BEREA, Ohio (AP) – The Browns have prepared two quarterbacks to start against the Steelers.
As of Thursday night, it still wasn’t clear if Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel will get the call Sunday.
McCown threw for the third straight practice, testing his sore ribs to see if he can face Pittsburgh. But the 36-year-old was limited and Manziel took the majority of snaps with Cleveland’s starting offense and may make his second straight start.
McCown, who sat out last week’s loss in Cincinnati, looked good while throwing short passes in rainy, windy conditions during the 30 minutes of practice open to reporters as the Browns (2-7) prepared to play the Steelers (5-4).
Afterward, a few of his teammates said McCown was doing all he could to get back on the field.
“I thought he looked really good,” said starting right guard John Greco. “The main thing is it was good to see him back in the huddle and taking snaps. When you’re forced to miss games because of injuries, trust me, he’s not sitting out because he wants to.
“He would be in there with a missing arm. We’ve got to be smart, too. There’s a lot of games left and we’ve got a bye coming up. So we just want him to be healthy.”
After facing the Steelers, the Browns have a bye and it’s possible they’ll sit McCown this week to allow him to get completely healthy.
Coach Mike Pettine expected to have a better idea about McCown’s availability following Thursday’s practice. He could take his decision up until game time, but could name his starter on Friday.
McCown, who last week complained of having trouble breathing and sleeping because of his injured ribs, said Wednesday he was feeling better and optimistic about playing.
“We’ll see how I feel when I wake up and as we go throughout the day,” McCown said. “Each day, I felt like we gained a little ground, maybe not as much as I would like, but I feel like it’s improving and that’s a good thing.”
Guard John Greco said he didn’t have a sense on who would start Sunday.
“No idea,” he said. “Because of what Pittsburgh does, we’re so focused on preparation and what they’re doing and with Johnny in there, we have to be preparing like he’s the starter.
“When Josh comes in there, it’s like, “OK, we have to be preparing like he’s the starter. It’s not so much that because we do the same thing no matter who’s taking snaps.
“When I say it was encouraging to see Josh in there, just seeing him in there as a competitor, as a guy, as a teammate, because you know he wants to be there, it’s just nice to see that. But I like where Johnny’s been all week.”
Manziel played well in the first half of his fourth career start against the Bengals, but was bottled up after halftime in a 31-10 loss.
The Browns are expected to be short-handed on defense as Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner are still following the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Also, starting left guard Joel Bitonio will not play because of a badly sprained ankle, giving rookie Cam Erving – a first-round pick this year – his first career start.
NOTES: Browns S Tashaun Gipson isn’t buying the talk that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger might play with a sprained foot. “He can fool y’all. He ain’t fooling me,” Gipson told reporters. “I don’t believe he’s playing. But then again, I respect him. He’s a tough, competitive guy, so if he says he’s going to play, I hold out 5 percent hope that he might play. But I’ve seen the injury just like everybody else had seen it. I believe if he could play in a boot, he would. Unfortunately, he can’t.”