The Steelers take on the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium, and the AFC North matchup with a lot on the line as things are heating up in the season.
It was a short week of work for both teams, coming off Sunday games with only a few days to prepare for a divisional matchup.
But when it comes to the Steelers-Browns rivalry, you know both teams will be ready to go.
“We are finally back into the division, a very tough division. We have Pittsburgh coming in,” said Browns Coach Freddie Kitchens. “They are an excellent football team. With what they have been able to do after the start is very impressive – losing their quarterback, never wavering, continuing to just play the games and they have won four straight.
“Defensively, they were leading the league in sacks up until (Monday) night, but they are still (third) in the league now in sacks. They have 33 sacks on the year. Good defensively. Offensively, the quarterback does a great job of getting the ball into the guys’ hands who can make plays. He does not take sacks. He does not make mistakes.
“Mike Tomlin does an excellent job of coaching them and having them ready to play. He is one of the best coaches in the National Football League. Tremendous history, story, great defense and good offense. We have our work cut out for us.”
The Browns weighed in on a lot more, including more on Mason Rudolph, Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, James Conner and more.
Running back Nick Chubb on the Steelers defensive front:
“They are very good. They do a lot of great things. They are very physical. Guys play hard. It is going to be a challenge for us to get some movement and get these guys blocked, but we are up for it.”
Kitchens on the challenges the Steelers defense presents:
“They are one of the best defenses in the National Football League. They have always been good on defense. They continue to hold that torch kind of playing good defense. They are sound. They know what they are doing. They are smart. They are tough. They are physical. There are not many weaknesses over there.”
Quarterback Baker Mayfield on the Steelers defense:
“They are making a lot of plays right now. Obviously, they picked up (Minkah) Fitzpatrick, and he has had quite a bit of turnovers. They are creating plays up front. Obviously, they have the dual pass rushers with (Bud) Dupree and (T.J.) Watt on the edges. They are able to create plays in the backend.”
Center JC Tretter on the Steelers defensive line:
“They have a lot of talent. Obviously, Cam (Heyward), you have (T.J.) Watt, (Bud) Dupree, and they just have a lot of talent in that front seven. Now with some additions, they have a lot of talent in their back four, as well. Really talented group. The core has been together for a while, a lot of experience so it will be a challenge for us.”
Mayfield on T.J. Watt:
“He is one of those guys you have to know where he is. They are doing some things to move him around, give him different looks and have him stand up in the box or on the edge. He just makes a lot of plays. He is a smart player, he has played ball for a while, he recognizes plays quickly and he is able to react.”
Kitchens on if the Steelers are giving Mason Rudolph more as the season progresses:
“I think as a quarterback goes along you have to or you become one-dimensional. I do not think that any team wants to do that. Pittsburgh is well coached, and they understand the progression of a quarterback. They have done a good job with him. He is playing really at a high level right now – really good.”
Mayfield on Mason Rudolph as a player and person:
“I have been around Mason for a while just in college playing him, in-state rivalry. Mason is a great guy. He is playing well, taking care of the ball, putting them in a good position to win. Obviously, they have rolled off four straight right now so he is doing his job.”
Kitchens on Rudolph stepping up following Ben Roethlisberger’s injury:
“I think he does an excellent job of protecting the football, first and foremost. Their defense has done a good job of getting turnovers. They have won four straight, and out of those, they are +13 in takeaway/giveaway. They have a bunch of guys that believe in each other and they rely on each other. They just keep moving on. They keep their head down, they keep going to work and they know how to go win.”
Linebacker Joe Schobert on Rudolph:
“He does a good job. Very smart throws. When their deep shots are out there, the last couple of weeks especially, he has been getting it out there and letting his receivers make plays. He has an 11-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio so you know he is doing the right things in that aspect and playing the game the right way.”
Kitchens on if the Steelers’ ability to win despite losing Roethlisberger is a reflection of the culture:
“Yeah, it does. They have done it. They have done it. Not just this year, they have done it before. What you want to do is be consistent over time and how you approach the season, and they have done an excellent job of that. Mike has done a tremendous job of just staying on task and staying the course. Anytime things like that happen, you always have outside influences and outside noise and they just kind of relied on each other.”
Tretter on what makes the Steelers defense so opportunistic:
“I think they are kind of an attack-oriented defense where they just keep coming after you and are trying to make a play. They do a good job of it. Obviously, (Steelers S Minkah) Fitzpatrick with a late addition there has made some big plays in the weeks since arriving. It is going to be a challenge in all aspects for the offensive line, for the skill positions and for (QB) Baker (Mayfield). We are going to have to play a complete game.”
Kitchens on Minkah Fitzpatrick and his performance since joining the team:
“The ball seems to find him. He is doing a good job of locating the ball, playing his assignments and he seems to be in the right place a lot of times. He is a very good player, one of many that they have.
“I think anytime you can add a playmaker on the back end, the ball just kind of finds him. He is always in the right spot. He is great with his eyes. It is almost like he knows where the ball is going before it is going to be there. He does a good job of being where he is supposed to be and then being where he is not supposed to be when there is a play to be made.”
Mayfield on Fitzpatrick and his ability to be around the football:
“He does a great job reading quarterbacks’ eyes. There are some coverages and things they do that allow him to have some freedom to be the playmaker that he really is. He has made a lot of plays. He has put himself in good positions to win and create those turnovers, and then their pass rush has been a unit that has created some chaos up front so it allows them in the backend to play freely even more.”
Kitchens on James Conner’s return to the offense:
“James Conner is one of the best running backs in the National Football League. He is physical, he is tough, he is hard to bring down and tackle, he is good in space and he catches the ball well out of the backfield. I think he is a good all-around player. He is tough to defend. He makes their offense kind of go because they want to start everything with the run game, and they want to run the football because they know that is how you ultimately win in this division and in the NFL. You have to be able to run the ball when they know you are running the ball, and they do an excellent job of that.”
Cornerback T.J. Carrie on James Conner returning from injury and what makes him so effective:
“I think he runs very aggressively. He is a guy that you can throw the ball to out of the backfield, and you are seeing that more and more commonly in this league where running backs are being asked to do a lot more out of the backfield. He is one of those guys that they feed it to him out of the backfield, as well, and they do not put him out there just to be a decoy. He is out there to make things happen. I think that is something you have to take into account.”
Mayfield on Joe Haden:
“Very instinctive. A guy that plays the ball well. He got me once last year. When the ball is in the air, he makes a play on it. Have to be on time, put the ball in the right spot and trust our guys to make those plays.”