TAMPA, Florida — Mike Glennon is getting another opportunity to prove he is Tampa Bay's quarterback of the future.
With starter Josh McCown unlikely to play this week against Pittsburgh, the second-year backup practiced with the No. 1 offense Wednesday in preparation for the Steelers.
It's the second straight season Glennon has been thrust into the starting lineup following an 0-3 start, although the circumstances are different this time.
McCown sprained the thumb on his throwing hand during last Thursday's 56-14 loss at Atlanta. As a rookie a year ago, Glennon came off the bench after Josh Freeman struggled and fell out of favor with former coach Greg Schiano.
"It's always a huge opportunity when you get to play a game in the NFL," said Glennon, who started 13 games as a rookie, going 4-9 while completing 59 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
"I didn't know what to expect then. I know what it's like to play now," the 6-foot-6, 225-pound quarterback added of the difference between this time a year ago and now. "I'm a lot more confident, a lot more comfortable."
As usual, coach Lovie Smith had little to say about injuries and possible lineup changes, including who will lead the offense against Pittsburgh (2-1).
"It's a good chance it will be Mike Glennon. Josh is improving," the coach said. "I like to stay with my standard way of doing things, not talking about starting lineups for the opponent. But Mike took the reps today. How's that?"
Glennon relieved McCown late in the second quarter against the Falcons, completing 17 of 24 passes for 121 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Atlanta sacked him once.
Smith, who replaced Schiano in January and two months later signed McCown to a two-year, $10 million contract in free agency, felt Glennon played well considering the young backup didn't work with the starting lineup during a short week of preparation leading up to last Thursday's game.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also likes what he's seen of the 2013 third-round draft pick, who a year ago became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for a touchdown in his first eight starts.
"I'm just starting to familiarize myself with him. ... We've got to respect those 13 games he started a year ago. I'm sure it's going to serve him well as he moves forward," Tomlin said. "I'm sure he's excited about playing. I'm sure he's got a different perspective on this opportunity" after losing the starting job at the end of 2013.
Glennon was disappointed when McCown, a career backup coming off his best pro season in Chicago, was signed and immediately named the starter.
But instead of sulking or complaining, he quietly went about his business in the offseason, training camp and first three weeks of the regular season.
"Mike is not fazed by much. He's just going to stay the course and do what he has to do," team captain Gerald McCoy said.
"He went through a storm last year. A lot of rookies, they get thrown in on opening day, so you have a chance to start from the beginning," McCoy added. "He got thrown into a circus."
Indeed, Glennon was pressed into action as a rookie after Freeman, a first-round draft pick in 2009, was benched after a tumultuous preseason and slow start that set the tone for the Bucs missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
With Glennon running the offense, the Bucs finished 30th in scoring and dead last in passing and total yardage.
"I'm just focused on getting our first win. That's where my mind-set is at, to go out there and get a win and help the team any way I can," the 24-year-old quarterback said, adding there's not much difference in the circumstances of his moving into the lineup.
He said, "0-3 is 0-3, however you look at it. My mind-set last year and my mind-set this year is to stay the course and get that first tin. Once you get that first win, things kind of get rolling."
Tampa Bay lost eight in a row to begin 2013, won four of five, then finished on a three-game losing streak that led to the firing of Schiano and former general manager Mark Dominik.
Smith believes playing behind McCown and being around the 12th-year pro in the offseason and training camp has aided Glennon's development.
"What I've seen is a team player, a veteran on how he's handled the situation. Mike comes to work every day preparing," Smith said. "This has only helped him and prepare him for this situation. He's ready to go."
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