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Nick Chubb thrilled for D'Ernest Johnson, hoping to join him Sunday

The Browns Pro Bowl RB is back on the practice field and eyeing a potential return against the Steelers

Nick Chubb wasn't surprised by what D'Ernest Johnson was able to accomplish in an unforgettable Thursday Night Football performance.

It just didn't temper his emotions as he watched it from one of the best seats in the house, as Johnson tore through Denver's defense for 146 yards and his first career touchdown. Chubb has been close with Johnson ever since Johnson joined Cleveland's 90-man roster in 2019 and defied the odds to crack the 53-man by the time the season rolled around.

Johnson hasn't gone anywhere since, and Thursday was the long-awaited showcase moment of his three-year career.

"It was awesome to see him, (FB) Johnny (Stanton IV) and (RB) John (Kelly Jr.) all go out there and step up," Chubb said. "We needed them big, and they came through for us. It was awesome watching them play, watching them run through those guys and have a good game.

"Two or three years ago, he was fishing on a boat trying to find some money and find some work. Now, he is here on the Browns, and he had a great game. It is his story, where he has come from, trusting in the process and never giving up. He is just a lovable guy, too. He is one of my best friends on the team, and it was fun watching him play."

Chubb hopes to be running alongside him Sunday when the Browns host the Steelers in their first AFC North game of the season.

Chubb was back with the Browns at their Monday practice, which was held indoors, and he was outside with the team Wednesday. He'll go through the rest of the week's practices before he'll officially know if he'll be full go Sunday against the Steelers.

"I hope so," Chubb said. "We'll see how this week goes, we'll see how practice goes and we'll make the decision later on."

It'd be a welcome sight for a Browns offense that also expects to have all five of its starting offensive line available thanks to the expected return of RT Jack Conklin. In his back-to-back outings against the Steelers last year, Chubb ran for a combined 184 yards, amassed 69 receiving yards and scored twice to help the Browns down their rival in two of the most memorable games in recent franchise history.

The Pro Bowl running back has missed the past two games because of a calf injury he suffered at some point during the Browns' Week 5 loss to the Chargers. Without Chubb the first time, Cleveland relied heavily on Kareem Hunt, who took nearly every carry before suffering a calf injury of his own in the Browns' Week 6 loss to the Cardinals. This past week, it was all Johnson, who helped the Browns maintain their spot as the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense by averaging better than 6.6 yards per carry against a Denver defense that came into the game ranked fourth in the league against the run.

Asked if Johnson earned the spot behind Chubb for this particular week if Chubb is available, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski smiled and asked, "Do you think he earned it?"

"When he has had his opportunities, he has come through," Stefanski said. "He is a very, very accountable football player."

So is Chubb, of course. 

Despite missing the past two games, he sits fourth in the NFL with 523 rushing yards. He'd be another weapon the Browns can throw at a Pittsburgh defense that remains one of the toughest in the league.

"I'm just happy to be out there," Chubb said. "I'm just excited to be back with my boys again."