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Steelers Lookahead: Previewing Sunday's game vs. Cleveland

| Monday, Sept. 1, 2014, 10:15 p.m.
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Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine stands on the sideline during a preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Aug. 18, 2014, at FedExField in Landover, Md.
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Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins of the Cleveland Browns catches a pass during training camp at the team's training facility on July 26, 2014, in Berea, Ohio.
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Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer looks to pass during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears on Aug. 28, 2014, at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.


If nightlife-loving Instagram fave Johnny Manziel is the new Mr. Brown — and ticket sales reflect that — then Hoyer is Mr. Boring. He is low-key and low-maintenance, the polar opposite of all the electricity and commotion that swirls around Johnny Football.

Hoyer is the Browns' 16th starting quarterback since they passed up Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 to draft tight end Kellen Winslow (the Steelers have had four). The question is whether his shelf life will be much longer than predecessors like Charlie Frye, Jake Delhomme and, yes, Roethlisberger's current backup, Bruce Gradkowski.

Hoyer's every miscue will have win-deprived Browns fans begging for Manziel. And while Hoyer is considered the starter, Kyle Shanahan (Cleveland's 12th offensive coordinator since 1999) apparently plans to use both QBs. With NFL receiving leader Josh Gordon suspended for the season, the Browns arguably have the NFL's worst group of wide receivers, so Shanahan is designing play packages for Manziel to run at various times. His 88 yards rushing (and 7.3 average) on 12 carries were the preseason offensive highlight. Hoyer often traded inefficient drives with Manziel during a rough preseason but did lead an 85-yard touchdown drive Thursday in a 33-13 win over the Bears.

The Steelers, interestingly, helped save Hoyer's NFL career. Out of work for three months after being cut by the Patriots in 2012, Hoyer was picked up by Pittsburgh when Roethlisberger injured a shoulder. He was Charlie Batch's backup in the Steelers' 20-14, eight-turnover loss at Cleveland, only to be cut for a cornerback. The Steelers wanted to bring him back as Roethlisberger's backup — before they signed Gradkowski — but the Cardinals offered him guaranteed money. Arizona released him a few months later. The son of longtime season-ticket holders, Hoyer then hooked on with his hometown Browns and, before being lost with a season-ending knee injury, went 57 of 96 for 615 yards, 5 TDs and 3 INTs. Now, he's hoping to avoid a quick, but perhaps inevitable, hook.


A product of Pennsylvania's Friday night lights, he once coached at North Penn and William Tennent, and father Mike Sr. won four PIAA Class AAAA titles and 326 games at Central Bucks West. The former Bills and Jets defensive coordinator won high marks for his handling of training camp. Now, the Browns' eighth head coach since '99 tries to replace chaos with stability.

Stat: 27 wins by Browns coaches since 2007; Mike Tomlin has 71.


With Gordon suspended, Hawkins (12 catches, 0 TDs with Bengals) and Miles Austin (24 catches, 0 TDs with Cowboys) likely will be the go-to receivers. Hawkins, from Johnstown, caught 51 passes in 2012 and averaged an excellent 10.8 yards after the catch in 2013. But this question-mark Browns offense needs more from him.

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