BEREA - The one thing Colt McCoy could use as he prepares for his first NFL start Sunday in Pittsburgh is the guidance of a quarterback that's been there and done that.
Lots of luck.
Jake Delhomme has never played a down in Pittsburgh. Seneca Wallace appeared in one game in Pittsburgh in relief of Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, throwing all of three passes.
If either player had a lengthy history of playing the Steelers in Pittsburgh, his advice to McCoy might be to put on extra padding to prepare for one of the NFL's most physical defenses.
"I asked Jake, 'Let's watch some film together and tell me some things about playing there,' " McCoy said. "He said, 'I ain't played them.' Nobody in our locker room has, at least quarterback-wise."
It' not official that McCoy will start, but it's likely. Delhomme and Wallace missed practice Wednesday with sprained ankles, which meant most of the first-team reps went to McCoy.
McCoy's teammates did their best to ease the pressure on him prior to practice. As McCoy was surrounded by reporters, several players joked about wanting his autograph.
McCoy laughed through it all. He might need a sense of humor as he looks at a challenge that is daunting, to say the least.
"I'm excited about it," McCoy said. "You can tell my teammates are joshing with me and giving me a hard time."
McCoy's approach is what you might expect. He's not preparing as if he needs to carry the team's hopes on his shoulders. The last time a Browns quarterback had much success against the Steelers was Bernie Kosar in the late 1980s.
"I know this isn't where we wanted to go at this point in the season," McCoy said. "Coach (Mike) Holmgren said it at the beginning of the season and coach (Eric) Mangini that I was going to watch and learn. Throughout the first five games of the season I prepared like I was the starter. This week will be the same way. I understand what we're doing offensively and the game plans. Now I just have to go out there and do it."
The stage shouldn't be too big for McCoy, who started four seasons at the University of Texas. Every game in college was a big event, with many played in front of crowds larger than he'll see at Heinz Field.
The problem will be facing the "Steel Curtain" defense, which is ranked fourth overall in the NFL. Facing a rookie quarterback making his first start must have Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau licking his chops as he diagrams blitz packages.
"We're going against the best defense in the league, and we have our hands full," McCoy said. "There are a lot of challenges, but I trust the guys up front and the guys on this team that we're going to go out there and give it our best effort."
It was assumed that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might be nervous in his first game back following a four-week suspension. His nerves might be calm compared to what McCoy will be feeling.
"To come into Heinz Field, it's going to be quite an experience for him," Roethlisberger said. "I know playing for Texas he had some big rivalries with games against Oklahoma and games like that. I'm sure the crowd won't overwhelm him too much, but he's going to experience really quick what an AFC North and especially the Browns-Steelers rivalry is like."
Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will undoubtedly put in a simple game plan based on plenty of runs and short passes. There could be more use of Joshua Cribbs in the wildcat formation.
The plan has to be to find a way to negate the pass rush the Steelers are capable of mounting.
"I watched their defense the last two days a lot," McCoy said. "They're really fast. They fly around to the ball. They're physical. They move around and try to get a rusher free or somebody in pass coverage that's not accounted for. We have to execute together. It's not me going in there and having to play an outstanding game."