HC Kevin Stefanski (1.11.21)

Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Opening statement: 

“On the injury front, (T) Jack Conklin is day to day with a hamstring. We will know more as the week goes with him. (G) Michael Dunn is day to day with a calf injury, and (CB) Robert Jackson is day to day with a hamstring injury.

“Recapping that game, as you guys are well aware, it was a great team effort, a great team win. Really proud of the guys and how they performed. You saw guys stepping up and making plays and people in different roles doing a great job so very, very proud of the effort. They played with a ton of physicality and enthusiasm, which was readily apparent to me.

“A big week. Have to go on the road versus a really good football team with great players and great coaches. We have to have a great week of practice and preparation for that challenge.”

On how ‘excruciating and exhilarating’ it was to watch last night’s game from home: 

“Those are two good words. I do not plan on doing that again.”

On what it meant to FaceTime with the team after the game: 

“I was proud of the guys. They earned the right to compete and then they earned the right to go out there and play like they did. Really, just so happy for them to have the success that they had.”

On who he FaceTimed with first last night after the game: 

“(WR) Jarvis (Landry) coming off of the field FaceTimed me immediately, which I was not expecting to be jumping on FaceTime about two seconds after the game ended. (Pass game coordinator/wide receivers) Coach (Chad) O’Shea grabbed me in the locker room so I could see the coaches. It was a strange feeling obviously – do not plan on doing it again – but great to just let those guys know how proud of them I am.”

On when he turned his phone on after the game and if he was tempted to turn it on during the game: 

“No, it was off because I did not want the distraction of it. I was doing a lot of pacing. Once that game was over, I turned it on because I figured I would get on the horn with some of the guys.”

On if he muted the TV during the game: 

“No, I did not mute the TV.”

On is he was ‘stress eating’ while watching the game: 

“I can’t taste anything so that would not have helped. I have a newfound respect for all of our fans and how they watch those games. I like it better when I have some control.”

On how offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt did calling plays: 

“Alex was absolutely outstanding last night. I am so thrilled for him in Pittsburgh, which that means a little bit extra to him being the Pitt Panther legend that he is. He just was dialing them up. Great call after great call, and the guys were executing. Not surprised, but really proud of him.”

On his COVID-19 symptoms and his outlook for returning this week, given he said he can’t taste anything now: 

“I am good. Very, very mild symptoms. I should be returning – it sounds like Thursday.”

On the appreciation he will have to be back on the sideline after watching last night’s game from his basement: 

“It is not something I take for granted, I will tell you that. I really enjoy working with the people I work with. I love coaching this team and these players. We have a bunch of fighters on this team. I am looking forward to getting back in the building with them.”

On how he has used the ‘underdog role’ to help motivate the team, given many people outside of the building did not give the Browns a chance to win last night: 

“Respectfully, I do not really concern myself with the outside and what they think about our football team and our chances. We have plenty to motivate us in having the opportunity to compete week in and week out. We will just keep the focus on us and the focus on our opponent and really ignore all of the other noise.”

On if he had emotions when watching the game and seeing the snap go over Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s head on the first play of the game: 

“The funny part about that is I am in the basement isolating from my family. I guess that my feed for whatever reason – I must have hit pause or something – was about 45 seconds behind. I heard my kids going crazy upstairs so I had an inkling something good was going to happen on that first play.”

On the Browns playing complementary football last night and its record-setting start with 28 points in the first quarter: 

“That is how you want to start every game. That does not often happen, but the guys were locked in. They were all about the ball on defense, which is part of our DNA, and being able to convert those into points. I just think our guys were flying around. They were very, very hungry. That is what is required when you are in these playoffs. You have to have that level of intensity every week.”

On if there is a sense of validation in how the team played last night, given the emphasis on playing as a team and the next man up mentality: 

“We have seen that all year. We have been without guys for various reasons all year, and guys step up. That is just the nature of this beast. That is what is required. Really proud of the guys who were in there who had not been in there before. I will single out Michael Dunn. I thought he was outstanding last night. Really, really great in his technique, in his effort and in his assignment. He did a great job, among others.”

On his decision to hire Van Pelt and their relationship: 

“AVP is somebody who we have a lot of mutual friends. While we did not know each other well, we could very easily on either side pick up the phone and find out what he is all about and he could find out what I am all about. I was very comfortable from that standpoint. Just how we see the game and how we view this and sharing this vision, he is in lockstep with what I believe in and our offense believes in.”

On his experience while watching last night’s game: 

“It is strange feeling. It is again something I hope not to ever do again. I tried to lock in and pay attention and try and kind of see where AVP was going and where (defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) was going with some of the calls and then watching along with our guys. I just turned into a fan of the team just pulling for our guys like crazy. It is a very, very unique feeling not to be there with them. There was a ton of nervous energy that usually does not exist on the sideline for whatever reason, but it existed for me last night.”

On RB Nick Chubb joking after the game that he should consider staying in his basement for games: 

“Sorry, Nick. You are stuck with me, buddy.”

