Without Mason Rudolph, Myles Garrett, Cleveland's Trip to Pittsburgh Feels - Different
Only two weeks after one of the most controversial moments in NFL history, the two teams who have highlighted football headlines this week will meet up again. The Cleveland Browns travel to Pittsburgh a game back and fighting for a playoff spot.
Oh, and still dealing with the aftereffects of Myles Garrett hitting Mason Rudolph in the head with his own helmet.
It should've been a week filled with some serious heat. Questions on Rudolph's safety, the Browns' thoughts on Garrett's accusation of Mason using a racial slur, and concerns of how rowdy this game could get should've swept through the locker room.
Instead, it feels different. Honestly, it doesn't feel like just a week ago we were waking up talking about how Garrrett could've killed a man on the football field. With Devlin "Duck" Hodges taking over at quarterback - maybe - and Garrett spending the season on suspension, Cleveland vs Pittsburgh part two isn't the matchup many believed it would be.
The first question that will fill Pittsburgh is whether or not Hodges remains the starting quarterback. After getting benched in the third quarter against an 0-11 Bengals team, Rudolph's time as the starter could have come to an end.
Mike Tomlin didn't give much detail as to who he's leaning towards against the Browns, spending more time describing the need for Hodges in the moment instead of long-term.
"Made a quarterback change in the second half there," Tomlin said. "Just felt like our offense needed a spark. Mason wasn’t doing enough. Duck came in, provided us a little spark, made a couple plays. We’ll see what next week holds, next week."
With a slight laugh, Tomlin made the remark that he may know who his starter is, but he isn't sharing.
"I may have it as I stand here right now," Tomlin said. "But I’m just not gonna share it with you guys."
Unless something drastic changes for Rudolph, expectations should be that it's Duck Season in Pittsburgh. Hodges is now 1-0 as a starter and has been nearly perfect as a relief passer. It may only be three regular season games for an undrafted rookie, but when Duck is on the field, there's a level of confidence the Steelers have searched for all season.
With Hodges behind center and Myles Garrett and Maurkice Pouncey watching from their couches, it's not the same gritty battle for revenge this matchup had all the potential of being.
Nevertheless, it's still an AFC North showdown between two teams fighting for a playoff spot. Cleveland is on a three-game win streak, including a must-needed victory over the Steelers. Pittsburgh is somehow keeping their season alive with a band of misfit offensive players who are doing just enough to stay alive.
It'll still be exciting. These headlines and bad blood will remain in the veins of all 22 players on the field. But without the two key parts of the most dramatic moment of the 2019 season, Cleveland's trip to Pittsburgh doesn't feel like it should. It feels - normal.
Well, more normal.