By Bailey Biddle
The Browns had a lot of hype surrounding their 2018 season with drafting Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward, and being featured on the show Hard Knocks, which allowed a behind the scenes look into the Browns offseason. They also landed free agent Jarvis Landry that was probably their biggest acquisition of the offseason, plus adding quarterback Tyrod Taylor through a trade with the Buffalo Bills. Now the big question everyone was wondering, have the Browns’ broke the curse and do they have a good enough team to actually win a game. It doesn’t matter how good the Jarvis Landry speech was, how hype the Baker pick was, and how well the defense played in the preseason, does it translate to the Cleveland Browns winning season? Our answers all came down to how the Browns preformed in week 1 against the Steelers. The Browns did not lose, they won, well technically they actually didn’t win or lose, they tied with the Pittsburg Steelers.
The Browns tied with the Pittsburg Steelers at the end of overtime after the Steelers blocked the Browns game winning field goal. I know right, such a Browns move. The Browns snapped a 17-game losing streak, and the last time they won a game was on December 24th, 2016 against the Chargers. The Browns also snapped a 13-game losing streak in their season openers, and the last time they won was 2004. The game may have been sloppy, but the Browns ended up creating turnovers that put their offense in great positions to score. Despite the terrible performance of Tyrod Taylor, he ended up leading a game tying drive to send the game into overtime. There were a couple things that stood out to me in this game and that was Myles Garrett’s dominance, James Connor’s first debut as a starter, and Denzel Wards performance.
Myles Garrett look like an unstoppable force out there with a stat line of 6 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 crucial force fumbles that changed the momentum and course of the game for the Browns. All offseason there was talk at camp that Garrett could not be blocked and he sure lived up to the hype. He will continue to be a leader and a cornerstone of this Browns defense as they look to change the culture of the franchise with General Manager John Dorsey. Looking back at the 2018 draft class, I thought the Browns were insane to pass on Bradley Chubb to pair with Myles Garrett, but boy did Denzel Ward prove me wrong. Denzel Ward picked off Big Ben 2 times, one being a beautiful read by Ward, the other a simple tip drill. This defense did allow a lot of yards, but at the same time created 6 turnovers on the Steelers offense. Can this Browns defense be dominant, it sure did show signs of it in the preseason and week one. I think time will be a factor in telling us how this defense will improve throughout the year.
This now brings me to this point, is Leveon Bell as valuable as we think he is? They sure did use Bell’s workload on James Connor as he carried the ball 31 times with a 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sounds like a pretty good stat line to me, but I don’t think anyone can replace Bell’s talent and skill sets he brings to the table. Bell has no doubt been one of the best running backs in football throughout his whole career, and Connor cannot even begin to replicate what Bell does for the Steelers passing offense. We saw it in this game, Antonio Brown was heavily focused on throughout the whole game because the dynamic duo was not on the field together. I am very optimistic about James Connor, yes he played amazing, but it’s one game and what happens when teams scout him and focus on him heavily?
I end with this, the old Browns when down 21 to 7 in the third quarter would have gotten blown out because they would have given up. I think we are seeing a new culture and mindset to the Cleveland Browns whose fans and players have waited long enough to have a successful season. As for the Steelers, there time is now and they better use Bell as much as they can before he walks in free agency this offseason. How long can Big Ben play consistently and Mike Tomlin keep up this roller coaster of a culture surrounding the Steelers organization? This may seem like an overreaction for a week one game and very well it may be, but at least have to acknowledge these scenarios. I think the Browns have a bright future ahead of them, I don’t think it will be this year, and for all my Cleveland fans keep on believing!