The Cleveland Browns have ruled starting right tackle Jack Conklin out of Sunday’s Week 18 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and that could be good news for T.J. Watt.
Conklin suffered an ankle injury in Cleveland’s Week 17 win over the Washington Commanders. He was replaced by second-year Cincinnati Bearcats product James Hudson. The 2021 fourth-round pick has made six starts in his NFL career, and one of them came against the Steelers and Watt at the end of last season.
It did not go well.
In Ben Roethlisberger’s final game in Pittsburgh last January, it was Watt that had the Hall of Fame-worth performance.
Watt ate up Hudson to the tune of four sacks, three tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and two passes defended. In total, the Steelers sacked Baker Mayfield nine times, and he was critical of the offensive game plan for allowing Watt such an unencumbered shot at Hudson all game.
“Last year is last year,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said this week. “He has done a very nice job this season.”
Cleveland also has a much more mobile quarterback this time around in Deshaun Watson, who can get out of pressure all on his own at times. But if Watt has another monster game against Hudson, it’s hard to envision any part of the Cleveland offense getting going on Sunday.
“That guy that was out there on that field last year wasn’t me,” Hudson told Cleveland.com this week. “I didn’t feel like me at all. So the goal this weekend is just to go out there and just play my game, just be James Hudson and just help this team get a win.”
If Hudson doesn’t improve, Watt could be in line for another dominant performance.
More WATTage 🔋 pic.twitter.com/7xra4Qfenx
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 7, 2023