This is not fun.
Saturday night, the Cleveland Browns announced that CB Kevin Johnson has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Earlier today, I was thinking to myself, “as long as we get through the night and a certain point tomorrow morning with no more positive tests, we might just get through this game.” But every other minute, it sounds like another player is being ruled out for the game.
Johnson’s absence is particularly trouble for Cleveland’s secondary. Starting CB Denzel Ward is already out with COVID-19. I assume that Johnson has COVID-19, and if that’s the case, then that means even if Cleveland advances to the postseason, they would likely have to play without two of their top three cornerbacks.
CB Terrence Mitchell has started all season for Cleveland and will continue to do so Sunday against the Steelers. This is the first game this season in which both Ward and Johnson have been out, though. Where does Cleveland turn? The most likely scenario would see CB M.J. Stewart becoming an outside cornerback, while CB Tavierre Thomas takes on the nickelback role.
The team also promoted CB A.J. Green from the practice squad as an emergency cornerback. While Green received positive press for his work in camp, it seems unlikely that the pressure would suddenly be placed on him to start in such a pivotal game. However, Devil’s Advocate might say that Thomas and Stewart aren’t good enough and that if Cleveland is going to have any chance in a possible playoff game, it might be good for Green to get his feet wet now. We’ll see what defensive coordinator Joe Woods has in the cards for Sunday. Although the Steelers will have Mason Rudolph under center, he’s expected to have all four of his top receivers available to him.