For the first time since 2004, Ben Roethlisberger isn’t part of the Steelers-Browns rivalry, a matchup the Ohio-born-and-bred quarterback dominated for 18 seasons and will now watch with everyone else.
On Thursday night, Mitchell Trubisky makes his debut in one of the NFL’s fiercest feuds.
A second appearance isn’t guaranteed.
Struggling to connect with Pittsburgh’s receivers, Trubisky, chosen as the starter in training camp over rookie quarterback-in-waiting Kenny Pickens, may look to take some shots downfield when the Steelers (1-1) visit a Browns team still reeling from an epic collapse in their home opener on Sunday.
Trubisky is ranked 32nd in yards per attempt, one of several troubling stats for him after just two games and perhaps a reflection on the 28-year-old being more of a game manager than game changer.
Still, Trubisky, who grew up in Northeast Ohio but was never particularly keen on the Browns (1-1), is confident he’ll soon begin hooking up with Pittsburgh’s talented, but to this point underused, receivers.
“I’ve just got to get these playmakers the football,” he said. “Whatever we’re out there running, I’ve just got to get them the ball. It really comes down to me making better decisions, being aggressive, and putting ourselves in that position.”
On the flip side, the Browns have been out of position.
Of the many unforgivable sins — clock mismanagement, a missed PAT, not recovering an onside kick among them — committed by the Browns in the final 1:55 of its 31-30 loss to the Jets, letting wide receiver Corey Davis run uncovered to catch a 66-yard TD pass with 1:22 left, was at the top of the what-not-to-do list.
Either Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward or safety Grant Delpit blew their assignment, but neither was willing to put their name on a play that can’t happen.
Making matters worse, the Browns did the same thing a week earlier at Carolina, giving up a couple of long passes, including a 75-yard TD to aid the Panthers’ fourth-quarter rally.
“I’m not going to get into the responsibilities and those type of things because I just don’t see that as productive,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said when pressed about the gaffes. “The bottom line is that should never happen. We have to be able to defend the pass in those obvious passing situations.”
The Browns insist they’ll clean things up, but until they do, teams will look to exploit an obvious weakness. It’s Trubisky’s turn to try.
Buccaneers sign Beasley
With star receiver Mike Evans suspended for Sunday’s game against the Packers, and two of Tom Brady’s other primary options — Chris Godwin and Julio Jones — hobbled by injuries, the Buccaneers addressed the potential need for help by signing Cole Beasley to the practice squad.
Evans’s appeal of a one-game ban for his role in an on-field brawl was denied Wednesday, shortly before Beasley practiced for the first time.
“I’ve been wanting to play with Brady for a long time, so it’s exciting for me,” said Beasley, who has 550 receptions over 10 seasons with the Cowboys and Bills.
The Bills released him last March, and the 33-year-old receiver remained unsigned until the Buccaneers brought him in after Evans was suspended for knocking Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore to the ground, escalating a melee last Sunday.
Godwin (hamstring) and Jones (knee) remain on the injury report after sitting out last week at New Orleans. Neither player practiced Wednesday, when Beasley spent extra time meeting with coaches learning the offense.
“He’s a viable receiver,” coach Todd Bowles said. Obviously if people keep going down, he’ll be someone we can bring up.”
Murray moving on
Police in Las Vegas said on Monday that they were investigating allegations that a fan in the stands struck Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray amid celebrations of Arizona’s 29-23 overtime victory over the Raiders.
Murray said on Wednesday that the crazy ending to the game mirrored the crazy postgame situation with fans. Talking to reporters, the quarterback didn’t condone the smack but also didn’t act as if he wanted to hold a grudge.
“Stuff happens fast,” Murray said. “I don’t know. I know every person I’ve hit in the face, I did it for a reason. I don’t know if he probably didn’t know where he was — it was a pretty live game. Vegas is Vegas. I’m sure he was having fun. But — I don’t know — I don’t think any player should be getting touched in that matter.
“But no hard feelings toward the guy. If I see him, I’ll shake his hand.”
Murray said he doesn’t regret going toward the stands during the postgame celebration: “No — I would do it all over again if I could.”
Quarterback Justin Herbert was mainly a bystander as the Chargers went through their first practice in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. Herbert did some handoffs to running backs but did not do any throwing during the portion of practice open to the media. Herbert suffered fractured rib cartilage after taking a hit during the fourth quarter of last Thursday night’s 27-24 loss to the Chiefs. Coach Brandon Staley said Herbert did some light throwing Tuesday but the third-year quarterback’s status remains day-to-day … Rams reserve tight end Brycen Hopkins was suspended three games without pay for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Hopkins will be eligible to return when the Rams host the Panthers on Oct. 16 … Joe Haden, a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback for seven seasons with the Browns, will sign a one-day contract with the Browns so he can retire as a member of the team that drafted him in the first round in 2007. The Browns will honor the 33-year-old Haden at a game later this season.