- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Brian Hoyer can keep his eyes trained downfield this Sunday. There’s no need to look over his shoulder.

He’s well aware of who’s behind him, but the Browns’ starting quarterback doesn’t have to worry about Johnny Manziel jumping in front of him.

Not this week, anyway.

Hoyer’s season-opening start in Pittsburgh won’t be a short one, barring a disaster. Browns coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday that he’s spoken to Hoyer and told him not to concern himself with anything other than beating the dreaded Steelers. Pettine wants Hoyer’s focus to be solely on the guys in black and gold, not anyone in a logo-less orange helmet.

If there’s a leash on Hoyer - and let’s be clear, there is one - it may be a little longer than first believed.

“Quarterback’s the one position where you can’t be as quick on that trigger,” Pettine said. “When we met to discuss him being the starter, it was, ‘Hey, this is your team. This is your offense.’ That we have his back. That we didn’t go with him and just say, ‘Hey, listen, we might do this and see how it goes and after a series we might switch it back.’ I know you can’t do that at quarterback.

“He knows it’s not going to be a quick hook.”

Hoyer appreciated Pettine’s words. They were helpful, but didn’t change the way he’s approaching the season.

“He said, ‘Look, I just want you go to out there and be yourself and play and not worry about anything else’,” Hoyer said. “And I think that’s how my mentality is regardless. This is something I’ve worked toward and I’m not looking back, so it was good to hear him say it.”

Pettine’s pep talk aside, Hoyer, who was once released by three teams in a nine-month span, understands that the NFL is a brutally bottom-line business. It’s either make plays or get cut. Throw completions and touchdowns or get tossed away. Win games or lose your job. No excuses.

Hoyer knows Pettine will give him nothing he hasn’t earned.

“You have to produce or there will be a change made,” Pettine said. “But I don’t think he’s going into this game feeling that.”

Manziel, though, is waiting in the wings. The Browns didn’t draft the former Heisman Trophy winner to sit the bench for long, and there’s a chance Pettine could design a special set of plays for the dynamic rookie. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin expects Pettine to utilize Manziel in some way Sunday.

Manziel on the field for any length of time could be dangerous for Hoyer. If Manziel sparks the offense, Pettine might choose to stick with him.

Hoyer, though, isn’t opposed to some kind of “Johnny Package.”

Story Continues →