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News & Notes: Browns expect different looks, wrinkles from Steelers in rematch

Cleveland faces Pittsburgh in rare back-to-back matchup

Kevin Stefanski popped in the tape Monday to review the Browns' playoff-clinching victory over the Steelers.

And when the time comes to shift his focus to Sunday's playoff game, he'll … watch the same thing.

"It is a very different feeling when you come in and you want to put on the tape of your previous opponent and you are watching the game from yesterday," Stefanski said. "It's unique."

The Browns and Steelers will meet for the second straight week Sunday when they square off at Heinz Field in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Each team could look a little different from a personnel standpoint — the Steelers almost certainly more so than the Browns — but there's only so much a team can adjust or change at this stage of the season.

"A lot of the presentations we are going to give the players will be very fresh," said Stefanski, who experienced a similar scenario with the Vikings in 2012, when they played the Packers in back-to-back games to close the regular season and open the postseason. 

"They will have seen a lot of these plays already so you coach them off of your previous game a lot, and they are doing the same."

For the Steelers, the biggest change will come at quarterback, as veteran Ben Roethlisberger will reclaim his spot after backup Mason Rudolph's admirable performance Sunday. On defense, the Steelers will have Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt and veteran DT Cameron Heyward back on the field. Maurkice Pouncey will be back at center.

They comprise four of the most important players on the Steelers roster, but there are so many more on the field. Nearly all of the others held down significant roles and played from start to finish Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

"I think we expected it to look different with the change in quarterback, and we expect it to look different again this week," Stefanski said. "That is part of their job is to play to their players' strengths. We understand that may change. It is our job to put ourselves in their building, think like them and try and get a feel for what they may do this week. 

"There is the game theory in trying to understand what they are doing and how it informs your decisions and game planning." 

Stefanski noted he was well aware the Browns could face the Steelers again as he prepared for Sunday's win-or-go-home game. The Browns were also down a number of players at key positions, including five on defense. It's unclear if some or any of those absent players will be available Sunday in Pittsburgh, but the Browns could have plenty of different wrinkles and looks ready for the Steelers, too.

"It is just another opportunity to go out there and play Browns football," DT Larry Ogunjobi said. "We are just excited for the opportunity … The focus is just once again on the going 1-0 this week, focusing on what we have to do, the corrections from the past game last night and just figuring out what we can do to win."

Injury Update

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones is in the league's protocol after suffering a concussion during Sunday's first half. A sixth-round rookie, Peoples-Jones caught 14 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season.

Stefanski did not have any updates on the status of the six players who are currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list: LB B.J. Goodson, LB Malcolm Smith, CB Denzel Ward, CB Kevin Johnson, S Andrew Sendejo and TE Harrison Bryant.

"With all of those guys on that COVID list, I can't really get into specifics," Stefanski said. "I will just tell you that we will work through all of that, we will follow the protocols and see where they lead."

No Hard Feelings

Kareem Hunt said he wasn't disappointed to fall short of 1,000 rushing yards for the 2020 regular season. He was, however, pumped to see his running mate, Nick Chubb, clear the mark for a second consecutive year.

Chubb blew past 1,000 in grand fashion, rushing for a 47-yard touchdown on the Browns' opening drive.

"Before the game I told him, 'Go get it, you deserve it for sure.' And he went right ahead and did it," Hunt said. "Nick is a heck of the back, talented, and I love working with him because he has the drive to win just like I do, so it is a lot of fun seeing him run the ball and make big plays."

Chubb (1,067) and Hunt (841) finished seventh and 16th, respectively, among the NFL's rushing leaders. They were the only two running back teammates to land in the top 20. Hunt finished tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns for RBs with five.

"At the end of the day, the biggest thing to me is the wins and losses and now we have a chance for the second season," Hunt said. "We have a lot of football left to play and that is bigger than getting 1,000 yards, I think. As long as I can continue making plays and helping our team win and find a way to win I am good with it."

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