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Browns TE David Njoku: Win over Steelers, 2-0 start 'would be huge for us all'

Only eight players on the Browns' 53-man roster were alive the last time the team started the season 2-0.

That last happened in 1993, the same season now-Patriots head coach Bill Belichick decided to bench longtime starting quarterback Bernie Kosar for Vinny Testaverde.

Back then gas cost a dollar. That's how long ago it was.

Flash forward 30 years, 12 head coaches and 38 starting quarterbacks later (the most in the league in that span), the Browns will try to once again begin the season 2-0 in Pittsburgh against the Steelers on Monday night.

Not only have the Browns not started the season 2-0 in 30 years, but they also have not beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh during the regular season in 20 years.

Browns tight end David Njoku knows how much a win on Monday would mean for the city of Cleveland.

"It'll be huge for the fan base," he said in a phone interview with on Thursday. "It would be huge for all of us. We really want to do it for our fans because we know that they're the ones watching that or looking for that. I know they'll be really hyped. They're going to come to the game psyched as ever. We're going to have a lot of fun."

Browns cornerback Greg Newsome II said Thursday during an interview on The Insiders on NFL+ that the team knows the challenge another AFC North matchup presents.

"Playing in this division that we're in, every game is going to be tough," Newsome said. "They're not just going to sit down. ... Our goal this week is just to stay consistent, go out there, and just play our hardest."

A win on Monday would also mark the first for second-year Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson over the Steelers (Watson is 0-2 against Pittsburgh for in his career).

Watson and the Browns will enter Monday's game with a new right tackle after Jack Conklin suffered a season-ending knee injury in Cleveland's season-opening win over the Bengals.

Following Conklin's injury, the Browns signed veteran offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe, who is in his 10th season in the league and spent time with the Rams last season. They also have rookie fourth-round draft pick Dawand Jones, who replaced Conklin on Sunday and is expected to start in Pittsburgh.

"Well, initially, like without anything else, he's built like a tank," Njoku said of Jones, who is listed at 6-foot-8, 374 pounds. "This guy is a monster. Just his physical presence is a lot of confidence on its own and along with that, he's been very dialed in. He's been in the playbook and the game plan day in and day out, so I know he's going to do just fine."

Regardless of who is out there helping to protect Watson on Monday night, Njoku says it's a next-man-up mentality and understands the responsibility the entire offense has in protecting the QB.

"We have his six, meaning we have his back through it all," he said. "I know he's very confident in the O-line and myself and even Nick Chubb and the other running backs and tight ends."

Monday's game will be Watson's first in prime time since the 2020 season (Watson sat out the 2021 campaign and was suspended 11 games last year due to allegations of sexual misconduct). His 6-3 record in prime time is the best of any quarterback who has made at least five prime-time starts since 2017, per NFL Research.

Watson's history under the lights is something Njoku knows well, even dating back to their college days. Njoku was a member of the Miami Hurricanes when they suffered their worst defeat in the program's 90-year history, losing to Watson's Clemson Tigers, 58-0, in 2015.

"The first thing I said to him when he became a Brown was, I didn't forget about that college game," Njoku told on Thursday. "To this day I still remember that same game like it was yesterday. We just couldn't tackle him. It really made no logical or scientific sense if I can be clear. He is just a force to be reckoned with, and I'm really glad he's on our side now."

The Browns are hoping Watson returns to that level in quarterback play in 2023. Watson had 154 passing yards, a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown in Week 1. His improvements have been felt in practice, Newsome said. The cornerback credits Watson's play as the reason the defense held Joe Burrow and the Bengals' offense to just three points.

"Man, I love my quarterback," Newsome said. "I feel like he's definitely getting back to this old self, and I feel like he's been doing great. ... We go against one of the best every single day at practice. I'm definitely super excited for him. They're going to continue to keep getting the offense ready to go and we're going to play great complementary football."

Complementary football is something Njoku prides himself in.

"I feel like whatever happens, good or bad, it's all of us together," he said. "The unity on this team is second to none. So whenever anything happens, it's all of us. We are all to blame, or we're all at fault at the same time. ... Through unity, we can conquer anything."

Now Njoku, Watson and the Browns will look to change the narrative surrounding their inability to win in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

Njoku said another year with Watson at the helm has helped the Browns to understand one another in crucial and critical moments. They're expecting that unity to carry them throughout this season.