"With the first overall pick of the NFL draft," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell read, "the Cleveland Browns select…"
In 2017, that sentence was completed with Garrett. In 2018, it was Mayfield. Both were the top guys the Browns believed could lead their franchise in a new direction full of success. With Garrett on defense and Mayfield under center, Cleveland could compete with the rest of the top competition from the AFC North and get back to making runs for the playoffs.
Now, Mayfield and Garrett have helped put the Browns in a position to do just that. One of their biggest tests — a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the 4-0 Steelers — has arrived, and the duo is ready to lead the surging 4-1 Browns into battle.
"Division games are always meaningful for us," Mayfield said, "but they are undefeated, and we are 4-1."
That's one of the biggest reasons why the excitement for the Browns' Week 6 matchup against the Steelers is so high. Cleveland is off to its best start to a season since 1994 and is making a jump into the playoff race thanks to the production of its two No. 1 overall picks.
Garrett, who is second in the NFL with six sacks and tied as a league leader with three forced fumbles, has started an impressive resume a one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Mayfield, who has nine touchdowns and an 88.6 quarterback rating — his highest since his record-breaking rookie season with 27 touchdowns — has performed well in coach Kevin Stefanski's new offensive system built to maximize the abundance of offensive talent.
Their strong starts have set the stage for the Browns' most important game of the season thus far, and their first trip to Pittsburgh in 2020 will contain all the excitement the Browns envisioned upon drafting Mayfield and Garrett.
"This will be a defining game," Garrett said. "How the rest of the season plays out will probably rest on this game because of how important it plays for who will be up in the division and who will fall."
With Mayfield and Garrett, the Browns always hoped to construct a roster that could mirror the week-to-week success from their divisional rival. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has made Pittsburgh a consistent playoff contender for nearly two decades and has won 23 of 26 games against Cleveland in his 17-year career. Mayfield, meanwhile, is hoping to become the first Browns quarterback to win in Pittsburgh since Tim Couch in 2003.
The Browns, with a revamped offense and turnover-hungry defense, boast plenty of weapons to match up against the Steelers. They've spent the last month using each corner of their roster to build a four-game win streak, and another win Sunday will be another step toward accomplishing the goals Cleveland had in mind when it selected Mayfield and Garrett.
"(A win) can definitely energize the fans here," Garrett said. "The franchise has seen that (the Steelers) are a team that's ranked ahead of us right now in the AFC and in most of the rankings, so if we can get a win there, most people will give us some respect. They'll see us as a legit team across the league. From then on, we'll have to prove it."
To Mayfield, the "legitimacy" of a team record doesn't matter. Cleveland has touted a one-week-at-a-time approach since training camp, and that phrase has been reverberated every week throughout the Browns' four-game win streak. The last two wins — a Week 4 victory against the Dallas Cowboys and last Sunday's win against the Indianapolis Colts — have been touted outside of the team as "statement" wins that have shown promising signs of a playoff-caliber team in Cleveland.
Mayfield, however, isn't going to spend a second wondering if the Browns need to convince people around the NFL that their hot start is legit.
"I'm truly not worried about what anyone is saying," Mayfield said. "We're taking it one game at a time. That's all that matters."
But this game is just what Mayfield and Garrett have been waiting for, and a win will go a long way toward silencing any doubters of the Browns' early success. It's another chance to prove their hard work over their career in Cleveland is starting to pay big dividends. Sure, it might just be one of 16 games on their schedule, but these games are just what the duo hoped to play when their names were called to Cleveland.
Now, the wait is over.
"We know why we were brought here," Mayfield said, "and we know the time is now for us to take advantage of it."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers