The Browns made statements, of the verbal variety and the fashion kind, in the days leading up to the game.
The Steelers did their talking during the game.
“Lotta jaw jackin’ on the other side,” guard Ramon Foster observed after Sunday’s 20-13 victory at Heinz Field. “That’s the wonderful thing about football, you say a whole lot but you win or lose by what you do on the field. That’s what’s so beautiful about this game, you play it a certain way, you want to finish it a certain way and that’s what happened.
“I don’t want to escalate this thing as far as a ‘Cincy II’ or nothing like that. But when you have certain people wearing certain shirts and they know they have them on, c’mon, man, be professional.”
That was an obvious reference to a photograph of Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens wearing a “Pittsburgh started it” T-shirt appearing on social media.
“We saw it,” defensive tackle Cam Heyward acknowledged. “At the end of the day, you gotta play football. All that outside noise and the hoopla doesn’t matter. You gotta take care of business on the field.
“I know we wore (“Free Pouncey") shirts, and we care about our guy. We get our guy back next week (when center Maurkice Pouncey returns from a two-game suspension). At the end of the day we gotta get the job done on the field because that’s what we’ll be judged by.”
The Steelers made some statements similar to the ones they’ve been making of late in the rematch with Cleveland, including:
-A forced fumble by outside linebacker Bud Dupree, a fumble recovery by Heyward and a game-sealing interception by cornerback Joe Haden.
-Five more sacks of quarterback Baker Mayfield.
-Keeping Browns running back Nick Chubb (58 yards on 16 attempts) in check.
-Wide receiver James Washington catching four passes for 111 yards and a touchdown.
Here’s some of what the Steelers were saying after they’d improved to 7-5 with their seventh victory in nine games since opening the season 0-3:
-Quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges on going duck hunting with Washington in advance of finding Washington for 111 of Hodges’ 212 yards passing and his only touchdown: “All I know is I told James after the game that we’re going duck hunting on Tuesday, just like last Tuesday.”
-Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave on his sack, and on Dupree and fellow outside linebacker T.J.Watt combining for 2.5 of the Steelers’ five sacks: “Happy to make a play, man. Those boys are killer, plain and simple. Everybody gets overlooked when you have outside guys like that making plays.”
-Tight end Nick Vannett on being one of five skill-position players who wasn’t on the 53-man roster when the season started who touched the ball (along with Hodges, running back Kerrith Whyte Jr., wide receiver Tevin Jones and wide receiver Deon Cain) against the Browns: “It’s just singular focus throughout the week, just staying on top of the Qs and the details on each play, on each assignment. Just taking good notes throughout the week in our meetings and then going out and executing in practice.
“We had a great week of practice, and I’ve noticed whenever you have a great week of practice, a great week of execution, it carries over to the game. That’s exactly what happened and I’m proud to get this ‘W.’”
-Head coach Mike Tomlin on not spending extra preparation time with Hodges before Hodges made his second start: “I wanted him to know I had confidence in him, and I thought extra time and extra points of emphasis and more dialogue than normal would prove to him that I didn’t. I was very conscience of my interactions with him. It was no more than normal because I wanted him to know that we had confidence in him.”
-Haden on Hodges: “We’ve been practicing with ‘Duck,’ he’s been our scout team quarterback for a while so we’ve been watching him. He’s been making some great passes on our first-team defense. We knew when he got in the position of being able to get a good week of preparation going through the offense with Coach (Tomlin), I knew he had a capable arm and can make all the throws. He’s not afraid to wing it. He did his thing and I’m very proud of him.”
And, last but not least, Haden on Tomlin: “He always says he doesn’t have backups, he has starters-in-waiting, and I really feel like he feels that way. When he bumps guys up (to the first team) he expects them to produce the same way the other guys did, and they are just held to a high standard on this team.
“‘Coach T’ gives us great nuggets, gives us great film study. He meets with the DBs and linebackers twice a week. That’s something I’ve never done with any other coach, your head coach just telling you what the gameplan is, what you have going on. He’s very hands-on with everything with the team. I appreciate him.
“You wouldn’t tune out ‘Coach T’ because he’s giving you great knowledge, great information. And the one thing you want from a coach is he is bluntly honest with you. He will let you know where you stand, if you are making the plays, if you are not, if he is going to go shopping for another guy. Just his transparency, and then he really believes in us and really feels like we can do it until we show him otherwise. I love him.”
Maybe somebody should put that on a T-shirt.