Browns’ McCoy proves he has ‘it’ in debut

The Cleveland Browns never planned it this way.

They wanted to have rookie quarterback Colt McCoy sit, watch and

learn from veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace for a season

before asking him to win games for them. Much less a road game

against a superior defense and one of the NFL’s best teams.

Against that backdrop, McCoy impressed the Browns – and the

Steelers – while making his NFL debut Sunday in a 28-10 loss to

Pittsburgh.

”For his first start, he played unbelievable,” Cleveland

linebacker Matt Roth said. ”I think he’s only going to get better.

You saw him move the ball; he was fearless. That’s what you

want.”

McCoy, starting only because Delhomme and Wallace have high

ankle sprains, completed 23 of 33 passes for 281 yards, a touchdown

and two interceptions – although one came late in a desperation

situation.

Beyond the numbers, though, those in the Browns locker room

seemed more taken with the third-round draft pick’s poise,

leadership and intangibles.

”He’s got that ‘it,”’ guard Eric Steinbach said. ”If he’s our

guy from here on out, we can build off what we started.”

For seasons, the Browns have looked for a quarterback they could

win with. Maybe McCoy can be that player.

McCoy earned his team’s confidence throughout a strong week of

practice. A four-year starter who threw for more than 13,000 yards

at Texas, McCoy embraced the leadership role that comes along with

playing his position – even if he had never taken a meaningful NFL

snap.

McCoy even spoke before his teammates Saturday night, telling

them, ”The hay’s in the barn.”

”Some of the city folk, I had to (translate for them),” McCoy

joked about the expression, meaning they had put the requisite work

in. ”I go into each game expecting to win, expecting to play good.

That’s why I’m here. That’s why they drafted me.”

McCoy, who also rushed four times for 22 yards, guided Cleveland

to at least one first down during all but one of its 10 drives.

”He showed some innate things that are quarterback things,”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. ”I am sure they are excited about

him. They should be. It wasn’t too big for him.”

Browns coach Eric Mangini wouldn’t commit to starting McCoy at

New Orleans on Sunday, saying he is uncertain about the status of

Delhomme and Wallace.

PLAYING SHORT-HANDED: First-half head injuries to Joshua Cribbs

and Mohamed Massaquoi – both coming off hits from James Harrison –

left the Browns with only two healthy wide receivers, Brian

Robiskie and Chansi Stuckey, for the final two-plus quarters.

”Obviously losing Cribbs is big, because we do a lot of

packages with him – the wildcat – and it took a big phase of our

offense,” tight end Evan Moore said. ”Losing Mo, he’s a threat as

well.”

The Browns dressed three tight ends, so Moore played some at

wide receiver. Benjamin Watson led the team with six catches for 88

yards and its only touchdown.

Of McCoy’s 23 completions, only six went to wide receivers, four

to Stuckey and two to Robiskie.

The loss of Cribbs meant Cleveland had to use its backup punt

returner, Stuckey.

Stuckey, who said he had previously returned punts only in

practice and during the preseason, had two fair catches, did not

field an end-of-half punt and muffed his only official return. That

came deep in Browns territory with 7:50 play, leading to a Steelers

touchdown that made it 21-3 and effectively ended the game.

”I definitely have a newfound respect for Josh and what he

does,” Stuckey said. ”The punter (Daniel Sepulveda) did a great

job and got a lot of movement on the ball, but it’s still my job to

catch the ball and it’s something I’ve got to go work on this

week.”

WARD MOVES UP LISTS: Hines Ward’s 8-yard touchdown reception in

the third quarter was the 81st touchdown of his career, moving him

into second place on Pittsburgh’s career list. The receiver had

been tied with Jerome Bettis.

Franco Harris owns the record with 100 touchdowns.

Ward also caught at least one pass for the 183rd consecutive

games, tying Hall of Famer Art Monk for fourth place on the NFL’s

list.

”That’s awesome,” Ward said. ”I grew up watching Art Monk

during the Super Bowl days. It’s a good feeling, especially when

you win on top of that.”

STEELERS HIT THE ROAD: The Steelers play their next three games

away from Heinz Field, the first time they have played three

consecutive regular-season road games since 1994.

They did play three in a row on the road during the 2005 season

playoffs, before they beat Seattle in the Super Bowl in

Detroit.

Included in this stretch are two prime-time games, a Sunday

night game at New Orleans on Oct. 31 and a Monday nighter at

Cincinnati on Nov. 8. The road trip starts Sunday at Miami, where

the Steelers ended the regular season in January.

”Three straight on the road, it’s going to be tough,”

linebacker James Farrior said. ”There is a tough challenge ahead

of us. We just have to stay focused, take it one game at a time.

Miami is next week. That’s all we have to focus on.”