PITTSBURGH – Cleveland Browns Wide receivers Amari Cooper kept shaking his head in disbelief. quarterback Deshaun Watson couldn’t find the words for several seconds. And defensive end Myles Garrett admitted, “It hurts like hell.”
The All-Pro running back suffered what coach Kevin Stefanski called a “significant” injury to his left knee in the second quarter and had to be carried off the field. Asked after the game if he expects Chubb to miss the rest of the season, Stefanski told reporters: “I do.”
According to a source, Stefanski declined to provide further details about Chubb’s injury, but the team is concerned that Chubb suffered multiple tears in his knee. A team official said Chubb was taken to a local hospital as a precaution and then returned to Cleveland ahead of the team.
“Obviously it’s a big loss,” Cooper said. “Nick is the driving force of the team. Best player on the team. … I’m very sad for Nick, sad for this team to lose Nick. Not only is it not ideal, it’s a tragedy.”
Chubb injured his knee after a 5-yard run to the Steelers’ 3-yard line after Pittsburgh’s safety Minkah Fitzpatrick collided with him during a tackle. Players from both teams gathered around Chubb as he was loaded onto the wagon.
The injured left knee is the same one Chubb had reconstructed after tearing his MCL, PCL and LCL in the process Georgia in 2015.
“It was hard in that moment,” said Watson, Chubb’s longtime friend. “When we saw that [stadium] Repetition, [I had] lots of flashbacks to it [injury] He had that in college.”
Before leaving the game, Chubb had already totaled 64 rushing yards on 10 carries. He had rushed for more than 1,000 yards in four straight seasons, including a career-high 1,525 yards last year.
According to a study by ESPN Stats & Information, Chubb is one of only five players in NFL history with at least eight rushing touchdowns in each of his first five seasons, joining Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith and former Browns star Jim Brown.
“He carries the rock, every play he gets the ball,” said Cleveland’s defensive end Za’Darius Smith said from Chubb. “The piece is 1695124527 miss.”
Without Chubb, the Browns offense struggled for the rest of the game. His successor, Jerome Ford, reeled off a 69-yard run to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. But Cleveland never scored again. And Pittsburgh’s second defensive touchdown of the night proved to be the game-winning score.
Browns All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio admitted the offense missed its star rusher in the second half.
“He’s a great teammate, he’s a hard worker, a great person,” Bitonio said. “Watching him go down… it’s hard. … It’s a great loss.”
On Monday, the Browns tried to start 2-0 for the first time since 1993. Instead, they will have to move forward without one of the best running backs in the league.
“This is our brother, my brother,” Garrett said. “We’ve been together for a long time. This is a big blow for the whole team. We don’t want his injury to be in vain.