All eyes will be on Ben Roethlisberger Sunday night when the disgraced Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback returns from a league-imposed four-game suspension for sexual misconduct. But how can you not be equally intrigued by the NFL debut of Cleveland Browns rookie Colt McCoy?
Well, maybe not so much intrigued as fearful for the young quarterback, who faces a defense that’s ranked fourth in the league in total defense, has 11 sacks in four games and is allowing an NFL-low 12.5 points a game. The Steelers like to grind up young quarterbacks, and McCoy is about to make his first start, ready or not.
He has no choice. The 1-4 Browns are running out of quarterbacks; Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace both have ankle injuries, so rather than being able to look and learn Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, McCoy will be thrown to the dogs.
“This wasn’t the scenario that the coaches here wanted,” McCoy said.
The third-round pick out of the University of Texas is coming off a strong preseason finish in which he was a perfect 13 for 13 passing against the Chicago Bears. After the game, he said, “I still have a long way to go, but I felt this capped it off pretty well.”
You’d like to think the Browns can help out McCoy by establishing an effective ground game behind running back Peyton Hillis, but the Steelers have the best rushing defense in the league, allowing just 62.3 yards per game. So that’s out.
Maybe it’s just a matter of survival. In an online poll this week, Cleveland.com asked readers what outcome would make McCoy’s debut a success. One of the choices: Living through it.