About the Author
Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
Here's a closer look at a matchup to watch in Sunday's Browns-Steelers game:
Browns QB Colt McCoy vs. the Steelers' defense
McCoy, who's expected to make his first career start Sunday, is getting the ultimate test right off the bat for a young quarterback: the Steelers in Pittsburgh. McCoy faces a defense that's well-rested, healthy and confident — a group that's going to dare him to win the game with his arm.
If you're looking for cause to be optimistic, consider this: if the Browns can handle the Steelers' pass-rush pressure, there will likely be receivers open against the Pittsburgh's zone coverage. Opponents have completed 66.0 percent of their passes vs. the Steelers this season. McCoy was an accurate passer in college at Texas and completed 71.2 percent of his throws in the preseason. He was much better in his last two preseason starts, highlighted by a 13-of-13 effort in the finale, than he was in his first two.
The challenges for McCoy will be much greater on Sunday, of course. For starters, there is the Steelers' rush, led by OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and complemented by various blitzers. He also has to contend with SS Troy Polamalu, gifted at baiting passers into bad throws.
"He plays within their defense, but he can get you if you're just staring guys down, looking right at them," Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said of Polamalu, according to the team.
So yes, McCoy has to be wary of Polamalu. But he'll also need to be wary of explosive RILB Lawrence Timmons, of defensive linemen getting their hands up to deflect low throws, of expected pass rushers unexpectedly dropping into coverage at the snap of the ball.
We could go on and on. McCoy has had a full week of practice under his belt and all the experience he's garnered in his young life to go on. It's likely he'll see something he hadn't prepared for or couldn't have anticipated — a certain schematic wrinkle from defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, or a flash of brilliance from one of the Steelers' blue-chip defenders. How he reacts is why we'll all be watching a little more closely Sunday than usual.