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Steelers' Leftwich out indefinitely with MCL tear

The Steelers' quarterback situation took an unexpected — and wrong — turn Thursday night when Byron Leftwich sustained a serious knee injury, knocking him out of the four games the team had planned to start him.

Leftwich apparently tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee early in the second quarter of the Steelers' 19-3 win against the Panthers at Heinz Field.

With Leftwich sidelined, Dennis Dixon will likely start under center Sept. 12 when the Steelers open the regular season against the visiting Falcons.

Leftwich got hurt when a player rolled onto his lower leg after he had completed a 25-yard pass to rookie wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. An MRI taken later confirmed that the worst possible scenario in a preseason game had played out for the Steelers.

The Steelers had been preparing Leftwich to start the games that Ben Roethlisberger is suspended since the spring.

"It's unfortunate for Byron what he went through but this team has to go forward," Dixon said Thursday night. "If I am the guy, I have to first and foremost take control of the offense. I know the defense will take care of their side of the ball."

The immensely talented but inexperienced Dixon has worked primarily behind Leftwich since the spring. He appeared to be pushing Leftwich for the No. 1 job before throwing two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, last Sunday in Denver.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin limited Dixon to three plays against the Panthers following the injury to Leftwich as a precaution.

Tomlin also played it safe with Charlie Batch, having the 13th-year veteran mostly hand off during the two-plus quarters he played against the Panthers.

Batch had been the odd man in the quarterback competition but he may be back in the equation because of the injury to Leftwich as well as his body of work.

Batch has started 49 career games, and the Homestead native has played well in the past while filling in for Roethlisberger.

"I have confidence in whoever it is, Dennis or Charlie," Roethlisberger said Thursday. "Both of them are great quarterbacks who possess great talents in this league and bring a little something different to the table. Whoever coach decides to go with, I know they'll hold down the fort and do a great job."

Roethlisberger met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell today in New York, and is expected to receive the minimum of a four-to-six game suspension he received in April for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

During his suspension he will work with San Diego-based quarterbacks coach George Whitfield Jr. in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger worked with Whitfield shortly after the conclusion of the 2009 season.

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