QB Baker Mayfield (1.7.21)

QB Baker Mayfield:

On his relationship with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt: 

“Obviously, much like my relationship with (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski), it has been growing a lot as we have gone through these weeks with everything starting virtually and just getting to be around him more. We were in the same room for training camp and the first part of the year but then going back into virtual. He is not that far removed from his playing days. Just a real relatable guy. Very understanding. Like I talked about, the open communication is pretty essential to what has been our success so far. AVP is just like that. He wants to talk through it and hear our thoughts, as well. He wants the conversation for whatever is the biggest benefit for the whole room.”

On if it will be a seamless transition to have Van Pelt calling the offensive plays: 

“That line of communication has always been open between the three of us. Obviously, there are going to be a few little different nuances with AVP calling it, but Kevin and him are still talking and we are all still having those conversations throughout the week, just like a normal gameplan week would go.”

On if there is anything added to his shoulders this week with the recent changes: 

“No, the key for me is to continue stressing things we have been talking about – protecting the football, putting us in position to have the most success, take care of the ball and keep the chains moving. What we looked at after playing them last week, we were in way too many third-and-longs early in the game. Not hurting ourselves early on and being in more manageable third downs is pretty key.”

On the mentality of the team now heading into Sunday: 

“Just adapt and play. It is win or go home. Whoever we have out there, we are counting on them and we believe in those people who are out there. We are still having to adjust and adapt, but just like last week, it is hitting the curveball and adjusting each day.”

On how he is approaching his first playoff game and if it will feel any different for him on Sunday night: 

“No, I mentioned to you guys last week, that for us was a playoff game. You have to empty the clip. It is win or go home. You have to be ready for anything. Obviously, for the third time playing these guys, we are going to be ready for any wrinkles and just be ready to adjust and adapt. Like we have been talking about, the most important thing is taking care of the ball, communicating on the sideline and adjusting and seeing what those little wrinkles are with them having a lot of guys back and having new personnel”

On if the excitement level of reaching the playoffs took a hit with the positive COVID-19 tests this week: 

“No, we are still in the playoffs. It sucks for (G) Joel (Bitonio). I know we have other guys missing, but for Joel – somebody who is a great person, a great leader, a father, a great husband – to have put in his time here, endured a lot of things, the longest-tenured Brown and to not be able to play in the first playoff experience, it is very unfortunate. We feel for him. I think that would be the only thing taking away from the excitement.”

On if the team can draw any emotional inspiration from Stefanski and Bitonio missing the game and it potentially helping the team rally together: 

“Yeah, even more so than ever, it is going to be a very, very tight-knit group that we have to believe in each other. We are going to Pittsburgh. I know they announced that there are not fans, but it is just us versus them. It is all we have. We have to get it to the next week, and hopefully, get those guys back.”

On the challenge of not having practiced yet this week: 

“It is what it is. There are no excuses, but luckily, we just played them last week so it is not like we are practicing against a whole new defense, essentially is what I am trying to get at. We have to be ready for the wrinkles, but luckily, we have game planned against these guys and everybody is sitting here in the second week in a row preparation for the Pittsburgh defense.”

On how much more difficult it makes his job when the team can’t get physical reps with the gameplan in practice: 

“We just have to rely on our fundamentals, the details that we originally installed in this and then the concepts that we are running and putting in this week to really hammer those down and those details down and just be on the same page to where there is no in between and cover all bases of, ‘If they give us this look, this is what we are doing. If they do this, do something else.’ It is just you have to have your mental ready so you can go out there and execute on Sunday.”

On the Steelers defensive front with Steelers DT Cameron Heyward and OLB T.J. Watt back, referencing the Week 6 matchup: 

“Obviously, I mentioned it before we played them last week, we are a different team than when we played them the first time. Obviously, those two players are special guys, All-Pro guys who you have to know where they are and you can’t let them wreck the game. You just have to pay attention to that.”

On how he prepares physically when he can’t go into the facility or use the team’s weight room: 

“A lot of band and bodyweight stuff. It is doing a lot of walkthrough of my footwork and trying to tie those in together. Just getting up moving around like we potentially could. Everybody’s setup is different, and that is how it was in the offseason so you have to find a way to get the most out of it and do it safely.”

On if he wants to be physical every day or if that is not as important at this point in the season: 

“It is definitely the time of the year… We are in the playoffs now to where you should have the fundamentals down of your technique and you should know exactly what you are supposed to do and how the steps are supposed to work. Getting your body right and rested and recovered, I would say, is more important. We still would like to be getting a few reps, but I think there are pros and cons to both.”

On how many plays are typically scripted to start a game and what is the most important thing Stefanski brings to the team when on the sideline: 

“Every team has their first 15 or so plays that if you were to have success you just literally go right through them, but everybody knows that is not exactly how the game goes. Obviously, it is different, but these are conversations that Kevin and AVP are having right now. Kevin is fully confident in AVP doing this, as am I. We talked about this before the season even started. I am not worried about it. Obviously, there are going to be different things that AVP is going to rely on compared to what Kevin would normally call, but whatever calls they make, we have to go out and execute them. It still comes down to us doing our job, and that is the no-excuse mentality that we have to have.”

On the last time he threw a football: 

“September of ’08 (sarcasm).”

On if he has thrown a football this week: 

“No, I have not.”

On the impact on him if the team does not host a practice this week due to COVID-19 protocols and if the team can overcome it: 

“It will not have an impact.”

On his mindset going into the game and what he is hoping to accomplish, given the team has stated it is not satisfied with just making the playoffs and the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl: 

“I said it after the game, all we wanted was a chance, and we got it. It was not ideal of us having to win the Week 17 game to get in, but we are in. Once you are in the dance, anything can happen. However or whatever it takes to get a W on Sunday night, that is what our team is going to be ready to do. It is going to take all three phases. Like (T) Jack (Conklin) mentioned, it means so much the city. I hit on it after [Sunday’s game], the videos, the old-school stuff that was playing and not having a full stadium but still feeling that energy and that atmosphere is extremely special. We can’t win the Super Bowl Sunday night. It is just the next step of potentially getting to that ultimate goal that everybody sets before the season starts.”

On how the Steelers limit QB keepers and how that impacts the offensive gameplan: 

“They do a great job of chasing up the field on backside runs. If they continue to do that and I continue to carry out these fakes, it helps in taking out one guy in the run game. We just have to continue to do our stuff and adapt to however they want to defend us. It is the same conversations that we have had all year of if the team wants to take that away, then we have to capitalize on the other side of what they are not doing.”

On how motivated RB Nick Chubb is to play in the playoffs and if Chubb can be relied on even more this week: 

“I think Nick is extremely eager to get back out there any and every Sunday and compete. That is just the type of guy he is. That is why we love to have him here. We are going to, like I said, do whatever it takes to win. If the run game gets going early, we are going to lean on it early and often.”

On if Chubb is fresh, given he did not have a lot of carries last week: 

“I will have to call him and get back to you on that one.”

On how his former college teammate from Cleveland has helped him connect with the fan base and understand what the playoff appearance and this week’s game means to Browns fans and the City of Cleveland: 

“Like I have mentioned, it was a fit from the very beginning. Yeah, having somebody who has told the stories about Cleveland football just the city in general before I was ever here definitely painted the picture and made it so surreal for that moment after the game to truly happen. Like I said, we are not satisfied. Our goal was not just to make the playoffs. It is the stepping stone to get to where we want to go. It definitely means a lot to end that long drought, but like I said and continue to say, there is a new standard, and we need to continue to have that mindset.”

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