Inside the locker room: Byron Leftwich
Are you excited to get back out there?
Yeah, to be honest with you, I am. Itís exciting to get an opportunity to go out there with the Mike Wallaces of the world, the Emmanuel Sanders, the Heath Millers, to have an opportunity to get the ball to these guys. Just to play with this caliber of team gives me comfort, understanding who Iím going out there with. This isnít the ďBad News Bears.Ē That gives me comfort with the playmakers we have around me. Weíll see Sunday night.
Re: Having time to prepare knowing that you are starting:
Itís always better when you can prepare, especially when youíre the backup because you never get any reps. To have the opportunity during the week to prepare will help. We understand we have a tough opponent coming in here Sunday night. We respect those guys. Theyíre going to come in here ready to play. Weíve got to make sure weíre ready to play and weíll see what happens.
Are practice and timing the keys to your success?
I donít know. Weíre just trying to score one more point than those guys. Thatís all that really matters. Weíre in that same process every week no matter who we play. Weíre just trying to win the football game and weíre going to do our best job to do that.
Do you expect this offense to be any different than when Ben Roethlisberger is running it?
No. It wonít be different. We came in. We saw the game plan. We might do things different, because letís just be honest, Iím not going to run around and make two or three guys miss, then roll all the way to the left and find Mike Wallace in the back of the endzone. Iím not capable of doing that. But what I can do is get the ball in the right guyís hands and just be myself. Theyíre not asking me to do anything but be myself and thatís what Iíll do.
Re: Suggestions that this offense doesnít play to your strengths like arm strength:
Honestly, arm strength really only comes into play when youíre throwing the ball down the field. If itís ďdink and dunk,Ē whatever we want to call it, my job is to hit the guy with the ball thatís open. I donít care if itís five yards down the field or 25 yards down the field. People are entitled to their opinion. I understand that in this situation nobody is probably giving us a shot and thatís understandable. Any time you lose a quarterback like Ben, letís be honest, I think he was playing on an MVP level. I think heís an elite quarterback in this league and heís down. We all understand that. We all understand everybodyís opinion and how they feel about the situation. But weíre going to have to play the game Sunday night and weíll see what happens. Thereís no need for me to think about what-ifs. The game is going to be Sunday night and somebody is going to win it. Iím just trying to do my part to make sure itís us.
Are they going to give you more deep passes down the field?
Weíll have to see.
How do you get good at making the right reads on plays like Roethlisberger has when you donít get reps and practice?
Because thatís what Iíve got to do. Iíve got to be able see 22 guys on the field at the same time and thatís what Iíve always been able to do my whole life, see the field and get the ball to the right guy. Theyíre not asking me to do anything special. I know this is a big game. Itís a big game for both teams but I donít have to go out there and try to do anything special. I just have to go out there and do my job and be myself. Is that good enough? Weíll have to see.
Will you spend extra time working on things in practice and will it be different for you?
Weíll do what we have to do. Practice will be different because this is the first time Iím throwing to Mike [Wallace] and Emmanuel [Sanders], so practice will be real different. But nobody has to do anything special. Itís still football. My job is still to get the ball to the open guys, read defenses, make the right decisions and thatís not going to change for any quarterback in this league. I donít care whoís playing. You have to do all those things from the quarterback position. Weíll see what happens on Sunday night.
Have you been in contact with Roethlisberger?
Yes. Ben was in meetings today. We talked a lot today. I talked to him on the phone the night of. I talked to him on Monday, I talked to him on Tuesday, I talked to him today and heís in a little pain. But weíre just talking football. Itís my job to do my part to help this football team out and from that point, we talk about football. We donít talk about the injury too much because Iíve been in those situations before and I know itís frustrating missing football games. But my job is to get ready and heís helping me in that process and weíll see what happens Sunday night.
Do you feel like a rookie again with excitement and anticipation?
No, I donít feel like Iím a rookie. [Laughs] Iím 32 years old. I wish I felt like a rookie but I was jokingly saying that because I joke with Ben all the time. I donít miss this part of playing quarterback in the National Football League. I tell him all the time I donít miss the conference calls, all the interviews and all the media. I tell him all the time. I donít really miss that part of it. Itís not a situation where I feel like a rookie, though. Iíve got eight cameras in front of me and that hasnít happened in a while.
Do you know how long you will be filling-in for Roethlisberger?
No, no I donít. Iíll be ready. Iíll take it on a week-to-week basis. I know Benís a tough guy. Iím not even going to think about that right now. All Iíve got on my mind is Sunday night.
Do you feel like having a long wind-up compromises your ability to get rid of the ball quickly in this offense?
No I donít. I normally defend myself in this process and defend myself by throwing out a bunch of numbers. But Iíll save that for the offseason. Iím throwing the ball the way Iíve thrown the ball my whole life. Iíve played 10 years in this league and to play this long in this league, theyíre not going to just let guys that canít play sit there. I donít think about none of that stuff. I donít think about, ďhis mobility,Ē or ďhis wind-up,Ē or ďhe canít do this, he canít do that.Ē I try to worry about the things I can do.
So youíve heard about that long release before?
I heard about that before I even became a pro. I heard about that when I was at Marshall. When you hear all the bad things about yourself, pretty much from the last college game to the draft you hear it all, so Iíve heard it all. Yeah, Iíve got the long wind-up. Iím not the fastest guy in the world, but I believe I can play a little bit. Weíll just see Sunday night. I donít have to put any pressure on myself to go out there and do something different, do something special. Iím just telling myself to just go out there and play the way that I play and weíll see if we can win the football game.
When you watched the tape of Monday nightís game, what were you happy with and what needs to change?
The first few plays, I felt like everybody was moving faster than me. [Laughs] Maybe that is because Iím slower than everybody but it was a situation when you arenít out there, letís just be honest, it takes a little time for it to get back. I was just glad that I was able to see the field the way I was able to, complete some balls on third downs when my number was called to convert some things. I just went out there and did my job. I sat there and looked at it and critiqued myself to try and make myself better for Sunday night.
Coach Mike Tomlin described every opponent as ďnameless,, grey faces.Ē Does that apply to Baltimore, especially when the Steelers are 0-4 against Baltimore without Roethlisberger?
Yeah, it is. He says that every week. That hasnít changed. Thatís what he believes in. Thatís what we believe in. Weíve tried not to make it about anybody else. We try to do our part and execute well. We feel as though if we go out there and execute well, we can have success against anybody and weíve just got to do what weíve got to do to make sure we can be successful Sunday night.
Did you ever try to throw it a different way or did anyone ever make a compelling case for you to change?
No, thatís the crazy thing. All the guys that have been around me, that have coached me, told me to throw the football the way I throw the football as long as I throw it the way Iím throwing it. Nobody has ever changed my motion. You have to think, Iím a guy from a high school that had one coach. I wasnít really fit in the pedigree. Iím a D.C. guy, an inner city guy who grew up with no coaches, just throwing rocks or anything I could pick up.
Did you go to any quarterback camps in high school?
No, I didnít do all that. I throw the way I throw. Thereís nothing I could do about it right now. There was nothing they told me to do about it when I was 23, 25, 27, 29. Yeah, Iíve got the long wind-up. You look at every guy around the league, we all do things differently. The key is can we go out there and get the job done? Thatís all Iím worried about.
Youíve had some success. Do you ever wonder why people donít do it your way?
[Laughs] No. I just do what I do. Let them say what theyíve got to say.
Is this a pretty good situation for you to step into?
Oh yeah. This isnít a bad situation to be in and thatís my point. We have a quarterback whoís been to the Super Bowl three times in nine years. That goes to tell you how good he is as a quarterback. Iím not going to go out there and try to be Ben. We see the game differently, in ways that heís physically able to do certain things I canít do. So, he sees it a little different. That doesnít mean I canít go out there and do my job. We understand that everybody is like, ďHey man, theyíve got a backup quarterback Sunday night playing the Baltimore Ravens.Ē We understand that nobody is really giving us a shot and thatís okay. Weíre not trying to say that to say itís us against the world. Itís just we understand guys have got jobs to do and they have opinions. But we try not to worry about those opinions. We try to worry about what we have to worry about to go out there and get ourselves ready.
Did you feel like you would be able to fit in Todd Haleyís offense when it was being installed?
I never cared about what kind of offense it was because football is football. Iíve been around enough offenses to know that Iíve had some of the same plays in every offense, no matter who is calling it. They just call it differently. I donít view it that way. I donít care what type of offense it is. The quarterbacks job is to execute the plays that are called, get the ball to the right guys, get the team in the right play, and thatís what Iíll try to do.
Does the offense seem like it is sluggish without WR Antonio Brown?
Thatís a special guy. Letís just be honest, when heís on the field itís special and defenses have to defend him. You have to defend Antonio Brown when heís on the football field. When you put him with Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery, it makes it tough on defensive coordinators and defenses. Any time you miss a guy like that that is that exceptional, that special, it hurts. It hurts anybody, no matter whoís at quarterback. Weíll see.
You are 1-1 against Baltimore. Do you remember either game?
Yes, I do. I actually do. I remember playing Baltimore and we lost my rookie year. Then they came to Jacksonville and we got them.
Coming out of the draft, did you ever wonder what would happen if the Ravens had drafted you after they expressed so much interest in you?
I thought thatís where I would be. I remember conversations with Ozzie [Newsom] and thatís where I thought I would be. I think they thought thatís where I would be. Minnesota found out and it didnít turn out that way. With the Minnesota thing going down, I thought I would be the seventh pick to the Baltimore Ravens.
Were the Ravens a favorite team of yours?
No. With all the meetings that I had I knew where I would be drafted at. By the talks that you have with people before the draft, I knew I would be the seventh pick. I didnít know what team because I knew that seventh pick was going to get traded by Minnesota. I knew something would go down with that pick between Baltimore, Carolina and Jacksonville. It was Jacksonville who took me.
Re: Your fire, your competitiveness and people saying the Steelers donít have a chance:
It is what it is. I allow the experts to be experts. Iím not the type of guy that gets mad because somebody said something. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. People are going to say what they want to say, regardless of if they have information or details of information. Theyíre just going to say what they want. Thatís where weíre at now in 2012. I respect that part of it. Say what you want. It has nothing to do with how we play Sunday night. Iím getting too old to worry about those things. I try to worry about the things that matter and the things that matter are me executing and doing the right thing for this team.
Is there an advantage in the fact that you havenít played in a while and there isnít a lot of film on you in the past few seasons?
I think everybody knows what I am. Iím a pocket passer who throws the ball from the pocket like 60-70% of the rest of the guys. You donít have to be fast. I donít have to run around to play. In that case, we wouldnít call the Tom Bradys of the world elite, the Eli Mannings of the world. Iíve got to be faster than Eli. [Laughs] Guys are going to say things about you. Thatís part of playing in this league. Youíre going to get critiqued. The good and the bad, youíve got to be willing to accept it. Iím willing to accept that and Sunday weíll see. Weíve got to play the game Sunday night and itís going to come down to who makes the most plays Sunday night, regardless of what was said on Wednesday or what people believe. Hey man, weíre going to find out Sunday night.