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Browns rookie OL Cameron Erving set for 1st career start vs. Steelers

His playing time hasn't been what he envisioned throughout his rookie season, but Cameron Erving hasn't changed his mentality.

Since the day he arrived in Cleveland, Erving has been reluctant to pigeonhole his strengths to one position. He called himself an offensive lineman who was ready and willing to adapt to whichever position the Browns coaches think he'll best help the team.

On Sunday in Pittsburgh, it will be left guard, a spot vacated by the injured Joel Bitonio. It just so happens to be the position at which Erving has seen the least amount of work during previous weeks of practice, but the first-round pick from Florida State didn't seem fazed in the slightest.

"I'm a football player, and I like to play football so I'm going to put everything I have into what I'm playing that week or what the team needs me to do," Erving said. "All of those questions, honestly, are irrelevant to me. I'm just going to go out and I'm going to play football, regardless of what position I'm at."

Bitonio, a cornerstone of the Browns offensive line for the present and future, injured his ankle during last week's first half. He headed to the locker room for halftime early but returned to the game for the second half. Erving played the final nine snaps in his place.

Browns coach Mike Pettine did not provide a specific timetable for Bitonio, who will "potentially be down for a while."

Though his playing time has been minimal, Erving has received constant praise from the offensive line's starters. They've liked what they've seen behind the scenes.

"I think he is ready," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "I am excited to see what he can do out there in a full game. He got a little bit of a taste last week. This week if he is the guy I am sure he will be getting the majority of the reps in practice. That is a big part of getting ready for Sunday is getting those reps in practice. I am excited to see how he does. I think he will do a good job.

"He has shown that he can be a good player already from what we have seen in training camp and at practice. Now it is time to do it on a big stage against our biggest rival."

A close-up look at the action against the Bengals on Thursday Night Football.

Erving began his college career on the defensive line, switched to offense, where he flourished as a left tackle and, because of a number of injuries and his versatility, finished at center. When he arrived in Cleveland in May, he promptly received a heavy dose of snaps at right guard, left tackle and center. His focus was honed on right guard during training camp, but veteran John Greco ultimately retained his job, relegating Erving to a sixth man of sorts.

The frustration would have been understandable, but Erving knew his chance for extensive playing time would eventually present itself.

"I've kept my faith and I've stayed rooted and know that my time was going to come," Erving said. "I didn't get picked in the first round for nothing. My chance is going to come so I'm just being patient, and this is the first opportunity of many."

The Browns got burned without a reliable sixth offensive lineman last season after center Alex Mack went down with a season-ending injury before the midpoint of the schedule. Erving said he'll lean on Thomas and Bitonio to ensure the Browns won't have the kind of dropoff in performance that's typical with an offensive line losing a cog as key as Bitonio.

"It's just about preparing yourself each week to the best of your ability, knowing that you might play, knowing that you might not play," Erving said. "It's a lot of uncertainty there, but I've done a good job, I feel like, and a lot of guys have commended to me on the job I've done of just being prepared when the time comes."

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