G Joel Bitonio (1.1.21)

G Joel Bitonio:

On if he feels like he is preparing for the biggest game of his football career: 

“We know it is a big game, but it does not feel too crazy. We know it is very important, but it is the next one on our schedule and we need to win obviously. It does not feel too big. I feel like guys are focused. There is a good energy. There is a good focus in meetings. Guys are doing everything they can to make it work. I do not think there is anything outrageous going on. We are just focused. A big game for us, but it is nothing different than a normal week. Everybody is just trying to be on their best focus this week.”

On if the Browns’ practices have been sharp this week: 

“Yeah, obviously, we missed yesterday, but today we got it there and it was the first time we had all of the receivers and all of those guys back that were on the (reserve/COVID-19) list for last week. It was good. It was good to see the ball being thrown around. I thought we had a good day and good energy. We went a little longer than a normal Friday, a little extra walkthrough and things like that just to get a few more plays in. Everybody was focused. It was good energy. People were running around. It was a good Friday practice.”

On how much better equipped the Browns OL is to handle the Steelers defense this week, as well as the Steelers saying they will rest multiple defensive players: 

“They are one of the best defenses and one of the best fronts in the NFL. They have a lot of good players rushing the passer and stopping the run over there. We do not know exactly what is going to happen with their guys. We know they have a playoff spot clinched up, but we have been studying film this week like their guys are going to play. We just have to be ready for whoever they put out there. It has been good. The thing is without practice yesterday, we had extra time to watch the film, break it down and see what we did in the first game and see what teams have done to them now and just try and dissect the game plan that we can do to be successful, pass protecting and run blocking. I think we have a good outlook. We know whoever is out there is going to play hard. That is what Pittsburgh does. They play hard. If it is younger guys or if they are sitting down Cam (Steelers DT Cameron Heyward) or (Steelers LB) T.J. (Watt) or one of those guys gets some rest, we know the guy next man up is hungry and wants to prove himself, as well. It is always a big challenge anytime you play Pittsburgh.”

On if there is a level of comfort and boost that the Browns OL could have all five starters available: 

“Anytime you get the five guys out there together that have the most reps together that have played those positions all training camp and in most of the games this year, it is good to have those guys out there. That was another thing is we all got to practice a couple of days this week so far. It is good to have Jed (T Jedrick Wills Jr.) out there. He has been doing a good job for us. It is good to have (G) Wyatt (Teller) back out there. It is going to be fun to have those five guys back. Hopefully, we can run the ball a little bit and get back into some of the things that we were doing well when our offense is explosive.”

On what a win on Sunday and playoff berth would mean to him, given the team’s record during his career: 

“That would be special. You have been through a lot. You put your heart and your soul and unfortunately your blood and sweat and tears into playing for this team, and they have given you everything. They have taken care of my family and all that stuff. You put so much into it and you get a lot out of it, but the end goal is to win Super Bowls. That is what guys play the game for. You want to win the championship and you want to have a chance to compete for those titles. You see guys win it and you see friends win it that you talk to and they have a Super Bowl ring, and you want to be part of that conversation. Our next step is winning this game to get a shot at it. It does not really give us anything besides a shot, but I have not had a shot yet at the end of the year so that would be something that is special for us. We are really focused on, instead of looking huge picture, we have to beat Pittsburgh this week. Like I said earlier, they are always a tough test.”

On how the City of Cleveland and Browns fans are feeling now and what the atmosphere at FirstEnergy Stadium will be like on Sunday with 12,000 fans in attendance: 

“It will be great. If it had 67,000, that would be probably an epic Sunday for us down there. They have done a good job. We have probably one of the more lively crowds that we have played in. Obviously, New York there were no fans and that is no fun at all. Some of the road games have had fans, but it has not quite been as electric as FirstEnergy has been. Our fans bring it. Even with 12,000 people, it feels like when the defense is out there it gets pretty loud, and when we score touchdowns or make big plays, it is been fun. I know if it was normal times, the parking lots and the tailgating would be crazier and probably take a little while to get home after the game. We are excited. We are excited. We are thankful for the fans that do come out and the ones that can cheer us on.”

On QB Baker Mayfield during practice this week:

“He is locked in. He has been locked in all year honestly. He does not ride the rollercoaster of emotions after a win or after a loss. I think that is a huge step that he has taken this year is his focus and his determination each week – good, bad or indifferent of how the game went before. He was slinging it. Wednesday, we still did not have all of our receivers back at that time so he was still throwing to some of the younger guys, but it looked sharp to me and the parts that I saw of him throwing the ball. Today, it was good to have those guys back like Juice (WR Jarvis Landry) and just having the opportunity to open it up and spread it out a little bit and just see the guys work. He is his harshest critic. Any time something is not perfect, he wants to redo or make sure it is right before we leave the building. It has been special to see that focus and that determination from him.”

On if could tell how much Landry missed playing last Sunday:

“I think all of those guys were disappointed. They wanted to be out there. They wanted to help us play on Sunday. Jarvis is no exception to the rule. I just put myself in his perspective. I have not talked to him directly because we have kind of been locked out of the building, but he has never missed a game in his career and he gets put down because of that and the COVID protocols. It is a tough way to miss a game, especially when your team has a chance to make the playoffs with a win. It was tough. I know he is determined. I know he is focused. We are going to put that one behind us, and hopefully, perform this weekend as a team and get it done.”

On what prevents a team from starting off strong every time against the Steelers, given the Browns’ fast start against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football last year and the team’s overall record against the Steelers:

“There is another team playing. It is tough. That is probably one of the biggest coaching points every week is you want to come out fast and you want to start fast, especially those first 15 plays and first couple of drives you want to start fast on offense and start fast on defense. That is usually one of the coaching points every week that you get. Usually, if one team is starting fast, the other team can’t and vice versa. Like you said, in most of the matches that I have played in, they have gotten the best of us. That has been a focus for us. We want to execute those plays. We want to start fast. Just prepare like you know what you are doing, you know what defense you are going to see and all of these things. Just go down your checklist the night before the game and make sure you are focused and dialed in. It is an emotional game, but you do not have to ride the rollercoaster. You can bring the same energy from every step. That is our goal this week is just come out high energy and get ready to go. If something does go wrong, I think that has been a problem in the past where we have an interception or not a good drive – a three-and-out and stuff – that we kind of let it get us down. I think we are determined and focused to start fast, and if we need to, adjust.”

On if he remembers the Browns-Steelers first matchup of the 2019 season as a particularly physical and brutal game early on for him:

“Yeah, every game against Pittsburgh is physical for me. They have a great D line. They have great players that I have to matchup against. It is a physical battle. I remember that game. Our defense played lights out. They had four interceptions and got us the ball in good field position. I know we hit (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) deep early in that game. Every game is physical with those guys. They are one of the more physical teams in the league, and you have to really match their physicality to have a chance.”

On the Browns’ walkthrough in a parking garage prior to the NY Jets game:

“It was different. Usually when you travel for a road game if you have a night game or you need a walkthrough, you just walkthrough in one of the ballrooms. That is the easy way to do it, but with COVID, they do not want us all in the same room at the same time, even if you have masks on and even if it is a giant ballroom. Our only option really was to go outside to the parking garage. I believe it was the fifth floor. They had it cleared out for us. It was a little cold. It was like a wind tunnel out there. It was good to try and get some reps and try to focus the guys when you only have less than 24 hours to put everybody together. It was the first time we were in the huddle with most of the receivers that game at that time. It was one of those things where we just want to get used to the calls and make sure everybody is on the same page. It was definitely different. That will be one that we talk about a few years from now.”

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