Austin Davis
Cleveland Browns quarterback Austin Davis (7) passes in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
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Austin Davis to Start for Browns vs. Steelers

In typical Cleveland fashion, the Browns will not be starting their first-string quarterback to end the NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But unlike the Browns of years past, this replacement was borne not out of dissatisfaction, but injury.

Johnny Manziel has been in the NFL’s concussion protocol all week, and was finally ruled out of the week 17 game, opening the door for Austin Davis to potentially stake his claim for a roster spot with the 2016 Browns.

If there’s one team that might just help him make the most of that opportunity, it’s the Steelers. Just last week, the Baltimore Ravens embarrassed the playoff hopefuls. Pittsburgh’s porous secondary made Ryan Mallett look like Johnny Unitas, yielding almost 300 yards through the air with zero turnovers.

The defense was hindered in no small part by Ben Roethlisberger’s two interceptions and his shockingly anaemic offense.

Davis has had a fair season as the Browns’ third-stringer, completing two-thirds of his passes for one touchdown, one pick and one lost fumble. When the two teams last met earlier this year, Manziel was the man, throwing for over 400 yards but kept largely in check by a bend-don’t-break defensive effort keeping Johnny Football in the pocket and out of the endzone.

The Steelers should know better than to underestimate the luckless Browns and their unenthralling quarterback, though. Pittsburgh’s untimely decision to play the worst game of its season last Sunday almost derailed a hype train expected to chug all the way to the Super Bowl.

Now, the team no-one wants to face might not even make it to the big dance, especially if the defense underestimates its competition again.

The Browns will be motivated only by the potential to play spoiler against their most despised foe, while Steeler Nation will be occupied with some scoreboard watching in upstate New York, hoping Rex Ryan’s Bills can complete a season sweep of the Jets and help propel Pittsburgh into the AFC’s 6th seed, where a grudge match in Cincinnati likely awaits.

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