BEREA — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin spent 2006 with the Vikings as defensive coordinator. He was hired as Steelers coach the next year, but his stop in Minnesota connected him with the new Browns coaching staff.
Coach Kevin Stefanski was assistant to the head coach with the Vikings, defensive coordinator Joe Woods coached defensive backs and pass game coordinator/receivers coach Chad O’Shea was an offensive assistant/receivers.
“I have known those guys a long time and have a lot of respect for them, and I think their play is a reflection of that,” Tomlin said on a conference call.
Tomlin is 137-74-1 with the Steelers and has a Super Bowl win. He’s 21-4-1 against the Browns.
“I have a ton a respect for Mike, a good friend,” Stefanski said. “We had a great year together. So a little bit of a Vikings reunion there for us. Impressed with what he has been able to do there over the course of however many years it has been. He has done a great job.
“They are always prepared. He does everything. They win football games any which way they need to. He is a very outstanding coach.”
Tomlin said it was too early to gauge Stefanski’s impact on the Browns, who are 4-1 for the first time since 1994.
“I think we are all still writing those stories,” Tomlin said. “We are four games in, and they are five games in. Significant weeks like this one do a lot to write those stories. That is why this is a big game.”
Strong safeties Ronnie Harrison (concussion) and Karl Joseph (hamstring), receiver Jarvis Landry (ribs/hip), right guard Wyatt Teller (calf) and rookie linebacker Jacob Phillips (knee) didn’t practice.
Stefanski said he expects Landry to return to practice later in the week. He said Harrison had been in the building but remained in the concussion protocol.
Joseph and Phillips rode the stationary bikes. Teller isn’t expected to play Sunday.
** Mayfield (chest) was limited.
** Defensive end Olivier Vernon (groin) was limited despite the Browns saying he wasn’t going to participate.
** Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (abdomen) and linebacker/special teamer Tae Davis (elbow) returned to practice in a limited capacity after being inactive Sunday. Running back Kareem Hunt (thigh), defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (elbow) and center JC Tretter (knee) were also limited.
** For the Steelers, guard David DeCastro (abs), center Maurkice Pouncey (foot), tight end Eric Ebron (hand) and receivers Diontae Johnson (back) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) didn’t practice. Neither did quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and defensive end Stephon Tuitt, but their absences weren’t injury related.
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt (shoulder) was limited.
Tretter, president of the NFL Players Association, called Patriots safety and former teammate Jason McCourty after he said the league and union “don’t care” about player health and safety. McCourty was upset about how the schedule’s been handled after positive COVID-19 tests.
“A lot of respect for Jason,” Tretter said. “I think what we have done in terms of player safety just in these last six months and what we have done to ensure the safest workplace possible, we fought hard for daily testing because it is the safest answer. We fought hard for an acclimation period because it is the safest way to do it. We fought hard for opt-outs, making sure guys had choices and did not feel pressured into going back to work and instead protected them from making that decision. I think we have done a lot of great things for player safety, especially living in this word of a pandemic. I am not too concerned with people complaining.
“We do not set the schedule. We do not choose when games are played or anything like that. That is the league’s discretion. Our job is to try and protect the players as best as possible.”
The Titans played Tuesday night for the first time in 16 days after an outbreak of the virus.
“The whole situation just shows how much this needs to be top of mind and how easily things can snowball,” Tretter said. “We know when the virus gets into the building, it is extremely contagious if you are not doing the right thing and even if you are doing the right thing.”
The Browns signed cornerback Robert Jackson from the practice squad. He’s played in eight games with the Browns in his career and took the roster spot of cornerback Greedy Williams, who was placed on injured reserve Monday.
** Tight end Jordan Franks and tackle Timon Parris were signed to the practice squad. Tight end Kyle Markway was cut from the practice squad.
** The Browns protected defensive back Elijah Benton, defensive tackle Joey Ivie, running back John Kelly and kicker Matthew McCrane. They can’t be poached from the practice squad by another team before the game Sunday.