Pittsburgh Steelers: Trade for Avery Williamson Boosts Defense for Stretch
After beating the Ravens to remain the NFL's only undefeated team, the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-0) aren't resting on their laurels.
The Steelers made a deal Sunday night ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline, acquiring Jets starting inside linebacker Avery Williamson and a seventh-round pick in 2022 in exchange for a Pittsburgh fifth-round pick in 2022.
The Steelers lost starting inside linebacker Devin Bush to a season-ending knee injury last month, and acquiring Williamson is addresses a need. Robert Spillane has been a playmaker since replacing Bush as a starter, as he showed Sunday with his pick-six against Lamar Jackson.
However, Williamson has far more experience as a proven starter since entering the league with the Tennessee Titans in 2014. Williamson has 543 tackles, 14.5 sacks and four interceptions during his seven-year career, including 56 tackles and an interception this season.
Pittsburgh relies heavily on its linebacker corps in its defensive schemes, which was displayed against Baltimore on Sunday. Even in passing situations, the Steelers often had an extra linebacker on the field with Spillane, T.J. Watt, Vince Williams, Bud Dupree and Alex Highsmith all playing significant roles. Highsmith had an interception, Watt had a sack and five quarterback hits on Jackson, and Dupree forced Jackson to fumble.
"If you are not willing to leave linebackers in the game, they (the Ravens) are going to absolutely gut you running the football," Head Coach Mike Tomlin said after Sunday's game. "That is why we draft linebackers, particularly outside linebackers in round one. They have to be high pedigree guys. They have to be guys that are capable of rushing left tackles and maybe even covering a receiver in the slot. We place a value on that."
Run defense is Williamson's strength, and Tomlin was not happy that the Ravens rushed for 265 yards Sunday. In a season where the Steelers are clearly Super Bowl contenders, they've made a trade deadline deal to help them chase a division title and more.
Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett to Have MRI As Cleveland's Injury List Grows
The Browns (5-3) have a bye this week and they need one. During a 16-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett played through a knee injury, but he was limited and failed to record a sack for the first time in seven games. Garrett, who is tied with Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams for the league lead in sacks with nine, was scheduled for an MRI on Monday.
"It kind of started wearing on me," Garrett said of his knee injury. "It was tough."
Cleveland is missing other key players. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is done for the season with a knee injury. Running back Nick Chubb (knee) has been out for weeks, though he could return after the bye. Running back Kareem Hunt and wide receiver Jarvis Landry are both playing with rib injuries.
The Browns are on pace for a 10-win season, but can they finish the season strong if they don't get healthier? Garrett said he the Browns won't be looking for sympathy.
"We're not going to start now using excuses," Garrett said. "It's a next-man-up league."
Cincinnati Bengals: Burrow Believes Bengals Can Start Rolling
Many people have commented on Joe Burrow's supreme confidence for a rookie quarterback, and it continues to be displayed. Burrow threw for 249 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions during the Bengals' 31-20 upset victory over the Titans. That win leaves the Bengals at 2-5-1 heading into their bye week, which is significant considering that Cincinnati only won two games last season.
Burrow is on pace to set a rookie record for passing yards, but his swagger may be more impressive than his stats. He has the Bengals believing they can beat anybody, and his post-game comments only reinforced that notion.
"I think the games we have coming up are all very winnable," Burrow said, via Pro Football Talk. "We have a stretch here that we can rattle off four or five in a row that I think would be big for this organization and big for this team. I don't think we're out of it yet if we continue to play the way we did today I think we have a good chance."
Here are the Bengals' next five games after their bye – at Pittsburgh, at Washington (2-5), home against the New York Giants (1-6), at Miami (4-3), and at home against Dallas (2-6). The Bengals drafted Burrow with the No. 1 pick because they believed he would be the centerpiece to building a winning team. He's making it clear that he intends to deliver on those expectations.