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Steelers' backup QB Hoyer on fast learning curve

| Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 8:44 p.m.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer, thrust into the spotlight as a backup to Charlie Batch, has flipped through the playbook with uncanny rapidity.

He has no choice.

A one-time understudy to Tom Brady in New England, Hoyer could find himself having to salvage a battered Steelers offense if Batch goes down Sunday in Cleveland.

“I'm going to be as ready as I can,” said Hoyer, who signed with the Steelers this week after Byron Leftwich broke two ribs against Baltimore last weekend. “There's limited time and limited reps, and you just have to study as much as you can and go from there.

“Things may be called differently or certain things like that. The terminology might be different, but you just have to figure it out and compare it to something that you've done in the past.”

Hoyer, released by the Patriots in August, played sparingly in three seasons with New England, appearing in 13 games.

Quarterback coach Randy Fichtner has spent inordinate time in the film room with Hoyer in an effort to prepare him to run an offense the Steelers still are trying to fully implement.

Admittedly, the Steelers will have a steep hurdle to climb if the Michigan State product is pressed to play.

“I'll be there to help him the best I can,” Leftwich said. “I think he's picking up things well based on what I've seen.

“I'm just hoping we don't have to use him and that Charlie can get through this and find a way to win. If (Hoyer is) playing, then that means something has happened to Charlie. Hopefully he doesn't have to play.”

Hoyer took only a handful of snaps with the first-team offense Friday. But receiver Mike Wallace was impressed with Hoyer's progress.

“He's not too short of (former Steelers quarterback) Dennis Dixon on throwing the ball hard and fast,” Wallace said. “He can throw the rock. I had a couple of plays with him. I like him, and he looks pretty good.”

Hoyer said he's been waiting for 11 weeks to get a call. With starting and backup quarterbacks being sidelined with injuries, he seemed to be somewhat surprised to have been without a team this long.

“It's a rare job, kind of like being a relief pitcher and always waiting to go in and never knowing when your name is going to get called,” Hoyer said. “I've been in that situation before, and you've just got to be ready.”

Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rpaulk@tribweb.com.

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