Monday, November 19, 2012
Leftwich's rusty play should raise concerns
By Jamison Hensley
No one expected Byron Leftwich to play like Ben Roethlisberger. But the Steelers need Leftwich to put together a sharper performance if they want to remain in the playoff hunt.
In the 13-10 loss to the Ravens, Leftwich looked like a quarterback who hadn't started a game in three years completing 46 percent of his throws (18-of-39) for 201 yards. He failed to deliver in the fourth quarter when he short-hopped a second-and-11 throw to Mike Wallace and he underthrew a wide-open David Gilreath deep downfield.
"We just couldn't get a rhythm," Leftwich said. "There were a lot of third-and-mediums and third-and-longs. We just never could put two, three, four, five, six plays together."
Leftwich's best play of the night was surprisingly a run. His 31-yard scramble represented the Steelers' only touchdown of the game. The real shocker Sunday night was Leftwich's inability to exploit a banged-up Baltimore secondary.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Leftwich completed just 5 of 16 passes thrown longer than 10 yards downfield, which ties the second-fewest completions this season among quarterbacks with at least 15 such attempts. Four incompletions were underthrown, three were overthrown, three were defended and one was intercepted.
"I thought [Leftwich's performance] was great," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We knew this was going to be a Baltimore-Steelers type football game. It was going to be nip and tuck. I thought it was great. Obviously, not enough plays by him or by any of the rest of us to secure victory."
Leftwich, who can't extend plays like Roethlisberger, took several hard shots from the Ravens and was sacked three times. The Steelers announced during the game that Leftwich suffered a rib injury (it's becoming a bad trend for Pittsburgh quarterbacks), and Charlie Batch started warming up on the sideline.
But Leftwich didn't miss a snap during the game and dismissed all injury talk. "I'm OK," he said.
The Steelers fell to 0-5 against the Ravens without Roethlisberger. Leftwich lost his seventh straight start.
How long will the Steelers be without Roethlisberger? Steelers doctors believe he will miss three weeks with rib and shoulder injuries, but the team hasn't ruled out that he could return for the second meeting at the Ravens on Dec. 2, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.