T Jack Conklin (1.4.21)

T Jack Conklin:

On his message to Browns players about the playoffs with his experience:

“It is just that we are back to a clean slate. The records do not matter anymore. It is win or lose and you go home, and anybody has a chance to go as far as they can. It is going to be extra physical. It is another step up from regular season games and from division games. It is do or die. Everybody sort of has the feeling like, ‘Hey, we can be the team to make it.’ It is going to be a hard-fought battle, but we are excited to be a part of it for sure.”

On how much the lack of practice time impacted the Browns OL yesterday:

“It is definitely hard when you are not able to get into the building and then go over stuff. Luckily, it was Week 17 and we have been playing together for quite a while now. We are able to figure quite a few things out, and we were able to get the win. That is all that mattered at that point in time. We are excited about the opportunity ahead of us to play these guys again and have more film to see what we can learn from and see what we can do better.”

On playing against Steelers DTs Cameron Heyward and Steelers LB T.J. Watt this week:

“They are two really great guys, really good players. That is another challenge with how good they are at getting after the passer. It is going to be something that is obviously right in front of me with T.J. and having to go do that and then having Cam come in. It is another challenge, but we are up for the task. It is going to take a lot of studying and getting things ready this week to prepare for it, but it is playoff football. Anything can happen, and we are excited for the opportunity to play these guys, get the Steelers at full strength and show them what we can do.”

On the challenge with offensive line coach Bill Callahan and assistant out yesterday:

“It was a little less weird this week because we still can virtually talk to everybody. It will obviously be different this week not having them at practice. Like you said, we have some guys in (LG) Joel (Bitonio) and (C) JC (Tretter) who really have a grasp of everything and can help lead everybody, help lead the offense and help us understand what we have to do this week. I do not think any of us are too worried about not having him there just because we are virtual everything now besides practice so we are still going to get a whole lot of their technique and talking to us about the gameplan and everything.”

On how difficult it was to win on the road in last year’s postseason with Tennessee and comparing it to this season on the road with no fans:

“It is definitely a grind on the road last year going into those hostile places. The thing that we were really focused on and what every team really focuses on in playoff football is running the ball. Last year, the Titans were about to do it the first two games. Really, it was run the ball, take leads early and dictate how the game went. That shut down the crowd and made that aspect go away. It has definitely been interesting this year because such a smaller amount of fans. I believe Pittsburgh still has fans as they did earlier in the year, but still obviously not at a full capacity. It is just playoff football. It is going to be cold football. It is AFC North football. It is pounding. It is grind. It is the team that can control the clock and control the way the game is going against is the team that is going to win.”

On if he gets a sense that the Browns offense will run the ball more on Sunday:

“That is what we have done when we have had success all year. It has been running the ball, and I do not think we change that now. It is always the goal, and I think that is what really the offensive linemen want to do. When you can run the ball, it helps you in all of the other aspects of the game. When you are running the ball well, the play action works well and drop backs. Some teams are more worried the run, and that leads to open passers and it really just takes the fight out of a lot of guys when you are running them over in the run game.”

On if he is ever surprised when he sees Browns skill players making key blocks in the run game:

“It is really exciting. They kind of spring those runs that go from 15-20 yards into those explosive runs. Sometimes you see them run over guys, and you are like, ‘Oh, gees, I did not know these guys had it in them to do that.’ It definitely gets the whole O line going. It just brings more energy to the offense.”

On if the big blocks on QB Baker Mayfield’s last run were the key to getting the first down to seal with win: 

“Yeah, definitely. We called a play where there are a lot of solo blocks on the edge, and those are tough blocks. Those guys stepped up in a time that mattered. It was huge. If those guys do not make those blocks, we do not get the first out. Even if you go back and watch (RB) Nick (Chubb)’s long run in the first quarter, you see (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones) downfield finishing off a guy just to get him in the end zone. When you see stuff like that, those are the blocks that are going to come down in the playoffs. Those are the ones that are going to be the ones that win games. If you can spring those explosive runs, those are really the difference makers.”

On if the Steelers’ defensive scheme makes the offense do anything differently to have success running the ball: 

“With their scheme, we have to just look at it in a little bit different way. They are a very stout group. We obviously try to find ways to get them off the ball and get as many double teams and different things as we can just to move that line of scrimmage. Like you said, they are a good front. They create a lot of obstacles. Right now, we are going through it and trying to figure out ways to attack those obstacles.”

On if the Steelers make it tougher to get outside in the wide zone running scheme than other opponents: 

“They can. With the ends with how they play up the field a lot, they try to shut that down. That is one of their goals is to shut that down and stop us from doing it out there. It is also our goal to beat them at their own game. It is really on us to do that.”

On what makes Steelers LB T.J. Watt tough to block: 

“It just really comes down to his speed. He does a really good job – it is impressive to see – of studying the teams and the tape. He does a really good job of timing up the cadence, getting off and getting up the field. You really have to be at the top of your game getting off of the ball, as well because, he is going to get full steam going and you have to beat him to that point.”

On how Mayfield has evolved this season: 

“I think just understanding that you do not have to extend plays all of the time. Sometimes extending plays is the wrong thing to do. If there is not somebody open or the pocket collapses, it is OK just to throw the ball out of bounds or go for a run. You do not always have to try to make the big play. He has done a really good job of that. I think you can see – I do not want to jinx anything – with his touchdown to interception ratio the last few weeks, it has been drastic. It just goes to his decision making and understanding we will live to fight another down. Sometimes that is better than trying to force something.”

On how Mayfield’s personality has evolved: 

“Sort of on the funnier side, I never him expected to accept that he has ‘little man syndrome’ (laughter).”

On if Mayfield has accepted that he has ‘little man syndrome’: 

“Oh yeah, you can’t even make the joke to him because he just says, ‘Yeah, I do. I have it.’”

On if Mayfield will concede that to the media if asked about it on Wednesday: 

“I think so. He conceded to me so we will see where his pride is (laughter).”

On if this season with the Browns is similar to his last year with the Titans and the Titans getting hot late to make a postseason run: 

“Yeah, definitely. We run pretty much the same offense. Again, I think it just comes down to running the ball. If you can run the ball and take control of that game, it just changes the whole thing. When you get up on teams running the ball, it opens up your playbook, it allows the defense to get after the other team’s offense and it is just more exciting. You just see the life coming out of other teams when you just can run the ball and just take hold of that game and the physicality as you are beating up the other teams and you are not really taking as much. I think if we can drive that point home, it is just doing everything we can to take that fight out every team, that is really what is going to take you a long way in playoffs.”

On how gratifying it is to be a part of a playoff berth with the Browns, given it was one of his goals when signing with the team: 

“It has been awesome. The most exciting thing is really just for the City of Cleveland. To have such good fans here and to be able to come through and make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, it is extremely gratifying. That is not where we want to stop. This team is very goal-oriented and committed to what we want to do. We want to win a Super Bowl and bring that to Cleveland. This was the first step and we have a whole lot more to do, and we are excited for the opportunity that we have put ourselves in here.”

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