BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – It took Myles Garrett a millisecond to name the quarterback he looked forward to sacking first after the Browns picked him No. 1 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft: Ben Roethlisberger.
The fact that Big Ben was atop Garrett’s hit list won him immediate adulation from Browns fans.
Ironically, Roethlisberger will be the first quarterback Garrett will face Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium to kick off the 2017 season and the Browns’ rookie defensive end isn’t backing down.
“I stand by it,” Garrett said Wednesday. “Shouldn’t be scared to take anybody down. Everybody on the offensive line, we’re gonna come at him as a collective group. It’s not just one player getting after 5 guys, it’s the whole defense against their offense. I’m not going to be alone in this.”
But now there are questions about if Garrett will even get to play.
The defensive end from Texas A&M suffered an ankle injury and had to leave Wednesday’s practice early head coach Hue Jackson said.
The talk on draft night from Garrett didn’t really ruffle any feathers in Pittsburgh. Wednesday afternoon Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin shrugged off the notion that it adds a little something extra to Sunday’s game the way Roethlisberger shakes off defenders.
“It does for you guys,” Tomlin said. “I would imagine we expect to get his best and he expects to get ours. That is just part of the entertainment value that is professional sports. We have a game to prepare for. I am sure he views it the same way. I will let you guys kick that nonsense around.”
Cleveland remains a bye week for the Steelers, who are are 31-6 including an AFC Wild Card playoff game since 1999 against the Browns but Garrett is expected to help change that.
“I didn’t know the rivalry was as big as it is,” Garrett admitted, “but seeing the big plays that have happened on each side just shows that that is something to look forward to and live up to.”
The Browns, who went through the worst season in franchise history finishing 1-15 a year ago, drafted Garrett in the hopes he’ll help transform one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the best.
“Now you have to back it up,” Jackson said. “You can say that, but I think he understands that his teammates are with him in that. In order to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, we do have to get Ben down. That is just the truth. That is not something that is out of the ordinary. I think he was expressing what is true. In order to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, you have to slow Ben down. That is the only way to slow him down is by getting him on the ground.”
Garrett left a lasting impression on Steelers cornerback Joe Haden before the Browns released him last week.
“He just has stuff that you can’t teach – his motor, his professionalism and his attitude,” Haden said. “He definitely is a pro already. He is mature beyond his age. He just loves the game and loves getting after it. My bold prediction, I really feel like Myles can make the Pro Bowl his rookie year.”
If the preseason is any indication, Garrett is just the guy to do it. But he and his defensive teammates have their work cut out for them this week.
“He’s no small fellow,” Garrett said of the 6-5, 240-pound Roethlisberger. “It’s gonna be pretty tough. Gotta make sure you wrap up and make sure to try and get the ball out. There’s times where he’s a little bit loose with it so when you try to get him down just try and rake the ball while you’re doing it.”
Since Cleveland passed on Roethlisberger in the 2004 NFL Draft, the Findlay, Ohio native has tormented the Browns. He is 20-2 against them as a starter throwing for 5,490 yards with 35 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 23 games. His numbers are the most among NFL quarterbacks in NFL history against the Browns.
Bringing down Big Ben is easier said than done.
Roethlisberger has proven over the years to be one of the most elusive and difficult quarterbacks to bring down in the league, but Garrett has a plan when he faces him for the first time.
“Just make sure you don’t hit him up high,” Garrett said. “You see a lot of guys who make that mistake and he just shrugs them off and he’ll find a little escape hatch and extend the play. So, just make sure you hit him low, try and stay above the knees but get him in his lower body and make sure you wrap up and gator roll.”
First thing is first and that is Garrett has to get a clean bill of health.