Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
1. Agree to disagree: Freddie Kitchens doesn’t think the Browns have done enough to stoke the rivalry with the Steelers.
“To me, it takes two to have a rivalry,” said the Browns coach. “That is probably not going to sit well with some people, but to me you have to win your share to make a rivalry.”
The Browns beat the Steelers, 21-7, on Nov. 14, in a brutal contest that ended in a melee with three players ejected, three suspended, and 35 players fined – including four Browns for personal fouls on illegal hits. That victory merely improved the Browns record to 7-34-1 against their closest rival in the expansion era.
“We have to do our part,” Kitchens said. “I do not think our team has done anything. Our team needs to be focused on this week. I think that is what they feel. We have not done anything. What have we done? We have not done anything.”
Well, they beat them and they beat them up. Not enough?
“No, not even close,” Kitchens said.
Mike Tomlin disagrees on Kitchens’ opinion of the rivalry.
“I don’t know that it was dead,” the Steelers coach said on a conference call.
So it’s on to Heinz Field, where the Browns have lost 15 in a row and attempt their first season sweep of the Steelers since 1988.
A year ago, the Browns indirectly knocked the Steelers out of the playoffs by losing to Baltimore in the 16th game. A series sweep of the Steelers would effectively knock them out of the playoffs a second year in a row. And that would surely crank up the heat in a rivalry that has most assuredly been revived already.
2. More rivalry talk: Baker Mayfield did not disagree with his coach that more has to be done to intensify the rivalry.
“I think if you look at recently, yeah, that could be the case, but it is about right now,” he said. “It is about what we have in front of us and this game. To us, this is this the biggest one of the season, just like the next one always is. That is how we have to handle it.”
Whatever the atmosphere awaits the Browns in Heinz Field won’t be as bad as what Mayfield has confronted in his past, he said.
“I would say probably the most violent place I have played in was my return back to Lubbock [TX, to face Texas Tech]. I don’t think Pittsburgh could match that. I really don’t,” he said. “It was about 40,000-50,000 people screaming, ‘F You, Baker.’ We will see.”
Odell Beckham Jr. said he enjoyed playing in Philadelphia when with the Giants. He considered the Eagles the Giants’ biggest rival.
“Going into Philly was always a tough environment,” he said. “There were little 9-year-olds flipping you off.”
3. Uh, oh: Left tackle Greg Robinson reported to work with concussion symptoms and was placed in protocol, imperiling his status for Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.
Robinson participated in the team’s volunteer work at the Cleveland Food Bank on Tuesday
If Robinson can’t go, Justin McCray would be the likeliest fill-in. McCray started at left tackle in the New England game when the Browns hoped to shock Robinson into better focus in a one-game demotion.
The Browns gave up five sacks v. New England, matching their season high, and then Robinson was re-installed at left tackle. Since Robinson was reinserted, the Browns have allowed six sacks in four games.
Kendall Lamm would be another option at left tackle. Lamm has not been active in a game since suffering a knee injury in the season opener, though he has been practicing for weeks.
4. Brownie bits: The defensive line was reinforced with the return to practice of tackle Larry Ogunjobi (suspension lifted) and end Olivier Vernon (knee). Kitchens wouldn’t speculate on Vernon’s game status …
Tight end David Nojoku looked increasingly active and could be on the verge of being activated for the first time since breaking his wrist in Game 2 …
Linebacker Joe Schobert was named AFC defensive player of the week. Against Miami, Schobert had his second straight two-interception game and added two other pass breakups and five tackles. Remember the last Browns defensive player honored as player of the week? It was linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, way back in 2012 …
Kitchens declined to elaborate on the surprise release of defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence, a pre-season breakout player who played in every game. Lawrence had two of the team’s 15 takeaways (interception v. Baltimore and fumble recovery v. Seattle), yet Kitchens shrugged off his departure with these comments: “You have to make roster decisions during the course of the year. You take seven or eight to the game so all you need is seven or eight at the end of the day. Devaroe did a good job while he was here, and we wish him nothing but the best.”