The Cleveland Browns added an elite wide receiver talent this offseason when general manager John Dorsey decided to pull the trigger on a deal to land Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants, shifting the power in the AFC North.
However, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t sound too worried about having to face OBJ and the high-powered Browns offense twice a season going forward.
“We see great players week in and week out. We have seen him before,” Tomlin told ESPN. “We have respect for his talent and the talents of everyone they have acquired. But it doesn’t change our agenda or focus.”
Beckham has faced the Steelers once in his career, collecting 10 catches on 16 targets for 100 yards in a 24-14 loss in 2016.
Beckham will likely be matched up with a former Brown in Joe Haden when the AFC North rivals go head to head. Haden spoke on the matchup earlier this offseason while attending a celebrity softball game in Cleveland.
“I’ve worked out with Odell for the last three years each offseason. We go out to LA, we’ve got the same trainer, Jamal Liggin, we go get it and have a good time,” Haden told Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “So just him always striving to be the best he can be, him working so hard in the offseasons, and I pride myself in doing the same. So it’s friendly competition for sure, but end of the day when we line it up I’m going to hope we win and he’s going to hope they win.’’
The Browns have not won the AFC North title since reentering the league in 1999. The Steelers have won the division nine times in the same span.
Tomlin’s Comments Spark ‘First Take’ Debate on OBJ, Browns
After Tomlin made his comments on Beckham, ESPN’s First Take debated the question, “Which team should be more worried about Odell: Steelers or Browns?” The question implied that Beckham would become a headache in the locker room if he didn’t get his touches or things weren’t going as planned.
Max Kellerman came to the OBJ’s defense immediately.
“This is insanity I’m hearing about Odell Beckham Jr. Talk to his teammates. His teammates love this dude,” Kellerman said. “I don’t worry about Odell on the Browns. Baker Mayfield — baller. Kareem Hunt — baller. Nick Chubb — baller. Odell is going to fit right in. He’s much more of a Steelers problem. The Browns just went 7-8-1 and they added Odell Beckham Freaking Jr. and Kareem Hunt. This is a problem for the AFC North, not for Cleveland.”
As a noted Giants fan, Kellerman issued further support for Beckham, even throwing Eli Manning under the bus in the process. Beckham was very critical of Manning last season, criticizing his inability to go downfield.
“Eli Manning, if I ever see him at the bar, he ain’t paying for a drink. He brought my Giants two Super Bowls with clutch plays. I love that dude,” Kellerman said. “But he has stunk on ice for years now. When Odell was on the field, he was making Eli look like a NFL quarterback, kind of. Without Odell, I feel like Eli has been a non-NFL starter.”
Three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson was also in on the segment and offered his two cents.
“I look at it this way, if Odell Beckham has any issues with getting the football early on with the Cleveland Browns, it could be problematic,” Johnson said. “People are looking for Odell to take the Cleveland Browns to the next level. If he’s not getting the football and not producing, trust me, it will be problematic. At the end of the day, I honestly believe that it’s the Cleveland Browns that have to worry about managing and maintaining the expectations.”
Journeyman NBAer Ryan Hollins offered the wildest take of the debate, saying that Odell hasn’t been a “model citizen.”
“You got to be kidding me that if anybody is having the notion here that you don’t have the responsibility as a star in the league to not just get out an produce but be a model citizen,” Hollins ranted.
Johnson stopped Hollins saying that Beckham has been a model citizen, to which Hollins responded: “He ain’t won nothing.”
Time will tell what kind of effect OBJ will have on the Browns, but it’s hard to imagine a situation where the Browns are any worse after adding one of the top receivers in the league — no matter how many kicking nets he goes after out of frustration.
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