CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are just days away from their first AFC North matchup of the season, preparing to take on their biggest rival—the Pittsburgh Steelers—Sunday afternoon in FirstEnergy Stadium. Unfortunately, they’ll do so without three players.
On Friday, the Browns announced that cornerback Denzel Ward, wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and safety Richard LeCounte III would all be ruled out for Sunday’s game.
Ward left the Thursday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos with a hamstring injury and after MRIs were conducted, was sidelined from practice for the entire week leading up to the Steelers game. Held out of practice again on Friday, the team decided to rule him out.
Peoples-Jones sustained a groin injury during pregame warmups against the Broncos, missing the game and going on to be sidelined from practice the entire week.
Both Ward and Peoples-Jones worked on the exercise bikes throughout the week of practice.
LeCounte, the Browns’ fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, was ruled out Friday as well after being held out of practice for disciplinary reasons. The team said that the discipline stemmed from LeCounte “violating team rules” but are opting to keep the specifics of the incident in-house.
In addition to the three players already ruled out of Sunday’s game, six other players enter the matchup listed as questionable to play.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, cornerback A.J. Green, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Takk McKinley and fullback Johnny Stanton are all questionable for Sunday.
Beckham has been dealing with a shoulder injury, playing through it on Thursday but remaining limited in practice throughout the week. Clowney is dealing with an ankle, groin and knee injury but the team hopes he’ll be able to go on Sunday.
“I hope so. I do. I think he is,” defensive coordinator Joe Woods said on Thursday when asked if Clowney would be able to play.
Green and McKinley are dealing with groin injuries, Jackson is dealing with an ankle injury and Johnny Stanton is dealing with a calf injury.
Stanton was added onto the injury report Friday after practice, listed as limited. McKinley was added on Thursday as limited and then did not practice Friday due to the injury.
The Steelers, who are significantly more healthy than the Browns are in terms of the injury report, ruled out tight end Eric Ebron for Sunday’s game. Ebron is dealing with a hamstring injury and did not practice Friday.
Linebacker Melvin Ingram III was listed as doubtful to play Sunday with a groin injury and on Saturday was downgraded to out.
Offensive tackle Zach Banner, wide receiver Chase Claypool, running back Anthony McFarland and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger were listed on the injury report throughout the week but all returned to full practice by Friday.
While the Browns have ruled out more players than the Steelers have, Cleveland has one key player returning from injury Sunday with quarterback Baker Mayfield being cleared to start against Pittsburgh after missing Thursday’s game with his ongoing shoulder injury.
The Browns made several roster moves ahead of Sunday's game, elevating two players from the practice squad and re-signing another to the practice squad.
On Saturday, the Browns elevated cornerback Tim Harris and safety Jovante Moffatt from the practice squad to the active roster.
The elevations of Harris and Moffatt are part of a rule allowing a team to carry up to 55 players on the roster during a given week before the transaction deadline ahead of a game, giving the team a larger pool to choose from when selecting their 47 or 48 gameday active players. Following the game, the players elevated to the active roster for that purpose will revert back to the practice squad the day after the game.
Additionally, the Browns re-signed offensive tackle Alex Taylor to the practice squad Saturday, two days after waiving him.
Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.
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