CLEVELAND — Baker Mayfield’s ribs are sore and he hasn’t even exposed them to the Steelers.
Mayfield was limited in practice with an injury sustained in Sunday’s win over Indianapolis. But the Browns quarterback is convinced he’ll play this week when Cleveland makes the short trip down the Turnpike to play at unbeaten Pittsburgh.
“Just day by day,” Mayfield said. “Still confident.”
Mayfield was in uniform Wednesday, but after stretching with his teammates, he only watched during the 10-minute period at the start of practice open to reporters.
As Mayfield stood by, backup Case Keenum made all the throws to Cleveland’s wide receivers. The Browns are currently without a third quarterback after Garrett Gilbert was signed by Dallas off the practice squad. The Cowboys needed another QB after losing Dak Prescott for the season.
Mayfield said the injury isn’t isolated to his ribs.
“Kind of the whole right side, everything is intertwined right there,” he said on a Zoom call before practice. “I mean I am lucky with the way that I landed that it was not directly on my shoulder. Kind of rolled a little bit, so obviously could have been a lot worse.”
As the Browns (4-1), who are off to their best start since 1994, were trying to close out their 32-23 win over the Colts, Mayfield took a big hit in the fourth quarter from Colts defensive end Justin Houston. Mayfield went down hard while throwing one of his two interceptions in the second half.
Mayfield favored his right — throwing — arm when he got up and he was examined briefly on the bench before going into the sideline medical tent. Mayfield also landed awkwardly on his wrist, but said that’s not bothering him now.
Mayfield finished the game and received X-rays following the Browns’ fourth straight win.
Coach Kevin Stefanski would not specify which drills Mayfield will sit out. He said the Browns will evaluate the 25-year-old daily.
“He is sore today so we will work through it today and then see where he is tomorrow,” Stefanski said.
All signs point to Mayfield playing this week, but if he can’t, the Browns have a proven veteran in Keenum to face the Steelers (4-0) and try to end Cleveland’s 16-game losing streak at Heinz Field.
Keenum has made 62 career NFL starts, including eight last year for Washington.
Stefanski said it’s not mandatory for his QB to get significant “team” work before a high-profile game.
“No, I think every game kind of stands on its own merit,” he said. “You get ready for Thursday night games with a very limited amount of full-speed team reps. I think every player is different and certainly every week is different.”
The Browns have been pleased with Mayfield’s performance so far in 2020 after a rough 2019.
He threw two touchdown passes in the first half against a Colts defense that came in leading the league. However, Mayfield struggled in the second half — especially throwing from the pocket — and completed just 2 of 9 passes while throwing two interceptions.
On Sunday, Mayfield said it was the worst of his five games this season. He didn’t change his opinion after watching the tape.
“I definitely could be a lot better,” he said. “But like I said, it is always better to learn from a win than a loss.”
Mayfield knows his growth — and Cleveland’s worthiness inside the AFC North — will be challenged by a nasty Steelers defense.
“It is a great test for us,” he said. “Another great defense. They bring a physical challenge. They bring the muddied pockets. They will hit you. They try to impose their will. That is what our division is all about. We have to play that ball, match that energy and exceed it.”
NOTES: The Browns were also missing other notable players as they geared up for the Steelers. Safeties Ronnie Harrison (concussion) and Karl Joseph (hamstring), WR Jarvis Landry (ribs/hip), RG Wyatt Teller (calf) and rookie LB Jacob Phillips (knee) were sidelined. DE Olivier Vernon (groin) was on the field despite the team saying he would be out. ... Starting DT Larry Ogunjobi (abdomen) returned after missing Sunday’s game. ... Chris Hubbard is expected to make his first career start at guard for Teller. Hubbard played four seasons for the Steelers.