For the second time this season, DTR will be stepping in for injured quarterback Deshaun Watson against a tough AFC North Division rival in front of a rabid fanbase desperate for a win.
The last time, in Week 4 against the Baltimore Ravens, started poorly with a punt on the first offensive possession and an interception on the second. Things went downhill from there as Thompson-Robinson finished the game with three interceptions, saw the Browns punt on eight of their 12 possessions, and only scored three points in losing to the Ravens.
Fast forward seven weeks and the Browns come into Sunday’s game having won four of their five games since the long afternoon against the Ravens and are firmly in the hunt for a playoff spot as they currently sit at No. 6 in the AFC.
Things are also a bit different in that the Browns now know they are playing the rest of the season without Watson and the coaching staff successfully navigated a four-game stretch earlier in the year when Watson was dealing with his rotator cuff injury. So everyone knows what they need to do and that they can win.
DTR falls into the camp as well as he believes his experience in Week 4, no matter how miserable it may have been, will serve him well against the Steelers (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“I mean, shoot, I know what to expect now. Unlike many other people out there, I’ve been in an NFL game, so I’m not stepping out there for the first time. I know all my keys, all what to look at throughout film, what to watch, who key players are on their defense and everything now. So, I’m not just going out there wide-eyed anymore. I’m going out there with things to look at, things to focus on and a plan to be able to tackle.
“I think I said this a couple of weeks ago, it’s going to be night and day. Just my progression, the maturity, how I’ve handled the week this far and all the weeks before. Just being able to learn from that first experience.”
That all sounds good during the week, but the Steelers will have a say in the matter, and as boxer Mike Tyson once said, everyone has a plan until they get punched.
Even though DTR’s NFL experience is limited to that full game against the Ravens and one snap against the Seattle Seahawks, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt believes Thompson-Robinson will be ready on Sunday (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“Every time you step back out on the field, you learn from your past experiences and for him, it wasn’t his finest day. So, I’m sure there’s a lot of pride that comes with that and double down your efforts to have a strong performance the next time you get the opportunity. So, I think he’s learned from that game and it’ll only help him moving forward.
“He’s a confident young man. There’s no question he was the day he got here, and I see that every day. He’s talented in what he does and he’s had success at the college level and we’re just waiting for that to show here. I don’t think he’s lost any confidence. If anything, he’s more confident because he’s going to be more prepared this time.”
Things could not have gone much worse for Thompson-Robinson in his first NFL start back in Week 4. And fifth-round rookie quarterbacks don’t often get a second chance at erasing those first impressions, but DTR’s opportunity comes Sunday against the Steelers.
It won’t be easy, but if he can help pull out a win, it might be the start of a memorable run through the final weeks of the regular season, one that culminates in Thompson-Robinson making his first playoff start at the end of his rookie campaign.
Do you think DTR truly does know what to expect on Sunday vs. the Steelers?