G Joel Bitonio (10.15.20)

G Joel Bitonio:

On QB Baker Mayfield playing through injury and finishing the game Sunday:

“He is tough. I have seen him do it a few times in games where he has taken some shots and he has gotten back up. He never wants to come out of those games. It is just a testament to him and what he wants to do for this team. I think once you step on the field, he has a pride factor that is out of this world that he wants to finish and be part of it for our guys, and he is going to do everything he can to really get through those games.”

 

On why it is so tough to play at Heinz Field:

“No. 1 is that they are a good team. They have good players. They have a great defense and Big Ben (Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger) and company on offense. It is just a different atmosphere. You go down there and the fans do a good job of getting loud. It is kind of on the river right there and you get the wind coming in. I think kickers kind of think about that kind of stuff. From a player’s perspective, it is just another game. I think the No. 1 thing for home-field advantage is, is your team good? They have a pretty good team over there so it is going to be a big challenge for us.”

 

On the Steelers front seven and how they compare to the Colts front seven:

“Good players. They have good players up front. I do not think they have a weak spot in the front seven. You go across the board, every guy is a first-round, Pro Bowl-type player, and they do a good job of playing together, which is pretty good. They know how to close gaps often. They are a little different than the Colts. The Colts are more of a penetrating, fly-to-the-ball group. They still play a little bit of a 3-4, two gapping on the inside with (Steelers DT) Cam (Cameron Heyward). (Steelers DE Stephon) Tuitt and (Steelers DE) Tyson (Alualu). All those guys are kind of two-gappers. (Steelers LB) T.J. (Watt) and (Steelers OLB) Bud (Dupree) kind of funnel everything inside back to those guys. They do it a little bit differently. Both are talented groups, and both are big challenges for us.”

 

On his message to T Jedrick Wills Jr. about what to expect this week facing the Steelers defense:

“We have talked. (Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan has done a good job of just stressing the importance of knowing your assignment. It is a little bit different, like you said, then we have played the last two weeks. It is kind of knowing your assignment. We did not go against a 3-4 in training camp and preseason this year, obviously. It is just knowing your assignment and understanding how they are going to play you. Are they going to penetrate on this when they four-down front? Are they going to run with you sideline to sideline? What steps do you need to take? There are all kinds of little nuances that we are going to each week. It is just understanding the play that is called and what we are going to expect from their defense.”

 

On how prepared Wills is for this week’s challenge:

“Oh, it is good. We still have a couple days of practice. He is focused. He is a quiet guy, but he is always in there, he is focused, he is taking notes and he is ready to work in practice. That is all you can ask. They have a good challenge up front, but I think he is prepared. And I think we will be prepared come Sunday.”

 

On how T Chris Hubbard played at RG on Sunday and how motivated Hubbard will be going up against his former team in a significant game:

“He did a great job. Coming in playing guard for the first time in an NFL game is no easy task. He had to go against some of the better rushers in this league, and he came in and held his own, which is really all you can ask. It was pretty impressive. I know he is excited to get back to Pittsburgh. He was there for his first four years of his career, and he really knows a lot of guys over there. Again, it is a huge challenge this week. They have some good guys, and he is going to have a week for teams to kind of gameplan, but I think he is ready for that. Hub is not a guy that I feel like uses motivation in that sense. I think he is just like the same guy every day and focused and ready to go, but I know he is excited. I think deep down there is some definite excitement for him to get back to Pittsburgh and try and get a win.”

 

On the significance of playing in a meaningful game against the Steelers when the Browns have not had much success in past seasons in general and at Pittsburgh:

“Yeah, it is fun to be winning games. You never want to start a season where you are looking for your first win in October. That is what we have done. We put ourselves in a position to play meaningful games. Right now, the Steelers are the next guys on our schedule so that is the most important thing for us this week is to focus on the Steelers. We just want to keep building each week and keep improving on things that we need to work. Once we get towards the end of the year, like you said, hopefully, we are still playing for really important things and putting ourselves in contention. I think every week is just a new chapter, and we are just trying to learn ourselves and become the best team that we can become.”

 

On the most impressive aspect of Wills’ progress through the first five weeks of the season:

“There are a couple things. One of the main things is he is such a quiet guy that I talk to him a lot and I hope he understands. I am like, ‘Alright, you get this right?’ He is just like a quiet dude, and then we get out there, and he does not make mistakes. He does not make simple MAs, assignment errors, where he is doing something wrong where a lot of rookies you see kind of have those issues sometimes. He comes out there and he is doing the right assignment, which is a huge step that you put yourself in the right position. He is so quiet that I am unsure. I am like, ‘Alright, do you get what you are doing here?’ He always comes out and seems to do it right. Just his transition to the left side I think is very impressive because you could tell coming into the training camp he put in the work beforehand. You can’t just come into training camp, and be like, ‘Alright, you are switching sides,’ and have enough reps to really do that. I think that started right when he got drafted, like ‘You are going to play left tackle,’ and he really put in that work and to perform that kick step and the stance on the left side, which are things that I think people take for granted when you switch over. It is a tough assignment. He is learning every week, and he is eager to get better, which is a huge step for a young rookie, as well.”

