Joel Bitonio missed the game and Cleveland was forced to play Michael Dunn in his place. Dunn and the offensive line held up their end of the bargain, but the undrafted rookie hurt his calf late in the game.
Blake Hance, who just joined the Browns’ main roster earlier in the week and never played in an NFL game, subbed in for Dunn late in the game and kept quarterback Baker Mayfield away from Steelers defenders. Mayfield wasn’t sacked the entire game.
Hance didn't even get a chance to practice with Mayfield because of the team's coronavirus issues, which closed their facility.
The third-year quarterback told NBC’s Michelle Tafoya after the game he didn’t know who Hance was and had just met him in the locker room before the game.
"We had Michael Dunn stepped in at left guard for Joel Bitonio and then Michael got hurt and a guy named Blake who I introduced myself to literally in the locker room before the game, stepped up in the fourth quarter," Mayfield said.
Peter King documented Hance’s arrival and the Browns’ issues in Monday’s Football Morning in America column.
Cleveland signed Hance off the New York Jets’ practice squad before Week 17’s game. According to King, Hance needed to be within driving distance of Cleveland and already in a regular testing program with an NFL team. Because of the coronavirus health and safety protocols, a player who signed with a new team needs to test negative for five consecutive days and Hance had already tested negative earlier in the day.
Hance got to the team hotel and immediately recognized Browns backup Case Keenum, according to King. The two had been on the Washington Football Team in the past.
"It’s very much a 2020 story," Browns general manager Andrew Berry told King.