Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
As most of you probably know by now, what happened at the end of this game was one of the ugliest moments that we’ve witnessed in all the years that we’ve watched NFL football. It was a physical, ugly, scrappy game that turned into an even uglier storyline once the final whistle blew. After a late hit in the final seconds of the game, a brawl broke out between both teams after Browns’ DE Myles Garrett forcibly removed the helmet of Steelers’ QB Mason Rudolph and struck him in the head with it. It was a glancing blow, and thankfully no serious injury occurred as a result. As I sit here at home and write this in the aftermath of the incident, I don’t want to dwell on the incident itself too much, but it must be addressed. There are some nuances that I think are important to discuss regarding the issue.
First and foremost, what Myles Garrett did was completely and utterly reprehensible. He’s facing a suspension that will likely last for the rest of this season, and perhaps even longer. However long the suspension ends up being, it will be justified. It cannot be overstated how egregious and awful his actions were, and he’s lucky to have avoided seriously injuring Mason Rudolph. Now, all of that being said, what hasn’t been said hardly at all is the role that Rudolph himself played in the incident. Having been brought to the ground on a late hit by Garrett, while the two were tangled up on the turf, Mason Rudolph grabbed and twisted Garrett’s helmet with both hands – trying to rip it off. It was this action that sparked Garrett’s rage and fury, causing the incident to escalate even further. Again, it doesn’t excuse Garrett’s actions, but when you watch the video from the beginning, it’s pretty clear where Garrett gets the idea from.
Sure, Rudolph was frustrated – he had thrown 4 interceptions and his team was set to lose, largely due to his poor play. Sure, Garrett made a late hit on Rudolph towards the end of the game, and the officials didn’t throw a penalty flag when they definitely could have. Sure, Rudolph’s emotions got the best of him – he tried to rip Garrett’s head off for crying out loud. So why should we expect for Myles Garrett to keep his emotions and actions in check, and not expect the same of Mason Rudolph? Why should we refuse to point out that, had Rudolph not attempted to rip Garrett’s helmet off first, this whole situation never would have happened in the first place? It’s disingenuous to pretend that Garrett’s reactions weren’t a direct result of Rudolph’s actions. And again, like I said to begin, this isn’t in defense of Garrett’s actions. What he did was shocking and awful and will likely be very heavily punished – as it should be. I’m just trying to share my thoughts on the issue – that Mason Rudolph is far from a hapless victim who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Everyone has probably seen the video by now, everybody has formed an opinion on what will come from this incident in the future. All the while, the narrative is being formed. Garrett is being called a “thug” and a “criminal” on social media and yet even with that negative sentiment, only one of the players who lost their cool is being held accountable for it. Obviously one of the acts was much worse, but nobody is innocent here. Anyways, let’s jump in:
- Baker Mayfield: 17/32, 193 yards, 2 TD | 1 carry, 1 yard, 1 TD
Despite throwing for less than 200 yards, Browns’ QB Baker Mayfield had a strong showing for a consecutive week – throwing for 2 scores and running for another. After struggling recently in goal-to-go situations, Cleveland’s offense made good this week on all 3 such trips. Mayfield and the Browns’ offense started hot – marching down for a TD drive in just 5 plays on their opening possession. Baker threw a 37-yard bomb to WR Odell Beckham, Jr that was initially ruled a TD. After the scoring review, Odell was ruled down at the 1-yard line, so on the next play, Baker just kept it for himself and scored on a QB sneak. Mayfield would go on to connect with WR Jarvis Landry for a 1-yard TD in the 2nd quarter as well. On a lovely play design, Baker sold a slight play-action fake with offensive line movement to the right and was then able to hit Landry crossing right to left all by himself. Mayfield also added a TD pass to rookie TE Stephen Carlson – Carlson’s first NFL catch. While Mayfield had a respectable fantasy outing, he certainly struggled with his accuracy at times (completing only 53.1% of his passes) and he still stares down his first read entirely too often. That being said, he will certainly be worth streaming consideration next week vs. Miami.
