December 21, 2014

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Colt McCoy could get start against Steelers

BEREA — Colt McCoy gets his introduction to the Browns-Steelers rivalry this week. It looks like it’ll come from the middle of Heinz Field with Pro Bowlers Troy Polamalu and James Har­rison out to get him.

CT photo by Steve Manheim.

CT photo by Steve Manheim.

“It’s only the Steelers, right? Coming off a bye week? They don’t blitz much,” Browns coach Eric Mangini said sar­castically Monday.

Mangini didn’t announce McCoy, a rookie, as the starter for Sunday’s game in Pitts­burgh. In fact, he gave no details on the status of the quarterbacks.

“Let’s get to Wednes­day, see where we’re at,” Mangini said.

The situation isn’t good.

Jake Delhomme was severely limited when forced into action in the second half Sun­day in the 20-10 loss to the Falcons, and reportedly suffered an additional injury to his right ankle. A high sprain suffered in the opener Sept. 12 caused him to miss three games and hadn’t healed yet.

“He’s really sore today,” Mangini said. “We’ll see how it goes during the week.”

Seneca Wallace made his fourth straight start Sunday and found a groove, going 11-for-15 for 139 yards, a touchdown and a 124.0 rating.

But Atlanta defensive end John Abraham rolled up on his right leg on a sack just before halftime, knocking him from the game with what’s been reported as a high ankle sprain. He had trouble even walking after the game and could miss four to six weeks.

The Browns didn’t announce the move, but Brett Ratliff’s agent, Joseph Palumbo, confirmed that Ratliff was on his way to Cleveland on Monday afternoon to sign. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Ratliff was told he’ll be the backup to McCoy on Sunday.

Ratliff was with Mangini and the Jets in 2007 and ’08 and came to Cleveland in a trade last year. He was the third quarterback for most of 2009 and was cut this year after training camp in August. Ratliff spent some time with the Jaguars this season and was on the Patriots practice squad Monday. He’s never played in a game.

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McCoy was a third-round pick out of Texas, where he was the winningest college quarterback in history with 45 wins in 53 starts. The Browns’ plan was to sit McCoy (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) for the season, so he could grow physically and learn behind the pair of veterans.

Things change in a hurry when you’re a Browns quarterback. Delhomme’s Week 1 injury made McCoy the No. 2 quarterback for three games, and he appears to be in line to become the 16th starter since the team returned in 1999.

“That’s what all these guys are looking for, that moment to show what they can do,” Mangini said. “They’ve played football their whole lives and he has been a very successful quarterback for a long time. I’m sure he’s chomping at the bit to get his first chance to do that. “If you didn’t have that guy, then you drafted the wrong guy. If he’s sitting at home at night curled up in a blanket hoping he doesn’t get the start, you’ve got the wrong guy.”

McCoy looked overmatched through most of the preseason before going 13for-13 for 131 yards and a 108.7 rating in the finale vs. the Bears. He finished the preseason 28-for-39 for 232 yards, two interceptions, six sacks and a 65.3 rating. He hasn’t taken a regular-season snap.

“Sometimes opportunity knocks and if you get that opportunity, you got to be ready to seize it,” Mangini said. “He’s played a lot of games in college that were very high-level and he’s been in the system for quite some time.”

The last time a Browns rookie started at quarterback against the Steelers, it was Charlie Frye in 2005. It wasn’t pretty.

Frye was sacked eight times in a 41-0 Christmas Eve loss at home.

The Steelers are 3-1 and coming off their bye. They have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back from suspension and the fifth-ranked defense (289.0 yards a game). They’re ranked first against the run (62.2 yards) and 20th against the pass (226.8 yards) with 11 sacks.

Fellow rookie Joe Haden said McCoy will welcome the challenge.

“I know Colt,” the cornerback said. “I know he was a really good college quarterback and in practice he plays a lot, he does well against our defense. I know he’ll study hard and get focused.

“I just know that his passion, he just loves to play the game. So he’s looking forward to it, honestly, he’s not afraid at all. He wants to be out there on the field.”

Mangini said he wasn’t secondguessing his decision to make Delhomme the No. 2 Sunday, leaving him susceptible to further injury. Delhomme went 13-for-23 for 97 yards, two interceptions and a 30.5 rating. He was unable to scramble away from the pass rush.

“No, we really spent a lot of time on this and he had continued to get better and practiced more than he had prior,” Mangini said. “There’s always that chance (of injury), but you go based on where he is and what the (medical) staff says.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.