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5 Observations: Browns still evaluating options at QB for Steelers game

1. Browns still evaluating options at QB vs. Steelers

Josh McCown was back on the practice field for the first time Wednesday since he sustained injuries to his ribs Nov. 1 against the Cardinals.

Whether or not that puts him on the path back to his starting role Sunday against the Steelers remains to be seen.

"We will see how he responds to it," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "Just going through the treatment and some throwing yesterday, it is a progression. That is why we use day-to-day. We will know a lot more after today and see how he responds to the day of work."

Asked how his ribs responded to what he was able to do, McCown joked he "hadn't talked to them yet."

"You want to make progress every day so I feel like we've done that," McCown said. "Not necessarily always as fast as you'd like and as much progress as you'd like but I do feel better. Take it a day at a time and see what happens."

McCown added he's more optimistic about his ability to make this particular start than he was heading into last week's Thursday night game because it's a normal week of preparation.

On Tuesday, Pettine said he'd hoped to make a decision between McCown and backup Johnny Manziel sooner rather than later. He said Wednesday he would gather all of the necessary information about McCown's health later in the night and revisit the decision early Thursday.

Manziel received the first-team repetitions at Wednesday's practice for the second consecutive day. Pettine has said the Browns are preparing as if Manziel will make his third start of the season against the Steelers, and Manziel has embraced the role.

"Obviously every week of practice I get with the guys, every game, every game speed rep – as I was telling (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) and everybody as the game went on -- I felt things starting to slow down more and more and seeing guys here and there," Manziel said. "Not every game is going to be perfect in that aspect. I have only played four starts. At the same time, I feel that I am getting more comfortable."

2. No decision in Pittsburgh, either

A similar story continues to unfold in Pittsburgh, as Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has yet to confirm who will start behind center Sunday at Heinz Field.

Pro Bowl veteran Ben Roethlisberger injured his foot in the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh's 38-35 win over Oakland. Tomlin said Tuesday the door was "slightly ajar" for Roethlisberger to start against the Browns, but the likelier scenario is Landry Jones will make his second start of the year.

On a Wednesday conference call, Tomlin said he didn't have an update on Roethlisberger, who didn't practice, because they'd only been in meetings up to that point. He expressed confidence in Jones, who lost his only start but was good enough to maintain the lead in two Pittsburgh victories that saw him enter in relief.

"He's been able to move the team and get us out of some tough circumstances, obviously, last weekend being one of them," Tomlin said.

3. More injury chatter

Browns Pro Bowl defensive backs Joe Haden and Donte Whitner remained in the league's concussion protocol Wednesday.

Along with McCown, defensive backs Jordan Poyer (shoulder) and Ibraheim Campbell (shoulder) were limited. Poyer has missed the past two games while Campbell played through his injury against the Bengals.

Defensive back Charles Gaines and linebacker Armonty Bryant returned to practice after missing Tuesday for personal reasons.

4. 'Nothing like it'

The Browns haven't won in Pittsburgh since 2003, a lengthy streak Pettine wants to put to bed just like some of the others that have come off the books since he arrived last season.

Pettine referenced the Browns' big win at Cincinnati last year and this year's overtime win at Baltimore, the Browns' first on the Ravens' home field since 2007. He also was a part of Cleveland's first home-opening win in 10 years last season against the Saints.

"I have been a part of some wins there," Pettine said. "There is nothing like it. It will be a great football atmosphere for us, and we look to give us some momentum heading into the bye."

Pettine was in his second year with the Ravens as a coaching assistant in 2003. He experienced his first win at Heinz Field in 2006, when the Ravens routed the Steelers, 31-7 on Christmas Eve.

"The game's going to start 0-0," Pettine said. "We understand it, but we also know that closing ground on the division is a big part of our future success here. We won at Cincinnati a year ago. We won at Baltimore this year. It would be huge for us to go down there and post a victory."

5. Same as it ever was

The year 2003 was also the last time Cleveland faced a Pittsburgh defense that wasn't led by Dick LeBeau.

LeBeau left during the offseason and currently serves as an assistant head coach/defense with the Tennessee Titans. He's been replaced by Keith Butler, who worked underneath him as the linebackers coach.

Understandably, Butler has maintained many of the same concepts and schemes, Pettine said.

"A lot of the pressure stuff is still there," Pettine said. "It causes a lot of stress on your blitz pickup. They force you to get the ball out fast. They speed up your clock. You feel it sometimes even when it is not there just because of the threat of it."

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