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Old 01-04-2009, 10:56 AM   #1
lamberts-lost-tooth
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Default Leftwich joins legacy of celebrated backups

Leftwich joins legacy of celebrated backups
Sunday, January 04, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


The best job in football is the backup quarterback. Or so it's been said. Everyone loves the backup -- at least until he plays.

Some of the most popular Steelers have carried the quarterback clipboard on the sideline, until the clipboard went the way of hip pads. Among them were Terry Hanratty, Joe Gilliam, Mike Kruczek, Cliff Stoudt, Todd Blackledge, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox, Charlie Batch, and now, Byron Leftwich.

Some remained popular once they played or became starters. One thing every backup who played for the Steelers shares besides popularity? None started a postseason game. In all 39 postseason games that began with the Immaculate Reception epic in 1972, the regular starting quarterback during the season started in the playoffs.

The list includes Terry Bradshaw, Stoudt, Mark Malone, Bubby Brister, Neil O'Donnell, Tomczak, Stewart, Maddox and Ben Roethlisberger.

That stretch is likely to reach 40 because the Steelers remain optimistic that Roethlisberger will start when they open the playoffs next Sunday at Heinz Field. He underwent what coach Mike Tomlin described as a battery of tests since a concussion forced him from the game last Sunday.

Still, if for some reason he cannot play they will look to Leftwich with optimism and little doubt he's capable of keeping their Super Bowl chances on track.

"He's done the job twice for us when we needed it," receiver Santonio Holmes said. "He's started in this league for years, he's managed the game and he can get the ball in the hands of playmakers, so we don't have any doubt."

The Steelers were in a quandary when Batch's clavicle was broken in the first preseason game. Leftwich helped dig them out of it. A four-year starter for Jacksonville after the Jaguars drafted him with the seventh overall pick in 2003, ankle injuries curtailed his career. Jacksonville released him in the summer of 2007, and he played only briefly for Atlanta last season when those injuries took hold again.

He signed with the Steelers Aug. 10, and it has been a match made in backup quarterback heaven. He's a veteran with 46 starts plus one in the playoffs. He has been a great teammate and helped them win games in Washington and against Cleveland.

"Byron has been a blessing for us, he really has," Tomlin said. "That's one of the things you do think about when you look around and see that guy who has franchise-quarterback experience, playoff starting quarterback experience. He's been the guy. Those shoes are comfortable to him.

"He's one of the guys when things happen and you look around and you're going to send him into the game, he doesn't have that far-away look. He's been there and done that. He loves that opportunity.

"It's been a tremendous blessing to have him on this football team. Aside from what he does inside the white lines when he's called upon, he's very good as a teammate. He's very good at practice. He's very good in the locker room."

The Steelers' history of backups in the playoffs is a brief one, and it begins, coincidentally, with a blow to the head.

Bradshaw left the 1972 AFC championship game in the first quarter with what was then described as a head injury (read: concussion). Hanratty replaced him, but Bradshaw returned to lead a fourth-quarter touchdown drive in a 21-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Bradshaw started every postseason game in the Steelers' first Super Bowl season, 1974. He lost his starting job to Gilliam at the start of that season but reclaimed it later. Stoudt became the starter in 1983 because of an elbow injury that left Bradshaw sidelined all season except for one start. Malone replaced an injured David Woodley during the 1984 season and remained the starter into the playoffs. Brister started the final three games of the 1992 season because of an injury to O'Donnell, but Bill Cowher went back to O'Donnell for their first playoff game, a loss at home to the Buffalo Bills. And in the 1996 playoffs, Stewart replaced Tomczak in New England when the Steelers trailed, 21-0, and went on to lose, 28-3.

Those are the highlights for Steelers backup quarterbacks in the postseason. They would like to continue their perfect record by starting Roethlisberger next Sunday, but having Leftwich in the bullpen is a comfort.

Leftwich has a different delivery than Roethlisberger, both in style and texture. He comes over the top like a fastball pitcher and throws the ball harder and with a more downward motion. His receivers say that it makes it a little more difficult to catch, but that it is also delivered promptly and often on the button.

His time on the practice field the past week was invaluable for that reason.

"Just having the opportunity to practice with those guys, as a quarterback, you enjoy that because that just makes you better," Leftwich said. "Nothing bad comes out of practicing with the guys you're going to play with if you get that opportunity."

It is one opportunity the Steelers hope they do not need -- and they never have in the playoffs -- but one they don't fear.