 

On the Steelers interior pass rush:

“They send Bud and T.J. up the field, and they get after the quarterback pretty much anytime they want. They just get to sprint up the field. They have three guys inside this year that are playing really well. They push the pocket. They are powerful guys, and they run their games inside. For us, it is to create the depth of the pocket. We have to give Baker a chance to step up with those edge guys coming around, and we have to pass of those games inside. It is no easy challenge because, like you said, those are some of the best interior guys in the league and they do a great job with their power pushing the pocket and really trying to condense things so other guys can make plays around them.”

 

On the challenge the Steelers edge rushers present when running boots and rollouts:

“They do a good job. I think we are going to do what we to a certain extent, but those guys get up the field sometimes and those are tough plays when a quarterback has to flip around and see a guy right in his face off the bat. I think we are going to work it in. Really, anything you do against the Steelers is going to be an uphill tough test, and we are working on it. I know (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski is putting together a great gameplan, and hopefully, we get our shots and take our chances.”

 

On what has impressed him most about Callahan:

“Being in the league for so long, I think he has film or footage on everything. I think every week it has been pretty cool where he will pull something from when he was with the Jets or when he was with the Cowboys, and he will be like, ‘We ran this play against a similar defense, and I think it is going to work for us this week.’ He will throw up a clip and we will watch it a few times, and he will be like, ‘This is what I was teaching the guys. Now, I am doing it a little differently.’ He just has so much experience where each week he can pull something from a defense that he has played against or a coordinator that he feels like gives us a little bit of a chance. Just a small change up that is going to give us a chance to do something big on offense. His in-game demeanor, he is a very intense guy at practice. We are always working on stuff. Then we get in the game, and I feel like he is just like a mad scientist trying to figure out what the next play, what the next run can hit it and work watching the defense and seeing how they are reacting to our formations and motions and all types of gap or zone schemes. It has just been a real pleasure to see how he works and all that knowledge he has stored in there.”

 

On if there is a specific area he has improved working with Callahan:

“It is really for me getting on guys a little bit quicker in pass pro. He is an advocate. It really depends on what play, but using my hands a little bit better in pass protection and doing things that you see some of the guys that he has coached – (Washington G) Brandon Scherff, (Cowboys G) Zack Martin and some of these guys – that do it really well and just taking little tidbits in pass protection using your hands a little better, shaving angles in the pass protection. Just things that are pretty complex when you go to O line play but things that he has worked with and know work that gives you a little bit of an advantage than other O line coaches.”

 

On Steelers DE Cameron Heyward saying they want to inflict some good punishment on Mayfield and make Mayfield think about his ribs:

“We have to protect our quarterback. I do not think everybody says it every week, but guys are trying to get after the quarterback in this league. They want to get after him. They want to hit him, and they want to get him off his landmarks. It is our job up front to stop them. It is a challenge. They put a challenge on, and we have to handle our business and do what we can to protect Baker at all costs.”

 

On when was the last time he shaved, given his long beard:

“Probably end of February.”

 

On if there is a reason why he has not shaved since February:

“No, I was just letting it grow for the quarantine time when we were social distancing, and then I kind of got here and it was pretty long so I just kind of let it flow, and everybody was like, ‘You can’t cut the beard.’ I just kind of let it go. No exact decision.”

 

On if there were times in his first six years where he went into Heinz Field discouraged and didn’t think the Browns could win:
“They have had some good teams, but I think every time you take the field on a Sunday, you feel like you have prepped, you feel like you have done your job and you have the mindset that you can go out and it is any given Sunday in the NFL. That has kind of been our mindset every time. We have had some tough games there, but I think once you prepare, you are a professional, you are proud of the work that you out there as an individual and you go into those games really any given Sunday like we can beat any team, we have prepared and we have the right guys in our locker room. It has not worked out obviously, but I think there has never been a mindset where we are like, ‘Oh, we are going in here and we are going to lose this one.’ I do not think that is a football player’s mindset really.”

 

On how his NFL PLAY60 cartoon happened and if he has had fun with the reactions to it:

“I am working with PLAY60 this year, and we do some fun things. It is hard to get out to the classrooms and the playgrounds and stuff like that. I got to work with them, and they were like, “Oh, we are going to put together this cool video. We need your voice for it and stuff.’ They had some ideas, and I threw some ideas out. It was really just a Zoom call, and I was in the studio giving my voiceover and all that kind of stuff. I have heard some good things. A lot of friends have texted me and said it is stuck in their head and things of that nature. It is fun. We are just trying to promote health, good options and those type of things. It was a pretty cool video. I will be able to show my kids someday that I was a little cartoon character.”

 

On if the cartoon uses his recipe and if he makes it at home:

“The recipe is a little bit skewed. Those are things that I like in shakes. I do not think I have ever put them all in one shake before, but I am all for it. Give it a try. It is all healthy stuff so it will be good for you.”

 

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