Chad O'Shea could feel the boost among his receivers and the Browns offense last week when Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry were on the field together for the first time this season.
O'Shea, the Browns wide receivers coach/pass game coordinator, went the first six games of the season coaching a group where at least one of those players was not available to play. Beckham didn't make his season debut until Week 3 as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, while Landry missed Weeks 3-6 with a knee injury suffered on the first drive in Week 2.
Both players were finally healthy enough to play together last week, where they were the top two targeted receivers. Even though they only combined for seven receptions and 60 yards, the Browns were still pleased to have both back for the same game.
"I know they feed off of each other energy-wise in a positive way, which is great," O'Shea said Friday. "They bring so much to the offense. They are such an important part of what we do offensively. When they're out there together, we're a better team."
The Browns are planning on having both players together again Sunday despite both briefly leaving the Week 7 contest with injuries. Landry hobbled off the field at one point in the second half after he caught a pass and was tackled, while Beckham exited the game in the second quarter after appearing to land hard on his shoulder during a tackle.
Both returned in the game and practiced this week with the expectation of playing Sunday, but the Browns still won't be at full strength at wide receiver. Donovan Peoples-Jones, who suffered a hamstring injury in pregame warmups last week, was ruled out for Sunday. Beckham is listed as questionable but practiced as a limited participant all three days this week.
Peoples-Jones, a second-year player, had become a crucial piece of the receivers room when Landry and Beckham were absent and caught two touchdowns in Week 6. Even though he's out, O'Shea believes the receivers will stay strong with Landry and Beckham likely available.
"Injuries are part of the game and they happen," O'Shea said. "I think the ability for the players to prepare in different positions and do different things during the game is very important. I think we will continue to ask our players to do that and to learn the entire game plan of knowing that there could be some adjustments and some moving parts."
That task was much tougher for O'Shea to manage without his top two wideouts. Now, after 10 days of rest and plenty of time to prepare for an important divisional matchup against the Steelers, O'Shea is confident both receivers are ready to help carry the offense.
"The receivers have had a really good week," he said. "We've had them out there and been able to work on the field, which has been good. They certainly have done a great job off of the field of staying ready in the meeting rooms and being well prepared for this game so it has been very positive this week."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers
Versatile coaching staff ready to fill in for RBs coach
Versatility is not only a priority for the Browns when they scout players — they prioritize the trait in their coaches, too, and will need it in the running backs room for at least a chunk of the season.
The Browns announced Friday that RBs coach Stump Mitchell will be out indefinitely while he tends to a medical issue related to a previous knee injury. Browns coaching assistant Ryan Cordell will serve as interim running backs coach and senior offensive assistant Kevin Rogers will also assist with Mitchell's coaching duties until he is able to return.
Cordell previously served as an interim coach for the offensive line last year after positive COVID-19 tests within the team held the offensive line coaches out from action during Week 17. Rogers has a plethora of coaching experience at the high school and college level across a variety of offensive positions. He's been coaching football since 1974.
"We want to have versatility on the roster with the players and certainly with the coaches," Stefanski said. "I think it's really important for all of our coaches to understand offense, defense and special teams.
"I think it will be very similar to how we operate (in the running back room), but I think that goes back to just communication on the headset and making sure I'm aware of who's in and who's out and making sure I'm aware who has X number of touches, etc."
Faith in Greedy
Greedy Williams has made the most of his playing time whenever he's been needed to fill in for other starting CBs this season. He'll be asked to step up as a starter again Sunday — the Browns ruled out Denzel Ward (hamstring) for Week 8, which means Williams will make his fourth start of the season.
Williams, who missed all of 2020 with a shoulder injury, has already posted career-best numbers compared to his rookie season in 2019 with five passes defensed, one forced fumble and one interception.
That's why Browns defensive backs coach/pass game coordinator Jeff Howard believes his room won't have any drop-off without Ward.
"I have been very thankful for Greedy and the way he has performed this year," Howard said. "I think the challenge of being injured and what he has had to face this last year, he has really done a good job with that, coming in every day and trying to get back with the rehab. Whenever he has had his opportunities to play, he has come out and played. I appreciate his consistency with the reps that he gets every day in practice and the reps in the game. I think he's made the most of his opportunities, and I'm sure he will be ready to go this week."