BEREA — Myles Garrett sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice. He forced two fumbles. He made six tackles. He ignited the comeback that turned a certain loss into an aggravating tie in the opener against the Steelers.
His teammates reacted with a collective yawn.
Sure, they were impressed by the best game of Garrett’s young career — the forced fumbles and tackles were career highs and the sacks tied his best. But that’s what they expect from the 2017 No. 1 pick who’s built like a statue, runs like a sprinter and bends like a yoga instructor.
Receiver Josh Gordon correctly predicted Garrett would change the course of the opener. Now he wants more.
“I think he knows he can take it up another level,” Gordon said.
The sentiment was similar throughout the locker room.
“That’s what he should do,” middle linebacker Joe Schobert said.
The bar has been set … and set high.
“Every time I see him, I tell him Defensive Player of the Year,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “I always want him to have that mindset because he’s definitely that type of caliber player. He’s a game-changer, literally, and he should be recognized as such, as some of these guys in the league are recognized.”
The peer pressure doesn’t bother Garrett, a 6-foot-4, 272-pound defensive end. He wants others to expect greatness from him.
“It shows that I’m a playmaker and that they believe in me,” he said Thursday. “It’s nice that they believe in me like that, and hopefully I can live up to my own expectations and while I’m on the way live up to theirs.”
“That is who Myles Garrett is,” coach Hue Jackson said of the mindset. “When we drafted him, I knew that about him.”
Garrett’s never been bashful about setting goals or sharing them. Before the draft he said he wanted to be the greatest player of all time, regardless of position.
So he feels it’s realistic to count on him to duplicate his 2018 opening act.
“You gotta have that kind of expectations every week,” he said. “If I hope for four or five sacks and I only get two or three, that’s still a good week for me so I gotta go out there with those high hopes, those high expectations and try to achieve them.”
The target this week is Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is one of the best at getting the ball out of his right hand in a hurry. The Saints were second in the league last year, allowing just 20 sacks. He was sacked once in a 48-40 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
“Going against two Hall of Famers back-to-back, it puts a smile on my face because I’ve grown up watching these guys but also getting an opportunity to hopefully introduce myself to him as well on the field,” said Garrett, who added he said “God bless you” after sacking Roethlisberger.
Garrett played all 84 defensive snaps against Pittsburgh, showing a return to health and a commitment to the team. He started the comeback from 21-7 with the first of his forced fumbles.
“I had fun. I like being out there on every down, being able to rush the passer and them not feeling like they can get away from me,” he said. “I’m out there affecting the game in every quarter on every drive, so that’s a plus for us.”
Jackson doesn’t want Garrett to play every snap on a weekly basis, so he can be fresher for the fourth quarter. Jackson also needs him for the whole season after Garrett missed five games last year, four with a high ankle sprain and one with a concussion.
Garrett said he’s finally 100 percent healthy, something he had been unable to say since injuring his ankle as a junior at Texas A&M. He noticed the difference Sunday.
“Oh, yeah, and hopefully you all will, too,” he said.
Schobert saw Garrett’s ability and potential shine through last year despite the lingering effects of the ankle injury. The performance against the Steelers was just affirmation.
“The stuff he’s able to do, and just to see him do it in a regular-season game and torment other teams’ tackles the way he does our own is a good feeling,” Schobert said.
Saints coach Sean Payton said Garrett’s confidence is evident on film. Brees called him a “force.”
“Pretty incredible,” Brees said. “You combine that size, strength, speed and athletic ability at that position, obviously he has the ability to change a game.”
Garrett’s aim for the season is higher. It coincides with Landry’s daily message.
“As a defensive player, you want to be the best defensive player, not only on the field, but in the league,” Garrett said. “And I feel like I can be that, it just takes work week in and week out, so you have to go out there and prove it.
“It’s not just going to come to you, it’s not going to come from you saying it’s going to happen. But you have to speak it into existence, you have to have it in your mind when you go out there that you’re going to dominate that game. So one game at a time.”