Joel Bitonio won’t be able to play for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But despite not being on the field, he’ll be on the mind of his teammates as they try to win the franchise’s first playoff game since 1994.
“He’s important to our team,’’ wide receiver Jarvis Landry said Thursday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He’s important to the Cleveland Browns and the history that we’ve accomplished this year. It sucks what he’s going through to be able to be here for the time that he’s been here and now be in this position and he can’t even play the game because of the circumstances.
“This is definitely one for Joel, absolutely.”
Bitonio, like head coach Kevin Stefanski, will not be able to take part due to a positive COVID-19 test. The team’s longest-tenured player won’t get a chance to play in the team’s first playoff game in 18 years. Bitonio has played in 95 games for Cleveland over the last seven seasons and will need to hope for a short-handed victory over the Steelers to have a chance to play in his first playoff game next week.
“I know we have other guys missing, but for Joel – somebody who’s a great person, a great leader, a father, a great husband – to have put in his time here, endured a lot of things, the longest-tenured Brown and to not be able to play in the first playoff experience, it is very unfortunate,’’ Mayfield said. “We feel for him. That would be the only thing taking away from the excitement.”