By MIKE McLAIN
BEREA - Now the Browns know what the Pittsburgh Steelers were dealing with leading up to a game between the AFC North Division rivals five weeks ago.
The Associated Press
In this Aug. 10, 2012 photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Thad Lewis looks down field during the second half of an NFL preseason game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. Elevated from the practice squad on Monday, Lewis could make his NFL debut in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed that game with shoulder-and-rib injuries. Byron Leftwich, Roethlisberger's backup, went down a week before the game with a rib injury.
Charlie Batch got the start at quarterback for the game in Cleveland. Batch was bad (199 passing yards and three interceptions) and the rest of the Steelers' offense was worse, adding five fumbles to the list of turnovers.
Roethlisberger will start Sunday when the Steelers and Browns close out the regular season at Heinz Field. Browns coach Pat Shurmur isn't sure who will start at quarterback. Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy both missed practice Wednesday with shoulder injuries. Neither player has been ruled out.
Thad Lewis, who has yet to take a snap in a regular-season game, practiced with the first team offense Wednesday. Josh Johnson, who was signed Tuesday, worked with the scout team.
Unless Weeden and McCoy make quick recoveries, it looks like Lewis will get the start. Starting for the first time against the Steelers' defense can be intimidating for some quarterbacks.
"I wouldn't say it's intimidating," Lewis said after practice. "Anyone who loves playing football would love the opportunity to play, no matter where. You're going to take the atmosphere in. Once you're out there it's just guys in front of you. Guys that you've seen and admire, and you actually get to play against them. It's not time to be a fan; it's time to be a player."
Weeden was injured in the third quarter on a sack by Von Miller. The injury appeared serious at first, but Weeden told reporters after the game that he felt okay. McCoy didn't report an injury during the game, but his right shoulder began giving him problems early this week.
Further complicating the offense is the ankle injury suffered by running back Trent Richardson. Richardson was another no-show at practice Wednesday, but he hasn't been ruled out.
Shurmur doesn't buy into the thinking that you rest players late in the season once the playoffs are out of reach.
"You have to overlook that you're playing your last game and make your decision based on playing this next game," Shurmur said. "If they're able to go, they will. If they can't, then I don't have a problem ruling them out before Sunday."
Lewis was on the St. Louis Rams' practice squad for 16 weeks of the 2010 season. Last year he was on the Browns' practice squad for 13 weeks. He dressed for three games but didn't play.
Shurmur, who was the Rams offensive coordinator in 2010, saw enough of Lewis there to convince general manager Tom Heckert to sign him.
"Being on the practice squad you have the opportunity to be called back up if they need you," Lewis said. "You obviously know that the team likes you. That's always a good sign."
Lewis, who played at Duke, hasn't played in a game since the 2009 season against Wake Forest. He has been involved in enough preparations for the Steelers to feel comfortable lining up with the first team.
"Even though you don't get to take the physical reps, you take the mental reps," Lewis said. "You prepare like the others. You share notes with the guys. You know what's going on. On the sideline you make sure you see things that Brandon or Colt didn't see."
Johnson was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft by Tampa Bay in 2008. He spent four seasons with the Bucs, completing 96-of-177 passes for 1,042 yards, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions.