Browns’ Joel Bitonio shares firsthand account of fans’ bonkers celebration after Wild Card win
Cleveland Browns left guard Joel Bitonio spent last weekend sitting in his basement and watching his team fight for their playoff lives against the Pittsburgh Steelers on his 70-inch TV. Despite him not being in Heinz Field on game day, Bitonio still felt the excitement of the Browns faithful after grabbing the all-important victory.
“My neighbors know where I live, and after the game, they were outside of my house going crazy and lighting off fireworks,” Bitonio said on Zoom via Akron Beacon Journal. “My wife got some of the footage on video.”
Bitonio is already serving as the team’s most tenured player, having spent his entire career in Cleveland after being selected with the 35th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He has gone through several losing seasons, including their franchise-worst 0-16 record in 2017 under former head coach Hue Jackson.
The veteran was about to play in the first postseason game of his career against the Steelers in the Wild Card round. However, he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus almost a week before kickoff. He wasn’t the only piece missing as the Browns went to battle without head coach Kevin Stefanski and four other assistant coaches.
Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge along with cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson all sat out as well. Despite playing with a depleted roster, the Browns still managed to handle their business and upset the Steelers on a dominant 48-37 victory.
After getting the win, the Browns will now advance to the AFC divisional round against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Browns roster will also be at full strength as all team members have already recovered from the virus.
Joel Bitonio will aim to make an impact as he will finally suit up in a playoff game for the first time in his seven-year career. Despite the odds, the All-Pro lineman still believes that his team can match up and compete with the reigning Super Bowl champions.
“We’re trying to focus on ourselves and trying to put the best version of the Browns out there that we can,” Bitonio said.
Both teams will vie for the right to advance to the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 17 at Arrowhead Stadium.