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Old 11-05-2008, 08:27 AM   #1
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Default Leftwich accepts reserve role -- and excels

Leftwich accepts reserve role -- and excels
By John Harris
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

He isn't the long-term solution.

Feel free to call Byron Leftwich "Mr. Short-Term."

Leftwich is the fire extinguisher encased in glass that you break only in case of emergency.

He holds no delusions of grandeur about his role with the Steelers. Plain and simple, he's Ben Roethlisberger's backup.

"We all know Ben's the guy," Leftwich said. "Ben's the quarterback of this football team, and I knew I was going to be there in case something happened. Something happened (Monday night)."

Leftwich happened. Taking over at the start of the second half against the Washington Redskins when Roethlisberger re-injured his throwing shoulder, Leftwich completed 7 of 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown and led the Steelers on a pair of lengthy scoring drives that ignited a 23-6 win.

Leftwich came out of the bullpen firing strikes. He pumped life into the offense. He threw the football so hard that he not only got the attention of his receivers -- who were forced to turn their heads around quicker coming out of their breaks lest they were nailed by a Leftwich fastball -- but also of Redskins coach Jim Zorn.

"One of the things that happened was that he just read and threw. He can get the ball out and throws it so hard," said Zorn, a former star quarterback with the Seattle Seahawks who is in his first season as an NFL head coach. "It was a little different than what Ben was doing, holding on and waiting for a guy to break open. Byron was just shooting it in there, and he had some success."

Make no mistake, Leftwich was on a short leash against the Redskins. He was playing because of Roethlisberger's injury, which wasn't serious enough to keep him sidelined if Leftwich had failed to move the offense.

Before departing, Roethlisberger was only 5 of 17 for 50 yards and an interception.

"Potentially, (Roethlisberger) was capable of going back in the game," coach Mike Tomlin said. "But we went down the field with Leftwich to start the second half.

"That's why we were excited about acquiring him when we did. No stage or situation is too big for Byron Leftwich. This is a guy with franchise quarterback experience. He's got that eerie calm about him under all circumstances. He displayed that to his teammates even before he got (this) opportunity."

Said receiver Hines Ward: "Byron (gave) us fits down in Jacksonville for a long time."

A former first-round draft pick with the Jaguars, Leftwich not only understands his role with the Steelers, he embraces it.

During the past two weeks of practices, Roehthisberger took the majority of first-team reps. Meanwhile, Leftwich helped prepare his defense by imitating opposing quarterbacks.

"I was (Redskins quarterback) Jason Campbell this week. The week before, I was (Giants quarterback) Eli Manning. I truly don't know the offense yet," Leftwich said. "It was just good to have an opportunity to play. I got an opportunity to step up, and we made enough plays to win the football game."

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