The Cleveland Browns have officially benched quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The former No. 1 overall pick struggled against the Steelers sturdy defense, looking uncomfortable in the pocket under consistent pressure. He threw a pick-six on his first pass of the game, which was one of two in the first half from Mayfield. He was also sacked three times.
Mayfield entered the game with a chest injury that limited him during the week and was obviously affecting him during the game. He winced after big hits from the Steelers defensive line, which came early and often.
Speculation swirled during the game that Mayfield would sit, with the broadcast keeping track of Keenum on the sideline. With the game seemingly out of reach, head coach Kevin Stefanski made the call.
Mayfield exited the game going 10-of-18 for 119 yards with two interceptions. Keenum entered the game with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Browns are Keenum’s fifth team in five seasons. He played most recently for the Washington Redskins, starting eight games before the reins were handed over to Dwayne Haskins. Keenum went 1-7 in his starts, passing for 1,707 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had not seen any action previously this season.
Keenum started 30 games over his previous two seasons before landing in Washington with the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings. In 2017, he went 11-3 with Minnesota, helping lead the team to the NFC championship game.
Keenum had taken first-team reps this week in preparation in case Mayfield was unable to go.
Fans, Analysts Clammoring for Baker Mayfield Benching
With Mayfield struggling, the whispers grew into yells asking for Keenum to get a shot.
“Baker Mayfield is now holding back a super talented offense and very capable coaching staff,” Colin Cowherd, a long-time critic of Mayfield wrote.
There’s no doubt Mayfield will continue to be the starter if he’s healthy. The Browns were 4-1 with him under center, and while he wasn’t playing at a Pro Bowl level, he did more than enough to get the Browns some wins.
Mayfield, Keenum Have Good Relationship
When the Browns signed Keenum this offseason to a three-year, $18 million deal, it immediately started the rumors of a QB competition brewing in Cleveland. However, Keenum has been adamant that he understands his role with the Browns behind Mayfield.
“Coming in, obviously my role, one is to be ready to play,’’ he said. “I know the situation with Baker, how he’s played, and the investment the team has in him. I’m excited to help bring that room together, help bring an offense together and be the best team player I can be.”
Mayfield invited Keenum to Texas during the offseason to throw with him and has been complimentary of his presence in the locker room.
“I think that is a huge part of why I was looking forward to being around Case was that he was in this system so I can hear his thoughts on how it is taught and how he reads it. He has been in a lot of systems, as well, and it has not been an excuse for him,” Mayfield said. “Just hearing how he visualizes certain things and certain reads has been great.”