THURSDAY’S DAILY FIVE
*Rumblings, Musings, Opinions*
1. Is Dick LeBeau being genuine about how dangerous he feels Johnny Maziel can be on the football field immediately as a rookie? Let’s just say LeBeau isn’t sitting in his office fearing Brian Hoyer at the helm. “I think he [Johnny Manziel] is going to be a handful for all of us,” LeBeau told the Cleveland Plain Dealer Monday. “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. I’m expecting Manziel to be the starter. That’s what I’m expecting. What he did in college is not an accident. He did it often enough against good teams.”
LeBeau meeting with local reporters Wednesday reiterated he expects Mamziel to start week 1 vs Steelers. “I’m not coaching Cleveland. I don’t know what they’re going to do. I’m just telling you what I’m doing,” LeBeau said Wednesday. “I’m taking a good look at [Johnny], let’s put it that way.”
2. Since 2008 (including playoffs), the Steelers are 11-1 against a team starting a rookie quarterback. The only rookie quarterback to beat the Steelers during that span was Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns in 2012, a game where the Steelers quarterbacked by Charlie Batch turned the ball over seven times. The Steelers defense has not been a daunting one for at least three seasons but rookie quarterbacks struggling against a Dick LeBeau complex defense will likely be on the Browns mind.
Here’s how the the last three rookies quarterbacks have fared against Dick LeBeau, Steelers defense; E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith facing Steelers in 2013 as rookies, RG III facing Steelers in 2012 as a rookie, all wins for Pittsburgh:
- Bills E.J. Manuel vs Steelers: 22/39, 155 yards, 4.0 AVG, 1 TD, 1 INT, 3 sacks, 32.8 QPR
- Jets Geno Smith vs Steelers: 19/34, 201 yards, 5.9 AVG, 0 TD, 2 INT, 3 sacks, 6.5 QPR,
- Redskins Robert Griffin III vs Steelers: 16/34, 177 yards, 5.2 AVG, 1 TD, 0 INT, 1 Sack, 56.9 QPR
3. It took the Steelers until the middle of Cam Heyward’s third year for the them to finally take off the training wheels but things have changed. Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau for instance have not hid from the fact that Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt are being counted on to be big contributors this season. “I don’t want to overload their plate but I would say they’re ahead of schedule,” LeBeau said Wednesday of the two touted rookies. Steelers coaches have marveled at Tuitt’s athleticism.
“Even though I knew he could run, when I see him in person I am surprised by his endurance and his speed and quickness,” LeBeau said of Tuitt. “I don’t know if I’ve seen a guy that big move like that.” Two things are at play here for the Steelers. There is a clear sense of urgency this season and both coaches are just being a realist. These young guys have to play, whether there’s going to be some growing pains or not, and Pittsburgh has to rely on the young guys from the start and get impact contributions.
4. The Pirates have lacked an ideal leadoff hitter for years now. Starling Marte was and is never going to be the answer there. Has the problem been solved for now? In 173 at-bats in the leadoff spot, Josh Harrison has posted a line of .318/.360/.578 with 25 extra-base hits and 19 RBI.
5. After Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, Neil Walker and Russell Martin, there’s no question Jordy Mercer has been one of the Pirates top-5 most valuable position players this season where he’s made improvements not only at the plate but also in the field. Mercer is hitting .292 (62-212) since June 1 and has seen his Defensive Wins Above Replacement spike from 0.2 to 1.6 this season.