On how much QB Baker Mayfield’s self-belief has rubbed off on the team and Mayfield being counted out multiple times by others: 

“One of the best things about Baker is he is so very much himself in all moments. He is an authentic person. I think that rubs off on his team. The way he leads by example and the way he leads vocally, the guys respond to it, and that again speaks to him just being himself. You are right, he has been counted out a bunch in his life.”

On if he was nervous at all in the third quarter when the Steelers were attempting a comeback: 

“Every game you have a nervous energy and every player will tell you that they feel those butterflies, but once you start playing, I think that that kind of goes away. I trust my team. I trust these guys. I trust the players. I trust the coaches. I know that the goal was to find a way to win, any which way we had to. You saw that resiliency from that team last night. We played a really good team so you knew they were going to come back. That did not surprise anybody. The guys knew that and knew that they had to weather the storm and then ultimately just find a way at the end.”

On if watching the team live without any control gave him a different perspective that he does not see from the sideline: 

“I do not think so. Maybe a couple better angles of some replays. Our guys played really, really hard. They play for each other. They fly around. That is obvious to me when I have the front row seat that I normally have.”

On how the Browns were able to neutralize the Steelers’ effective pass rush: 

“It is never one thing –the play calling, the play execution and Baker understanding where to go with the ball and getting the ball out quickly and on time and Baker scrambled, but then those guys just work on their technique diagnosing the pressures, which is a big deal and speaks to the quarterback and the center oftentimes in understanding where the pressure is coming from. It is an all-encompassing thing when you go into playing a team like that and give up zero sacks. It is always going to be a bunch of reasons, but I just thought the guys were on point with really their assignments last night”

On if he has met G Blake Hance, given Mayfield said he met Hance in the locker room before the game last night: 

“I am looking forward to it.”

On today being Hance’s birthday: 

Happy birthday, Blake.”

On why the Browns have fully adopted the next man up mentality more than past teams: 

“I do not know. They have been put in these positions early and often this season. It is something we have talked about, but you do not often speak things into existence. I just give credit to the players in how they have responded. They have been about the doing.”

On the belief that anybody in the playoffs has a chance to win the Super Bowl and that is everyone’s goal: 

“We are one of eight teams. I am not a math major, but we will take those chances. That is what the guys understand. This is the fun part about the playoffs. Every game gets bigger and bigger, and the challenge gets bigger and bigger. We have a big challenge this week playing the Super Bowl champs.”

On if he has a sense of what this means to Browns fans and the City of Cleveland, despite COVID-19 protocols limiting his exposure to the community: 

“I do. I have done a lot of driving around town the last few days just because I have to get out of here. Just to see all of the Browns flags and seeing everybody wearing the Browns hats, I definitely feel it. I think our players understand how big it is for this community, and we have to keep it going.”

On Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid and if he studied Reid while rising through the coaching ranks: 

“Coach is as good as they get. Obviously, myself growing up as an Eagles fan, I was able to cheer for a bunch of his teams. He does an outstanding job with his team, and in particular the offense, he is a great technician in what he has his team do. I have always respected how much they have evolved over the years and the different things that they do which are so different than what they were doing 20 years ago in Philadelphia. I just think so highly of him as a coach. I know a bunch of other coaches. That is a really, really good coaching staff. You combine good players with good coaches and you get a team like that so we understand that we have our work cut out for us this week.”

On if there is any significance to Mayfield and DE Myles Garrett getting the captain Cs on their jerseys for the first time this season during last night’s game: 

“That was the plan all along was to have postseason captains after having game captains during the season. (LS) Charley Hughlett was a captain, as well so offense, defense and special teams.”

On how the team used Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster’s comments last week as additional motivation and if he believes in bulletin board material: 

“I think the guys understand the competitive nature of all of these players and these teams. I think they are plenty motivated to play hard for their teammates and to play hard for the fans. I do not know that we need a ton of additional stuff to get excited and get ready for a game.”

On if he feels good about the chances of Browns players returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list this week, including G Joel Bitonio, WR KhaDarel Hodge and CBs Kevin Johnson and Denzel Ward: 

“I will just update those guys as it becomes appropriate, but I do not have anything specific on them right now.”

On if he has an update on Browns assistant coaches who are out due to COVID-19 protocols: 

“No, we will just kind of take it day by day there.”

On if the commentary about the Browns-Steelers rivalry last week made last night’s win at Pittsburgh more significant as the team is establishing a new culture: 

“No, it does not. I have a ton of respect for that organization. I have a ton of respect for (Steelers Head) Coach (Mike) Tomlin and his entire staff. It is just good to get a win versus a really good opponent any way you can get it.”

On the Browns’ maturity in a postseason game and how it handled Pittsburgh’s comeback attempt: 

“We have been in a bunch of games this year, and you never know how the flow of the game is going to go. When you are playing a really good football team, you know that they are going to come back and have some success and you are going to have to weather a storm. We would love to not have that and there are things that we can do way better there, especially in the middle part of that game and towards the end of the game. We can improve in those areas, but there are some quality opponents that we are facing. That one last night was a very quality opponent that we knew was going to keep swinging. That is what our guys did is they continued to fight. That is what is required in postseason football.”

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