CLEVELAND (AP) — Myles Garrett was only 8 years old when Ben Roethlisberger started his personal, nearly two-decade-long crusade against Cleveland.
Big Ben has tormented the Browns, going 24-2-1 as a starter against them since 2004, including a 12-0 mark in the regular season at home.
“One of the greats,” said Garrett, the Browns' superstar defensive end.
Well, Pittsburgh's quarterback may be down to his last chance to inflict any more pain on Cleveland.
Although he hasn't made it officially official, Roethlisberger said “all signs are pointing” to Monday night's game against the Browns — one with potentially massive playoff implications for both teams — being his last at Heinz Field.
While Steelers fans might have to use their Terrible Towels to dab some tears, the Browns aren't feeling sentimental about the occasion.
“I just hope we can send him out the right way, our way," defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said Friday. “Win and get after him a lot.”
Roethlisberger's stunning ownership of Cleveland dates back to the NFL draft in '04, when the Browns passed on the Ohio-born QB by selecting tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. instead with the No. 6 pick.
Since that day, the decision has haunted the Browns, who spent years in a frustrating, fruitless search for a franchise quarterback and still may not be certain they've found one in Baker Mayfield.
All Roethlisberger did since getting to Pittsburgh was win 163 regular-season games, pass for more than 60,000 yards, win two Super Bowls and amass a Hall of Fame resume that will lead to his enshrinement — back home in Ohio.
As they prepared for a last meeting with him in a must-win game, the Browns (7-8), whose path to an AFC North title will require help, offered mostly respect to a rival who has spent his career wrecking them.
“It’s definitely an honor to take the field against Ben Roethlisberger, watching him since I was a kid and just compete against him,” said Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward, who had two interceptions in his NFL debut against Big Ben.
Garrett's been on a mission to get Roethlisberger since coming into the league as the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, when he said he was out to “chop down” Pittsburgh's QB.
He later shredded a photo of Roethlisberger in a spoof of “The Office” produced by the Browns, and Garrett recently placed a fake tombstone with the QB's name on his front lawn as part of a Halloween display.
Garrett has grown to admire Roethlisberger as a competitor and has relished his matchups against him.
"It's been a back and forth,” he said. "Me trying to get after him. Me being out a little bit. Him being out a little bit. Always having good interactions and good gamesmanship when we are out there.
“I'm trying to do my thing and shut down the game on my side of the ball, and him trying to get the ball off and get it off quick so I can’t do that. I like the challenge of it going against a guy of his caliber and a guy of his prestige.”
Garrett leaned back and chuckled when he was asked if he'll miss Roethlisberger.
“I'll miss his presence in the game, but as far as going against him and the rivalry against him versus us. No, I will not miss that. I will be looking forward to new things, new challenges, new quarterbacks and new people to put in the front yard.”
Clowney admitted being a fan of Roethlisberger, and would like to usher him out in style.
“Not on top,” he said. “Because he's not beating us.”
NOTES: Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt believes some of Mayfield's inaccuracy and inconsistency has been due to the harness he's had to wear on his injured left shoulder. “It’s definitely something that’s hindered him,” Van Pelt said. “He has fought through. We have a lot of respect for the fact that he has battled through that, and we know he is injured.” Mayfield tore the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder making a tackle in Week 2. He threw a career-high four interceptions last week at Green Bay. ... RB Kareem Hunt (ankle) was limited in practice but could play against the Steelers. He's missed seven games with injuries. ... Clowney said he's open to re-signing with the Browns, but the sides have not discussed a long-term deal.
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