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Press Conference

Mike Priefer: 'A huge, huge victory for our football team and for our city'

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer

Opening statement:

"First of all, I want to congratulate the Haslam family. I want to congratulate the Cleveland Browns organization, (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski, our whole staff and all of our players. I really want to congratulate our fans because I grew up as one of them so I know what this means. Congratulations to our great City of Cleveland. I could not be prouder of our guys. Last night, Coach talked about our three keys to victory in this game. No. 1 was the turnover ratio, and we were plus-five. No. 2 was relying on our technique and fundamentals because we did not practice a lot this week, and that is what the guys did. They relied on their fundamentals and techniques, they trusted that, they trusted their coaching and how they played all year that has been our foundation and they did a phenomenal job with that. The third thing that Coach talked about all week long and we talked about right before the game was we need to play as a team. That was a great team win and great complimentary football. We played well in all three phases of the game. Obviously, a huge, huge victory for our football team and for our city."

On if he has talked to Stefanski tonight after the game:

"Yes, we called him, (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew Berry and I just called him. Actually, the players already had him on FaceTime there and he was watching part of the celebration in the locker room at the end of the game."

On what the win says about the resiliency of this Browns team after the adversity it had to overcome this week:

"I told them after the game, I told these guys I admire them so much and I respect them. They have had so much adversity in terms of schedule changes – I know everybody has had adversity and I am not trying to say we had any more adversity than anybody else – but at the end of the day, this was a difficult week and a playoff week, but they never batted an eye. They took every meeting extremely seriously. We had virtual walkthroughs. We had a good solid practice on Friday and more meetings and then on Saturday we had our walkthrough and more meetings last night and more meetings and a walkthrough this morning. They never batted an eye to be honest with you. As coaches, we were probably a little bit more concerned than they were, but overall, they just responded so well. You are right, they have a ton of resiliency and they did it all year long."

On what he said during his pregame speech, given how strongly his Browns team started the game:

"It is Kevin's team, but I appreciate that. I just reiterated what Kevin talked about. I told them what we needed to do – [win the] the turnover margin. The team that was going to win this game was going to win the turnover margin. We were 10-0 coming into today when we either won the turnover margin or were even, and that is huge. Obviously, tonight that came to fruition. We talked about the techniques and talked about playing as a team, talking about complementary football. Just told them that is what we needed to do to win the game, and the faster, more physical team was going to win the game. I thought we did a good job in that regard, as well."

On QB Baker Mayfield's performance tonight:

"That guy has an amazing amount of self-confidence in a good way and I know he has some swagger to him, but I love the way he handles adversity. When Pittsburgh started coming back – I knew they would and we all knew they would because they are a great football team, they are well-coached football team and they have a Hall of Fame quarterback and we knew they were going to do whatever they could to get back in that game – every time they scored, got a good drive or whatever the case may be, Bake is on the sideline talking to the offensive line and talking to all of those offensive players, and he had them ready for the next drive. We did not always go down and score on the next drive in the second half, but taking advantage of those turnovers and turning them into seven points instead of three, those were huge early on in the game. The way he responded when Pittsburgh was coming back in the second half, it was extremely impressive."

On taking over the head coaching duties and there 'being nothing to it':

"The foundation has been set. We all know it is Kevin's team. Like I said earlier in the week, I was honored and humbled to be in this position, the guys responded well and we went out and won the game."

On the celebration in the locker room after tonight's win:

"There is a lot of loud music and a lot of dancing. There is a lot of celebrating and hooting and hollering and guys just very, very excited. It means a lot. A lot of these guys have not won a playoff game. A lot of them have not been in a playoff game before. Those that had not it means a lot and those of us who have been around… I have only been a handful of games and I have only had won one in my 19-year career, this was a huge, huge game for me personally, as well. Being from Cleveland and just understanding what this means to the city and to the organization and I had my wife and all four of my kids were at the game and in the stands right behind us, it was awesome."

On if staying aggressive in the second half was the team's focus:

"We did. With Pittsburgh if you remember a couple of weeks ago against Indianapolis – it was not as big of a lead – but Indy was up 24-7, and Pittsburgh came roaring back and scored three touchdowns in the second half and won 28-24. That was in the back of my mind at least. Anytime that if you slowed down a little bit or change what your gameplan is, it would have been a mistake. (Offensive coordinator) Alex (Van Pelt) did a phenomenal job. He called a great game on offense. (Defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) did a really nice job with the defense, as well. Our special teams played pretty well tonight. It was a great complementary football game."

On where the Browns' belief comes from this season, given all of the adversity the team faced during the week:

"Iron sharpens iron. Because of the adversity that we have had this year, it has made us a stronger team, it has made us a better team and it has made us a closer team. I think if it was all roses and butterflies, we would not be able to respond in times of adversity. Because things started happening in the third quarter where there was some adversity that happened, the way our team responded after that is based on where we came from. From Day 1 in training camp, we have talked about adversity and we knew we were going to face adversity time and time again and because we have, we have actually gotten a lot better at facing adversity."

On the Browns OL's performance with players having to step up due to injuries:

"(G) Blake Hance did a great job. (T) Kendall Lamm did a great job. (G) Michael Dunn did a great job while he was in there. Next man up. (C) Anthony Fabiano played on our field goal team, and shoot, we had (DT) Larry Ogunjobi on the field goal team tonight because we lost so many O linemen. I was really proud of the way those guys stepped up. I know (Offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and (assistant offensive line) Coach (Scott) Peters would be very proud of those guys, as well, with the way they played tonight. (Coaching assistant) Ryan Cordell did a great job with the O line and handling those guys without our two O line coaches. Jack does have a hamstring. As you guys know, he was out of the game after that. Michael Dunn has a calf strain. Those are the two injuries coming out."

On if he was nervous at all in the fourth quarter, especially since he grew up as a Browns fan:

"No, not really. I was thinking of it as a coach more to be honest with you and not as a fan at that point. Now after the game, I could understand why people were probably a little bit nervous like, 'Oh man, it is the Steelers and Browns and this rivalry.' No, I think in the third quarter, I was a little nervous, but I think the way our offense responded and then our defense responded well after that made everybody feel a heck of a lot better obviously."

On the significance of LB Sione Takitaki's interception at the end of the game to help seal the win:

"It was huge. They had some momentum going. Like our defense has done all year long, they have created turnovers in crucial moments. That is exactly what that was. I was proud of Tak. The ball was pretty high, and he had good ups on that play and made a nice play for us. Every turnover… To start the game with the snap going over (Steelers QB) Ben (Roethlisberger)'s head and us recovering it for a touchdown and then having a turnover on the next drive… Plus-five [turnover margin] on the road in a playoff game? I know that does not happen very often. Real proud of our defense, real proud of our offense and real proud of (RB) D'Ernest Johnson and the way he responded on kickoff return, (K) Cody (Parkey) making all of his kicks and (P) Jamie (Gillan) having a good game and all of our core teamers flying around tonight. I think we wanted it, and they played really well."

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