The new-and-improved Browns hope to make a splash this season starting this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But coach Hue Jackson doesn't want to make Sunday's season bigger than it is. It's one game — albeit a big one against a bitter divisional rival — in a long season full of them.
"We want to get to winning as fast as we can, but it's a 16-game season and we get that, too," Jackson said Wednesday. "So trust me, we're going into this game giving it everything we have just like we do every week, but obviously this is the Pittsburgh Steelers and the AFC North games so we respect that."
To be certain, this weekend's tilt marks something of a debut for a Browns team that was overhauled in the offseason after the franchise's first winless season. With a defense that, on paper, could be among the league's best and an offense led by new faces in quarterback Tyrod Taylor and wide receiver Jarvis Landry, hope abounds in Cleveland that brighter days lie ahead in the not-so-distant future.
— Jackson will wait until Friday to reveal the Browns' plans for the left side of their offensive line. Cleveland has yet to name its starting left tackle-left guard combination, though either scenario will feature veteran Joel Bitonio. "I've always said from the start that we are going to play the best five guys. To me, that is still ongoing," Jackson said. "I never said that these five guys are the starters and that they are playing. I have never made that announcement. It is still ongoing to me. My job is to make sure that they we play the best guys. That is what I am trying to do."
The Browns are mulling whether to start Bitonio at left guard and rookie Desmond Harrison at left tackle or Bitonio at left tackle and rookie Austin Corbett at left guard.
— The Browns named second-year defensive end Myles Garrett one of five captains for the 2018 season. Soft-spoken and reserved in interviews with the news media, Jackson said Garrett — the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft — is starting to find his voice both on and off the field. "I think it is kind of just happening like you said organically, and every now and then I kind of try to get it out of him a little bit more. Because I think the best players normally have big impacts on games, and when they speak everybody kind of listens," he said. "And again, he needs to do it on a consistent basis. We are seeing signs of it. I think he knows he has to go do it, and we got to do it in what kind of games? These kind of games."
— It's been less than six months since Tyrod Taylor was traded to Cleveland, but the Browns' starting quarterback is well aware what a win over the Steelers would mean to fans across Northeast Ohio. "We know that it would mean everything to them. Just walking around town – I was in the grocery store yesterday, and you hear people talking about the game, pumped for the game," he said. "I definitely understand the excitement."
Since coming to Cleveland, Taylor has been something of a tone-setter for the Browns. That hasn't changed as he prepares for his debut with the team; Jackson said the veteran and former Bills standout has been as even-keeled as ever. "I'm very excited to watch what he does this Sunday, but Tyrod is very consistent," he said. "I'm sure there is a fire burning – it is the opening day for all of us. And so I think he will be very excited. But he's been very consistent on how he comes in the building, when he leaves the building and how he is with his teammates. I think that's what you want."
— Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward's first assignment in the NFL? Cover All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown. That is, after all, why the Browns drafted the former Ohio State standout with the fourth overall pick. Ward won't have to do it alone. "Obviously Antonio is a tremendous football player, I mean one of the best in this league at playing wide receiver," he said. "We're going to have to always know where he is, and what he's attempting to do and we got to get him shut down, but it won't just be Denzel trying to do that. We all have to do it as a defense. And so I think that's going to be important throughout this game."
— Right tackle Chris Hubbard spent the past four seasons with the Steelers, starting 14 of 40 career games in Pittsburgh before signing with the Browns in free agency. When he faces off against his former team Sunday, there won't be any sort of ill will. "There's no animosity there. I wanted to play, I wanted to start and then I get to help my family out tremendously," he said. "It's a blessing to be here and to help this team out as much as possible and my hand is in the pile."