- Nick Chubb: 27 carries, 92 yards
- Kareem Hunt: 6 carries, 12 yards | 8 targets, 6 receptions, 46 yards
I have to be honest, seeing how these Cleveland backfield touches would shake out was the most intriguing aspect going into this matchup for me. We saw Cleveland RB Kareem Hunt make his long-awaited Browns’ debut last week and he was, as advertised, immediately a part of the game plan. With 2nd-year phenom RB Nick Chubb topping the 1,000-yards rushing mark already, we’ve wondered since before draft day how a potential timeshare may affect both of these backs – and now with two-week sample size, we are closer to our answer. Kitchens has so far used Chubb as a traditional starting back, and Hunt as a traditional 3rd-down back, but what’s interesting is his willingness to have them on the field at the same time. Hunt lined up in the backfield, split out wide, in the slot, and even inside as a tight end against the Steelers. Chubb appears to have a monopoly on early-down work and first crack at goal-line work, but when it gets to 3rd and goal, Hunt was in without fail. I honestly have to say that if this offense continues to improve, there’s no reason that it couldn’t support both Chubb and Hunt as viable fantasy options. At this point, it seems safe to pencil in Chubb as a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 and Hunt as a FLEX play with high RB2 upside, depending on how touches will be distributed in the coming weeks. You’d have to imagine a negative game-script for running the ball will help Hunt and hurt Chubb. Also worth noting, Cleveland’s waiving of WR Antonio Callaway signals the likelihood of more snaps outside for WR Jarvis Landry, which could potentially free up more snaps in the slot for Hunt. Look for both Browns’ backs to be in consideration next week vs. the Dolphins.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
- Odell Beckham, Jr: 10 targets, 4 receptions, 60 yards
- Jarvis Landry: 7 targets, 4 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD
- KhaDarel Hodge: 2 targets, 1 reception, 41 yards
Baker Mayfield’s accuracy issues kept his WRs from posting high-end fantasy numbers yet again in week 11. WR Jarvis Landry was the beneficiary of a receiving TD early in the second quarter, yet had a relatively quiet night otherwise. To be fair, a lot of Mayfield’s accuracy issues were due to solid secondary play from Pittsburgh’s much-improved defense. Time and time again, Pittsburgh’s pass rush would get pressure on Baker, forcing him to escape the pocket and find no open receivers downfield. WR Odell Beckham, Jr once again had a less-than-stellar outing, finishing with just 4 catches on 10 targets for 60 yards. Odell struggled to get open, and oftentimes when he was open, Mayfield had decided on another read. Tonight marked the 4th game that Mayfield completed less than 50% of his passes thrown Odell’s way. 2nd-year WR KhaDarel Hodge had an impressive catch on a beautifully thrown ball that initially appeared to gain about 20 more yards than it was revealed after review. With WR Antonio Callaway recently having been waived, Hodge may be in line for more work – but he’s very unlikely to produce any substantial fantasy relevance going forward. Also of note, UDFA Rookie TE Stephen Carlson caught his first-ever NFL pass – an 8-yard TD strike from Mayfield in the 4th quarter. It seems unlikely that any Browns’ pass-catchers other than Beckham and Landry will have any fantasy relevance next week against the Dolphins.
- Mason Rudolph: 23/44, 221 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs | 2 carries, 15 yards
It was a night to forget for Steelers’ QB Mason Rudolph – in more ways than one. Rudolph found himself in the middle of the ugly altercation that occurred at the end of the game, and he also put himself into several ugly predicaments during the game as he threw 4 interceptions to only 1 TD. Rudolph looked rattled from the start, and as his skill players started to drop around him, his rattled appearance shifted to more of a hopeless appearance. Rudolph and the Steelers’ offense would come up empty-handed on their first 8 possessions, running only 10 plays in Cleveland territory in the first half. Rudolph would finally lead the Steelers to a TD drive a little over halfway through the 3rd quarter – on a 3-yard pass to RB Jaylen Samuels. The TD drive itself was largely helped by a 38-yard defensive pass interference penalty against Cleveland. Rudolph failed to find a rhythm throughout – having been made tougher by the absences of RB James Conner and WR Juju Smith-Schuster due to in-game injuries. Rudolph will hope to turn it around next week in Cincinnati – that is if he isn’t suspended. Which, in my humble opinion, he should be.
- James Conner: 5 carries, 10 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards
- Jaylen Samuels: 5 carries, 26 yards | 6 targets, 5 receptions, 19 yards, 1 TD
It was a tough night for the Steelers’ offense altogether, and the RB group is no different. Pittsburgh finished the game with only 58 rushing yards and only three rushing first downs. The Steelers struggled all night to sustain drives having been so unsuccessful running the ball. In his first game back from injury, RB James Conner was knocked out of the game after the 1st quarter after aggravating the shoulder injury that has plagued him recently. Conner finished with only 10 rushing yards, 7 of them coming on one carry. His status for next week in Cincinnati will need to be monitored. In Conner’s absence, RB Jaylen Samuels was able to find the end-zone for the Steelers’ lone TD of the night – a 3-yard reception from Mason Rudolph. If Conner is unable to go next week against the Bengals, Samuels will be in line for a large uptick in work which will make him worthy of flex consideration – especially in PPR leagues. Samuels looked mostly strong in relief of Conner, making running lanes when nothing was there. Unfortunately for Samuels, the Steelers were just not able to sustain drives long enough to commit to the run. Pittsburgh’s offense should all have an easier matchup next week against the Bengals.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
- Juju Smith-Schuster: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards
- James Washington: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 49 yards
- Vance McDonald: 7 targets, 3 receptions, 33 yard
Some discussion arose after the game on whether or not Browns’ defensive players were playing dirty and hitting high – as evidenced by both WR Juju Smith-Schuster and WR Diontae Johnson being knocked out of the game with concussions. The hit on Johnson was particularly vicious – as he was led into the medical tent he was seen bleeding from the ear. Browns’ safety Damarious Randall was ejected for leading with his helmet – and rightfully so. Both teams came into this rivalry game with a chip on their shoulder and wanting to play hard-nosed football – but Cleveland did play it a little too fast and loose at times. Mason Rudolph wasn’t able to get much going through the air, so the Steelers’ pass-catchers suffered as a result. TE Vance McDonald finished with only 3 catches on 7 targets. This was a bad offense in the second half without Conner and Juju, absolutely struggling to get anything going. WR James Washington did add a spark not only with his 49 receiving yards but also by drawing defensive PI calls – including one for 33 yards in the first quarter. It’s still quite uncertain what Pittsburgh’s WR availability will look like next week against Cincinnati, but it’s certainly a situation that will require attention heading into next week.
— Corey Saucier
(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)