During training camp, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said the Steelers would prepare to see Johnny Manziel in the regular season opener. Yesterday, Troy Polamalu and Brett Keisel both said they too expect Manziel at quarterback for the Browns at some point on Sunday at Heinz Field.
At his news conference today, Coach Mike Tomlin made it unanimous.
"It doesn't surprise me at all that (Brian Hoyer) is the guy they've chosen to go with," said Tomlin, "but that being said, we have a great deal of respect for Johnny Manziel and his talents and what he did to get to this point in his career. We fully expect them to utilize him in some capacity in this football game. They didn't draft him in the first round to watch, and we understand that."
During the summer, Coach Mike Pettine had said he would make a decision on a starting quarterback for the opener sometime after the second preseason game. When that decision came down, it was the veteran Hoyer who was tabbed by Pettine to start against the Steelers.
"We have a great deal of respect for Brian Hoyer because we know him. We worked with him," said Tomlin. "What you don't see on tape is probably what's most impressive about him. He's a consummate professional. He's an energy-bringer. He's really intelligent, football smart. He's got great ideas and understands how to fit his skill-set into system football. He's not going to lose games above the neck. He's going to show up highly-prepared. He's going to know his strengths. He's going to know what we are."
Hoyer knows the Steelers because he spent a couple of weeks here in 2012 as the backup to Charlie Batch at a time when both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich were injured. Hoyer had entered the league as an undrafted rookie who signed with New England after the 2009 NFL Draft, and he stayed there until the Patriots cut him on Aug. 31, 2012.
The Steelers signed him in November of that year, but then they cut him as well when Roethlisberger was healthy enough to return. Hoyer then was claimed by Arizona, then cut by the Cardinals, then signed to a two-year contract by the Browns on May 16, 2013.
"He's had to get acclimated to a new staff and a new system, but Hoyer's the type of guy where that's just procedural stuff for him," said Tomlin. "It's not troublesome to him. He's a football junkie. It's his job and his hobby. He loves it. I'd imagine he spent the necessary time, and then some, preparing himself for this opportunity. We're fans of Hoyer, because we've seen him work on a day-to-day basis."
The Steelers, this week at least, also are Manziel watchers.
"We anticipate them using both (quarterbacks) in some capacity, and I think that's the appropriate approach for us to take," said Tomlin, who then went on to explain that he didn't necessarily believe the Browns would utilize a different style of offense for each of the quarterbacks.
In college, Manziel displayed some difference-making improvisational abilities, and he also can use his running as a weapon. But Tomlin said Hoyer is not immobile, either.
"All the things they're potentially going to ask Manziel to do I think Brian Hoyer is fully capable of doing, and I think they're going to do it with Hoyer as well," said Tomlin. "I just think when you have a talent like Johnny Manziel, you're going to get him on the field and help him grow and develop and continue through the growth and development process even as you get into the regular season. I don't necessarily think his presence in the game is going to dictate a difference in schematics."
TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE
"I think we're in pretty good shape. We had some guys who missed some time last week in the fourth preseason game. Most of those guys participated in Monday's practice, at least in some capacity. I'm talking about Sean Spence, Greg Warren, Matt Spaeth, Lance Moore, Brice McCain. Martavis Bryant did not participate, and I don't know his status as we speak. At this early stage of the week, we're going to leave the light on for all of these men and harden up our inactive list as we get closer to game time."