- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

BEREA, OHIO (AP) - Steelers one week. Super Bowl champs the next.

As NFL baptisms go, it can’t possibly get any rougher for a rookie quarterback.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Browns QB Colt McCoy said Wednesday. “What a challenge, what an opportunity, a chance to go out on the field and get better and get this team back on track.”

Tough Texas kid or naive newbie? We’ll see.

McCoy, so impressive in his debut last week in Pittsburgh, will make his second straight start Sunday at New Orleans when the Browns visit the Superdome, one of the league’s loudest venues where even the most seasoned quarterback can be rattled by the deafening din.

Unless quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace make miraculous recoveries from high ankle sprains in the next few days, McCoy will start against the Saints.

No need to light a prayer candle.

Because despite fears he would be decapitated by one of the blitzing Steelers linebackers _ James Harrison saved his big hits for Browns wide receivers _ or rushed into throwing a handful of interceptions, McCoy acquitted himself well in a 28-10 loss last week.

He showed poise, toughness and enough promise to make the Browns believe the third-round pick, whose size may have scared off a few teams during the draft, can be their future quarterback.

Emphasis on can be.

In one of the league’s nastiest, most intimidating environments, McCoy finished 23 of 33 for 281 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. But his stats were only part of the story. The night before his first Browns-Steelers game, McCoy stood in front of his teammates, and in his country-fried accent, declared he was ready to stare down the black-and-gold beast.

“I told them the hay was in the barn,” McCoy said. “Just meant we worked really hard all week and we were prepared and we had a good game plan.”

Did he have to explain the expression?

“For some of the city folk, I had to,” McCoy said.

On Tuesday, Browns president Mike Holmgren summoned McCoy to his office to offer his critique on the 23-year-old’s first pro outing. The guru of quarterback gurus who coached Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brett Favre, Holmgren complimented McCoy and offered some advice.

“I told him I was very impressed,” Holmgren said. “I said he had a very good first game in a tough place against a very good team. Then I said, ‘Now what do we do? You’re going against another really good team in a tough place, I expect you to do better.

“This is not a one-game deal here. If you expect to do this for a long time, you have to do it again.’”

The Heinz Field stage on Sunday wasn’t too big for McCoy, who spent four years playing in big games for the Longhorns. There was no panic, no sense of doom, no feeling that he couldn’t succeed. McCoy showed he belonged _ from beginning to end.

“I got nervous when he threw an interception on the first drive,” Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. “I was like, ‘Well, what’s gonna happen?’ You don’t know how a young kid is gonna respond, but he responded outstanding. He really handled the adversity very well.”

The Browns weren’t the only ones impressed. Following the game, several Steelers players, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, sought out McCoy to offer congratulations and encouragement. McCoy was appreciative. Still, he knows he’s a work in progress.

He wasn’t happy with a few of his downfield reads. He left the pocket too soon on a few plays, and he wishes he hadn’t forced a pass deep over the middle that became his first career interception. McCoy knows he needs to drop the ball off underneath. Instead of forcing passes, he needs to throw the ball away to avoid turnovers.

“For my first start,” McCoy said. “I think there’s a lot of things that you can look at and say, ‘OK, that was pretty good. Now let’s just get it a little bit better. Let’s make a little better throws in some tight coverage and things like that.’”

New Orleans coach Sean Payton watched film of McCoy’s performance in Pittsburgh, and came away impressed with the young QB’s composure.

“There is a calmness about him and you can see that on the coach’s tape,” Payton said. “He’s accurate and he’s got that calmness under fire.”

Because he’s only 6-foot-1, considered small by NFL standards, McCoy has drawn comparisons to another Texas product, Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

“What are we the shortest quarterbacks in the NFL?” McCoy cracked.

McCoy is reluctant to be put in the same class as Brees, a 6-footer. One day perhaps. Not now, though. Not after only one start.

“I don’t deserve to have my name put in the same sentence with Drew Brees,” he said. “He’s somebody that I really looked up to. What a great day it’s gonna be to able to be on the same field at the same time as him. I watched every game last year. He’s somebody that I just look up to. I admire how he plays. I admire his leadership in the locker room. He’s just an outstanding football player.”

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