson said. “We feel good about our backs. We have to run the ball. I think they understand that. We plan on running it. We feel good about being able to line up and run the football.”
Sunday’s game kicks-off at 1 p.m., weather permitting. CBS Sports will broadcast the game. The announcers are Greg Gumbel, Trent Green and Bruce Arians. Sunday’s game marks the debut of Arians as a color analyst. The former Arizona Cardinals head coach previous served as an offensive coordinator for both the Browns and Steelers.
Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport