CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Kevin Stefanski found himself in an unusual situation on Sunday night: watching the team he led to the playoffs take the field in Pittsburgh while he was isolating with Covid-19 from his basement.
And, like the fans who were put on an emotional roller coaster during a third quarter in which the Steelers started mounting a comeback, Stefanski admits the moments were tense.
“I have a newfound respect for all of our fans and how they watch these games,” Stefanski said during a zoom meeting on Monday, one day after the Browns’ thrilling 48-37 win, the organization’s first playoff win since 1994. “I like it better when I have some control.”
The Browns defense scored on the first play of the game, as safety Karl Joseph recovered a Ben Roethlisberger fumble in the end zone. Stefanski says his kids saw the play long before he did.
“The funny part about that is, I’m in the basement isolating from my family, and I guess my (TV) feed, for whatever reason ... I must have hit pause or something ... is about 45 seconds behind, so I heard my kids going crazy upstairs,” Stefanski said. “So I had an inkling something good was gonna happen on that first play.
“I just turned into the fan of the team,” Stefanski said. “Just pulling for our guys like crazy. But it’s a very, very unique feeling not to be there with them. There’s a ton of nervous energy that doesn’t exist on the sideline for whatever reason, but it existed for me last night.”
His assistant coaches, and players, were thinking of him. Jarvis Landry, who had a starring role in the win, was the first to reach out, FaceTiming Stefanski as Landry walked off the field after the game.
“We knew it was going to be different without him,” defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi said on Monday. “He was still there in spirit.”
He certainly was. And Stefanski admits, it was both excruciating and exhilarating.
“I don’t plan on doing that again.”