Rookie quarterback Cody Kessler will be the Browns' starter this week and the foreseeable future. How long that is could be up to him.
Kessler, who returned to practice a few days ago after being sidelined since Oct. 23 with a concussion, will start Sunday as the winless Browns (0-8) host the Dallas Cowboys. Kessler has shown steady progress and Browns Coach Hue Jackson wants to find out if he can be Cleveland's long-term QB.
"That is why he is playing," Jackson said Friday. "Because I need to know."
Jackson is going back to Kessler after starting Josh McCown last week in a loss to the New York Jets. McCown had a solid game, but at 37, he's not going to help the Browns beyond the next few weeks and Jackson must get a longer look at Kessler.
The Browns have two first-round picks in next year's draft, and the way they're headed they may have No. 1 overall. But before they reach the off-season, they have to figure out if Kessler can be the answer to their nearly two-decades-long search for a franchise quarterback.
"I don't want to just say if he does great that doesn't mean that we're not going to draft a quarterback because I think you've got to always have quarterbacks," Jackson said. "So this is an opportunity for Cody to demonstrate that. But more so than that, it's an opportunity for him to go out with his teammates and help them get a win."
Kessler, who has made five starts, suffered a concussion late in the first half two weeks ago at Cincinnati. He was cleared through the NFL's head injury protocol earlier this week and practiced for the first time on Wednesday. He's eager to start again but isn't looking beyond the Cowboys.
"Whatever happens moving forward, I just prepare the same way and approach it as an opportunity because you never know how many you are going to get," he said. "My process and my preparation has been that and to prepare as the starter every week. To get another chance, another opportunity this weekend is exciting for me, and I am just going to continue to take it the same way and treat it the same way."
In Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger has practiced in a limited capacity all week. Swelling has not been an issue and Roethlisberger said his biggest concerns are pain tolerance and the ability to protect himself in the pocket.
If Roethlisberger can't go, Landry Jones will make his fourth career start.
Running back DeAngelo Williams (knee) and cornerback William Gay (foot) are also questionable. Defensive end Cam Heyward, out a month a hamstring injury will return, as will right tackle Marcus Gilbert, out since a win over Kansas City last month with a left ankle injury.
Jones fined $36,464
Green Bay linebacker Datone Jones was fined $36,464 by the NFL on Friday for his roughing-the-passer penalty against Atlanta last week. Jones is a repeat offender, resulting in the large amount doled out by the league Friday.
Last Sunday, Jones hit Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the first half of Atlanta's 33-32 victory.
Arizona's Calais Campbell and Rodney Gunter each got fined $18,231 for hits on Carolina's Cam Newton last weekend. Gunter was fined for a low hit on Newton, for which he was penalized in the game, unlike Campbell. Also from that game, Carolina's Leonard Johnson has to pay $9,115 for unnecessary roughness after ripping Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer's helmet off.
Cincinnati's Shawn Williams was docked $24,309 for spearing, a result of a hit on Washington's DeSean Jackson during the teams' 27-27 tie in London last Sunday.
Also fined $24,309 for unnecessary roughness penalties last weekend were Detroit's Tavon Wilson and Oakland's Karl Joseph. The Raiders' Donald Penn was also hit with an $18,231 fine for unnecessary roughness, while Michael Crabtree has to pay $9,115 for taunting.
Buffalo's Nickell Robey-Coleman was fined $18,231 for unnecessary roughness after a late hit on New England's Danny Amendola in the Bills' 41-25 loss.
Jacksonville's Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler each were docked $9,115 for unnecessary roughness against Tennessee.
The Carolina Panthers will be without outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (knee), left tackle Michael Oher (concussion) and defensive tackle Vernon Butler for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams, while the status of center Ryan Kalil (shoulder) remains unclear. Linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive end Mario Addison and cornerback Worley are also questionable, but Rivera anticipates all three will play. … The Denver Broncos will be without Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib (lower back) for their Sunday night showdown with the Oakland Raiders. ...