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Need to Know: Duke Johnson, Joel Bitonio honored as tough season nears an end

If it seems like good things happen every time Duke Johnson touches the football, you're not alone.

The Browns running back was honored Wednesday as the team's Player of the Year by the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

Johnson, a third-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has been a bright spot on a Cleveland offense that has struggled this season. The former Miami star eads the team  in receptions (68) and receiving yards (618) and has accounted for six touchdowns (three receiving, three rushing).  Two weeks ago against Baltimore, Johnson joined Herschel Walker (1986-88) as the only NFL running backs to record 500 receiving yards in each of their first three seasons.

Johnson shrugged off the honor as the Browns search for their first win of the year.

"We still haven't won a game yet," he said when asked if 2017 was his best season. "Let's get that."

— In addition to Johnson, left guard Joel Bitonio was named named the PFWA Dino Lucarelli 'Good Guy Award' winner, which is given annually to a player for his cooperation with the media and for the way the player carries himself in the community and with his teammates. Bitonio, who missed most of 2016 with a foot injury, has played every offensive snap this season and emerged as a leader on and off the field.

— At the end of a 1-15 campaign in 2016, Browns coach Hue Jackson said he'd jump in Lake Erie if the team mounted the same or worse record in 2017. Considering Cleveland's 0-15 start, Jackson said he plans to make good on that vow. "Heck yeah," he said Wednesday, laughing. "I have to."

"I don't like to do it for the reason I'm having to do it, but I have to make do on my word. I just think that's what you do," he added. "So, I do get that. I made a statement. I have to back it up. That is the type of person I am, so that's what we have to do."

Jackson said he'll use the jump to raise money and awareness for the Hue Jackson Foundation, which aims to combat human trafficking in Northeast Ohio.

— Cornerback Jamar Taylor (foot), fullback Danny Vitale (groin) and running back Matt Dayes (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Vitale and Dayes are new additions to the team's injury report while Taylor played all but one defensive snap this past weekend. 

— Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer hopes to end his first NFL season on a high note in Pittsburgh. In a campaign that's watched the youngster struggle with turnovers, the former Notre Dame standout wants to curb those miscues against a tough Steelers defense. "We just have to take what the defense is giving us and string together positive plays, not take the risks that I have been taking the last few weeks, making sure that I'm taking care of the ball and keeping it out of harm's way and lastly, taking the big plays when they are there," he said.

Kizer leads the league with 19 interceptions and tossed two more picks last week in Sunday's loss to Chicago.

— After clinching a first-round bye in the playoffs, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he's unsure if he'll play his starters against Cleveland. "That's really undecided and really unimportant, really, at the beginning of the week for us," he told reporters on a conference call. "More important than anything is that we lay a foundation of our plan and get going in terms of the things we need to do to perform well. Some of that stuff can be 11th-hour decision making. That has kind of always been our mentality regarding that." Pittsburgh can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Browns and a Jets win over the Patriots.

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