Two weeks ago, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said he was preparing to face rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel in the season opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
With the game now just days away, the Steelers haven't changed their minds, even though Brian Hoyer will be Cleveland's starter in the battle of AFC North opponents at Heinz Field.
"We've got a great deal of respect for Johnny Manziel and his talents," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. "They didn't draft him in the first round to watch. We fully expect them to utilize him in some capacity in this football game."
Hoyer won the Browns' starting job during the preseason, completing 24 of 44 passes for 261 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Manziel was 30 of 59 for 296 yards and two touchdowns and added 88 yards rushing.
"Obviously, Manziel has some unique run skills and capabilities," Tomlin said. "I think they're capable of highlighting that within the framework of their offense, and it's not like Hoyer is immobile. I don't imagine they're going to be drastically different with either guy in there."
The Steelers are familiar with Hoyer, who was with the team during a portion of the 2012 season when injuries depleted Pittsburgh's quarterbacks ranks.
Last season, Hoyer directed two Browns victories at the outset befoe he went down with a torn ACL in the third game.
"He's a consummate professional; he's an energy bringer. He's not going to lose games above the neck," Tomlin said. "What you don't see on tape is probably what's most impressive about him. He's a good football player and it doesn't surprise me at all that he's the guy that they've chosen to go with."
If Hoyer or Manziel could lead the Browns to a victory, it would be the team's first win in Pittsburgh since 2003.
"I think all of the things they ask (Manziel) to do Brian Hoyer is fully capable of doing it, and I'm sure they're going to do it with him as well," Tomlin said. "I just think when you've got a talent like Johnny Manizel, you're going to get him on the field and help him grow and develop even as you get into the regular season. I don't think necessarily his presence in the game is going to dictate a difference in schematics."
Browns coach Mike Pettine was pleased with Hoyer's progress during the preseason and appears committed to him. But he hasn't totally ruled out the possibility of Manziel, the Browns' 2014 first-round draft pick, from seeing action against the Steelers.
"We'll have discussions on how we want to game plan and how we want to use those guys," Pettine said. "I think one of the reasons that Brian and the first team did look better (in the final preseason game) is because we didn't mix the reps and he got all the reps with the No. 1s."