BEREA — Just as the Browns were about to start preparing for the Steelers, they learned they’ll likely be without left tackle Greg Robinson on Sunday for the pivotal rematch in Pittsburgh.
Robinson reported concussion symptoms when he arrived at the team facility Wednesday morning, was sent for tests and placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol.
He played all 76 offensive snaps Sunday in the 41-24 win over the Dolphins and was at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank on Tuesday as Browns players packed food and loaded trucks.
Justin McCray will likely replace Robinson in the starting lineup, with Kendall Lamm another option.
“I always want to play, so it’d be cool to go out there and play a little bit,” McCray said.
He said not having Robinson at practice Wednesday caught him off-guard.
“I mean, for a little bit, but then you just realize that’s what I’m here to do, that’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here,” McCray said. “So it’s just back to doing what I’ve been doing.”
Robinson has started 10 of 11 games. He was benched for the game against the Patriots on Oct. 27 coming out of the bye week and replaced by McCray. The coaches got Robinson’s attention, and he quickly regained his starting role.
McCray also started at right tackle in Week 2 when Chris Hubbard was injured. His start against the Patriots was his first in the NFL at left tackle.
He’ll be charged with blocking Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who has seven sacks.
“He’s a really good player,” McCray said. “The majority of those guys, it’s in their DNA, the team, they play really, really hard. Bud is a good athlete, really, really good speed. Really good snap count quickness and has power, too.”
The Steelers (6-5) have 39 sacks on the season, 30 of them coming at Heinz Field. The crowd noise makes it tough for the offensive linemen, especially the tackles, to move with the snap.
“You’ve got to get off on the rock, man,” McCray said. “You’ve got to get off on the snap.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio held out hope Robinson would be able to play but said the line will be fine with McCray or Lamm.
“We’ll be ready,” he said. “We’ll have five guys ready to roll, and that’s the nature of the beast.”
BACK IN BUSINESS
Defensive end Olivier Vernon (knee) returned to practice after missing the last three games. He went through individual drills during the portion open to reporters and was listed as a limited participant on the injury report.
His return would be a boost to the line that’s missing end Myles Garrett, who was suspended indefinitely for hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with his helmet Nov. 14.
Vernon was coming on strong before the injury with sacks in his last two games. He has three on the year.
** Defensive back Eric Murray (knee) remained sidelined and isn’t expected back this week. He had knee surgery Nov. 1 and has missed four games.
** Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (groin) and middle linebacker Joe Schobert (groin) were limited. They were also limited last week and had big games.
** Steelers No. 1 receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was cleared from concussion protocol but didn’t practice due to a knee injury. He was injured in the first matchup against the Browns when cornerback Greedy Williams and safety Morgan Burnett made helmet-to-helmet contact. Williams was fined $28,075 for the hit.
** Steelers running back James Conner (shoulder) and cornerback Artie Burns (knee) didn’t practice, and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva (shoulder) was limited.
Schobert’s interception spree couldn’t be ignored.
He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting two passes in each of the last two games. He’s the first linebacker since the Colts’ Cato June in 2005 with at least two picks in two straight games. Schobert is just the sixth linebacker in history to accomplish the feat.
Schobert had two interceptions in his four-year career before getting two against the Steelers on Nov. 14. He followed that Sunday with two more in a 41-24 win over the Dolphins.
He added five tackles and two more passes defensed as Cleveland stretched its winning streak to three games.
“He’s great with his eyes, he’s very intelligent, can react and focus and concentrate on what he’s got to do on an every-play basis, which puts him in position to make those plays,” coach Freddie Kitchens said. “Sometimes guys can be in the position to make a play and not make it, well, he’s made ’em.”
For the season, Schobert has 97 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He’s tied for fourth in the NFL in interceptions and is sixth in tackles.
He’s the first Browns player to win AFC Defensive Player of the Week since linebacker D’Qwell Jackson in Week 12 of 2012.
Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi practiced for the first time after serving a one-game suspension for knocking Rudolph to the ground during the brawl.
“Larry brings a lot of energy, relentless, resilient, Larry’s a good football player,” Kitchens said. “He’s conscious of his rush lanes, his gap integrity, which makes him a good football player when you add his skill set to that.”
Ogunjobi is second on the team with five sacks.
THE NEW GUY
The Browns will see Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) for the first time Sunday. He led a comeback last week in a win over the Bengals after Rudolph was benched and will start against Cleveland.
“He has done a good job of protecting the football and not affecting us negatively in that way,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
Hodges, an undrafted rookie out of Samford, has one start, a 24-17 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles in Week 6. In three appearances — he came off the bench when Rudolph sustained a concussion against the Ravens in Week 5 — he’s completed 67.5 percent (27-for-40) for 318 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a 97.7 rating.
“There’s tape last week when he came in, did a good job of sparking them, so I’m sure he’ll bring passion, energy to the game and good decision-making,” Kitchens said. “We don’t need to worry about who it is, in particular. We need to worry about our job and doing our job. Everybody needs to do their job and we’ll be fine.
The release of defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence on Tuesday surprised many after he had started two straight games.
“You have to make roster decisions during the course of the year,” Kitchens said. “Devaroe did a good job while he was here, and we wish him nothing but the best.”
** Kitchens moved up the Thursday schedule an hour so players and coaches can spend time with family and friends on the holiday.
** Defensive end Robert McCray was signed to the practice squad. He was undrafted out of Indiana University in 2018 and signed by the Chiefs.