CLEVELAND — Defensive end Carl Nassib will start today in the opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers in place of No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, who’s inactive with a high ankle sprain suffered Wednesday in practice. He’s expected to miss at least two games.
Nassib, a third-round pick in 2016, is listed as the backup to Emmanuel Ogbah at left end but will move to the right side in Garrett’s absence. Nassib started three of 14 games as a rookie and had 2.5 sacks and 20 tackles.
Garrett is the only injured player for the Browns.
Quarterback Cody Kessler is inactive after starting eight games as a rookie last year. He opened camp as No. 1 on the depth chart, but coach Hue Jackson named Kevin Hogan the backup for the opener.
The other inactives are: offensive linemen Marcus Martin and Zach Banner, defensive linemen T.Y. McGill and rookie Caleb Brantley and newly acquired receiver Reggie Davis.
The Steelers will be without starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who has a shoulder injury.
(Three points of interest in today’s game)
HE’LL BE MISSED
The opener lost some of its luster four days before kickoff when a teammate fell into rookie defensive end Myles Garrett on Wednesday in practice, causing a high right ankle sprain. The No. 1 pick will miss the first two games and likely more.
The Browns were relying on Garrett to be a game-changer. He looked like the real deal in the preseason and was expected to set a tone up front and draw double and triple teams. That will have to wait.
“It’s very hard, because he trained hard during the offseason, training camp, he trained for this moment, then all of a sudden you go down in a game week,” left defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. “It definitely hurts the team, but that’s why guys have to step up.”
New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had to adjust personnel, and ends Carl Nassib, Nate Orchard and Tyrone Holmes will see increased playing time. Williams said he didn’t alter the scheme in an attempt to overcome the loss of Garrett, but if the line can’t put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger, Williams might have to turn to his complex blitz package. The Browns can’t afford to let Roethlisberger stand tall in the pocket and wait for his host of weapons to get open.
“In order to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, you have to slow Ben down,” coach Hue Jackson said. “The only way to slow him down is by getting him on the ground.”
BACK TO WORK
Running back Le’Veon Bell waited until Monday to sign his $12.1 million franchise tag. He missed all of training camp and the preseason, but the Steelers are counting on him to step right in and get his usual 25-30 touches. So are the Browns.
“I expect to see him every play,” Jackson said. “He is very talented, and I’m sure he is ready to go.”
Bell is coming off another remarkable season, ranking fifth in the NFL with 1,268 rushing yards and third with 1,884 yards from scrimmage. He led the league by averaging 157 yards from scrimmage, the third-best mark in NFL history.
He exhibits remarkable patience after taking a handoff, and is a great receiver out of the backfield. Of all the stars on Pittsburgh’s offense, Bell may be the brightest. The Browns can’t allow him to find a rhythm after all that time off, because they won’t win if he goes for 150 yards from scrimmage.
“He’s just an explosive guy and patient,” defensive tackle Danny Shelton said. “You don’t really see too many patient, explosive guys. Nobody matches him with that.”
Williams said the Browns can’t afford to let Bell get into the open.
“He has the power, he has the speed and he has the instincts,” he said. “You can do a great job in handling your gap control, handling your scheme assignment and then he can make you break down in space. We have to do a good job of allowing as few as possible one-on-one plays with him. We have to be multi-swarm.”
CAN ANYBODY STOP A.B.?
With cornerback Joe Haden gone to Pittsburgh, someone else on the Browns will be asked to slow down — he can’t be stopped – Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. Whether it’s Jamar Taylor, Briean Boddy-Calhoun or Jason McCourty — each will likely draw the assignment in different situations — odds are good Brown will put up big numbers.
That’s just what he does. Especially against the Browns.
Brown was the fastest player in NFL history to reach 600 catches, doing it in 96 games. He had 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. In 11 games against the Browns (10 wins), he has 75 catches for 1,130 yards, a 15.1 average and seven touchdowns.
“He’s quick. He’s a dog,” Taylor said. “When the ball is in the air, him and Ben have this special connection. Sometimes he’s out there running and he’s kind of breaking off the route tree and Ben just kind of knows where he’s going and you can tell they’ve been playing with each for a long time. He’s a great receiver in this league.”
Consecutive games against the Steelers in which the Browns will have started a different quarterback. DeShone Kizer follows Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler, Austin Davis, Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer.
Snaps needed by Joe Thomas to reach 10,000 straight to open his career.
Primetime games for the Steelers and Browns this season, respectively.
Steelers have too much firepower; Browns have too many questions. Steelers 27, Browns 13.