The Browns’ quarterback competition is just starting to percolate in Berea.
But legendary Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau thinks he knows whom the Browns will start in the regular-season opener in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7.
“I’m expecting (Johnny) Manziel to be the starter,” LeBeau told cleveland.com Monday, a day Manziel earned exclusive first-team reps for the first time in practice. “That’s what I’m expecting. What he did in college is not an accident. He did it often enough against good teams.”
The Steelers face the Browns twice in the first five games. While LeBeau went on record with his thoughts, others in the organization privately anticipate Manziel beating out Brian Hoyer.
Coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert were among the NFL personnel to attend Manziel’s pro-day workout at Texas A&M.
The Steelers have made life miserable for young Browns quarterbacks – older ones, too – since they intercepted Tim Couch’s first NFL pass in 1999.
Maybe LeBeau is simply saying nice things to a Cleveland media outlet about the Browns’ first-round draft pick a month before the opener. His defenses have been baffling rookie quarterbacks for a generation. He was, however, complimentary of Manziel’s skillset.
“I think he is going to be a handful for all of us,” said LeBeau, a Pro Football Hall of Famer. “You watch all his games and he created plays, he made plays, he kept plays alive.
“He has the ability to see people and the touch with the football to get it in there late in the down. I think he will be successful at this level.”
Steelers defensive back Ike Taylor understands Manziel has detractors because of all the hype surrounding him and the celebrity lifestyle he enjoys without having played an NFL game. But Taylor has been following his career since Manziel won the Heisman Trophy in the 2012 season.
“There is only one Johnny Football,” Taylor said. “I have been a fan of Johnny Football since (he played) in college. I know people tend to talk about him, but he’s a young man having fun, and regardless of what you want to say about him he makes plays on the field. That’s all that really matters . . . He’s a playmaker and he loves the game.”
The Steelers inadvertently helped the Browns acquire Manziel with the No. 22 overall pick. Cleveland traded up four spots in a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire the quarterback. The sweetener the Browns used to entice the Eagles was the No. 83 overall selection they acquired a year ago in a trade enabling the Steelers to draft defensive back Shamarko Thomas.