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Pettine: Josh McCown will start for Browns if healthy

Plenty of agitated Browns fans look at their 2-7 team and wonder why the club doesn't just hand the ball over to second-year quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Cleveland's coaching simply doesn't agree -- at least not yet.

Telling reporters Tuesday that Josh McCown will start Sunday against the Steelers if he's healthy, coach Mike Pettine explained his thinking on sticking with the veteran.

"We said all along, Josh McCown started the season as our number one quarterback. He's been out due to injury and (he's) potentially coming back," Pettine said. "I get the call for a 'why not' (on Manziel) but we're tasked as coaches to put the roster out there that's going to give us the best opportunity to win."

Pettine called it a "disservice to other players just to play a young guy to see what he has," but acknowledged that "as the year goes on, those circumstances can change, but we'll see."

McCown didn't suit up for Tuesday's practice because of the rib injury that kept him out of last Thursday's loss to the Bengals. In relief, Manziel played a sturdy first half against Cincinnati before the entire offense went to sleep over the final two quarters.

Pettine's faith in McCown isn't entirely misguided. The 36-year-old journeyman has played well enough to fend off Manziel -- throwing 11 touchdowns to just four picks -- but the Browns are under pressure to sort out their quarterback situation ahead of next year's draft.

The reality in Cleveland, though, is that Pettine and his coaching staff are fighting for their jobs. Despite a summertime promise from owner Jimmy Haslam that Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer would be retained no matter what the season produced, the future is very much up in their air.

While a large pocket of this fan base sees a two-win team and wonders what the Browns have to lose, Pettine sees a three-game stretch against the AFC North that could very well decide his future. He reserves the right to play the passer he trusts most.

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