All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett should be prepared to receive even more attention than usual from the Steelers on Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Jadeveon Clowney, the other starting defensive end, was ruled out for the Steelers game Monday after injuring his right ankle vs. the Jets on Sunday during the 31-30 loss. Clowney rolled the ankle rushing quarterback Joe Flacco during the third quarter, left the game and exited the stadium in a walking boot.
Coach Kevin Stefanski also ruled out backup end Chase Winovich (hamstring) and tight end Jesse James (biceps). James, who played for the Steelers from 2015-18, was scheduled to undergo more tests to determine the severity of the injury.
Without Clowney and Winovich, the Browns will go young at defensive end. Rookie Alex Wright, a third-round pick, is expected to start opposite Garrett, with rookie Isaiah Thomas, a seventh-round pick, set to come off the bench. Isaac Rochell is expected to be elevated from the practice squad to join the rotation.
Clowney, 29, was off to a good start this season. He had a strip-sack of Flacco and recovered the fumble, and in the opening win over the Panthers had a half-sack and two tipped passes. He had nine sacks, 19 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles last year, his first in Cleveland.
The Browns struggled to generate a pass rush after Clowney got hurt Sunday, and Stefanski was asked about Garrett’s pass rush win rate slipping in the fourth quarter through two games. He has three sacks, none in the fourth quarter.
“He is playing at a high level. We are going to continue to need him to play at a high level,” Stefanski said.
The Browns and Steelers didn’t practice but were required to submit an estimated injury report. Left guard Joel Bitonio (biceps), tight end Harrison Bryant (thumb, thigh) and tackle Chris Hubbard (illness) were listed as didn’t practice. Right tackle Jack Conklin (knee), who was inactive the first two games, was listed as limited.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett wasn’t listed on the injury report. He hurt his ankle in the fourth quarter Sunday but didn’t miss any time and said he’d be fine for the Steelers.
The Steelers (1-1) will be without their top pass rusher, outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who tore a pectoral muscle in the opener and was placed on injured reserve.
“T.J. Watt is obviously a big piece, but they still have some really, really good players on their defense and it will be a big challenge for us,” Bitonio said.
Garrett took exception to the crowd booing at the end of the home opener. Some teammates had a different opinion.
“They’re obviously disappointed,” Bitonio said. “I’ve been here nine years now and I’ve been booed at least once every year, if not more as a team. They put their hard-earned money in support of the team and they were frustrated and they were disappointed, just like we were frustrated and disappointed.
“It’s tough. You love the fans, you love the support they give and stuff like that. It’s a frustrating aspect of it. Hopefully we don’t give them a reason to boo in the future.”
Did the boos bother him?
“Um, I’ve been around,” he said. “The game bothered me more than the fans.”
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
Stefanski looks at the quick turnaround to Thursday night as a positive and pointed to the Week 2 win over the Bengals in his first season.
“I do think it is good,” he said. “I think back to 2020, a very tough loss in that first game (38-6 at Baltimore) and then right back at it at home vs. a divisional opponent. I do think it is beneficial to just get out on the field today, get out on the field tomorrow and then obviously get under the lights Thursday night.”
Tight end David Njoku “100 percent” agreed.
“Because it’s a quick turnaround we have no choice but to move forward,” he said. “Obviously we still have that taste in our mouth today, but after today we put it under the bridge and we move on to the next week. That’s what the NFL is all about.”
PAIR OF MISSES
Njoku caught three passes for 32 yards but said he should’ve had more. He dropped a pass that short-circuited a drive and failed to come down inbounds with a pass into the end zone. The Browns settled for a field goal.
“I just have to be better. I have to hold the same standard that I do for the team for myself,” he said. “Even though I caught it, I should have been inbounds. I will take full blame for that, and I will be better.
“That is a play I should make every single time.”
Jets rookie receiver Garrett Wilson, the No. 10 pick out of Ohio State, had a huge day in his return to the Buckeye State.
He caught eight passes for a game-high 102 yards and two touchdowns, including the winner from 15 yards with 22 seconds left. He overcame a costly drop and a hard fall on his hip.
“He’s got grit. He is a dynamic football player. We all know that,” Jets coach Robert Sale said. “He is still trying to find his footing. I thought he did a really nice job today. He’s going to be a stud for a long time.”
The 184 yards marked the league-leading 18th time the Browns have rushed for 150 yards since 2020.
** The 401 rushing yards are the Browns’ most through two games since 416 in 1974.
** With 87, Nick Chubb surpassed 5,000 rushing yards and had his second career three-touchdown game.