Back in early August, weeks before the Browns had settled on quarterback Brian Hoyer, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau figured he'd see Johnny Manziel when the two teams met in the regular-season opener this Sunday. It still could happen, even if it means Manziel's on the field in speciality packages that highlight his strengths. Namely: his ability to create something out of nothing.
Like LeBeau, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu wouldn't be surprised to see Manziel.
"I tried to make a point of watching him in college because it's hard not to be a fan of somebody like that," Polamalu said Monday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's what everybody dreams of playing, especially someone like me who does not have an arm. I can scramble like that. I think that's the fascination."
Manziel, like Tim Tebow before him, is the centerpiece of a media-created vortex that no one escapes. But unlike Tebow, Manziel's flexibility is what makes him so dangerous.
"The thing about it, New York tried to do that with Tim Tebow a little bit," Polamalu said. "But Tebow's a guy you have to just play and play and grind out the entire game. I don't think Johnny is that type of guy. I think if Johnny came into the game, he would make some splashes, he doesn't need to get into a rhythm."
Either way, Manziel will be the Browns' starter soon enough. Hoyer showed little during the preseason, and after Cleveland runs the gauntlet in its first three games against the Steelers, Saints and Ravens, they'll almost certainly head into the bye week staring 0-3 in the face. By Week 5, Manziel will be under center for good -- and for good or bad.
For now, the Steelers are focused on getting a win, something they were unable to do in their first four games a season ago.
"Regardless who's in there, you want to go out and beat them, you want to make sure you're playing sound football," veteran defensive end Brett Keisel said.
"I know sometimes you see someone come in and you go 'ahhhhh' and freak out a little bit. We need to just maintain our job, maintain the things we've got to do during that play call and execute."