BEREA - Tim Couch will get his second start of the season when the Browns play the Steelers Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Coach Butch Davis revealed after Wednesday's practice that Holcomb's fractured right fibula hasn't improved enough. Holcomb has made progress and could be available as the backup.
"As I said last week, it will probably be (Tim) unless Kelly is absolutely 100 percent or close to it, and he's not," Davis said. "I'd say he's 50 to 75 percent better than he was at this stage a week ago. Our estimations are that as the week winds down, he'll be able to take enough reps to be physically and mentally prepared to be the number two quarterback.
"I've always believed, unless there's no way around it, that the guys who take the lion's share of preparations on Wednesday and Thursday are probably going to perform better. It would be unfair to the team and unfair to him (Holcomb) to throw him out there."
Holcomb said his left ankle, which he sprained against San Francisco, has improved siginificantly. Asked what his gut feeling is about his chances to start this week prior to practice, Holcomb said, "I don't know anything until I get out there on the football field. My gut feeling is I think I can do it. It's how you go through the drills and how you feel Thursday. It's getting better each and every day because I can feel it."
There's no question that Couch is anxious for another chance. Holcomb started in the Browns' last visit to Heinz Field and threw for 429 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-33 loss in a wild card game.
"It was hard," Couch said of sitting out the playoff with a fractured fibula. "Being here through all the tough times, I wanted a chance to play in a playoff game. I had played all year long, but it wasn't meant to be."
Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher is more concerned about other areas of the Browns offense.
"Whether it's Tim Couch or Kelly Holcomb, unfortunately he'll have the same group of supporting receivers," Cowher said before learning that Couch will get the start. "They are pretty good. Add that with Jamel White, and William Green has gotten better.
"I think it's a very good offense. I have a lot of respect for them, and I have a lot of respect for Tim Couch. They have two good quarterbacks up there. Obviously, because of injuries you need that in today's game. To be able to bring a Tim Couch in for a Kelly Holcomb is something not a lot of teams have."
Listed as questionable for the Steelers are receiver Plaxico Burress (hip), linebacker Clint Kriewaldt (hip), tight end Jay Riemersma (shoulder) and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (shoulder). Listed as probable are linebacker James Farrior (glute) and offensive tackle Todd Fordham (knee).
Offensive tackle Barry Stokes was held out of practice to rest his sore left ankle. Stokes sprained the ankle in a week two game against Baltimore and hasn't been able to participate in any of the three Wednesday practices since then.
"We're just being cautious," Davis said. "He could have practiced, but we're giving him an additional day to get the soreness and stiffness out."
MR. MUSTARD RETURNS: Tight end Chad Mustard is back on the practice squad. In addition, offensive lineman Craig Osika was signed to the practice squad off the active roster. Defensive back Ron Israel was waived from the practice squad.