The list includes Terry Bradshaw, Stoudt, Mark Malone, Bubby Brister, Neil O'Donnell, Tomczak, Stewart, Maddox and Ben Roethlisberger.

That stretch is likely to reach 40 because the Steelers remain optimistic that Roethlisberger will start when they open the playoffs next Sunday at Heinz Field. He underwent what coach Mike Tomlin described as a battery of tests since a concussion forced him from the game last Sunday.

Still, if for some reason he cannot play they will look to Leftwich with optimism and little doubt he's capable of keeping their Super Bowl chances on track.

"He's done the job twice for us when we needed it," receiver Santonio Holmes said. "He's started in this league for years, he's managed the game and he can get the ball in the hands of playmakers, so we don't have any doubt."

The Steelers were in a quandary when Batch's clavicle was broken in the first preseason game. Leftwich helped dig them out of it. A four-year starter for Jacksonville after the Jaguars drafted him with the seventh overall pick in 2003, ankle injuries curtailed his career. Jacksonville released him in the summer of 2007, and he played only briefly for Atlanta last season when those injuries took hold again.

He signed with the Steelers Aug. 10, and it has been a match made in backup quarterback heaven. He's a veteran with 46 starts plus one in the playoffs, He has been a great teammate and helped them win games in Washington and against Cleveland when.

"Byron has been a blessing for us, he really has," Tomlin said. "That's one of the things you do think about when you look around and see that guy who has franchise-quarterback experience, playoff starting quarterback experience. He's been the guy. Those shoes are comfortable to him.

"He's one of the guys when things happen and you look around and you're going to send him into the game, he doesn't have that far-away look. He's been there and done that. He loves that opportunity.

"It's been a tremendous blessing to have him on this football team. Aside from what he does inside the white lines when he's called upon, he's very good as a teammate. He's very good at practice. He's very good in the locker room."

The Steelers' history of backups in the playoffs is a brief one, and it begins, coincidentally, with a blow to the head.

Bradshaw left the 1972 AFC championship game in the first quarter with what was then described as a head injury (read concussion). Hanratty replaced him, but Bradshaw returned to lead a fourth-quarter touchdown drive in a 21-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Bradshaw started every postseason game in their first Super Bowl season, 1974. He lost his starting job to Gilliam at the start of that season but reclaimed it later. Stoudt became the starter in 1983 because of an elbow injury that left Bradshaw sidelined all season except for one start. Malone replaced an injured David Woodley during the 1984 season and remained the starter into the playoffs. Brister started the final three games of the 1992 season because of an injury to O'Donnell, but Bill Cowher went back to O'Donnell for their first playoff game, a loss at home to the Buffalo Bills. And in the 1996 playoffs, Stewart replaced Tomczak in New England when the Steelers trailed, 21-0, and went on to lose, 28-3.

Those are the highlights for Steelers backup quarterbacks in the postseason. They would like to continue their perfect record by starting Roethlisberger next Sunday, but having Leftwich in the bullpen is a comfort.

Leftwich has a different delivery than Roethlisberger, both in style and texture. He comes over the top like a fastball pitcher and throws the ball harder and with a more downward motion. His receivers say, that it makes it a little more difficult to catch, but that it is also delivered promptly and often on the button.

His time on the practice field the past week was invaluable for that reason.

"Just having the opportunity to practice with those guys, as a quarterback, you enjoy that because that just makes you better," Leftwich said. "Nothing bad comes out of practicing with the guys you're going to play with if you get that opportunity."

It is one opportunity the Steelers hope they do not need -- and they never have in the playoffs -- but one they don't fear if it does happen.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09004/939468-66.stm
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Old 01-04-2009, 12:08 PM   #2
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Default Re: Leftwich joins legacy of celebrated backups

I am very happy that we have Lefty as our backup. He can get the job done if needed.
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Old 01-04-2009, 12:38 PM   #3
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Default Re: Leftwich joins legacy of celebrated backups

Hope we can keep him
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Old 01-04-2009, 12:42 PM   #4
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Default Re: Leftwich joins legacy of celebrated backups

Isn't Charlie a free agent also? I would be happy to keep either one as our dependable, veteran back up.
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Old 01-04-2009, 12:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Leftwich joins legacy of celebrated backups

Quote:
Originally Posted by lamberts-lost-tooth View Post
[B]




He signed with the Steelers Aug. 10, and it has been a match made in backup quarterback heaven. He's a veteran with 46 starts plus one in the playoffs. He has been a great teammate and helped them win games in Washington and against Cleveland.


Couldnt be said any better.
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