BEREA— The news is that there is no news, and that’s just how Browns head coach Mike Pettine wants it.
Not shy in his desire to keep the Browns’ starting quarterback for Sunday a strategic secret, Pettine purposely avoided any clarity on Friday, when asked whether Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel would start under center.
“I won’t say I don’t know,” Pettine said. “It’s just from an information standpoint, we have our plan built to be either way.”
McCown, who’s battling injured ribs, took limited reps in practice on Friday, while Manziel took the majority of the reps and is prepared to be the starter on Sunday.
Still, Pettine hasn’t informed either of the aforementioned signal callers who will take the first snaps.
It’s all part of a game that Pettine is playing with his opponent, as he feels that forcing the Steelers to game plan for a pair of quarterbacks will give them a competitive advantage.
“Let’s just say you’re going against a guy that could potentially scramble… Knowing who it’s going to be, (you’ll be able) to review that on a Saturday night,” Pettine said. “Now, you can force a defense, the mindset to dovetail a little bit – ‘Here’s Plan A. Here’s Plan B’ – without saying it’s definitely going to be this.”
What Pettine would divulge, however, is that if McCown is the starter, it’ll be because he’s fully healthy. If he’s not, he won’t even be active.
“If he’s good to go, then he would start. I wouldn’t have him inactive,” Pettine said. “Austin Davis will be up. It’ll just be a question of whether he’s the two or the three.”
The Browns aren’t alone in this match of mind games, however, as the Steelers too are yet to name quarterback, with Ben Roethlisberger and his injured foot on the mend.
As he mentioned before, the lack of a definite starter on the other side means that he too has to take extra time in preparing his defense for Roethlisberger and backup Landry Jones.
“You just have to be aware and have your call sheet highlighted. ‘Hey, this is what we’ll highlight if it’s one the other or the third,’” Pettine said. “The good thing about this time of year is that you have enough reps built up in a lot of different defenses that you can change gears and game adjust if you have to based on who is in there.”
While the starting quarterbacks for each side are shrouded in secrecy, Pettine remains a firm believer that it's the players around the quarterback for Cleveland that will play the biggest role in his success, no matter who takes the starting snaps.
"I always say this— what’s being done around him?" Pettine said. "If pockets are breaking down early or guys are making mistakes around him, it’s hard to necessarily judge that player. The emphasis is guys playing well around (him.)"
Whether it's McCown or Manziel, Roethlisberger or Jones, somebody will be named the starting quarterback for both the Browns and the Steelers before the game kicks off at Heinz Field at 1 p.m.
For all of your Browns news and updates from Berea, follow Hayden Grove on Twitter: @H_Grove.